Sight and sound are two aspects of art which go hand and hand with each other. Josh Graham is a music video director, art director, designer, editor, artist, and a musician. He has conducted work with everyone from Soundgarden to Jay Z. In 2003 he was an key writer in the music of post rock band Red Sparowes. After 3 successful years in the scene with Red Sparowes, Graham decided to challenge himself in a new project entitled A Storm Of Light. With 4 full length albums to A Storm Of Light’s credit, they now unleash Nation Of Flames upon the earth. Recently we sat down with the multi talented artist Josh Graham for an in depth look at his artistic visions, the idea behind Nation To Flames, movies, and so much more.
Crypticrock.com – You have been involved in music for many years now as a visual artist and musician. You worked with Neurosis and Battle Of Mice, you were one of the founding members of Red Sparowes. Was it a difficult decision for you in 2008 to leave Red Sparowes to explore the project of A Storm Of Light?
Josh Graham – Yea, it was definitely difficult. The band sort of began one group of people then transited into different groups. We didn’t really get along very well, and I was sort of losing interest in that format of music. While initially Storm Of Light started as an outlet from Red Sparowes, I just became more interested in exploring that side of things.
Crypticrock.com – A Storm Of Light is different than Red Sparowes in the aspect that A Storm Of Light has vocals where Red Sparowes was strictly instrumental. You are the mastermind behind A Storm Of Light providing vocals, lyrics, guitars, and keyboards. How is this project different for you?
Josh Graham – This is totally different, Red Sparowes was like a 5 person democracy. All the music was written in a room basically battling each other trying to create a song out of everyone’s ideas. It worked really well in some regards, in a lot of regards it was frustrating because it took so much time to actually finalize things. There were so many different inputs. A Storm Of Light basically works totally as a collaborative effort, but it basically starts from ideas I’ll lay down with guitars and vocals. Then our drummer Billy Graves and Domenic Seita will bring ideas into that and the songs will change from there. We all live in different parts of the country so it happens very interestingly. I will send an idea out, get a full song back with drums and that will change the way I think about how the song is. I will re-write some stuff, re-edit the song, and end up sending it back to Billy. He will end up working on it some more and then Domenic will come in and write stuff. Sometimes it will get edited again based on something he comes up with. It’s a totally different experience. We are definitely using today’s technology I guess to the fullest (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – It sounds so because you are all in different places. Of all your musical projects you’ve been a part of over the years do you feel as a Storm Of Light fulfills your artistic vision most?
Josh Graham – Yes, I think so. I was in a lot of different stuff. I am actually doing some weird folk Americana stuff on the outside of this. This band is basically the focus and this new record and is definitely my favorite. It’s probably our best collaborative effort as a band. In the long run I feel it’s the best and most complete representation of what I want to be doing.
Crypticrock.com – The band released their debut album in 2008 entitled And We Wept The Black Ocean Within, releasing their follow up album Forgive Us Our Trespasses in 2009, and then As Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade in 2011. Now your new record Nations To Flames was released in September. What was the concept behind this album?
Josh Graham – Ever since I was younger listening to punk rock and metal, I’ve always been interested in the human condition and interaction with the environment. You can see that with the first two Red Sparowes records. It’s sort of something I seem to be obsessed with, everything going on with the planet, and I get very focused on a lot of those issues. I think this record is another further step thinking about that idea. The idea of if our system collapses what happens to the people which are left over and how will the planet repair itself . That is the outlook I guess (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – Very interesting, now you said you were in different places so what was the recording process like for it?
Josh Graham –We basically had demos for every song before we went to record. We recorded just like any other band would. We drove down to Tennessee and recorded with our friend Travis Kammeyer, which is in another band with our drummer Billy called Generation Of Vipers. He did the drum sounds for our last two demos, for this record, and As Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade. We just really liked the sound he was getting and we wanted to switch up our engineering and mixing on this record. We went down to Johnson City, TN for 9 days and tracked everything there. About three weeks after we recorded we flew to Seattle and mixed with Matt Bayles.
Crypticrock.com – I think fans will really like this new record. Can fans expect to see a tour in support of the new record, and if so being the visual artist what can we expect from the visual aspects of the tour?
Josh Graham – Yes, our primary goal is to do a full USA and European tour sometime in the next 6 months. We actually just switched up our booking agent for the United States and have some impossible leads coming to light, hopefully that will happen. We actually played “Fall” and “Disintegrate” on our winter European tour with Converge last year. I had some new projections and visuals for those two songs. They are going to sort spark where everything else goes visually for the concerts for this record. There will be all new projections and merchandise. Everything is going to be new.
Crypticrock.com – Sounds great. Now much like your music your visual art is of a dark nature. You have done some very interesting visual work. Your art appears on the cover of the new Soundgarden album King Animal (2012). What is the driving concept behind your art?
