Saturday, December 12, 2015

An Interview with The Communion

NY's The Communion are no strangers to this blog; I discovered them this past May when they played with Antigama and DoC friends Buckshot Facelift, and their split with Helmsplitter was one of my recent Bandcamp Picks. I was immediately impressed with their take on grindcore, which eschews the usual crust and goregrind paradigms, drawing from influences as disparate as black metal and power electronics while retaining the genre's immediacy. Since they seem to enjoy my convoluted pontificating, I hit them up for an interview, which vocalist Nick Cacioppo answered in record time.

Dreams of Consciousness: What is The Communion?

Our closest approximation to what we believe underground metal should encompass in the areas of sound, structure, attitude, ethic, and aesthetic.

DoC: Please give a brief history of The Communion - what led you to forming, and what were your goals?

The Communion formed in late 2003. I joined in mid-2004. from what I could tell, the band formed out of casual desire to create something that best captured our passion for the past and present of underground metal in all its forms, and also out of a sickness within ourselves to plunge and purge all the most unpleasant and alienating thoughts/images from within our persons. We were all pretty much on the same page not just in our musical tastes, but also in our lifestyles, personality traits, and experiences with people/relationships/family. We all understood where the other was coming from, and that was refreshing for me after years of trying to get a band going only for it to fall apart cause I wasn't "regular" enough. That's one of the many things that keeps me here: The fact that my bandmates won't look at me like I have 32 spider-dicks coming out of 24 vagina-eyes when I tell them a song is going to be called "Gallstone Seedbed".

Early on, our goals were fairly meager: Write some songs, record some demos, play some shows, and see where it takes us. I always figured that was the way it was supposed to be done, but at the time (early 2000s), when Metal() was in the midst of a big commercial revival, you had an influx of former nu-metal kids who wanted to catch the wave, spending an inordinate amount of money on over produced conceptually inert full length releases, selling tickets to get on "big" shows, chasing some easy dream alongside people they can't stand. We were never about that. We never really thought anyone (labels we mean) would be interested in what were putting out there, so once that was removed from the equation, we were free to take it as far as we wanted, in any direction we wanted, and that's when we really found our niche.

DoC: How would you describe your approach to grindcore?

I think it's sort of a "classic" approach, maybe more so in its intent than the sound. What's most attractive about grindcore is that it's really a schizophrenic genre at its core. It pulls from death metal, black metal, punk, industrial, noise, hardcore, thrash, sludge, doom and creates these brief eruptive collages that at first seem overwhelmingly chaotic, but reveal themselves more and more with repeated listens. There's an even greater freedom lyrically; they can be political, pornographic, poetic, humorous, confessional, sometimes all at once. It doesn't have the aesthetic strictures found in other genres, where many are found to be slavish to the content and style of their influences rather than really exploring who they are and what they want.

DoC: Your song titles are pretty memorable. How do you come up with them?

Thank you very much. It's partially a bid for attention (why would we be here otherwise?), a way to make us stand out more, and also to better shape the personality of the music. I also spend much of my spare time reading weird books, watching fucked up movies, and that's where many ideas emerge. I also get a lot of ideas when scouring internet forums; I was reading a thread about American Horror Story on the Reeelapse forum, and someone made a post about the scene where Kate Mara (playing Dylan McDermott's pregnant mistress) got hit in the face with shovel, and the poster used the term "sidepiece". So that became "Pregnant Sidepiece Smashed in the Face With a Shovel", a track on our split w/ G.E.C.K. Something like "Hymen Balaclava" was something that I liked cause it can be taken a few ways. It can be a sex thing, a gore movie thing, a rebellious thing... I thought it produced some cool images. I was a little concerned about possible misogynistic connotations, but i don't wanna let that get in the way of a potentially interesting concept. If it's gonna happen, it's gonna happen.

DoC: Speaking of "Hymen Balaclava", there is a wonderfully surreal (and NSFW) for the song directed by Gretchen Heinel. How did this collaboration come about? What was the impetus behind the video?

