Friday, January 13, 2017

Band Interview: PESTILENT GLOOM

Interview with Alan Lisanti of PESTILENT GLOOM

In January of 2015 I interviewed you for the New Jersey death metal band Dying Eyes of Sloth. As you and they have since parted company, what events led to your departure?
It was a culmination of a number of different factors at the time and previously, that ultimately led to my departure from the project. I had made that band a top priority when I joined, and it was a valuable experience. However, we had our creative and personal differences, some of us that is. I really gave 110% to that project as I've done with any other project I've been involved in. It's just the way I am. With the understanding that you've made an investment in something bigger than you as an individual, I embraced the opportunity. I handled all the press, interviews, a good majority of the promotional work, networking, and assorted other behind the scenes oriented activities. I gave all I had and all I could give. I believe we had some momentum at one point, but I also am convinced on certain aspects that would unfortunately get in the way of all of that, and so I had to see the writing on the wall so to speak. Many attempts were made to resolve the issues, but it became clear to me that some of them were and would remain unsolvable. From a personal standpoint, I had to consider my own best interests for once, and I decided it was best to part ways with them. I had some personal things I had to address in my own life, and that combined with a lack of appreciation from certain but not all members, and a clear inability for us all to really get on the same page going forward were what ultimately led to my decision. The time was right to move on. All that could have been done was done and then some, and so I decided it was time for me to move on with other ventures and to sort these personal matters out. I took a step back upon leaving and made some changes in my own life. I regrouped and decided that Pestilent Gloom would be my focus now after a long time of being put on the backburner in the interest of previous priorities. It was not a bad ending for all involved but it was not a good one either in that regard. Either way, it's in the past at this point. A chapter closes and a new one opens. These things happen in this business. It is what it is. I hold no ill will, but I feel I made the right choice. So, as that chapter closes, it shall stay in the past. Going forward, I'm excited about where the new project is going, and have been and continue to be completely focused on that.

Is Dying Eyes Of Sloth still an active band that you know of? Do you keep in touch with any of the band members today?
As far as I'm aware, they are still active. I haven't kept up with everything, but I have spoken to their guitarist, Jay P. Death, on a few odd occasions. Aside from that, I'm not sure exactly what they've been up to.

At what point after departing from Dying Eyes Of Sloth did you start Pestilent Gloom? Did you intend for Pestilent Gloom to be a death metal band, or were there to be differences from your previous gig?
I think (if I'm remembering correctly), I left Sloth in January or somewhere around there in 2015. It was May of 2016 when I guess you could say I officially announced the new project, Pestilent Gloom. I had intended Pestilent Gloom to be a Doom and Sludge project initially. Playing and getting into Death Metal was kind of like me stumbling onto the missing ingredient. Once I had become familiar with Death Metal and played in some Death Metal projects, I found another style of music that spoke to me. I knew way back when that I wanted to play Doom and Sludge because those were my biggest influences. From playing in Death Metal projects, the Death Metal element became the next logical natural progression. So, I knew it would be a mix of all of those styles that appealed the most to me. The biggest difference was going from a team player as a bassist with playing for the song in mind, and fulfilling that role to the best of my ability, to embracing the fact that I'd have to take more control creatively and also adjusting to the idea of pulling double duty on bass and vocals. I've always written lyrics and that sort of thing, but I never wanted to be a frontman really. But I've accepted it by now, and it seems like it makes the most sense to me to also handle the vocals and finally put a voice to all these words and ideas I've had over the years. Despite my hesitation and reservations, I welcome the challenge and I think sometimes these things choose you rather than you choosing them. Of course it would be different from other projects, and part of the challenge was figuring out how to blend these elements and make them all work together as opposed to individually. It remains a challenge, but that freedom is nice to have also, and to me as an artist, the fun is in the process and challenging myself creatively.

What is the intended meaning of the band’s name? How does it relate to the music you’ll be composing for it?
Pestilent Gloom basically just describes the Death and Doom elements that are present in the music. The Gloom part to me was just a way to poke fun at the typical response people commonly associate with Doom music. "Is it all just doom and gloom with you all the time?"; you know that sort of thing. Mostly people that don't get it tend to respond with some variation of that. To me, Doom, doesn't have to be melancholy or gloomy all the time, or in general really. It's just slower heavy music really. I don't like stereotypes and generalizations like that, so I'd rather make fun of the idea that some people have that it has to be melancholy, or depressing, or miserable sounding music. I'm not saying it can't be any of those things, I'm saying it's more than that. Like Death Metal...people will say blah, blah, blah..."blood and guts", or "I can't understand the vocals." And to them I'd say the same...it's fine you don't get it, but to people like me it's a lot more than that, and there's more to it than these sweeping sort of assumptions and generalizations. Because musically, in all these cases, it is much more than that. Some people don't hear all that there is to it, or their misconceptions prevent them from being open to it. That said, I'm glad that there are people don't get this stuff just as much as I'm glad there are some that do. It's not for everybody. That's one of the qualities I like about it. It's more honest as far as I'm concerned in terms of expression. I mean unless you want to show people how to paint trees all the time like Bob Ross, by all means...more power to you if that's your thing, but if every song was a happy song, or a pleasant song, or a comfortable song...we'd miss out on a whole lot of the human experience beyond all the rainbows and butterflies. Honest art can be anything including harsh, disturbing, thought provoking, or any of these "nice" things too. But is it really honest if all you ever express is the sunny happy go luckiness of life? I prefer honest personally, and that means varied and not bound to one idea or way of looking at things, or one approach. That's also why I like Metal. It's not afraid to be honest. To go beyond the nice stuff...or to explore the rest of it including the dark side of things or anything else. No boundaries is better than confinement to this notion that things have to be so black and white or what have you. Life isn't one or the other. It's all of it. On a simpler point, Gloom comes from the name of a Sempiternal Deathreign album called The Spooky Gloom. I wanted to pay homage to some influences in a way and I've also always loved that word for some reason. Pestilent is very simply just a synonym for death. Put it together and when people ask what kind of music is it? Pestilent Gloom is Death Doom. That was basically the idea there. So in a way it literally describes what it is.

