Lumbar, “Day Six” from The First and Last Days of Unwelcome
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There’s nothing comfortable about listening to Lumbar‘s debut and quite possibly only outing, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome. A 24-minute full-length comprised of seven tracks of huge tones and fraught wails, screams and psychedelic helplessness, there’s a consuming darkness in the audio that bleeds through the atmosphere in layers of drones, lumbering riffs and varied vocals from the three component members of the project — Aaron Edge (Roareth, Rote Hexe, Hauler, etc.), Tad Doyle (TAD) and Mike Scheidt (YOB, Vhöl) — all of whose personalities are evident throughout the monumental proceedings.
Aaron Edge has spent years bouncing from band to band, new project to new project, as well as working as a graphic designer for Southern Lord (which is releasing Lumbar) and others in a sort of tornado of creativity. In all my dealings with him — Roareth‘s first and only CD came out on The Maple Forum — I’ve found him to be passionate, dedicated and exceedingly driven. The kind of person who’s already there by the time you’re ready to go. Relentless in his energy and will to create, he’s also a marathon runner, long-distance biker, vegan and straightedge. Someone for whom movement both conceptual and physical is the norm. Perhaps because of that it was all the more a shock early this year when he was diagnosed with MS.
Talking to him about it now, several months after the fact, Edge hardly remembers how he spent the 40 solid days in bed from the pain, but it was during this traumatic time that he wrote what would become Lumbar (and two other in-progress projects) once Scheidt and Doyle got involved. The name Lumbar derives from the medical procedure “lumbar puncture,” also known as a spinal tap, wherein a needle is inserted between the vertebrae of a person’s back and spinal fluid is collected for diagnosis. Edge has had a few at this point, and one could easily look at The First and Last Days of Unwelcome as the same kind of process.
Because where many might allow for some distance — that is, might wait until an experience is over and then write an album about it — in Lumbar, Edge thrusts listeners into the moment itself. The album’s seven tracks, broken down as “Day One,” “Day Two” and so on, are like a transcription of agony. There isn’t distance or the feeling of safety that distance might provide. With Scheidt and Doyle contributing to the vocal arrangements and recording, Edge tells a story through captured moments that’s haunting, tragic, beautiful, hopeful at times and incomplete in the way that life itself is incomplete and in the way that his story, his battle with this disease, is ongoing and continues to shape what has become his being.
In the interviews that follow, Edge discusses how Lumbar came together, working with Scheidt and recording with Doyle, the relationships he’s had with the two over the years, doing art for YOB and playing drums for a time in Doyle‘s band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, as well as sharing the first listen to the finished product of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome with family and friends in a moment of communal support, while Scheidt — checking in from Idaho on a solo tour alongside Uzala — expands on his friendship with Edge, how he came to be involved in Lumbar and his feelings on how the album came out.
Because I spoke to Edge first, then Scheidt, that’s how I’ve chosen to present the Q&As. If you haven’t yet, check out “Day Six,” one of the album’s most exceedingly righteous stretches, on the player above.
The First and Last Days of Unwelcome will be released on LP and digital through Southern Lord on Nov. 26, with CD to follow from the band and a cassette through Holy Mountain.
As always, thanks for reading. Interviews are after the jump.
Aaron Edge – Instruments/vocals
When did you first have the idea for the Lumbar project?
As far as it as a project, or an idea, or sort of as a themed project, it wasn’t figured out until Mike and Tad got on board. Initially, it was just gonna be another heavy record that I was gonna put together, and I would find someone to sing on it, and if one of my friends or someone I looked up to wasn’t interested, I’d just sing on it myself. Kind of like projects I’ve done over the years. This one, luckily, Mike and Tad were interested in singing on it, and then it took on a new meaning for me. Also, of course, at the end of finishing this record and during the last touches on it, is when my first serious pain from MS, my first episode, was really taking over my life, so even finishing the record was tough.
I finished three records, actually, before all the pain became too much for me to work on anything else, and they’re all coming to fruition now, one of them being Lumbar, another being called Hand be Damned and another one called Process Black, which actually features Tim Singer from Deadguy and Kiss it Goodbye and No Escape way back in the day and some other great bands.
