InterviewsApril 1, 20243,807 views

After Extinction: Locrian Talk 'End Terrain'

"I think being in the studio, you should use all the creative parts of that studio; it's an instrument in and of itself" - Terence Hannum

Locrian End Terrain


By Colin

Take a scroll through the Spotify playlist that Locrian has assembled to accompany their new album, End Terrain. Some of the music that was on their mind during the creation of the record might surprise you, but the band has been pushing musical boundaries while drawing from that deep well of inspiration since their 2005 inception. Each record has been an exercise in experimentation—some droney, some more song-oriented—but over the course of their existence, the group has continually made an effort to create interesting, engaging music that avoids simple classification.

Nearly two decades into their career, Locrian has recorded what is arguably their strongest material to date. Combining the atmospherics of their early albums with the crushing weight of their more metal recordings, End Terrain spans a lot of territory. Swaths of post-metal, black-metal, drone and ambient music all pour through with layers of electronics, synths and guitars entombing the pounding rhythms. The record tells a story—sonically through its dynamic ups and downs; lyrically through its Science Fiction-influenced theme, which speaks of a tattered Earth torn apart through generations of neglect. At times it's punishing, other times it's ethereal, but the tightly structured songs and experimental nature make it the three-piece's most approachable—and perhaps most ambitious—record yet.

With the release of End Terrain on the horizon, all three members of Locrian (Steven Hess, André Foisy, Terence Hannum) took the time to speak to us about the record.


I've read that some of these songs go back quite a few years, when did this material actually start to take form?

 

Terence: We had quite a long break after our last tour and essentially some of these things began roughly around that time. We would meet up and practice and work on new ideas and demo it for ourselves. Then the pandemic happened. I think that really put a little pause on everything. As soon as we started being able to go back we decided to do New Catastrophism instead, which is more improvised. I think we also knew it was going to take a little bit more time with these songs to plan and compose, so I think that some of them are seven years old—from like a rough jam that we had around an idea to where it is on the album.

 

Was New Castrophism sort of a way to dip your toes back in the water after the pandemic?

 

Steven: Exactly. Like Terence said, we had plans, we had ideas that would eventually become End Terrain, or parts of it. Then everything that happened—we couldn't get into a studio. Just about everybody couldn't get into a studio. So then when the opportunity came up we were like, we should just go in and record something that it is a throwback to early Locrian days, but also something like a soundtrack or a mood for what was going on in the world at that particular point. We just went in and it was, I would say 90 percent or more improvised. We just went in and were like, "Who's going first?" Someone would do something and then another person would be like, "Ok, I got an idea and I'll put something on top of it." So we just did that for a couple days and, poof. Then we had this record that I love. I think it sounds great and I'm very, very happy with it.

 

André: In reality, we had some studio time booked; Steven showed up and forgot his drums, so we were like, "What are we going to do? Let's go back to droning." [Laughs]

 

Terence: [Laughs] There are drums on that record. But I think the thought was always, there'd be this minimal ambient record with a maximalist End Terrain—what would become End Terrain. We knew there was going to be this mirror opposite inversion that we wanted to do that was going to be much more song-structured, and we were still working on that idea. But it was nice to get in the studio and dip our toes back in and definitely nod to our older fans who'd been around for a while. But also the whole idea, even when we were recording we were talking about End Terrain or the tracks that would become these songs. It was in our minds and we were talking about what the next thing would be.

 

Steven: We knew that we wanted to do a follow up to Infinite Dissolution. That has proper songs, but we took it a little bit farther with End Terrain, I think. There's a little more going on than I would say any of our other records.
 

 

That's something noticeable right away. The songs are more dynamic and tightly structured. Was there a conscious idea of writing in this style?

 

Steven: Yeah, that's something that we wanted to do. We wanted something that was the complete opposite of New Catastrophism and we wanted to push it and create something that had structure, which is a word we apparently tend to overuse [laughs]. Specific parts, some of these ideas go back to like 2016 that we've had recorded. Even recorded just on an iPhone; just room recordings of like André playing a riff, or André and I or Terence—just like little sound snippets. So we had a digital grab bag, tons of ideas that we could just go in and pull. There was a lot of improv that went on in the studio as well with this one. We had these existing ideas, but there was quite a bit that we just created right there. Like, this part needs something, let's just play for ten minutes and be like, "That sounds great, let's do a take."

