Isaiah Mitchell: “I think streaming events will become a bit more common. Bands need to try and earn a living where they can and it still feels good to perform new and old music for fans that are craving music just as much as the bands. The fan and band connection has never been stronger I feel.”
Een concert of een festival bezoeken; nog niet eens zo lang geleden was dit heel normaal, maar door de Covid lockdowns ligt de hele live muziekwereld al bijna een jaar op zijn gat. Ondanks alle beperkingen wordt op grote schaal geëxperimenteerd met nieuwe vormen. Zaterdag 23 januari start een ambitieuze serie streaming events: “Live in the Mojave Desert”, een aantal professioneel gefilmde shows gefilmd in de majestueuze Californische Mojave woestijn. Het zal geen verbazing wekken dat voor deze concertserie niet de minste stonerrock bands aantreden. Het spits zal worden afgebeten door Earthless, de Zuid-Californische band die bekend staat om zijn lange psychedelische freak-jams. Gitarist Isaiah Mitchell had in de aanloop naar het evenement tijd om ons te vertellen wat er gaat gebeuren en hoe Earthless de Coronacrisis doorkomt.
Als je het in je eigen woonkamer – of waar dan ook – wilt meemaken, kaarten zijn verkrijgbaar via http://cdwa.tixr.com
Jan-Simon Hoogschagen Ι 22 januari 2021
Great that you could make some time to talk with Arrow Lords of Metal about your latest project, the ‘Live in the Mojave Desert’ concert film that will be streamed live on the Internet on Saturday 23 January. First of all, how are you these days, all is well I hope?
I’m doing well thank you. Just trying to keep it all together during these times.
It has been almost three years since we saw a lot of activity from you: the album ‘Black Heaven’, you guys being Artists in Residency at the famous Roadburn festival and the live album ‘From the West’. What have you been doing since then?
We’ve been practicing and working on new music. We’ve performed a few live streams. Trying to make the most of the downtime.
The most threadbare and unfortunately also most unavoidable of questions these days is of course how the current Corona crisis affected you as a band. Can you tell us a bit about it, you need not go into political details unless you really want to.
Well we haven’t been touring or playing the amount of shows we usually do. Music is our livelyhood so not touring is tough. But we’re surviving. Having downtime with our family and loved ones is the best part of all this. But yeah, this is so weird for everyone in the music community.
For a band that is especially known for its live performances, it must have been hard not being able to go out and play for an audience. Have you found other ways to keep yourselves occupied?
Yeah it’s definitely weird. The livestreams have been a lot of fun to play and it helps knowing that people are watching you but you can’t replace the “club full of humans live experience” with that. The livestreams are great but bring a feeling of sadness and missing the way things were. It still feels like a dream.
So now we will see you perform live in the Mojave Desert, miles away from any form of civilization. Social distancing to the max, I suppose. Can you tell us how this project came to be?
We were supposed to play the Stoned and Dusted festival but Covid restrictions came into place and the festival had to cancel. So Ryan Jones who organizes the festival thought up the idea to do a pre-recorded concert of a handful of bands out in the desert to still make something happen for the fans and the bands. Ryan is awesome. Big time lover of music and does a lot for the Southern California music community. Always a pleasure working with him.
The similarities with the legendary Pink Floyd documentary and concert movie Live at Pompeii are far from coincidental, aren’t they? A band playing at a desolate location, footage interspersed with some behind the scenes shots and conversation. Was it planned like a present day version of the Pink Floyd movie from the beginning, or did you just start and all of a sudden there was this realization that you were doing your own Live at Pompeii?
The words “Live at Pompeii” were thrown out very early in our discussions with Ryan. That helped us understand what he was wanting to kind of do with these performances. It is one of the greatest music concert/documentaries of all time and though you can’t reproduce that film it was fun having that as an inspiration and doing something along those lines but differ as well.
What was it like, playing in the desert at night?
Very, very cold and windy. My hands weren’t working the way I would’ve liked them to. We were all wearing a few layers during that performance. Besides that the stars are infinite and the quiet is deafening. The desert is a beautiful place.
Have you done anything like this ever before?
Well we’ve played in the desert before maybe 12 years ago or so down in San Diego. When I was in high school my buddies and me would go to the desert with generators and our gear and have a great time camping and playing music all night.
Was it the most unique and/or strange location you have ever played?
I played in Key West at the Green Parrot the night before Hurricane Wilma hit and the next morning was a 6am mandatory evacuation. The rain was the size of marbles and the whole town was at the bar that night and partying like the apocalypse was coming. That was pretty wild and bizarre.
So for those of us who plan to watch your film next Saturday, what can they expect? Will it be mostly classic Earthless jamming, or will there also be room for the psychedelic rock with vocals that made ‘Black Heaven’ such a change compared to your previous work?
You’ll be listening to old school style Earthless 100%.
Will there be anything new, or is that a spoiler?
Nothing new but definitely rarely heard live performances.
Speaking of which, are you working on new material and if so, can we expect it released in any form soon?
Yeah we’re writing for a new record as we speak but no recording date has been set. We’re almost ready to get into a studio.
One of the most surprising features of the last album ‘Black Heaven’ was that we could hear you sing on four out of the six tracks. Was it an experience worth repeating?
I like to sing but don’t expect a repeat of Black Heaven. Might be an all instrumental record but we’ll see what’s feeling best this time around.
On the other hand, last year we saw your contribution to the Black Sabbath tribute on Magnetic Eye Records, ‘Never Say Die’, had Brendan of Sacri Monti on vocals. And of course at your latest Roadburn appearance you did a show with legendary Damo Suzuki of Can. Will we see more collaborations like that in the future?
We hope so. Collaborating is a lot fun for and it brings out a different energy in us which refreshing. They’re usually very light and lively experiences with people we love and respect so that’s a very healthy and enjoyable time and want to do more of that.
Also at the 2018 Roadburn festival you shared the stage with Kikagaku Moyo, a Japanese band that aims to revive both krautrock and old Japanese heavy rock. Those of us who follow Earthless for a longer period know that these are also important benchmarks for Earthless. Can you tell the uninitiated among us what you find so inspiring in these genres? And perhaps share a few recommendations (apart from Flower Travellin’ Band, who everybody ought to know)
There is a freedom and an originality to the music that bands from these genres show us and no one does it quite like they do. The sounds and the ferocity they express have such a strong impact. They take something that every band does well and manage to find a way to do way better and more interesting than anyone. Definitely listen to Blues Creation, Shinki Chin, High Rise, AR & Machine, Ashra, Thirsty Moon, Michael Rother……it goes on forever.
Back to the concert streaming – yours is the first of a series of five such events that will be unleashed upon us in the upcoming weeks. Have you seen the other shows (Nebula, Spirit Mother, Mountain Tamer and Stoner (the new band with Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri) already?
I haven’t had the chance to see the other band’s performances.
Unfortunately there is no telling when live gigs and festivals will be possible again. As it appears now, it may take longer than most of us wish and hope. Do you think streaming events like your Mojave Desert show can become a new normal?
Yeah I think this will be a bit more common. Bands need to try and earn a living where they can and it still feels good to perform new and old music for fans that are craving music just as much as the bands. The fan and band connection has never been stronger I feel.
Will you keep doing them once you can go on the road again?
I think it’s a good idea just because you can be anywhere on the planet and tune in. That’s the one positive thing about this is that you can have fans watching your performance from multiple places all over the planet. So I think it’s something to continue even after we can all get back to clubs and seeing live music again.
Thank you very much for your time. We wish you lots of success with the upcoming event and hope to see you any time soon.