ANCESTORS: I DON’T WANNA BE REANIMATED
Ancestors found heavy in the old world on their debut, Neptune With Fire, and haul heavy toward the new world on last year’s Of Sound Mind, which finds the band as technically sophisticated and philosophically fearsome as an excavated Niburunian sky tablet. Fans of Sir Lords, Kings and Pinks will decipher these messages most efficiently, but Ancestors has a riff for everyone who ever looked up at the stars and thought of molecules. This interview by Chris Ziegler.
If Ancestors must face death together, what method of ritual burial would you prefer?
Justin Maranga (guitar/vocals): Well—do you guys all subscribe to my theory of burying your head?
Chico Foley (vocals/electronics): Since you told me, I’ve always advocated it—the rest of my body can be cremated to ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness and then my head can be buried next to yours. Or the spot where yours will be buried at if you die after me.
JM: I’d like to have a gravestone, but I don’t want it not to have anything buried under it. So I figured if you sever my head and bury my head and then cremate the rest of me—that’d be the way to do it.
Brandon Pierce (drums): I don’t necessarily agree. Have you seen ‘Futurama’? With the heads in the jar and they reanimate them later? I think that’s the school I’m coming from. Head reanimation and cremation for the rest of me. I’d like my ashes to be laid in the bosom of the Pacific Ocean.
Nick Long (bass/vocals): I think I’ll go with reanimation of the head as well.
JM: I don’t wanna be reanimated. Once I’m gone, I’m gone.
So that severed head is the punctuation mark at the end of our life?
CF: It’d be good to have ‘One Step Beyond’ by Madness played—I’ll condone any type of ritual that involves that.
JM: At least we all agree about having our heads severed.
Do you get along as much about musical things?
JM: We’re a pretty contentious band. We manage to get things done, but it’s definitely not without a fight. We’ve hit a point in our creative careers together where we’re not all necessarily headed the same way, yet we seem to get to the same place together. But the process is not as easy as it once was. Even if it still seems to work.
What’s the most effective form of conflict resolution you can recommend?
CF: Being stubborn against all the forces that are against us.
JM: We’re all very stubborn. We all have very concrete ideas about how we like things to be, and in the end we throw away anything that doesn’t please everyone. In the end, we’re all happy with what comes out.
NL: We’re also into playing with a lot of different ideas. We don’t have any problem with trying everyone’s ideas and seeing where it goes and what can be done. If everyone agrees that it’s not really working—we’re pretty mature about discarding ideas.
JM: With Of Sound Mind, we all ended up getting what we wanted on this record. This is much more of a group effort and it shows—there’s much more depth.
BP: We also got to work with Pete Lyman—our first time with someone who had their own ideas about recording.
If Of Sound Mind is fulfilling Ancestors’ true potential, what point on the album is the fullest of the full?
JM: ‘Bounty of Age’—the last song we wrote before we finished.
NL: It’s a really streamlined song of what our styles are—before everything was all over the place at times, but this song really tied everything together. If one song kind of encompasses everything, that’s it.
How well do Ancestors’ thirteen-minute album suites mesh with the world of three-minute MP3s?
CF: In the sense of when it’s streamed for free, I don’t think people have the chance to experience the band—if it’s only three minutes, three minutes of one song is three minutes of one of our styles and not the others. But we are advocates of free downloads. That’s how we obtained music we have that we couldn’t afford ever.
What are your most treasured MP3s?
CF: All the German new wave. Stuff I’d never see. Mostly released on 7” and 10”. Alexander Von Borsig and things from kind of the turn-of-1980 era. New wave meets industrial.
Do you know any humans who have ever touched those actual records?
CF: No. I did live in Berlin, but they’re not very nostalgic for music out there.
How important is this kind of historical research to Ancestors?
CF: I wouldn’t say much at all. We’re really kind of cautious with wearing our influences on our sleeves. We like to think that even without them, we would have got together and made something essentially progressive.
