So Godflesh is a fully-functioning project that’s going to continue?
Yea. Absolutely. I absolutely intend to make records now with Godflesh as long as I feel inspired to write the music and feel that it’s a natural form of expression. And on a physical level, until my voice is unable to rage and roar anymore. I keep thinking, “I wonder how much I can shout past the age of 50.” That’s my concern.
I guess you’ve gotta work on it a little bit.
Yea, that’s it. Because my voice still feels as powerful as it did in my teens and 20s and 30s. it’ll be interesting, I’ve got this great fear of recording a Godflesh album in 3 or 4 years, coming to lay the vocals down, just starting to roar, and the silence. I’m absolutely terrified. That will be it. That will be the time to throw the towel in. There’s no more raging. The voice is gone. That for me is probably quite telling that that’s the end of it. I hope it never happens.
There’s probably a lot of people who hope it never happens. So, Hymns and Songs of Love and Hate had live drums, as did Jesu. Were there any thoughts of having a drummer for Godflesh circa 2014?
It was a very very strict decision that we had no drums whatsoever. Ultimately, Godflesh in 2014 and the records were making, it’s completely about the sound of Godflesh as we see it. The truest form of Godflesh. How the concept was initially realized. We’re completely honoring the man/machine marriage that this was essentially all about. We do feel, without any disrespect to the drummers, because we feel that we had two of the greatest drummers in our band. We’re gonna do a dub version of this album, where Ted Parsons will actually drum on that dub version, so that could completely contradict what I’m saying, but it’s essentially Godflesh back to its basics, which is machine drums, and guitar, bass and vocals. That’s what it should’ve been about for us. Those last couple of records was Godflesh going through a form of identity crisis. We essentially compromised what we were trying to achieve. This band was never designed to be about organic drums. Albeit both drummers brought something quite amazing. In hindsight, I feel we should’ve changed the name. Soon as a real drummer was introduced we should’ve been another band, because it wasn’t what we were designed to be. And I think then I probably would be prouder of what those records were in context of the back-catalog. Neither Ben nor I feel that it was Godflesh in its truest sense. Godflesh as it is now is all about completely what it should be, as far as we’re concerned.
Also, there are 8-string guitars on the new record, which is probably new to Godflesh. Now that it’s a commodity in metal, is it something you kept in mind to try to stay current?
I’m not that aware of a lot of bands that use 8-string guitars, apart from the obvious people. I wasn’t aware of sub-genres of characters in bands using 8-strings in a very particular context. I guess for me, I’ve been using a 7-string guitar with Jesu since we made the first album, so I was quite enamored with the whole concept of tuning as low as humanly possible. With Godflesh, obviously back in the day, when there were barely guitars with more than 6 strings, we, in 1988, were tuning as low as we humanly could. As low as a 4-string bass and a 6-string guitar would tune. We didn’t even know what we were doing. We would just tune the guitars until it went to spaghetti, and literally bring it up a bit until it was just about playable. It wasn’t technical to us. It was just about us being as heavy as humanly possible. It was a very conscious decision to me, when Godflesh reformed and I wanted to write new material. We were quite aware that we made these unique low-tuned records when barely anyone was low tuning. For me, it felt like I’ve been playing a 7-string for so long, an 8-string would just afford us to go even lower. So we could play heavier than we ever did. It was just a means to an end. The only thing I really regret about the 8-string guitar is exactly what you said. That it’s seen as some sort of contemporary, modern move. The fucking thing goes really low and I just love that aspect of it. To me, 8-string sounds, with the familiar distortions I’ve always used, it sounds very Godflesh, oddly. Texturally it sounds very Godflesh. With just the lower sense of tuning. Godflesh and guitar is all about very heavy low tuning, being very minimal, and the use of dischord. What I love about an 8-string is it affords me to be able to explore dischord in a much more infinite fashion. I feel like, with a 6-string I’ve explored a lot of dischords, but the 8-string definitely is pushing me further in being to explore other dischords.
Since the last Godflesh record has come out, the music industry has changed pretty drastically. I know you’re all about sound. Do you have any thoughts on the fact that a lot of music is sold digitally and streamed as opposed to purchased on CD or vinyl?
That’s a loaded one, isn’t it? I could probably write a little mini book about that shit. It’s heavy stuff. I was 45 years old this year. I come from literally vinyl and cassette, when cassette was a necessity as well. Even cassette now is quite odd because it’s become this sort of fetish item. You see 20 year-olds brandishing cassettes and stuff, and that to me is fucking weird. It’s great to see, but it just appears to be a fetishization of a format. Whereas cassette for me and my generation was just a means to an end. So I find that quite weird because the fidelity of a cassette is shit, basically. It’s an interesting format to be held in any esteem. But, fair enough. With that coincidence, the new Godflesh album is being released by Hydra Head on cassette. Strange, but true. Streaming is very post-modern, very a part of that whole removal of artwork and context, which is really sad. I fear just sounding like some old jaded cynical old fart, who’s like, “Oh, it was great in the good ole days when we had artwork.” Whatever my opinion is, it’s almost unimportant because these things are gonna roll on.
I don’t think anyone’s gonna be like, “Justin wants vinyl back. Sorry. We gotta bring vinyl back everyone.”
Yea. That’s it exactly. “Poor old Justin. He’s so sad about those days and they’re long gone.” I have to get with it. I have to move with this stuff. I mean digital, for all the accusations it gets and all the negative press it gets, I find it amazingly convenient for people, and if it keeps music on their agenda that’s a good thing. One of the most terrible things that digital downloading did initially was make music, somehow, less important than it was. It removed the physical contact. The physical relationship we had with the media. It rendered an art form sort of meaningless. I remember hearing about it, years and years ago now, when the boom of downloading and illegal downloading and Napster and all this shit when it first went off and music all started to really dive, and video games were suddenly overtaking music, which I found a travesty. To me that’s really, really sad. That’s one of the saddest things, is music is just not that important to people anymore. But again, for fear of sounding like an old jaded fart, yea. Once I sort of resigned myself to that fact, I embraced any form of format culture since. You have to I guess. As a surviving artist, now you’ve got to embrace all walks of this.
You have to kind of wonder what’s next. There’s probably gonna be people ten years from now saying, “I remember back when I used to download songs on iTunes.” Who knows what’s next?
I do often think that. I really do think what is next. The streaming thing is really bizarre. I can see how it’s so convenient, but it’s bizarre that music has now become a tale of convenience. Just an extra to one’s life as opposed to something that is fulfilling or gives one such great pleasure. It’s very interesting. And streaming. It’s like, “Fucking hell.” Talk about something that really doesn’t keep a musician alive, it’s incredible.
What do you think of the crowd funding thing?
Again, I can see why it exists. It’s a necessary one. And without sounding negative there’s something about it that sounds like begging. It’s just mad that music as a form has been reduced to that. But again, I’ve got to get with it moreso than see the negatives of it. I would feel personally uncomfortable if I had to use that platform, but it seems like, for a lot of artists, it’s a necessary evil or a means to an end. Difficult fucking shit. I’m running my own record label here, myself. Clearly, I could get these records funded upfront by fans. I’m lucky. I’ve got a distributor who manufactures them for me. Back before I had a distributor, I would take out loans to do this shit. I’d manufacture things by begging and borrowing. Rarely stealing. Mostly using fucking credit cards. I don’t want to discredit people who need to do it like that, or find it functional. Obviously it works. I know many people who use that platform all the time. I do a lot of remix work and production work and quite often I’m doing remixes for people who are using crowd-funding to pay me. You can never bite the hand that feeds, this is what I’ve learned. [Photo: Kevin Laska]