(NCS contributor Ben Manzella brings us this interview of Greg Anderson, co-founder and mainstay of Sunn O))), Goatsnake, and Southern Lord Records.)
I don’t really know how to introduce this. I feel like I’ve been admiring the work Greg Anderson has been involved with for so long at this point, that this interview was a very surreal experience. As I walked home from my day job, I never could have predicted that I’d be chatting with Greg at all; but this interview is essentially the conversation we had as we discussed the great records he’s been involved with making this year, as well as the shows played, along with what is being planned for next year.
Ben: With the new Sunn O))) album, Kannon, having been released just last week, as well as a run with Goatsnake to end the year, how has everything been going? What’s the general feeling, a bit exciting or overwhelming?
Greg: It’s been good; it’s been busy, for sure. Besides the Goatsnake release earlier this year, there was a bunch of Sunn O))) shows; so it’s been a time of switching back and forth between Goatsnake and Sunn O))). It’s been really good, really busy; but I’m glad. I didn’t exactly plan for it turn out like this, where both albums were released in the same year, but I’m happy with everything. It’s great.
I’d imagine the Le Guess Who? Festival was quite an undertaking. How’d that all go?
It went really well; I thought all the bands were great, everything I saw was really interesting and there was a very eclectic lineup. The Sunn O))) show went really well, and that was exciting; the Goatsnake show went well also. It was good; it was really an intense weekend, with the events in Paris still being so fresh in people’s minds. It was a bit heavy, but all the bands played really well and the audience was amazing. It was an honor to be able to put part of the program together for that, and it was a really cool experience.
As far as the recording process goes for Kannon, what was sort of the groundwork that produced Kannon?
Well, if we’re going to speak about the groundwork; I think it’d be a good idea to mention that the sort of catalyst for this album was the recording session of our album with Scott Walker, Soused. It had been a while since we’d released a studio album, and Monoliths and Dimensions was a very challenging process and album for Sunn. It was an epic achievement at the end of it all, and so we were having this sort of block or difficulty about what could come next. It wasn’t so much that we’d run out of ideas, just the record had felt like a pinnacle moment in some ways. It was like the intuition that many bands have in that they want to “top” each album they release with the next.
Eventually, we came to the point where we said, let’s just make a record, period. We enjoy playing music together and so we should do that; then we arrived at the studio for Soused, it made us realize how much we enjoy creating in the studio together and it gave us momentum to do just that. Some of the material was previously recorded, but there was also material specifically made for Kannon; but it was really the product of us all getting together in Seattle during the summer to finish the record.
It’s nice to hear how the recording of one album actually propelled you guys to come together for another album. At times, it seems like recording can be an exhausting process and pushes bands out of the studio; and, refreshingly, the recording of Soused had the opposite effect.
Yeah, definitely. It was also, sort of, just coming to the realization that it isn’t about beating your last performance. It’s about just continuing to exist together because you enjoy doing it, you’ve established something together, and we’re fortunate enough to have a dedicated following that enjoys our music and are interested in hearing more. It sounds simple, but in our minds, and especially mine, Monoliths… became a sort of obstacle in a way, and I didn’t want to look at it that way. It’s a beautiful album and I don’t want to look at it negatively. We got over the whole concept of trying to beat Monoliths and Dimensions and just make another great Sunn record, to the best of our ability.
It was exciting with the touring that’s been done this year and Black Age Blues having been released; how is it all feeling with Goatsnake and for you personally?
It’s good, you know it’s a completely different can of worms than when I’m playing with Sunn O))). I definitely feel grateful to play with both groups, and I think it’s great there is still interest in the music. The new album was a huge achievement for us, and going out live has been a celebration of that, as we play a lot of the new album live. I’m happy about it and glad we could get the album out this year.
With the reunion, is it sort of making up for lost time?
Well, we never officially broke up; we’ve always just kind of been on hiatus, and, of course, remain friends. The thing with Goatsnake is that it’s been about finding the time, and, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. With Black Age Blues, we’re doing everything we can and it’s definitely been a lot of sacrifice on everyone’s part.
To touch on Southern Lord; it seems like the label grows every year. What have been some of the highlights this year, as well some of the plans for 2016?
Well, the records I played on, of course, are albums I’m really proud of; but putting out the new Poison Idea album was really cool, as I’ve been long-time fan of theirs, and feel the album is really incredible. Also, a new band we’re working with, Big Brave, has been amazing. Goatsnake played a few shows with them the East Coast and we invited them to play at Le Guess Who. I really have hopes for them and think they’re an amazing band.
It’s been a bit of a slower year, and that partly had to with my being involved with the Goatsnake and Sunn O))) albums, but it was also the changes in manufacturing as for the turnaround time on vinyl not being as reasonable. Looking forward to next year, we’ve learned how to work with the pitfalls of manufacturing and try to do more releases; there’s the new Power Trip record in the making right, those guys are amazing. New Pelican record, new Baptists record, new Loincloth record, new Wolfbrigade and Martyrdod; there’s a lot of stuff coming out next year including some things I’m still working on, and I think it’s going to be a great year.
As the end of the year comes, it seems like music helps mark time in different ways. With Sunn O))) sort of beginning this time in supporting Kannon and Goatsnake ending the year with some shows, what’s on the horizon for 2016 for Sunn as well Goatsnake?
Sunn O))) is definitely going to do a bunch of shows in 2016. We have stuff already planned for March and April including Australia as well stuff in the Southern U.S. and possibly the West Coast. We have the Big Ears festival in Tennessee, Levitation festival in Texas, and Moog festival in North Carolina. We’re going to tour in the summer for sure; both Sunn O))) and Goatsnake are already confirmed for Hellfest in France as well.
To end on a personal note, when it seems like so many people are overloaded at a time when a ton of music is being released, what are some of the highlights for you?
I really like this band called Like Rats from Chicago. Kind of Death Metal, Hardcore — kind of like Nails or Celtic Frost, more old school influence. Okkultokrati from Norway, also Celtic Frost-influenced, but also influenced by bands like Joy Division, with a sort of gothic touch to it while also being really heavy.
Can’t thank Greg enough for his time, as well as Dave from Earsplit PR who arranged the interview, and, of course, Islander for posting this chat.
Kannon, the new album from Sunn O)), was released on the 4th of December and is available now on CD, vinyl, and digitally.