"My full strength crazy..."

Dylan Carlson comes with a certain reputation.

The creative lynch-pin of Earth, his music is both creatively and emotionally dense. Having battled ill health and a long term drug habit, Carlson often comes across during interviews as a man who doesn’t take prisoners.

So why is he so damned polite?

On the phone from his home in the United States, Dylan Carlson is all energy and enthusiasm, giving off the impression of a man completely comfortable with every aspect of his life. “I’m doing really good. The medication my doctor has got me on has been working wonders, I’m watching my diet. I don’t have any vices left but smoking so... I’m doing OK!”

He’s got every reason to be excited. Earth have just released the second instalment of ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light’, a batch of material which has seen the seminal doom icons indulge their meditative side. A product of a furiously creative period within the band, much of the new album was entirely improvised, flooding out of Earth during those lengthy sessions. “Only two songs actually had riffs” he explains. “Then with the rest, we would just roll tape and see what happened.”

What happens is remarkable. ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light’ has a quiet, meditative feel which toys with any expectations long term fans might have built up. Forcibly split into two - “It would have been prohibitive production-wise, cost-wise...” - Carlson still feels that the material should be taken as a whole. “It flows from the most composed, oldest song I had – which was ‘Old Black’. I wrote that in like 2009 and then we’d played it but then it took its final form and that was like a song which I sat down and thought “I’m going to write a song which goes ABAC, minor key..” It was very much like, this is what this is.”

Far quieter than most Earth releases, the new album is marked by acoustic tones. “Yeah I keep toying with the idea of actually buying one, because I’ve never had one” the guitarist explains. “I’ve never taken the plunge yet. I’m bummed because I bought a semi-hollow but I needed to get some work done on it. I was hoping to get it for this tour but it wasn’t done in time. We’ll have to wait!”

Earth - His Teeth Did Brightly Shine

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Continually throwing himself into new areas, a chance encounter with the British folk tradition helped to spur the new album on. “I’m a compulsive book buyer. I came over in November, stayed a couple of weeks, bought a few books and then I just used the internet to look up books and lyrics” he explains. Gaining a foothold on British folk culture, Dylan Carlson began re-assessing how he approaches music. “Well I’d had ‘Liege And Leaf’ for quite a while, and I think I had ‘Cruel Sister’ – courtesy of Led Zeppelin! That was my introduction to that stuff because, y’know Sandy Denny was on ‘Battle Of Evermore’ and Jimmy Page always talked about Bert Jansch so I had an awareness of it. I’d go back to my collection, listen to something and get something new out of it – I guess those records just turned!” he says. “I like how they do that (tackle the folk tradition) but they incorporate.. like Pentangle have the pure jazz rhythm section, they weren’t doing.. I don’t have anything against traditionalists in the folk world at all, but it’s cool to see.. I like it when people take stuff and make it their own, do something with it. Rather than just paint by numbers.”

Perhaps the most obvious mark of this influence lies in the album’s title. ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light’ is partly inspired by Carlson’s studies of folk culture, and differing views on religious beliefs. “I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of opposites clashing” he explains. “Then also I like ‘angels of darkness’ being Christianity and ‘demons of light’ being the fairies of whatever. There’s a bunch of different interpretations”.

The influence is everywhere on the album, with the song titles being littered with allusion to the traditional canon. “I think the titles reflect that. ‘His Teeth Did Brightly Shine’ is a line from ‘Reynardine’ which is one of my favourite songs, if I was going to pick a favourite song. There’s a band I just found – Mr Fox. Who did a horribly up to date version. From North of Yorkshire, they only put out two albums. There were kind of like folk mixed with Velvet Underground. You can get both of their records on CD through Transatlantic, and I guess Bob Pegg who lives in Scotland now.”

With sessions for ‘Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light’ ending over a year ago, Dylan Carlson is already looking towards his new project. A solo record, the material will see the guitarist fully immerse himself in the world of fairies and witches. “The solo things I’m starting to do are based around that. I’m trying to leave Earth free for the next Earth record to be.. I view Earth more collectively as a band. I’m pursuing what my band mates call my full strength crazy on the solo record.”

“I just did a cassette for the Tape Worm and I’m doing a Latitude session for Southern. Then I just talked to Mike from Touch about a seven inch, and I’ve got the major solo project which I just got financed through Kickstarter. It’s going to be a book with music and a film” he says. “It’s influenced by that. It’s going to be the folk songs of human and fairy encounters, stuff like that.”

Already planning a return trip to the UK to construct field recordings, it’s clear that Carlson has gained a unique sense of focus. For now, though, the guitarist is on Earth duties. An upcoming tour will allow the band to stretch out, reaching back to the spirit of improvisation which buoyed those initial recording sessions.

“I think we played ‘Multiple City’ live a few times on the last tour, but since it’s all improvised stuff it’s a whole new set and it’ll change every night depending on the night. Then we brought a couple of songs back into the set which we weren’t doing, so it’s a whole new set which we’re playing live. It doesn’t feel stale. We always change up the sets as the tours go, like when we put ‘Blackwaterside’ in during the middle of the last tour. We try not to play the same stuff, like ‘here’s all the hits!’”

There’s that laugh again.

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'Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light II' is out now

Catch Earth at the following UK shows:

3 Bristol Arnofini Gallery
5 Dublin Button Factory
7 Manchester Ruby Lounge
8 Edinburgh The Caves
9 Leeds Brudenell Social Club
11 London Union Chapel
12 Brighton The Haunt

Click here to buy tickets for Earth!

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