Earth: Interview with Drummer Adrienne Davies (Southern Lord) ~ BrooklynRocks: NYC Music Blog

Monday, January 31, 2011

Earth: Interview with Drummer Adrienne Davies (Southern Lord)

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Adrienne Davies, percussionist/drummer and core member of the ambient-metal band Earth. Earth's third post-reformation studio disc, Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 1, is due out on Feb. 22nd via Southern Lord. To get an advance listen, NPR's “Exclusive First Listen” is streaming the whole album for free until Feb. 7th.

Joining founding guitarist and band frontman Dylan Carlson and percussionist Adrienne Davies, the album lineup this time around also includes cellist Lori Goldston (Nirvana, David Byrne, Black Cat Orchestra, Laura Veirs) and Karl Blau (K Records, Laura Veirs, Microphones) on electric bass.

Earth: Exclusive Interview with Drummer / Percussionist Adrienne Davies (Southern Lord)BrooklynRocks: Can I start off by asking about your musical background? I tried “Googling” you and there isn’t much online about your work prior to joining Earth.

Adrienne: Earth was the first major band that I played in. Prior to this, I played with friends just sort of mucking about but nothing really stuck.

BrooklynRocks: How did you get involved with Earth?

Adrienne: I met Dylan in the early 90’s and kept in contact with him here and there. It was right around 2000-2001 when he moved back up from Los Angeles and I was still in Seattle so we got reacquainted and started playing together. Not with any purpose of restarting Earth or have it come to any fruition – it was just us playing music and having something to do at night. We had some fun and it felt right. We got invited to do a short tour of the East Coast and from there it started getting more serious. A live show from that first East Coast tour ended up being the first Earth release that I was on (Living in the Gleam of an Unsheathed Sword)

BrooklynRocks: Was that the show where you played as a two-piece at Tonic?

Adrienne: It was – the show was completely improvised and we were flying by the seat of the pants. Looking back, it was quite a bit of fun. It was a purative process of getting all of that out. It wasn’t the most focused thing we have ever done but it was definitely energetic.

BrooklynRocks: How did you go from being an improvisational two-piece to the “Morricone western soundtracks” of the last few Earth albums?

Adrienne: People who aren’t from Seattle seem to have this theory about Seattle that musicians fall off the trees here and everyone is waiting to play with everyone else. What we found is that there are a million bands here but to actually find someone who isn’t already in a million other bands, who wants to play with you and is into it and has the time for it is a lot harder than you think. Steve Moore and Don McGreevy are amazing musicians all around and we first met them through Randall Dunn who produced and engineered our last three albums prior to this one. They were sort of the musicians on-hand that Randall would call in at a moment’s notice who could adapt to anyone’s playing style and really knew what they were doing. We loved playing with them and they stuck with us for quite a few years. That was when it really upped the playing and the writing and I thought the music took a huge leap forward with them on-board.

BrooklynRocks: Before we jump into the new disc, I’ve noticed that there has been a limited edition live album from every tour since the 2002 tour. What do you think of these live albums and do they adequately capture the live Earth experience? Is one more of a favorite than others?

Adrienne: Definitely – I would say that the Live in Europe 2006 was pretty accurate for where we were then but I don’t think it captured the magic of what we try to hit live. This disc was good and there are some real peak moments on the album but my favorite album is the Radio/Live one. This disc is a compilation of tracks from a live show from the 2008 tour along with tracks from a radio performance that was recorded before the tour. Everything was really good for this one and I’m happy with how it came out.

BrooklynRocks: Can you talk for a minute about the new members of Earth?

Adrienne: We are kind of going through a transition because Steve Moore and Don McGreevy weren't going to be able to do the album. Dylan and I had been playing with Lori Goldston who plays cello. She is very, very musically adept and has a wide variety of influences, especially experimental. She doesn't play classical which is so great about her and she can play an electrical instrument. We had her come in and knew from the start that we were going to work with her. When you first think about trombone or cello, it is such a distinctive instrument, you kind of go 'can we have this on every song throughout a whole album or is it going to be too much?' Both Steve Moore and Lori are able to play one instrument without it ever becoming 'oh man - that is way too much cello or way too much trombone'. They can kind of lay low with it or pull it out and that is essential to making it work.

Karl Blau is on bass - he is not actually going to be touring with us because he is doing his own thing but he is phenomenal on the album. He is everything that I love about a bass player.

BrooklynRocks: What is the concept behind the new album and why the two parts? (Note: Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II is due out later in the year)

Adrienne: This was kind of a strange time for us as Dylan was going through a health crisis, which has now been cleared up, and I think he was feeling a bit of that sense of mortality. We went into the studio with enough material for what was going to be one album. We had a set of songs that we had been working through on a two-week tour of the West Coast and we were still feeling out these songs as we never like to have anything too concise before we go into the studio as it is so much better to have it evolve. We got into the studio and a huge amount of creativity came flying forth. No one can really put their finger on what caused this but we ended up with double what we were trying to do and it was very effortless. Nothing was forced and it was my favorite experience in the studio - there was no frustration which is usually the norm for studio work.

BrooklynRocks: Looking at some of the other work you have done, what was it like working with Sunn O))) on Altar?

Adrienne: Wow - that was a while ago! I was extremely honored that Greg and Stephen asked me to be on the record - that meant a lot. I loved working with Atsuo and Wata. If I recall, I think I did some brush cymbal stuff and I know I did some snare brush stuff on "The Sinking Belle". Atsuo and I were playing live for that track and it was awesome.

BrooklynRocks: Getting back to the new disc, what are the tour plans? Will there be other shows after the record release show (March 3rd - The Tractor Tavern, Seattle) and the April-May run of European shows?

Adrienne: We took some time off during the second half of last year so that Dylan could deal with some health stuff but 2011 is going to be pretty non-stop. There are a few Seattle shows which are sort of a warm-up for a big festival in Mexico City in March. After that, we are in Europe for six weeks which includes Roadburn and a couple of other festivals. This will be our second or third time at Roadburn which is always one of our favorite highlights of the European tour. We are also talking about going to Australia and Japan toward the end of the year.

We are going to be playing the entirety of the new album and we always like live to come up with stuff during soundcheck. We like to improvise - have to keep it fresh and keep it new. To make the songs work for the audience, we have to make them work for ourselves. If you play the same things the same way so many nights in a row, it becomes laborious and boring. We really try to shake things up and put ourselves out there where things could just go horrendously wrong and that is part of the fun of it. We try really hard to have live shows be what live shows can be.

BrooklynRocks: Thanks for the time today! Is there anything that you want to leave as parting words?

Adrienne: As a band, and how I approach music in this band, we like to keep things simple and intentionally haven't jumped on any of the new technologies of the last decade. We try to deconstruct everything that has been going on, slow things down and pull things apart. I love that about our band and we don't do this as a gimmick or genre. We can't do anything but that and it is reaffirming that people like it.