Black metal, goth and punk are likewise stereotyped in the same way. What examples have you seen of this? Why do you think people still want to go through life as if it’s The Brady Bunch or Leave It To Beaver? Are they simply out of touch with reality or is it something deeper seated than that?
I don't know. I think reality is not always easy to digest, and I think the whole Beaver Clever thing is probably easier to accept for a lot of people. The obvious one is the whole "devil worshiper" thing with Black Metal, and with Punk it's like "that's not music", or "when are you going to grow up?" usually. But I would say the opposite as far as Punk. I would say Punk is a great example of unconventional and human artistic expression. I would say not to judge a book by its cover with either one. But also, some people do take these things seriously and even then, that alone doesn't make them bad people or something that should be looked down on or to be fearful of. At the same time, if everybody was comfortable with reality in terms of how "realistic" their perceptions are, it wouldn't be unique to take that stance or choose to express those things that don't fit into the cookie cutter conventions of society. See...if I were to say, "they should all see things the way that I see them", then I would be no different from them. So it doesn't anger me when people make those presumptions in that way, but I see no reason why I can't express my own opinion that I find that kind of silly and narrow minded. It's probably a comfort thing. You know, it's probably a lot easier to go through life not acknowledging all the ugliness out there, but can you really ignore it when it's literally everywhere you look? I can't. I don't want to. Ignorance is bliss. I'm sure you've heard that phrase before. So maybe the Leave It To Beaver perspective is symptomatic of that. It's a sort of blissful ignorance that appeals to people. I talk about this in a similar but different sense lyrically too. Why does the world choose to sleep or stay blind when all they really have to do is look around or in front of them? Because some shit isn't very nice and doesn't make you feel good to see or become aware of. But my thing is, how can it change unless you first acknowledge it? Goth gets the "oh you're depressed and sad all the time", or "what is everyday Halloween?" sort of shit a lot. All these things are just examples of the same closed mindedness, and that is usually more reflective of the people making the judgments than it is of those who they are judging. It says more about them when all they can see or reduce things to is one dimensional baseless nonsense. It's easier to dismiss shit that is different than it is to look at it closer or give it a chance sometimes I guess. You can disturb people into challenging their own comfort zones. You can make a point by going where others won't go, or saying what others won't say. You can challenge these things if you're not regulated by them and governed by them. And if nobody ever took those chances or pushed those boundaries, or chose to go there, or see the good AND the bad...where would we be as a society then? Where would we be as far as tolerance and acceptance of our differences along with our commonalities? That's why I think it's better to see the whole picture, not just the parts that comfort us, but the shit that makes us think too. Everything. The good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. There is no good without evil, or evil without good. The balance is what makes the comparison possible. Pretending it doesn't exist doesn't change a thing.

I see what you mean since there is a fine line between challenging someone’s perception and stepping on their opinion in an “I am right and you are wrong” kind of way. I think it’s better to present the facts and see if there is understanding, rather than being antagonistic or adversarial (which more often than not doesn’t work).
Yeah, I mean, I'm just a regular dude. I'm not going to claim to have the answers, or force my opinion down people's throats. I just want to say what I have to say because that's my view, my perspective, or my thoughts on whatever it is. If anyone disagrees, that's fine too. I don't think it's healthy for everyone to feel exactly the same way about literally everything under the sun. If they don't like what I have to say, they can choose not to listen...that's their prerogative. But I think these things are important and relevant, and I would rather speak freely and honestly then sugarcoat or stay quiet. Maybe, just maybe...someone will hear it, and something will strike them about it, and then they think another way about it, or beyond what they thought originally. You know? Or maybe they never thought of it that way before, or maybe they weren't thinking about it at all, but they are once they've heard it. I don't know. I know it happens to me all the time, and I like when people can challenge my own views intelligently. It makes me think beyond myself. Or it brings an alternative perspective on it to my attention. Or it just speaks to what I already feel, and even in that case, it's nice not to think you're alone in your thoughts, and that there is that common ground there with some people out there somewhere.

Are you the chief lyricist of Pestilent Gloom? Is being able to sing your own lyrics liberating as well as challenging?
It is challenging yeah. In a good way I think. I mean I'm still not sure how I feel about it honestly, but it's something I don't want to do but I think I've realized in a weird way...is necessary. I am the only lyricist, and songwriter...pretty much playing multiple roles, but the liberating part for me is being able to say what I want to say, and giving my words a voice. Being able to express the things I want to, you know? That's the liberating part. I'm not the controlling type, but I do have a clear vision as far as the project goes. So, for right now it is what it is. It's a matter of finding the right people right now. I'm open to things and people having their input, and collaborating as well, but right now I've got to do these things in order to get to where I hope I'm going. For me too, personally it was a matter of saying, "fuck it...I'm going to do things how I want for once and take that initiative because that's what's necessary to keep going, and to grow as a musician and artist." I wanted to put the stuff I always put last first for once, and that meant going out of my comfort zone for the sake of my art or myself even. And so, sometimes that's exactly what you've got to do. You've got to be willing to go where you haven't gone before otherwise you'll only ever be where you've always been.

