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Southern Lord says Joe Preston has the burliest resume in the history of heavy and that is science fact: the Melvins, the Whip, Sunn0))) and High On Fire plus Earth, Harvey Milk, the Need and more. And at the core of all that heavy is Thrones, which is Joe at his irreducible black-hole-dense minimum. He will play with Harassor and Sedan on Tuesday at Dark Horse. He speaks now with Adam Beck.
You’ve got the ‘F That S’ radio show on KMBT—how did you start doing it?
I’ve actually been doing for about three years now. Scott Kelly is friend of mine and he asked me about doing it for a long time, and I never really got around to it—saying ‘yes’ for sure and all that. So finally he was like, ‘You wanna do it? Yes or no?’ He wanted to expand and add a few more people. So I had more time—at the time—to do it. It’s really hard to tell if people are actually interested or not because there’s only one forum for it, and I rarely hear feedback on the shows I do.
It’s so hard for me to find a place like that—I jump around to different things the same way, like new wave of British Heavy metal and dark ambient power noise and even Lee Hazlewood.
It’s a weird concept to me. I used to DJ at a community radio station in Eugene in the late ‘80s and I really liked playing whatever, but when you are actually on the radio DJ-ing, there’s some actual spontanaeity to it. Listening to stuff online is a little strange to me cuz I know with the Internet now, you can find that stuff anywhere you want, for the most part. I like to bust stuff out that’s actually rare or maybe some tapes that only I got, but it’s a lot harder for me to do that sometimes. But doing a show with no spontanaeity to it—I have to do it like four or five times and reconstruct it and put it together into one MP3. You’re like, ‘Augh!!!’ by the time it’s done. That’s why getting any feedback is awesome. You go for months thinking, ‘I don’t think anyone listens to this.’ Sure, it’s a hassle sometimes, and sometimes I’m a lot more into doing it and it’s fun … but not all the time! Sometimes I just don’t feel like listening to things. ‘Ah, it’s Tuesday—I’m gonna share … ‘ I don’t know what I’m going to listen to! I’d rather just be out walking somewhere. But then you run through the music you’ve got and you’re like, ‘Ah, I’ll just listen to that.’ So that’s how I put shows together. Just run from one thing to another in my mind. ‘Oh, this would be nice, too.’ I’ve also been doing a lot of shows where I’m like, ‘I’m gonna listen to Motorhead for the next hour and a half!’ I definitely get comments on that—people seem to be into that, which kind of surprised me. But honestly, it’s like, ‘I just wanna listen to Motorhead.’ Or Chrome or whatever. It makes it easier to weed through all the stuff you’ve got. It’s like I’m making a greatest hits for myself and I just broadcast it.
Do you think people are more open to obscure music now than they were in the past?
Yeah—it’s hard for me to say why, but there’s definitely more people into it than I thought, and coming from some pretty wide backgrounds. I feel really lucky in that I don’t feel like I’m getting into that ‘If you like this, then you’ll like this’ thing. That’s how I am sometimes, but the Internet has definitely made it really easy to follow some of the most obscure threads. Like in one night. Jump from point A to point Z along the lines of influences that keep moving forward in time. I think it’s awesome but it also kind of floors me. There are teenagers who are like Anthony Braxton fans! Everything you want is available and it’s so easy to sample—‘Wow, that’s amazing—what’s next?’
Does that allow you more freedom to try different things in your own music?
No, I never worry about that. When I do write music, it’s like, ‘I feel like doing this. Oh, this works.’ It’s rare for me to decide I’m gonna write a song in a specific way. It’s usually gonna end up its own deal by the time I’m done with it, and I’m not always happy about that either!
Every time someone wants to hear your radio show, they need to click on the word ‘pizza.’ Is pizza your muse?
No, I just like pizza. And you need something to click a link on! Pizza is evidence of my lack of inspiration … but it is my inspiration! So I guess you could call it my muse.
You’ve collaborated with all kinds of people—do you think about music differently when you’re writing for yourself and not to work with someone else?
