Exposure: Black Sun
Black Sun - Code Black (Steel Rain)
Black Sun are a trio of Glasgow musicians, who collectively, are purveyors of brutally intense noise and slow-grooving metal carnage that is not to be taken lightly. Bridging the gap between experimentation in sound and pounding riffs, Black Sun have existed under the radars of many for a good few years now. However, with a new album on the way as well as a slew of high profile performances in the works - including a slot at the Hinterland Festival - it would seem the band are now in good stead to bring their blinding noise to a wave of new listeners. To let you know exactly what you're in for, here's drummer, and founding member Russell McEwan.
How did Black Sun come about? How did you meet?
I formed the earliest version of Black Sun (Machine) as a solo sample based project ten years ago. I then recruited Kevin Hare for some guitar. It was hiring Graeme Leggate for bass guitar that drove me back to the kit and created the seeds of the Black Sun sound today. The three of us are the burning core of Black Sun. We use the occasional collaborator but always seem to return to the three‐piece again. I owned a video production company in Oatlands in the Gorbals in Glasgow – a fucking Warzone with burning houses and people bleeding on the streets ‐ and Kevin came to us on placement from University at the time. We started jamming and quite soon after decided it was worth pursuing. Graeme was the younger brother of one of Kev’s mates and ditched his dreadlocks and flying ‘V’ guitar for his self‐styled ‘Sunsonic Boomstick’ bass guitar shortly after joining. The only ideology we adhere to is exploration of our sound. We write sections of songs and bring them to the practice room to be played and played and played. Just to see how they survive. We pummel them into the ground and anything shaky or otherwise does not make the cut. The gauge we use is how excited we are about playing any given song. The concept of a Black Sun is ancient and widespread; if you worship that glowing ball in the sky then it fits that it’s reverse would be a Black Sun. The direct reference I used was the biography 'Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby' by Geoffrey Wolff about the poet and heir of one of the richest banking families in New England and his dramatic self destruction. I found it in the Govanhill Library in Glasgow. Those two words ‘Black’ and ‘Sun’ are now tattooed upon my very soul. There is a weight to the band’s name that presses upon us and unifies us. There is only Black Sun.
Were any of you in bands before? Perhaps even of differing styles?
I’ve been playing in bands for 30 years. I began drumming and touring in Scottish Pipe Bands when I was a kid. So far I’ve played with industrialists Test Dept, artschool rockers Cylinder with painter Tony Swain, krautrocking car crash Macrocosmica with Brendan O’Hare, Frances McKee of Vaselines and most recently I created Atomized with Lea Cummings of Kylie Minoise. Atomized’s debut album (Raped) ‘Hits of the 80’s’ will be released by Lea’s Kovoroxsound label spring/summer 2009. Kevin played with stoner rockers Lotus Lounge before Black Sun. He also has an embryonic classic doom metal side project called Resonance at the moment. He has almost completed his studies in sound production and he’s recording quite a range of artists and music at the moment. He’s really getting into it and the demos for Black Sun’s new album are really promising. As we want to really push our boundaries in the recording side of the new album we will be taking the demo round Europe & the UK with us to secure serious investment in Black Sun and the album which must be recorded. Black Sun is Graeme’s first band. Graeme is a semi professional eight ball pool player. Graeme often strategically ‘loses’ pool games on tour to the locals just in case things turn ugly.
What would you say has inspired the noise created by Black Sun?
It is the live performance that interests us most in Black Sun. All the releases and merchandise is our vehicle towards playing more and wider afield. I like to think that we are communicating further with every show we play and we are connecting deeper with our audience and friends. I like a band to engage me as intensely as they can and for their stage presence to be as dynamic as possible.
What do you aim for when writing your music?
I aim for groove in what we do in Black Sun. It has to move my body and my mind. Lyrically too. It really has to flow for me. Being a big fan of pop music and its very early roots in gospel and prison work song I am aware of pop’s structure and I also love the call and response feel as well as chants.
What response would you like your live show to have on the audience?
We aim for incredibly physical experiences in Black Sun: the guitar and bass are tuned down and I use tom rhythms, which create that thud in the solar plexus. We’re not here for your entertainment. Our shows should resonate in your core like echoes. It’s like sex: it starts off in the mind but it gets very visceral in a short space of time. We’re not going to rush when we’re fucking.
What are your plans for the coming months? Any releases on the cards?
We have the ‘Code Black’ split 7" single with They Are Cowards (Manchester) released by At War With False Noise records and we’ve just completed the demos for new album ‘Twilight of the Gods’ which we intend to record once again at Riverside Studios in Glasgow with Duncan Cameron. Duncan recorded 'Paralyser' 12" Vinyl (also released by At War With False Noise) and we were very pleased with the results indeed. We’re gearing up for a run of very interesting dates with Unearthly Trance (NY) and Ramesses (UK) before heading to Roadburn Festival 2009 in Tilburg, Holland playing with such luminaries as Neurosis and St Vitus. We are currently collaborating with Eugene Robinson of psychotic blues rockers Oxbow (SF) for the new Black Sun album and we will play a song with Eugene at Roadburn. Hinterland is very interesting in its range of indie to heavy and I hope that I can catch some of the other bands although I think we’re on the road. I’m a big fan of iLIKETRAINS. Black Sun also play the UK Deathfest in Leeds with Vader & Repulsion. I then travel to the Supersonic Festival 2009 Birmingham UK where Atomized and Kylie Minoise play with Corrupted (JP), Thorr’s Hammer (LA), Head of David (UK) and Scorn (UK). I will also be playing onstage with one of my all time favourites Jarboe of 1980’s no‐wave Swans (NY) in interpretations of her current album ‘Mahakali’.
These days, Glasgow bills are frequently littered with noise events. Do you think there's a strong following for this kind of musical output?
I hate heads-down-solo-guy-with-a-laptop kind of harsh noise. I know it probably comes from a minimal purity in a church of noise kind of aesthetic but I couldn’t give a fuck about it. However, I saw Merzbow in Glasgow at the Instal festival and there was plenty of drama. I set up his backline as I was working at the Arches at the time and with the high black stage, black backdrop, lots of black Marshall amplification and Merzbow with his black hair in a darkened hall over 70 minutes it was captivating. Otherwise I imagine the average domestic noise guy is emailing his mammy during the gig. Kylie Minoise is the exception though. I love Lea’s spastic frenzied performances and I need a show when it comes to noise. I also need four pints of Stella Artois to attain the correct headspace for it. I enjoyed Skullflower at Glasgow Implodes 4. There was a melancholy overtone to the grind mixed with incense creating a very favourable mood indeed.