Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on October 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

megaton leviathan

I’ve always thought of the difference between modernism and post-modernism as being that modernism says, “There is no god. So what?” and post-modernism takes the form of Rodney Dangerfield in Caddyshack and answers, “So what? So let’s dance!” and the presses a play button on its golf bag and starts the party. In their own way, Megaton Leviathan are cutting a post-modern rug on their third album, Mage, which is released Oct. 26 through Blood Music. Led by founding vocalist, guitarist, synthesist, etc.-ist Andrew James Costa Reuscher, the experimentalist progressive drone outfit were last heard from in 2014 with the particularly weighted Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell (discussed here), following up on 2010’s evocative and spacious debut, Water Wealth Hell on Earth (review here), and with Mage, Reuscher and creative partner Mort Subite, whose name translates from French to “sudden death” and who handles keys, vocals, recording, and so on, revamped the lineup of the band, filling out a drone sextext ready to hold sway and any chamber of the damned that might have them. One expects a few will.

The album is five tracks and 41-minutes of whatever-the-fuck-it-wants-to-be, post-all composition, following a narrative line from the forward march of opener “Wave” deep into hypnotic immersion like a spirit-seeking Godflesh before “Take the Fire” brings Floydian acoustic strum to the mix as an earth center for the surrounding ethereal moodiness. Moving into a wash of a finish with Reuscher‘s vocals and those of violinist Andrea Morgan staying resolute Megaton Leviathan Mageand calm at the center, “Take the Fire” comes apart like ashes thrown off a cliff before drums and low synth rumble begin the centerpiece title-track, marking a return of the dual-vocal approach and a beat that holds steady until about four of the six minutes have passed, at which point the loops and strums begin a resonant dirge march soon enough active again in its slow progression downward. This leads to the twist of the Eno Moebius Roedelius (aka Eno & Cluster) track “The Belldog” from 1978’s After the Heat, unveiling a krautrock-derived spread given a darker edge through undulations of lower-end synth rising up behind the belted-out verses.

It is gorgeous and consuming both, a brave take on an obscure original, and when the beat kicks in at about halfway through, the piano line that’s run throughout is only enhanced by the rhythm-making around it. At eight minutes, “The Belldog” is longer than anything before it, and in that, it doubles as a bridge to “Within the Threshold,” the 15-minute, largely instrumental finale to which all the marching on Mage seems to have been leading. Its unfolding is methodical and happens in at least three stages: the first four minutes dedicated to a tense buildup, the next eight-plus given to crafting a beautiful, nigh-incomprehensible wash of synth, guitar, violin and — somewhere in there — Morgan‘s vocals, and the last three a quiet, acoustic-inclusive ending that’s more resolution than epilogue. There’s something of a “what just happened?” effect when it’s over and the final line of keyboard fades gracefully away, but one thing Megaton Leviathan — ReuscherSubiteMorgan, drummer Jon Reid, bassist TrejenRuss Archer and maybe guitarist Travis Hathaway on the album (?) — never lose sight of is the flow between the varied stretches in the material. That is the thread running through Mage and the foundation from which is makes its outward sonic reach.

Reuscher was kind enough to discuss some of the makings of Mage and the personal context for him in which the album was composed, as well as essentially the remaking of Megaton Leviathan around himself and Subite. Before the Q&A, you can click play on the embed below to hear the debut of “The Belldog,” which I’m thrilled to be able to host.

Please enjoy the following track premiere and Six Dumb Questions:

Megaton Leviathan, “The Belldog” official track premiere

Six Dumb Questions with Megaton Leviathan

Over how long a period was the material on Mage written? The songs have such a diverse range. How did they come together?

I started writing them in winter of 2015/’16. I had just moved into a one bedroom apartment after my home of 10 years where we had hosted many shows in the basement was demoed. A neat lil side note is Capitalist Casualties played the last show at the house so that was kind of a nice farewell. I was pretty depressed and had some interpersonal things going on at the time on top of this and I had put on a LOT of weight and experiencing some health issues. I was pretty fed up with the bullshit that comes along with doing the band thing. The Past 21 tours where literally a death march and after writing an album when I got back and kind of trying to get a band together, Ford Tennis (yes, that’s his real name) let me know he was leaving. He did the session drums for Past 21 and we tapped him since our touring drummer just kinda ghosted us.

