mxdwn: The EP sounds great. Congratulations on the release. It’s really exciting.
Oliver Ackermann: Thanks so much.
mxdwn: I think one of the main things I noticed, that I think a lot of people will notice about this EP is that a lot of the noisiness of past albums has been kind of tamed here in a way, or maybe it has more focus, I guess. It’s still there, obviously; it’s still very chaotic because that’s what A Place To Bury Strangers is all about, but I feel like it has a little bit more of a direction. So how did you approach the songwriting process for these songs? How is this EP different from past ones?
OA: I guess it was a combination of things. It was like, you know, being kind of trapped and not really seeing people. Kind of focused on doing things, you know. You really got to, I don’t know, dive into those worlds and sort of experiment with those things. It was also even, at the time I had been developing and inventing and a lot of different pedals and circuits, and so there was a lot of that kind of stuff on some of those songs, where it’s like, ‘this is the first time I’ve ever played with an effect that does this kind of thing.’ And so you’re sort of excited, sort of searching with what you can do with that. And I think, also, as time goes on, like maybe your focus and taste on what things you like and what different sounds can be something that’s new and interesting that you kind of haven’t heard before, becomes something different and evolves. And so this is a bit of that.
mxdwn: Yeah, my next question was about the pandemic and how it affected that songwriting process. So I guess one of the main questions I’ve asked a lot of artists I’ve interviewed recently is, not only how did the pandemic affect the songwriting and recording process, but also, is there something about that time that’s reflected in the music itself?
OA: I mean, there’s got to be, you know. A lot of those songs were all written just out of nowhere, you know. I’ve been doing that a lot recently, where I’ll just kind of sit down to write, and then songs will somehow form after spending a lot of time doing that. So a lot of these songs, you know, New York is really bleak and insane, and people are shooting fireworks off all the time, there’s trash all over the streets, you’re not seeing any of your friends, there’s refrigerator trucks where they’re putting dead bodies and people dying. Just, you know, it’s a really weird, insane kind of time. And even with everything that’s going on politically, it just seems like the end of the world is coming. It kind of sets you in the mood to sort of write certain things. I contracted the Coronavirus. So I was sick for two weeks or something back in March of 2020, which seems so long ago now. But that just kind of messed up what a day even was. I was waking up at like 3 a.m. or something and then kind of starting my day around then. So a lot of the writing was done in the morning before the sun came up. It was kind of just weird. It seemed like I was in another world, but I guess everybody kind of felt like that too, I’m sure. It’s like, writing music on Venus or something; I don’t know.
mxdwn: So then the recording process. I guess, generally with any of the releases from A Place To Bury Strangers, when you get to that kind of noise, at least from my understanding, it seems to be improvisation. So I was wondering, kind of generally for any of your releases, what that recording process looks like, but also how it might have been different this year with the pandemic?
OA: I mean, sometimes I would toil with endless experimentation. Now, I guess I kind of just want to hear new music, so there’s a little bit less of that. But it’s always in spaces that I’ve built, whether it be, you know, a combination of every single room in my house or the warehouse that we have built out, which is where we built the Death By Audio effects. Then there’s also a recording studio and practice space that I built in there. You want to try to hear different sounds. You get some crazy idea like, ‘What’s it sound like if we run microphones into the basement and record,’ and then you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s kind of cool.’ So you do all of those kinds of things. Sometimes it’s just to kind of keep yourself sort of excited and experimenting, and you’re curious, so you try everything you can do. Being in New York, that puts limitations on you, where sometimes you’ve got neighbors that don’t want to hear crazy, loud music, and you want to record crazy, loud guitar or drums or something. So you have to either figure out a time to do it or run your experiments at certain times when that works with your neighbors.
mxdwn: mxdwn: And then, with Sandra joining the band and John returning to the band, what do they bring to the sound of A Place To Bury Strangers? How does that shape the sound of this EP?