 

You all live in different areas of the country now. How do you guys write this material being so spread out?

 

Terence: Leading up to the recording, André was closer to me for the summer and we spent lots of weekends just hammering out where things would be and then we'd send them to Steven and he'd give us some ideas and feedback. Sometimes it would just be a note, like, “We're going to do some kind of noise part as a break here and then we're going to return back to the idea.” I was recording it in my basement or whatever, and I would take a snippet and just copy it and we would make little structures about what we would do in the studio. I think it helped. We knew we wanted things to be a little more concise compared to New Catastrophism or Ghost Frontiers and I think it really helped us having a map before we went in the studio—even more so than Return to Annihilation or Infinite Dissolution. We probably spent more time composing and structuring and having these discussions over emails and Zoom. Like, we shouldn't play this this many times; it should be shorter, briefer; we should get to it a little bit faster or extend this part. Stuff like that. It was definitely a lot more effort.

 

Steven: I think we also wanted to show some of our influences a little bit more in this record as well. We all listen to a wide range of shit, not just metal. I don't listen to a whole lot of metal—I do, but it's mostly older shit like old thrash and some early death metal, stuff like that. So we wanted little snippets of that to be in this record. If it's a thrash part or a death metal part, even if it's only a brief moment, we want it to be there. Everything from shoegaze, drone to fucking free-jazz to everything. It's got it all in there a little bit. It came together well; it all works. You would think that something like that could just be a mess.

 

Terence: Yeah, when you say it that way, Steven, it does sound like a mess [laughs].

 

Steven: I gotta learn to shut up [laughs].

 

Well, you guys went and kind of took the mystery out of it all by posting a Spotify playlist of the stuff that influenced you for End Terrain, but can each of you talk about what you were listening to at the time that you think comes through?

 

Terence: You didn't pick up on the Grauzone, Kreator and My Bloody Valentine [laughs]? I think there were specific things like M83 and how full and cinematic it is, but also I really love that Oregon death metal band Cerebral Rot. I think they're super interesting. He has these pitch-shifted guitar solos that I think are really weird, and I like the death metal resurgence that's happening, but I think a lot of it is very samey. I think they're very unique. I got to see them a few times and I think they're really great, but I like that they're trying to do something different and I think that really translates. That was very inspiring to me like, it's weird, it sounds very disturbing. That's why I put them on that playlist.

 

Steven: I was trying to think, what the hell did I put on that playlist? I think I was listening to more early Earache stuff like the first couple Pitchshifter records, Submit and Industrial. Meathook Seed, which is members of Naplam Death and Obituary doing a weird industrial thing.

 

I had never heard that until I listened to the playlist, by the way.

 

Steven: I highly recommend the record.

 

Terence: It's a great record. Steven introduced me to it.

 

Steven: I think it needs a proper reissue because I think it's CD or cassette or digital. I'm sure the LP is out there. But early Godflesh, and I think at the time I was listening to a lot of [The] Cure. So a little bit of a mix. That's just skimming the top; I listened to a lot of shit. It was a whole couple weeks with no Taylor Swift [laughs].

 

André: That playlist was a lot of tracks but we're going to keep adding to them. I only put a little kernel of what I was thinking of when we were recording. If I were to pick out one of the tracks—the track from Catherine, which was this really great Chicago-based shoegaze band that my buddy Neil [Jendon] played in in the early 90s. The guitar playing on that track is really cool; they have like three guitar players. They released a few really cool albums that I recommend checking out if anyone has the opportunity.

 

Other things that I was listening to were like—even on "Chronoscapes," the first track on our album, we were in the studio and we needed a riff so I was like I'll do a fucked up Obituary riff. I wrote this riff that when I listen back to it reminds me of what I would have played in the early 2000s in Break of Dawn. It's like a mosh riff.

