Last weekend, reinvigorated New York doomers Winter played the Maryland Deathfest. This weekend, they’re at Chaos in Tejas in Austin. Over the course of the last year-plus, they’ve taken part in the Southern Lord-driven Power of the Riff festival and they played the main stage at SunnO)))‘s curated day at Roadburn 2011. They’ve come to be seen as a pivotal act within extreme doom — forbears of the likes of Grief and among the first American bands to incorporate the influence of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost into metal that was as heavy in tempo as it was in tone. Their influence has spread through more than one generation of acts.
Tell that to Stephen Flam, though, and you might get a laughing response like, “Eh, this generation’ll be done with Winter in probably about two years.” The guitarist and cowriter of Winter‘s only album to date, 1990′s Into Darkness (reissued by Southern Lord in 2011), is humble as regards the band’s seminal position, and — to hear him tell it — largely unaware of the contemporary genre he helped form. This interview was conducted the week of Maryland Deathfest (just a couple days after I ran into him at the Pallbearer and Loss show in Brooklyn, which also comes up in conversation), and Flam‘s tone was more curious than accomplished. At several points, he asked me, “Really?” when I spoke of the impact Winter had following their breakup. I suppose it’s debatable as to the reach of underground death-doom, but within that realm, Winter was doing what they were doing on the East Coast at a time when just about nobody had caught on yet. Naturally, that sounds great in hindsight, but at the time, nothing supports a doomly atmosphere like being almost entirely misunderstood.
As such, Flam tells stories of being flipped off by headbangers looking to mosh and finding a more open-minded base of operations in New York’s early ’90s crust and underground punk scene. His voice picks up talking about playing basements and Squat or Rot benefits for Rock Against Racism alongside bands like Nausea and Apostate. Compare that to his stories of opening for Death or Sepultura out on Long Island, and there’s little question where Winter‘s fonder memories reside. He’s not bitter about it, by any means — there was more laughter here than I noted in the transcription — but the sense of surprise he conveyed in talking about the reception Winter has had since their resurgence began was unquestionably genuine. 20 years ago, no one got it. Now they do. That’s a big change when you go from one idea of what your band was to the other.
But if Winter are at home in anything, it’s extremes. Flam, bassist/vocalist John Alman and drummer Jimmy Jackson (who played live previously and has since replaced Joe Goncalves full-time) have begun to write new material and Flam is optimistic they’ll be able to capture and expand on the same vibe as Into Darkness without repeating themselves. The guitarist spoke at some length on both the future and the past of the band. Seriously, you might wind up taking this one on in pieces, but it’s definitely recommended reading, and as Winter do interviews about as often as they put out records, I couldn’t be more thrilled to bring you the conversation in its entirety. We were on the phone for about 50 minutes, and Flam being a native New Yorker, that translated to just over 7,100 words.
You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump, and please enjoy. Thanks to Steve Murphy for his help in coordinating.