What I like about the USBM scene/sound is that no two bands seems to be the same. WOMAN IS THE EARTH is yet another band with a sound that might differ a bit from the norm. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
I guess we are many that know absolutely nothing about WOMAN IS THE EARTH. Tell us a bit about the history of the band?
-The three of us have known each other for about ten years, growing up in the same town and having mutual friends. We all became involved in music in that time and played shows with each other in different bands. We realized that we had similar tastes in music and art and in 2007, we decided to start our own project which became Woman is the Earth. The lineup of the band has remained unchanged. Woman is the Earth is Jon Martin, Andy Martin, and Jarrod Hattervig, and probably would not go by the same name if any members change. Our relationship as friends and family is an important part of our music. Until recently, we focused our energy simply on creating music together without much effort into exposing our music to other people. That exposure has come over time. Our main focus is still to create what we want and to enjoy making music together.
Would you say that you are a black metal band? What if so is black metal to you?
-I would say that we have a strong black metal influence. Our musical style is definitely within the realm of black metal. Our influences and lyrical content are definitely not the same as many of the innovators of the genre. However, to me, black metal embodies the freedom of individual power whether based on satanism, nature, cosmic energy, or anything else. Black metal is freedom and power for an individual human being. I feel no obligation or connection to any social or political movement in what we do, I feel black metal is one of the last bastions of true magic, mystery, and individual spirituality left in music. I also think that as a musical style, it leaves a lot of room for expansion and creativity because one can create so much atmosphere in black metal. There is infinite room to grow.
To me USBM is so far apart from the Scandinavian that we can speak of two totally different entities. What sets the two apart in your opinion?
-I feel that obviously Scandinavian black metal set the standard for the black metal style that is widely played now… USBM has had a lot of exposure recently and there are bands taking that Scandinavian black metal style and expanding on it greatly. However, I think that is happening all over the world. I think that in USBM especially, bands are probably more comfortable straying away from traditional black metal style, because we don’t have the same direct cultural and historical connections…Scandinavian black metal bands are truly masters of the craft though, and they have already perfected the style. I don’t think at this point anyone is going to play actual black metal better than our Scandinavian predecessors, so now seems an opportunity to simply expand on that style and create different sounds and emotions. And to be honest, I am no music critic… I don’t pay enough attention to what bands are doing to accurately comment on those differences. I can really only speak for myself, and our music.
When you record an album what kind of process do you go through? Do you plan the track order in a special way? Do you arrange the songs to fit specific moods?
-Absolutely, we arrange the album in a very specific way. On our latest album we chose to arrange the songs in the order that we wrote them. It felt appropriate. “This Place That Contains My Spirit” captured what we wanted from an album by creating a lot of intensity toward the middle and then really breathing at the beginning and end, if that makes sense. As far as the process we go through… we spend a lot of time writing songs, and once they are written we play them over and over to make sure they transition well and that all the parts have a place in the song. The four songs on our last album were conceived and finalized over a period of three years. We are slow. But that is the process we like to use. Obviously we had no “recording budget” for anything we have recorded. It has all been recorded and mastered by us in our home. I feel it captures the time, place, and energy of our music but it is difficult to capture individual parts and the whole sound of our band by recording this way. For instance, Jon is a phenomenal drummer, but clearly we didn’t have the means of showcasing his parts as well as we would have liked on the last album.
How important is the Ego in the band? Do you put the individual before the collective?
-Hopefully I understand your question correctly,,, But we have a very unique situation in our band where there is really no individual ego that stands before anyone else. The three of us are very close, and we collaborate completely on everything we write and everything we do as a band. There is no decision made that isn’t run by all three of us first. We are very honest with each other and work very well together.
I’m not gonna compare you guys to Wolves In The Throne Room yet I get a feeling that Mother Earth and ecology plays a huge part in the concept of the band. What can we learn from listening to Mother Earth?
-Haha yeah, that connection gets made very often. You are right. For me personally, nature has played a massive part of my life since I was a child. It has been a way of life for myself and my family for many years, and I spend a substantial part of my life in that environment. There is much to learn from the earth. I feel a very spiritual connection to nature, specifically the Black Hills, where the three of us are from. That connection is very personal, and I feel everyone can potentially gain some sort of power from spending time in that environment. To me it represents a tangible form of extremely powerful energy along with a very mysterious energy that I will probably never understand. There are few things on this earth that give me the same feeling. I am very interested in the energies at work in nature. So I write about what I know, about what is important to me. It serves as a great equalizer between all things living. It is beautiful, ugly, brutal, and tender all at once… and ultimately represents freedom to me.?
Do you draw much inspiration from Native American tradition and folklore in how to live in harmony with the Earth? Where does you inspiration come from?