OA: Since having grown up with John and sort of, you know, learning to write music together and having played in bands, even in the past and everything, he knows exactly where I’m coming from as a writer and a recording engineer. So it was really natural, and they’re really supportive. I think it kind of drives the band to a more pure essence of what the band even is. And Sandra, you know, she plays with John in CEREMONY east coast, and so they have a sort of similar thing going on as A Place To Bury Stranger, at least somewhat aesthetically. And so, they just kind of come from the same place. So it’s really just kind of back to the roots of A Place To Bury Stranger, like from when that first album was pretty much just demos written by me. Now, it’s kind of back to that same sort of place of embracing the crazy noise rock or something that we’re playing. And so I’m really excited. It gave me exciting hope for what’s to come. And the things that we’ve been writing right now are like, so sick; I’m so excited.
mxdwn: Obviously, A Place To Bury Stranger is very well known for the live shows. I know that you’ve announced a few shows in the fall and next spring; you’re doing some shows with Future Islands on their fall tour. As a band is very much known for your live shows, how has the inability to perform this past year affected the band? Is there anything that you’ve gained, as performers, from the time off from the road? Or is there anything that you’ve especially missed?
OA: I think we’ve gained time to develop a lot of things. I’ve been building all sorts of stuff that we’re going to be using on these live shows. And, you know, without a show to play, you get lots of time to experiment with all those things. There’s definitely a lot of, ‘Oh, you know, I built this thing, we’re going to use it,’ and then you’re really glad that you had a chance to practice with it because it ends up being terrible. And so then, it’s good to kind of work out all of those different things to plan for what’s going to be in the future. I noticed even just having to sit around for a while at the beginning of the pandemic and not really being so active and not being able to leave, I was really tired and exhausted doing things, so it’s been a long road of building back up my endurance. But now, we’re practicing all the time and doing stuff. At first, I would be winded playing the drums, but it’s good to be back to not having that happen anymore.
mxdwn: Along the lines of new tricks and new gadgets, you’re maybe almost as well known for your pedal company as you are for A Place To Bury Stranger. As someone that’s so heavily associated with effects gear and also within a genre of music that’s so tied to the sound of these huge daisy-chained pedalboards, I was wondering, are there any key pieces of your pedalboard that have been around and have lasted album to album? Or maybe a central part of the sound A Place To Bury Stranger? And then, also, are there any new pieces that are joining the pedalboard for this new EP and this new sound?
OA: Yeah, I’ve always used, for the longest time, the same Armageddon pedal, which was a prototype for this pedal called the Apocalypse. It’s this really gnarly fuzz, which just sounds insane, and you can switch the filter between the two. The rest of this stuff, I mean, there’s all similarities. Like, I’m used to using a wah pedal that I designed and using these different kinds of reverb boxes. One I was using towards the end, for the past few years in A Place To Bury Stranger, was the Rooms prototype. And then, now, I have this other one that’s programmed to be more advanced and do other crazy things. But, I mean, that’s an advantage to using gear that you can build. Even in between band practices, it’s like all being constantly redeveloped. Redeveloping the gear that I’m using to suit more what I think would take the band further and, you know, be more versatile and do cooler things. But I don’t use that many pedals. It’s maybe like six or something? And that’s just because I think that you want to really play those pedals and interact with them with the guitar, and that gives you the opportunity to do that, you know. Find the pedal on the pedalboard and try to do a lot.
mxdwn: Do you only use your own pedals for the most part?
OA: Pretty much always. Sometimes, I’ll use another pedal and sometimes, depending on some songs or something, I’ll think that I’d use another pedal, but yeah, pretty much 100%.
mxdwn: Then kind of bigger picture, are there any key takeaways that you want listeners to take from this EP? Like, as a whole, some sort of central message that you’re trying to convey?
OA: The EP, it’s a little bit in some ways like a painful breakup sort of EP. So I guess, you know, there’s also a little bit like hope for the future. The stuff that I’ve recorded for this album that’s going to probably come out next year, there’s a bit of that kind of going on as well, too. But I think, you know, just keep on working on whatever you’re doing, and hopefully, you can make it through.
mxdwn: And then, lastly, what’s next from here? Because I know you said earlier you guys are back in the studio, maybe already looking at new music. So I know you’ve already got a bunch of shows planned for the next year, but is there more music that people can expect to see from the band anytime soon?
OA: Yeah, I’m sure we’re gonna be releasing more music before too long. I’ve recorded so much music during the pandemic, and, you know, we’re really excited to be starting to kind of release this stuff. Even this stuff that we’ve been writing is incredible. I think it’s gonna be really cool. Got lots of music coming.