As far as metal goes, the heavier the better and so when Dragged Into Sunlight came to Australia recently for Dark Mofo, we had to jump at the chance to delve into their world of extreme/heavy metal to see what makes the elusive gents tick. Vocalist T. stopped by for a chat before their Sydney show and it was an honour to be in his vicinity and to step into his dark and twisted heavy mind…
How has the tour been so far?
Tour’s been great. Lot of long flights, lot of airports. Completely different time zone, but reversed. But busy shows, loud shows. Great bands. Zhrine in particular. Icelandic black metal is one of the few genres that I’m really into. Zhrine have been fantastic both nights. Venues have been really good. There’s a really good scene that’s going off over here.
You were in Tasmania for Dark Mofo, how was that?
Really good. Just the amount of energy and effort that goes into making that production is ridiculous. Flamethrowers, massive food festival, art galleries going off, the whole town just becomes something different. It’s all got this very raw dark vibe which is very fitting for us.
The festival was fantastic. A great way to start our trip in Australia. If I was probably to rate the shows; Brisbane was good but Dark Mofo, coming down from that, to a regular club show, you’ve just come from an audience of 2000 and all of a sudden back down to 300. That’s not the issue, we could perform where there’s 1 person or 2000, it’s the technical specifications, the PA. We’re about volume and we love that. That’s why we do what we do, for the volume, to swallow the entire room. So you get that chance at Dark Mofo, to literally take out an entire room and then you come to a club show and it feels like agh, someone has limited your power; it’s just not as loud. Obviously no one is going to put a mega PA in a 300 capacity venue. Yeah, Dark Mofo was killer.
When you first started the band, you never really intended to be a touring band, so when you play shows now, is there any holdover feelings from that period, when you were starting?
No, it wasn’t intentional that we weren’t going to tour when we started Dragged Into Sunlight. We formed Dragged Into Sunlight and we thought are we going to be a band like Darkthrone? Are we going to be a band that tours continuously? We’d all done those bands that toured continuously, we’ve all been at the beck and call of record labels who’d said two hundred shows in a year, keep on going until you’re dead basically. It doesn’t end well. It ends ten years down the line and you’re playing in some shit venue. It’s one or the other. Either you make it and you’re performing at fucking Wembley or something, big arenas, big stages, or you’re one of those bands that people don’t really care about and you’re mixed in with all these other bands playing two hundred shows and actually you’re just killing yourself quickly because of something you love but no one else loves.
So we thought about what band we wanted to be, and we were really in love with the music that we were making, we weren’t sure how it’d translate live, but it was more that no one really had the motivation to do live shows. And then we did one, and we all thought hang on a minute, we enjoyed that, and everyone else enjoyed it. It was like an exorcism it was great, it was fucking loud as fuck, people loved it. We saw a pretty violent reaction and people getting into it and then we did another one and it was a bit tighter. It started taking shape gradually, but I think the thing for Dragged was it was meant to be the last band for everyone involved, so we were a bit reserved about playing live, because there was no desire to be on this ladder, to get somewhere, it was just, make the best music we can make, and either people like it, or they don’t like it. But if they don’t like it, we don’t care, we’re doing music that we like.
We don’t like touring for huge amounts of time, obviously that changed with Mayhem perhaps. Mayhem is a unique band. A huge influence for Dragged Into Sunlight. Mayhem were doing their iconic album De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, which is their album they’re probably most known for and said do you want to do eighty shows? So we thought well, we’re not really live band guys but, eighty shows with Mayhem? They’re such a big influence on what we do, so we went for it. It’s not to say we won’t ever do it again, we most likely would but it would have to be the rights bands. We’re not an overly introverted band anymore, we sort of do play live, we’re up for it, but we want the conditions to correct, we want it to be an enjoyable time because at the end of the day no one is retiring from making this kind of music. But also, if a band comes along like Mayhem, that are well respected, and are a band that we grew up listening to we’d definitely want to tour with them. So that’s led from doing the two shows to eighty shows, so there’s no holdover feelings, that’s just how it’s gone.
The ritualistic and antisocial aspects of your music and live shows, was that something you had planned from the start?
The not facing the audience, the not interacting with the audience, was not so much a ritual as it was sending a message, and not sending a message at the same time. I say both because I think turning your back on someone in its dictionary definition or its connotations is perceived as being rude. But that wasn’t the message we intended to send, and if you think about it, turning your back on someone isn’t really rude, it’s rude because someone told you it was rude, because it’s a norm and that’s the connotation associated with turning your back on someone, – oh that’s rude, that’s rude behaviour. Well for us it wasn’t about hostility, it was just a case of we don’t want communication, and the easiest way to do that is you just turn around. It doesn’t need to be perceived as hostile, once you get over that hump of it, and you think, alright, I’ll engage with it, and let your mind wander, if you’re able to do that then I think the message we are trying to communicate is that you don’t need us talking to you during the set, you don’t need us encouraging you get into it, or this is our next song, or this is off our new album.
