The recently released debut album called ‘Machine’ from Aztec Death, a talented post punk power trio (Michael – Bass, Trevor – Drums and Christopher – vocals/guitar) from the Dallas area, have brought a thrilling breath of fresh air to the all to often flat and repetitive deathrock genre with their personal, shoegaze influenced, reverbed and delayed sound and their excellent songwriting.
In a globalized era of ‘single way of thinking’, their anarcho, anti-establishment lyrics are a further challenging bonus.
Can’t wait, hoping it’ll be the same for you, to know more about them…
Please, let’s talk about the genesis of Aztec Death? How did you meet ? What attracted you? Which were your biggest influences that drove you to form a band?
Michael: Christopher and I are brothers. Trevor ran in a similar social group.
Christopher: I would go to shows and watch other people perform and it inspired me to create something of my own. In some of these instances I would look at Michael and say “Mike we could do better than that.”
I always liked darker sounding bands and thought they were pretty cool, so I wanted to be cool like those guys.
Trevor: I had known the two by way of social media and a mutual friend. I had an interest in becoming friends because of curiosity, and a similar interest in lots of music. I got Christopher to apply and work with me, and shortly after started jamming with the two. I was never even asked to join the band (to the best of my memory), I think I just assumed the position; funny. And the music wasn’t even a genre I had ever played or even listened to really, so I took it as a challenge as well. I had also met the guys one time before Christopher got the job with me, at a show that my old band was playing at.
When you look back at your childhood/ teenage years, do you remember when and where you started to get passionate about music and what were your early sources of inspirations?
Christopher: I picked up a guitar while at school and I was fiddling around with it when a teacher noticed. She asked me if I knew how to play guitar, to which I replied I did not. She then told me not to play unless I knew how to play guitar. I have since then spent the past 12 years not knowing how to play guitar, and fooling everyone.
Michael: In my teenage years I listed to bands like Interpol, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Bloc Party.
I remember a conversation when I was a sophomore in high school. I was asked what kinds of bands I liked by a friend. She asked me if I liked Fall out Boy, Panic At The Disco, and other bands. I said I didn’t like any of those bands. She told me I had no taste in music.
Trevor: For my childhood up until about 13 I didn’t have a specific music interest. But once I hit the teen age I had started to get into rock. I was raised on Pink Floyd, mainly. I had other interests like Steve Vai, Rush, along with whatever else my dad played. I found out my dad had been playing drums since like 1980, when I was like 12 or 13; I took them up in sophomore year of high school. I had gone head first into classic rock, learning from the best drummers in the genre, Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, John Densmore, John Bonham, Nick Mason and Ringo Starr. A lot or most of those guys had roots in Jazz, which really affected my playing tremendously. I was BIG into the Seattle Six (or so I call them) in high school. At the end of high school I had become a fanatic for Genesis, and still am. My taste is really odd because I had a set group of artists I listen to all the time and then I have a random stream of music I go in and out of.
You’re from the North of Texas area around Dallas, the first band that comes to mind is The 13th Floor Elevators…I mean most of Texan bands are mainly from Austin or Houston, is there a lively alternative underground scene around clubs/venues/records shops and some sort of community between artists?
Michael: There are a number of communities between Dallas and Denton, and we are a part of none of them.
Christopher: We like the Wardance Dallas events. And “San La Muerte” in San Antonio is pretty cool; but post-punk/dark shows aren’t very common.
Trevor: I think we are kind of black sheep in the scene. Our fans seem to be from elsewhere, but we do have some dedicated fans and friends here. Deadwax Records are fans of post-punk and metal, but besides that and Wardance events I don’t know where or who else makes up the community of “our” genre(s) . The folks at Josey Records have a keen interest in all music and seem to be a great purveyor of the Dallas scene.
How is an Aztec Death song composed? What is your working process like? Do the musical ideas always come first? Or is it bits and pieces of possible lyrics that eventually lead to composing a new track?
Christopher: The music always comes first. Lyrics come last.
I salvage whatever sound bits I like the best from tracks I’ve scrapped and try to represent their best elements in the tracks I keep.
Michael: Christopher will come to me with a song idea and a bass line he wants me to play. Often I will fiddle around with the chord progressions and look for ways to add variations. A good example is ‘Passengers’ where I start with the basic chord progression Christopher wanted and then throughout the song I add more and change rhythms. Or sometimes I look for places to build anticipation.
Trevor: Aztec Death is very much the brainchild of Christopher. He is the main song writer. For my parts he will have a song almost completely laid out, and will give me some of his thoughts on what my parts could sound like. I work with his ideas along with whatever comes out of me and what I feel the song needs. Sometimes his ideas are scrapped, sometimes it’s the basis of my part.
What attracted me straightaway about your sound, unlike most other bands, were the guitars which tend to drown out the vocals into a magmatic flow, is the overall balance and the crispness of the instruments with the voice in the foreground that recalled me some of my favorite 80’s bands, The Comsat Angels or Death Cult to name a few, and obviously The Cure. Please, could you better explain its origin, evolution and possible further developments?
Trevor: The way the vocals are mixed in the music is intentional. The lyrics are important to us and we want it to be heard and understood as much as possible.
Christopher: I want people to know the words. They’re packed tight with allusions, symbolism etc.
You have recently released your debut album ‘Machine’. Could you please explain its genesis and introduce it to our readers?
Christopher: I haven’t heard any good music from the Voluntaryists; I thought the ideology could use some better musical representation. Why not? We’re all anarchists ourselves.