In what ways do your lyrics reflect the music and attitude of Pestilent Gloom? Are there lyricists of doom metal you take after partly or are you drawing from your own experience?
It's mostly just me looking at the world, and my own experience, and things like that. I think by expressing the unconventional, or the things people would rather leave unsaid, or reflecting the darkness of the world, or looking at it from within-whether it's internal or external, these are great ways to hopefully provoke some thought from people. I don't particularly look at lyrics of other lyricists as inspirational, but I'm always very interested in what anyone is trying to say to me or to whoever is listening. I think lyrically I'm more inspired by writers like Edgar Allan Poe, or by poetry even. I don't try to sound like Poe, or any lyricists though because I believe every writer or musician or lyricist has their own voice and style and approach. But there are certain qualities I have picked up from some of these writers. So it's not a thing where stuff I write will sound like The Raven or something, but the fact that Poe was willing to explore and express the darkness at a time when it was even more taboo to do so, was always very inspiring and something that I set out to do because it was more natural for me to write stuff that sounded like it could be in a Death Metal song than it was to write about sunshine, or girlfriend issues. He did that and so well, that even though it was dark and "scary" it was still brilliant and beautiful in its own right too. So it made me more comfortable with going that way about it, you know? I want the lyrics to reflect reality. I know a lot of Doom and Death bands write from a more fictional perspective. It's like horror movies but in the form of music. I want to add that element to it but I don't want to write fiction or horror stories in the form of songs. It's not natural to me as a writer to be completely H.P. Lovecraft about it. I want those elements, but I don't want to present them in that familiar way or in a way that is completely science fiction or horror based. I want to speak to reality but I want to utilize these taboo topics and unconventional approaches to accomplish that so that it feels more honest to me as a creator, and it reflects and ties into the real world in some capacity. So, I've kind of blended the traditional Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft type stuff with a more reality based approach. You know that quote from Chuck Schuldiner where he says, "Reality is far more brutal than a demon...tearing someone's heart out. You know, that just doesn't happen in life. I see no demons around me. I think, if there is evil, it's people. You know, there's cruel people out there. Evil is real on Earth"? That kind of speaks to the point I'm getting at. I'm much more comfortable discussing and observing reality than I am writing horror stories. Horror doesn't have to be embodied in a fictional character. Horrific shit is all around us. All the time. I love horror and I respect the musicians who take that approach. Killjoy from Necrophagia, Chris Reifert from Autopsy...these are a few examples. I love their work and consider them inspirations, but my whole thing is...I've got to find my own voice and what works for me. And so, I tend to blend both these opposing elements together. Borrowing some stuff from literature and some stuff from the music I listen to. I kind of want to blur the lines between both without sacrificing one for the other...without losing the reality aspect.

In what ways do you fuse your inspiration from Poe and Lovecraft with your view of the world around you?
I don't know that there is an easy way to answer that, or a direct connection really to those influences. Both of them use very descriptive imagery and language, and that paints a picture for whoever is reading their stuff. I'm not very influenced by Lovecraft beyond that. I just like the way their words can "make you see" and feel what they are describing. I don't try to emulate the language itself, just the way in which they used their words to paint pictures is something that stuck with me. If I were to address something like technology, you can see the parallels in the fact that somebody like H.R. Giger had that sort of futuristic sci-fi kind of element to a lot of his work. So, I just try to take the topic and remove it from the fiction it is grounded in and attached to, and place it back in reality. So, I won't talk about robots enslaving the human race, or aliens so much as I'll try to pull out the reality element from it. Then, I place it in a different context. I try to be as visual and vivid as that lyrically because it's such a powerful thing to experience, but I've sort of found my own niche and aesthetic that utilizes some of these tactics in a slightly different way. So instead of my fiction being a reflection of a part of human existence or reality, it is also another form of fiction as well that still reflects the real and the tangible as opposed to the over the top, or fantastic. I think I can be over the top but with a greater purpose to it hopefully, beyond just shocking people. I want to make people think. I don't want to tell them how to think. I just want to offer my own perspective in a way that has some relevance and meaning to it. It would be a lot easier to explain this if I gave specific examples of my lyrics, but I would much rather people heard the words first instead of reading them before they've heard the songs. With Death Metal influences, as far as lyrically, it's a similar approach. I don't take the traditional Cannibal Corpse sort of approach, I try to blend a bit of that with a bit of the other influences, and interject a bit of reality and a bit of myself into it as well. So it's more of an amalgamation of all these different things, and it's something I stumbled on almost accidentally, but I was pursuing it as well. I just didn't realize combining them all at the time (initially) made more sense and felt more honest to me as a writer until I tried taking more of a traditional approach. When I first attempted writing strictly Death Metal inspired lyrics, part of me felt like it had to have this or that in it in order for it to qualify as "Death Metal", but it felt a bit too forced to worry so much about that stuff, or adjust my own style to fit another style. Instead of asking myself, "how can I make myself do that?" I began to ask myself, "How can I take that and make it my own?" A professor I had once made a comment that I "write Death Metal poetry", and he was hesitant to say it because I think he was worried I might be offended. However, it was really the opposite, and it made me realize I had already been developing my own style for a while. So, when he made that comment, really it just inspired me to go even farther in that direction. I don't think he realized I was playing in a Death Metal band when he said that. I had never mentioned it to him. I've been writing lyrics since I was a kid...long before I ever picked up a bass. I think it's been a pretty natural progression, but I guess when you're never quite satisfied with your own stuff much as I am with my bass playing, it forces you to get better. It keeps you conscious of always striving for improvement.

