A Storm of Light mastermind Josh Graham has kept his hands in the post-metal scene for the better part of the last two decades. His past achievements include visuals with Neurosis (2000-2012) and guitars/vocals/keys at Battle of Mice; A Storm of Light is now his main focus, with new album Anthroscene arriving on October 5. New song “Short Term Feedback”—which Decibel is premiering below—is thick and psychedelic, paired with a video that Graham explains below.
Anthroscene is A Storm of Light’s fifth album and first in five years. What’s changed within the band and in your lives since then?
I’ve been focusing on composing with my project IIVII, and have just scored a behind the scenes documentary for Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!. Beyond that, I’ve been working on projects for a lot of different bands over the last 5 years: Soundgarden, Enslaved, Sleep, Kings Destroy, Neurosis, Can, Guns N Roses, Drake, Jay Z, to name a few.
The band lineup has shifted as well. Billy Graves has taken leave and is focusing on his family. We love and miss him. Dan Hawkins, my old high school bandmate, is now playing second guitar an additional keys. We first started playing together when we were 15, so it is great to continue the music collaboration so many years later. Domenic Seita is keeping busy and building awesome houses in Rhode Island. Chris Common played drums on the album, and we are touring with a Belgian drummer, Gregory Simons.
From reading the lyric sheet, it’s pretty obvious that ASOL are socially conscious and it reflects in your music. What are some of the things you thought about as you wrote the album?
The lyrics on Anthroscene are a reactionary response to how I feel about a lot of our current events around the world. For a while it seemed like we were moving down better path; progressing beyond racism, focusing on global community, the environment and well being of the people. Now, a lot of our politicians are sacrificing the poor and middle class to enrich themselves, and make as much money as possible. They fight science, and not only promote, isolationism, hate, fear and greed, but also profit from that exploitation. That pure frustration led to making this record.
The song we’re premiering today, “Short Term Feedback,” is very heavy at points, and pretty spacey and “post-y” at others. Can you tell us a little about it, what it’s about or what it was like writing and recording it?
We had no concerns or thoughts about any genre on this album. We focused on what each song needed, allowing the music to venture into new territory, and push our personal boundaries. It’s heavy and intense, but always focuses on interwoven melodies, song structure and dynamic.
“Short Term Feedback” culminated from a few different areas. First is my personal use of the computer, as a creative director, video director, graphic designer, and musician; virtually every area of my life involves computers. Sometimes it feels relentless, and sometimes i’d like to throw all of my computers out the window.
That aspect, combined with the effect social media is having on people, including myself to some degree, is what propelled this song into existence. The Guardian interviewed Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice-president for user growth at Facebook, and he said: “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works. No civil discourse, no cooperation, misinformation, mistruth. … This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other.”
Josh, you also served as the visual wizard with Neurosis for more than a decade. Has that informed the aesthetic for A Storm of Light?
Creating visual work for bands, and making my own music, are separate processes. Beyond working with Neurosis for 12 years, I have also been working as creative director for Soundgarden since 2010, as well as a long line of other artists; but those two are perhaps the most all-encompassing projects for me. For both SG and Neurosis, I have directed music videos, created concert visuals, album art, merch and more. Listening to albums, songs and small pieces of songs on repeat probably does seep into your brain. It’s probably impossible not to get some sort of influence while you are dissecting songs down to specific snare hits. Luckily, they are both great bands to work with so intimately. It’s been an honor.
That said, while there’s a family of music there (Storm/SG/Neurosis), and we’re all pulling from a long line of shared influences, we all operate independently. We all have our own voice and our own vision. As an avid music fan, most of my listening these days is exploring other genres and expanding beyond a lot of rock and metal. If I had to pull specific influences for Anthroscene, they would probably be the bands we soaked in as kids in the early ’90s: Ministry, Swans, Pailhead, Fugazi, Big Black, The Cure, Christian Death, Discharge, Melvins, Tool, Birthday Party, NIN, Nick Cave, PJ Harvey, etc. And yes, I am sure some Soundgarden and Neurosis influence is in there as well.