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By: Richard Owens
It’s been three years since Dragged Into Sunlight released Widowmaker, and in that time a lot has happened, one of the most surprising being Mores/Gnaw Their Tongues starting to play live. Dragged Into Sunlight have dropped tours and festival appearances, but little else, staying in the shadow while we wait eagerly – yet frightened – for their next offering, and N.V. turned out the be nasty plater we expected.
So I managed to chat with vocalist T about the album, the UK metal scene and why it might be a good idea to keep a cassette player handy for future projects.
(((o))): How are you in terms of Dragged Into Sunlight, are you happy with how things are going right now?
T: Yeah, it’s more productive than it’s ever been, definitely, things are moving. We had this three-year period where we were working on so much and it looked like we were doing nothing, but we were working in the background. We were just moving everything forward on all these different projects at the same time, like moving molasses. It was just so slow as we’d be switching between projects. Now we’ve materialised the Gnaw Their Tongues collaboration, we have other projects to follow.
It’s not improved massively as we still so much on at the same time, but the Gnaw Their Tongues collaboration took a lot of thinking time. Everyone involved in Dragged Into Sunlight thinks about everything, looks at every single angle and analyses it over and over. We always think: “is this what we want it to sound like?”, “is that the perfect riff or should we move that riff here?” and so on. A lot of editing went into the collaboration, a lot of writing, re-writing guitar parts, re-writing drum parts and recording vocal parts, just to get the sound we were working towards. It always takes resources. It doesn’t look as intense from the outside perhaps but inside the box, it’s a massive achievement to get the sound we want and get the record out there, it allows us to move on with other things, so we can breathe a sigh of relief, we’ve also got the Gnaw Their Tongues release exactly how we wanted it. So, overall it’s good, we’ve got the dates coming up with Gnaw Their Tongues and then we’ll be doing Maryland Death Fest, and Temples Festival in 2016 as well. It’s going to be carnage.
(((o))): I’m looking forward to it. As mentioned earlier, it’s been three years in between Widowmaker and N.V., how has that time changed or shaped Dragged Into Sunlight? Especially on this new album…
T: Like with any band, we’ve obviously thought a lot about the tracks and developed the sound over time; with Dragged Into Sunlight we started off with that plethora of influence, and it’s all been in progress at various points. Sometimes we stop work and get stuck into something else unfinished. We don’t tend to work to deadlines as such, it’s just about creating the music that we want to create. I mean, we were working with Gnaw Their Tongues in 2011, so it goes that far back. That was before Widowmaker came out, so it can’t be seen as consecutive, it’s more of a concurrent approach where the different projects move at the same time. Whilst the sound has evolved, it’s likely that no one has really seen the full extent of that evolution yet besides those involved.
(((o))): Yeah! I saw in an interview recently that N.V. stands for Negative Volume…
(((o))): …an idea you came up with when you were at Temples Festival. What does that mean in the context of your music?
T: Well, I was having a conversation with a close friend of mine, one of the Bossk [members]. We were talking about it and watching Will Haven – they were playing – and he turned around and said, “I can’t deal with this modern volume, I remember back in the day, hitting it hard and look at these guys now, they’re still hitting it as hard, like the old stuff from years ago”. Will Haven were a great band back then. Then they split. Negative Volume summarises how it was back then with so many strong bands when scenes weren’t so restrictive. Godflesh is a negative volume, they just make you feel that discomfort and contempt that got those involved in Dragged Into Sunlight into extreme music, and to see them still going and absolutely nailing every band that they play with, maybe things aren’t how they used to be. They’re still a great live band, just like Will Haven, and so that concept or reminder of negative volume goes back to the influence bands like that have had on us.
(((o))): I get what you mean, especially with Godflesh’s last album A World Lit Only By Fire. That album just fucking killed!