I was fed up with EVERYTHING. People would tell me oh you need to to tour more… I’m like I toured a lot man, I hired PR, we played direct support slots with Wolves in the Throne Room several times, and they even said themselves if this isn’t helping you not much else can be done, so going back a little further that was the basis of beginning of the end for Chris bagging out.  But that’s a whole other story. So yeah, just years of near-misses failures and getting our asses handed to us. So I shelved that album I did after Past 21, I folded the band and told Mort Subite that I was fucking done. He however knew I wasn’t and waited me out patiently. Anyway I got into this one bedroom apartment and set up all my studio gear in the living room.

Then one day I got the itch. I started laying down all these synth tracks and came up with some hooks and whatnot. I compiled three or four songs. I knew I wanted to hang up the doom hat — that shit bored me at this point from a songwriting perspective. I wanted to explore, so I got me a Moog Voyager.  I ended up getting a new house in the middle of the peak of the housing crisis here in Portland as well, nicely situated on the other side of the freeway so no one fucks with us. Anyway I was also listening to a lot of Chrome at the time and I think some of that leaked into it. I guess more than just leaked, since I essentially met Helios Creed and ended up filling in for the synth master himself Tommy L. Cyborg (Farflung). Mort and I ended up helping with Chrome‘s album Techromancy and THEN  I toured Europe with ChromeHelios and Lou Minatti where around quite a lot around this time. So it went from a total bummer to all this awesome stuff happening by the end of 2017.

Tell me about “Within the Threshold.” How did writing that song happen and what is it expressing for you in its lyrics and in the music itself?

This was the last song I had written for the album I knew I wanted to pay homage to the Kosmische Kraut gods. So I went there with it, busted out the Moog and tasty analog arp’d synth and did my best Tangerine Dream/Klaus Schulze with some German psych-folk in there to possibly make Julian Cope proud heh heh heh… It just came together effortlessly, I mapped it out and did the bottom tracks and then brought Mort and Andrea in to fill it out.  The process was actually fun. The album Mage itself is obviously themed and this song is the completion of the lyrical concepts. It’s not a secret to many that I am a Esoteric Freemason and a member of a Hermetic Fellowship. I had been doing a lot of work and this album reflects that. I try to keep this stuff very simple because it can get very complicated very fast and at that point you may lose the meaning. I also try to keep a childlike wonder about these things — growing up is for losers. Music and magick are creative things that rely on it, in my opinion. So the song, it’s about being within the pillars of hidden knowledge, vision coming to form and being very clear after diligently trudging a dark path with very little to light the way except trust in faith, THEN that moment of “AH!… it all makes sense now,” I hear my song and know it is a gift. To sum it up, Order Ab Chao.

Tell me about the recording process. You basically rebuilt the band going into this album. Were you nervous at all about how it would all work out? What did each player bring to the project that let you know it was going to all fit?

I came at this from the perspective [of how] my Masonic Lodge and etc. goes about bringing in new initiates. They have to want it. I’m not going to waste all my time and effort on curiosity seekers. I want to know that you’re in it, that you know what you want and this is it. My lodge prides itself on their commitment to the craft and are some of the best esotericists (of many different backgrounds) I have ever met, I wanted my band to reflect the same in the capacity of music.

So yeah I had to start from scratch with the exception of Mort Subite — who for those of you who know French might glean that he has impeccable timing, which he does. He is my ace. Though the moment that I realized that I might want to continue was when Jon Reid reached out to me and offered his drumming skills. I knew he played on that first Lord Dying record and I had seen them play several times around town, but I had no idea he knew about ML and that he was a fan. His enthusiasm and his ability as a musician sealed it for me. From that point on I think Mort Subite and I decided to just commit fully and make this a band. Slowly we kept getting together bringing in different people essentially trying them out to fill out the band. Andrea Morgan came into the picture. Mort knew her from “back in the day” and so did a few others we knew. So I was like, “huh don’t know if I need like six people in this band… what can she do?” Mort was quick to inform me that she was extremely talented and plays violin in the Vancouver Washington symphony. I reflected on the work Chris Beug did with string arrangements on the first album, and the stuff we did on Past 21… if we could pull it off in the context of new works that would be great.

