Knowing that I will have the opportunity to interview a lot of people at Roadburn but still having to work around schedules, I decided to do just two. But the very first one that was on my mind was interviewing Emma Ruth Rundle, knowing how much I loved her last record...
RP: You've had a big change of location and you've finally recorded in a studio with a band, which obviously had a big effect on the new album to make it different from previous releases. How much did it affect the final product and would you say there's another element of it that we're missing?
ERR: I would say having a full band did change the live performance. I've played a lot solo before recording with this band and being with this band that I play with now. I think it adds more dynamic...
ERR: ...there's a different chemistry, exactly! We were tracking everything live versus doing, you know, like in the other records, I would track a main guitar part and go back and re-layer everything myself. I miss doing that and I might go back to doing that at some point, but I think it was nice. I've been touring with this band and we've developed a special energy together that I wanted to capture on On Dark Horses.
RP: So it felt nice trying something new.
ERR: Yeah, it was good.
RP: And there was also a change of location, you've moved to Louisville.
ERR: Yeah, Louisville, Kentucky. That's very very different and far away.
RP: And less agitated I suppose.
ERR: Well it's just different.
RP: In every recent interview that I read there was talk about the change of location and the band thing so I wanted to know if there's anything about the new record that made it different from the others that we should have been asking.
ERR: I think there's a lot more power in this record, that the past records were more vulnerable, and on this record I feel that personally I've come to a place of overcoming and I feel stronger as a person and as a musician. I'm more empowered. And I think that translates in this record. It's not about futility, it's about action and overcoming to some decree. So I think that's a big difference.
RP: Yeah it definitely shows. Compared to previous albums like Marked For Death, your new albums feels a lot less negative, even though it's still emotionally heavy.
ERR: I would agree with that.
RP: Songs like "Light Song" is the first time I felt you genuinely happy on record. Would you say that changes in your life made you prone to writing more positive music?
ERR: I think so.
RP: I'm glad you're a lot happier now.
ERR: Thank you!
RP: While I love "Fever Dreams", I always had the filling it felt like a mid-record song instead of an opener. Was it intentionally put as the album opener? Why?
ERR: We sequenced the album very intentionally and spent a lot of time deciding the order of the songs. We put that song at the beginning because it opens in a very intense way and immediately takes you into the world of the record.
RP: Wastes no time.
ERR: Wastes no time, it's a very expansive song and the way it ends is very heavy. For me it's one of the most emotionally impactful songs and when I do play solo I do play that song without the band. So for me it works as an opener. It was controversial for everyone involved. The label didn't know if that was the right one. The band didn't know.
RP: So I'm not the only one.
ERR: It was almost a "Fuck you" in a way. Very abrupt. It doesn't ease you in. Here it is. Get into the music with us.
RP: It's also, if I'm not mistaken, the first time that we've heard a voice other than your own on your solo records, as well as guitar works by other people than you. How does it feel to make a much more collaborative record? Would you say this would make you more open to collaborations with other artists in the future?
ERR: Not necessarily. I am doing collaborations. I am working on a collaboration with Thou. But I don't know if that's a direct result of... I think that the first few records that I've made solo, I was coming out of being in Red Sparowes and Marriages and I was sort of taking claim to my own music and my own person. And then in this record it changed a little. Evan had started singing on the song "Run Forever" while we were playing it live. It was just a natural progression of how things went. I don't know if I would do it the same way again. I found that I like having control over all of the elements.
RP: Yeah, I felt a bit guilty admitting that during Roadburn I enjoyed the last song, that you played alone, more than the set with the entire band.
ERR: Oh, thank you. I was also coming off the tour with Thou and we were playing different sets and I was playing solo. We hadn't played as a band for several months. It was funny to see how the Roadburn show would turn out. But I think at this stage I enjoy playing solo more than I do with the band.
RP: Maybe we'll see you more solo in the future.
ERR: Yeah I think so.
RP: Speaking a collaboration, you've done a collaborative set with Thou and you've been touring with them this spring. You also said that you're gonna record an album in the future. How did that come to be?