Josh Graham – It all sort of ties into the band stuff. I try and make the message in all of the art not be as literally focused or obvious. The larger scale of my work is sort of the concept of time is a river and it will happen, about how it will basically outlast humanity, eventually the sun will die and the entire existence of here will end, it’s a fact. I have had that sort of fascination with all of that, that idea that something is so massive and so infinite that it’s hard to get a grasp on. I think I do a lot of artwork that focuses on stuff for me as just a way of me exploring those ideas.
Crypticrock.com – It’s a great way of expression and makes for great art. Along with the music and visual art you also have directed numerous music videos. Including a video for The Dillinger Escape Plan, Underoath, Isis, and Soundgarden. The video you worked on for Soundgarden “Been Away Too Long” is visually stunning. With your resume of video credits adding up have you put any thought into working on movies in the future?
Josh Graham – I’ve definitely thought about it. It’s a hard thing, I’m doing so much stuff all the time. Sometimes I feel like it all works together, and sometimes I feel like I should to take a break from one thing and focus on another. So far it hasn’t happened. Ultimately that would be amazing to be able to do something. Probably do a short film would be a first step. Basically take the time and come up with that idea or find a story that seems do-able for X amount of money. Shooting is so much more expensive than a band can ever be, it’s kind of mind blowing (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – That would be something to look forward into the future. It’s obvious you derive many different influences from many different things. I’d like to know what some of your musical influences are?
Josh Graham – There is so much stuff. I’d say long term stuff is Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Slayer, Black Flag, and Discharge. A lot of darker folk stuff. Motorhead, Bad Brains, and Swans, I could probably go on forever (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – It sounds like a good mix of metal and punk. Obviously your visual art is influenced by life, but is there any music that influences your visual art as well?
Josh Graham – Every piece of video and visual art I do I think is influenced by that piece of music. That is really important to me, taking each project sort of on it’s own. I think I am always drawn back to a lot of my aesthetic and overall subject matter, but listening to the music or the lyrics of whatever I am working on is definitely a driving force. I am finishing a video for this band called Vattnet Viskar, a black metal band on Century Media. Last week I finished another video for Soundgarden that I’d say is more of a radio hit song. It’s pretty upbeat and the subject matter is pretty upbeat. It’s about this person being half way through their life. It’s about an astronaut trying to get back home and basically hallucinating these projection visuals that kind of coincide with the storyline. I try and keep focus on what I am working on, I think that helps me too because it makes every piece unique.
Crypticrock.com – That is the best way to look at it. You want to bring out every aspect of what you are working on at that time. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Josh Graham – Actually the song “The Year Is One” is a reference to Rosemary’s Baby (1968). Rosemary’s Baby is awesome. The Changeling (1980), that movie is awesome. The Shining (1980) and The Thing (1982). Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), the end of that movie when she is trying to get out of that house you actually feel that fear for a second, it’s pretty insane. The Cabin In The Woods (2012) was pretty awesome. It was a pretty interesting twist that it kind of kept turning, I thought it was pretty clever.
Crypticrock.com – Those are some great movies. Being someone who is so enthralled in music and visual art what do you think of the direction horror films have gone with all the CGI?
Josh Graham – It really depends on who’s doing it. I feel like a lot of stuff was more convincing when it was practical, you had to hide something to make it scary because if you can’t really see what’s going on it has more of an element of fear. With a lot of CGI everything is right there in front of you and there is no guessing what it is. That distracts from the suspension of disbelief a little bit. The movie The Thing was insane with all the practical effects in that, the last scene with Wilford Brimley was a little over the top but still pretty awesome (laughs). I think The Cabin In The Woods was actually a good example when CGI is successful. There is definitely something more to practical where you are forced to keep things simpler and more obscured. That makes your imagination go further than just seeing it plainly.
Crypticrock.com – I agree with you. In my opinion with the CGI, it wouldn’t be as much of a turn off if a better story was developed now a days. It doesn’t seem they put much of an effort into the stories in films now a days.
Josh Graham – Yea, I totally agree with that. Is there anything new that you think is good?
Crypticrock.com – As far as horror, anything new…. I thought The Woman in Black (2012) was done very well. It had a great visual look to it but it also had a great story which was executed well. It just appears now a day’s Hollywood doesn’t think much of the audience, or the audience just doesn’t have such a large attention span. There just doesn’t seem that there is anything room for a film to breathe anymore.
Josh Graham – Yea, definitely. I think 28 Days Later (2002) was a great example of being sort of in camera, then they turned that sort of technology into that remake I Am Legend. They did all that stuff with CGI that was absolutely terrible (laughs). Those are the two best examples of in camera working versus CGI not working.