Basically, I wanted all these three records come to fruition, but Lumbar was the one that had the most emotion for me, because once my friends Mike and Tad are involved, it can’t help but become something bigger than just me in my home studio making a record. So I passed the record on to Tad and I passed it on to Mike, and they both said, “Hey, we should just all add to this, not just one person,” and Tad welcomed us into his studio and his home for a long weekend, which was awesome since we’re all buddies and it was a very emotional and heavy time.
But to get back to the question, it all became what it was as soon as those guys agreed they would do it, and both Mike and Tad said that I should write the lyrics and really wrap up and give this record a full steam of what I was going through, and letting both Tad and Mike sort of tell the story through the way they present things and their tones and their own expression. It was nice to have someone else tell my story, and it just wrapped up pretty well.
Was it strange for you ultimately to have them telling your story? You sat down, you wrote this material, you wrote these lyrics. Was it weird for you to have someone else interpret it, even if they’re your friends?
There’s only a handful of people on the planet that I know that I would feel comfortable having them tell my story, and these guys were at the top of the list. Mike and Tad, though I had never done any musical projects with Mike, my old bands Hauler and Grievous had opened for YOB probably six or seven times over, and of course playing with Brothers of the Sonic Cloth with Tad, not only did I play with Tad, but we also opened for YOB, so there’s a big connection there.
Also, working with Tad on other projects, like having the Roareth record done by Tad and my old band Requin, he did our records. My wife Rachel was in Roareth of course, so she was friends with Tad, and her bands recorded with Tad, her own bands. So there’s been a strong connection with Mike and Tad and I for a while. I’ve looked up to those guys and they’ve reciprocated friendship far beyond what I expected since they were initially on a pedestal for me, and then they opened up friendship to me and it became something new.
Having those guys represent me on the record and sort of tell a story and give – even though they’re not giving an opinion, because they’re not adding lyrics per se – Mike did change some arrangements, which is great, in vocals, and some patterns – but those guys have their own way of singing and screaming, of course, and it makes the record so much more interesting than if I had just finished it myself. They also dumped a whole bunch of emotion into it, because we’re all friends and they’re really connected to what’s going on. That weekend was heavy. We’re going into another question, I guess. But they were perfect to add to the project.
Well, tell me about that weekend.
The weekend was one of the heaviest weekends I’ve had in my life emotionally. I actually was feeling a little better physically at that time, which is great. Some of my symptoms were in control and there wasn’t any new symptoms at the time, and so Mike picked me up on his way up from Eugene to Seattle, and we drove together, which gave us a good three hours of time just to reconnect. It had been a couple weeks since I had since him last – YOB had played a show – and it was nice to connect and we just listened to the record in his car and hashed out new ideas, a couple new patterns.
We checked into each other’s lives, which of course is always nice, and then once we got to Tad’s and Peg’s, because their studio is in their house, it’s just such a comfortable environment, it’s such a warm, loving sort of nest there, it was an incredible reunion of – I don’t want to say “old friends,” because I’ve only known these guys since 2000 and maybe a little later – but it really felt as if we had all known each other since me growing up. Kind of like these were my uncles and they helped shape my life sonically and artistically. It was a sort of family reunion. That’s how I felt at first and I think we all sort of felt that way. We didn’t jump right into doing vocals right away.
We had some time to connect and embrace each other, which I hadn’t seen Tad and Peg in a while, and as soon as we started recording, it increased the adrenaline of the weekend and it also increased the – how to put it – the shape of the record. It really went in new directions I hadn’t considered, because you add these two people, these two forces of nature into the storm, and it gets crazy, and it gets fucked up, and it gets way more heavy. We went on for a couple days working on all the vocals, all three of us doing parts, and there was times when one of us would go in and try something weird and we’d end up keeping it, because one would be out in the iso booth and the other two of us would be in the actual engineering room, and we’d hear something and it at first would sound strange and maybe it didn’t necessarily fit the music at the time, but once we all added more layers, it became incredible.
