Shrinebuilder Interview: Al Cisneros Wraps up Tour; Confirms Sleep US Reunion Dates for 2010

Hell yeah. (Photo by Julie Patterson)The necessity of getting Shrinebuilder bassist Al Cisneros on the phone made itself known before his band’s show Sunday night in Manhattan was even over. In particular, a discussion with him seemed warranted because, of all the players on the stage at Le Poisson Rouge with him, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Scott “Wino” Weinrich and MelvinsDale Crover, Cisneros was in the middle, and when he took the mic at the end of the set for his part in “Pyramid of the Moon,” the night was transformed into something epic and a wave of energy coursed through the crowd. It was kinetic.

Our conversation was short, but informative. Cisneros, fresh back in California from a few days spent in Austin, TX, following the last of the five shows on Shrinebuilder‘s run, confirmed that writing has already begun for a fifth Om record and a second Shrinebuilder, that Shrinebuilder will play the 2010 Scion Rock Fest and that the legendary trio Sleep, in which he was vocalist and bassist with Matt Pike (High on Fire) on guitar and Chris Hakius on drums, will indeed be playing in the US September of next year.

And even though I just told you all of that, it’s still worth reading, after the jump, as always. Enjoy.

Al Cisneros on stage with Om. (Photo by Julia Morell)How were the shows?

They were great, yeah. Good first tour for sure.

How was it being on stage with these guys, as opposed to with Om?

It?s definitely a different band. There?s different elements that converge in both. A different combination. When a song and a riff opens up, be it Om or Shrinebuilder, I go right into it the same way always, as myself. It?s different in the sense that there?s different elements, different melody lines that come in, different instruments of course. Different song structures, but you know, in a way, it?s very similar.

In Shrinebuilder, how far back do you go?

We?ve all known each other a really long time. I?ve known Scott since I was 14 and I?ve known Dale a long, long time. I first met Wino in ?93 when we did a show together in SF. It was Sleep and The Obsessed and Buzzov*en, and I first met him then.

What was the travel situation like for the tour? I noticed all the bands in New York used the same backline. Was it just a matter of fly in, do the show, fly out?

Yeah, pretty much. There wasn?t much time to do anything other than get to the venue, do your sound check. It was scheduled really so over four days we could hit all those places. It worked out good. Everything was pretty well organized.

I saw you in Brooklyn with Om. How do the two touring processes compare? Do you prefer going town to town on the road?

I don?t really have a preference either way. I play so often in Om, we play so many live shows. When you?re on a plane, it?s just like being in a car. It takes about the same time to get to the next club. I don?t really have a preference as to either one. Whatever it takes to get to the stage, whatever it takes to get to the sound check, I?m pretty cool with it.

How did the Joy Division cover come about?

We?d had a bunch of different candidate covers going on for a few months, but with the shows coming up, we had to really just nail one down and that was the one that had the most consensus, so we went for it. Wino and Scott are old Joy Division fans, and I think Wino?s covered a Joy Division song in his acoustic solo work, not sure which one. That?s how we ended up picking that one.

What was the preparation process like for the shows? Were there rehearsals beforehand?

Oh yeah, we rehearsed for a bunch of days down in Los Angeles prior to the first show we did.

How do you think the band dynamic has developed there? Where do you think you guys are as a band?

Well, I know we?re writing material for a second album and our creative process is really cool because we really all contribute and we?re all very open to one another?s ideas. That?s entirely conducive towards more creativity, and it?s a really good situation.

Maybe not because you?re so close to it, but in listening to the album, you can hear everyone?s personality coming through, and not just in the vocals. Is that something you notice when you think of the material? Does it break down into, ?Okay, this is Scott?s part, this is Wino?s part, this is my part??

Not so much. I hear it as Shrinebuilder. I hear it as its own band. I don?t perceive it that way. There?s probably areas and riffs in the songs that you could probably guess which guy wrote it, but I think as it has cohesion and the way it is when the song is there, said and done, it takes on its own sound, it takes on its own character.

How do you feel that character translated live in these shows?

