We Are Coiled: MAKE Interviewed
, October 28th, 2015 13:10
With their excellent second album The Golden Veil released earlier this year, MAKE's main man Scott Endres talks to Toby Cook about some key topics: political rage, existentialist influence and rose bush upkeep
Despite post-metal being a genre born largely out a desire to break free from the conventions and constraints of mere 'metal', much of the recorded output in the genre of the last ten years has fallen woefully into the traps it surely originally sought to avoid: the loud/quiet/loud/quiet dynamics, having at least one graphic designer in your band, those sorts of things.
But not all of it. Back in 2012, a curious looking record landed on my digital desk: Trephine, the debut full-length from Chapel Hill, North Carolina-based trio MAKE. "Combining the sort of bass heavy monotony of Horseback, with lysergic doom-hued riffs, Neurosis-ish atmospherics and vocals that sound like Alan Dubin when he gets some post-gravel stuck inside his post-shoe, Trephine is a totally unexpected post-triumph," we said at the time. And then, earlier this year, the band returned, leaner, meaner and more focused, with the stunning, almost anti-post-metal The Golden Veil, a record which took Trephine's template and expanded on it almost exponentially to create something which at times leans "as much towards the softer edges of Killing Joke's canon as it does towards the American post-brigade" and found the group sounding more confident and unrestrained than many of their more established peers.
With that record just released on vinyl, we caught up with the trio's chief protagonist, guitarist and vocalist Scott Endres.
The Golden Veil is a superb body of work - can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration behind it? Is there an overarching theme or concept to it?
Scott Endres: Thank you so much for saying so! And yes, there is a loose concept revolving around the rejection of the need for divination and a plea, almost, to simply enjoy the natural world for what it is, not what you hope is behind it.
Reactions to the new album seem to be overwhelmingly positive and wide ranging - certainly it seems to have picked up a lot of press here in Europe at any rate. How surprised are you by all the praise?
SE: We knew we had a great ally in Darren Taylor, our PR Samaritan, and that we had established a small but visible niche for ourselves with Trephine that would at least allow us to pique the interest of a handful of journalists and critics. And while we really had no idea how the metal world or the world in general would respond to The Golden Veil, we knew without a doubt that it was the best effort we'd put forth. Even if it is the result of three years of uncertainty. Maybe because of that. Who knows? Now that's said… it has been absolutely refreshing and encouraging that most people really seem to get what we're trying to do and speaking about it at times as if they were in on the conversation from the beginning. Because it's all a back and forth, isn't it? It's no fun operating entirely as an artist in a one-sided conversation in a vacuum.
I hear that some of the inspiration for the record came from a photo you saw online of the Ukrainian parliament, is that right? Could you elaborate on that a bit - exactly how did it influence the album?
SE: Yeah, that's not exactly quite right! I can't remember why, but one night I got wrapped up in watching lectures and videos dismantling the myths which surround the golden ratio. One particular video of Keith Devlin stood out and got me thinking about how we collectively and historically as a human race have dedicated a truly insane amount of time and effort in our attempt for existential understanding, and as a result of this obsession we've given birth to a lot of really dangerous daydreaming, which is now seemingly irreversibly embedded into our global culture in the form of worldview and belief. I brought this up to Spencer [Lee, bassist] who admitted he was lately thinking the same exact thing, and then, ironically enough, the very next day he found that joke image which traces the golden spiral on a fistfight [in the Ukrainian parliament] and sent it to me. As much as I don't subscribe to superstition, I still really love synchronicity.
Am I right in thinking that another primary influence behind the album is the writings of Albert Camus? He once said that the only real philosophical question is whether or not one should commit suicide, didn't he?
SE: Right, right. Once you acknowledge the absurdity of existence the only rational response is suicide. Which I find impossible to disagree with. Anyway, Camus is one of many. A good deal of my inspiration comes from my literary heroes. The thing about guys like Camus and Kafka and Beckett and Henry Miller is that they recognise this existential dilemma and reject the idea of suicide and instead embrace life with both a sense of humour and humanity. I personally feel like maintaining some sense of positivity if you're a nihilist at heart is an absolute necessity because the alternative is depression, whining or transgression with no light at the end of the tunnel to speak of. And it's hard enough as it is already, isn't it? This theme is carried throughout the record in the form of a basic mantra, which is this: "The only meaning in this world is that which you ascribe to it, so there is no need for divination. Life is short, make yours count and stop wasting time searching for supernatural explanations and persecuting others based on whatever notion you've come to believe in. And most of all, be a part of the solution and not the problem."
