Mike Eginton: “We usually get together and jam. Just start playing and see what happens. That’s pretty much how we start every “practice”. Get set up and spend a good 30 to 40 minutes just playing. There might be some riffs or ideas, and we just see where that takes us.”
2022 begint goed voor de liefhebbers van lange geïmproviseerde instrumentale muziek: Earthless, de godfathers van het genre komen met een nieuwe plaat. Een plaat die heel anders is dan het vorige album en tegelijkertijd heel vertrouwd klinkt. We spraken met bassist Mike Eginton over dit nieuwe album en hoe je nu precies een song van veertig minuten maakt.
Jan-Simon Hoogschagen Ι 16 februari 2022
First of all, congrats with the new album! Was it easy to make a new record in these unusual times?
Thank you very much. It came together fairly quickly. We had a good amount of time to jam and write since we weren’t able to tour at all.
I suppose the pandemic has turned the world upside down for almost everyone. How has it affected Earthless?
It put a halt on touring. That’s for sure. Pretty weird not touring for two years. We did get time to write and record a new album and we may not have been able to do that if we were on the road. That was a positive that came out of this mess.
How is the situation in California anyway, have you been able to do some shows again, other than the filmed concert in the desert, or is everything still closed?
It kind of changes weekly. Most places are back to being open, with restrictions. We’ve played a couple of live shows in San Diego and Los Angeles, one in San Francisco that was also available to stream live. Hopefully we will be able to do some touring to promote the new record over the next few months. I guess we’ll see how things go.
Has it meant that – out of necessity – you are focussing on other things now that playing live shows is difficult or even impossible?
Yes, we’ve been jamming quite a bit, getting riffs down for the next album. Personally, I’ve been spending a lot more time with my family which is cool. Working construction jobs as much as possible.
‘Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons’ is a return to the “old” Earthless. Did the change of format (that is shorter songs with vocals) as tried out on the previous record ‘Black Heaven’ not work out for you?
I don’t think it necessarily didn’t work for us. We wanted to try something different. We did and now we’re going back to what we enjoy doing. Pretty quickly after ‘Black Heaven’ was completed we knew we were going to go back to the instrumental format. It’s just what we, as a band, like to play for ourselves. It’s more gratifying.
Can you tell us a bit about how the new record was created and how it was different from what you did last time?
For ‘Black Heaven’, Isaiah came in with most of the songs almost completely written so the writing process was different. We usually get together and jam. Just start playing and see what happens. That’s pretty much how we start every “practice”. Get set up and spend a good 30 to 40 minutes just playing. There might be some riffs or ideas, and we just see where that takes us. It’s more natural for us to do it that way. The new record was written more in this fashion. A few riffs were already there, but for the most part we just jammed it out.
The title track is over forty minutes long, which should make it the longest track Earthless has put on record so far, as far as I know at least. Have you ever considered going even further and writing a Dopesmoker-surpassing epic of over an hour or so, or isn’t that something that interests you?
I don’t know. We haven’t really considered going that long outside of a live setting. It may happen at some point.
‘Night Parade […]’ is based on a Japanese gothic folk horror story. That was a bit of a surprise for me, as I had always thought your songs formed organically through many hours of jamming and trying out things. Do you always have a theme or a story as a starting point?
No, normally our songs come from many hours of jamming. “Night Parade” was no different. The theme came in after the fact. My son and I were reading quite a bit about Japanese folklore at the time and the ‘Hyakki Yagyo’ or ‘Night Parade of One Hundred Demons’ really caught my attention. Especially with the pandemic going on.
With this thematic focus on Japan, did you also look even more than usual to the great Japanese heavy psych bands of the past for inspiration?
There’s a riff in the title track that was actually the very first Earthless riff which was heavily influenced by Blues Creation and Flower Travellin’ Band. Those are two bands that we focussed on a lot back in 2001/2002 when we were just starting to jam together. And still do. But yes, we did look to those bands on this album for inspiration.
Speaking of this, I thought I heard parts of Flower Travellin’ Band’s ‘Satori’ in ‘Death To The Red Sun’ or am I now imagining things?
There is a riff in ‘Death To The Red Sun’ that is similar to a riff in ‘Satori’. Call it an accidental homage. The riff just came out while we were jamming and it sounded good so we kept it there.
Since ‘Black Heaven’ your records have been released by Nuclear Blast. How was their reaction when it became apparent that this new record would not be a second Black Heaven?
To my knowledge they’re very happy with what we turned in.
Most of your back catalog is due to be rereleased by Nuclear Blast. I suppose that means they believe in Earthless. How did this all come to be, was it your idea or theirs to reissue “Sonic Prayer,” “Rhythms from a Cosmic Sky” and “From the Ages”?
Yeah, they seem quite happy having us on their roster. I believe it was their idea to do the reissues.
Are these just rereleases or is there anything besides the record label’s logo that’s different about them?
All three albums have been excellently remastered and ‘Rhythms…’ will have a 7” with our version of the Groundhogs’ ‘Cherry Red’ on it. That’s never been on vinyl before. It was just on the CD version that TeePee put out.
If you compare the latest record with ‘Sonic Prayer’, how did Earthless change over the years?
The music has evolved. ‘Sonic Prayer’ was pretty minimal. Very repetitive. The writing has become more expansive and complex. We’ve evolved as musicians. I feel we’ve become a pretty solid unit over the years. Much more confident in the improvisational aspect.
With all the experience of being in Earthless for twenty years or so, would you do things differently if you were to record ‘Sonic Prayer’ today?
Sonic Prayer’ was recorded in a print shop, which was fun, but it would have been nice to have recorded it in a proper studio. ‘Flower Travellin’ Man’ was improvised on the spot. I would have liked to have worked on it a little more before recording it. Other than that I wouldn’t change anything. It’s a moment in time. And that’s where we were at the time.
With all the uncertainty regarding live performances, have you already started work on a new project or do you still hope for a summer without tests, travel restrictions etc.?
We’re still hoping to get out on the road. We have shows booked. Hopefully they won’t get pushed back due to COVID. I guess we’ll see what happens. In the meantime we’ll be getting together to start working on some new material.