-Absolutely, there is a very strong Native American history and culture here, and has been an influence on all of us growing up here. None of us in Woman is the Earth are Native American, but we draw a lot of inspiration from our home and our environment here and Native culture is a big part of that environment. It is especially important when speaking on gaining spirituality and a livelihood in the Black Hills… Lakota culture has called this place a spiritual hub for far longer than I ever have, yet it is an important place for many different people from a number of different cultures. There is rich history here. As far as Native tradition and folklore and the earth… that culture has clearly had a very strong grasp on the importance of living in balance and trying to understand their environment for many years. They have known the importance of giving and taking from the earth, of respecting what gives them life. I don’t practice many Native American traditions, as I don’t have that same cultural background… it’s not my tradition. However, I absolutely respect and strive to emulate many of those traditional values in my own life as best I can. And in fact, “This Place That Contains My Spirit” is primarily about old traditions, spirituality and rituals so indeed draws a certain amount of inspiration from Native American culture as well as Eastern spirituality and Pagan ritual rooted in our particular heritages, all being descendants from Scandinavia.
How much has the hectic, stressful way of modern society destroyed the harmonious ways of being one with oneself? How much of an unbalance is there in the harmony of the Earth?
-I do feel it is very difficult to reach any sort of real self actualization and harmony living in modern society. For me, understanding and practicing many traditions, values, and disciplines of old cultures are important to reaching a more perfect state. Being able to practice and adhere to those traditions and values is extremely difficult in this society. But… rather than giving up on those values or turning my back on the modern world, I do my best to balance both in my life. It is frustrating and trying at times, but I think it is worth it. I enjoy a lot of things available in modern life, and I also understand the importance of being a social creature. I spend a lot of time alone, thinking and trying to maintain a certain amount of discipline. But I also love experiencing what the world has to offer, and experiencing what other people have to offer. I cannot turn my back on the people and things I love in modern society, but I can probably never completely immerse myself in it either, if that makes sense. It is a struggle for me, but it is an important one, and I feel it keeps me healthy and optimistic. There is indeed an imbalance in harmony on earth, but I cannot change that. It is important for me to keep trying to reach a certain level of ‘oneness’ for myself, to be as healthy and free as I can in this life. I cannot trouble myself too much with the problems of the world and of people. It will drive a person insane. I think it is more important to work on your individual faults and strengths than to worry about everyone else
I believe that the eco-system exists for a reason and that we disrupt the balance by destroying the forests, by polluting the oceans and by killing of species. Do you see an oncoming Armageddon?
-There is no doubt that we use resources more quickly and completely all the time, but then again the human race is growing exponentially. I do feel like any personal connection to the earth becomes lost for many people, and it really is tragic. I don’t spend much time in large cities, they become uncomfortable for me very quickly, so I feel somewhat blind to the reality of living that kind of life… but it seems many people don’t even get the opportunity to connect to something outside their city. I’m sure many don’t want to, and thats fine. I suppose thats what happens with great numbers and great societies… As far as a coming Armageddon… I think humans will indeed perish at some point in time, maybe soon…hard to say when. Probably by their own fault, and will undoubtedly destroy a number of other living things too. To me, it is simply part of the cycle of the universe I guess. Species come and go, but I am not worried about the earth being destroyed. The earth has seen much worse than humans, and to think that we can single handedly destroy something so much more ancient and powerful than us is extremely narcissistic. I do find it sad that people are losing connections with the earth, nature and the universe, but I don’t feel some sort of obligation so ‘save the earth’ or to save mankind either for that matter. The earth will get rid of us and move on.
What kind of future do you see for the band?
-We probably won’t change the way we operate too much. We have had more exposure lately and the opportunity to play in different places. Most important to us is to keep writing and enjoy playing together. And to create something that we honestly care about and can stand by whole-heartedly. We hope to play more outside our area and to record some new material soon. We are planning on releasing an EP this spring, as we will be on somewhat of a hiatus during the summer because of our lifestyles. Ultimately, we would like the opportunity to play and record what we envision… which we have found is not that easy to do (recording albums in the basement makes it difficult). We may work in a studio for parts of our upcoming recordings, we’ll see. We will keep making music, and it is really great that other people such as yourself become interested. I like hearing that people take the time to listen to things we’ve put out, even really negative reviews. It’s awesome to me that some kid in Europe or Australia can love or hate our music enough to download or order a CD, then actually write about it! They actually listen to it! We never expected anything like that… we don’t worry to much about promoting our music or anything so we really like when people find out about it and are interested in what we are doing. I really enjoyed answering your interview questions. It is obvious that you put real thought into these questions and I really appreciate it. Thanks!