 

Terence: But with a lot of delay on it.

 

André: A lot of delay, yeah. The way that I sequenced the guitar playing would have been how I approached it in the early 2000s. In Break of Dawn there were two guitar players and that afforded us the opportunity to do different harmonies and stuff. So that's what I did. I did one guitar track on that part, and if you listen to "Chronoscapes," it's the only mosh part, and then I did this weird modulated delay effect as the second guitar part over that base level part. I think with the weird synthesizers and Terence's death metal vocals it turned out really cool, and Steven played a mosh beat. 

 

If I were to pick another influence, the track "Excarnate Light," we started writing that in 2014 in Chicago and at the time I was listening to a lot of Lungfish and a lot of Keith Levene from Public Image Ltd. He's just one of the most underrated guitar players in the last 40 years. He was like a roadie for Yes and essentially he would warm up and couldn't really play the Yes parts when he would warm up for Steve Howe, so he came up with this really interesting style of repetitive guitar playing that I've found to be very influential in how I thought about the music on this album. The guitar part for "Excarnate Light" totally morphed into this Eddie Van Halen kind of thing, but a repetitive form of Eddie Van Halen with a bunch of delay on it. So I would harken back to Lungfish and Keith Levene. When I listen to Lungfish I hear Keith Levene's repetitive arpeggios. 
 

 

André touched on something interesting with that modulated guitar. There are tons of layers and sometimes it's difficult to discern what is a guitar and what is a synth. There are all these weird tones across the album.

 

Terence: I kind of love hearing that. I think, for us, writing this with as many layers and tracks, we wanted it to be like—there's a few breaks, but, overwhelming almost. Of course I was there so I knew what was the synth or the guitar, but I love that we really filled the space sonically where there's just so many different tracks of things. I think each track is probably like four to five synth parts. Some are atmospheric and some riffs and some harmonies. Live it's going to be great to figure that one out. I only have two hands. It's the same with the guitars, André will have an idea and then have another idea and we'll be like, put them both on there. I like that.

 

How much of a song is written before hand and how much comes together in the studio?

 

André: It was more than usual, but still required a lot of massaging in the studio. By massaging it was basically us listening back to a base track, like a foundational track and being like, "Oh, that could use this." 

 

Terence: And having [producer] J Robbins there, he'd raise his hand and be like, "I have an idea," and he'd share, “Maybe it should go like this.” Just having that fourth person there that we trusted hearing the idea and seeing the big picture when we're focusing on this tiny moment. He would see the overall, or vice-versa; we'd be focusing on the big thing and he'd be like, "This little thing needs a little bit of work." That did help.

 

André: We would listen back to tracks. Like the last track, "After Extinction," the first minute and a half we started it out being instrumental and then we listened back and Terence added some vocals in this new way that he hasn't really done on other records. You can understand the lyrics; it's kind of whispered. We were really trying to fill things out. To me, I wanted to tell more of a story on this. I think for us there's a degree of nimbleness that we can benefit from in the studio because there's only three of us and we're proficient enough at our different instruments and, knowing what we want, we can pretty effortlessly pull things off. 

 

I used to record with Break of Dawn in Lockport [New York] with Doug Watchmen [Doug White of Watchmen Studios] and it would kind of stink because Lethargy was one of my favorite bands, but they would practice down the hallway from Break of Dawn and they would go into Watchmen studios all the time—Lethargy are two of the guys from Mastodon—and they were super technical and I'd go in the studio with my band and Doug would play us new Lethargy tracks. Doug would be like, "They just came into the studio and they played this four-minute track flawlessly; didn't have to do any overdubs or anything." And we'd always be like, "Man, I wish that was us." We'd always be practicing all the time and there'd be flubs everywhere. So I think with Locrian, our music is not usually very complicated in certain ways, so we can just pull things off. Initially when we started working with J, I think it might have stressed him out that we'd be like, "Oh, we've got four days in a studio and we need to do most of an album." But then after he experienced working with us—we can work pretty quickly because of our instrumentation and our nimble size. We're adequately proficient. 

