author PP date 05/05/09

Email interviews are always a bit tricky to write because the questions have to be formulated in a way that they cannot be answered with a yes/no type of an answer, and at the same time they actually have to make sense so that the person answering isn't confused by the question and can give a good answer. This interview with Mike Gallagher from post metallers Isis turned out quite well in the end, with plenty of long and interesting answers coming out of it. The band's latest album "Wavering Radiant" has just been released so Mike had a lot to talk about it. Hi and thanks for doing this interview. Could you please start off by introducing yourself to the readers, and giving an update on what’s going on in Isis at the moment?
Mike: Hello, my name is Mike Gallagher. Currently Isis is recovering from jetlag that is a result of our recent show in Tokyo and getting ready for our U.S. tour that starts in about two weeks. You’ve just released a new album called “Wavering Radiant”. How do you feel about it? Was it a difficult album to write?
Mike: I feel that this record represents our “sound” better than any of our previous releases. I know that almost every musician will tell you that their most recent work is their favourite, or best to date. But I’m willing to live that clichÈ by saying that is my favourite.

Yes it was a difficult album for us to write, but there were also things that enabled us to work more effectively on this record than our last release. In particular, we were all living in the same city while writing this record, which was not the case with the last record that we did. As you would imagine, all of us being in the same location helped because we could all work together more effectively in the shaping and refining of these songs. We were also able to take more time with the construction. In the past we had always set a date to record when we were about halfway done with the writing process, which can lead to rushing things toward the end. This time we didn’t book studio time until the writing was just about complete, and because of that we were able revisit some parts that weren’t quite gelling and adjust them so they truly felt complete. How does an Isis song come together for an album like this one?
Mike: Usually songs come together one of three ways. The first being someone brings some parts or a skeletal idea of a song to practice and we all work on it until it comes together. Or one of us will bring just a riff to the table and we will all see where it takes us. Other times we’ll just jam on something and if we can come up with anything interesting. With this last approach we’ll often have to record the “jam” and go back and pick out ideas that will work for us. How does “Wavering Radiant” stand against previous Isis output in your opinion?
Mike: I feel that the sound of the record is more “live” and raw than our past records. To me, it sounds more like an Isis show, which is something that we had discussed amongst ourselves and with Joe, the producer. It is also my opinion that the song writing is a bit stronger on “Wavering Radiant”. I think that gets back to what I mentioned earlier about being able to take a little more time with writing the songs. The album’s 7 songs are divided into 2 song sections labelled as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2 and D. Can you tell me a little bit about the reason for the different sections and how they should be interpreted by the listener?
Mike: That’s because “Wavering Radiant” is out on vinyl now. It’s a double LP so the letters stand for the four sides of the records and the numbers are the order of the songs on the corresponding side (or letter). Tool’s Adam Jones appears on two tracks on the record. How did this collaboration come about? Did he partake in writing the sections he appeared on? How would the album have sounded different if Jones wouldn’t have contributed?
Mike: Aaron Harris keeps in touch with him pretty regularly and when Adam heard that we had booked studio time he approached Aaron saying that he was interested in adding some sounds to a song or two. The songs, and their structure, were completed before he wrote and added his parts. So while his contribution adds a lot of great atmosphere to the songs, without it, the structure of songs would remain the same. On your first four albums you were working with producer Matt Bayles, but on the new record you’ve worked with Joe Barresi instead. How come you decided to change from a long-time producer? How was the recording/production process different this time around?
Mike: We thought that it would be a good idea to involve someone new to get some fresh perspective on what we do. Joe is very skilled at what he does and he was able to capture more of our live sound. With him we didn’t spend as much time trying to get a clinically perfect performance, it was more about how our performances were feeling and how it fit into the rest of the song. Can you tell us a little bit about the artwork of the record? It seems that there’s a psychedelic element to it?
Mike: The artwork was conceived and drawn by Aaron Turner. The general tone of the imagery is meant to fit with both the music and lyrical content of the record. I feel that both of these elements are somewhat psychedelic and dreamlike and I do think that the artwork does capture those elements. I’m not trying to be evasive, but it is difficult to discuss the artwork in detail while not to divulging the concept of this release. The band is leaving the interpretation of the conceptual content of “Wavering Radiant” to the listener this time around. It seems like rather than us spoon-feeding what “Wavering Radiant” is supposed to be about, it might mean more to a listener to derive their own conclusions and opinions about what it means to them after listening to it. The new record was released first on limited vinyl and a few weeks later on CD, whereas usually it’s the other way around. Are you guys big vinyl-fans or was it just a label decision? Which format brings the best listening experience for “Wavering Radiant”?
Mike: Most of us are very enthusiastic about vinyl and we thought having vinyl available first might be interesting to people that share our enthusiasm for the medium. As for which experience might be better, I feel that the vinyl does actually sound better. I don’t think that is always the case that records sound better than CDs but with this release I think that this holds true. I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the recent years, partly helped by the internet phenomena, where younger fans are increasingly prone to appear as if they had the ADD syndrome when it comes to music. It seems that their attention-spans are geared for 2-3 minute songs before they feel the need to skip to next song or band. How do you see Isis succeeding in this context? Do you feel that you are able to catch and grab the attention of some of these individuals?
Mike: I do generally agree with this sentiment, but I’d like to think that an individual is able to give himself or herself to a band, musician or record that they are interested in. My experience with people that really enjoy our music is that they seem willing to sit down and let the music kind of take them away from their day or whatever is going on in their life and hopefully this takes them to a mental state that they find enjoyable. Some of my favourite records do that for me so I am glad that some people are able to derive that kind of experience from Isis. In July you’ll be playing here in Denmark at the famous Roskilde Festival. There’s a whole lot of stages and bands playing at the same time. Can you give us a compelling argument why fans and especially people who aren’t that familiar with Isis should come and check out your show? What should the fans expect from the performance?
Mike: That’s hard to say, there are a lot of great bands playing there. I just hope that those who are either fans already or even mildly curious enjoy themselves. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions and good luck on your forthcoming tour. Is there anything else you’d like to add for the fans and the readers?
Mike: Hope to see you soon, Thanks.

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