Fever Kingdoms

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Back in 2011, New York’s Pyrrhon released their debut album, An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master on Selfmadegod Records. It was a noisy discordant death metal/grindcore record, but more importantly it featured a good friend and former co scribe from my metalreview.com days, Doug Moore. I had every intention of reviewing the album and also interviewing Doug for this site, but alas I never followed through. A full 3 years later and look at Pyrrhon now! All signed to Relapse Records and shit and releasing one of 2014’s early stellar releases on The Mother Of Virtues.

And what an album it is. As I stated in my review, the album is “a gibbering in the corner of a piss filled insane asylum room eating your own peeling skin after main lining heroin and doing bath salts type of album”  that will more that likely flesh out a number of 2014 year ends lists. It’s a vast growth from the debut, filling the noisy crevices and cracks with caustically nauseating tones that cull from Gorguts, Starkweather and  Converge and is fleshed out with Doug Moore’s rather insane vocals and lyrics. I reached out to Doug to see if he would remember us little people and finally get an interview done with yours truly, so read the fruits of a three years of procrastination from me and some insightful answers from him below…

 

First off, apologies for not reviewing your debut and not getting these interview questions to you sooner. It seems like we have been talking about a PYRRHON interview since the metalreview.com days!

That may actually be true. We self-released our first EP back in 2009, and I think we were both still active on the site at that point.

So what exactly is  PYRRHON? I assume it is not a Kid Icarus or World of Warcraft character as a quick Google search would indicate?

Nope. Pyrrhon was originally an ancient Greek philosopher whom historians consider the father of philosophical skepticism. Like Socrates, he didn’t write anything down himself; his ideas were all recorded by his students. We didn’t know much about Pyrrhon when we named the band — we arrived at the name because we were working backwards from the phrase “Pyrrhic victory.” It’s an appropriate name, but it doesn’t have super deep significance for us. We mostly just thought it sounded cool. I personally wish we’d settled on something a little easier to spell and pronounce, haha.

You are signed to Relapse Records now? As a musician does that make you feel like you have made it? How did the deal come about?

It’s definitely awesome to work with Relapse — they were kind of our target from the beginning. But no, I don’t feel like we’ve ‘made it.’ Do death metal musicians ever ‘make it’ any more? What does ‘making it’ even mean these days? I’m just happy that we probably won’t lose so much money every time we record an album from here on out.

The deal came about the same way most such deals come about, I’d guess. We sent them copies of our recordings for a few years, and I eventually ran into one of their guys at a show here in New York.  We got to talking, the band came up, and he expressed interest in hearing what we were working on, since he’d enjoyed the stuff we’d sent them. At the time, we were about halfway through tracking the new album, which we were planning on putting out via Selfmadegod. Relapse eventually expressed in it, and since we weren’t under contract to SMG, everything fell into place from there.

Back in 2009 doing your demo and Fever Kingdoms release, did you ever imagine you would be on Relapse Records?

I certainly hoped that we’d have a shot at working with a label that we hold in such high esteem, but I didn’t start seriously considering the possibility until after we’d done the first album and seen the critical response to it, which was very positive. It still doesn’t quite seem real to me.

Have you met/toured with any of your musical idols from Relapse yet?

I’ve met some guys from the Relapse bands I grew up listening to, but mostly because of my involvement in the press side of things and via playing/hanging out at shows here in New York. We haven’t done a ton of touring yet, but we’re planning on gradually ramping up our activities in that regard.

I always ask this when it’s a writer/journalist doing music: is there added pressure when you are a former music reviewer now being on the other side as it were?

I’m still an active writer, but no, not really.  Sometimes I wish I’d adopted a stage name or a pen name to keep those two parts of my life separate, though. The coverage we get tends to key in on the fact that I write about metal, which I don’t think is terribly interesting or super relevant to our music.

Does being a former metal journalist give you any advantage when it comes to being in a band or is it a hindrance. I’d imagine listening to endless shitty releases and reviewing them gives you some idea how not to be shitty.

Haha, definitely. I’m a much better-educated and more discerning listener than I would be if I hadn’t spent so much time thinking and writing about metal, which is useful when it comes to evaluating your own ideas. I’ve also learned exactly how weak and boring the average metal band is, which makes me feel a little more confident about our work. Doing the writing thing for a decade has also taught me not to take other people’s criticism of our music too seriously. After expelling so much hot air about other bands’ music over the years, I’m intimately familiar with how arbitrary most fans’ preferences are and how fallible music writers can be.

The Mother of Virtues is a vast improvement over your debut, An Excellent Servant but a Terrible Master. It’s noisier. nastier and more disturbing. Talk a little bit about how the band grew between release to release this monster of a record.

