There are time when I'm alone when my mind wonders and thoughts begin to bounce around in my head like a ball. I find myself just laying there in the dark listening to Sculptured new album embodiment thinking about everything and nothing all at once. Embodiment's lyrics begin to guide my thoughts without my even knowing it. Drifting from chaos of the random and onto loftier things. Like the state of human existence and the emptiness that sometime comes with being human. The music shifts my thoughts again, and I am entranced by the waves of heavy melodies that are flooding over me in seductive pulsating waves. At this moment I am keenly aware of the power of art, of music in particular to open the mind and help expand our consciousness beyond the things we may normally think of as it entertains us. Not long ago I got the chance to chat with Sculptured's Don Anderson about the new album, Embodiment, and music's place in the cosmos.
In Taking my Body Apart and Embodiment there are two really small yet very interesting spoken bits. Were those lines taken from anything? Or are they something written for those songs?
They are dialogue samples from two films whose subject matter matched my own for this album. I don’t want to divulge what these films are, but I love sampling from movies as I am a huge film fan. So, whenever I have some songs or I’m working on an album I always keep my ears and eyes open for possible film samples. It’s an effective way of bridging the work I do with another artist. I think by being associated with these films contributes to the overall meaning of my work—and maybe vice versa. It’s kind of a cross-fertilization.
There was quite a gap in between Embodiment and your last album while you were working with Agalloch were you working on material for this album during that time?
I started work on Embodiment immediately after Apollo Ends. I had three full songs, but ended up only keeping one, which was The Shape of Rage. But, I felt like I hit a wall with the songwriting and became disenchanted with what I was writing and metal more generally. Since Agalloch was taking off and I was very into the work we were doing at that time, which was the recording of The Mantle, I decided to just pause work on Sculptured and dive completely into Agalloch. Eventually, after the third Agalloch album I felt ready to take on a new Sculptured album. I also had the opportunity to update my computer software and began using FTP, which enabled me to collaborate with Andy and Dave who both live very far away. So, there were a number of things that helped inspire me to try again with Sculptured.
How do you feel what you do in Sculptured is different from Agalloch and other projects you're involved in?
I think the musical goals, at least on a smaller level, are different. I like to think that both bands are generally concerned with expanding the genres we find ourselves in and trying to bring something new to the table. However, Sculptured is specifically invested in pushing on harmony and structure way more than Agalloch. I am interested in atonality and surrealism and other ways of arranging notes outside of tonality. Agalloch, for the most part, is very basic when it comes to melody and harmony. But, I think this works in our best interest because with the amount of layering we do both instrumentally and harmonically, its better to work with very simple chord progressions. Agalloch is much more concerned with establishing a mood and atmosphere. Not that mood isn’t on my mind with Sculptured, but I am really more interested in hearing notes arranged in ways I haven’t heard before. I am more interested in experiencing moods I can’t predict. Agalloch is very determined to achieve a preconceived sound and mood. However, with Sculptured, I’d rather let the music decide what it wants to do and show me something I could never anticipate as a musician.
Dave Murray, Andy Winter and Tom Walling are all new additions to Sculptured how did they come to join you in this incarnation?
Well, I’ve known Tom since high school when we were in a power/speed metal band for two years during that time. When my last singer, Brian Yager, decided to leave, Tom was a perfect replacement. I think he has a voice more suited for this album anyhow. I’ve also known Andy for a few years now since he used to live pretty close to me in Northern Washington. I wanted him to do a solo on one song, but he actually sent keys for the whole song! I loved what he did and he had a nice window of time to work with me, so I kept sending him songs and pretty much let him do whatever he wanted. I think he really helped make this album what it is. As for Dave, he’s a studio musician; I’ve never met him. He is the former drummer for Estradasphere and is just a monster of a drummer. I love the Cynic/Atheist style and have always sort of modeled Sculptured after those bands. Dave is very much influenced by those same bands so he was a really natural fit. He did the drums on his own, without me. In fact, I didn’t even hear the drums until they were done—which is what I prefer. I actually prefer not to have much control, if at all, in Sculptured. I really want the end result to be something much, much greater than its parts—much greater than any of us. And so, I always give everyone complete control over what they individually do. Some of the members don’t even hear what the others are doing until the album is done! The philosophy behind my songwriting is to always function as a kind of intermediary. I like to think that I didn’t really “write” Embodiment, but rather that I made Embodiment “possible” through a series of actions; obviously composing the guitars being a major one, but after that, its really out of my hands.
Some of the songs on this album are pretty heavy and seem to spend time questioning existence in different forms. Is it important to you as an artist to write things that make people think and question things around them?
Of course, I don’t write for a passive listener. I like to think that I am writing to people who like listening to an album front-to-back with headphones. That is my preferred listening format. Listening to any music should be a two-way process. Both the music and the lyrics should really challenge your level of comfort. If you feel turned off, nauseated, or perhaps pleasure from the music, then that suggests a dialogue is occurring. If you aren’t viscerally involved with a work of art, whether a film, or a piece of music, I don’t think you are really listening closely enough. I am a firm believer in always being aware that you are listening to something or watching a film. This is why I prefer things that point to themselves—‘hey, I am a film, look at me’ or ‘this is a song you are listening to, doesn’t this note sound wrong to you!’ [laughs]
After your last album you recorded a song for the Dario Argento film Suspiria, but the track was never used. What ended up happening to it? Are there any plans to use it elsewhere?
It did appear on the End Records compilation, Phases: The Dark Side of Music. I came across the official Goblin webpage back in ’99. The guy running it was putting together a tribute album to Goblin. Since I was a huge fan of both Goblin and Argento, I wanted to be part of it. So, I tracked the main theme from Suspiria and, unfortunately, the album never saw the light of day. The guy fell off the face of the earth. I was really upset because I had spent money and time recording this track. Nonetheless, I was happy to have it. I often put it up on MySpace, but there aren’t any plans to do anything official with it yet. Maybe in the future.
What do you see next on the horizon for Sculptured?
I’d still like to do a fourth album, but I’d like to really simplify things. Embodiment was a real challenge to write and play. So, I’d like to begin subtracting elements and see what I can do with the basic elements of music. I am really interested in minimalism and composers like Philip Glass, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman, and Terry Riley. So, I might try to foster some of those influences for the fourth album. But, of course, Agalloch is again rising on the horizon and I’ll probably be dedicating the next year or two to Agalloch.