Interview with Aaron Turner of Isis: Radiating Energy

In a way I feel that the record echoes a lot of tonality from a larger spectrum of your catalogue. Rather than having just one sound, I feel like the heavy sections of ‘Hall Of The Dead’ and ‘Threshold Of Transformation’ feel very Celestial to me whereas “Ghost Keys” feels more like In The Absence Of Truth, and I think there is a lot in between. I feel the palette is bigger.

Yeah, I think we tried to purposely expand the palette this time around. We had more time to work on this record too. So, I think that in the past where we had sort of been in just one consistent mode, working very quickly to get through the writing process. This time around, we were allowed to expand a little bit more and write more material than was necessary to the actual record and experiment with different things and I think all of that contributed to a slightly more diverse record. And I think also to that this is something that has happened continually from Celestial onward where any elements that were discovered in a prior recording that were really interesting and engaging were further explored with the next recording. So this record in many ways is an expansion of everything that came before it. I feel that the melodic aspects are perhaps more melodic than anything before it and the heavy stuff is, well, certainly heavier than anything on the last two records. So, I don’t know. It’s a conscious effort on our part as well as something that is just ingrained in who we are as a band.

Is this the first time that you’ve left material off? In terms of you’ve written more material that you’ve actually used?

No, we actually did that with Celestial too. We recorded a bunch of stuff all at once ended up being the SGNL>5 EP and something similar may happen this time around. The tracks that were left off the album were not throwaways but they were things that when we were working on the sequencing of the record didn’t feel like the fit in to the larger whole and thus were relegated for future use. I think that is an important aspect of the making of this record too, was that we really wanted something that was cohesive and worked well as a whole thing. I think the songs that were left out would have been—I don’t know, they didn’t fit the character and the tone that we were trying to set with the record. They didn’t seem to fit into place in the overall—I guess you could say narrative—of the record.

I may be putting this a funny way, but there are a lot of songs on the record. You know, there’s only one instrumental. What happened?

Umm, I don’t really know (laughs). I think that with some parts of In The Absence Of Truth and definitely with Panopticon a lot of the compositions was born out of jam sessions basically where we just had these very loose ideas, and we just played them until they started to take shape. That was a useful process for us at that time, but I feel like this time around that we wanted to do something that was a little more tightly structured and wanted to have more complex arrangements and in order to achieve that we couldn’t really do the ‘compose by jam’ method. We had to start with a more concrete part and think very carefully about how they were to fit together. I think that, for us, felt a bit more satisfying than perhaps going a route that we had gone in the past.

So you would say that the record was a bit more premeditated?

I think so. And part of that again just had to do with the amount of time we spend working on it. I just think that that method of writing, where we would just work on a riff and let it grow sort of exponentially, had really run its course. And to be fully engaged with material the way we wanted to be, we had to make it more complex and more structured. And just for the sake of our own sanity was part of it. In a certain way, we’re locked into being who we are. There’s only certain parameters that we can operate in based on who the five members of the band are and what we all like and what we all see as being Isis. But that said, we also we feel like we can’t repeat ourselves, and we can’t just be content with being Isis as people have come to know us.

So even though there are elements of everything we have done in the past on the record, but hopefully that when you hear the record that it’s very clear that it’s Isis making music. In another way, I feel like it’s another really important aspect for our survival to push ourselves forward and try different ways of writing songs. So I guess that’s a long-winded way of saying that’s why the songs are more song-like this time around.