American band Wolves in the Throne Room from Olympia, Washington are on the scene for fifteen years, but they never truly accepted black metal tag, which seems as the most natural. During their career they were trying to develop their sound, with a respect to their various dark tastes. In their work, we can hear elements of black metal, but at the same time ambient, drone and doom metal. I was really honored interview invitation was accepted by multi-instrumentalist and a member of creative brother duo Aaron Weaver. Next to the latest release Thrice Woven, unique artistic approach and various guests, we also spoke about his interest in meditation and building houses from natural materials.
Photos credit: Veleda Thorsson
I love the atmosphere of the album and its contrasts. I feel the terrifying massiveness of nature, same as its beauties. What atmosphere were you aiming to create?
I create the atmosphere that I see in my dreams. I have dreams of salt water, forests, being in the clouds or high up in the mountains. Those are the atmospheres and in WITTR we have our tools: guitars, synthesizers and a recording studio. It’s a matter of translation.
Are these dreams affected by your travels to the nature? What is the best area for you to calm your mind?
Oh, just behind the back door of our studio. Nathan lives right at the edge of a very beautiful forest of about a thousand acres of trees, plants, spirits and animals. I get to go there every day and just walk through the woods for a while, until I come down to the salt water with a beautiful beach with no houses on it.
I spoke recently to Hungarian artist Tamás Kátai, who moved some time ago from Hungary to Scotland. He told me he gets most of the inspiration for his project Thy Catafalque, from the Scottish Highlands. But, I was always wondering, how come a musician gathering an inspiration from a peaceful nature, can create such a heavy and dark music. What is your personal view?
Well, the spirits of these trees are very angry. They were hundreds years old and this whole forest was logged off, about hundred and ten years ago. The spirits of those trees were traumatized and angry. Their voices are filled with rage and fear. So, you hear that in our music. That’s why I also believe, Thrice Woven is darker than the previous album Celestite.
I create the atmosphere that I see in my dreams. It’s just a matter of translation.
I was really excited to hear Anna von Hausswolff on your album. What part of her discography, do you prefer? I must say, it is her album Singing From the Grave and song Pills.
I think the favorite thing, I’ve ever heard her ever do, is what she did on our album. I just love it so much.
Why did you decide to invite her on your album?
Me and Nathan had written the whole album and we were meeting with our producer Randall Dunn, and I said to him: “We need a voice of a woman on this record and her voice needs to evoke the cold, grey salt water of the north and have the shimmering of ice in her voice.” Randall said we should call Anna, because she would be perfect and indeed she is.
With songs with Anna, you created atmosphere which brought me few years ago to Myrkur. It sounded as if Angelzoom and Mayhem mixed. How do you judge cooperation with Myrkur on her latest release Mareridt?
It was wonderful to play drums on that record. I never really heard her music and I heard just a little bit of what she’s done on her previous album M. But I knew she’s been working with Ulver and we hold that band in very high esteem. And I honestly haven’t heard the whole new record yet. I was waiting for my copy to come from Randall, but it never came. So I have to wait to truly absorb it. I must say, she is a shredder. If I had to say something about her, first and foremost she is a very badass musician, songwriter and very powerful singer. She is the real deal.
In what occasion did you realize, Steve Von Till’s voice would perfectly fit into a song The Old Ones Are With Us?
Here came Randall again with his connections and wisdom. With Nathan we knew, we wanted a voice of a man on the record, who could speak with great wisdom and beauty from a heart about just how we life and things we hold sacred. Randall just said we should call Steve and if he would like to do it, he would be perfect.
This song brought in my mind Nergal’s (Behemoth) side project Me And That Man. Do you believe artist should follow his/her heart whatever the direction is? If I can be honest, my most favorite album from the past few years is Greg Puciato’s (The Dillinger Escape Plan) synth pop side project The Black Queen.
I never heard about The Black Queen, but I should definitely check that out. However, I do like Me And That Man and I believe you have to follow your heart whatever the direction is. As an artist you don’t have any other choice! If I did something it didn’t come from a heart, it would kill me. It would be like poison. And also the things that come up, even if they feel scary to do or feel somebody’s going to hate it, but it is coming from a heart and I have to do it.
I heard numerous stories of musicians from metal scene, who have or had plans with their side project dreams within jazz, ambient or even sophisticated pop, but they were freak out from the reactions. I remember Greg Puciato saying, the scariest moment in his life were those few seconds before he posted first song of The Black Queen online.
Oh wow, I love that. For me, when a fear comes up, that’s the sign to go forward. In studio, I’m afraid the whole time. When I am the most afraid, I know it’s right place to be.
If I did something it didn’t come from a heart, it would kill me.