When we spoke some years back, you mentioned that part of the concept behind Trephine was that you were trying to somewhat trepan your own mind to let some of the demons out - is it fair to say that by comparison The Golden Veil is a less personal, introspective record?
SE: I don't know about less personal, because this topic is a pretty constant topic for us, but certainly less introspective. This record is us looking externally and asking anybody who's along for the ride to do the same. We all spend so much goddamn time in this little narcissistic loop that we've been placed in from birth like a fucking hamster in a wheel… "Slow the fuck down for a minute and observe your surroundings. Respect your surroundings. Learn how to help your surroundings. Stop trying to turn your surroundings into a movie about you. I know it's hard but you'll feel a lot better", is basically the theme here.
I notice from time to time that some posts on your personal Facebook page are very political in nature, for want of a better word - and I mean, it seems from an outside perspective that there is a hell of a lot to be politicised about in the US at the moment, especially in the South, not least the continuing issue of gun control. Do you consider MAKE to be a politicised band? Obviously the appeal of music, to a degree, is escapism, but should music and politics be kept separate?
SE: [laughs] I'm not very subtle, am I? But yes, I suppose I'm pretty much perpetually angry at the transgressions of the bigots, political puppets, Wall Street drone-scum and every mega corporation hellbent on destroying the goddamn world, particularly in my home country and current regional home. My own politics are somewhere between a John Stuart Mill form of utilitarianism and anarcho-socialism, albeit with feet planted firmly in reality rather than juvenile fantasy. Now whether or not there's a place for this seething vitriol in music? If there's room for Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke there's room for literally fucking anything. So, sure. There are plenty examples of great fight songs out there! And trust me, the new EP we're working on right now is going to be the angriest and most aggressive thing we've done. And it's going to be directed at cops who can't stop fucking shooting black people, the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry and the disgusting nature of our oligarchic consumer-driven society as a whole… just to breeze over a few targets of our contempt and loathing.
You self-released the new album - what prompted that decision? What have been the benefits of that approach, and what aspects have you found that posed the greatest challenges?
SE: Well, we've just never been able to get a label to bite. And while there's a part of me that wants to go postal about it, the better part of me simply feels like after this long, there's not much sense in trying to figure out why or be too sore about it. It's easier to say "fuck it" and just do it ourselves. We're lucky we have our friend Darren doing PR for us, which, for him, is a self-declared labour of love that he's graciously volunteered to do since Trephine. The biggest challenge is obviously distribution, visibility, lack of tour support and the association that comes from being a part of a curated entity. But there's not much we can do about it, so we just carry on in our own way, which is in itself a fairly liberating feeling.
Are you still active with your The Pod project? What's happening releases-wise with that at the moment?
SE: Always! I just put a new collection of material up this past March! The Pod comes and goes in waves, usually depending on how busy MAKE and my life in general happen to be in the moment. The Pod will be with me until I'm gone, but at what pace… who knows.
And how about SEndres? That sounded like a very interesting project.
SE: Aw, thanks! I didn't think anybody even noticed it, really. During MAKE's hiatus I obviously needed as many musical outlets as possible and since The Pod is more specifically about both exorcising and exercising my darker side, I needed something separate for my desire to create lighter, breezier, kosmische-inspired ambient soundscapes. I haven't touched a single synth key since MAKE was out of the studio, so hopefully I'll get the bug to get back to it soon.
When I was doing some research for these questions, I came across another Scott Endres who is apparently a very well respected landscape gardener (or something like that) - got any gardening tips yourself? I had a shitter of a time trying to get my roses looking their best this year…
SE: Well, Spencer says roses love coffee grounds, so… there you go!
What's next for MAKE? Are plans afoot to head out on tour?
SE: Starting work on a new EP early this November, shooting for an early 2016 release for that, but still in the earliest of stages. Still writing the material at this point. No specific plans to tour right now, but as a general concept we'd like to find the time to coordinate our lives to at least get out a little this and next year.
The Golden Veil is out now on Black Iron Records. MAKE play the Cat's Cradle in Carrboro, NC, this Friday, October 30; for full details and tickets, head here