Interview mit Clayton Cushman von The Flight Of Sleipnir

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On „Eventide“, THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR might not have noticeably altered their distinctive blend of doom, black metal, post-rock, and folk, but have extracted from it perhaps their most consistent set of songs to date. We asked guitarist and bassist Clayton Cushman a few questions on occasion of the release – a conversation about nighttime walks for stargazing, modern people’s interest in Norse mythology, and unwelcome disagreements over production techniques.

In the USA, the situation with the pandemic seems to be slowly getting back under control. How have you been coping under these circumstances so far?
The thing I miss the most is live music, so I hope to partake in that again soon. I am not afraid of science, so I took the vaccine – so I am ready for it. It’s really too bad we did not pull together as a country to end it once and for all, but we cannot do such things anymore in the USA it would seem.

Has the pandemic also affected the creation process or the song material of your new record „Eventide“?
Actually, no – the material for this album was started as far back as late 2017, and we had the album finished by 2019 – the pandemic just delayed the release.

In your early days you released new material pretty quickly. Recently, you take a few years to release new albums. What has changed?
That’s a hard question to answer – I think it was just circumstantial, there were some band tensions throughout this last album (Justin Siegler is no longer with TFOS), different life pressures, a changing world, job demands, the list goes on…

How did you perceive the reactions to your new record?
I’ve read a couple positive reviews, which is always encouraging. Who doesn’t enjoy validation? I don’t keep after it that much though, I’m more focused on the next few things…

The album’s description coming from your label and the artwork suggest that the mysteries of the night constitute the basic theme of your new album „Eventide“. However, the song titles also suggest different song contents. What is the record about in general?
The album does not have a theme, but the songs share an element of darkness, endings, death and sacrifice – so the title seemed to fit for this particular collection of songs.

What memories and impressions do you personally associate with the night?
When I was young, I would go outside – regardless of the weather – and just stare at the sky if it was clear – observing the stars and anything else. I still do this from time to time. There is a perspective that becomes apparent when you realize how far away everything is.

The artwork of „Eventide“ looks a lot more subtle and symbolic than those of your previous records. Was that a conscious decision in terms of the lyrical concept?
I’m not so sure I could answer this with any authority, as David is the master of art in the band – but the artwork inside the jacket is extremely detailed and intricate. I’m pretty sure that started as the original idea but David wanted to move in another direction and we all agreed that it fits, the sparseness suited how we all felt at the time.

Your music in general has a pretty archaic aesthetic, although you work with various kinds of modern styles of music. Does this contrast of the ancient and the contemporary also play a role in your everyday life?
I’m a pretty modern guy – I believe understanding the past is important in order to try to make improvements or move forward, but that philosophy has flaws too. I reject authority – ancient tradition is steeped in it, so there is conflict there for me. I treat Norse mythology as parable. The ancient way of life dies every generation.

I have the impression that your black metal influences are a bit more prominent on the new album. How did the songs develop in this direction?
Yes, the spirit of misanthropy is a bit more present on this record. We all have extensive black metal collections, so it will rear its head from time to time in what we do. It wasn’t something we discussed, but we all felt it, I think.

In general you have kept your usual style from my point of view. Would you say that you nevertheless still experiment sometimes?
Indeed – the next record we are working on has a more experimental spirit. We still find opportunities for new instruments or sounds when we can. We honestly try not to think about what we do too much, because when you start doing that for any reason – financial, personal, egotistical, whatever – it starts to dilute the art.

After you released „V.“ on a bigger metal label, you have been back to an underground label since the release of „Skadi“. Have you finished with the metal „mainstream“?
You know, I don’t think we ever were in the metal mainstream. The mainstream is sustained by marketing and hype – two things we don’t care about. We are truly grateful for every fan we have, and working with underground labels is superior because they typically care about music and are more invested in what the band does.

„V.“ was said to be a bit flawed in terms of production. Looking back, what do you think about your sound on this release?
I hate talking about production, even as an “audio engineer” – because it’s like talking about the paint job on a car. It’s so subjective and yet so easy to voice an opinion on, but to what end? Am I to remix an album to satisfy someone on the internet who thinks my drum overheads are out of phase? (they are, and I don’t care…) What’s done is done! I take the punk rock approach, in that everyone can fuck off about my production choices.

The mastering of your latest record was done by Greg Chandler. Why did you decide to give this task to someone outside the band this time and why to him in particular?
We all like Esoteric, and we’ve worked with Greg before on some other projects. Nico (Eisenwald) recommended him, and we trust Nico and Greg, it all works out great.

You have announced that you will play a few concerts with Dread Sovereign in Europe. How did it come about that you decided to go on tour together?
Eisenwald helped us work with Doomstar on that – we have been trying to get to Europe to play for over a decade now, and we hope this tour will happen – we are all optimistic about it. The package of TFOS and Dread Sovereign was the booking agency – we should work well together and it should be a great set of shows.

Do you have any further plans for the near future of THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR?
We have 5 or 6 songs almost done tracking for our next release – which is a slight detour in sound from “Eventide”. I will probably get mixing done this summer and we’ll see where it goes from there!

Finally, a quick brainstorming session. What do you think about the following keywords?
Nightlife: Desperate dudes with cars.
Writer’s block: Humans are not made to work all the time.
DIY: The mark of true motivation.
Streaming concerts: Can be great. Can be terrible.
Neo-paganism: We come from slime, regardless of imagination.
Innovation: Right place, right time, right people.

Thanks again for your time. I’d like to leave the last words to you:
Thank you for your interest in us, and we appreciate all you do. Think for yourself!

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