April 16th 2012
Due to an issue with digital distribution, "The Kingdom is on Fire" isn't available on iTunes, Amazon, etc. right now. The same goes for most of the GraveWax Records releases, excluding my "Psalms" album and Peter Murphy's Carver Combo's amazing "Let the Fire In." Really, the Carver Combo album is excellent. You should go buy it now and then come back to finish reading this.
Okay, you're back. We should have this mess sorted out in the next few weeks. In the event that you were going to buy "The Kingdom is on Fire" in the meantime, feel free to just pirate it with a guiltless conscience. Neither Sons of Perdition nor GraveWax Records are affiliated with RIAA in any way, so nobody is going to sue you. Besides, Jesus tells me it's kosher.
Let me make a quick comment that I don't condone pirating independent music in most cases (you're really only hurting the artists, not the bastard record labels). I just admit my part in forcing you into those uncharted waters since you can't legitimately purchase that album right now. I see the difference and I'm sure most of you do, too. If I was on a major label, I would implore you to pirate the bejesus out of my junk.
A moldy plug of hair in the spiritual drain of the universe,
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March 13th 2012
How do, my simian friends.
I'm once again cracking open my skull so that you can dig around in the sloppy, gray morass contained therein.
At the ass end of 2010, I was contacted by Jeb Brooks. He was writing his senior undergraduate literature thesis on the grotesque in southern literature and dark roots/gothic country/southern gothic music. Apparently, my music falls into one or more of these bloody buckets, so I acquiesced to an interview. Since I'm dragging you all down with me anyways, I figured I'd share said interview with thee and thine.
JB: Are you familiar with Southern Gothic literature? If so, which authors have you read? Has that reading influenced your songwriting, and if so, in what ways? If not, what has led you to write songs that include the grotesque and religion?
ZW: I'm acquainted with Southern Gothic literature, although I'm not as widely read as I'd like to be. Cormac McCarthy's "Blood Meridian" is one of the most personally influential things I've ever read. It's brooding, beautiful, violent, eloquent... everything that I could ask for in a book. The same is true for Nick Cave's "And the Ass Saw the Angel", which fits neatly into the genre (albeit being written by an Australian).
Some of the themes that Southern Gothic works exploit are also found in other places that I've read since I was 11 or 12 years old (Poe, Lovecraft, etc). Honestly, I take what I can where I can find it. While I never set out to create anything that could be called Southern Gothic by intent, I've always been drawn to a lot of aspects of it.
Aside from literature, I've always been fascinated by books on science and pseudoscience. These inform a lot of my songs. Parasitology, astrophysics, alchemy, M theory and all sorts of other junk really captivate me. Also, I'm keen on history, true crime, human monsters and the lot. World mythology, religion and occultism are also deeply engrossing. A lot of my interests coalesce in my songs and artwork by design.
JB: Do you think that music and literature connect? If so, how?
ZW: Music and literature don't connect nearly often enough anymore. Gone are the days of skalds and bards. Hell, even Wagner's dead. I think that there are still a number of folks genuinely interested in telling stories with their music. Obviously, they're outweighed by the din of pop music.
Conversely, I think that music informs a lot of authors. I'm not talking about authors that use musical allusions in their work (although there are plenty of those). The authors I'm speaking of are those whose words have an unmistakably musical flow. Cormac McCarthy is a prime example of this.
JB: Were you raised in the South? Did you grow up with relatives who were either raised in or still lived in the South? If so, did either of those things influence your songwriting? Similarly, do you believe that perceptions of the South influence your music?
ZW: I grew up in a very rural area of East Texas, about twenty minutes outside the town of Elkhart (population 1,076). It absolutely influenced my songwriting. The religious zealotry, extreme Christian logic, spiritual decay, abject poverty... these were all things that I could witness by looking out of my front door. They all stuck with me, too.
The South gets a bad rap. Sure, there are people that actively seek to be stereotypes. That's true with any group of people. They invert a negative, outside perception of them into a badge of honor and doggedly stick to it. At the same time, there is genuine culture there, the likes of which I haven't found anywhere else.
Honestly, I don't really think that outsiders' perspectives of the South have really influenced me much. I certainly don't pander to the stereotypical redneck persona that some might be happy seeing in a Southerner. At the same time, I don't go out of my way to play the part of the noble savage that might please others. I just do what I do.
JB: Why do you often write lyrics with Christian references and imagery?