ERR: It sort of happened. It was almost like an internet flirtation. Always posting about how much I love them and listen to them. And they reached out to me and asked. Part of their Roadburn deal was that they had to do four sets, and one of the sets was a collaborative set. And I was just lucky enough to be the one that they chose to do it with. We've been working on it for several months and it's been a great experience. I didn't know them that well before. We played a festival together in Seattle last year and we know a lot of the same people. Anyway we've become great friends and my love for them has only deepened.
RP: I was really surprised when your performance together was announced. It was something really unexpected. It reminded me of why Roadburn is such an important festival. You can't really see things like this coming together anywhere else.
ERR: Yeah, I think that they have a strong vision, they're visionaries, Walther and Becky. They do so much for this community and strengthening it and pushing us all, the boundaries of what's comfortable, and made something new from that. And I totally agree with you, couldn't have said it better.
RP: And you were with Thou during their skate park Misfits set as well, which I've sadly missed. How did that idea come to be and how was the experience?
ERR: That was part of their Roadburn four sets as well, a secret show. Obviously they've been practicing for it. I'm a huge Misfits fan so I kinda asked them if I could join for a couple of songs. If there was any cover band I'd wanna be a part of, it would be a Misfits one. And they're such punks. It was just really fun and cool. Nate from Converge was there too and Adam from Gilead Media was singing. It was a very fun moment.
RP: This is why I'm really sad because if it was just another set I could have seen it at another festival or in a tour, but that's something that's never gonna happen again.
ERR: Probably not.
RP: Like that one time they also made a secret show where they covered Nirvana songs. You could have done that as well.
ERR: I guess so, that's true. I don't know what to expect from Thou, which is something I love about them, they're so diverse.
RP: Which Misfits songs did you play with them?
ERR: Let's see. I did "Bullet", "Last Caress", "Hybrid Moments" and "Skulls".
RP: And whose idea was it to be a Misfits set?
ERR: That was their thing. They were planning this way before I was involved.
RP: Your Thou tour and collaboration aren't the first time that the metal world had their attention turned to you, since in 2015 Marriages' Salome was nominated for Alternative Metal album of the year in our Metal Storm Awards and for a lot of us that was our first taste of your music. Should we expect anything new from that project?
ERR: There's been talk of it but Deb is doing Drab Majesty and he's very busy and I've been doing a lot of solo stuff. I think that my solo stuff is getting heavier because I'm missing playing in Marriages, you know. We haven't been doing anything for many years. I would like to say that there would be something in the future but right now there's too many plans already going on.
RP: Hopefully something will come of it in the future.
ERR: Hopefully yeah, I think it would be fun for us to all get back together.
RP: On apparent hiatus for an even longer time is another one of the heavier bands you've been part of. Have there been attempts to get Red Sparrowes back together?
ERR: Well I'm in LA right now, and I can't say 100% what's happening, but I can tell you that several members of the band are playing together this week in LA.
RP: That's strange, you're in LA too.
ERR: Let's just say we're all having a visit. Start a little rumor.
RP: Well by the time I transcribe and publish this you will already have announced a reunion.
ERR: *laugh* I think if we do anything it's probably far off but it's not out of the question.
RP: Because when was the last time you performed together? Was it 2011? 2010? Something like that.
RP: And I suppose that Headless Prince of Zolpidem is to remain a one-off thing?
ERR: I'm actually working on some new music for that too.
RP: You've been working on quite a lot of stuff.
ERR: That's all you can do, work. I like to stay busy. Otherwise my mind would drive me insane.
RP: Hasn't it already?
ERR: Yeah, I guess it sort of has.
RP: There was a song that you used to play but I'm not sure if it ever made it to the studio. What happened to "Gilded Cage"?
ERR: That song's gonna be on the next record.
RP: Ok, so we already have a confirmed one. And besides music you're also at Roadburn with an art exhibition, which I've noticed that, like your record, is very focused on horses, what can you tell us about that?