It’s no different than most studio experiences – I don’t want to make it sound like, “The only time this ever happened was when these three men entered a room” – but I will say that for me, for me, it was the most incredible experience, because there was so much love going on and so much outpour of emotions, and when we all actually listened to our mixed version, we had a couple of folks and friends stopping in. One was the drummer John [O’Connell], who took my place in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. He walked in, and then we had almost the full band of He Whose Ox is Gored – if you haven’t heard them, they’re a really cool Seattle outfit – they were just in the area and we welcomed them over, and my wife Rachel had come up separately, so she was there, and there was, I don’t know, eight of us in the actual mixing room, all listening to this finished product for the first time. All of us.
And it was dead silent for the whole 25 minutes. And it was heavy. I would say half the room was in tears, just because everyone has full knowledge of the situation, and what an experience not just what I had been going through, but of course my wife was there who had been my caretaker through all of it, and then my friends who had been caretakers as well, checking in and helping when they could, and then to hear it all put together, like any band when you finally hear the final project, it’s a big deal, and it hits home more than any of the process to get there. But this was like watching – I don’t even know what movie it would be – watching the heavy, depressing movie where there’s a little bit of hope at the end, and a little bit of reconciliation.
But when the final note hit and the last note draws out, there was another silence after that, and then I don’t even remember who said the first thing, but I think it was probably Tad who said, “Man, that’s an experience. That’s heavy.” And to see all your friends tearing up about what just happened – it was super-moving. It’s certainly the heaviest experience I’ve ever had with musicians, and I’ve been in a lot of bands and done a lot of records I would consider very emotional, but this was by far the heaviest weekend I’ve had of that kind of thing.
Can you take me through the “Days” of the album, and summarize the narrative there?
Oh, wow. That is tough, mostly because the lyrics were written not so much in a concept of time. The only reason that’s gonna come across that way is the songs are titled “Day One” through “Seven,” but really, that’s only a way to connect all the songs together. Really, if you were to just read the lyrics, it doesn’t so much read as a story front to back. Because every day of my first issues was so much of a blur – to take you back, I was in bed for 40 days straight. In pain and only able to get up and out of bed just to use the restroom and try and stretch my feet and legs, and then I just went back in bed. It was so gnarly an experience and so many drugs I was taking for pain, and so many things I was trying to get through that those 40 days are a blur.
The record and the lyrics and the time and the music is really a blur too, because so much time went by from writing and recording the music back in probably November and December to when I actually got out of bed and was revisiting everything and having Mike and Tad listen to everything and having all of us check it out again in maybe, let’s say, May of this year, so much time went by and there was so many moments of me in and out of consciousness and awareness and all that, that it’s hard for me to give you ideas on each song and how they were written and what was going through my mind.
It’s almost like – and I don’t do any drugs unless I’m medicated, so for me it was big, because I’m never out of my mind. I’m never unaware of what’s going on. I’m never out of touch with reality – but I was so fucked up and it was so crazy, that time, that it was kind of like a big acid trip. When my friends have told me they’ve eaten mushrooms (laughs) and met god or whatever, I kind of went through so many weird times while I was in bed and in different hospitals and in and out of emergency rooms and then of course the time lapse between writing and recording. That’s a lot of blah blah and please edit all of these, but it’s difficult to walk you through any of it.
I can give you emotions, I suppose, but I can’t give you more information about each track. I wish I could.
So it’s more about the block of time than the individual moments, and not that the album is meant to be taken as a narrative of a week.
You’re right. That’s probably a mistake, because not everybody’s gonna read all the lyrics. Not everyone’s gonna read any of them. Not everyone’s gonna read all of them from start to finish and really try to make a week out of it, but there will be people who do that, and I suppose it is misleading of me to give it “Day One” through “Day Seven,” but I wasn’t sure how to wrap up these songs, and I suppose I could’ve named every song with a few words that summed up what each track was about, but because I couldn’t, naming it “Day One” through “Seven” was kind of like naming it “Untitled One” through “Seven.”
What I could’ve done and would’ve been way more nerdy, was name it “Day One through Six,” Day Seven through 10,” “Day 11 through 12” – that’s a short period of time – but I didn’t want to get that nerdy about the time, because it was foggy. In hindsight, I should’ve just had them “Untitled One” through “Seven,” because really it’s the last seven or eight months of time. It could’ve been “Month One,” “Month Two,” through “Month Seven.” Maybe that might’ve been more apt, describing it, but at the time, I just gave them titles and it is certainly a period of time, and if you think of what you go through, there’s a beginning and an end of everything we go through in life, and this is just a block of the beginning.
