Wovenhand | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Oct 01, 2006 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Offering the dark and ominous counterpoint to Danielson’s celebratory avant-pop and Sufjan Stevens’ studious craftsmanship, Wovenhand is the Sounds Familyre label’s most unfortunately overlooked act. Recorded in the dead of winter, Mosaic continues former 16 Horsepower leader David Eugene Edwards’ fascination with all things brooding and solemn, again using a mix of deeply haunted Eastern European sounds to illustrate his private world of regret and repentance. Portions of this interview appeared in the Fall 2006 issue of Under the Radar; the following is the full transcript of our interview with Edwards.

Under the Radar: So what was the recording process like for Mosaic?

David Eugene Edwards: I took a little more time than normal. I did it over a period of maybe a year and a half, recording different things at different times and different places. That was a bit different than normal. Once again, it was mainly just me and the engineer in the studio. Ordy [Garrison] would come in a play drums, and different people would come in at different times. I went about it the same way that I normally do, I guess. Just the pattern of it was different.

UTR: Was there any reason to chose to spend a little more time on this one?

Edwards: That’s just the way it worked out, and I wasn’t really in a hurry. I just wanted to make it the way it should be, and I wasn’t really worried about when it was going to come out. I just took my time.

UTR: Did you have specific goals for this record?

Edwards: No—not other than making a record that I was satisfied with. That’s usually my only goal—to make it good enough to hopefully put out there. I just tried to finish what I started, as far as my ideas for the record. Hopefully I was able to do it.

UTR: This album was recorded during the winter. Do you think that has any influence on the way that it sounds?

Edwards: I’m sure it does. I think a lot of the moods of it have that element to it. Just from what I was reading at the time and the music that I was listening to. It’s hard to say exactly how much of an influence it had.

UTR: Do you conceptualize how you want an album to sound before you go into the studio? Or does it all sort of happen once you get there?

Edwards: I have certain ideas. They’re fairly vague, but at the same times I have a definite idea, though it’s a vague idea. Sometimes it changes, and that’s to be expected. Nothing ever turns out exactly the way you want it to. I have certain ideas, certain instruments, certain sounds, certain moods that I want to get across. Whether or not that gets across—it’s all subjective in that way, because everybody hears things differently.

UTR: So you recorded with a hurdy gurdy this time? Had you used that before?

Edwards: Yeah, I used it on Low Estate [a 16 Horsepower album from 1997] actually. I’ve had it since then. I’ve played it on and off. I’ve used it on all of the Wovenhand records in some way or another. This time I used it a little more prominently.

UTR: Is it a difficult instrument to play?

Edwards: Not so much to play as it is to get ready to play. It’s a very temperamental instrument, and all of the conditions have to be right for it to work right. The strings, and the wheel, and the way it’s tuned—it’s quite temperamental in that way. But once it’s tuned and rolling, it’s not so hard to play.

UTR: So you also adapted a chant from St. Ambrose for the song “Twigs.”

Edwards: Yeah. I think it’s called a plainsong more than a chant. It was written in the third or fourth century by St. Ambrose. I just really liked the imagery that he used and thought it would be nice set to some music.

UTR: Do you look to those sorts of sources for inspiration very often?

Edwards: I do. I don’t look to them for inspiration; I just look to them because I’m interested. Then I do get inspired by certain things and I don’t really know exactly why. I read a lot of theology and do a little bit of research on people in history—different preachers and theologians—and I sometimes stumble across things that affect me, I guess.

UTR: Do you think this record has a different character than the other two Wovenhand records?

Edwards: Yeah. I think all of them have a different character. Of course, there’s something similar, since it’s me moaning about something, but they all have a fairly distinct character. Each one is quite different.

UTR: Would you say that Mosaic is a little less meditative than Consider the Birds?

Edwards: Yeah. I think it’s a little more aggressive, in every way, really. I’ve heard different reviews where people say that it’s more subtle than Consider the Birds, which I don’t really agree with. To me, it’s a little more direct and aggressive.

UTR: Was that an intention before you recorded it?

Edwards: I think that was just the mood I was in, not something that I intended—just where I was at.

UTR: Making albums must be a lot different than making them with 16 Horsepower.

Edwards: Not really. When I created music with 16 Horsepower, I created it on my own at home, and I would bring it together with the other two guys and play it for them. Maybe I’d have an idea for what they could do or they’d come up with something on their own, and toward the end they’d bring in songs as well, and we’d arrange them together. That’s basically the way I do it now. I think it’s more of my ideas, because I have a lot of ideas. But at the same time, the people that I play and work with, I let them do what the want to do most of the time.

