It’s hard to believe genre-defying heavy pioneers Neurosis have never been to Australia in their entire 30-year career. That is about to change, as they embark on their first national tour on our shores next month. JESSICA WILLOUGHBY chats with guitarist, Steve Von Till, ahead of their Perth stop on Wednesday, August 6, at Capitol, supported by Drowning Horse.
Doing something drastically new when you are nearly three decades into your chosen career is pretty much unheard of.
But Californian game-changers, Neurosis, have always been ones to buck the trend. Continuously reinventing themselves time-and-time again for every single one of their 10 full-length releases, their approach to music has been not only spiritual – but also purely self-involved.
Yet almost 30 years since they first decided to form this post-metal act, they are hitting Australian shores for the first time. “It’s like this mythical place,” guitarist Steve Von Till jokes. “Scott’s (Kelly, guitars/vocals) been there a few times, but I’ve never been there. I can only imagine what it’s like. To come and play some place new this far into what we’ve been doing is exciting – not to mention it being in Australia. We’ve wanted to get there for forever, but it just never seemed possible. It never seemed like the right time or circumstances. Finally we were just able to find the right people to make it happen and it all came together. So I can’t wait to get out there and meet the people and see the landscape.”
But that’s not the only thing that’s changed. About two years ago, the five-piece made the decision to alter their live show by removing the trademark visuals that dominated since the early ‘90s. This meant parting ways with longstanding visual artist Josh Graham – whose tireless work mesmerised many audiences in his 12-year residency with the outfit. Von Till says it was time to let the music speak for itself.
“At this point, it’s completely liberating,” he tells X-Press. “When we started them, there was nothing really going on like that. There were maybe a few bands that ventured in that direction. There were no video projectors or shit like that. You had to go shoot film and you had to hot-rod a 16mm film projector and you had to go through a bank of slide projectors to find all your images. Scanning stuff out of books of artists. Scouring every art film you could find and work with local filmmakers to do cool stuff. Something that was borne out of the psychedelic visuals of the ‘60s, mixed with the art-damaged industrial stuff going on. It was pretty unique.
“We kept that spirit through, but as the world changed – the technology changed. So we went clean and then with the video projection. We had Josh, who was our most recent visual artist – to really tighten it up. It worked for a while, but it seems the media-induced world has people constantly plugged into screens. Everyone has short-term attention spans. We just felt we didn’t need to have another TV on. We felt it was over-saturated. It wasn’t a political statement or anything. It’s just done for us right now. We feel for the time being, we’re going to let the music speak for itself. Turn the lights up a bit and rage. Let that stand. I think people that have been seeing us for a long time also found it pretty compelling.
“There was also a certain a nervousness before we did it. But I think when we’re playing, we are sort of tranced out and never know what’s going on anyway. We’ve never seen the visuals (laughs). In a perfect world, in perfect conditions, we get to lose ourselves in the music. That stays pure and stays true.”
Perth fans will have the chance to experience Neurosis live in August. Despite this being their debut in our city, Von Till is adamant the band will not pander to people just wanting to hear… ‘the early years’. “We focus on the newer material because that is what we are most inspired by,” he explains. “We feel that our latest, Honour In Decay (2012), is our best album that we’ve done yet in our lives. We mix it up a bit, but we never revisit something old if we don’t feel it. We’ve tried to go back and put old songs into setlists, just because we felt like we should at certain times, and we’d meet up in the rehearsal studio and be like, ‘nah’. I don’t know what we were thinking back then, but that sucks.
“This music is everything to us; it helps us survive emotionally and spiritually. Not to mention, to be able to be the ones lucky enough to be able to channel this music means you have to treat it with respect. So now, we only play the places we wanna play when we wanna play with the right people in the right situations. When it feels like the right thing to do, it makes it way more special for us and the people who come to see us. It’s a real blessing to be able to live life this way.”