Interview : TOMBS – Exclusive Winter 2010 Studio Report

photo via relapse.com

Mind Over Metal: With recording/mixing/wrapping up for your second LP, can you give us any insight into the title, particularly its meaning? I also hear Thomas Hooper will be doing the art once again. How do you expect it to turn out?

Tombs: The title of the new record is The Path of Totality. Literally, it is the shadow cast by the moon on the earth during a lunar eclipse. I read a short story called Total Eclipse by Mary Dillard earlier this year which described such an event, and the feeling of primordial dread and fear that instinctually grasps you. In a more esoteric sense, I feel like we exist in the shadow on an ominous force that I propelling us into the void. Thomas will once again be on board for the artwork. It’s all still in the works so we haven’t seen anything yet. Similar to the process on Winter Hours, Hooper has been working with the demo of the record and the lyrics to get some kind of emotional direction.

Mind Over Metal: The Tombs/Planks EP and Winter Hours seemed to add more of a pronounced “black metal” feel to the sound Tombs creates yet the music still holds onto the core sound that the band is becoming known for. In what ways does the new album expand on that, and/or which new directions you may be heading?

Tombs: The new record is more aggressive and has a little bit more of a pronounced metal vibe, but at the same time, there is a lot more subtlety—it’s extreme in both directions.

Mind Over Metal: It has been said that, lyrically, Winter Hours dealt largely with your past— specifically journal writings you came back to and re-worked, as well as the welcome mass destruction of humanity. For this new record, what are the lyrics dealing with?

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Tombs: The lyrics are less personal, in that they have nothing to do with my personal experiences or any kind of internal narrative. The new record deals more with reflections on death, endings and the sort of existential cynicism that can easily creep into your consciousness living in a world where there seems be an incredible level of detachment. There are many references to the Book of Revelations. It’s not any kind of Christian take on things—just another source of imagery. The Old Testament is a real tripped out work of fiction; a fantastic read filled with apocalyptic imagery of locusts, angels of destruction, and burning cities. It dovetails nicely with the overall concept that the world is racing headlong into oblivion. I’ve also been digging into the Tibetan Book of the Dead. There’s also the steady stream of horror films (Martyrs, Enter the Void), comics (Hellblazer, Necronomicon, etc). As far as music, I’ve been into Fields of the Nephilim, Joy Division, Nihil, Triptykon, Celtic Frost, Death in June, the last two Exodus records. I’ve also been revisiting a lot of old-school metal like Tank, Motorhead, UFO, Michael Schenker Group, Scorpions and a lot of the music I grew up listening to.

Mind Over Metal: Are there any specific song titles you can share with us?

Tombs: The song titles are: “Passageways”, “Vermillion”, “Silent World”, “To Cross the Land”, “Red Shadows”, “Cold Dark Eyes”, “Black Heaven”, “Angel of Destruction”, “Constellations”, “Path of Totality”, “Bloodletters”, “Black Hole of Summer”.

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Mind Over Metal: As far as the recording process, how was working with John Congleton on this new album? How did this working arrangement come to be? Tombs seems to be the heaviest thing he has worked on, but I personally find that more interesting. How did working with him change the division of labor in regard to recording? I know you usually have a strong hand in the process; did you take a back seat this time or did you jump right in?

Tombs: The situation with Congleton has been in the works for over year. John and I met when we played in Dallas on the Isis tour a couple of years ago. He was in the middle of doing the Baroness record and John Baizley introduced us. Baizley is actually quite instrumental in this. I really like Congleton’s work on the Explosions in the Sky records but Blue Record is what really put the hooks into me. I think that is one of the best records to come out in the last few years, the production on that is tremendous. When it comes to recording, I’m pretty much a hack. I do it because it has to be done and that’s pretty much it. Congleton is a pro—he’s worked with David Byrne! My involvement as an engineer was limited strictly to the lengthy pre-production process that ate up the last year or so. When it came to things such as mic placement, tracking and mixing, I sat back and Congleton did it all. It was a full-time job staying on top of performances. We also had some guest musicians on the record. Morgan from Kill the Client came down to lay in some backing vocals. Also, Clifford Meyer (Isis, Red Sparowes) provided synths for some of the tracks as well.

Mind Over Metal: Was there anything especially interesting or different going on with the recording technique? Any crazy amps/guitars/effects we may not see on tour but that are worth mentioning?

Tombs: We pretty much stuck to our usual arsenal of equipment. Congleton has a Fender Princeton which I utilized quite liberally on the overdubs. It’s a hell of an amp.

Mind Over Metal: It has been two years since Winter Hours came out, and the band has had a pretty stable line-up since Andrew joined on drums. How has it been to really click with a core group of band members, and how has this affected Tombs‘ music and sound—especially with regard to the new record? Specifically, what aspects do Carson and Andrew bring to the table that help make the new record different from the last (I know Carson was on WH). I also noticed you add a second guitarist—it this mostly for live shows or other aspects of Tombs?

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Tombs: The lineup is stable. Andrew has been a crucial addition to the band. He’s dedicated and motivated, which is pretty much all you can ask for. He doesn’t have a shadowy past following him either; there aren’t random drug dealers showing up at our shows looking to collect money or anything like that, so the band is real focused at this point. We’ve been working with a second guitarist, but that is mainly a touring thing. We’ve had some friends travel with us; ultimately, it would be a welcome addition to have a full-time second guitarist, but we haven’t finalized any of that, we’re working around people’s schedules and things of that nature.

Mind Over Metal: With 2010 drawing to a close what plans do you have for Tombs in 2011 and beyond? When is this album coming out?

Tombs: The Path of Totality will be out in the spring of 2011. We’ll be hitting Europe in the summer with The Secret—that [will be] the first time I’ve ever been to Europe when it’s not miserably cold. There are some US tour plans in the works, none of which are finalized at this point.

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