Has H.R. Giger been an influence on your writing as the founding member of Pestilent Gloom? Or any lesser known artists?
It depends how you want to look at it. In the sense that we've all been inspired by those that came before us to some extent, or on some level, then yes...Poe has influenced me. To a lesser extent Lovecraft and to an even lesser extent, Giger. But I mean I'm inspired by everything and I'm inspired by my own experiences and encounters as well as other artists and writers. I was reading an article the other day, and they touched on how Poe has influenced Lovecraft. You could say Lovecraft has influenced those that came after him too I'm sure. Somebody like Hitchcock took a bit of that aesthetic and I'm sure took some inspiration from someone like Poe, but he saw what Poe did and adapted it, and created his own version of it. So, even in Death Metal, you take a Chuck Schuldiner, or Chris Reifert, or Luc Lemay, or whoever...and I'm definitely inspired by them. You take a more unknown band like Encrust, who is now inactive and members have moved on to other projects, but they inspired me too when I heard their album From Birth To Soil. I'm not a guitarist, but a guy like Jeremy Wagner from Broken Hope inspired me because of his approach, and how he writes his riffs, and how they played more Mid-Tempo more than at lightspeed...that inspired me. It's about the riff, the groove, the song, not the technicality or the speed itself, you know? Or, for example, a painter like Dali, I wrote a song inspired by his painting called The Persistence Of Memory. It's the famous one with the melting clocks. The song is called Deterioration Vacuum. Dali was a surrealist painter, meaning he took reality and exaggerated it to make his point. I just took sensationalism and tossed it back into the real world. Like...what if this image wasn't just an image in his imagination. What if I stepped inside the painting myself? So I just ran with the idea and the thought process, and it speaks to our mortality and how time is not infinite, it is a gradual deterioration from birth to death. And maybe the Earth has that in common with us too. It is not eternal or immortal. It's decaying too. So, people like Poe, Schuldiner, Reifert, Lemay, different bands, artists, writers, musicians...all have inspired me in some way or another. What they all have in common is that they were unconventional even if what they were doing was already considered to be "against the grain", they still managed to bring something else to the table, and they pushed boundaries because they followed their heart and they weren't content with only going as far as you're supposed to go. They opened the doors for those that came after by embracing that within themselves. So, the work shows that. That's why people still talk about Poe, or Chuck even though they're gone. That's why a song like [Black Sabbath’s] Children Of The Grave is still as relevant today as it was years ago when it was first written. I'm unconventional. I figured that out in like 5th grade. All these examples prove it's okay to be unconventional. It's okay to go where others won't, or to apply that outside of the box approach to your art. And to me, it's more honest. It's real. It's genuine. It has substance. It's powerful because it does what it does any way despite the fact that it steps outside the box. It challenges convention and it challenges our own boundaries too.

Speaking of Chuck Schuldiner, how much does his work with Death and Control Denied resonate with you?
I used to see the albums all the time in record stores I would go to, but I didn't grow up on or around Death Metal. I listened to Doom and Sludge and Thrash mostly before that. I even picked them up, thought about it, and put them back on the shelf because I always had a bunch of stuff I was looking to grab when I was in there, and I never had much money. It was like it was calling to me almost. I wound up in a Death/Thrash sort of band that went on to change their style to a more Black/Extreme Metal kind of thing as I was on my way out. I think when I was involved in that project it was sort of a transitional phase for them. I didn't want to play Black Metal. I really wanted to keep playing Death Metal. It's not why I left in the end, but it was part of my reasoning. Somewhere in there, I found myself back in the record store, and this time, I bit the bullet and took the chance on Death. I had been meaning to do that for the longest time, but for whatever reason, I put it off. I'd find something else and go with that usually. I'd say, "next time I gotta check that one out" and that sort of thing. Well, this time was the time, and so I walked out of there and put it on, and it was like it instantly clicked with me. I remember saying to myself, "why didn't I listen to this sooner?" And that was the beginning of me looking farther into the genre, and what sort of opened the doors for me. From there because of Reifert's involvement, I looked into Autopsy, and I heard Doom in it. It was like the bridging of that gap between Doom and Death Metal. It was that marriage of the fast and slow approaches being merged together. It was taking things that were almost opposites, and making them work together. It opened me up to a lot of new possibilities. I think I was inspired just as much by bands like Autopsy, Broken Hope, Incantation, Asphyx, Sempiternal Deathreign, Bolt Thrower, and even newer bands like Hooded Menace, but Death opened those doors initially. Listening to Death also brought Steve DiGorgio to my attention. I had never heard someone play with such feeling but also with such precision and speed and using their fingers. I think the sound of his fretless had a lot to do with that. You could hear the personality in his playing, not just the notes. And it complimented the guitar work so well without sacrificing solidity or anything. It didn't take a back seat to the other instruments. It hung right in there with it. That was a big influence on me too. I realized I'd probably never reach his level, but it made me change the way I thought about bass as an instrument. Even Scott Clendenin. His work was amazing to me. Chuck always had great musicians surrounding him. All the people he worked with brought something very easily and identifiably unique to the table, and their contributions were recognizable both individually and in the context of the songs. It just made me push myself out of what was familiar to me as far as the stuff I was usually playing. I think Chuck as a lyricist was smart and intelligent. People often talk about his guitar playing. I thought his guitar work was great of course, but his lyrical approach was also unique. His vocal patterns were weird because he'd fit them into the song probably with the guitars in mind. But the content of the lyrics is what resonated the most with me. It was proof you could put intelligence into it. You could be a thinker and still be brutal. I mean his later work sees him expand that even more to where he was talking about things that were real tangible things in the world too. He wasn't just talking about monsters, or demons, or Satan, or death as a concept or a description. He was talking about people, and the evil that exists in human beings, not just in books or movies, but also in the real world. That's probably what resonated the most with me. I didn't want to sound like Chuck vocally, or musically. But I did want to talk about real things. About humans. About life. I love the horror elements, the fiction, the fantasy, the imagination of all those approaches. But I just identified with the broader spectrum of it. How do you take this extreme form of music and expression and capture the humanity of what it's discussing? How do you use that method of making people uncomfortable or being shocking or loud, or disturbing, and give it substance beyond just being shocking for the sake of being shocking? It doesn't matter what you talk about. It doesn't have to follow the formula of a horror film. You know, like you have Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and shit like that. These fictional characters. Effective because of the execution, the writing, the imagery that invokes that uneasiness in people. And you have Michael Myers who doesn't even need to speak. It was that understated element in his presence that made him scary. Then you've got a movie like the first Alien. You don't even see the alien until way later in the movie. The brilliance of it was playing on the unknown. Playing on our fears of the unknown. They didn't have to show you the creature. They let your mind breed the fear internally by not revealing it right away. Hitchcock, master of suspense. How do you make birds scary? You play on the human tendency to fear the unknown. The unexpected. Jaws made people avoid the water after it came out because they knew how to play on and build that suspense. We don't know what's out there in the ocean, or what might get us if we go in there because that unseen element is always in the back of our minds. We don't know what lurks beneath the surface. Last House On The Left, the original one...this wasn't a creature or some nightmarish monster from your dreams. These were regular people doing horrible shit to other regular people. That's a whole different exploration of fear. Things that could potentially actually happen. Not some fictional monster under your bed. Evil, violent people. Just people. You could watch Chucky and say, "well that's dumb...that could never happen", but Jaws is a lot more feasibly possible. People have gotten attacked by sharks. I mean it's based on a true story too. It was a Bull Shark in reality, but the incident it's based on was an actual thing that happened. You look at Murders In The Rue Morgue by Poe, the best part of it to me was the revealing of the culprit. It wasn't what they expected and that's what provided the mystery to it. But the reveal is not a monster like the ones from our imaginations, it's a creature that exists in our world. The Tell Tale Heart dives into the depths of the human psyche, and uses that to tell its story. It explores the evil in man and the elements of madness. The Premature Burial too. People were actually buried alive way back when. At least, allegedly. The Premature Burial is as much about our fear of death and facing our mortality as it is about being buried alive. It touches on the claustrophobic element and the fear of facing it alone as well. There's always a fine line between folklore and myth, reality and fiction, but if there's a basis in it that's grounded in reality, it makes it interesting in a different way than an entirely fictional monster or being. It invokes a different aspect of horror and fear. A song like Pull The Plug. To me what makes it great is that Chuck didn't choose to talk about it from an outside perspective, or just to describe it from the perspective of an onlooker. He captures the aspects of facing our own mortality and the fear of facing death by placing himself into the role of the person that is lying in that bed attached to those machines. So when he says, "there is no hope...why don't you...pull the plug", it's like a plea and it's powerful. More powerful to me than if he was to say, "is it wrong or right to end this person's life?" It invokes the same questions without directly asking them. It explores that whole Kevorkian element and the morality of it, not by asking wrong or right, but by showing you the darkness of it. By becoming it. By stepping into that role himself. By speaking from the first person. By exposes some of the truth of it. Leprosy was real. People died from it. Leprosy wasn't a made up creature, it was a real sickness. Misanthrope from Symbolic. You see that title and you might have a certain expectation. If you look at the lyrics though, he's not taking the typical road or route about it. He's saying: "misanthrope...hater of all mankind there is some hope for those that own their mind". Some people might take on the subject of misanthropy, and say something like: "people are a plague I hate you all". But he's using its own nature to turn it on itself, and provoke the thought that begs the question, and even kind of says in a subtle way, "I understand it, but there is more to it than just that one side of perception." To me, it sort of says, I get it, but you don't have to be like the rest of them. You don't have to be this sort of parasitic and easily hateable creature. You can be you and be something else. You can see their reflection in you but you don't have to just be the reflection. You can stand on your own and be something less hateable. You can strive to be better or greater, or more than that. But you need to keep your mind intact or you risk becoming exactly like what you hate. Like that Nietzsche quote: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look long into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you." Maybe that's why it appears inside the Sound Of Perseverance album. Or maybe that's why Chuck may have related to that particular quote. I think Chuck thought on that sort of level about these things. I think that's why I relate to his approach lyrically. For me, I can see two sides of any story relatively easily.

Whether or not people like the original Blair Witch Project, it had a similar effect to Alien in that it never reveals the monster to the audience and allows you to make up your own mind as to what it is. What are your thoughts?
I remember there being a lot of hype for that movie. I finally caved and watched it, but overall I think it was a bit disappointing. I'm not a fan of the whole found footage angle either. It seems like an interesting idea on paper, but I've never seen it executed very well. I think this is an example where they may have pushed this sort of concept too far away from its strong points that make it work. Essentially, you're just taking what worked well in Alien and pushing it to an even farther extreme, but I think in doing so, it loses those key components that made it work so well in the first place. There's no payoff. You wind up with one dimensional characters that fall flat, and you're not given a reason really for any sort of emotional investment in it. You see the fear, sure...but if you're not invested in the characters it doesn't pull you in like that. It doesn't make you root for them. You just want to see what the big deal is, but it doesn't live up to the expectation. In Alien, they eventually show you the creature, but more importantly they developed the characters. They built the suspense. They let your mind wander and wonder, but it pulls you back into it and makes it seem like the horror or suspense was worthy of caring about in the first place. Without the craft, and attention to building that suspense, and the execution, and the building of characters, you're just looking at a bunch of strangers swallowing their own snot and running around the woods. I think you need that balance of both reality and good story-telling for this sort of approach to really reach its potential. I noticed a lot of older movies and directors really emphasized the suspense and story-telling elements. A film like Manhattan Baby is a great example of that. There is no fancy effects and creature creators, or big budgets to rely on. The story, the writing, the directing, the acting, the lighting, the soundtrack, the atmosphere-all these things were what made these movies work so well even without all the state of the art special effects wizardry. I kind of miss that. There's nothing wrong with having the technology and capabilities now for these amazing special effects, but why lose the story-telling? Why lose the craft of it? Why trade all the things that make for a good story for a story that takes a back seat to the visually pleasing and stimulating? Why not use both? Why does it seem like the art of telling a good story is more of a lost art, or reflective of a by-gone era? I think you need both for a good film. You need that story-telling element. You need that investment. The psychology of it. That's what makes it so gripping. I like that they tried to take a different approach and everything, but when I watched it, I thought the hype far exceeded its actuality.

