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WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM



WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM "Written In The Stars"



By Dr. Abner Mality


The Pacific Northwest is indisputably one of the most beautiful places in America, if not all the world. It's the home of old growth forests that have brooded majestically in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains since time immemorial. If you've never been there, it's hard to describe how different and otherworldly these forests are, with their gigantic, twisted trees covered with moss and lichens, their endless profusion of small streams and their abundant foliage of ferns and berry bushes. I've been in the Oregon forests and believe me, Bigfoot is not a stretch at all once you've been dwarfed by this moist, gigantic biosystem.

Such mountains and forests serve as the primary inspiration for the Weaver Brothers, Aaron and Nathan, who are the guiding lights behind Wolves In The Throne Room. The Wolves have brought an entirely new dimension to black metal with their sad, majestic epics of droning buzz and fury. "Eco-metal" some have called their unique style. The Weavers walk it the way they talk it,too...living in their own rustic compound deep in the Olympic Mountain forests of Washington State. They live lightly on the land and their abhorrence of modern pre-fab society is sincere and deeply felt. It comes across very strongly in their music as well.

The most recent Wolves In The Throne Room release is "Celestial Lineage", which is the last part of a trilogy including "Two Hunters" and "Black Cascade". In comparison with those works, "Celestial Lineage" is not quite as aggressive. Though still possessing moments of rawness and fury, it's more expansive and comforting.

I was very happy to talk with Aaron about the band's philosophy, love of nature, musical theory and what the future holds for them. This is one of the more intellectually deep and challenging interviews I have done and I share it with you now...

WORMWOOD  CHRONICLES:  You guys put a lot of meaning behind everything you do. What's the meaning behind the album title "Celestial Lineage"?

AARON WEAVER:  Whenever we choose titles, we like to have multiple layers of meaning.  In the case of "Celestial Lineage", just those two words taken on their own were very important to us. Those concepts. This record is very expansive, in that it focuses on the stars, the sun and moon...things outside of ourselves, rather than the internal world or the bowels of the earth. Those were the feelings and concepts we focused on in previous records. Then "lineage" is a really important idea on this record, the idea of establishing traditions and finding a tradition to be a part of...connecting to a transcending feeling of ancientness. These are the themes that this album is about and which were inspiring us when we were making the music.

WC: When I heard the term "Celestial Lineage", I thought it might refer to a line of gods, gods in the stars.

AW: Yeah, that's absolutely the image that we had in mind. Black metal is really interesting, because on one hand, it wants to destroy everything and burn civilization to the ground but at the same time, it's yearning for a tradition, yearning for a connection to the past, for something richer and deeper than modern, materialistic, capitalist culture. Maybe with this record, we're thinking of new gods and a new mythology.

WC: I understand the record is the last part of a trilogy. Does that relate to what you mentioned before, with previous works being about what's within the person or within the Earth, while the new one is about things totally outside the Earth?

AW:  Yeah, asbolutely! That's how we were conceptualizing it when we were creating the final record of a trilogy that would finally mark the end of not just a cycle of three records, but a whole phase of Wolves In The Throne room. We're opening up a door to a new way of doing things. We're definitely planning on doing things differently in the musical arena in the future and we're also changing a lot of things in our lives. For the past four years or so, this band has been pretty much the full time focus of our energies. And it's been really good and worthwhile. A lot of bands would kill to be in the position of not having to have a day job and have to tour and sell records and be succesful in that regard. But that's never really been my goal. I don't want to be a professional musician. I don't want to make the compromises that one has to make in order to make music your livelihood. That's never been something I've wanted to do. "Celestial Lineage" is going to be the last time we're going to hit the road really hard and do a lot of touring and sacrifice so many of the other things in our lives we have to put aside to focus 100% on making records.

WC: Will the Wolves be just you and your brother Nathan going forward? I know there have been line-up changes. Where do we stand right now?

AW:  Well, the band has always been me and Nathan, we've always been the core. There's usually be a third person in the past who contributed musical ideas and was a part of the band. But that person never had the same power or creative control over Wolves In the Throne Room as Nathan and I have. On this record, we wrote and recorded the whole thing without a third member. I really enjoyed that. I thought it made for a more focused and a better record, really. I'm happy with the way it turned out. When we play live, we'll always have other session musicians to fill out the sound. We have a pretty orchestrated and big sound on our records, obviously, and that would be tough to pull off with two people. We always have other comrades on stage with us.

WC: On "Celestial Lineage", it seems like you dialed back the aggression somewhat, at least in comparison with the previous record "Black Cascade".

AW: We intended on "Black Cascade" being a pretty stripped down and raw metal record that really focused on the traditional conventions of black metal...harsh guitars, harsh vocals, brutal drumming. When we finished that record, we knew we wanted to make a record that was more focused on the other side of things...the dreamy, ambient side, the psychedelic and drony side. That's really the kind of music I prefer to make. I do like aggressive and brutal metal music, but there's a a lot of bands that do that really well. The one thing I think we do really well is create an atmosphere and create a very expansive and deep soundscape.

WC: That's the one thing that's connected all your records. It's always been epic and something that unfolds in its own time.