T: It’s a ferocious album! They’re still going at their 26th year after Streetcleaner came out, that’s an influential band! You don’t get bands like that anymore. Going back to that conversation on the concepts of modern extreme music or music generally, there’s no sustainability to it anymore. The older bands: Obituary, Napalm Death, Godflesh, Will Haven – those bands are still going, they’re still pummelling, y’know? There’s just a lot more sustainability to that generation and I believe Dragged Into Sunlight associates more with that generation than contemporary artists.
(((o))): I get you, yeah.
T: You know, we have a lot of friends in that generation and that’s the generation we grew up with, and those are the bands that influenced us… to see them still going just shows that they are very talented musicians and they really know their sound inside-out; it’s not about a ‘scene’ or a trend. Napalm Death have been doing what they do when there were six people at their show and now they’re a legendary band, but they’ve gone through waves like every band and just stuck it out, they do what they do because it makes them happy as musicians, it’s not about a new or emerging scene. They’re Napalm Death and they do what they do, and similarly Dragged Into Sunlight is Dragged Into Sunlight: we do what we do.
(((o))): Yeah, it’s sort of just powering through the ups and downs of the external and internal.
T: Yeah, that’s it. You’ve just got to do what you want, decide and commit to what you want your record to sound like and how you want your music to be portrayed. There’s definitely no room for compromise; which you see with a lot of contemporary musicians. There’s a lot of compromise there, whether it’s from external pressures such as labels or agents or whether it’s internal pressures, y’know? Members leave sometimes or scenes shift, there can be some tough times and most don’t stick it out for as long as they should perhaps. Whilst it is character building, with Dragged Into Sunlight it’s not an issue, we are committed to sustainability and maintaining the one school of thought – we’re not changing any time soon.
(((o))): I get you, I get you, yeah. It’s sort of like… well going off on how Dragged isn’t influenced by trends or business opportunities, I mean, you could write riffs that would sort of tap you into a more mainstream audience but Dragged…
T: Theres no need to do that. That would be compromise and it’s not what we’re interested in, it’s not what Dragged Into Sunlight is about. It’s about that sustainability and doing what we do because we enjoy what we do, y’know? This is the way we want to make music, there’s no point adapting or being flexible with anything, we’re not retiring from extreme music so we maintain our integrity and the integrity of our sound. We have one ambition and that’s to carry a sound that we love. We want to carry a sound drawn from very specific influences forward for some time to come, one that is perhaps not as well represented as it should be in contemporary extreme music or at least not as it once was. When were growing up, you had Obituary, Demigod, all these waves of bands… Incantation and Suffocation around the same time. I can’t even imagine being in a situation where you have that many strong bands all going at once.
(((o))): Yeah, and all that sorta leaks into Dragged Into Sunlight.
T: Yeah, it does, it’s just that sort of era and that generation which is summarised in the sound of Dragged Into Sunlight. That’s what we try to capture and it’s the ethic of that scene that we will always maintain, that’s where the roots of this band lie, and the ethic of that scene is the reason that scene prospered the way it did. No compromise at all. They still do what they do, 25 years later.
(((o))): Yeah, that’s true… one thing I associate with Dragged, lyrically and vocally at least, is frustration. I was wondering if there was any particular influence on the album for that, with the sense of frustration.
T: Yeah, of course, definitely. The band is driven from frustration, that’s why we do what we do because we have to have an outlet. It’s very important to everyone involved, we look after it, because it’s a creature that’s been created, it’s moving now. Everyone puts everything into it and there’s no point compromising or putting 80% into it: every show has got to be 200%. It’s an exorcism, it comes from that same frustration and sometimes, for example, in 2015 we played one show and that was in the Alps with Urfaust supporting and it was a mindblowing show. Not just the environment, but the bands that played and we hadn’t played for four or five months by that point, so there was an energy. It was the first show we’d done in 2015 and it was carnage. We drove 48 hours each way for that one show….
(((o))): [Both laughing] There’s plenty of fucking frustration then.
