13th May, 2016, was a tough day for metal fans around the world as Doom/Folk metal act Agalloch announced that they were breaking up. One of the bands formed in the wake of the Agalloch split was Khôrada. The band sounds unlike Agalloch or Giant Squid (Aaron Gregory is the vocalist). I really enjoyed their first release Salt and spoke to Don Anderson about starting over, the album and also his thought on the current metal scene.
The band features members of Giant Squid and former members of Agalloch, both well established acts. How did you decide the sound of Khôrada?
On the one hand, we didn’t want to reproduce the sound or style of either band, but on the other hand we knew some of those sounds would naturally find their way into the music. So, we wanted to have a balance of being who we were as musicians with our personal styles (all of which made up Agalloch and Giant Squid), while also seizing the opportunity to expand our sound and do something new. We referenced some bands that we all loved like Yob and Neurosis as points of departure. But, we were all in agreement the music had to be deeply layered, heavy, melodic, and epic.
How did it feel starting over? Did you feel any pressure considering the success of your previous bands?
Sure. It’s unavoidable. But, I really tried to stay focused on whether I was happy with the sound or not. Once it’s all said and done, all that matters is if you are happy and if the rest of the band is happy. So, I just tried to remain mindful of my own satisfaction with what we were doing and if other folks liked it, great. Starting over was both incredibly exciting and a bit unnerving. It still feels a bit weird at times. It’s like being in a new relationship with someone—some things are familiar (writing, rehearsing, demoing material), but some things are unfamiliar.
Salt is an engaging listen despite the lengthy tracks. Tell us a bit more about the album.
I think what makes this debut special for us is that we went in with no idea what Khôrada would sound like. So, as the songs began to reveal themselves, we gradually learned what we sounded like. There’s only one riff on the whole record that I had sitting in an Agalloch archive folder from the “Marrow of the Spirit” sessions. But, other than that, everything is brand new. We literally started from zero.
What was the writing process for the album? How different was it compared to your previous bands?
It was the same. Both Agalloch and Khôrada had members in different states separated by long distances. So, we just passed riffs back and forth through email and built on them. Then since Aesop and AJ live close together, they would meet and hash out arrangements and then record a rhythm guitar/drum demo that would get sent to me and Jason and then we’d layer over those. So, it was a gradual demoing process. Finally, we got together a week before recording and rehearsed the material as a full band and fine-tuned everything.
What are your thoughts on the current state of metal?
Things seem pretty healthy. I feel the initial genres of death/black metal have richly developed over the decades. Even the bands that are doing a retro-death metal style like Necrot, Blood Incantation, or Aesop’s other band Extremity, are adding something new to it all while still capturing the sound of the early 90s bands. But, the only thing I miss is committed journalism with integrity. It seems a lot of the big websites have become complete gossip magazines. I miss the old days of ‘zines where you had to invest a lot of money to put out your own magazine and this forced you to be serious. I did a ‘zine for three issues in 95-96 and it was a ton of work, but really rewarding. I feel like the process of self-producing a physical ‘zine weeded out folks who were only interested in gossip and rumors. I can’t believe some of the headlines I see from these websites. No one would’ve cared in the early 90s about a lot of the topics I see written about. And I’m not referring to politics or smart pieces on topics like anti-racism/fascism, gender or sexuality issues—I think those conversations are important. But, there’s a lot space wasted on things I would expect to see in the isle at the grocery store. I think it’s an incredibly sad aspect of the scene today. Decibel, however is still great and I read it regularly. So, I wonder if it has to do with the online/message board culture.
What’s currently on your playlist?
I’ve been revisiting some of the 94/95-era death metal albums that were dismissed when they first came out, but I now appreciate in hindsight. Things like Grave’s “Soulless,” Dismember’s “Massive Killing Capacity.” I actually think those two records in particular have aged well. But, when they came out, they were dismissed as not being “death metal” enough. But, I dig the groove of those two records and it’s ok they aren’t reproducing “Like An Everflowing Stream” or “Into the Grave.” Other than that, I’m also revisiting the entire Thin Lizzy discography. There’s a brilliant classical release by violinist Hillary Hahn and Hauschka called “Silfra” that came out in 2012. It’s brilliant, melancholic and fresh. I highly recommend it. The new Sol Invictus album “Necropolis” is some of their best work, but I’m biased because I appear on a few tracks.
Do you have any shows planned during the rest of the year?
Things are in the works. It’s a long process starting over. And we aren’t relying on all the same people we worked with in Agalloch. We really are aiming for a fresh start on all fronts.
Thanks for answering all our questions. Do you have any final words?
Thanks for the interview and support! It is much appreciated!