That’s not to say there’ll be another Lumbar record, because Tad and Peg and Mike and everybody else involved that were hosting me and caring for me and adding to the record, to do another one would maybe take away from the one we just did. So there really isn’t an ending to the experience that me and everyone now that I’ve brought in are going through, but you can’t just – I could’ve just had the last title be “Day Seven through Infinite,” I suppose. There was just so much going on and so much external things that are going on too, that I can’t wrap up everything and I can’t give too much information on everything, because it really was just sort of spontaneous and laid down as it was happening.
I imagine it’s kind of like when you ask a Vietnam vet to walk you through what he or she went through and they’ll say, “Holy crap, I killed people,” “Holy crap I saw people die,” “Holy crap I was on drugs to try and make it through the day and now I’m back in the United States or Europe or wherever I’m from and I’m trying to make it through life.” That’s kind of the analogy that I’m trying to give this. There was very intense times. There were times when I was in dream mode. There were times when I was so anxious to get out and back into my life, and that was frustrating for me because I couldn’t do anything about it. So there’s angst in the record. It was a storm. This huge storm.
Trauma. It’s what you’re describing. That’s what it sounds like.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah. And it’s so unexpected. Maybe for me to all of a sudden and all of a sudden be diagnosed with MS, that’s kind of like a storm when sometimes you don’t see it and you’ve got to ride it out. But trauma for sure, because when you’re young and something happens to you, your bones are rubber and you just heal up. You’re mad you can’t go ride your skateboard and throw rocks at cars, but once you get back out as a kid, you just move on and you forget you ever broke your leg. It’s not a big deal.
As an adult, and as an active adult, someone who rides a bike and runs and plays music, sometimes for some kind of benefit as far as releasing records and sometimes just to play music all the time, to suddenly be cut off like that, trauma is a perfect word. You’re nailing it. I had used the analogy of a storm because it sort of made sense, but trauma too.
What’s your status now? How are you feeling?
The status had been good – “good,” as in, managing pain, taking lots of medication – I have been on meds consistently since basically Jan. 6. I was in the hospital and that’s when I couldn’t take any more of the pain and that’s when I started being medicated. It goes in waves. It had been pretty good and manageable until about three weeks ago and I was in and out of hospitals again, because there was some new waves of symptoms, and I lost a job. I was an art director at a magazine. I lost that job because I could no longer work for those two weeks. The last month has been pretty hellish. I’ve been in and out of hospitals and getting new MRIs and more bills coming in and of course that adds a ton of stress to my wife and myself, my family and who’s caring about me or for me.
This week, my neurologist and I have put me on new medication for pain, and we’re hoping it works. It takes a while for that to kick in. I am, of course, out of bed. I’m back to riding my bike and running and doing things around the house, but there’s still things I can’t do. Most of the pain’s in my hands, so it’s difficult to design things and be at a computer for more than a half-hour at a time, which doesn’t work well for holding a job for sure since I’m a graphic designer, a print designer, I have to be sitting somewhere using my hands for eight hours or however long everyone works, 10 or 12 hours, whatever. It’s difficult for me to eat or do simple things like open doorknobs, or hold heavy plates of food. Utensils hurt my hands, like metal. I get electric shocks in my body when I move certain ways, because my spine is being stretched.
It’s pretty gnarly, but like I said, I’m out of bed. I’m walking around. I’m riding my bike. I’m meeting up with friends. I’m doing the things that I do. I just get tired more and things are harder. I’ve started to accept all these things and I sort of feel like a dog who loses a leg, or a cat when they get hit by a car. They’re really, really upset, as anyone would be, and then, dogs and cats, they just figure, “This is my life now, and I just don’t have that leg anymore, and that’s what happened.” That’s kind of where I’m at now. It’s starting to be this, “Fuck it, this is what I’ve been dealt.”
And everybody gets handed something in life, at some point in time, something crazy happens to them. It might be a medical issue. It might be the loss of their loved one. It might be the loss of a job and they’re on the street. It could be even more devastating. Everybody goes through something like that in their life at one point, and it just happened to me at age 39 and 40, and it just happened sooner than I thought. I thought medical issues would be later in life, especially since I’m very active and healthy, but you can’t decide what you get and when you get it.
