But most likely you know him because of Lumbar, a now famous one-off project with Tad Doyle (TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth) and Mike Scheidt (Yob) that featured Aaron on all instruments and Tad and Mike sharing the vocals because Aaron was unable to as he was fighting MS and (as Mike explains) sometimes lying on the ground after a day of recording. Not only his music but his other outlets, especially sports, have also helped Aaron survive as he says it.
Another anchor is his spirituality, although he doesn’t see himself as religious in the western sense for he adopted the values and lifestyle of the Hare Krishna belief in his younger years and still keeps in touch with some Krishnas like Rob Fish, for example. Moreover, he clearly disdains Christendom and its history of crusades and bloodshed.
Clearly, he is a workaholic in it for the art, not for the buck; however, he definitely has a good sense of humor as he is currently working on a Weezer (!!!) cover record – well, covering Soundgarden and Black Flag certainly makes up for this one detour into pop music.
All of this and much more is part of this extensive interview with Aaron that was conducted via email. You will find a list of links on where to catch up with him and all his musical projects at the end of the page.
A: For sure, I’m always busy… lots of music released this year, including: the Process Black “Countdown Failure” EP, the Ramprasad “Tsuris” LP, the Canyon of the Crescent Moon “All Hail the Holy Grail” full length, four separate Man of Multnomah EPs, the Hellvetika “Complexity” and “Simplicity” EPs. And, early next year, a new Bible Black Tyrant release. I’m almost done with a Weezer cover record and a Black Flag cover record too. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few—and, that’s just the music! That doesn’t cover breaking my neck in one bicycle accident and fracturing my pelvis in another. I left a long-time job and started a new one. Lots happened in 2019!
A man of your very different output has to answer the following questions – which are your five favorite records ever?
A: That game is just too difficult to play, haha. I’ll throw out my favorite bands of different genres: Yob, Fugazi, Iron Monkey, Converge, Nick Drake.
(note of the author: seemingly everybody has a knack for Nick Drake!)
When you announced Process Black’s 7” on Deathwish Records, you said that this was a dream come true for you. So how did it happen that it happened now?
A: Brock and I created the music many years ago, I sent the tracks to Tim and he recorded vocals over them. We released a demo on BandCamp way back, Deathwish asked if they could release the tracks as a 7” a few months ago… of course we agreed. Working with Brock is fantastic, his drumming is so dynamic. Working with Tim was special because I’ve always thought of him as one of the most interesting vocalists out there. They way he winds up a phrase is really spectacular. I’ve also always respected Jake and Deathwish as well… dream come true, for sure.
Are there are other labels that you would love to publish on?
A: How about Sub Pop!
Why Sub Pop?
A: Because it was THE record label that introduced me to rock music heavy enough to hold my interest, attention and curiosity. The radio had lost me for many years prior, grunge gave me hope again.
You spoke about Ramprasad in connection to your disease – could you first quickly tell the reader what disease you suffer from?
A: I have Multiple Sclerosis and it mostly causes pain in my hands. It’s made drumming impossible (which is why I’ve been using programmed drum machines for some releases). Playing guitar was only possible after a six year break after my diagnosis, once properly medicated on 14 pills per day. The first live band situation after that break was with David, in our band Ramprasad. We released all of our written music as an EP and an LP… I would call the collection of material my greatest accomplishment as a songwriter and performer. Huge for me, mostly because I wasn’t sure I’d ever play guitar again after my onset of MS. It was emotional on every level.
Why is that material for you the greatest accomplishment for you?
A: Because it was the first musical endeavor that included other band members after my six-year hiatus after being handed my MS diagnosis. It was my return to playing in a live scenario. It was the very first time I could physically play guitar for more than five minutes at a time, finally having my pain managed by the correct medication and doses.
When talking about Tsuris, Ramprasad’s record, I first noticed that it was instrumental – was that a deliberate decision?
A: It was. My life has been so dark since my MS diagnosis—I’ve released other lyrical outlets with my pain and sorrow—but I wanted to leave Ramprasad without that bleak coloring with vocals. Coloring the heavy music with pain was unnecessary. […] It needed to be interesting enough to “move” without vocals as an added layer.
While listening to it, I had the idea of an Indian chant, a kind of raga – did you try to purvey that impression?
A: Makes sense! There is flow and a hypnotic vibe for sure.
