Body Void: An Interview

Body Void are a band from New England via the Bay Area.

Had a chance to catch up with Willow from Body Void following the release of Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth on Prosthetic Records. Among other things, we chatted about early inspirations regarding political thought expressed in music.

Weirding: There are a lot of reviews and whatnot out there that seem to make a thing out of the lengths of your songs. Having spent a bit of time in the free improvisation and jazz world where no one bats an eye at a forty-five minute piece of music, I've been thinking about why it is that within the context of metal or loud music there seem to be a segment of the audience or the critical folks who seem obsessed with the idea that a ten-plus minute song is somehow impenetrable.

Willow: Thankfully in doom it seems like audiences are more accepting of long songs, but I do get why it might put some people off if they're more used to, say, OSDM. For us, we definitely don't set out to write long songs. On this album we tried to focus and tighten up the songwriting to make it not as sprawling and lengthy as stuff we've done in the past. But the tempos are slow, so part of it just comes with the territory. 

Weirding: So, as songwriters and as performers, how do you know when a song feels like it's the right length? What do you want the experience of that song to be?

Willow: Even with intentionally tighter songs we still want there to be a kind of journey to the music instead of a couple riffs just stitched together.

Weirding: Talk to me a bit about political ideas in music... but not your own. I'm actually interested in when you first realized that political ideas could be expressed in song.

Willow: Absolutely it was Rage Against The Machine. 

Weirding: Huh. Beyond the obvious, tell me why.

Willow: I love them just for their music — but their impact on me might be even more relevant as a gateway to leftist politics. I heard them early enough in my life that they might as well have invented speaking on political issues in music. 

Weirding: Yeah, I think that may have been the case for a lot of folks who had the opportunity to first hear them at an impressionable age.

Willow: My first high school band was basically a Rage Against The Machine rip-off band — politics and all. I think my experience with them as a formidable political force — not just as a band I liked — is probably true for a lot of leftists my age. To me, it’s what makes them so important beyond their specific brand of leftism. 

There's also something to be said about how frank and specific their politics were too. 

A lot of bands can communicate a general, slogan-heavy political message. Or they can communicate an energy in their music. But because Rage Against The Machine was basically hip-hop, they were able to reference a ton of things clearly in a way that made you dig deeper on your own. Especially on Evil Empire, which was always my favorite record of theirs.

Weirding: So, from the sound of the new album, Greg Wilkinson was a perfect choice to do the mix. I'm interested in why you chose to record the tracks in New Hampshire and then did the mix in Oakland.

Willow: We're originally from San Francisco and Greg recorded everything we did when we lived out there — but we moved to the east coast in 2019. The move — along with the pandemic — made it impossible to record with him for the third record, but we still wanted him to mix since after years of refinement together he just knows exactly how we want to sound. 

Weirding: So, both the sound and the approach worked out.

Willow: The whole situation kind of happened out of necessity, but we're really happy with the results and will probably stick to the same process going forward. We found out about Eric Sauter who engineered the record from Come To Grief and he was great to work with.

Weirding: You know, when you mention the effect of the pandemic on the logistics of recording… it seems like there might be something of a reset button on the music world. And maybe it’s going to have especially strong effects on underground artists as we begin to emerge from all of this. How are you thinking about live performances — either as a player or an audience participant? How are things different, if at all, now as compared to where things were a year and a half ago?

Willow: It's hard to say right now. I'm eager to get back to live shows and tours, but I definitely want it to be safe for everyone involved. I don't think we'll be in the first wave of bands who head out this summer. 

Earlier in 2021 I didn't think anything would be possible until 2022 — and that still might be the case. But there are some hopeful signs it could be earlier. I'm fully vaccinated, so I might attend something to see how it all plays out before we head out ourselves. I am curious if when things are completely safe again attendance will be noticeably different from the pre-pandemic world.



Willow Ryan: Guitar, bass, vocals

Edward Holgerson: Drums

Twitter: @bodyvoid

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