UTR: Do you find that your audience today is similar to that of 16 Horsepower?

Edwards: Well, I think when we first came out the whole alternative country thing was just getting rolling and we didn’t really fit in there, but we sort of fit in there and some people accepted us as part of that. But 16 Horsepower really started to stray from there and we were on the outside of that world and steadily increasing in that way. I think I’ve kept a lot of fans and lost a lot, but I’ve gained new ones for different reasons. I think it changes all the time, but at the same time, there has always been a steady core group of people that like what we do.

UTR: Have you noticed an influx of people who don’t know about 16 Horsepower?

Edwards: Oh yeah, I meet people all the time who don’t even know who 16 Horsepower is. They’ve never heard of it, and it’s not until they get deeper into Wovenhand that they find out about it. That’s happening more and more.

UTR: How about people that just know you through your association with Sounds Familyre or Danielson—things like that?

Edwards: Because Sufjan [Stevens] is so huge at the moment, I’m sure that brings eyes to my music and Danielson’s music that wouldn’t normally come there. Not to say that they’re going to like it, but they’re exposed to it.

UTR: Do you think people sometimes miss the hope in your music because it’s presented in a dark way?

Edwards: It’s possible, yeah. I think so. I think people expect a band or musician that is a believer [in God] to, in every song and every time, encapsulate everything. The struggle, the “this is what you need, this is what needs to happen, and this is what will be the outcomes of that”—the whole story. I’m not a preacher. I’m just a musician. I’m a music-maker, and I sing about what I believe in. Sometimes I’m only singing about a certain aspect of something, and sometimes that’s a situation with no hope. Maybe there is no hope in a certain situation in a song that I’m singing, to my knowledge. Lord only knows where the hope is. But, yeah, I can see how someone wouldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. But maybe they will see it somewhere else, but they needed to see the darkness for me, first.

UTR: It seems that your music offers redemption at the same time.

Edwards: Well, of course. That’s what it’s all about. The whole reason for hope and redemption is because of this darkness. If you don’t know you’re sick, you don’t go to the doctor, as the Bible says. That’s what I consider my job, to let people know how sick they are.

UTR: So you’re going to tour this material this fall?

Edwards: I leave on tour Tuesday with my friends Serena Maneesh, from Norway. I’ll be opening up for them solo. It will be the new songs, but it’s just me. Every time we try to set up a tour in America, it’s like, “Now isn’t a good time. No one’s going to come see you. There’s no money. None of the clubs know who you are.” It’s just an endless nightmare trying to get anywhere in America. We don’t really have anybody that’s positive about the future of the band other than the record company. I don’t think anyone really believes in it other than the record company and the band itself.

UTR: So you’d say that you’re much more warmly received in Europe than in the United States?

Edwards: Oh, completely.

UTR: Why do you suppose that is?

Edwards: I don’t know. It has just always been that way. It was that way with 16 Horsepower, and it’s that way with a lot of bands, really. I see bands all the time, like Giant Sand or Calexico—they do well in America, but in Europe they do twice as well. And they spend a lot of time over there. There’s a lot more support of the arts there, in general. A lot of the clubs that you go to, they’re supplied money by the government for the arts. So the people that work there like their jobs and they aren’t trying to thwart you at every turn. When you want a glass of water or something. It can be really bad in America. People are hostile to you when you come in as a band.

UTR: Have you been pretty well received in the Eastern European countries?

Edwards: Yeah, we do really well. This will be the farthest we’ve gone east. It’s fantastic in Budapest or the Czech Republic, eastern Germany, Scandinavia; different places, different towns.

UTR: Do you think they gravitate toward the Eastern European elements in your music?

Edwards: I think they’re happy that we do give it some respect, that we’re interested in it. I think that’s a draw for them, but I’m sure it’s much more than that.

UTR: So how did you get to know the folks in Serena Maneesh?

Edwards: Well, when we were touring as 16 Horsepower through Norway and Sweden, each time I’d run into Emil Nikolaisen, the leader of the band. They would always come to the shows, and we’d end up talking after the shows. So we struck up a friendship, and I ended up seeing them every time we’d come through town. Then I did a tour with Daniel [Smith] and Sufjan and Emil—we did a Scandinavian tour for a month, just us all playing solo.

UTR: Are there any more updates on the collaborative album with Daniel Smith?

Edwards: [Laughs] No. We haven’t had any time. Everybody is so busy at the moment.



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