You’re there to see us play songs that we’ve written and you’ve listened to and liked, or maybe you’re just there because you walked in off the street. Either of those two scenarios, for you to get what you want from a gig, I’m not sure you really want to hear anyone shouting get into it, move forward, get closer to the stage. I don’t know, it’s sort of cheap I feel. So for us, what we wanted to do is create an atmosphere where there’s not a lot of interaction which allows the mind to wander more freely, because you’re not distracted. You’re just focusing on what’s in front of you, which is a lot of bright light, and a lot of volume. And eventually, it’s like hypnotherapy, your mind starts wandering, you can’t help it. [For] Some people it’ll take thirty minutes before they hit that period, some people at three minutes in are like photo, catatonic, and fifty five minutes later, you look at that person, the last notes hits and they just snap out of it. So that’s interesting too, how long it takes people to let go of their inhibitions I guess and let go of their thoughts.
You said you were in the studio while we were chatting; are you working on a Dragged album at the moment, a collaboration album?
We’re working on a couple of things. We’re working on a sequel to Terminal Aggressor
Terminal Aggressor was a tape we released in 2008, and we always meant to do the follow up to it, but we never got around to it, things took over. One day I said I really want to polish the record of Terminal Aggressor because we didn’t have the funds to make it good back, so let’s make it better. One of the guys said, well have a look on that hard drive for the master files. So I plugged the hard drive in, looking for the master files and… no master files.
So yeah [laughs] we lost them at some point between 2008 and 2012, which were heavy drug years, so a lot of drugs between those specific years, a lot of lost shoes, a lot of chaos and a lot of lost masters apparently. Terminal Aggressor was one of the ones we lost so we eventually revisited it, but we could never make the two the same. The first one I’ve never had an issue with, I love it as a record at that time and the place. It summarises how we were feeling as band perfectly. It sounds as it should have sounded. Ten years down the line, you think I wish the production on that riff just sounded crushing.
So that’s where we wanted to pick up, but we couldn’t pick it up on the original master, which made it so the second part, well it has to do everything that the first one did, because it has to be that strong, but it also has to have all this production, so it was a bit of a step up. So we’ve been working on that. And we’ve also been working on our follow up to Hatred for Mankind, which is what a lot of people have asked us about over the years and we’ve always said yeah we will do it, it’s just not something we’re going to rush into because we have no need, it’s not as if anyone is giving us a huge advance or anything. Basically, for us to prepare an album, it costs money, and we lose money doing this, because there’s no way of sustaining a band of twelve people, who live three hundred miles apart from each other pretty much. Each band practice is very costly so there’s no motivation to bat out albums every two years. So we worked on the follow up to Hatred for Mankind for years, probably in the region of four to five years even. There’s riffs that are definitely on there from 2011, 2012 even. And there’s also stuff we put on there last year, that we wrote last, it spans all those periods. We’d been working on it pretty intensely up to 2017, and we thought agh, we’re not really feeling what we’ve written.
We played one song live, just to test it out. And it felt like — it was interesting because we hadn’t played it alongside the material from Hatred, hadn’t played it alongside NV, or anything from Widowmaker. We played it for the first time and it was weird. It was a great new song, I was kind of into it, but I wasn’t fully into it. I was into it like my previous bands, like music I had previously made, but I wasn’t into it like Dragged, it didn’t make me want to headbutt a wall. It sat zero point five below Hatred, something like a minuscule difference, but I think the most important thing was, it wasn’t above it. I thought have we just aged so much? Do we need to ingest all the drugs in the world? What did we do back then to make that sound? And to be honest what we did back then was exactly the same we’ve done with each other record, we’ve focused on what we wanted to achieve.
So with something like Widowmaker, bands like Buried at Sea came into it, Burning Witch, Sunn O))), I guess Mgła, I am Monkey, a lot of sludge influence, a lot of doom influence, it was a really focussed effort. We did that with Hatred originally; focused on bands like Incantation, Obituary, Autopsy. When we came back to do the Hatred sound, it needs to be a focused effort. So we scrapped everything we had in 2017, kept maybe thirty percent of the tracks, and then started work in 2018 from scratch.
We lived in the studio for ninety days. The studio is literally one room probably three, four times the size of this room [which would generously make it about 5×8]. We lived in there for ninety days using a George Foreman grill and a microwave to live. And it’s just strange; our studio is in a warehouse on a used car sales lot. So you go into this used car sales lot, and you go into this doorway in a wall, and behind is our studio. And we lived in there for ninety days, we’ve never spent so much time in each other’s company. And we just worked and worked and worked and studied each note, each cymbal hit, each drum roll, and it turns out, that’s what made Hatred for Mankind, it was an intense focus. We were definitely on all sorts in 2008, so the memory of how we’d done the production, what we set out to achieve — and we’ve done a lot since, so people’s memory fades. I mean, I was there but I couldn’t remember what happened.