We already spoke about Ramprasad and the meaning behind the term – do both of you share a belief in Hare Krishna values? Since when have you been a follower and how did that happen?
A: Neither of us are Hare Krishnas, though I still very much consider myself attached to the eastern philosophy. It’s hard to turn that off when you lived in and out of temples for eight years of your early adult life. David and I are both “spiritual people” in our different ways, but we are also very much apposed to the Christian ideology, specifically. Our band name is borrowed from Indian folklore, Ramprasad was a giant war elephant.
108 – a Krishna-core band that devoted their output to bringing those ideals to the world – how do you see bands like that? Bands that use their status to bring across religious ideas as hardcore was always a more or less non-religious kind of music even though it shares a lot of principles with various religions?
A: I suppose I have no disdain for any band that has religious values, because everything in life should become lyrics. That’s what bands do: share ideas and opinions. As far as groups like 108 and Shelter go, I know members in both. 108’s Rob Fish was even in my wedding, I love him dearly and we recorded a strange, raw record under the name Eshas. We are working on a new project as I type this interview.
Would you say that you are opposed to Christian ideology or to the Roman church?
A: More wars have been fought in the name of the Christ. More blood spilled. More hatred unleashed under the banner of a cross.
Now, Bible Black Tyrant – something totally different from all of your outputs, again. Is that a kind of inner drive to try out every musical style imaginable?
A: The first single just got released for our upcoming Bible Black Tyrant record, you can find it as well as our first release via the Argonauta Recs. Social media, etc. Bible Black Tyrant is my lyrical rage, it’s my outlet for fear and pain. The riffs and messages are pretty hateful and heavy. I love working with Tyler, as his drumming is soo primal.
How far does your hate and anger go when recording Bible Black Tyrant material? Can you turn it on and off – or is it part of your being during the whole recording process?
A: It’s just my current release of frustration, my other projects are more meditative and controlled. I can turn it off but fear and anger eventually bubble back to the surface.
Which other trips into other genres can we expect – would you consider doing a noise record Melvins-style? Dark country like William Elliott Whitmore?
A: Certainly! And I’ve already released dark country, as well as western soundtrack material under the name Man of Multnomah.
You were the art director for Southern Lord Records – how did that happen?
A: Greg and I have know each other through the metal scene for a long time and, though we were never close, we appreciated each others craft. It was an absolute honor to receive an email and then call about him asking me to move from Seattle to LA and work for him. In the first 15 years of the label’s history, he had never had a dedicated, in house designer before me. It was, by far, the best art director job I’ve held, but I missed the Northwest and so I moved back up to Portland, OR.
Whenever I listen to most of the Southern Lord output I have the impression of grim reapers never smiling once. But then I hear that you have been contributing to a Weezer cover record. How do those two poles work? And of course, I must ask, Weezer?!?!
A: Haha. Yeah, I wanted to do slower and heavier versions of their songs. I don’t listen to pop music, but I do love that band. I’ll also do a collection of sludgier Soundgarden songs too.
What do you think draws people to tape cassettes again at the moment? Because sound wise the medium is not the best, right?
A: Yeah, I personally prefer digital, less garbage in landfills. Cassettes, CDs and vinyl are just more things to collect. But, as long as I create and spread my art, there will always be those who need physical formats. And, when a record label pays for said formats that people want—as an artist—it’s not always easy to say no. Even for me, who collects no physical formats of music... at all.
Can you live from all your musical endeavors - recording, producing, designing?
A: Not at all. It’s passion and not profit. Even when I make a few bucks, those bucks go right back into making more art.
Let’s get back to your personal life again. You had an exhibition lately of pictures of your cycling experiences. Would you like to do that again? Maybe, also something to do with another kind of sport?
A: It was well received, I’m seriously honored and humbled. I’d certainly like to do more shows, I have thousands of photos.
Were your sports activities some kind of outlet to let of steam, maybe having the same kind of effect that music has?
A: Running and cycling have literally kept me sane. Without a physical outlet, I’d have swallowed a grenade by now.
Last question – you are originally from the East Coast, why did you move to Portland?
I’m originally from D.C. and Philly, moved to the West Coast in 1997… I wanted a more laid back lifestyle, one with less brutal Summer/Winter temperatures too.
Aaron, thank you very much for your time, hope to hear a lot more of you and maybe see you on European stages some time!
A: And I thank you so much for this interview, it is so incredible that you have an interest in my music, and my life in general. May peace be with you brother.