AW: Yeah, we're really focused on having a record develop slowly over the course of the songs.

WC: To me, "Celestial Lineage" had an almost religious sound to it. Would you say this is the most "religious" record that you've done?

AW:  Yeah, definitely. There's a distinction between spirituality and religion and that's definitely something we wanted to express on this record. "Two Hunters" was intended to sound very feral and wild. It's the image of encountering deities in a wild place, having this personal, immediate and very raw connection with the divine. With "Celestial Lineage", we want to take that to the next level, of transforming that individual,  very primary experience into something that becomes a tradition, something that gets established into an actual religion. There's a good side to that process and there's also a very negative and oppressive side to it. I think that all of us interested in heavy metal music are scarred in some way  by Christianity and how that religion has brought so many horrible things into our culture. But there is also a beautiful side to Christianity. You hear it in the medieval liturgical music and see it in the architecture of the cathedrals. I think you can sense that there is some sort of divine spark within that religion. But of course, it's been paved over by the church and the priesthood and all the bullshit that's attached with it.


WC: That's right. I don't see myself as a religious man but when I'm in an old church or cathedral, I always like the feeling you get in those places. Also, in the early days of Christianity, there was a lot more mysticism to it.

AW: Absolutely! Part of this record is about the sad side of that mystical experience being washed away in favor of a bureaucracy and a priesthood, which I think is a really sad and oppressive process.

WC: When people speak about the evils of Christianity, it seems they are really talking more about the evils of Catholicism or organized Christianity. That's what started the religion as a power grab. They wiped out many other branches of Christianity like the Cathars and the Templars.

AW: There's a political structure. You know, at the same time, I've got some pretty deep problems with Christianity at its very root. It says right there in Genesis that mankind will have dominion over the Earth. I think that is a really poisonous idea. Clearly, in modern Western culture, human beings don't have any connection to the divinity of the Earth. Because for thousands of years, people have been taught that everything that is holy exists in another dimension, it exists in Heaven. You get there after you die. Basically, existence on Earth in our mortal years is unclean, it's unpure and tarnished by original sin. That's an idea I absolutely hate. I think it goes against the pagan ideal, which is that the Earth is a holy place. It's right here! A central idea of black metal and also a central idea of Wolves In The Throne Room is the denial of Earth as being a place of depravity and that your spiritual reward awaits in Heaven. I hate that idea and we fight against that all the time with our music.

WC: Do you think there is any hope for the natural world to continue in our present age or is it on its last legs?

AW: Well, of course, the natural world will continue. At some point, humanity will destroy itself or evolve into some other species and everything will return to the way it was before we were here. Of course, there's always a cycle of creation and destruction. Whether or not human beings will last long enough to see a return to equilibrium and balance between mankind and nature, I don't know, I'm honestly quite pessimistic about it.

WC: When I was younger, I knew there was going to be some kind of big collapse but I thought it would be two or three hundred years in the future. Now, I feel pretty confident it's going to be in our lifetime.

AW: Yeah, I feel that way as well. That's a really strong sentiment in the underground culture where we live in the Northwest. A lot of people are really interested in preparing for some sort of great change in terms of the end or at least a major transformation in industrial society. I think that most people, even mainstream people, know in the back of their head that something is going to happen. Materialistic culture cannot continue but it's really, really hard to accept that when your whole life is wrapped up in living a normal middle class American life. You might know it's flawed, you might know it's going to fail, but you can't accept that.

WC: I'm contaminated by that. I could live a better way but you get conditioned by everything around you. As far as the future of humanity goes, I feel people have made their own bed. But I feel sorry for dolphins, tigers, rhinos...who are probably going to cease to exist within our lifetime.

AW:  Clearly, humankind...mostly because of that command in Genesis...has been at war with the natural world for a couple of thousand years. Ever since the advent of civilization and the advent of agriculture,...that was a big shift. Humans have been around for tens of thousands of years, living in very primitive and harmonious ways with nature. Then, of course, something happened and the genie was unleashed out of the bottle. And here we are. And I have a feeling it's not going to last much longer.

WC: It's not just Western civilization, because the worst ravages are coming from places like China...

AW: Of course, they're trying to live up to our established Western lifestyle and have all the same material comforts we have in the West.

WC: In Japan, they are strip mining the oceans. It's like it's more important to have a seafood meal today than to have fish at all in 200 years.

AW: Yeah, absolutely, and that's why black metal is such a powerful music in this day and age. It really speaks to all these issues, it expresses misanthropy and our self-loathing as human beings. We see ourselves destroying the world and essentially destroying ourselves but seem powerless to stop it. I think that's the fundamental root of the misanthropic energy you feel in not just black metal but all heavy metal music...that disgust with ourselves. The fact that we can see ourselves failing and that we know our species is so deeply flawed and that there's nothing we can seem to do about it.

WC: I'm fascinated by the cover image on "Celestial Image". Where was that taken and what exactly is that?