 

Terence: This record we probably had 60-70 percent of each track that was maybe on its way, and then we got in the studio and honed it a little bit more, to kind of answer the actual question.

 

Steven: We also did create a few of the tracks right out of the blue in the studio. 

 

With all of the stuff going on in the songs is there ever a concern of it translating into a live environment?

 

Terence: That's kind of how it's always been for us. I think André brought up a good point because to me what we hear in our heads and how we express them in the studio, I don't really worry about it, and I don't think that we do. We'll definitely be like, "This will be interesting live; how am I going to do this thing?" But it's the record. Maybe if we were a band that was more road-warriors that really had to think about that, but I think to us, that's the thing that has been missing, we haven't played live in a while. So the studio has been to us an instrument. I think to all of us, being in the studio is a creative process. It is a documentation of what you're making, but it's not that cut and dry to me. To me, it's part of the instrument. You're overdubbing and you're having crazy weird effects that you wouldn't normally have.

 

Again, to André's point, we're trying to tell a story. It's the album. I want you to put it on and get into this mood and this atmosphere and this experience. Live, it will be different, and I think the expectations are different. It's funny because I used to feel that way like André said about Lethargy—no overdubs, they just do it raw. Then why didn't you have a live recording? Why do you have to be in this fancy studio? I get it for some things, and for other things, I don't know. That's why you have ProTools; you can have 100 guitar tracks. That's cool. Welcome to the 21st Century. I like that. I think being in the studio, you should use all the creative parts of that studio; it's an instrument in and of itself. 

 

Steven: We can't take the studio with us on tour, though.
 

 

André mentioned not being incredibly complicated, but there is definitely an element of complexity that isn't as up front. I think "Utopias" starts in 3/4 and then very smoothly shifts into 5/8. Stuff like that sort of slips under the radar. Is it a conscious effort or something that just has the right feel? Like, I remember reading old interviews with Soundgarden where they talked about not realizing a riff they wrote was in an odd time signature until they started to put the song together. 

 

Steven: That's exactly what happened.

 

Terence: That was my favorite beat on the record. The beat that happens there is really cool.

 

Steven: It's the first thing that came into my head. It fit. It wasn't pre-planned or anything, that's just what worked. 

 

André: One of the new things on this record is that we're expanding more into different time signatures. That core riff, Terence and I wrote in his basement and then Steven came into the studio and did it and I was like, "Whoa, that's a really odd time signature." I didn't realize it until then. In that instance, we wrote this riff, turned out to be in an odd time signature, and it worked. I'd like to explore that more on future albums because it was something fun and interesting for me that I think pushed our sound in a new direction.

 

You said the album is telling a story and there is a theme lyrically, but there seems to be musical themes that rise and fall throughout the record.

 

Terence: I think we've been skirting around it, but the funny time signatures and storytelling just goes to that prog thing that like Pink Floyd would do, or Yes, or King Crimson—just having these movements that would appear again later in the album. There's the lyrics that tell the story, but to us, the sounds have to propel you to the next songs and move you through to the end. There's definitely the intention there, for sure.

 

Steven: Even in the studio there was talk of a reoccurring theme. It would pop up later in another song.

 

Terence: Even André would play a riff and it would be a riff from an older record that he had rethought. I thought that was really interesting, that we could quote something from a few years ago and mutate it to how we were playing now.

 

André: Honestly, if I did it on this album, I don't know if it was intentional. I have intentionally done that on other albums. Just to give you one breadcrumb—the last track on Infinite Dissolution, "Heavy Water," has this melodic theme in the track and we intentionally reintroduced that on New Catastrophism on "Incomplete Map of Voids." We've had these themes that are sometimes themes that we repeat within albums and sometimes across albums. Even though our style has changed from album to album to some extent, we still have these threads that I think help connect the different periods of the band. So on this album I think that happened, but less intentionally than others.

 

Can you talk a bit about the lyrical theme that runs throughout as well? 