Are you still writing music?
No. Because I feel as though there’s no point. And that sounds sort of like I’m giving in, but I can’t use my hands to play guitar. I don’t have the dexterity that I used to have. I’ve never been a very proficient guitarist or bass player. I like to write riffs, and so all my music has been very simple. I’m not very proficient. However, that said, even making simple power chords is difficult on a guitar or a bass. I tried playing drums when I was at Tad’s studio, when I was there, and it had been a while. Many months had gone by, and I didn’t have coordination. I couldn’t hold the sticks, it hurt my hands too bad. The band that my wife and I had been in for a couple months when we first moved back here to the Northwest, played a couple shows and I couldn’t play drums any more when the symptoms hit, so that band suffered.
The only thing I’m able to do is keyboard stuff. I’d never been a fan of keyboards and I gave it a shot recently. I tried to write some sort of heavier riffs on keyboards, sort of Nine Inch Nails stuff. I tried to go a different route than I had ever gone, and to me, it didn’t work out. I couldn’t be satisfied with that. It’s not my style of playing. It’s not my style of music. I actually even called up my friend Ben Verellen. You’re probably aware of his Verellen Amplifiers. I used his Skyhammer preamp pedal. It’s got three tubes in it. I used that pedal for the whole Lumbar record. I called Ben to say, “What kind of pedal can I use that will make keyboards sound interesting to me and heavy, and distorted, like a guitar. I want to make a keyboard sound like a guitar.”
We had a long conversation. There’s no way. There’s no way to get the attack of the string, the bending of a string. There’s no way to get the chords and the different notes, especially diminished ones. There’s just… It’s not like I thought he was a wizard and he was gonna give me one ring to rule them all, but I wanted it and it didn’t happen. That’s been frustrating. I haven’t been writing. I haven’t been playing. The only thing I’m looking to do now is actually sing in a band in Portland, but my wife and I have only lived here this time around since November, and I was sick most of the time, so I’m kind of out of the loop in music and I don’t want to just join any band. I think vocals is kind of where I’ll be going from here forward.
You wrote Lumbar in your home studio. Did you use the Skyhammer in that?
On this record, there is not a single amplifier used anywhere on the record, and that’s because I picked up one of Ben Verellen’s Skyhammer pedals. In fact, he gave me serial number 1, the very first one he ever made of the Skyhammer Preamp. He gave me one when I was living in L.A., and I’ve used it for a year and a half only. I recorded that whole record with only a preamp pedal – it’s got tubes in it, so it’s basically an amp – directly into my Mac at home. The reason I think that’s worthy of noting, is that, first of all, Ben Verellen is a fantastic and very skilled electrician and sonic devil.
He makes the best stuff, and to be home, starting to go through pain and not knowing what it is and still want to record records and not be able to have a studio where I can mic up everything other than an apartment, this pedal really got some amazing tone. It sounds like there’s tube amps running hot with speaker cabinets, and that’s because he’s figured out how to make a truly perfect preamp pedal in my opinion. I think it’s very worthy of note because most people will have no idea everything was done without mic’ing up an instrument.
It sounds big.
Yeah, and I was surprised myself. I had recorded with it before through amps and cabs in L.A., for records, and when I got here, this record, and the Hands be Damned record that I was telling you about that’ll maybe come out later in the year with my friend Tom [Wilson], who plays in a band called Blackcloud in Boise, and then the other record, like I said, Process Black is with my drummer friend Brock [Lowry?], who’s in Seattle, and Tim Singer, notably of course from Kiss it Goodbye. That record will come out later this year. All three records done with no mic’ed amplifiers. Kind of rad. Usually that shit does not sound good and you can tell. I think that would be worthy of noting. That was a big deal for me.
Anything other closing words you want to mention?
The very last thing is I want to thank you for being so supportive. And please print this.
I’m not gonna (laughs).