T: …and you know, after 48 hours, you wanna put your fist through a fucking wall. Whilst the whole experience was something to remember, getting that frustration out is what it’s about: playing shows, getting the feelings we can’t expel elsewhere, so Dragged Into Sunlight is a sort of a vessel for that.
(((o))): Yeah, I get you, sorta like a vacuum?
T: Yeah, that’s it, to put everything into, all that frustration and negative energy that you encounter on a day-to-day basis, wherever you go. Today I can guarantee you something bad will happen, and tomorrow. The world is a pretty fucked up place, as we saw with the Paris bombings… seeing that happen and then seeing it whored in the media, the world’s an ugly place and every day all those short straws build up and eventually, over time, it wears you down. Everyone needs some sort of outlet or you’d go mad – some people exercise, some people turn to drugs – for those involved in Dragged Into Sunlight, we turn to extreme music and venting our interpretation and feelings through music. It’s a passion, it’s an exorcism of all the energies that you gather through the course of living, everything you want to say but don’t say and everything you want to do but don’t do.
(((o))): It’s a good way to express it.
T: It does the trick.
(((o))): Obviously since it’s a collaborative album – with Mores/Gnaw Their Tongues – I was just wondering, how did that contact start? Was it a mutual admiration on both sides?
T: Yeah, we came across Gnaw Their Tongues through Mories’ other band, Aderlating, in Holland… in Amsterdam, around 2010. Aderlating are another mindblowing band, in fact, anything that Mories puts his mind to. He has a lot of different bands and all of them are great, but Gnaw Their Tongues is one that makes the skin crawl, particularly with the harsh use of noise. The new album they have on Crucial Blast, it’s just a void of negativity.
(((o))): It’s fucking amazing.
T: As far as being a creative genius goes, there’s no mistake: Mories is of the same ilk as perhaps as Justin Broadrick. Mories is up there, and there’s definitely an admiration between Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues. That’s what brought it together, it was almost gravitational rather than something we set up. Very natural. Then we’re sending tracks to each other. That wouldn’t be a normal pursuit that Dragged Into Sunlight would undertake. We don’t really talk to a lot of people, and we don’t have a lot of external contacts, we’re all such a close-knit circle, but when we met Mories, it just felt like we had a lot of common ground and having that level of admiration for another musician, it just ends up happening and if it works, which it usually does, then it works. That’s kind of what happened with Gnaw Their Tongues, we kept exchanging riffs and ideas, vocal patterns and drums, or lyrics and over time, constructed song-by-song, essentially.
(((o))): That’s cool man, ‘cause I was gonna ask as well about the writing and recording, like you just said. So, it was sort of sent to each other, and he’d respond a version and stuff like that?
T: Yeah, well, we’d record Dragged Into Sunlight in arbitrary pieces and send it over to Mores and he might re-record some drums or vocals, or add some vocals or noise, or add a bassline. Then it would go back to us and we’d record more drums, add more guitar, add more vocals, add some Moog – then it would go back to Mories and he’d add some of his more obscure influences. We’d work on it very carefully and each track, it wasn’t uncommon for us to go a year with just having done a single track. We knew what one track would sound like and the following year maybe we’d have two tracks down that we were comfortable with if we spent enough time on it. We recorded in that year maybe 30-to-40 minutes of music… and to windle it down to around 6 minutes for particular, that’s how the process was really refined. Sending music back-and-forth, it became an exercise, we’d like to challenge Mories by sending really underdeveloped stuff to see what he did with it or you’d go really over-the-top with something and see if he was on the same page with the track, it was hit and miss between the bands until we hit a breaking point or tension and the track just felt charged. We just kept sending tracks back-and-forth and just became and on-going and very part time routine for around 4 long years.
(((o))): It’s such an interesting way to record an album, like that.