ZW: I find it easiest to write what I know about. Religion is king where I grew up. I also spent my formative years in the Satanic Panic of the 1980's. I heard a lot of smart people say a lot of really stupid shit growing up, all in the name of religion. Creationism, new earth, fossils as a test of faith, Satanic sacrifice, damnation of all non-Christians, myriad pagan government conspiracies... when solitude and remoteness get together, they breed a lot of crazy. I'm never left without source material.
Besides, I've read the Good Book cover to cover, and (more importantly) I've given a lot of thought to morality and spirituality.
Most people seem content to just gloss over the horrendous stuff in there, or play down the parts that don't fit well with their denomination's dogma. Practically everyone sees best not to question anything, though. It's like this rock that folks pretend shouldn't be lifted because they don't want to see what lives in the wet darkness underneath. I think that with any system, religious or otherwise, you should push it to its extremes. If it's a true system, it should function. If it's false, it starts breaking down and looking insane, or fails completely.
JB: When you use Christian references, is there a particular denomination you have in mind? For instance, I argue that O'Connor, who is writing from a Catholic background, often uses religious references to comment on Southern Christian fundamentalism.
ZW: I spent a few years dragging myself to a couple of different churches; primarily Church of Christ, but also a bit of Southern Baptist and Methodist. They're all pretty much the same.
Spending time in a Church of Christ made me focus more on the sound of the human voice (all sacred music there being a capella). This shows up in a lot of my songs.
The experience also introduced me to the concept of meanness in religion. I was often struck at the similarities between the church I was attending and the Pharisees. It was all about the Law; love had no
place. It was a very literal congregation, and you can see the same belief patterns popping up in extremist religions the world over. Once you can excuse an action through a scriptural reference, you open yourself up to the temptation of excusing anything through interpretation. Want to commit murder? There's a biblical precedent for that. Want to beat your slave and rape women? It's all in there. Have a desire to dash a baby's brains out on a tree? You can point to a biblical verse that not only excuses these actions, but condones them as good work done in the name of the Lord. This religious literalism is a slippery slope and its base is littered with abandoned congregants, torture, and spiritual and physical death.
Obviously, this is a total generalization built on my experiences in a few individual churches, but it constitutes my worldview of organized religion in practice, so it's all I have to go on.
JB: Do you have a purpose in mind when writing your music, particularly in regards to dark instrumentation (use of dark ambient-like noise on Psalms for the Spiritually Dead) and dark lyrical content? If so, what is that purpose?
ZW: Not so much, but I want there to be a connection between the aesthetic style of the lyrics and music. The music is almost always an afterthought, so I don't spend too much time on it. There are a few guidelines I sometimes set up before I begin, though.
"The Kingdom is On Fire" is an acoustic album except for the bass and slide guitar. It's meant as a musical allusion to life before the Fall or industrialized society. It's naive and personal, whereas I use electric instruments, keyboards and effects on "Psalms for the Spiritually Dead". There's a coldness there; a sense of distance. The next album I'm working on will most likely use a lot of sound manipulation, for reasons that should be apparent once it's released.
I used to think I worked in a bit of a vacuum, but I've gotten pretty good at sniffing out my influences in my own work. When I was younger, I listened to a lot of industrial and power electronics. It became part of my musical vocabulary. There's all kinds of junk like that in there. I try to mix and match elements from disparate sources whenever possible. It makes it more interesting for me and I think the songs benefit from it.
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February 23rd 2012
Ahoy, fellow beasts.
I conducted the following interview back in August of 2009 for the Finnish zine, "Graveless Spirits." I'm copying it here in the off chance that some poor sonofabitch is bored enough to hear a younger version of myself ramble about miscellaneous junk.
I'm leaving in the bits about aborted and postponed projects and things that could've been, because they make it a bit sadder of an interview for yours truly.
Try not to choke.
SONS OF PERDITION @ Graveless Spirits #5
GS: Hello and first of all, thank you for this interview. To break the ice, would you please recount the sinful and god-forsaken history of Sons Of Perdition so far...
ZW: Thanks for having me. Well, Sons of Perdition started out as a side project while I was working with a couple of other bands. I found myself gravitating more and more toward slower, more rural sounds. Eventually, Sons took over and edged the other bands out of my vision. There was probably an eclipse that day.
GS: And, pray tell, why the name Sons Of Perdition; and particularly, why in plural considering that the only constant participant is you? Or are you in fact Legion?
ZW: It's an utterly hopeless name, the most inescapably damned of the earth. Even God can't save the Sons of Perdition. That concept strikes a chord with me and works well with what I'm trying to do with the band. The plurality of the name probably has more to do with my original plan of a full-fledged band than my possession by demons. But yeah, I'm also that.
GS: On the album, you identify yourself as Zebulon Whatley. Any relation to the Whateleys of Dunwich?