‘Machine’ is a metaphor for government. It’s anti-military, anti-state, and a critique upon the sins of our fathers and every other state sponsored collectivist effort they pushed that limited the freedom of the individual. In some songs the subject matter is more obvious, in other songs it recalls historical parallelisms: the impending colonization of the new world by a new government (‘Passengers’, ‘Painted Eyes’), and the process by which governing states increase their power (‘Offerings’).
The album has excerpts from Rothbard‘s “Anatomy Of The State“. This book made me an anarchist.
Your lyrics have a strong anti-establishment connotation. I grew up listen to anarcho punk bands like Crass, Poison Girls, Conflict to name a few, they had, but I can easily affirm they still have nowadays, a profound effect on me as an individual.
Despite the fact you’re from a younger generation, did that heritage have any influence on you? How did anarchy come to convince you in a country where the capitalism is almost the only ideology generally accepted?
Trevor: I don’t believe any of us came from the musical side of anarchy. We were more interested in anarchy philosophically, and that’s also something that brought us together as a band; a common ground that we would base the music around. On the note of capitalism, nothing is more anarchist than capitalism and a free-market. Where the consumers decide what they want, and the producers of products and services cater to the consumers’ demands. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and it has no ruler. I think there was a lot of anarcho-punks who were not well educated in the philosophy of anarchism, because our brand (Voluntaryism) seems to be unpopular with current anarcho-punk bands, who definitely follow suit from the classics
Christopher: It did not. I wasn’t even aware of the amount of anarchist music. If it asserts individualism then it’s cool, and if it asserts the abolition of statism then it’s good. Anything beyond that and you will find disagreements between the different schools of anarchism.
I came to this ideology through moral criticism. A man cannot delegate rights he does not have, and the initiation of force upon peaceful people is immoral; a person cannot hold these things to be true but also subscribe to the idea that government is somehow legitimate but exempt from morality.
As far as capitalism and trading freely goes, I think that’s just the consequence of being free.
Michael: Trevor and Christopher are certainly more zealous of the philosophy than I am, but I generally agree.
In the 80’s the ‘public enemies’ were Thatcher’s and Reagan’s politics… privatizations, individualism, demolition of the welfare state and the working class and so on…Today nothing’s really changed, still have people homeless, cuts to social services, cruel meaningless wars everywhere almost seems a Charles Dickens’ nightmare… How do your lyrics reflect our current time? A dystopian future? Or is there any light at the end of tunnel?
Trevor: I think this is related to the last question, in that there are a lot of misconceptions about anarchism. Minimum wage, business regulation, nationalized currency, government subsidies, welfare, and TAXES are all to blame for the way the world is now.
Christopher: despite the historical references, the lyrics aren’t specific to any time period. This criticism of human action towards a larger and larger government is something echoed in the veins of history; and it always ends in peril. I think we would do better if we stopped stealing from each other and cooperated with one another through voluntary means. I think the light at the end of the tunnel is a society where the individual can express themselves socially and financially without an entity threatening them with violence.
The way we get there is by education, and I don’t mean public school. People need to realize that freedom is not extreme, control is.
During the last non-sense US ‘puppet theatre’ presidential campaign I was astonished and baffled to the support by many so called “punk’ or ‘alternative’ bands for an establishment champion of the financial/war lobbies like ‘Lady’ Clinton. What’s your opinion about it? As Murray N. Rothbard inspired readers, you’ll have another point of view I guess…
Christopher: I don’t vote. I am not comfortable with the idea that my views would be forced upon others.
Trevor: As Voluntaryists, we could not support any presidential candidate. We value principle (the NAP) over emotional and dangerous acts like voting. Everything the government mandates is backed by a threat of violence if you do not comply; like not paying taxes. This threat of violence is what Voluntaryists reject; coercion.
I have noticed that you are a hard-working live band, with heavy use of smoke too so as to build atmosphere!…What’s your favourite part about playing live? Can you remember your first gig as a band? Do you play any cover versions?
Trevor: I think one of the best things about playing shows is hearing afterwards from people that they couldn’t see anything. As far as the first gig goes, it went well, the music surprised a lot of folks. We played in west Dallas with the band Bustadelic at a house venue they ran. That was July 2015, the “ticket” is still sitting in my room gathering dust.
Christopher: Yeah we’ve played covers: we did one by The Cure and another one by Visage.
Michael: I go to more house shows than these two, and people will talk to me about how they enjoyed the fog and lights and how memorable the performance was. I enjoy seeing people dance to our songs. Sometimes when we warm up I’ll play ‘The Less I Know The Better’, and Christopher and Trevor always get annoyed. Makes me laugh.
What kind of old/new music are you listening to when you’re not creating your own one? Any interesting tips of new bands?
Christopher: Different things: The Magnetic Fields, Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus, The Replacements, Soft Kill, Wu Tang, Decima Victima.
I’ve recently gotten into local bands, and I’d say my favorites in Dallas-Fort Worth right now are Pinkish Black and Sub-Sahara.
Trevor: I am always exploring music, and I have Spotify and 91.7 KXT to thank for that. Nothing specific that I am listening to, just a hodge podge all the time.
Michael: I’m always listening to Beach House. I can be caught listening to Diarrhea Planet, Deafheaven, Father John Misty. I’ve had ‘Cool Kids’ by Shana Falana in my head since we played a show with them.
Many thanks for being our welcomed guests, just the last questions: hopes, plans and dreams for the future?
Christopher: This will not be my only contribution to music. I am young, and I am able.
Photo credits: Aaron Mireles (1st & 3rd one), El Hicks (2nd one) & Ryam Young (4th one)