So, it’s a motivational factor to be afraid, or are you keeping it on an adequate level with tools as let say meditation? Personally, it’s helping me a lot for the past year and a half.
Yeah, it helps me too. I wouldn’t be able to do music without meditating.
For how many years do you practice meditation?
It is number of years, but playing drums has been also my meditation my whole life. Especially playing drums on stage. I’m just fully there with my body in a present experience. That works for me. But I also believe the practice of not moving your body is also valuable.
How often do you manage to meditate per week?
I sit every day for a little bit.
Would you like to mention some blocks, you were facing during meditation over the years?
Oh, I love the blocks. I love when I am just sitting there, observing my breath in just pure fucking agony. That’s the meditation, just being there. That’s what’s happening there and then; and just letting it pass. There was one thing that really helped me: “When you are meditating and thoughts come into your house for a while, let them stay and do what they have to do, but don’t serve them tea.”
I love the blocks in meditation. I love when I am just sitting there, observing my breath in just pure fucking agony.
Regarding an inspiration, were there some poetry or literature sources which inspired lately for your personal life or your latest album?
Oh yeah, let me think about that. Well, I do music, but I also like building houses too. And I am really interested in building houses out of natural materials as straw and clay. I know, in the Czech Republic there are some really beautiful houses being build out of really sacred materials. So, for Thrice Woven I was looking at a lot of pictures of old buildings, how people used to live two hundred years ago. That brought me a lot of inspiration.
Can you tell us more about the beauties of Czech Republic, you managed to discover?
There were some people I was introduced to by a friend of mine. Here is a link. Are you interested in, what they would call natural building?
Well, definitely in anything Czech people should be proud of. I am not building houses myself, but I love getting out of city and discovering the beauties of my country. I believe you would like the wooden buildings in mountain area Beskydy – Pustevny built in nineteenth century. Some of them unfortunately faced fire few years ago. I was really proud, many people from that area, including my hometown Ostrava contributed for a reconstruction.
That’s wonderful. Yeah, it makes me think about the old days, when people lived in the fear of fire so much.
Houses that you are building from raw materials, are you building them for your family or close friends?
I am working on a house for me, my wife and my son. It’s almost done. But it’s a slow process.
I can imagine, costly as well…
(Laugh) Yeah, money is always tight.
If I can ask a bit personally, do you manage to finance this from your music activities or you have to do some extra job as well?
We all do some odd jobs here and there, but when the band’s on tour, we don’t have to have any other job. That’s the greatest blessing. That’s something I’ve have been thinking about so much for the past couple of years, just how fucking grateful I am. I have so much gratitude to the fans who listen to our music. That’s amazing blessing and I always want to remember that and I think about it every day.
I do music, but I am really interested in building houses out of natural materials as straw and clay
Talking about a tour, I have to ask you how was the show at Brutal Assault? This year, I had to skip unfortunately after number of years.
It was wonderful. Touring is always kind of crazy, but the show was amazing, especially the fans. However, I think the bus was broken down and it was very very hot. There was a heat wave in Eastern Europe during that time. We were sweating like pigs on the tour bus. That’s my main memory of that show. (Laugh)
How was the show at Las Vegas, on Psycho fest? I managed to get to Hellfest in France this year, but we were just sitting there with my buddies and just blown away by Psycho’s breathtaking line-up…
The performance was amazing and the festival was a spectacle. Have you ever been to the city of Las Vegas?
Unfortunately, I’ve never been in United States, yet.
Las Vegas is a city that is very hard for me to be in. It’s a city, which shouldn’t be there. Gluttony and wastefulness in that city broke my heart. It’s our culture that so many people are so puritanical and they think sex is disgusting and music is dangerous for people’s minds. But then they go to Las Vegas and gamble, drink and engage in this gluttony. It’s just very unbalanced and not a good way for human beings to live. But at the same time, it’s a good place for heavy metal festival, you know what I’m saying?
Seems like a West Berlin in Soviet bloc…
It might be our journalist beer talk, but do you feel, there is a certain scene and interconnections building up, if we take into the consideration the line-up of Psycho festival?
Yeah man, that’s the best part about playing festivals, the community aspect of it. Other bands, and the fans, it’s a big family. Family is what it’s all about and we love it.
Did you manage to discover some band on the festival?
You know the band that I loved the most were playing, while I was falling asleep in my hotel room, close to the stage. I was mesmerized with their music. I thought it was the band Chemist, but it turned out, it was someone else. So I have to find out who that mysterious band was. They were using the most beautiful technique and they sounded like crushing abstract doom band. But they were also using feedback in a very beautiful way. Maybe in a way Sunn O))) does it, but they had their own voice. That’s a good reminder and I will look who that band was.
Part of the line-up was also Myrkur, so was there any chance to join her?