But as we went through this process with the new record, pennies are dropping, I remember doing this before, we couldn’t do it this way so we ended up doing it that way sort of thing. All these little pennies are dropping: oh yeah then we did it like this because we couldn’t do that, a lot of familiar ground, but it was really as we went along that I remembered we talked about that in 2007, 2008. Basically I reconstructed my own memory from Hatred of Mankind and used it to make something even more extreme. We actually wrote a manifesto of sorts, a philosophy of what we were looking to achieve with it before we went into the studio. I think looking at that four page document, in hindsight, is like a storyboard. You can look back and say, well actually we’ve achieved that. I’d probably say the new stuff, we’ve got Terminal Aggressor II which picks up on Terminal Aggressor, it’s as good musically, but technically improved.
Hatred for Mankind, insofar as a follow up to that sound, what we have now sounds like Hatred for Mankind on steroids. It’s by far the most extreme music I’ve ever heard, and I would class myself as a pretty avid fan of extreme music so… hopefully it’ll break people.
Hopefully! You all live very far away from each other, so when you write music, is it the same process as with Gnaw Their Tongues? Or do you only write together in a studio?
No no, so Gnaw Their Tongues was very fluid. The way we write with Mories is different. It’s almost like the difference between internal and external relations. With Dragged, we say we’re all on this side of the fence, we’re all a part of the same family, we all tour together, we won’t leave one person behind; if our merch person can’t come or our sound guy can’t come or our lighting guy can’t come, we don’t go. There’s no incentive. Barely even breaking even on this trip, so when it comes to writing, same approach. Everyone’s welcome, everyone stops by at various times.
Throughout the ninety day period, I can count times where friends were just sitting there for four days at a time. Zac, our merchandise guy, he’s spent so much time in the studio recently. I definitely remember a period of seven days where he was just sitting there, drawing and writing bits and pieces, writing words down, saying have you thought about using this word on track? Just sort of listening to the tracks on loop. I think the way we all work together as a collective of twelve people is, anyone’s welcome, it’s an open door policy, you give as much time as you possibly can give, every member is driven by their own schedule, their own commitment. There’s no doubt that every member in their own way is 200% committed to it, so if they’re not there physically they’ll be thinking about it. In the most part, I would say there is three or four core individuals who will sort of head up the project, and each time its a different individual who takes conduct of the project, and what you see is Widowmaker, being different from NV, being different to Hatred, because we’re all into such diverse sounds.
At the moment, just before we left, Jay from Crowhurst flew over. Crowhurst are a US band and they have an album called III out this year [April 2019], on Prophecy. Really interesting record, but I met the guy — probably because black metal recently has not caught my attention, so when I heard Crowhurst it was really unique and really weird, like a mix of black metal and Neurosis together — so I met him, and he actually decided, off his own back, which is insane, to fly over from America. He was doing Roadburn, so he was in Tillburg in Holland, and he decided to fly over, come to the UK, because he knew we were in the studio and stop by and meet us all. I half thought he wasn’t going to turn up; he arranged a date, and then heard nothing for a week in advance. Nothing. Then I got a call from our producer and our guitarist and they said oh there’s a guy here, an American guy, he just walked into the studio. Now as I said, the studio is in a used car lot, a grey door, which is in a wall, we don’t even have an address! And it’s in a really rural place, a small town in England.
So this guy jumps on a plane, randomly shows up and we just sat there for forty eight hours making noise. We basically made a soundtrack electronically first, added organic instruments, drums and guitars to it, a lot of feedback, hissing and noise and distortion, then we re amped it through two different pedal boards; Jay had one, I had one. We’re just going mental on wah wah pedals, yanking them, really manipulating the sounds, and that was just before we left. We made about six or seven different tracks of noise. And that just comes from my own sort of thing, as much as the other members are fans of doom or black metal or sludge metal, I’m really into harsh noise, it’s something I’ve really been into, Japanese noise and things, it’s just my taste in music. That’s just where it headed up, a random meeting with Jay, really big fan of Crowhurst, just sat in the studio and cranked out a noise release, which we haven’t finished, and probably won’t finish for another ten years, but eventually we’ll get around to finishing it.