Really well. We were playing off one another?s parts and doing certain areas on improv, even. Starting to really communicate between the instruments, in addition to the song proper, which is on the album. Song proper, that was implemented correctly, but there were all these extra elements that came into being and I thought it was great. I felt really positive about it. A lot of new material starts to arise in that kind of situation and continues to evolve. Every show it continues to clarify itself more and more and develop. It?s a really good situation, yeah.

Is that how the writing process for new material began? Those sparks from the other songs?

It happens from many different ways, of course. Hearing a riff and bringing it into the band and presenting it, seeing where it goes from there, that?s one way it works. Definitely in other situations, the song sort of just arrives on its own through sound checks or through extensions of areas pre-existing. There?s all sorts of ways the music grows.

When you came into writing the self-titled, did you have ideas of what you wanted to contribute? Did you have riffs coming into it?

It's a poster!I had a couple. The very, very early stage of Shrinebuilder, Wino had ?The Architect,? I had the first half of ?Solar Benediction? and we knew we had those riffs and those structures. All four of us contributed ideas structurally to both of those and then everybody started to hear the riffs they thought complemented the others, and then, the usual writing thing where you work on it for a while, test out different structures, test out different riffs and configurations. All of it.

Now that you?ve had a little time to process the record and had the chance to get a reaction live, how do you feel about that material? Are there changes sound-wise you?d want to make going forward?

We?re already working on new songs, we all are. The unit starts to define its momentum and its own feel becomes more clarified. It starts to intensify itself. That?s happened through the shows. Of course, every band, when you get off the road, you know your record better than you did going in, even though you knew it going in completely and when you recorded it. Every band ever, after playing the album live enough times, goes, ?Man, why couldn?t we have recorded it now? There?s this part and now we play this part this way?? Even if you tour on songs, then go to a studio, after that studio recording and you go tour again, you still have that. It?s just that way. The songs never stop growing, ever.

I saw Shrinebuilder is going to be at Roadburn next year, and of course you were there this year with Om. Are you going to do more touring in the meantime?

Yeah. Shrinebuilder?s doing the Scion festival and we?re doing a bunch of stuff on the West Coast sometime thereafter. Om?s really busy also. We?re going to England in a couple weeks and Europe a little bit after that. Emil and I are really busy writing for the fifth album already, so yeah. I?m looking forward to Roadburn. Walter?s a great guy, it?s a great festival. It?s a good community.

How is Om developing with the relationship between you and Emil on the drums?

Never been happier. The communication as musicians, as songwriters, as friends, it culls out music that the motive is the internal song you hear inside fueling the process externalizing it through the instruments. Communication?s so good that the finished rendered outcome in the external album accurately reflects that initial song you heard inside, inside your heart, inside your mind before the process. When that happens, you?re freed. You don?t carry that piece of music anymore. The current flows through the wire. It?s great. I?m incredibly happy about the new material and playing together. Very busy coming up. I know that God is Good just came out a couple months ago, but the songs never stop. We?re already in the workshop.

I?ve been hearing the Sleep rumors about some American shows next year. Any truth to that?

There?s gonna be some shows in September. Yeah, we?ll be doing some dates out there [East Coast].

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3 Responses to “Shrinebuilder Interview: Al Cisneros Wraps up Tour; Confirms Sleep US Reunion Dates for 2010”

  1. [...] Reading: The Obelisk – Shrinebuilder Interview (Very special thanks to JJ Kozcan for his kind [...]

  2. Gabe says:

    Mother of God, yes! Sleep shows in September on the East Coast? Consider me there! I’ll be in college at that point, so I’ll probably have time to make it, wherever the show will be. Thank you, Sleep, o gods of stoner metal!

  3. Dr. Flufflesworth says:

    Oh Jesus Christ! WHY DO I LIVE IN DENMARK!!?? Sleep reunion! OH MY GAAAHD! Sleep’s Holy Mountain is with 2 other albums the best in the world! I’m 15 so can’t really go see them, but i would pay almost ANYTHING to do so… Gaaahrg!

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