T: Yeah, it is, definitely. Obviously we had the final version of every song and then it was finally recorded, but to write an album with such a geographical distance… I mean, Dragged Into Sunlight are located hundreds of miles apart anyway, between members, but to go overseas and to have someone international, to send music back-and-forth, it require another level of focus and empathy with the joint vision to really get the most out of it. Every year or so, maybe we’d play a show with one of his bands or friends – we’d always catch up every year. It would be like, “what did you think about that last track we did?” from one of us and we’d talk about it that much that it’d serve as a reminder to continue or revert to working on it and treating it like an ongoing project. One which we didn’t envisage taking as much time, but one that has also been very rewarding personally. We postponed our appearance at Maryland Death Fest 2015 on that basis because going to America to do a full tour, it would have been just like the year before when we’d been to Japan and Europe again, there was a lot of touring, particularly as Dragged Into Sunlight isn’t a touring band due to the schedules we’ve got within our own lives, so that’s why we’ve taken so long to release the record, it’s been a struggle to balance everything and deliver the record exactly how we wanted to and commit to spending time time to make sure it sounded how we wanted it to sound.
I think this year we wrote two of the tracks, so it was our most productive year for the record. Previous years were the one track at a time, and then maybe do another one, and probably scrap it, so it would definitely take a full year to write a track even though we’d record hours, we’d end up scrapping a lot. It was refined from 3-hours of music into 30-minutes of concentrated, extreme music.
(((o))): Yeah, that sounds excruciating.
T: Well it was always going to be very intense just because of the nature of the collaboration, but that process of concentrating and focusing it was like squeezing something into a puzzle piece into the wrong space. Like an awkward jigsaw piece. That pressure and build-up behind the concentration of music, you’re almost asking for intense ball of energy, and that’s what we hope to achieve, that’s negative volume. You go back to a Godflesh release and feel it in the music, that they put absolutely everything into it. That was the aim, to put absolutely everything into it, 200%, to make sure 3-hours of music was chipped away until it became intense, high-energy extreme metal. That’s what Dragged Into Sunlight is about, that’s the message we want to convey and hopefully that’s what we’ve achieved with N.V.. It definitely feels like we have and that’s all that matters to those involved.
(((o))): You have, I’m pretty sure you have.
T: Hopefully! [Both laughing]
(((o))): So, you’re planning to tour with Gnaw Their Tongues – you’ve got Temples and individual dates – I was just wondering if there is any possibility that there’d be a joint set playing the new material?
T: We’re not sure, we’ve contemplated it, but we have to wait and see really, because when we play these shows, we like watching the other bands on the bill, that’s why we leave the house, we’re fans of extreme music and that’s why we do Dragged Into Sunlight. I’m not sure I’d want to play a show where I’m not watching bands that we like on the bill, that would be a waste of time, so from a selfish perspective, I would prefer two separate sets, because I feel like as a fan of extreme music – if you go to a show, then you want to see a decent variety and set, plus we have 4 records in total. At Temples Festival or Roadburn Festival, you get that special band though and many special performances, so there’s a possibility we might surprise a few people… in principle however as a fan of extreme music, I want to see two separate sets rather than a collaborative set, but I wouldn’t want to exclude the possibility of achieving something so time will tell.
(((o))): I get what you mean: it’s exactly how I feel, say Temples for example, when people asked for interview passes or to interview bands and in the end I’ve just been like… I’d rather not, ‘cause I wanna see the bands.
T: Yeah, exactly! That’s why we’re in Dragged Into Sunlight, so we can check out new music. We’re very meticulous with support bands as we have such varied tastes. We’ll play in a garage, we’ll play anywhere, but we want to play with bands we want to watch, where we enjoy their music. They might be new, they might be old, we might know them already, they could be from anywhere in the world but as long as they bring something worthwhile to the stage. Extreme metal is an international phenomenon, so you can travel anywhere in the world and it makes the fanbase so diverse due to cultural differences. Regardless, generally speaking, fans of extreme metal want to go to a show and watch balls-to-the-wall music. I guess that’s just part of the parcel of what fans enjoy about extreme music.