No, you’re going to. Because if you don’t I’m going to have a sidebar somehow. Please print that I want to thank you for being so supportive of all my bands and having an integral part of it, not only releasing one of them – the Roareth record – but that also was huge, because that was the first band my wife and I were in together that was brought to getting pressed. That was a big deal. That actually helped get her to really write music and get into more music on her own. That’s huge. You facilitated that. You also, you keep heavy music alive, where a lot of us have just sort of been, as we get older, we like to play music but we’re not searching new bands, we’re not pushing new bands, and you are why I wanted to do this interview with you.
You are why I wanted to have the first Lumbar track streamed through you, because you are deserving of – and I don’t want to say like a huge thing, this isn’t a huge thing as far as money – what I mean is this is a huge thing for me, and I wanted you to be a part of it because you’ve always been such a loyal, good person out there, and though we don’t have this huge friendship outside of music, I feel a good connection with you and I’m really happy that you’re part of it. And if you don’t print that, I will be very upset. Do that for me. You didn’t say that, I did. I’m giving you that because that’s important to me.
Mike Scheidt – Vocals
How did Aaron bring you in on the album?
Aaron and I have been friends for a long time. We first met when YOB played with – he had a band called Hauler – and we became friends pretty much right away. He did artwork for YOB for a number of things. He did the Unreal Never Lived record, he did the Great Cessation record. He did all the layouts for the Atma record and contributed to the art for that. He just did the reissue of Catharsis, so we’ve had a long relationship that way, and we’ve also played together a number of times with many of his excellent bands. We played with Iamthethorn, and Roareth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Hauler, I’m sure a couple of others I’m forgetting at the moment. He’s always been a pretty prolific guy.
I’d been kind of in touch with him and he was saying he was in a lot of pain and just really sore, and come to find out that it was MS. He wrote me probably a few months ago and said that he had a project he’d been working on and he’d done all the music on it and wanted me to sing. He was hoping to maybe use that as a light at the end of the tunnel for him dealing with this stuff and his pain and also maybe have it be something that could help him maybe pay some of his bills. He played the music for me and I was just – if I wasn’t hooked before, which I totally was, after hearing it, I was completely in. He had done it into GarageBand, which floored me even more that it sounded that good already, and he wanted me to try to do some GarageBand tracks. He told me he couldn’t play anymore.
He had two or three projects he’d already recorded, and I kind of felt like it was part of his legacy and I was like, “Man, we should really talk to Tad and see if Tad would be interested in maybe letting you put these tracks into a better studio and get a better sound quality and then we can go and do vocals at Tad’s place.” Tad agreed immediately, and then Aaron also wanted me to write the lyrics, and I told him that I could, but just given everything that he’s going through, if he writes the lyrics, it’s going to be 10 times heavier than anything I’m gonna come up with for him on that. And so he dug deep and wrote some lyrics and was really in his own words, it was a really difficult, cathartic experience trying to put his feelings about his disease and fighting his disease in words. Once that was all done, we booked time with Tad and drove up together and spent two days up there recording vocals and mixing.
The most remarkable thing to me about the recording process: Aaron had this idea that he was gonna setup a microphone, and he had these vocals, and I kind of wanted to hear what his ideas were as far as structures and whatnot. And so he’d go to the microphone, and his idea was maybe he was just gonna talk through some of the things, because he didn’t want to hurt himself. The problem is the guy’s on or off. There’s no halfway for him. So he just sang full-tilt on these things, some of which, it was like, “Okay, I get the idea, we’ll go in and do it,” because he wanted me to do a cleaner version of what he did. Some of it, he was going for certain screams, and Tad and I would look and each other and go, “Yeah well, you should come in and take a listen to that,” and I think he sang a lot more on the record than he planned to. He just nailed some really incredible vocals. But because of the nature of the disease and him getting really intense to sing and whatnot, it inflamed his nerves and so by the end of the first day, he was basically in a fetal position. Just couldn’t get enough pain meds in him to fight it.
The next day we went through and did the mix, and a number of our collective friends and Aaron’s close friends came and listened to the recording, and it was super-heavy. People were elated and sad and there were tears and it was just a very, very heavy, heavy recording experience. I don’t know, man. I marvel at what Aaron did on that. It’s pretty amazing. Everyone’s talking about – that don’t necessarily know him – are saying, “Oh, Tad and Mike and Tad and Mike.” I hope as time goes on the focus will be on Aaron. Because Aaron made that. It’s his. I’m really glad to be a part of it.
