AGALLOCH – Naturally Traversing the Music World
There are plenty of so-called avant-garde bands occupying the music scene these days. A good deal of them are popping up in the United States. This style has been on the rise for some time now, but one can usually look to the originators for the crème de la crème of material.
Enter Agalloch, who have been doing this since 1995. They’ve managed to set a high bar for all things unique in the metal world, with every release being eclectic and mesmerizing.
Now on the verge of the release of their fifth full-length, titled "The Serpent & the Sphere," the opportunity arose to speak with guitarist/vocalist John Haughm about the new disc, touring frequency, writing, and the band’s inspirations. Read on!
What are your early impressions of "The Serpent & the Sphere"?
" It is our most accomplished record to date, in my opinion. Of course, I would be a pretty shitty musician to think otherwise, right?"
How do you think Agalloch has progressed from "Marrow of the Spirit" to the new album?
"Better production, better tones, better songwriting, better performance – but it is also a very different kind of album. I wouldn’t even bother making the comparison."
How did the creative process go for "The Serpent & the Sphere," and how does your approach to this album compare with your other releases?
"Again, it doesn’t compare. Every album is a totally different animal."
You’re a band who is always evolving, and every release has a unique feel as compared to the rest. How do you keep your music so fresh and interesting?
"We wash away the past and try to make the best record we can each time from a new perspective. That’s it, really."
You have an extensive tour lined up in support of the new album. With the band’s touring activity being more frequent in recent years than it was before, how important has the live aspects of Agalloch become?
"It comes and goes. We tour when we can. Don’t be surprised if we suddenly stop in the near future. That is the way it goes with us – totally insane unpredictability."
Your support acts seem to be mostly hand-picked by the band. What do you look for when making these decisions?
"We prefer to tour with bands we like, who are interesting, and who don’t piss us off. That’s pretty much the criteria. Fen was definitely one of my favorites to tour with."
What sort of lyrical theme does the new disc have?
"Metaphysical. Macrocosm vs microcosm, etc."
After all these years creating music, what keeps you inspired to continue making such interesting and varied material?
"The void. Thoughts and emotions. The fact that life is utterly boring and pointless without a means to express one’s self."
Nature has always been an important subject for the band. Does this still hold as true today as it did when the band started?
"We have always hailed nature, but it was never the singular theme of the band. We’ve always had a philosophical and literary side, a psychedelic element, and a scientific interest. The new album hails nature from a completely different perspective; the mysterious and wonderful foundation that nature is based. The fundamental energy of the universe.
Your lineup has been very stable throughout the band’s career. Has that been difficult to maintain and how has the chemistry between the members improved throughout the years?
"We are friends who want the same result in the art that we practice. I consider myself very lucky to be able to create interesting music with those guys."
What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of being in an internationally acclaimed band?
"I don’t really think about any of that. We can be loved one minute and hated the next. It is not something that is up to us, so we just create as we see fit and people can take it or leave it. That’s always been my attitude, anyway."
Did you ever expect Agalloch to reach the high level of notoriety that’s been accomplished up to now?
"I’ve always put respect above popularity. So if we are respected, that’s a great accomplishment."
A lot of bands are playing special shows and tours where they play older albums in their entirety. Are there any plans to do this at some juncture, and if you did, what would you want to focus on? I’d personally lose my mind if you played "Pale Folklore" or "The Mantle" front to back.
"Why on earth would we do that? In some cases, we literally couldn’t do it without long periods of PA music playing between songs. "The Misshapen Steed" will never, EVER be played live, for example, because Breyer will never perform on stage with us."
Any funny road stories and/or any interesting fan interactions that you’d like to share? The sillier the better!
"I can’t think of anything silly. There have been some fights with people and a couple narrowly-avoided international incidents. Overall, we are pretty much just quiet and all-business on tour. We aren’t really a party band or anything like that. We’ll play the gig, go our separate ways, and then meet on the bus for the next drive. Pretty boring, really."
Is there anything you’d like to add?
"Thanks for the interview."
Eternal Terror would like to thank Mr. Haughm for taking the time to answer our questions, and all the luck with the new album. It’s an absolute killer piece of work, and everybody should give it a spin or fifty. Don’t forget to catch them live, either, as their shows are a truly unique experience.