(((o))): Yeah, I totally understand. The last time we spoke, it was just after you put up that first version of ‘Visceral Repulsion’, before Widowmaker, I asked you if there were other artists you’d like to work with. You mentioned Nate Hall of US Christmas… I was wondering if anything has been going on with that or is there anybody else you’d like to work with since then?
T: Yeah, Nate and Dragged Into Sunlight started working on Terminal Aggressor 2, the second instalment – the first Terminal Aggressor was released in 2008, on a tape cassette. Terminal Aggressor produced by Kas Mana, a noise artist from Liverpool, sort of guesting, whereas the second instalment of Terminal Aggressor will have Nate from US Christmas on it. We’ve been working on that for a while and it’s coming together slowly, there’s progress, but it’s another project we’re working on. It’s different, very different to N.V., but life is about diversity and we never want to make the same record twice, so we’re working on something interesting at the moment and we’ll see where it goes, it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out; we’re not entirely sure ourselves yet.
(((o))): What you said actually links to what I was gonna ask: I was gonna ask if there’d be plans to sort of re-release Terminal Aggressor, maybe even on CD or something like that?
T: Well we don’t want to release it on CD because you’d lose a lot of the bass tone that we mixed specifically for a tape release if it was on CD and Terminal Aggressor is really about the bass, the bass is a massively complex part of that track, it’s very important. So, whilst we won’t be burning it onto CD any time soon, we think that the second instalment will pick up where the first left off, it’s just that the recording is designed to be played on a tape and it sounds better on a tape player, and there’s something about that humble quality of demo tapes back in the day, definitely when we’d trade, that’s actually how we distributed some copies of Terminal Aggressor, by trading at Glasgow Implodes around 2007/2008. Terminal Aggressor captures that DIY feel, and it captures a lot of the bass in that medium and it’s not overwhelming or suffocating like Widowmaker on vinyl… so I think the second instalment of Terminal Aggressor will follow suit. At some point we’d like to re-record the first instalment or re-release thouhh perhaps, I don’t know, it just depends and we will see what happens.
(((o))): Yeah, ‘cause my thought just then was that a two-pack would be really cool, if you had both parts in a single package.
T: It could be, everything takes time.
(((o))): Heading towards the end now, are there any bands you’re really digging recently and do you have any particular favourite albums for the year so far?
T: Definitely, definitely. Dead Congregation put out a new one earlier this year – that’s one of the best death metal records I’ve heard in years. There’s a lot of up-and-coming bands, Employed to Serve had a great record this year – you’ve got Corrupt Moral Altar who I caught supporting Brujeria – John Cooke from Napalm Death’s other band. Venom Prison are really interesting, they’re from Wales, they’re along the lines of Arkangel from the early-2000s, so sort of really old metalcore akin to Undying and early Earthmover.
(((o))): My mate drums for them!
T: Oh yeah, they’re a great band. Grieved are interesting too, they’ve got a record on Prosthetic Records coming out next year, they’re from Stockholm, with an Entombed sound infused with hardcore as well. Really interesting. They played Temples 2015, they are young so they have so much energy. I was listening to a band called Pissgrave recently from the States and that’s some nasty stuff, really dirty, fucking filthy riffs. But it’s kind of getting to a similar stage as the wave around 2009, we had Weedeater and Black Cobra over, and all those bands that were coming through, some were unstoppable, it was like a wave of great music. Then it sort of dipped for a while and then we’ve just had this wave of new bands, like in 2015 we’ve had Employed To Serve with members of Oblivionized put their record out on Holy Roar, thrashing around with this Botch sound that was totally extinct but they’ve somehow resurrected it and beaten it into shape. So for all the sins and failures of contemporary extreme music, there are still a tonne of killer bands.