He spoke about that listening session at the end, having friends come in and sharing that. Can you talk about what that was like for you, having been a part of it?
Well, we’re sitting there working on this stuff, and he’s my friend of 10-plus years, and seeing him struggle to get out of his chair to go and show me another idea of what he was doing. Or sitting there at the end of the day in tears with his wife holding him and he can’t get enough pain meds in him to deal with it. There was like this intense state of emotion and presence there that just – you could hear a pin drop moment to moment – intensity. And we were having fun too, and laughing, and, “That sounds amazing, yay!” but there was the other side of that coin that was right there at any given moment, was that our very good friend is suffering.
So when it came time to listen to the recording and all his friends came in and they were all listening to it, there was this thing and the concepts that were born out of all those moments put together, and it’s in the recording. Someone described the recording to me recently – actually I was in the van with Uzala and we listened to it yesterday – and Darcy [Nutt] was listening and she’s like, “That is just a groovy, beautiful nightmare,” and it’s a really psychedelic, but dark, but yet groovy, and I think the feelings that were happening in that process really made it into that record and made it really uniquely what it is.
But it’s also triumphant too, because Aaron is a positive guy, and so he’s a part of that process in doing that record and writing those lyrics, is in essence process what he’s going through and express his feelings about it and get them out, because, you know, he’s trying to heal. Chewing on that stuff too much can be counter to healing. So yeah, it was really intense for me to hear the record, not only through him and his wife, but also through all of Aaron’s friends, who are there to support him. We were all just marveling at what he did.
You bring up a good point about it in that it’s the process of going through it. It’s not like he did something and then afterwards went and reflected on it. It’s unsettled.
And it’s ongoing. He has his ups and downs with the disease, going through it. My hope is that this record does everything that he wants it to do for him, that it’s something that’s exciting. The thing is too, there’s nothing like it (laughs). There’s little reference points where it’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s exactly what I was thinking of this union,” and then there are moments on the record where it’s like, “How did it go from here to here?” because there’s some very alien, very dark places that it goes to that are pretty unique to that moment in time, I feel.
And so, I do think that there’s a really great story that went into the record. There is a ultra-sincere, true, bludgeoning heaviness to the reality that went into the record, but I also think that as itself, Aaron came up with a really great piece of heavy music, and I think that it stands out on its own just as that. Then you add everything that went into it and to me, it’s just kind of a phenomenon. I feel a little bit of distance from that, because like I said, I got to contribute, I did sing, but it was all stuff that was brought to Tad and I, and us just going, “Wow, this is heavy duty.”
That experience of putting yourself in his place emotionally – how did that affect your performance?
It hurt. It hurt, man. Even just talking about it now makes me kind of emotional, just reflecting on what it was like, what Aaron was going through and what he is going through. There’s no doubt that it affected my performance. I just really felt that I needed to be his voice. He just gave me direction and told me what it is he wanted, and I had my own ideas too, but they were born out of just wanting to do my best for him, so that’s really where I was and am at with this music.
I’m a fan of Aaron. I respect him as an artist. I respect him as a person. I respect him as someone who’s stuck to his guns for most of his life as a vegan, straightedge, sincere, serious, serious human and artist. For him going through MS, it’s hard not to be pissed off about it. But he’s handling it with incredible grace, and he’s real honest and sincere, taking on the hit, taking it by the horns – I don’t know how else to say it, really.
One of the hardest things I heard him say was he’s not writing anymore, that he can’t hold a guitar to play anymore. How many years he’s gone from band to band, this amazingly creative, and as you say, prolific guy? Even distant as I am from the whole thing, that was hard to hear.
That fact is still kind of hard for me to grasp and chew on. There’s this part of me that, every time I hear that, or every time I hear him say it, I keep something in the back of my mind going, “Well maybe someday.” Maybe someday. I can’t just accept it, because I’ve just known him too long as someone who is anything but that, who is capable of writing just album after album after album. So who knows? He may never be able to play again, but I hope that people that are inclined, that enjoy this or are being introduced to him now can dig into his back catalog, because he has really penned some amazing music and it’s stuff worth exploring, because it’s uniquely him.Aaron Edge, Lumbar, Lumbar The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, Oregon, Southern Lord, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome