Agalloch interview from Qvadrivivm #5 (2008)

A Small Piece on Life

Interview: Kuronen

Upon interviewing Agalloch concerning The Mantle, I stress it to John Haughm and Jason William Walton that when the story has found its final form, I will have committed to the sin of calling names. In other words, I will have labelled, stamped and in doing so desensitised Agalloch music to some degree. This is a notion that they do not buy.

“Your words cannot ‘desensitise’ our music,” says Walton. “Nothing anybody can do or say will affect our music. Perhaps people’s interpretations of our music can be affected, but not the actual music itself.”

“Agalloch is an organization of atmospheres, thoughts, questions, fears, hopes, despair, textures, aesthetics, and spirit,” adds Haughm.

Life never ceases to be difficult, yet music seems to come easy to Agalloch—that music being their curious amalgamation of dark metal, post rock, neo-folk and a million other things. They say they know what they like and what they want to create. Consequently, it is not difficult for them to bridge the gap between life and music.

“No,” affirms Haughm. “Our music is a reflection of life. It may come ‘easy’ to us simply because we create only when inspired. We never consciously try to do this or that with the music itself. It just comes naturally.”

Some words from the Italian playwright Luigi Pirandello: “Whoever understands the game can no longer fool himself, but if you cannot fool yourself, you can no longer derive any enjoyment or pleasure from life. So it goes. My art is full of bitter compassion for all those who fool themselves. But this compassion cannot help but be succeeded by ferocious derision of a destiny that condemns man to deception. This, succinctly, is the reason for the bitterness of my art, and also my life.” Could these be words also uttered by those making art in Agalloch?

“I can relate to the first part of Pirandello’s statement,” Haughm says. “My perception is that Luigi was stating that the more one knows, the more prosaic and depressing life can be. I can also agree with the latter part of his statement which I perceive he’s saying that greater art is, both, a selfish expression of life’s bitterness, emptiness and frustration and yet also catharsis for the same. So this statement can illustrate some of the attitudes and motivations within the Agalloch camp, yes.”

Is losing hope in hopelessness the only way to retain one’s sanity? What is this cathartic negativity you sometimes speak of?

“I do not believe it can be adequately explained,” says Walton. “Either you understand, or you don’t. Passion is a goal in life, yet so is apathy.”

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