Interview: Eagle Twin
In Eagle Twin usually the words come first and the words suggest the riffs. Once the riff is born though, we further develop through thematic variation and just plain jamming and improvisation.
The music of Eagle Twin combines doom, sludge and more psychedelic influences to create an all consuming sound as this is exemplified by their brilliant latest album The Thundering Heard (Songs Of Hoof And Horn), which was released earlier this year on Southern Lord Records. Ahead of their European tour that included a slot at the Antwerp leg of Desertfest we caught up with vocalist and guitarist Gentry Densley to hear all about the record and its creation and themes, influences as musician, the bands live plans, touring with Sunn O))), the influence of jazz on the music of Eagle Twin and his favourite gigs.
E&D: Your new album The Thundering Heard (Songs Of Hoof And Horn) is out now. How did the recording process for the album go?
Gentry: Great! It was a long process, but we did it close to home with our good friend Andy Patterson (of SubRosa and Ascend). We had begun a couple years before, but had some crazy difficulties including Tyler breaking the beater off his kick drum pedal and impaling his shin with the metal rod, while playing. As his sock filled with blood we figured we better hold off for a second. Ultimately we tracked everything live then added a few guitar overdubs and vocals and were very happy with how it all came together.
E&D: Is there any significance with the title of the album?
Gentry: Of course, it is a little wordplay as with all of our album titles. Double meanings and turns of phrase. Since the subject matter of this record turns to the mammalian world of hooves and horned creatures it reference the once great and massive herds of animals that roamed the American plains before they were hunted to near extinction. Echoes of the natural world heard from that which man cannot dominate. Also it is an autobiographical reference to ourselves and the thundering music the band creates.
E&D: When writing the songs do you come up with the riffs and music first and the lyrics after or is it the other way round?
Gentry: In Eagle Twin usually the words come first and the words suggest the riffs. Once the riff is born though, we further develop through thematic variation and just plain jamming and improvisation. Some songs like ‘Heavy Hoof’, words and riffs seem to come all at once. Like one could not exist without the other.
E&D: The opening track on The Thundering Heard, ‘Quanah Un Rama’ is anthemic and powerful. Did you want to use that as a statement of intent to open up the album?
Gentry: Yes for sure. I wanted to try something that starts with a strong statement, and always been inspired by albums from the Melvins like Houdini and Stoner Witch. Such strong beginnings!
E&D: What does the title of that opening song mean?
Gentry: It blends different worlds one part is Quanah Parker’s vision quest of a white winged buffalo struck by lightning and decomposing into honey. He was the last chief of the Comanche. And also references Anung Un Rama. Which is true name of the half-demon of Hellboy comics, translating to “and upon his brow is placed a crown of flames.” He is supposed to bring the apocalypse.
E&D: The albums two middle tracks, ‘Elk Wolfe Hymn’ and ‘Heavy Hoof’ are a little more concise in length, but no less epic. Did you want to start and end with tracks over ten minutes long or did it just turn out that way?
Gentry: We always think things will be shorter but they turn out epic. We were conscious of the vinyl format and aimed to fit it on one slab!
E&D: The album ends with the crushingly heavy ‘Antlers Of Lightning’. Did you want always intend to end the album with a song as sinister as that one?
Gentry: It seemed only fitting!
E&D: What subject matters do you address on the songs from The Thundering Heard?
Gentry: The beauty and deadly power of the natural world and how wondrous myths arose from man’s desire to understand and explain it. And how it may ultimately destroy him if he does not find a way to understand his role and his effect on this planet.
E&D: Do you have a favourite song from the album yet and if so, which one and why?
Gentry: No, but as a whole it is my favorite record.
E&D: Can you tell us a bit about the artwork for the album, who did it and what does it represent?
Gentry: Sri Whipple is the artist, a long time friend. It’s inspired by anthropological artist Zdenek Burian. His images depict prehistoric animals and ancient hunters. There was a practice of native tribes driving herds of animals off a cliff and then of course gathering up every part to be put to good use.
E&D: It’s been six years since your last album The Feather Tipped The Serpents Scale. Do you feel that your sound has changed at all during that time?
Gentry: Not too much. Subtle changes in tone and thickness. I think this recording best captures the way we truly play.
E&D: As with your previous work, your lyrics on the album are very bleak. What inspires you to write such desolate words?
Gentry: Understanding that we all die and we are all doomed is actually very freeing and liberating. No need to worry about the trivial, go out and live the best you can while you can.
E&D: What song would you say best sums up the power of Eagle Twin?
Gentry: ‘Antlers of Lighting, Hooves of Thunder’, that is in essence what we are.
E&D: You have done split releases with Night Terror and Pombagira in the past. Are there any plans for mo split releases in the future and who would you love to do one with?
Gentry: No plans but we are open to it with like minded creators.
E&D: What music are you listening to and enjoying at the moment?
Gentry: The Skull, those guys are rad! King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, crazy stuff!
E&D: You had a record release show in your hometown of Salt Lake Vity with Green Druid and Motherkilljoy. How did the show go and do you love playing in your hometown?