How many songs have been completed for Pestilent Gloom lyric wise? How do they reflect on what we’ve been discussing?
I have four that I'm certain of and probably four more that I'm considering, but I don't know if I will save them for another release because I would like to do a four song EP to start things off. So eight or nine probably. They vary but they talk about things in our society or happening around us that I find to be disturbing, or that I relate to. If I speak on society, I've got to include myself, and that one pulls on experience and observation. It reflects corruption, deception, and willful ignorance. Another is a sort of exploration of the darker side of human nature. So, I wrote down how I felt and what I would say if I embraced that and didn't try to suppress it. The idea behind that is really the concept of Misanthropy. The interesting thing about it is that you have to realize that on some level, if your view is misanthropic in nature, that you hate the very thing that you are. If you hate other humans or the idea of people as a whole, how can you not realize that you are also human as well? So I relate to both sides of that equation. I dislike a good amount of people not because of things like their religious affiliations, race, sexual preference or any of these things that are really products of ignorance. What it is, is the nature of man...of humans, regardless of all that other stuff. Just the nature of people, whoever they may be, is something that bothers me. Because, while you should realize of course that people are capable of great things, they are also capable of absolutely horrible and atrocious things as well. And when I look around at the world, to me it seems many times that those horrible things are much more prevalent than the good out there. But the contradiction of misanthropy lies in the fact that you are essentially hating what you are yourself. You may not be good or evil, or both, or any other variation, but ultimately and no matter what...you're still a human, a person as well. So, you have to look at how a misanthropic mentality or perception can affect your own outlook too. It doesn't mean that good does not exist, but sometimes it's easier to forget that than it is to remember because you constantly hear about the bad, but people rarely even stop to notice or appreciate the good. A lot of it lyrically probably revolves around human nature. I'm always intrigued by the nature and the reasons and motives of people because I can't comprehend how some things have come to be the way they are, but if I can understand people's motives, or their motivations, I can begin to understand the answer to that question. And if we're asking that question, maybe that can lead us to figure out what to really do about it. We can agree that there are evil people, and bad things occurring all the time, but we can't agree as to why, or who's responsible, or what would be a better way. We can argue, but we can't look at it deeper than wrong or right, good or bad, moral or immoral, or our own egos and personal opinions. I think things are deeper than just black and white, hot or cold, and this whole idea that every issue, every opinion, every truth, every lie, every aspect of our realities needs to be viewed through a polarized lens. I understand it would greatly simplify things but I question whether it's really effective or how truthfully it really represents things. The whole three sides to every story. You don't really need to ask questions or analyze things yourself when everything can be so easily and conveniently fit into either good or bad. Maybe we're both. Maybe we all have the potential for either one. Maybe there's more evil in some people. Maybe there's more good in others. Maybe there is pure evil. But if there is pure evil then there has to be pure good as well, and I don't know any human being in existence or having at one point existed that is perfect, or totally and undeniably pure good. We're flawed creatures. That's what makes us human. That's what makes us unlike machines. I talk about technology too. Modern convenience. How these things detract and take away from our humanity. It's the give and take of it all. The age of information and convenience and the devaluation of truth, of human nature, of our humanity. The tradeoff. The consequence. Whatever you want to call it. In an age of so much information and supposed enlightenment, why do I still see so much ignorance? These are the things that interest me. That inspire me. That make me think and keep me thinking. That's why I wanted hand drawn art for the project. That's why I really would prefer to find a human drummer. A live drummer. I don't want to rely on a machine and trade the convenience for the human elements. I want to recall a time when art was more personal. I want to stress the human elements of it because art, music, literature, movies, all these things are human expressions, and they were products of our humanity. I didn't want to pick my logo off a wall, you know. Like picking from the predawn tattoos at a tattoo shop. I wanted someone to use their humanity to express and capture the image. I wanted them to create something new from the inspiration they have using that. That's art to me. That's honesty to me. And in the old school, in the past before computers and digital photography programs like Photoshop, you didn't choose from a list of fonts and add little affects to it to make it unique, you drew it by hand, imagined it, channeled that humanity, and that's what made it unique. If I told five different people a concept they'd all draw it and interpret it differently and in their own way. If I use a machine I might wind up with five nice but similar looking drawings. If we all pick our tattoos off the wall, we wind up with a bunch of people with identical tattoos.

I am reminded of a John W. Campbell short story from 1934 called Twilight which shows how technology can be misused or how people can depend on it too much. If you’ve read it, do you think it has any bearing on the present day?
I'm not familiar with that one. I remember a Twilight Zone episode that touched on it. I remember a lot of instances where that has been the focal point, and I think these things are still relevant today. They might even be more relevant now than they ever were before. There's a give and take to everything. I feel like we're not looking at the down side to all of it. We have all this access, all this connection, and all this information, and yet, I feel like in many ways we're more disconnected now than ever before. I think technology has brought us good things, but I also think it's altered how we think, how we interact, how engaged we are, and how we process information. We have so much information now that the truth has almost become irrelevant. I believe there's a greater significance to all of this too. I think everything is so oversaturated with distortions of the truth that it makes the truth that much harder to identify. Maybe the age of misinformation is a more accurate description. I think people don't want the truth, they just want reassurance that they're right in their own perceptions. The song, Misinformation Feeder, is about exactly that. I question whether people even care for the truth anymore. To me it seems it's almost as if they're glad to chew on the bullshit.

How are you going about finding band members to work with? Are you mostly searching for musicians on social media?
Social Media, networking, contacts I've met from being involved in the music scene, or reviews I've done. Things like that mostly. Social Media hasn't yielded much of a response at all though. The search continues and perhaps I'll have to alter my approach. I don't know if it's the style of music, me personally, or just the way it has been so far, but finding a drummer has not been easy. The main missing element is a drummer right now. I've contemplated the idea of programming drums, but I'm not really a fan of that. I don't think there's anything wrong with it, but I just prefer the human element of an actual person behind a kit. If it ends up that I have to go that route, so be it, but I would still prefer to find an actual drummer.

