Some 25 years since the band’s inception, Neurosis have rightfully transformed the realm of experimental, heavy music through the course of nine powerful studio albums. Noticeably progressing through each release, it was 1993’s Enemy of the Sun that propelled the band into an entirely new entity, shedding their crusty, hardcore roots for a more vigorous and cogent sound.
Celebrating the record and its eminent pith on the evolution of Neurosis, the band has released a reissued rendition today, along with the third installment of their Official Bootleg series, Live At Roadburn 2007. Speaking on the albums, as well as forthcoming plans for the Oakland-based band, vocalist/guitar Scott Kelly checked in with LA Music Blog on the eve of their coupled release.
Live At Roadburn 2007 is finally being released today. Out of all of your shows and festival appearances, why was this specific performance chosen for a live recording?
We listened to everything—we just kind of went through everything we had, and this just seemed like the best one, the best overall. You just have to take into account the performance, the recording itself, and then the content, and just make a decision.
And the fact that it was at Roadburn probably played into our decision at some point too, just because we have some loyalty to those guys; they’re good people that run that festival. It’s a really great event, and doing something to kind of honor them and their work, it kind of came into play as well. Had it been a crappy performance with a bad recording, we probably wouldn’t have put it out, but we just felt like it was a good representation of a live show. Oftentimes, we’re pretty sloppy, but that was a pretty good performance.
So do you guys have a live recording rig that you use all the time then?
No, but we oftentimes are playing places that offer that option. A lot of clubs have those built in now, and you can pay them like $100 or $150 and they’ll record it on 24-track ProTools for you, and you can listen back to it. If it seems like the right thing to do, we’ll do it. It’s always nice to document where we’re at. And at a show like Roadburn, they record everything; they record everybody that plays there.
Considering the show was recorded 3 years ago, were there any hold backs with releasing it, or was it just a matter of fitting it into your schedule?
It really had to do with getting it done. Just getting it mixed, just going through everything, making sure that we had what we wanted. We don’t tend to move especially fast with stuff, you know? We kind of just let things marinate a little bit, or fester, however you want to say it.
And will it strictly be available in CD format, or will there be a vinyl edition of the album?
An LP is coming out through Roadburn Records.
Are there any plans for a live DVD to accompany the album?
Nah, I don’t think that’d be too nice. [LAUGHS] For us, it’d be kind of weird. That’s never really been our thing; it’s always been quite the opposite, actually. I mean, a video of us performing live—there’s enough of those out there if you want to see what we look like playing, but we’ve never been willing to basically sacrifice a performance in order for there to be camera people all over the stage.
I think the only time that anyone ever got away with it was in Brooklyn a couple of years ago, and they happened to be really, really good at it, so that we didn’t really notice that they were there. Because otherwise, to me, there’s no way that you can justify that: I can’t justify sacrificing one live performance for a video shoot, you know? That to me is just sacrilege.
To be honest, I was pretty shocked that there were never any videos released from when you guys played those shows with Jarboe.
Well, that would’ve been smart. [LAUGHS]
Yeah, but it makes sense now.
I haven’t seen even a YouTube video of that!
Well, I heard that they—which I guess could’ve meant you guys, or the venue, or Jarboe even—were just really strict on not allowing anything in there.
We’re really strict about it. I mean, we are, every time. But it still doesn’t stop people from getting little snippets off of their phone and throwing them up there. The main thing is flash photography, because it’s totally rude. Especially when you’re playing in darkness, like almost complete darkness, to have people flashing you in the eyes and stuff is just always a bad result. It brings out the worst in you.
But yeah, there may have been more specifics coming from Jarboe on that. I don’t really remember, but we’re pretty vigilant on that stuff. We’re not really down with any of that. In general, people just use it to exploit you.
For us, it’s about the moment; it’s about literally being there, and that experience, and then the ruminations of it later in your mind. That’s so much more valuable than somebody’s self-absorbed “Oh, I’m gonna get a photo” or “I’m gonna get a video and post it” type of crap. I just like to discourage that—just make it difficult for them, at least. But you know, they usually get through anyway.
Enemy of the Sun was already reissued, in 1997 with Souls At Zero, and in 1999, with two bonus tracks (“Takeahnase” and a live version of “Cleanse II”). What extras does the new rendition include?
Just the bonuses, the bonus tracks, and then a rework of the artwork. It’s basically us taking full control of it now, worldwide and on our own label. That’s what the reissues are about. When we first took it back from Alternative Tentacles, that was a means to celebrate. We didn’t want Alternative Tentacles getting any money from it because they ripped us off, so that was why we did that.
But later on, we were doing it where we were splitting it with other labels in Europe, and other labels in the States, and now we’ve finally got full control of everything and we just want it to be out there in that way. And we also had Josh (Graham) work on some reworking of the packaging.
