Existing at the often strange nexus between prog, doom, punk and psychedelic metal, the band Kylesa has been forging a truly singular path for well over a decade. They seem unconcerned with selling out or breaking with the ‘formula’ that made them special in the first place. Still, they change via growth and taking risks, not by stasis. Upon the release of the stellar new album Ultraviolet (Season of Mist), Ghost Cult chatted with Philip Cope, to chat about everything Kylesa.
How was making Ultraviolet a different experience than Spiral Shadow?
It was a little different than Spiral Shadow. Most of that record was written over a few months period of time, mostly focused on it, right before the recording of it. Ultraviolet was written off and on, over a couple of years. The recording process was a little bit longer. We had a lot of time to get the sounds we are looking for. We were not quite happy in the past; especially experimenting with getting the drum sounds right, getting them how we wanted them. Other than that, it was kind of the same way we always do. We try to do our best.
Since Eric and Chase have come into the band, did that affect the song writing dynamic in any way?
Chase didn’t actually play on the record or write any songs for Ultraviolet, since he just joined up with us. We basically all shared the bass duties. Eric did probably the most. Laura did a couple, I did one and Jay (Matheson), who works at Jam Room, did one. With Carl, Laura and I being the main songwriters, there wasn’t really much of a difference or anything too new coming in to the process. The three of us have worked together for a long time. One of the biggest differences was that Eric started out with a couple of songs on this album. He’d come in once before with one on Static Tensions. But this time he had a few written already for Ultraviolet.
Was there a conscious effort to make some of the songs rougher and more multi-layered than Spiral Shadow?
Well, one of the things we did was to go back to one of our lower tunings. We decided against using that for Spiral Shadow and for this album, we decided to bring it back on a few of songs. So that is probably where some of the extra heaviness comes from, going back to those super-low tunings. As far as layers go… I think that’s just learning over time. We are learning to pull that stuff off better, and kind of figuring it out as we go.
Have you and Laura worked hard at trying to evolve more as vocalists?
It’s just kind of natural. There may be a little more singing on this album than the others. It’s just us getting more comfortable and doing it better. And for me: working at recording it better too! That is just us working together for a long period of time. We are just using our strengths. And for us it’s just us trying to expand on what we have been doing. I’m stoked to hear that you think it works!
Is there a comfort level for you and the band, in keeping the production duties in house with you?
I think it makes sense. We’ve never used outside people before. It just seems to be the way it works. That doesn’t mean that someday we won’t go with someone else and venture into new territory. But for now it’s working, and we are sticking with it.
I am a fan of some of your other production work, such as with Black Tusk and the Irata EP. Do you think you will produce more albums in the future?
The band is first and foremost for me. When I’m needed by the band, that’s where my time goes. If we have any downtime, I love working with other bands. I’d love to do it more, but it really depends on downtime, which I don’t have much of. If I have time open, and there are bands that want to work with me, I’m into it. It’s really kind of random. Going forward in the future, I’d love to do it more. Right now, I’m kind of happy with the mix. I could see me getting burned out if I did that all the time. But it’s really fun for me to work with other bands, outside of my own.
I hear a lot of your Theremin work coming back on Ultraviolet. Can you practice the Theremin or is it a purely improvisational instrument for you?
It’s all over the place on this album. That’s how I like it! You can definitely practice it, but it takes a lot of practice to get it right. What I have figured out, over time, trying to do it live, to play it properly, you have to have the proper space. From night to night, I may not know in advance how much space I’m going to have before the show. I’ve had to learn how to control some of those more random aspects of it, and try to learn to control the beast. It actually makes it kind of fun, because sometimes I don’t have any idea what it’s going to do. I always hope it makes sense, and doesn’t sound too weird. But when I’m in the studio, I have a lot more control over it, and I can do exactly what I want with it.
Will you be playing more keyboards live with the new configuration of the band?
We’ve always split the keyboards work up live. Actually right now I am not playing any keyboards live. Chase is handling some of it. Carl is handling some of it. But things change up all the time, so you never know.
I really love the covers the band has done, such as Pink Floyd’s ‘Set The Controls For the Heart of The Sun’ that showed up onthe From The Vault collection. Any chance the band will play more covers live, or on record in the future?
I’m sure eventually we will. Both Laura and I both have a huge list of songs we’d like to cover. Eventually there will be another, but when at this point, I don’t know.
Keith (Keefy) Chachkes