Interview mit John Haughm von Pillorian

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The split of Agalloch in May 2016 was a big shock for many. However, shortly afterwards, bandleader John Haughm announced that he had formed a new band with Stephen Parker (Maestus) and Trevor Matthews (Uada): PILLORIAN. In the following interview you’ll learn more about the origins of the band and its impressive debut „Obsidian Arc“ as well as why live shows were booked before the announcement of the album and why there’s no post-rock in its sound – contrary to Agalloch.

PILLORIAN consists of John Haughm (ex-Agalloch), Stephen Parker (Maestus) and Trevor Matthews (Uada). How did you come up with the idea to create a band together?
About two or three weeks after the Agalloch split, I was hanging out with Stephen – who was a friend who had worked as an Agalloch crewmember since 2014. We talked about the past, the future and various musical ideas we had and I showed him some riffs in my archive that I had no plans for. He also had some riffs in a similar key, so we collaborated and wrote the structure to what would become “By The Light of a Black Sun”. We both knew Trevor, so we took this structure to him and jammed on it as a trio. Nothing serious, just for the hell of it. Well, the chemistry between us was so awesome that we continued to write and by the end of the summer we had 5-6 songs finished. So we decided to pursue it seriously and I got in contact with my booking agents, signed with Eisenwald, booked studio time with Tad and Markus and started making plans for the album and some 2017 live shows. Once the decision was made, we wasted no time and the other guys were as motivated as I was to make this a serious endevour. That’s why festival and tour dates started appearing before we had even announced an album. We wanted a tour to be ready in time for the album release so we could promote it right.

Agalloch disbanded in May 2016. What were the reasons for ending the band and why did you shortly after that join forces to create PILLORIAN?
I had personally grown away from those guys and from the whole little world that surrounded the band. We also had very different goals both musically and with band activity. It was really best for everyone that we went our separate ways. We had a good run and I don’t regret my decision to dissolve the band. I think recording a 6th album would’ve been a complete disaster with the differences between us.

Which bands are influential to all three of you, concerning the music of PILLORIAN?
The three of us come from slightly different backgrounds musically, but we all agree on the style that we are creating in this band. Our individual styles blend well together. That said, speaking for myself, I was not influenced by anything in particular while writing this album. I wanted to create purely from a neutral perspective and simply write from within. Maybe some of my guitar melodies were influenced by choral music but, overall, I cannot say there was any definite band or genre we pulled from for inspiration.

The word PILLORIAN deals with scorn and condemnation. By far a darker bandname than Agalloch. Why did you choose this term to be your bandname?
It fit with the style of music we were making. We naturally had started writing music more aggressive and darker than my previous work, so this „band of scorn“ type of name fit perfectly. It also fit with the lyrical themes which are much more subversive and negative.

Also, musically you seem to be a lot more headed towards black metal than Agalloch, while the is almost no post-metal to be heard. Was this a conscious decision and if so, why did you choose to pursue a new musical direction?
Well, none of us like post-rock, so why the hell would we play it? There might be a few of those bands that Stephen appreciates and there was a period in the early – mid ’00s where I liked several post-rock bands, but it was a passing fad and quickly became boring. Nowadays, I think most post-rock is garbage. That genre is good for the creative use of effects more than the rather shallow and lame musical content.

Please give us some insight into your songwriting process. Do all three of you take part in it?
Yes, definitely. This band is a much more collaborative effort. Agalloch was primarily based on my songwriting whereas PILLORIAN is more 50/50 on all of the material.

„Obsidian Arc“ is your debut, a really compelling, atmospheric album. Congratulations to you! In which way, do you think, does it set itself apart from your other bands Agalloch, Uada and Maestus?
It is an entirely different kind of band than any of those three. The main difference between PILLORIAN and Agalloch, musically, is that PILLORIAN does not reference other styles so obviously. Agalloch was clearly influenced by Ulver, Katatonia, Sol Invictus, Fields Of The Nephilim, etc. to the point of almost being a parody of those styles. Of course, some of that became engrained into my personal songwriting but PILLORIAN’s music comes from a very natural and instinctual place within. We had no definitive direction we chose to pursue when we started writing these songs. We just started playing and let the music manifest itself.

Is there a certain track on the album, which is the most special to you and if so, why?
My favorite track on the album is „Forged Iron Crucible“. I like the arrangement, the melodies and the lyrics have personal meaning. It is also an enjoyable track to play.

With which subjects do you deal with in the lyrics on „Obsidian Arc“?
Hatred, self-loathing, misanthropy, deconstruction of the spirit, nihilism, the curse of the human condition, esotericism, etc.

You released the album via Eisenwald Tonschmiede. Why did you choose exactly this label for your debut?
It was a natural decision as I had already built a relationship with that label since 2010 or so. Nico is a good friend of mine and he and I have a lot of ideas in common. Eisenwald is a great label with an amazing roster of artistic bands. It was the perfect home for us.

The mixing und mastering was done by Markus Stock at Klangschmiede Studio. Why was he chosen for this job and are you satisfied with the final result?
I had always wanted to work with Markus, even back in the Agalloch days, but it wasn’t until now that I got the chance. His productions are so atmospheric yet clear and so we thought this touch would be the best choice for this album and would perhaps set us apart from most American productions. I think the result speaks for itself and we are very, very happy with the sound quality on the album. We hope to use his talents again in the future.

The artwork looks melancholic, earthy and picturesque. What can you tell us about it?
The cover art was painted by an old friend of mine from Belgium. I wanted something very abstract and unsettling that had no identifiable form. I like how the painting brings out so may different interpretations and compliments the darkness and mystery portrayed in the album’s material.

You’ll also do live shows as PILLORIAN. Will you hire a session guitarist for that matter or will you be able to play as a trio?
Stephen and I are the main guitarists. For live purposes, we will hire a bassist. Eventually it would be nice to find a permanent bassist but for now, we are content as a creative trio.

What about the future of PILLORIAN? Do you intend to create new music and do gigs for a longer period of time or will you soon again focus more on your other musical projects?
PILLORIAN is now my main band so I will pursue it as such. I hope we tour a lot more regularly than Agalloch ever did. I also would like to continue my solo and collaborative work when time and schedules allow.

Now I’d like to end our interview with our traditional What do you think of while reading the following terms:
Nature: Cleanses the mind and spirit.
Favorite album of doom metal, black metal and neofolk (one for each genre): I have no single favorites but Decoryah’s “Wisdom Floats”, Blasphemy’s „Fallen Angel Of Doom“ and Current 93’s „Of Ruine or Some Blazing Starre“ are albums that I personally regard as timeless masterpieces in these genres.
Donald Trump: Psycho zealot
Studio vs. live show: Both have their positives. I do prefer travel and playing live than always being in a sterile studio.
Human: Destined for extinction.
PILLORIAN in five years: Hopefully still active with a couple more albums under our belts.

Alright, thank you once more for doing this interview with us.

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