AW:  We work with a photographer named Allison Scarpullo and she works in all analog formats. She manipulates the negatives in interesting and ritualistic ways, but submerging the negatives in wine and blowing smoke of them and doing all sorts of strange things to create those images. It's a photograph but it's been manipulated by Allison. It was taken in the Olympic Mountains, on the North Fork of the Snohomish River, which is a place I like to go hiking sometimes when I've got the ability to get away. It's basically a sort of montage of various natural objects that we found in this spot, layered in an interesting way.

WC: You certainly live in a very nice part of the country. I visited the Oregon coast a couple of years ago and I think that was the most beautiful place I've been to yet.

AW:  Yeah, it's amazing, it's beautiful here. Where do you live, Mike?

WC: Well, I live almost exactly between Chicago and Milwaukee. There's still a lot of very nice farmland and field out here, but it's not as rugged and awe-inspiring as it is out west.


AW:  Certainly, that's something we're really inspired by, our wild places that have never been logged or mined or paved over by mankind. There still are some of those places here in the Northwest. We're truly lucky to have some wild old growth forests that have never been touched. People have passed through for thousands of years...the native people, of course, roamed all over the land. But a lot remains in its truly natural state. We're deeply inspired by those sort of places.

WC: The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a lot like that. It's relatively unknown. There are millions of acres of forest, but the population density is only like 42,000 people.

AW: That sounds like my kind of place!  I always wanted to make it up to the U.P. I've got some friends who live in that part of Michigan and they're always telling me how beautiful it is. I'd like to check it out.

WC: What live plans do you have for the new record?

AW: We definitely plan on touring quite a bit in the next few months. In about a week, we're gonna hit the road and tour for about 5 weeks in the United States. Then we'll get home, have about 10 days off and then go to Europe for about 6 weeks. Then we'll come back and probably do some more dates after that, like Australia and the West Coast and then maybe one more trip to Europe in the spring. And that will be it for us. We're going to do these tours in a really different way. In the past couple of years, we've done the more conventional tour circuit, playing normal rock clubs. We're not going to do that this time. We've got a really strong D.I.Y. ethic so we got rid of our booking agent and we're going to book the whole tour ourselves through the D.I.Y. network. W're going to try and play non-traditional venues like warehouses, open fields...a few clubs here and there, but for the most part, it will be places that aren't usually music venues. We have to bring our own P.A. system, our own lighting rig and a big crew to set things up, so it's quite a logistical undertaking.

WC: It will be quite an interesting experience, for the crowds as well as you.

AW: I certainly wouldn't go see some band I wanted to see in a sports bar. If I wanted to see a black metal band, I'd like to have an atmosphere where I can lose myself in the music and not have some big screen TV behind me playing the game, you know. That's not the kind of thing we want around us when we're playing our music, we take it really seriously and like to get into the right state of mind.

WC: If you could ask any three people from history to dinner, who would they be?

AW: Let's see, that's a tough one. I'd talk to Lao Tzu, the Chinese Philosopher. I'd talk to Pericles and I'd like to speak to the first genetic modern homo sapiens.

WC: (laughs) I've been asking this question for a while and that's probably the most unique answer!

AW: Alright, good!

WC: What was the last CD or album you listened to just because you wanted to check it out?

AW: The last record I really listened and got into was the most recent Deathspell Omega record. I don't know if you're a fan of Deathspell Omega but I think they're just absolutely fantastic. They are one of the few black metal bands I am totally into.

WC:  They're on a different plane.

AW: Totally, totally.

WC: Along the same lines, what was the last band you saw just because you wanted to check them out?

AW: Last band I saw play was Tinarwen.  Do you know Tinarwen? They're from North Africa, they're a Tuareg band.

WC: Playing authentic music from that part of the world?

AW:  They are like Berbers.  There are actually a bunch of bands that formed in refugee camps in Algeria and Morocco. It's really amazing music, I'm a huge, huge fan.

WC: I recently heard a recording of these boogie rock bands from the country of Mauritania...

AW: Oh yeah, I heard that, too! It's great stuff!

WC: It's weird! It's like half Middle Eastern and half old Mississippi  blues music.

AW: Absolutely. Yeah, that's the kind of stuff I like, just grimy and from the heart, without any slickness or pretension. It just cuts right to the heart of it.

WC: In the history of Wolves In the Throne Room, is there any kind of a Spinal Tap moment you could share with us?

AW: (laughs) Man, we try to avoid those as much as possible. I've definitely seen "Spinal Tap". I've seen other bands have Spinal Tap moments, because I think you get into those kind of situations when you try to be something you're not. When you're trying to live some sort of rock and roll fantasy, it's all about trying to get on a nice tour bus and get fancy catering and groupies. That's never been the kind of thing we're interested in...

WC: But surely you must have had some kind of crazy stage mishap somewhere in your career?

AW: You know, we've honestly had pretty good luck! A lighting rig has never collapsed on my head, I've never been trapped inside a pod (laughter). Well, that's not true...I actually did get lost on the way to the stage one time. We were playing a big club in Europe, I think in Belgium, and sometimes these Belgian clubs are a little too smart for their own good. The backstage was like a maze! (chuckles) Yeah, I watched Spinal Tap a couple of years ago and that was something that did strike me as being very true to life.

WC:That's the most common kind of Spinal Tap moment!