 

Terence: In the past, the records are about a kind of Sci-fi speculative fiction way looking at the end of the world through environmental catastrophisms. This record is kind of repeating our ideas. We went about it differently writing the songs. For me, I wrote them from my perspective, which I haven't really done before; I haven't really written from first-person. I approached it like I'm a parent and I wanted to make it more personal—the catastrophism was leaving behind this depleted planet for these future generations. Still bleak and dark, but more like they shouldn't be mourning the passing of our generations or looking back with any kind of favorable opinion because of what we left them. Kind of linking it through [authors] Jeff Vandermeer or Samuel Delany, kind of this speculative vision of the future as this dystopian environmental catastrophe. It's kind of a continuation of our themes but flipping that perspective to be more about a future parent telling the next generation, “Don't mourn our passing.”

 

I think of it as the tradition of Science Fiction—Philip K. Dick or William Gibson. You're projecting what the potential future could be, and that definitely inspires our sounds and inspires the lyrics for me. On this record, I felt like each song was a little story and then I wrote short fiction that accompanies the record and was definitely thinking about these books. I think in the past we've maybe referenced The Crystal World by J.G. Ballard or we've had direct references to very specific Science Fiction works like Dahlgren by Samuel Delany. But I think that this one we've been building up to it, like I wanted it to feel like it was a novel of Science Fiction; you're listening to it.
 

The story of the music and the lyrics all ends on this ethereal note. It's dark but spacey and light at the same time.

 

Terence: Maybe it's ironic, but it's triumphant. We're going extinct—awesome. The lyrics are about [that] there's life after extinction. After we're gone, the Earth's going to continue in the end. Sonically I think it's a cool note to end on.

 

Steven: It's like the unknown. It's up to whoever—everybody, really. I love the ending. I think it worked out perfect for it.

 

André: To me, it's almost segueing into the next album. Maybe that will be the moment that we reintroduce that theme later somehow.

 

Steven: It's life after the Earth. The next album is when the Earth explodes and we're just floating through space [laughs].

 

That's another drone record, right?

 

Steven: That's all it is, just white noise [laughs].

 

So what comes next; are there live shows coming up?

 

Terence: We have some live shows we're working on right now for the summer and there will be some interesting echoes off this record. There will be a book on tape that will be coming out. Saying it sounds funny. Accompanying the record is a little book and the CD will have a PDF of short Science Fiction stories.

 

The short stories that accompany each song?

 

Terence: Yeah, and there will be an audio book that was composed using AI voices and combinations of real voices and AI voices to make a book on tape. Then there will be another release later of field recordings that respond to this that are ambient field recordings of things. There's more to this story and it will be coming out shortly, and then hopefully we get to play some live shows and start work on some new stuff.

 

Steven: Working on some live stuff, hopefully get to the UK and Europe at some point in the near future. Hopefully work on some new material and start thinking about the next record at some point.

 

André: Possible collaborations too. Can't mention who that is, but we've been working on an upcoming collaboration with another artist that we're fans of. Looking forward to keeping the 

momentum up. 

 

 

End Terrain releases 4/5. Preorder End Terrain here.


8 comments

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anonymous 22 days ago

Made it not even halfway through this boring ass interview before I gave up. Two thumbs down.

Bortslob 22 days ago

Looks gay, sounds gay, no read

anonymous 19 days ago

Not sure this interview was long enough… Anywho…Andre is an insufferable douche.

anonymous 19 days ago

Ha!!! Andre Foisy. Horrible person.

anonymous 19 days ago

https://www.metalsucks.net/2014/08/14/metal-yoga-locrians-andre-foisy/

anonymous 19 days ago

Should've asked Andre about the band "Husk."

anonymous 7 days ago

Releasing a playlist to accompany your album is a mistake. It shows your band is a failure. You have to associate your creative output with a bunch of better, more successful bands to prove that you're worthy of my time. I worked in a record store in college, too. Embarrassing. Smells like an SEO play at best; shows you have no original ideas at worse. Choose your poison.

anonymous 2 days ago

ask how this band is funded. it's definitely through taking money from their female partners day job.