(((o))): Yeah, that’s Sam from Oblivionized, isn’t it?
T: Yeah, it’s his band and Justine is the vocalist, great vocalist, and it’s been a long time since anyone really resurrected that vibe, it starts somewhere similarly to the Converge resurgence, that most likely started with bands like Eden Maine… Bands like Venom Prison are doing the Arkangel sound, adding new twists and dimensions to it, and making it their own – and it’s good to see that because when it happens you know that the extreme metal scene is vibrant and doing ok because you’ve got all those bands coming through and pushing those various sounds.
You see all these new bands popping up with different unique twists on genres, and you’ve also still got the old-school death metal scene back and that’s really growing recently. You’ve got bands like Malthusian and Sheol, both had records in 2015, and so whilst, yeah it will never be like the 90s perhaps because people generally don’t value music as much and that influences the musicians because originally everyone is a fan, and the genre took a big hit with the explosion of technology, it even started clinging onto the mainstream, there is still a strong scene with a lot of new bands there.
(((o))): Fuck, Malthusian are awesome.
T: …and Horrified, there’s a lot of good bands in that scene that are just pushing the old-school death metal vibe that hasn’t been around since Incantation days; but at the same time, you’ve got all these new bands and you’ve still got those old bands with Carcass, Napalm Death, Obituary and Voivod all on tour together. That speaks volumes as to how strong the extreme music scene in the UK is at the moment. It hasn’t been this strong in a very long time, but there’s always space for new bands. You’ve got so many new and exciting bands it’s hard to keep track of them all at the moment for sure.
(((o))): I think you fucking nailed what I feel about it, to be honest. I can never put it so eloquently. Exactly what you said with re-opening the book with bands like Venom Prison throwing back to that age but bringing it into a modern environment.
T: Yeah, that’s it. I guess that’s how extreme music goes in cycles. At the moment, I’d say you’re at this sort of peak – and I hope there’s not an impending drop – but hopefully we can enjoy a good couple of years with such a strong scene in the UK, because it gets everyone out to shows and promoters popping up, putting on bands and putting on great festivals, you get new bands all the time with the exposure of festivals too. That’s what it’s about, whether you’re in a band or just enjoy going to shows, because at the root of it all, everyone involved in extreme music is a fan, from going to shows to just hanging out with their friends, and that’s what it’s about. I think if we continue going in the UK the way it’s been going then we’re just gonna get better and better, particularly with new festivals and more good times really.
(((o))): Definitely, I can see it going down that road.
T: Yeah, and you’ll see some really good festivals popping up I think in the next couple of years, and the festivals provide for the smaller bands to come to the forefront – like you see Ghold at Damnation , they were really good, and they also did Temples 2015, heavy tones. I mean, you can see them growing, I guess there hasn’t been that sort of growth for underground bands for some time. Obviously if the extreme music scene in the UK continues the way it’s going then you’re going to get more festivals and more opportunities for those bands and for them to expand on their sound on bigger shows. It’s a bit of a circle really, and the faster it moves the more bands there are, the better the scene is… and that’s good for everyone, as we’re all fans of extreme music.
(((o))): Definitely, definitely, I totally agree. It’s just so good. Lastly, do you have any special plans for Dragged Into Sunlight, as far as releases or other stuff?
T: We’ll continue progressing a number of projects that we’ve been working on. We don’t know what project we’ll finish next, but we’re working on so much all the time ‘cause this is our passion and we’re just will keep on working and playing; playing the music that we want to create. It’s just a case of closing a chapter one-by-one. You go on a journey in a band and Dragged Into Sunlight just closed N.V. with Gnaw Their Tongues, so whilst it might be a while before we move on to the next chapter, we’re definitely making our way through it to some extent and eventually it might reach a point where we feel we want to share.
(((o))): It’s whatever you get to first really, isn’t it?
(((o))): Well that’s basically it, it was nice chatting to you man.
T: It’s been good catching up.