Reverence to Stone, the second album from Samothrace, is not short on crash and rumble. The two-song outing arrives on 20 Buck Spin four years after Samothrace‘s debut, Life’s Trade, and in the time since that record was released, the band relocated from its original home in Lawrence, Kansas, to Seattle — where one imagines, if nothing else, the coffee is better — and re-acquired guitarist Reneta Castagna.
She’d played on the first album, but as drummer Joe Axler explains in the interview that follows here, Castagna would prove an essential piece of the puzzle in making Reverence to Stone (review here) happen. As well as dealing with substance abuse issues, it wasn’t until Castagna moved north from New Mexico to rejoin the band that Samothrace was able to finish the writing of the 20-minute landmark track, “A Horse of Our Own,” which, when coupled with a reworked version of “When We Emerged” from the band’s original 2007 demo (topping out at 14:17), makes up the total runtime of the album.
Though the two songs are individually long — and they more than justify their length, each playing out in epic progressions of loud/quiet back and forths and builds — the album as a whole is pretty short, and in talking to Axler, I wanted to find out if that was on purpose. The drummer, who also plays in Skarp and Theories and is a veteran of Iamthethorn, Book of Black Earth as well as a slew of others, joined Samothrace after guitarist Bryan Spinks and bassist Dylan Desmond relocated in 2009 — he replaced Joe Noel, who played on Life’s Trade — and had a unique perspective to offer on stepping into the already established writing process between Spinks, Desmond and then Castagna too, working with the three original members to create Reverence to Stone over the course of the last three years.
And in discussing that, Axler revealed that part of the process adjusting to Samothrace’s craft came in figuring out how to play slow — something which any drummer who’s ever done it will tell you is not as easy as it seems — and how to fill the spaces when the push drops out and he’s accompanying the more ambient stretches. I’m not a percussionist unless you count tapping on my desk, but it was a fascinating take anyway and something you might not immediately think of when listening to Reverence to Stone, and particularly “A Horse of Our Own,” on which the drums are far back in the mix, holding the track together while Spinks, Castagna and Desmond add to the seemingly infinite sonic space.
It was a relatively quick conversation, but as well as discussion of recording techniques — Reverence to Stone was produced by Brandon Fitzsimons at the famed Soundhouse Studios (High on Fire, Skin Yard, Camarosmith, etc.) — and the fact that he’s going to miss the East Coast run that will follow Samothrace‘s handful of West Coast dates that start a week from today, Axlerwas forthcoming on a range of subjects. I hope you’ll agree as you read through.
Please find the complete Q&A with Joe Axler of Samothrace, who’d just gotten out of band practice, after the jump, and please enjoy.