There isn’t really a sexy story to tell about the gap between the two albums. Most of the changes boil down to experience, maturity, and hard work. We were young as hell when we wrote and recorded the first album; our bassist Erik was barely old enough to drink legally. It was also recorded very quickly, on an extremely limited budget, and under trying personal circumstances — we came pretty close to breaking up during the writing process of that album. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we slapped it together, but we were definitely working under sub-optimal conditions.

The process was much more deliberate the second time around. We took two years to write and arrange it instead of one, for starters, so we had much more time to reflect on the compositions. We also became much more confident and effective as musicians during the period between the two recording sessions. We’ve always wanted to write ambitious material; now that we’ve put in however many more thousands of hours of group and individual practice, we’re just way better equipped to pull it off.

What are some of the bands influences as well as some of your personal influences, musically and vocally? There seems to be a much larger range of influences than on the debut, in particular a heavy Starkweather and Flourishing feel.

Mostly stuff that’s pretty obvious just from listening, I’d think — weird death metal bands, ‘80s and ‘90s-era noise rock and hardcore, jazz, and various other kinds of eccentric music. Those influences were all present on the first full-length too, but I think we felt a little more comfortable venturing outside the bounds of death metal this time around.

Starkweather and Flourishing are amazing bands and I’m a big fan of them both, but we were never deliberately trying to channel either of them. As a rule, we don’t think of specific other bands when we’re writing our parts. We probably have a broader set of outside influences than do most death metal bands, but hopefully our music just sounds like us, rather than a compendium of those influences.

How have you grown personally as a lyricist and vocalist? There’s some deep shit on this album (ie. “O, rejoice! For soon the world will burst with wombs, The sun will claw for the trees in vain And an ocean of bones will creak below”) are you a troubled person or is this purely lyrical showmanship?

First, thank you for taking the time to actually read the lyrics. I put a lot of time and effort into them, and they mean a lot to me. Death metal fans often don’t bother with lyrics, which I can’t really blame them for given the quality of most DM lyrics. I hope others will follow your lead.

The ideas and emotions that my lyrics address are utterly real to me, but they don’t encompass my whole personality. I don’t walk around in my Pyrrhon headspace all the time — I like to crack goofy jokes and eat pizza and hang out with friends too, just like most people. You wouldn’t necessarily know that I’d be interested in or capable of that kind of expression if you met me in person.

I think of my lyrics and vocals as a productive way to channel the negative emotions I feel on a daily basis — anxiety, anger, disgust, hopelessness, etc. I probably feel those emotions more often and more intensely than the average person does. Some might consider me ‘troubled’ for that reason, but our world is a fucked-up place, and there are plenty of perfectly logical reasons to be unhappy with the way things are. I consider myself fairly sane, given the circumstances.

As to how I’ve grown as a lyricist since the first album: I’m not really sure whether I’ve actually grown at all since the first album. I had a different set of concerns on my mind when I wrote the lyrics for this album, but they come from the same basic part of my psyche. I can’t do much beyond attempt to express that part of myself candidly and in terms that I find engaging. Hopefully those efforts translate for outside listeners, too.

There seems to be a focus on longer songs on the new album. Do those long songs just come about or does a band plan on writing a 10 minute song?

Yeah, we don’t really write songs with a final running time in mind. We put a lot of effort into dynamics for this set of songs, and since the musical building blocks we work with are typically fairly complex, it can take time for those dynamics to unfold in a way that feels organic and natural to us. The first album had a bunch of long songs, too. It’s not really a new part of our sound.

Do you play the longer songs when you are on tour, or do set limits prevent that?

Our longer songs are often the centerpiece of our live sets, as they’ve been since we started writing tunes in that format. I think the only longer song off the new album that we didn’t play on the Psalm Zero tour was “Eternity in a Breath,” though we’ve busted that one out live on occasion in the past.

Any cool tour stories from past tours or recent tour with Psalm Zero?

We’ve actually barely toured; the run with Psalm Zero was our only multi-week tour to date. It was an incredible time and we all laughed more often and harder than we pretty much ever have, but unfortunately most of the stories we came home with either involve lame inside jokes or have that “what happens on tour stays on tour” flavor.

What is your ideal touring line-up?

I honestly haven’t thought about it too much. Miles Davis with the Bitches Brew band, Cop-era Swans, Spiderland-era Slint, and us? I’d happily accept getting blown off the stage three times over every night if it meant getting to see that lineup repeatedly.

What is next for PYRRHON? Sit back take in the fame and drink Cristal from the diamond encrusted goblets in VIP lounges?

We’re hoping to do some more touring later this year, preferably in a private jet provided to us free of charge by Relapse. We’ve also got a bunch of new material written for an EP, split, or other such short-format release that we’re shooting to put to tape some time in the next few months.

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