So we brought her in she clicked right away and it was a match. At this point we started rehearsing regularly and I was teaching everyone the material off of the Repeating Patterns of Love demo.  We had a few people come in and out but things where kinda gelling so  I was like, “guys! we are going to finish this album I wrote, I want you all to collaborate with me on it.” So we did that and somewhere in there I was talking to Trejen who I used to be roommates with at a Fourth of July party and telling him what I was up to. He was like well you know I play bass as well as art. I mean this dude is a really damn good artist and I knew he was a straight shooter. He also toured with Dystopia as a roadie on their very last tour so I also knew for fact he had the right stuff. So I was like, “you’re in dude, let’s meet next week.” The next day he called me and was like, “hey so I was drunk last night… Did I? did I just join Megaton Leviathan?” I was like, “yeah man – you sure did.  You in?” He said, “yeah lets do this.” So we got it together and played a few local shows to seal the deal over the summer of 2017. In between all of that we worked on the album, getting together in my studio and laying down tracks. I felt that process created a strong bond between us which I knew was needed if we were going forward as a six-piece band.

Our most recent player Russ Archer is rad too. He is a quick study, gets it and has a great sense of humor which is needed. Russ has played in SubArachnoid Space and a bunch of other great bands. I’m looking forward to collaborating with him and everyone on future works for sure.

How are the songs connected for you? Can you expand a bit on how they tie together in theme and purpose and what drew you to fleshing them out in different ways? How do “Mage” and “The Belldog” happen next to each other?

I mean as far as writing them it was pretty much sequentially.  Then when the time was right I kind of catherted and got the lyrical content. I’m telling a story which is kind of reminiscent of a hymn. First song I kinda talk about my process. I was in a dark place and I was looking for some healing. And it kinda goes from there to how I get over it and find my footing again. I go over the dualistic nature of life the tragedy the glory getting in touch with your higher purpose. Listen to the album.

As far as “Mage,” I wrote that one. I kinda went off on tokens in life that kinda signal change and was kind of incorporating more of a worldview with the wacky shit that is happening in our at least American culture anyway. I grew up as a kid in the ’80s having an actor as a president and playing G.I. Joes and Transformers then took a bunch of acid in the ’90s… and now we have this really augmented warped reality that seems too absurd to be real… It’s like I’m living in a dream, “yo dawg is this shit real? We have some reality show host playing G.I. Joes and Transformers but hes presumably in charge of the free world…” Anyway what can I do? This seems really bizarre, man. I feel kinda helpless but I’ve done enough acid to know that this shit will pass and you gotta take the lesson man. Do what you can. Weave your truth into the narrative. Hack it by radiating love on the micro cosmic level, it will grow, etc. In the meantime duck and let the shit wash over you.

“The Belldog” is a cover of a Cluster & Eno track. So I was telling you about Mort Subite and his great timing. We were about done and he came in ad was like, “oh I have this track…” He had arranged it all himself and brought it to Andrea and I to do strings and guitars. So I did my best Micheal Rother. I figured if there was any guitarist that would jam with those dudes it was him first and foremost (Harmonia). All of us in the band where floored by it, and I we knew this had to go on side two and stand as a massive homage to the Kraut masters. Mort Subite and I actually got to see Hans-Joachim Roedelius live in Portland right after we finished tracking and it was this beautiful moment of the vision being realized for that song in particular, having Adam Stacy (Secret Chiefs 3) do the piano on that was the best call we could have made. I just shook Roedelius‘ hand and thanked him after the set.

It’s been four years since Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell. Aside from the lineup, how do you feel the band has grown in that time? Was there something specific you wanted to do differently on Mage?

I mean what line up? it was me stumbling around with a guitar while Mort did sound… although we had a drummer on the US tour so there’s that. I didn’t have a band, not at that point. It had broken up by 2010. I was just trying to keep doing a thing and see the album through and it felt like a burden at that point. I had to re-record it three times save for the drum tracks and the collab tracks which kinda saved that album from being a total waste.