I’ll like work out a riff or something and be like, ‘Oh, I like that.’ And it kicks around in my mind sometimes for years. I have riffs that I’m always currently planning on using. Some of them are maybe fifteen years old and I never got around to doing anything with them. But I like the main thread of it. For the most part, what I have to work with is kind of old. Sometimes I even start with the song title and that’s enough to get me writing some music. Some words will inspire me: ‘This one’s gonna be kinda fast!’ I don’t know how other people write music, so I wouldn’t know how to compare whether it’s obtuse or not. It seems a little obtuse to me! It takes me forever to get stuff done which I wish was different, but … forcing it never seems to work, either. I try to be open to writing stuff whenever I can. It definitely helps when I discipline myself enough to sit down like, ‘I’m going to PLAY music.’ I don’t do that enough! Usually when I come up with something, I try and run with it as far as I can as fast as possible. The main thing is to have the drum machine ready to use. Turned on so I can start adding things to it and get some structure and then I’ll remember. Basically when I write—if it ends up being finished, then it came together really fast! Like I took a day to do all the main stuff and then just edit things from there.
I read that you were working on a split with Agoraphobic Nosebleed—what’s happening with that?
It was gonna be a split record. We still talk about it, but it’s a sad thing. I dropped the ball on that so many times. I don’t even remember how we got aquainted, but I ended up staying at Scott [Hull]’s apartment for a few days and doing some recording. That actually came out—it’s the bonus track on Day Late, Dollar Short. We did a version of ‘The Trees.’ We talked about a split for years and were gonna do it on Hydrahead, but they were locked into a contract and it was this long process of not getting things done. On my part for the most part. I started putting my own records out and I really wanna keep it that way. I don’t wanna be on anyone’s label ever again. It’s still a possibility. They did their song, too. He wanted to do a split LP where they had a really long slower song and I was gonna do the same thing, but I didn’t have anything done at the time. Arik Roper was gonna do the cover and we sent him all the artwork ideas. But I never heard back from Relapse about a deadline for a long time so I blew it off, and now it’s on the backburner again. The usual!
How do these kind of collaborations get started?
The ones I have done have been like another person—‘Let’s do this thing!’ And they get me to start doing it. They really take the reins. Like I did this collaborative record with Daniel Menche where he was like, ‘Ah, lemme come over—I wanna record your voice!’ And he just sampled my voice in a lot of different ways in the living room and assembled it all together and started making these massive drones out of it. He basically did all the work! I like the idea of collaborating with people, but rarely has it actually happened. Circumstances—everyone likes to talk about what they wanna do. It sounds like a great idea, and then somebody tells somebody else even thought it was just the two of you kicking it around to begin with, and then soon it’s like, ‘Whatever happened to this record?’ I planned a triple record a long time ago, and then a friend of a mine actually decided to announce on his website that he was putting it out, and then I never got around to that, of course. So it never came out—but people ask me about it to this day.
Do you think the Internet gives people too much access to information and each other?
Yeah! For sure. I don’t think I was made for a world that runs at the speed of electric impulses. I just don’t live my life like that. I think it really frustrates a lot of people. I’m not gonna completely apologize for it, either, since it’s who I am.
What’s happening next for Thrones?
I’m finally gonna free up about $80 to put out a short run of live cassettes. I’m touring with Big Business and Torche this summer and an U.S. tour with Danava in October and November. I’m hoping to put out more records on my label, but that depends on coming up with more money which has been extremely scarce this year. Those are my hopes and dreams! I definitely feel inspired to write more music and put more records out. It’s just fun putting your own stuff out—I wish I did it a long time ago. I got real sick of dealing with labels. I’m tour right now commemorating the band I’m touring with and I did a split, and the only way we’re gonna sell it is in person or online. Once I started working on putting a record out, it got to be pretty exciting. I was happy about it! It’s kind of addicting. You wanna make another—‘Next time it’s gonna be like this!’ I wanna be more active for sure. I hope to be playing less and writing and recording more.
What happened on your last tour? I heard it was really rough.
The guy who brought us out there decided not to pay us what he said he’d pay us, so I cam home with no money—definitely put a real kink in my plans this year. And the day after I came home I blew the head gasket in my van, so I have no vehicle right now. Everything’s gotten real tight money-wise and plans-wise, but things are working themselves out, so I’m not worried about it.
L.A. RECORD PRESENTS THRONES WITH HARASSOR AND SEDAN ON TUE., MAY. 24, AT THE DARK HORSE, 901 E. 1ST ST., DOWNTOWN. 9 PM / $8 / 21+. LARECORD.COM/SHOWS. THE THRONES / SEDAN SPLIT IS OUT NOW ON JOE PRESTON SOLID GOLD RECORDINGS. VISIT THRONES AT MYSPACE.COM/THRONESTOUR.