What are the reasons you prefer a physical drummer to drum programming? Would you record the guitar parts along with the bass parts if you had to?
Just the human element. The collaborative element. But mostly just the sound of humanity, the sound of imperfection as far as versus a machine without a soul you know? Music shouldn't be soulless. It should have humanity in it because music is a human expression. It's not a thing that can be processed in a lab, but it has become that now too. But to me, I always prefer that soul, that heart, that humanity, and the passion...you know? Like you can hear it. Every good or great musician had it. You can't put it in a bottle and sell it at Best Buy. It comes from the heart. I like that humans aren't perfect. It's, once again, that honesty thing. Heart and soul are things machines don't have. Machines can be precise and perfect, and they sure as shit can get the job done. But they'll never have heart or any of that. Plus, to be honest programming drums is a chore, a pain in the ass, and a time consuming venture. So, I'm not going to say I would mind not having to deal with all of that stuff. But, I'll do it if it proves to be a necessary evil so to speak. One way or another way, I'm going to get things done no matter what I've got to do in order to do it.

Have you been corresponding with guitarists interested in working with you? Would the material sound better with one or two guitarists?
My guitarist, Gene, is based out of Texas and has a project called Dirigiri that is traditional Death Metal type stuff. He's very interested and eager to help out, but I've got to solidify these ideas I got brewing in my head so that he can do his thing with them. I would prefer Pestilent Gloom to be a three piece as I've always been a fan of trios like Corrosion Of Conformity back when they were a Hardcore/Punk/Crossover Thrash band, and The Melvins, High On Fire etc. I feel it gives all the instruments room to breathe and space to fill and all that stuff, and I think of how big High On Fire sounds as a three piece, and how it doesn't sound "empty" or like it's missing something. You would never guess they were a three piece if you didn't know that about them. I have a certain approach in mind which works best in a three piece situation I think, so part of it is that and part of it is getting the most out of everything that is there. Like a drummer with a gigantic kit and he only uses half of the hardware when he's playing. If you don't need it...get rid of it. When you have less you're forced to get more out of what you got because you can’t rely on how big your kit is or how many effects you can stack on your pedal board. I hope that results in a more honest and natural end result, but time will tell. While I may be limited in terms of numbers or the amount of tools in the toolbox, so to speak, my hope is that a bit more of a bare bones approach forces things to be a product of creativity not hardware or the amount of players. If you only have four strings, you've got to work to get the most out of those four strings. I went back to playing my four string for the same reason. I get more range with my five but I don't have that luxury with my four...so I've got to compensate by getting everything I can get out of working with what I got. That's the idea anyway.

How long have you been in touch with Gene of Dirigiri, and how long has he helped out by suggesting ideas?
Gene has been involved since just before I did the first interview and launched the Facebook page. We talk all the time, but he's been busy finishing up work on the new Dirigiri album, Cursed Masters, and I've had some setbacks with my laptop which really forced me to look even more intensely into getting a drummer to work with. He's content with just playing his guitar which he's made clear in our discussions, but I'm always open to suggestions and the like. But basically, I need to solidify my ideas and at least have a skeleton version of them available to send to him being that he's in Texas and I'm here in New Jersey. So that's where things are at so far, or at the moment anyway. He writes and handles all the Dirigiri stuff as best as I'm aware, and so for him I think he's eager to help out in another capacity than what he is typically used to. I recall conversations we've had that have gone something to that effect. So it's been great knowing he's in board and everything, but the pressure is really on myself to get things moving along and keep them going.

What are you looking for in a drummer to fit the sound of are creating for Pestilent Gloom?
I'm looking for someone who is serious, who doesn't have an ego, or reliability issues. Someone who wants to play, create, and is invested in the music and willing to put the work in. I just want someone who can play, that enjoys what they do, that is dedicated, and that has passion. I would prefer they can play more than one style or are willing to push themselves further. I might take an unconventional approach and I would prefer that that doesn't bother them. I want to keep the integrity of Death and Doom and Sludge, but I also want to experiment and push things and try things, and I want to explore the boundaries of all these styles and see how I can blend them together in a way that is unique to Pestilent Gloom. I want people to hear that there is a sound that is recognizable to it, that may be reminiscent of some of the innovators of these genres, but can also stand on its own. I want to have fun creating music again. I want to test myself just as much as I want to test anyone or anything else. If someone can play fast, slow, mid-tempo, in the pocket, out of the box, in the box, with a Death Metal feel or a Doom feel or whatever. I just want to strip shit down to the bare essentials. Drums, bass, guitar, and vocals. Three people and our imaginations. Three people and our creativity. A couple of musicians trying to dig deep and toss expectations and all this sort of stuff to the side, and make some music...see what happens...and hopefully the end result is a natural and fitting combination of all these elements. You can't see how far you'll go or could have gone if you don't throw caution to the wind and take a chance. If anybody out there is down to earth, dedicated, and loves Death or Doom, or heavy music, by all means contact me and let's see what can happen.