Jimmy [Aly, guitars] brokered that one. He got in touch with Gretchen though Lee Bartow (Theologian). We were familiar with her art work, and especially her amazing videos that she had done for Batillus, Lord Mantis, Theologian, and others. We started talking about doing a video, cause it seems like they're becoming a useful promo tool again due to all these streaming video sites. She had this incredible concept that touched on classic surrealist themes about the re-arranging something that had been broken down violently. It reminded me of the fantastic book by Mark Nelson called Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder, which presents the theory that Elizabeth Short's killer was either influenced by the surrealist movement or directly involved with it. Gretchen's concept fit the lyrics of the song, which are about destroying oneself for the sake of another's creation.

DoC: Your Bandcamp page features a number of splits you've done over the years, including releases with The Kill and Winters in Osaka. How do you decide who you're going to release a split with? Do you prefer splits to stand alone releases? Out of the splits you've done, which do you think represents the Communion best?

We've been fortunate in that every band that's approached us about a split has been a band we've already been familiar with and admired with no limited enthusiasm, making the decision an easy one. As for preferring splits to stand alone releases, at the end of the day the content is what matters. We work as hard on a split as we do a stand alone release, so we don't really differentiate too much. Right now the best representation of us is the recent split w/ Helmsplitter, cause that's where we're at now and a good indicator of where we're headed.

DoC: Tell me about your split w/ Helmsplitter - how did you guys decide to work together?

We've been in touch with each other, doing trades and such, since Myspace. We've always been huge admirers of NOLA based underground metal bands, an admiration Helmsplitter shared, so we bonded over mutual influences like Soilent Green, Eyehategod, and the like. We reconnected a few years ago, after Helmsplitter had released their 2nd full length (their first for Horror Pain Gore Death Productions). That's when the split talk got more serious. since both groups were getting ready to hit the studio, we decided to let the split finally come to light. HPGD said they'd be interested in the release, so that also was greatly encouraging. The material from both bands is the best to date, covering a lot of ground; Helmsplitter with the cool 90s death/black metal vibe, and us with the scuzzy grind/sludge vibe.

DoC: When I saw The Communion in May, you joined my friends Buckshot Facelift for a tribute to Lee Altomare. For those who never had a chance to know him, would you mind saying a few words about Lee and what his loss meant for the Communion and the scene?

Lee Altomare was the founding member of the Communion and its main driving force until his untimely passing in 2010. He absolutely adored this music and the individuals who created it, and did everything he could to bring it to the area: Booking shows that other promoters wouldn't touch, creating this network we value to this very day. Beyond that, Lee was hands down the best friend any of us ever had. He pushed us, but never in a way that was suffocating or didactic. Thoughtful, personable, hilariously cynical yet encouragingly hopeful, he's never far from our thoughts. Even today, whenever we come up with something, we say to ourselves "would Lee dig this?"; and if not, we toss it.

DoC: Since I'm really out of the loop these days, who are 5 grind bands besides The Communion that I should know about?

1. BODDICKER: The most organically violent band I've heard since Watchmaker.

2. PINK MASS: How I wish every weekend would go distilled into raw grind.

3. ORGAN DEALER: Tighter than tight.

4. GOWL: Think Brutal Truth at their fuzzed out zenith crossed with the lyrical themes of Rectal Hygenics.

5. SLOW ERASE: Superunknowns from Poland. More should know.

DoC: What's next for The Communion?

The split release w/ Bastard Noise should finally see the light of day real soon, courtesy of Haunted Hotel Records. That whole release is a tribute to Lee Altomare, featuring the last song he wrote/recorded on our side, and an incredible dedication from BN on their side. We plan on hitting the studio real soon to capture the latest songs we've written (and a couple of cover tunes as well) for some other splits, then we'd like to get to work on a full length, get back out there with some shows/tours, and see where it all takes us.

Related to the Communion: Jimmy's power electronics project Swollen Organs will be releasing a full length titled Feelings About Gender Guilt Over Time on Annihilvs, and I've got some side projects in their infancy.

The Communion on Facebook

The Communion on Bandcamp