With this record in particular—and we’re doing this with all the records—but for this record in particular, it seemed like for some reason, it just kind of slipped through in between Souls At Zero and Through Silver in Blood, which are two records that people kind of hold pretty high. But I actually think that some of the material on it is just pretty significant in terms of the evolutionary steps we were making at the time. I think that it draws the line between Souls and Silver pretty clearly.
On a personal level, I definitely consider the album to be one of your most important records; it really seems to showcase that musical shift that you guys were taking. At the time, was that something that happened naturally or did you consciously decide that it was time to, more or less, evolve your sound?
The conscious decision to evolve our sound was from the onset of the band. I mean, that was something that we set out to do from the start. To say that it was natural would be pretty much correct, except that it was…somewhat chemical as well. We were pretty committed to evolving our sound and moving things forward, and trying to find new ways to express ourselves and open our minds at the time. For us, that was part of the commitment; but that was a lifetime ago for many people, so that’s pretty evident, I think.
I just saw that you were confirmed for the Nightmare Before Christmas festival that Godspeed You! Black Emperor is curating. Are those the only shows that are scheduled for the rest of the year?
We’re doing those two, and then we’re doing one in London right after that. So for the rest of this year, yes. But right at the beginning, hopefully, we’re about to confirm a couple of west coast shows and then we’re playing at the Maryland Deathfest in May.
Our main focus right now is finishing up our new record, getting the writing complete, recorded, and complete. So that’s where we’re at. That’s really our main focus right now.
I think if it hadn’t been Godspeed You! Black Emperor, we probably wouldn’t have been pulled out of our caves right now, but that kind of shook us up. The fact that they asked us, we were really, really honored and excited to do it. And to get a chance to actually see them is probably a lot more rare than it is to see us.
In terms of the new release, is there any sort of tentative timeline for when you’re looking to put it out?
Next year is the tentative time frame.
Any specific time next year?
It’ll be later, I’m sure. But like I said, we’re just trying to finish it right now. We’re trying to get it to the point where we can step into the studio. And it’s getting close, but we have more work to do. Our schedules are pretty ridiculous. We all work regular jobs, so we just have to find time to get together and work on this stuff. The winter is usually a good, creative time for us, so hopefully we’ll come out of the winter with the record completed and then we can have a more solid release date in mind.
For a long time now, you’ve seemed to be pretty picky about the shows that you play. Is there a specific reason why you don’t tour so much? Is it because you all have regular jobs, or is it because everyone has side projects as well?
It has a lot to do with the fact that we all have families. It has a lot to do with the fact that we just felt that when we were in the constant touring cycle, that everything was totally out of balance. The reason that we started this band wasn’t to tour all the time; we started this band to create music, and we felt that the music was suffering because of the touring, and we felt that that was basically just unacceptable.
We put this band together with some really high principles with how we were going to do things, and we’ve just never been willing to compromise. We felt like we were reaching a point where we were basically being forced to by the business aspect of things. The fact is that if you’re on the road all the time, you have to make a certain amount of money to take care of everybody back home. And in that, in turn, you’re compromising your time with your children and your wife and your family, and that’s always been really important to us, to have that balance. So those were the main contributing factors to us just deciding that we didn’t want to just grind it out on the road all the time.
We’ll take any offer, and we’ll look at it and if it makes sense, we’ll do it. If it’s a good time for us, then we’ll do it. But in general, we just try to balance. It’s all about balance, and being on tour six or seven months out of the year keeps things all fucked up; nothing is right, nothing feels right. So right now, between this and Shrinebuilder and all my solo stuff, that’s about as much as I can handle, I’m not really willing to be gone any more than that.
In the past 25 years, the band has truly achieved so much. What do you hope to carry forward to the newer generations of heavy music?
I just hope that people are inspired to go and do things. From my perspective, art is a very selfish expression. You don’t do things so that other people will like it. It’s not that type of approach. Nobody would do what we’ve done if they didn’t have to, and that’s the simplest way I can put it. We had to do this; there was no alternative other than letting all this shit just fester and gnarl inside of us, and manifest itself in other ways.
If you’re one of those people, then you’ve got to throw yourself into something positive. Even if someone sees it as negative, it doesn’t matter, because we know what it is. For us, everybody always accuses us of being negative or being dark, but honestly, this is quite the opposite. For us, this is just cathartic, just totally from a good place. So just make your commitment or make your stand, and just do it.
It’s so possible now to do things independently without the help of anything. Some of the best stuff out there is coming from very isolated areas. It’s no longer necessary to be in a big city with all the infrastructure, corporate bullshit, or anything like that. You don’t even have to perform if you don’t want to—you can just put out music, and let people get what they get from it.
For us, I hope that when we’re gone, our legacy is that we did that. We did that, we did what we wanted to do.
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