The Killer In Us: Dragged Into Sunlight Interviewed
, November 14th, 2012 05:00
Their new album Widowmaker is one of the best, most brutal records of the year. Luke Turner speaks to the anonymous, serial killer-obsessed and decidedly not fluffy-cat-LOL-pics-loving Dragged Into Sunlight
"I'll get right back to doing what I was doing before as soon as I hit the streets - killing kids"… Thus speaks a voice, matter-of-factly, amidst the final necrotic growls of Widowmaker, the second album from the mysterious Dragged Into Sunlight. Exactly who this extreme metal troupe are is shrouded in mystery. They refuse to give their names, and appear publicly and in all photographs wearing balaclavas.
The interview below might, at times, sound so out-there in its bleakness as to create the suspicion that the whole thing is very tongue-in-cheek - but rest assured, it isn't. There was a quiet determination in the calm voice on the other end of that telephone line.
The four members of Dragged Into Sunlight, who live 300 miles from each other, met at various points over the last 20 years in the underground metal scene, and found common ground in their shared love of doom, extreme metal, noise, ambient noise and "any genre you care to think of". This all comes together on Widowmaker, one of the finest albums to emerge on metal's fringes in 2012. The gradual build of the record from eerie, Godspeed-trapped-in-a-crypt violin and abstract guitar to full-on, blood-boiling metal is reflected in the title, which refers to a particularly unpleasant heart attack which just "builds and builds and your heart is basically exploding."
What is the essential intent behind Dragged Into Sunlight?
Dragged Into Sunlight: Our message is the feeling in the music: a lot of isolation, a lot of misery, a lot of depression, a lot of anger. A general overtone of negativity. It stems from our personal experiences while writing music, and as a collective when we came together. We're all on the same wavelength, and we put out a release that is conceptually communicating a message of misery, depression, isolation and negativity.
Is it an internal negativity or are you reflecting the world you see around you?
DIS: You take everything in, it's like a sponge. You absorb everything around you. I take energies in and process them in my mind, and it's the same with everyone else involved. It's formulating these experiences that creates that negativity. For me, I'm a very pessimistic person. Dragged Into Sunlight as a whole has a pessimistic outlook. Nothing is positive about it, ever. You take those feelings in, and because of the type of people involved (we're very likeminded) we all process those feelings and when they come out they are hideously negative because we can't find anything positive. We're not processing anything positive, so we're not outputting anything positive. Routine things. Missing the bus. You might think this has really mucked up my day. For me, I get especially angry about it, more angry than the average person. I don't communicate it but internally I am smashing my fist against my head. It makes me want to think about jumping in front of a train.
But music like yours can be liberating and cathartic, even if not for you as individuals or a group.
DIS: It's definitely liberating for us individuals as well as as a collective. It's liberating to put that out there, and once it's done we breathe a massive sigh of relief because we no longer think about jumping in front of a train. We've got what we needed to get out there the feeling in our music.
I can hear a sound in the mix that's like wind in the trees, or maybe water. Is that a field recording or something in the studio?
DIS: It's interesting, you're one of the first people who've picked up on it. It's a live recording that runs in the background that was taken in the Palace Of Skulls, a big crypt where they built a palace from the skulls, in the Czech Republic. We felt we wanted to add an atmosphere. It couldn't be any atmosphere, we couldn't just do it in a field, we wanted something more. When we played in Prague with Baroness we thought 'you know what, let's stand here for two hours and leave the recorder running'. It got late, the place closed, they let us stay for a couple of hours, and we recorded a live track. We wanted to record something sorrowful, we didn't want to capture a random live experience. We could have recorded it on a busy street in London, but we wanted something sombre, something that provoked thought. You can almost feel it in the music.
When you were recording in the studio, did you do anything to create special atmospheres?
DIS: Yes, but it's not like we set it up like a crypt or anything. Live is very different from our studio experience. It is very ritualistic in that we sit there as a collective…. we're not drinking blood anytime soon, so perhaps it's not like how you'd perceive a ritual, but it's ritualistic for us. Geographically we're roughly 300 miles from each other, and when we come into the room it is something special because we've known each other for over two decades. When we come together not having seen each other for six months a year it's special because you're seeing people who you know are unique personalities in the world. It's almost as if you're part of a cult. Everyone in that room thinks the same, feels the same, and writes the same.
Is that connected to why you keep your identities hidden?
DIS: We don't think it needs to have an identity. One magazine said kids like to know who's in bands now. My understanding is that it looks like bands like the kids to know who is in the band, It's the other way round. They're not asking. They're onstage, dressed in corpsepaint. They're fully grown men and they go out every weekend pretending to sacrifice things onstage in front of ten people. It feels like they're the ones going for the attention. With Dragged Into Sunlight we're a hidden prospect, it doesn't need another identity. It has an identity - the identity is Dragged Into Sunlight. There's no need for everyone to know about everyone involved, especially when we live in a world where none has any secretes. Everyone knows everyone and everyone knows everything.
People ask about the balaclavas, but realistically we could have used anything. We could have put cloths over our faces, blacked out our faces completely. Balaclavas aren't symbolic of anything, they were just the cheapest things around. 99p each we thought, yep, these'll do the trick.
One of the elements that gives the album so much power is the use of vocal samples. Where do the different samples come from?
DIS: They're all from serial killer documentaries. All the samples we use are actual killers speaking, we don't sample narrations or reenactments, it's all raw footage. It take a long time to gather, and we gather it over the course of years from films, documentaries and home videos, anything that has people we admire. There are people in the world who have killed a lot of people, and it happens that what they say makes a lot of sense to all of us. We could have used 30 minutes of a serial killer just talking nonsense, but we use sentences that are going to have an impact. We think other people need to hear this. Not everybody spends as much time watching these documentaries as us. We all share stories… there are people that exist on this planet who have killed their entire family, and they speak about it. They speak about it so coldly.
From personal experience, one of my trips was to visit Texas' death row, and I was there for some time, six or seven months. Being that close to people who have done these horrendous acts… they are people, at the end of the day. They're not aliens, they're not beasts, they're normal people like me and you. They've done some horrendous acts, but I think it's being able to separate those two identities. People see them in the news or read internet articles, and wonder what this person looks like. There are various people involved in Dragged Into Sunlight who have met these people, who have worked with them, perhaps in a professional capacity, or just as an interest. You realise they are not monsters, they are normal people.
And we all have the capability within us to do these things.
DIS: I think that's a really good summary. That's something we're trying to draw on. Dragged Into Sunlight, we're not monsters behind masks. A segment of our personalities comes into this music, just like the samples represent a segment of their personality that you have to take on board. Yes, we're all capable of it.
What were you doing in Death Row?
DIS: Working, as it happens, about seven years ago. It was a very real experience that I will remember until the day I die. I have met these people and know what they're capable of, but equally I have eaten food with them, and done routine things that you would do with your family, and at that point I can only assume that they weren't hinting of killing me. But who knows…
Widowmaker is out now. This is an extended version of a piece originally written for our friends at The Stool Pigeon