Insights from White Hills' Dave W

Sjimon Gompers

White Hills

by Natasjia Spierings

White Hills put up with our recent inquiries into their Thrill Jockey releases including Frying on this Rock, which was released yesterday, and last year's H-p1, all the way back to 2009's Heads on Fire. Frontman Dave W. shared the band's deep secrets behind the head exploding music and received our allegations of doom metal fascination and perhaps influence.

From the new Frying on this Rock; “Robot Stomp” is a return to face melting form with the 12 minute guitar dirge-equipped spray sounds and muffled crowd noise beneath the mix and eerie string seesaws. Is this a nightmare vision soundtrack for a robot rise and subsequent take over?

I see it as a song for the 9-5 crowd. Something to wake up to, that will put you in the right mood for the day that lies ahead.

I can't keep up with all the allmusic subgenres that people are pinning you to, but how are White Hills describing themselves outside the exhausted krau-metal adjective etceteras?

To me it's Space Rock. We rock and we like to space out!

What made you guys go for the spoken word element on “Song of Everything” in between shreds and shards of some great monster guitar abuse?

I wanted to try something different. It just came out one day when we were working on the song. At the time, I had been listening to Isaac Hayes for days on end. Ego thought it was great and pushed me to develop the idea more. Antronhy took it to another level with the pitch shifted delay when we were mixing the album.

There has got to be some kind of brutal story behind that mind bender “I write a Thousand Letters(Pulp on Bone).” Can you tell us?

It's a look inside the mind of someone with obsessive compulsive disorder. The music emotes the internal struggle one has with such a disorder to stop their ritual behavior.

Dumb question, but does last June's release of H-p1 refer to Heterochromatin Protein 1?

Only if…

If so I was going to say that is some crazy obsessive epigenetic adventures in album naming! You have a big following in Europe and even released Live at WFMU on cassette in Germany earlier this year. How did you initially break into the foreign markets?

When I started the band, Europe was where I decided I wanted to us go, so we just set our eyes across the pond and never looked back. I always felt that our music would be accepted there first, my gamble paid off. Also having Julian Cope behind you in the beginning helped a lot.

How was your European tour last October?

One of the best we've ever had!

Any highlights?

Wow…so many, where to begin. Supersonic, Den Bosch & Masstricht in the Netherlands, Sinister Noise in Rome and Sidro Club in Savignano sul Rubicone, The Orange Factory 14th Anniversary show in Leuven, Darmstadt, and list goes on…every show was interesting and unique. Never a dull moment.

Lowlights?

Having a day off.

Lots of big things happening with W. Hills, playing ATP, lots of album praise, playing with your heroes Mudhoney, continuing to make epic space jams, what will you and the band accomplish next?

That's a secret…when it happens people will definitely know about it.

On “Paradise” you let the sound of scorched, electric air provide their own vocal narrative for the twelve and a half minute track. What made you all decide to leave the singing to the effects on this epic track?

A head full of smoke.

Similarly on “Monument,” what are you using to make those buzzing effects that drip amid the back beat of thundering tribal percussion?

It is those same drums manipulated through various modulators. That was Antronhy's doing and done well I might add.

So tell us how in the hell you take a massive churn and burner like title track “H-p1” and edit it from 17:11 to uh, 4:20 for that pysched out video?

Actually there is a second half to the video that uses the rest of the track. It's still in development now. It's more dramatic and has taken a bit longer to get together than we first envisioned.

If we can skip back to your Heads on Fire album, I always wondered how do you determine what track will be a a 1 minute and 12 second banger like “Return of Speed Toilet” to the Mussorgskian “Night at Bald Mountain,” electric, foreboding, clocking-in-under-30-minutes doom odyssey “Don't Be Afraid?”

“Return of Speed Toilet” was a much longer track to begin with. Once recorded it just felt better stripped down to that length with only the guitar and bass tracks. Same with “Don't Be Afraid”. I initially envisioned that song as a complete release unto itself, spanning two sides of an LP. Then it just ended up with a good 15 minutes of it being cut off. Like I said earlier, we like to space out…sometimes those space-outs need to be reeled in to be effective.

I have always liked that Heads on Fire ends with the monstrous “Eternity” that is atypical of an album closer.

Yeah, I like the way that song comes from out of nowhere. We really haven't done a song like that since.

Lots of folks talk about comparisons between you and the legendary Bay Area band Sleep and I was wondering what your thoughts were on the doom metal phenomenon?

Hmmmm…the doom phenomenon. I have to say I've never really thought about it.

Would you tour on a shared ticket with Electric Wizard?

Sure! I've seen Electric Wizard before and they killed it.

Do you feel that you are bridging the gap between the metal heshers and indie rockers?

I don't think about such things. I'm just consumed with making the music that I want to make. For me it doesn't matter what scene a fan might subscribe to, what matters is that we are doing something musically that resonates with their being. That's the beauty of it and that isn't genre specific.

What will you all be doing for the 2012 big apocalypse?

Living.

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