I’m afraid not. She is getting her touring band together. Actually, I wanted to get up there at one point because the drummer had one of the grooves wrong (laugh), so I wanted to give him some tips. But it was their second show with a new line-up and they killed it.
Another band which was there, is by my opinion one of the most unique and innovative on the market right now. Did you manage to check Zeal & Ardor, combining American slave music and black metal?
American slave music? Wow. I have never heard about this band before, but it sounds very interesting. He is a good looking dude (laugh).
Back to atmosphere
Going back a bit into a meditation, there is very minimalistic and repetitive section in a track called Angrboda. Give us please some songwriting background.
Yeah, that piece, how can I say, began with a dream. I had this dream of…you know, I cannot say that as it has to remain secret…but I will say that’s the part of changes. For me, making an album is a matter of just letting go and letting music guide things. So when I first wrote that melody I vision being this crushing heavy metal guitar. And as the songwriting processed, album emerged and became itself, it became this gentle synthesizer piece. That’s the greatest magic for me: just let the spirit of the record be in charge and let it speak.
Is there any chance that movies, rather documentaries also fascinate you with their dreamy atmosphere?
Hm, I don’t watch anything on the screen. My music is totally in my ears. I do remember watching some documentaries as a child and that stayed with me my whole life. I am talking about pictures of distant places of great majesty. But I love the fact, this majesty is kept in me. I can just close my eyes to see it, because it’s everywhere.
Any music that was fascinating you lately? Personally, I do love to get out of busy Prague and crazy open space office into a nature. But at the same time, I do enjoy part of the journey in the nature with my headphones on.
I haven’t done that in a long time. But I do remember enjoying some albums in the woods. I have a lot of memories when WITTR were beginning in 2003. I was listening to Weakling’s Dead As Dreams album in my headphones and just sitting in the roots of a big tree, letting the music’s and forest atmosphere come together. I guess I should do it again. I don’t have any good earbuds yet, but that’s a beautiful way to enjoy music.
When you were talking about all of your dreams and feelings for visuals, it must have been probably a tough work for Denis Forkas to satisfy you with artwork, right? Did you give him any ideas upfront?
No, we just gave him general mythological theme and he just came up with this idea. An artist like him works the best, if you give him a lot of freedom, as he has his own mysterious and magical process.
Do you personally research various sources for mythology, whether these sources are new/old/local/foreign?
I love mythology and stories. I always have, since I was a little kid. And I don’t worry about what’s the oldest, what’s real and what’s not. That’s not the point. They are just stories. Just like the bible, it’s just the story. But the gods are real and they take many forms.
In what way does it influence you? Do you take their actions as warnings and inspiration for your daily decisions?
Yeah, I do. As you mentioned a cover; on this record, there is god Týr who is putting his hand in the mouth of wolf Fenrir. For me Týr, very much inspires me every day. When I think about him, it just encourages me to be honorable, respectful and kind to all people and to call out for justice. And to do things in my life that bring justice into the world. It’s woven into our music and it’s woven into my heart.
God Týr inspires me every day. He encourages me to be honorable, respectful to all people and to call out for justice
Nerdy gear part
For the final part, I would like to ask you to mention some recent discoveries within instruments or effects?
I would be happy to. It’s really close to my heart. (Laugh) First thing that comes to my mind is a brand called Blackhawk Amplifiers. These amplifiers are made by really old beautiful friend of ours in Portland, Oregon. And he’s just fucking nailed it man! I am gonna have him build a set of preamp with the EQ section stereo unit. Because he’s got something magical in EQ that it’s like starlight reflected upon water on a cold night. They are beautiful.
Just looking at the designs and they are amazing. Especially runes fit perfectly. So, will there be a chance for you to cooperate and possible develop a signature model with your own design?
Absolutely. Brooke is one of our oldest and dearest friends. He is a true brother and someone whose heart is filled with love and that’s what’s in his amplifiers.
Any other items in your gear, you would like to mention?
Let’s get really nerdy! Let’s go for it! (Laugh) Analog digital convertors, BURL man! That’s a company from Santa Cruz that makes A/D convertors and for the first time in my life, I’m not depressed while working on old console, as they sound amazing. A lot of EarthQuaker stuff too. Randall has a box with every EarthQuaker pedal ever made. Shortly before we began tracking for Thrice Woven we tested a lot of guitar tones. But with the gear I realize more and more, you can use pretty much everything. The most amazing music can be made with the most broken garbage. It is all about the love you put into it. However the most beautiful piece of gear on Thrice Woven was Randall’s Minimoog Model D. I never really messed around with a vintage Minimoog, except for the latest ones of course. But it is like nothing else and it was a privilege having it on our record.