JM: We all come from what we come from, whether because it’s well-researched or what have you. We’re very careful not to directly incorporate any specific influence. When we write, what comes out is Ancestors. We made a joke that if we came up with a third-wave ska record, fuck it—we’d put it out.
And Chico would be thrilled.
JM: Obviously that’s a total joke, but what comes out is what you hear.
How many ideas are developing concurrently during any given moment of an Ancestors song?
JM: Five—five ideas at any given point, or I guess it could be four when two people agree on something. We all get input on each other’s parts, but in general people write their own. And because of that, there are five distinct ideas when we’re all five together.
Does this process repeat when you go out to eat together?
JM: We all eat the exact same thing.
What is your favorite ancient mystery religion?
CF: Probably Sufism. It’s always been pretty interesting. Most forms of occult philosophy come from what is essentially the Kabbalah, and Middle Eastern philosophy encompasses in general many other—Sufism as a part of Middle Eastern religion has a resemblance to many other mythologies and cultures of the time, and some are on the same page and that suggests the Kabbalah may be an underlying part of that. Not the Kabbalah in the 1998 Madonna sense, of course. It’s generally always interesting when someone asks about religion or spirituality we might have an interest in. We’re all really well-read. But I don’t think we subscribe to any particular one. More appropriately to the way Ancestors and mythology are put together—it’s an interest more in contemporary philosophy. Where a lot of bands in our genre more associate with the mythological thing, that’s less so for us. We did that on our first record and now this is the 21st-century record.
So it’s more the Jodorowsky Dune than Clash of the Titans?
CF: I don’t believe in Tarot, but I believe it’s one of the best visual metaphors for the human mind. And he does apparently believe in the power of Tarot.
Do you agree with William Burroughs that there are all kinds of practical inventions passed over by history waiting to be rediscovered?
CF: Yeah, in many ways. He has an interesting association with steampunk. I think I discussed this the other day. It’s like how Gilliam portrayed technology in Brazil. Everything was still coal and steam and gasoline—it’s visually unbelievable.
Is that a metaphor for Ancestors? Depicting the future through the imagery of the romantic but archaic technological past?
CF: If it’s archaic but not draconian.
Is there a physical reason for the interludes on Of Sound Mind? Do they let you rest when you play them live?
JM: We’ve never played them live. We’d like to at some point. They’re pretty tightly connected to the song they’re attached to. I’m not sure anyone’s caught on yet, but a lot of them are the exact same chord progression as the song—but you can’t tell because it’s stripped down to piano and has a completely different feel. I guess I’m spilling the beans. But it’s less an interlude and more a prelude to the song that comes after.
Why did you make sure everything in the Of Sound Mind box set was homemade? Why was that important?
BP: You could probably root it in punk rock or whatever. There’s a hundred different things with DIY and crap but at the end of the day, we wanna do something over-the-top and that’s what we’re all about. We appeal to the collector anyway—we’re obviously a vinyl band, more or less—so it’s that much cooler to have something hand-done.
JM: It’s cool because it involves a couple artists we work with. Arik Roper did an awesome job on the last one, but none of us knew him before. This time we worked with friends. It’s cool to put out a box set created by people who are like-minded artists—visually and not just aurally. To bring other people into the fold and do a handmade project. It’s getting people involved and putting their work in the hands of Ancestors fans—it’s just part of what we’re about. A collective without being a collective.
What would the ultimate Ancestors artifact be?
JM: A beard?
ANCESTORS WITH BLACK MATH HORSEMAN, MOUNTAINS OF CALIFORNIA AND INTRONAUT ON FRI., FEB. 19, AT SPACELAND, 1717 SILVERLAKE BLVD., SILVER LAKE. 8:30 PM / $8 / 21+. CLUBSPACELAND.COM. ANCESTORS’ OF SOUND MIND IS OUT NOW ON TEE PEE. VISIT ANCESTORS AT ANCESTORSMUSIC.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/ANCESTORSBAND.