In a world were there are so many bands to keep track of I want to bring my two cents in presenting you to this interview with SABBATH ASSEMBLY. Anders Ekdahl ©2019
We all come into music with our own baggage. We want different things from the music. How does the vision you had for the band when you started compare to the vision you have for the band today? What is this band really all about? What do you want with your music?
-Originally, Sabbath Assembly was about showcasing the hymns of the Process Church of the Final Judgment, a cult group from the 70s that sang hymns to reconcile the duality of Christ and Satan. While we no longer sing these hymns, the band is still preoccupied by the complexity of the spiritual and material worlds. Our latest album, A Letter of Red, more than any of the others, addresses very earthly issues including war in the Middle East, opioid addiction, and gender in society. The intention is not so much to raise awareness socially or politically, but simply to articulate feelings about these subjects.
Is there a difference in people’s attitude towards you if you don’t come from a cool place like LA or NY or London?
-At this stage, it seems to be a global village that we live in with all people having access to the same networks of distribution and promotion. I believe that the hierarchy of big cities is behind us.
When you release an album that gets pretty good feedback, how do you follow up on that? How important is that I as a fan can identify album to album?
-In this regard, Sabbath Assembly may have shot itself in the foot a number of times. We tend to create albums based on themes, rather than consistency of sound. Therefore each of our albums sound pretty different from the others, even to the point where it may be difficult for fans to identify us. Not to worry, we have received ample criticism about this approach! However Sabbath Assembly was created to be first and foremost a vehicle for the creative expression of its members, and we refuse to limit ourselves based on commercial expectation.
What is the biggest challenge in the creation of an album? How do you write the really cool songs?
-Because Sabbath Assembly has been somewhat conceptual in its approach, the first step of locating a cohesive concept that can carry us through an album is the hardest. Once that is in place, the songs come quickly. Our new album is a bit different because it is the least conceptually-driven. Therefore we had a bit more struggle getting it done because each song is really its own universe and required its own unique time to be born into the world.
I saw Dave Grohl’s documentary about Sound City and it made me wonder what it is about analogue recording that you don’t get with digital? Have you ever recorded analogue?
-We have recorded both ways several times, and don’t tend to notice a radical difference by the time the songs are up on streaming services, which of course is how people listen these days.
What is it like to sit there with a finished album? Do you think much what people will think of it?
-Once the album is finished, then the period of self-doubt begins! Every note is under scrutiny. For us the way around this is to have an absolute date after which no changes can be made. We tend to work with producers in studios, as we did this time with Randall Dunn, and once the producer is off the clock no changes are possible. We live with the ‘imperfections’ which are most often simply reflective of a kind of OCD micro-management problem. It’s a beautifully flawed process of the realm of mind coming into the realm of form.
How important are the lyrics and what message do you want to purvey?
-The lyrics are of huge importance in Sabbath Assembly. There is no ‘filler’ in this department, as the band has always been a-tuned to the idea of story-telling, mythology, and conceptual soundness. On the new album we dug in deep into the realm of the heart, shying away from the intellect, to pull out deep emotions in response to some profound events on the world stage and in our personal lives. We pull from sacred scriptures sometimes, quotes from works of literature, but primarily mine the inner world in a dynamic quest for truth and authenticity. We don’t take lyrics lightly : )
Ever since I first got into metal the art work has been a main motivator in buying a record. What part does art work for album covers play in the world of the band?
-Absolutely! Who can forget seeing for the first time the covers for Number of the Beast and Reign in Blood? Keeping in that tradition, we tend towards classical art for our covers made by masters of their craft, either drawing or painting. There is so much room for subtlety in art, as with lyrics, as with harmony, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to invite the viewer to really look at what’s shown on the cover. They tend to be a bit complicated often, full of symbols, shading, colors. In this area Sabbath Assembly does not compromise.
When you play live do you notice a degree of greater recognition from the fans with each new time you pass through town?
-Unfortunately not so much because our sound and set list changes so often. We tend to play a small amount of older songs, opting instead the share new ideas to help with the development of the band. This may be another area where we have shot ourselves in the food somewhat.
What do you see in the future?
-There is a really special bond that the primary songwriters in Sabbath Assembly have – by some miracle we still like each other! So in reality, folks can expect more writing, recording, and touring!
SABBATH ASSEMBLY is:
Jamie Myers – vocals
David Nuss – drums
Kevin Hufnagel – guitar
Johnny DeBlase – bass
Ron Varod – guitar