ZW: Very little. My forebears broke off from that clan a generation or two before the incidents at Dunwich. My family has always tried to keep distance from those folks.
ZW: Considering that I worked on the album for over three years, there are no stones that I didn't overturn multiple times. I actually recorded most of the songs on the album at least twice. I let it mutate for awhile before I finally closed the door on it and considered it created by someone else and thus untouchable by my hands. So as an album, I think it works and I enjoy it to some degree. I can't say that I'd ever remake it, though.
GS: According to your website, you plan to release this second album only on vinyl and downloadable mp3, not CD. Why is that?
ZW: Vinyl is heavier. It feels less like a product. And the artwork is bigger. Releasing exclusively on vinyl and MP3 is something that I've been talking to GraveWax Records about for awhile and they're very supportive of the decision.
ZW: It's much too early to even hint at a release date, but I'm really excited about this one. Lonesome Wyatt and I have been knocking songs back and forth. So far, it has a very old-time religion feel to it, like something you would have heard playing as a church collapsed during the the Dust Bowl.
ZW: I try not to be overly influenced by any bands out of respect. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I don't want to rip anyone off. Those Poor Bastards are one of my favourite bands, but the last thing I want to do is try to ape their sound.
GS: And what would you say are the greatest influences for your lyrics?
ZW: I've gotta be obvious with this one and say religious literature. Not just the Bible, but mythology of different cultures and theologies. Milton, Donne, Alleghieri. As for contemporary authors, Cormac McCarthy, Michio Kaku, Robert Bloch and a slew of others that I can't think of right now.
GS: And, continuing on the topic of your lyrics, how do you go about writing them? Do you spend a lot of time mulling over them to get them done just right, or does the Holy Spirit possess you and make them come out in perfect form effortlessly?
ZW: The action of the songs are usually entirely fictional (or based on historical references), but I always try to climb into the mindset of the people living out the events. In that way, I'd say that the songs are very honest. I hope I do the characters justice. And I'd be more inclined to say that the music is the necessary evil. It's usually an afterthought, just something that I make up during the actual recording process. That's my excuse for not knowing how to play half of my songs.
GS: Being something of a HP Lovecraft-fan myself, and taking into consideration your pseudonym (for I assume it is one): would you say HP Lovecraft is a major influence on your music, lyrics and imagery?
ZW: Lovecraft's work was a huge influence on my writing for previous bands that I was in. After I read all of his stories a few times (I'm not too interested in poetry), I moved on. Now, the man himself is more of the influence. His solitude, anachronistic life, stubbornness, sickness... all of these things feed into the tone of the band.
ZW: I hope God oversleeps and lets me rot in the ground.
GS: And your music; do you think my soul has become stained with sin for listening to The Kingdom Is On Fire excessively, or will it help my wretched soul to reach Heaven on the day of my death?
ZW: If it causes you to ponder the idea of God, then I think you're in a better place than where you started. If you unquestioning take every word of it (or anything else) to heart as holy gospel, the fires of Hell surely await thee.
GS: Why is it that you chose Country/Folk music, and in this sinister and eerie guise, as your musical approach? Is there something special about Country music that led you to express yourself through it?
ZW: It's something that I've always been interested in. Part of it comes from growing up in the South, hearing old country music, going to country churches. The rest probably comes from my technical inabilities as a musician.
ZW: The Devil owns it all.
GS: Returning to more worldly matters, on your website you mention possible concerts in East Germany; would this be the first time you come over to Europe to perform? And are more European concerts in the plans?
GS: And apart from the concerts and the releases already mentioned, do you have other plans for 2009 worth mentioning?
ZW: Well, I've been driving around on old Route 66 a bit lately, photographing junk. There will probably be more of that. And I'll undoubtedly creep ever so closer to my eventual death.
ZW: It's been a pleasure. Can you lie for me and tell folks I have a beard?
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February 20th 2012
I've recently decided that I should probably play some live shows, considering I live in Austin now (the self-proclaimed "live music capital of the world"). I've recently begun practicing with a couple of folks. Assuming we can get our act together, we should be playing regionally sometime in the next several months. If you're interested in our unique brand of grief therapy, be sure you're signed up for our mailing list. I'd hate for you to miss out on the despair.
In other music-related news, our good friends in Peter Murphy's Carver Combo have just released their latest album. It's super. Peter (not to be confused with the Peter Murphy of Bauhaus fame) will be working with me on a song for my upcoming album because I asked him to and he's a swell guy. You can listen to their stuff on CDBaby .
The tyrant of misery,
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