Gentry: Of course, great show. We’ve done a few with Green Druid now and they are great dudes.
E&D: Did you play the new album in full?
Gentry: We played most of the album and a few old hits.
E&D: How did your recent show in Denver with Russian Circles go?
Gentry: They are great friends and exceptional musicians We toured Australia with them and our paths continually cross, never had a bad show with them.
E&D: How would you describe the Eagle Twin live experience to someone who had never seen you live before?
Gentry: I’m a little too self conscious to do that! I imagine it as a religious experience, an old time revival of sorts. The sort that could melt your face off.
E&D: You played the Roadburn Festival in Holland in 2015. How was that experience and what festivals have you got planned this year?
Gentry: Roadburn is always so great, we first played there in 2010. We are flying up to Oslo for a Hostsabbat festival in a church up there and later Antwerp Desertfest.
E&D: What are your touring plans after that and will you be making it over to the U.K. And Europe this year at all?
Gentry: Yes, Europe in October and maybe EU and some UK in April/May of 2019.
E&D: What song do you enjoy playing live the most, both from your own musical perspective and the audiences reaction to it?
Gentry: ‘Carry On, King of Carrion’.
E&D: Between your last two studio albums, you released the Live In Atlantis album. Would you put out another live album in the future?
Gentry: Perhaps, things always change and evolve when we play them live.
E&D: How was the experience of touring with Sunn O)))?
Gentry: A whirlwind inside of a tsunami. Really they are great buddies of ours and as a bonus we had lots of amps at our disposal.
E&D: Which band have Eagle Twin enjoyed playing with the most and why and who would you love to play with in the future?
Gentry: I would have say Sunn O))) or with Earth. Well they are both great and different but similar at the same time. Hopefully we will play with the again soon.
E&D: Do you find that playing live is a cathartic experience and do you want your audience to feel that same way you do with your music?
Gentry: Yes very cathartic! It would be hard to not feel the music with so many giant soundwaves coming at you.
E&D: What has been the most memorable gig the band have ever played?
Gentry: On a Croatian stone freighter in the river in Budapest. Or perhaps the black Masonic temple in NYC with Sunn O))), Earth, and Pelican. Or Hellfest 2013, great lineup… lots of fun stuff.
E&D: What was the first gig you ever went to and what has been the best one you have ever seen?
Gentry: Ozzy with Metallica opening in the early 80s. After that I started going to hardcore shows. Probably the best thing I’ve seen was Sun Ra’s Arkestra with John Zorn and Milford Graves opening.
E&D: How is life at Southern Lord Records and how did you hook up with them in the first place?
Gentry: Greg Anderson and I are old friends and our bands toured together a lot in the 90s. We decided to do a project which became Ascend. I showed him what Eagle Twin was up to and he wanted to put it out.
E&D: Who are your main influences as a musician?
Gentry: For me John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, Billy Gibbons. For Tyler, Bonham.
E&D: How did Eagle Twin initially get together as a band?
Gentry: Tyler and I played together first in ‘97 with Furious Fire and later in Form of Rocket and other things. Eventually I had an idea for way to do bass and guitar for myself and had done songs based on Crows.
E&D: What was the music scene, particularly the heavy music scene, like in Salt Lake City like when you first starting out and what is it like today?
Gentry: I started playing out in the late 80s do more hardcore and metal type stuff. When Eagle Twin started there were only a few other really heavy bands but lots of support in the scene. Now there has developed a vibrant heavy scene with lots of variety and bands like SubRosa getting out there really doing well internationally. Playing Roadburn and touring with Boris and Sleep and all that kind of stuff
E&D: You’re definitely heavy enough without one, but did you ever consider getting a bassist in the band at any point or did you want the heaviness of the band without one?
Gentry: Not really, Don McGreevy from Earth offered and was tempting but we enjoy the freedom and connection we have as a duo.
E&D: Are the band still massive fans of jazz and what got you into it in the first place?
Gentry: It started with Miles Davis and Mahavishu Orchestra. I was studying music in College, still listen to it a ton. I find a similar heavy ethos in modal jazz especially stuff like Coltrane.
E&D: Is jazz still something that you love to incorporate into your heavy music?
Gentry: Yes, always take inspiration or take directly from it and make translate it to the heavy idiom.
E&D: Who are some of your favourite jazz musicians?
Gentry: So many, Monk, Coltrane, Mingus, Cecil Taylor, Anthony Braxton, Sonny Sharrock, Nels Cline.
E&D: What was the first type of music you got heavily into and what was it about it that enticed you?
Gentry: I was into AC/DC very first. I heard Back in Black from my friends older brother and was like holy shit this rules! Later that led to Sabbath, Priest, Maiden, Dio, all that fun stuff.
E&D: What are some of your absolute favourite albums of all time and what is it about them that makes you love them?
Gentry: Led Zeppelin IV just great songs and riffs and a perfectly constructed LP. Miles Davis Bitches Brew such a killer dark vibe. Iron Maiden Powerslave that’s a go to record, zero bad songs. Sonny Sharrock Ask The Ages four amazing musicians doing it right. Slayer Reign In Blood that was a game changer when I heard it!