I feel like now I have what I always wanted with Megaton Leviathan anyway. I had always felt like we put the cart before the horse starting out. I wanted live synths, and there is of course things that you gain merely from experience which I lacked 10 years ago. So it is as it should be.

We kind of touched on the doom thing with our first two albums. Past 21 is the heaviest we will ever get. We went out of our way to make the heaviest album we could, and for better or worse, I did it. It’s time to move on. Yeah, with Mage I just wanted to do what felt right musically. The electronic and post-punk elements have always been there so I wanted to expose that more with this output. I have endless roads to travel and I plan on taking that pilgrimage.

Will Megaton Leviathan tour? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Yeah we plan on it, timing is everything and we hope to finally make it to EU sooner than later.  Buy our album, support your local record stores and if you like a band go see ’em live when they come to your town.

Megaton Leviathan, “Wave”

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Megaton Leviathan Set Oct. 26 Release for Mage; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

megaton leviathan

I write about a lot of killer records on this site. Doing so keeps me as close to sane as I get. Take my word for it when I tell you this one is something special. I’m not bragging and I’m not claiming any insight or anything like that, but the basic fact of the matter is I hear a lot of music. A lot. And Megaton Leviathan‘s new LP, Mage (on Blood Music), is a standout, in style and substance alike. It’s a work of deep-running psychedelic heft that not only expands the reaches of the band’s prior outings, but does so in inventive and soulful fashion. In its atmosphere and its realization, it’s not to be missed. Something special. I don’t know how else to put it. Hopefully I come up with something before I sit down to review it, or it’s gonna be a pretty short writeup.

I’ve got till Oct. 26 on that one, so a bit of time, but Megaton Leviathan are streaming the opening track “Wave” now, and it’s as good a place to dig in as I can think of, though it doesn’t necessarily represent the entire scope of the offering. They’d basically have to stream the whole thing to do that, and, well, it’s early for that. I’m sure they’ll get there.

Release announcement came down the PR wire with the Earth-esque cover art and the aforementioned track:

Megaton Leviathan Mage

Megaton Leviathan announce new album “Mage”, stream new single “Wave”

Megaton Leviathan have released new details behind the release of their new album, “Mage”. The five track album, a follow up to 2014’s “Past 21: Beyond the Artic Cell”, will be released worldwide via Blood Music on October 26. Pre-orders for the album are available here.

Megaton Leviathan are streaming the first track off “Mage”. The single, “a sprawling, emotional, trippy and ultimately memorable track” titled “Wave” is streaming now.

Regarding the new track, singer/multi-instrumentalist Andrew James Costa Reuscher comments, “It’s about coming to peace and healing a broken heart. I was on a beach in Aptos doing some astral work/meditation and saw a pretty damn vivid waking vision of the goddess ISIS spread out across the horizon … she gave me this song.”

The artwork and track list for “Mage” is as follows:

Track List
1. Wave
2. Take The Fire
3. Mage
4. The Belldog
5. Within The Threshold

In the three years since MEGATON LEVIATHAN released the critically acclaimed Past 21: Beyond The Artic Cell, multi-instrumentalist Andrew James Costa Reuscher and fellow musician/producer Mort Subite have been diligently creating new material. Their aim is to meet and exceed MEGATON LEVIATHAN’s reputation for fusing disparate elements into new, borderline narcotic compositions.

The resulting offering from the re-envigorated band is their new album Mage, due to be released this October via Blood Music. The album is a concoction of the band’s very own blend of heavy rock, psychedelia, and shoegaze, with heavy synths and orchestral leanings.

Borne out of a personal catharsis for Reuscher, Mage incorporates themes of evolution and enlightenment. Recording took place in-house, with Mort Subite at the helm for mixing, and Billy Anderson handling mastering.

Several new members were drafted for the creation of Mage, including ex-Lord Dying drummer Jonathan Reid, vocalist and concert violinist Andrea Morgan, guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Travis Hathaway, and bassist Trejen. This new and diversely talented cast inspired unexpected creative influence in the studio and will no doubt entrance live audiences when MEGATON LEVIATHAN hit the road.

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Megaton Leviathan, “Wave”

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