After all the advancement in originality and creativity bands have reached in the last twenty years, do you think there is still ground to cover? What do you hope Pestilent Gloom’s role will be in this?
This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, I always think as long as people are not content with the same old same old, there will always be more ground to cover. As long as people keep pushing beyond these supposed limits, there is always more room to grow. It's really not easy these days to stand out from the pack. There are so many bands and everyone has easy access and a fairly level playing field as far as accessibility and the means to make things happen. It took me forever and a day to find a name for the project though because everything is or was at one time used or taken already. I guess the point is it's not always easy, but eventually and after much deliberation and brainstorming, and going back to the drawing board, I was able to find one that I was happy with. It's not about whether it's easy or difficult, it's about what you want to do and what you want to accomplish. You shouldn't settle, you should aim and strive to meet your expectation or exceed it. You will have to adapt and you will be tested, but that shouldn't deter you from your goal. I don't know that anyone is really reinventing the wheel these days. But the thing is, if you were going to try, then you can't have a jaded mentality about it because indifference is a product of being content...or too content. That is to say that complacency is never far off when you have that mentality. But I don't know how conscious of it you can really be either. Sometimes it's not an intentional thing or a motive in the first place, but it still happens. How many people or bands exist and people tell them they were ahead of their time? They never say that until like 20 years after the fact. Because hindsight is 20/20. And tomorrow is something we don't see til it's here, even though we know it's always coming. I try not to think about it too much, but I can't help but think of how I want to avoid recycling things. There is a balance somewhere in there. I hear plenty of bands that have echoes of Incantation, Autopsy, Death, Pestilence, Dismember, or Grave or something to them. But the ones I remember are the ones that bring something of their own to the table with it. That something is what makes them unique or gives them their own identity. I mean, there's no limits to music as long as your mindset isn't limited or your outlook doesn't already believe things have gone as far as they can go. I remember an interview with John McEntee [Incantation] I heard recently, and he was saying a similar thing. It's cool to be appreciated and for people to try to emulate what they've done as a band, but his point was that when they started out, they weren't trying to "be this" or "be that", or "do things this way", or "that way"...they were just flying kinda blind, learning, and letting the sound, direction, and all these things develop and come together naturally. And so people often say, "just be yourself". You have to trust the process too. I just want it to be honest. I think if we can channel that then the rest is out of our hands anyway, but I'm chasing the honesty not striving to fit into a certain box. It's got to be natural, so in that case it can't have limits or restrictions...it's just simply got to be allowed or given the chance to be what it's going to be. As long as I can look back and say I gave it my best shot, I can live with that. To me it's about getting it out right now. I don't know what happens after that, and being an artist, once the work is done and out there, it's no longer just your own. It's open for interpretation and judgment, and all that. But it's a song now, not just an idea. As long as it's honest and natural, then I think it accomplishes what I set out to do. I don't know what part it plays in the grand scheme of things, or that it will have some sort of profound effect in that sense. I just want to make the music I hear in my head. I don't think about the rest. I just focus on getting from point A to point B. A lot of the motivation is to test myself by allowing it to take that natural progression, and to see what is still possible. I have different influences. You could say my background is more based in Doom. I want to see what happens when I toss those differing elements together. I want to blend those influences with my other influences, and see what comes of it. I didn't realize I had a Doom background until people started telling me they could hear it in my playing. But I was playing Death Metal at the time. It got me thinking. I wonder what could or would happen if I blended those influences together with that intention instead of subconsciously.

How far do you expect to go creating music for Pestilent Gloom?
I don't know. I'll go as far as it takes me. I just want to make music, do what I love, and have something to show for all the blood, sweat, and sacrifice. I want something recorded that represents all of that. Something that will outlive me and my time on this Earth. Something people can put on and listen to and experience, and digest, and all that. I don't have any preconceived notions or expectations, but I know there really isn't a need or necessity to have a limit, or to put a limit on it. I think with the right people, there is no limit really, but the key is finding them, and following through with everything that needs to happen and needs to get done in order for things to get off the ground. It's not a studio band, but I really want to do things the right way, and as organically as possible. There's no shortcuts in this business. I've done enough for long enough in it to know that, and to know it takes more than just playing the notes. But every piece and every aspect of that puzzle is essential and integral to the journey. And you can't start at step 57. You got to start at square one and build. And keep building. It takes work and dedication. Passion isn't enough. Talent isn't enough. You need all of them to stand a chance in a business that will swallow you up and spit you out. Stay hungry and stay humble is what I always say. Keep your head and remember why you started in the first place. Everything else is just obstacles. You're going to face adversities. There's no guarantees beyond that in this game. But with the right people, the right mentality, and a mutual goal where everyone is on the same page, the only limits really are the ones we place on ourselves.

About that last, the trick is to better yourself without compromising yourself. Is that still possible these days?
I would hope so. If I had to compromise my artistic integrity or anything like that, I'd rather not do it at all. I think it is possible. I've seen other bands do it. This type of music isn't about compromise. It's about honesty and passion. It's about not compromising really. Because to compromise that would be to adhere to these ideas that music has to be done a certain way or else it isn't music, or you can only talk about certain things because that's what people want to hear or something. How does anyone know what someone else wants to hear, or how they want to hear it? How can someone else decide what the parameters are? This music exists because the people that started it were unwilling to conform to those ideologies. And so, counter culture as it may be, that's exactly why it's so important. If we lose that, we're already dead in the water. That's the spirit of Metal to me. That's one of the things that drew me to it in the first place. That other voice, that other side, that out of the box thing...and embracing it rather than suppressing it or denying it. That's what it's all about. You don't have to compromise. It may not be the most glorious road to take because when you choose not to compromise you're excluding yourself very consciously from that world, but I would rather stand for what I believe in and stand alone if I must, than stand wherever everyone else is standing even though I don't believe what they believe. It's integrity. I've seen many bands compromise, and they might sell more tickets in doing so, but the music...the art itself suffers and becomes more watered down. I understand the temptation because business wise it's rough out there. It's difficult to sustain things...to keep your head above water. If I could get to a point where I could actually keep the ship afloat as opposed to patching the holes at my own expense constantly, and going broke because of it, that would be more than enough for me. I would much rather see the world start to value art and artists as something more than expendable product. I pay for my albums because I value the art form, not because somebody put a price tag on it. Art isn't supposed to be disposable. Its value is really beyond monetary measurement. But if you were to ask me, was that album really worth that ten dollars, I would say absolutely. Because a world without it is one I do not wish to live in or witness.


-Dave Wolff

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