Interview: Aaron Weaver of Wolves in the Throne Room
We were lucky enough to hop on the phone with drummer Aaron Weaver, who founded the band Wolves in the Throne Room with his brother Nathan in Olympia, Washington. In their nearly decade-and-a-half -long career, Wolves in the Throne Room has been at the forefront of the evolving American black metal scene, incorporating elements of dark ambient and post-rock as well as an atmosphere quintessential to that of the Pacific Northwest. Their latest record, THRICE WOVEN, is set to release on September 22nd.
So, crazy how I come to speak to you, because I’ve spent the last two nights just away from the phone stargazing with this meteor shower that’s been going on, and I know people are getting geared up for the eclipse. It really gave me a sense of place, like, who we are as humans on this Earth. For the uninitiated, could you describe your guys’ music and how it might tap into those feelings?
Yeah, man. That’s really beautiful what you said. Well, we play black metal. Wolves in the Throne Room is a metal band primarily. First and foremost, that’s what we do, we play fucking black metal. We play heavy metal, we go on tour, we do shows, we run our own record label. You know, that’s part of it. And the other part is that, “Where does the music come from? Where’s the energy, the source, the inspiration?” For us, it’s this place, it’s our home. Right now, I’m in our studio where we record all our stuff nowadays, called Owl Lodge, at my brother’s house. He lives right at the edge of this amazing forest. It’s like a blessing that we have the opportunity and privilege to live in this amazing place. It’s this huge forest of sierra and fir trees. It just rained for the first time in a couple months, probably, with these dry summers. So just to be in these woods with the soil, the salt water right around the corner, and these fresh streams, this beauty, these animals, that’s what it is for us. It’s about living in this place, loving it so much, and making music that evokes this spirit.
Would you say that with each new record comes a new spirit or new thesis? I know CELESTITE was a little bit of a departure from previous efforts. What was the motivation behind that one?
Yeah, we needed to take a breath, you know, looking back at our life over the last 10 years. After we finished touring for CELESTIAL LINEAGE, it was time for a bit of a breather and, for me, some time to connect with home. Like I said, that’s the source for me: being here, staying connected, doing prayer in this place. So CELESTITE was an opportunity to start building our recording studio. We knew we wanted to make another black metal record, but we wanted to record it at home, at our place, on our own timeline. CELESTITE was the time to begin that process to make a studio record and start learning the equipment side of it, the gear side of it, the technical side, and also creating the space, like literally hanging the drywall and doing the framing to make a studio where we’d record our music at.
You guys had a really good team on that too, and I guess with a lot of your records there’s always been a good team of producers and guest musicians. How did you come about finding them? How were those connections made?
That all comes through Randall Dunn, the producer we’ve worked with on all our records except for our debut, DIADEM OF 12 STARS. He brings so much. He’s a true collaborator in both music and in spirit, me and him are heart brothers. Part of his magic as a producer is to make connections between artists. He’s the one who brings in these great collaborators. In the past, I really think of and want to honor Jessika Kenney, the singer we worked with on TWO HUNTERS and CELESTIAL LINEAGE, and she’s remixed a bit on CELESTITE. She’s a Persian classical vocalist who just moved to Los Angeles. She’s amazing. She’s a teacher and master of her craft. And of course there’s some really awesome collaborators on THRICE WOVEN. I’m thinking of Steve Von Till of Neurosis and vocalist Anna von Hausswolff.
Could you give us a glimpse of the music community in Washington?
There’s a musical family here. There are people who have grown up together and have always done music together like a tribe or a music scene, however you want to look at it. We have a lot of friends in the Bay Area, too. I always really want to point out how indebted we are to the Katabatik scene. You know about that fire that happened in the Bay Area? The Ghost Ship fire? That’s our community. Wolves in the Throne Room was created in the mountains with that community out in the forest, around a fire, in celebration with those people. People should definitely check out the Katabatik record label. There are some Wolves in the Throne Room roots there that go really deep.
It was devastating what happened there.
Yeah, some beloved friends of ours died there.
What is the Cascadian movement, this whole movement to really hone down on the environmentalism of the region and establish an independent state there? Would you say it’s legitimate?
No, man. That’s mythology. I don’t know about any political movement. For me, it’s Cascadian black metal, that’s what Wolves in the Throne Room is, and all that means is here’s where we live. We live in this forest or we live next to the salt water and here are the animals that live here, like thank you. Gratitude, you know?
Would you say that everyone needs that connection?
That’s not for me to say, but what I do notice is that everyone listens to music. I think everyone can accept people who are deeply, deeply fucked up and love music. Music is necessary for human life.
For this new record, THRICE WOVEN, what was your process?
Well, in December of 2015, Nathan and I decided we’re going to make another black metal record. All through that winter it was me and Nathan locked in the studio at his house, just digging in hard, writing material, and going really deep inside ourselves. The record came together slowly, agonizingly. Writing music is hard. It’s like judging the deepest parts of myself. It’s work. When the music was ready we called upon a wonderful producer and engineer based in San Francisco, named Jack Shirley, who came to Seattle. We then recorded the drums at Litho Studios in Seattle, which is a really wonderful place filled with good vibrations and music. It’s owned by one of the members of Pearl Jam, so it has this awesome Seattle grunge lineage which we definitely respect since we were kids who grew up in the ‘90s 60 miles out of Seattle. I remember playing those drums in early July. It was a beautiful hot day and Litho Studios is this big brick building that just soaks up the sun and the south side of it was covered in these flowering vines covered with honeybees. So the whole building was just vibrating with this beautiful summertime sun energy. It was just so wonderful.Then we went back to our place in Olympia and got into it tracking guitars. I guess the funny thing about this record is that we planned on producing it ourselves. When we finished CELESTITE, Randall said to me, “You guys have learned a lot. You should produce your own record.” About halfway into it, we were like fuck, man, we’re in way over our heads. We need Randall to help us figure this shit out. So I gave him a call and he literally dropped some stuff he was doing and totally flew out to help us put the record together which was so awesome of him.
Given this amazing group of people you work with, are there any people who have inspired you who you wish to work with in the future?
That’s a cool question. I’ll have to think about that. I’m just so in awe at the fact that Steve Von Till sang on our record because Neurosis is so important to us, [especially] seeing Neurosis when I was 17 at the local punk venue in Olympia during their THROUGH SILVER IN BLOOD tour. That definitely changed my life forever. It opened me up in this wonderful way. It showed me a way to connect music with a sense of honor, gratitude to spirit, and reverence for old ways and our ancestors. I got that from Neurosis, so to work with Steve Von Till was a dream come true.
Any hopes for someone in the future?
Honestly, I’m going to save that, because as soon as we think of a person, we’re going to actually do it. I’m going to meditate on it.
Really great talking to you!
You can check out Wolves in the Throne Room’s Bandcamp here