Milwaukee's best sludge purveyors NORTHLESS just released a terrific new record, entitled "World Keeps Sinking". It's 60 minutes of pummeling, uncompromising metal, and we were fortunate enough to be able to ask guitarist/vocalist Erik Steinglein a few questions, as well as wrangle a segment of FIVE SONGS TO LISTEN TO out of him.
KWUR: Can you introduce everyone who worked on "World Keeps Sinking"?
ES: Absolutely. I'm Erik, and I played guitar and did vocals. Nicholas Elert played guitars. John Gleisner played drums. Jerry Hauppa played bass guitar. The record was recorded by Shane Hochstetler at Howl Street Studios, was mastered by Carl Saff at Saff Mastering, and was co-released by Cory von Bohlen (Halo of Flies Records) and Adam Bartlett (Gilead Media). Paul Jeffrey did the artwork. They worked on the record a ton (just not the music side), so I am including them.
KWUR: On this new record, your sound is tighter, and a little bit sludgier than your previous split with Light Bearer. How do you think your sound has changed, if at all?
ES: I think the new record definitely shows more of our progressive influences. 90's math rock, and 70's prog rock are huge influences on us collectively. To play stuff like that, you have to play tightly, so I think that motivated us to shape up our chops. I also think the newer material is more melodic in retrospect, though I wouldn't say that was intentional. As a band, we do what feels best at the moment. We don't try to write to fit a certain style or expectation. Learning how to record music on my own also opened up the ability to heavily scrutinize material during the writing process, which I think led to a more cohesive finished product overall.
KWUR: What are some of the themes behind "World Keeps Sinking"? Did you have anything specific in mind when you wrote the songs?
ES: Hatred and existential misery are ongoing themes for us, but for this record, I actually was in the midst of a full-blown fallout with some people who were close friends of mine. It was a really fucked up situation that left me in a very bad spot, let's just leave it at that. I channeled all the negative energy I could into these tunes, and it all came together pretty quickly. I would say that 85% of the record was written in the several months right before we recorded in May. Spontaneity can be great. Hopefully I won't go through any shit like that again, though. The next time I won't survive to write another record.
KWUR: Can you tell is more about your local scene? I know you guys are releasing your new record through Gilead Media, which is based in Wisconsin. If you were to play a local show, who'd be on the bill beside you?
ES: The scene here is great. There are a lot of diverse bands doing killer things, and it makes for more diverse shows, which wasn't the case for a while there when the metalcore scene had its grip on Milwaukee's penis in the early to mid 2000's. Thankfully, most of those bands and people are gone now, and the creative people who actually gave a shit were left behind to create good sounds.
At this moment, if I could jam with any Milwaukee bands on a show, it would be Group Of The Altos, Shut In, Shroud of Despondency, and Sacrificial Massacre. I'm certainly not saying these are the only good bands from Milwaukee (far from it), but these are the bands striking me right the fuck now.
KWUR: Any future plans for Northless? Touring, splits, etc
ES: Yes. We're working on a covers record. It will be either really awesome or really shitty…but it's happening so fuck you! We're also planning to release splits with a couple of bands in late 2014/early 2015…Don't want to announce those until things are confirmed. We'll be doing a small bit of touring this year…8 days on the East Coast in March, and about a week doing middle America places, not really the Midwest. More on those soon…
And now, FIVE SONGS TO LISTEN TO, courtesy of NORTHLESS:
Swans- “Coward”: What else can I say? Easily one of the biggest influences on me personally as a musician. Heavy in a completely non-metal way. Totally minimalist and dark. Genre-less. Grim. If you're not familiar, you need to get familiar yesterday. The future happened almost 30 years ago, and we're barely catching up now.
Discordance Axis- “End Of Rebirth”: Not many people can singularly point to their favorite band, but I can, and it's Discordance Axis, specifically “The Inalienable Dreamless” record. It's the most intense record I've ever heard, from any genre. It's bizarre and blazing fast and punishing. This song is one of the most intense pieces of music I've ever heard. I also just plain love blast beats, and Dave Witte's are the best ever. I wish he'd play more of them nowadays…
Portal- “Omnipotent Crawling Chaos”: Metal music as an artform is arguably entering it's 43rd year, if you consider that Black Sabbath essentially formed in 1970. I've been listening to metal for 24 of those years, and I really thought until recently that I had heard everything there was to hear, and that metal music had pretty much reached its apex of silliness and creativity…And then I heard Portal. Out of nowhere they came, completely atonal, devoid of melody, with terrifying timbres recalling the darkest nethers of R'lyeh, or like choking to death slowly on a distant planetary moon devoid of life. This song has always stuck out of their catalog to me for some reason. It's crushing, in every possible way.
Phillip Glass- “Koyaanisqatsi”: So in college I took a lot of Philosophy courses. One of my most memorable classes was an Environmental Ethics class, which in many ways opened to my eyes to so much bullshit in this world. Our professor had us watch the film, and most people fucking hated it, even if they got it. I was simply blown away by the musical compositions in the film, and this was my first exposure to modern, avant garde classical music. I can't choose one section of the piece to suggest, so I'm just suggesting the whole thing since I view it as one solid composition anyway. A must see and listen.
Tom Waits- “I Don't Wanna Grow Up”: Tom Waits is a genius, plain and simple. The man can pen a tune like no one's business. His “Storytellers” record is fucking essential, and this song is about as honest as it gets. The lyrics hit me hard, every time…I guess I'm one of those regretful grown-ups that never wanted to be, but here I am. The melody and guitar tone are so simple and yet beautiful. Tom Waits writes some of the heaviest music ever.
Big thanks to Erik for his time. "World Keeps Sinking" is available via Gilead Media, Halo of Flies records, or digitally at northless.bandcamp.com.