ERR: Well the record became about horses through this lyrics on "Darkhorse", you know, the metaphor of the dark horse, something or someone that isn't likely to succeed but comes out ahead. That lyric sort of became a title and force behind the record, and then I just started gravitating towards images of horses and using them as a metaphor for different things that I was going through. And all those paintings I was making after the record was done while I was going through the sequencing and the editing and the press cycle. I think you can see the paintings evolve. The blue one was the first one and that one was just something I was doing, I guess, for fun. And then that kinda became more restrained and tied up. I think that was my reaction to how the music business was affecting. The horses were something easy for me to use as images, as shapes.
RP: They're really really ugly in a good way. And they were right next to Marissa Nadler's, which were very pretty and colorful.
ERR: I love her paintings!
RP: Yeah, I love them too.
ERR: I love her.
RP: I'd say that as well, but it wouldn't come off right.
ERR: She's a great person. I really enjoyed her performance at Roadburn.
RP: Yeah, me too.
ERR: I hope someday her and I can do something together, I would love to collaborate with her.
RP: Oh, ok, so you're really not busy enough, you want a collaboration with Marissa Nadler as well.
RP: I'm not that much into visual arts, I'm really entry level. How would you describe them as part of a wave, as part of a style? Like expressionism or abstractionism?
ERR: I don't know if I have any way of describing it. I'm not a super well educated fine artist either. I'd describe them as outsider art.
RP: So we're both not really that deep into the history, more just appreciating it.
ERR: I have an interest, I did go to art school, but I dropped out, so I don't have a degree.
RP: Would you say there's any visual artist or painter that you'd recommend us to check out.
ERR: I think there's a lot of current artists. There's so many amazing artists on Instagram. There's this artist that I've discovered, it's nothing like what I do. My favorite painter right now is this guy called David Kassan. I went to an art convention in LA a few years ago, and there's hundreds and hundreds of artists with paintings through the gallery and having booths there, and I saw this painting, a small realist portrait of an older woman. She's covering one of her eyes and has a cigarette. And it was so moving and striking. I wrote down his name and looked him up. He mostly now paints Holocaust survivors. His work is just incredibly powerful and moving. He's my favorite painter. I was lucky enough to meet him in person, he came up to a show in New Mexico. He's an artist that I really really adore.
RP: Thanks, we will check it out. And as a Roadburn festival-goer, which was your favorite band to have seen?
ERR: I think this year I would have to say Sumac was just incredible. There were so many great things that I saw, but that show really left an impression on me. That band and the way that they blend things, I think it was the most avant-garde I've seen Sumac be.
RP: It was the most avant-garde I've seen most bands. And what did you think about the DIY panel?
ERR: I thought it was nice, I was mostly there to support Cathy from Sargent House. I think it's good to have some business savvy, to keep these things in mind when you're an artist, but your main job should be creativity and not being focused to much on the business side of things. I think that it's important to have a grasp on your business. You don't wanna be completely with your head in the clouds. I'm very lucky that I have Cathy who works for and with me and takes care of a lot of stuff, so I have a very good support team. You wanna be well educated enough that you can navigate the world, especially since what we're doing is a smaller community, have a grasp of it to look out for yourself but it should never get in the way of making art.
RP: I've seen your Amoeba "What's In My Bag?" episode. You've had a vinyl ofGhost In The Shell, the soundtrack.
ERR: Oh yeah, it's funny I was listening to it this morning.
RP: Woah. And which one of the two movies do you like the most?
ERR: You mean like the original and the remake?
RP: No, no, not the remake. The very first one, the original, and the sequel.
ERR: I don't know if I've seen the sequel. If I have it's been a long time. They re-released the original on 70 mm film at a theater where I was able to go and see it and I think that reignited my love for the movie and I went and got this soundtrack. The sequel, I'd have to re-watch it, I can't say with certainty, I don't have any memory of it right now.
RP: What's your favorite Alcest record?
ERR: I don't know. I really like Shelter because I was on tour with them when they were supporting that record. So it has a lot of special emotions for me. And I love Kodamatoo, I've been listening to it a lot since it came out.
RP: That's it, thank you! Have fun!
ERR: Thank you so much, take care.