The best story is in 2011, we collaborated with Nate Hall from US Christmas, and in a very similar way to the Mories situation where we transfer files electronically, we did that with Nate and we’ve never actually finished it. I think we left it at five minutes, four minutes long, and we couldn’t figure out the next part, so then something else took over, I think the Widowmaker Visual, because we started working on that with Dwid Hellion from Integrity, he was really passionate about it, and he worked on that for two years and he sort of lost passion for it, we sort of drifted away, so Widowmaker Visual never got finished. I think November 2018 was the last time we touched on Widowmaker Visual, just turning our focus back onto it really, so no doubt we’ll wrap up Jay’s stuff and with Nate Hall. When it came to writing with Mories it was very much the same, because it was just a similar time and place. It was 2010, I met Mories, he was playing with Aderlating, and I didn’t know Mories was connected to Gnaw Their Tongues, I just knew the name. We spoke about collaborating and next week Mories just starts sending riffs and parts, and then we sent some back. In that year, 2011, we’d only done one track. It was by 2013 we had three tracks and I think by 2015 we had five tracks. There’s a lot of music that no one will ever hear, by sending files to each other. The way we use to do it, was we’d each do our parts, We’d do vocal lines, just delivering them however we thought they should be delivered, there was no music, just random vocal lines. Then we’d do guitar riffs that were mostly improv or guitar riffs that we had that we couldn’t fit anywhere else. Drum beats, we’d do for that guitar riff, but we’d do six different beats for each guitar riff. It was a huge palette of recordings, of different instruments, and we sent it to Mories, he reconfigured it all, he chopped it all up, shoved it all back together. Now you’ve got this drum beat which is really inconsistent because its just been chopped apart and pushed back together, then we though, fuck, now it just sounds like shit [laughs]. What do we do with it now? So the we’d have to go over and redo the guitars, because the thing about welding them all together was the tone was changing throughout the recording, different fucking tunings. So we shoved it all together, rerecorded the drum track first, rerecorded the guitars over it, and then redid the vocals. It’s a collaboration in the truest sense.
Sort of explaining it back… we definitely do the same thing with Dragged internally. When we come to write, the core individuals in the room, manipulate it all to the same extremities. To be honest, the way we write, this is the first time I’ve explained it but going full circle, yeah it probably is the same as the way we write in the band, as with Mories. But the only difference was Mories wasn’t there.
With your album art as well, is that internal or external?
With a lot of the packaging and things, two of the members probably handle the most, because they’ve got a lot of experience with packaging and they want to be proud of the releases when they come out, but the artwork for the most part is done by Justin Bartlett. I would say Seldon Hunt is a very prominent artist we work with, same with Justin. Sindre Foss as well, the artist for Widowmaker. And I guess Zac Broughton. They’re probably the four artists that we use. The others, if we’ve ever worked with them its off kilter stuff and they’ve sent us the design and said we can have it, use it. Moving forward, we’re going to be a lot more focused and we’re going to try and really stick with using Justin’s artwork, using Zac’s.
It’s mainly because we felt over the years, it’s become a bit diluted, moving away from what we set out to do, but also we see a lot of bands and a lot of people doing similar shirt designs. That sort of cartoony, hand drawn thing going on. It doesn’t feel legitimate. If you look at an album cover, looking at a shirt, well… looking at this one [a Darkthrone shirt more grey than black at this point] this one is about two centuries old, fucking belongs to a guy from Portal, he swung by last night and dropped me off five shirts and this was one of them apparently, from 1990 or something. Anyway, when you look at band shirts nowadays, I can’t think of an example, they’re very… I don’t know. The cover art doesn’t have the same sort of impact. It’s quite cartoony and hand drawn, but ink and paper. Prior to that there was that photoshop trend, which was terrible because you didn’t need any skill at all. It was like these botched designs of album covers and you see some of them now, and it just does not look good. Then this hand drawn thing came in and we were quite on that when it first became popular, and we did a lot of shirts and album covers that were hand drawn, and then I think when we got to Hatred for Mankind, Justin did that artwork and it felt like a combination of both; it was hand drawn but it also felt very real, it was deconstructed.
Hatred IS really fucking cool.
Yeah, the artwork is really unique, and it definitely stood out. I think since then, it’s been diluted a little bit. We kept doing the hand drawn stuff and then more artists came on board and we’d be like, that’s a cool wolf, we’ll have that. Over time, I feel it’s lost — I mean people still love the shirts, they love the album covers, but for me, for the new stuff, the new recordings, I wanted to really focus on harsh art. The follow up art that we’ve got is from Justin. I think a few of the guys who worked on the Terminal Aggressor II artwork, it’s probably not as stand out as Justin’s work, in the way you can recognise it anywhere you see it, it’s a very specific style. I think the main thing moving forward is that it’ll be handled mostly in house; our merchandise guy is going to be our main artist as well as Justin, which I think is quite noble in a way.
We’re coming full circle, we started with a small pool of artists that we really loved, but over time it was diluted because external factors come into play, people suggest other people, labels get involved and now we’ve come back two artists.
Very nice. I think that’s probably all, anything else you wanted to add?
Yeah, we’re all good. Cool.
Interview by Dylonov Tomasivich