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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Friday 13th June, 2014 11:06AM

Mention the band Earth and most fans' mind will jump to gruff-looking frontman Dylan Carson, who sits at the core of the doom-drone band he formed more than 20 years ago. But look at little deeper and you will see a series of talented musicians have orbited around Carson over the years. One of the longest-standing members is drummer Adrienne Davies who joined Earth around 2001, and for a time, was romantically involved with Carson. Despite no longer being a couple, the pair have maintained a fruitful musical relationship that now has them in New Zealand for a series of gigs which kicked off last night.

We caught up with Davies (while the group were en route to Dunedin) to have a chat about being in a band with your ex-boyfriend, the trance-like state she enters to be able to drum at Earth's almost glacial pace, and the upcoming album Primitive and Deadly, which sees the band take a change of tact and employ the vocals of Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) and Rabia Qazi (Rose Windows)...

UTR: Hi Adrienne, how you doing?

AD: Oh great! We’re driving a beautiful scenic route to go talk on a radio show.

You’re on you way to Dunedin?

Yes, exactly. Bill Herzog, our bass player, and I were deep in the rainforest out here and just getting our butts kicked for like four hours. It was the most intense hike we have every been on. It was pretty amazing.

Cool that’s great you have been able to do some recreational stuff while in NZ...

Yeah, it was so cool, we don’t usually get days off and get to do fun stuff so it was great to get a chance to do it.

You are Dylan are a couple right...

Oh, no we are not a couple, but we used to be. We are still best friends and still in a band playing music together, that hasn’t changed.

Is that awkward at all?

Well, sometimes little things come out of nowhere, but we’ve got a good thing going and the music has always been the most important thing. We play very well together. It’s good.

Well, I guess Dylan founded Earth more than two decades ago, and you’ve been playing with the group for at least half that time...

Yeah, since 2001 I think. I remember I saw Earth when I was very young, as a fan, I saw them when I was like 17 or 18, and I remember liking them from the get-go and some of my friends did too. So I was just a young ‘un, but yeah it’s cool that I ended up playing with the band that I liked as a teenager.

Haha, yeah, that’s every teenager’s dream I reckon...

Yeah, I did a lot of crazy like punk rock thrown-together bands in Olympia and Seattle that never really went anywhere, but were just fun, so I didn’t really plan on it, it just happened.

So when did you pick up drumming as a serious career?

Probably after I started playing with Earth is when I got really serious about it, just because you realise that you’re suddenly a little bit out-classed as a musician and you’ve gotta get your chops up. You don’t want to be the weak wheel that makes the whole barrel lopsided, so you just gotta put your nose to the grindstone and figure it out any way possible. That’s kind of what I did, just out of sheer desperation, just really worked at it and took what I could from drum lessons, and then also kind of found my own way of doing it that worked with the kind of music we play.

I read an article where you described your drumming as an “undersea technique”, what does that mean?

Haha, that might have been some funny Japanese translation, but yeah it’s pretty close. You know when you see those people and they’re wearing those little caps and they are doing the underwater pirouettes, synchronised swimming I think it’s called, that’s kind of what in my mind I compared it as, because it’s all about a hesitation and a slow motion exaggerated movement. That was the best thing I could come up with as far as what I envision it as. If you got about 20 of me in a row it would look like synchronised swimming.

You also have talked about slowing yourself down to a trance-like state, like slowing your heartbeat, to get into the glacial rhythm that Earth has, is that a technique you still embrace as a drummer?

Oh absolutely. I mean, anytime you are playing any very relaxed slow tempo, you literally cannot do it if your heart is beating through your chest, or if you are in the middle of stage fright, or just nerves of any kind. You are going to be on top of beat and rushing things, and you are not going to be able to have that gentle touch and that breathe and space between the notes. So I do a kind of yoga-like exercise before we go on, I kind of get in touch with my body and get my breathing even and make sure that my heart rate is nice and steady and slow. I used to have to play with my eyes closed all the time, because I get really distracted really easily, so I have to really go there and really commit and be really focused. The whole thing about being a drummer is being able to stay focussed which wasn’t really my strong point. And that seems to be what works, just getting the mind and the body on the same page.

I like that it gives the image of your drum kit being an extension of yourself...

Yea, it’s like a more natural state to me now. Over the years I’ve been trying to make sure I have my eyes open more than closed, just coz a lot of our segues and changes and counts are improved, so it’s much easier for us to visually connect.

And you guys are poised to put out your 10th album in September, and I was reading that it includes vocals from Mark Lanegan, which seems like a really good fit. How did that come about??

Well, Dylan and I have known Mark for a long time, and he’s always been busy and we’ve been busy. We’ve always wanted to work together, but it was just never was on the cards until just recently, and we had a couple of songs that were right up his alley. It’s kind of a dream come true, I’ve always wanted to work with him and it turned out great. It’s exactly what we needed. Rabia did a great job too, the other vocalist.

I’m not that familiar with Rabia’s work, could you give me a little insight to her sound?

Sure, she’s in this band called Rose Windows from Seattle, and she’s a young girl. She’s got this amazing, very husky, low-alto voice, and a nice narrative sense to her lyrics. She’s not really folky, but a little bluesy, but not in a bad way. She’s got a really immediately likable voice. It’s hard to find a singer that works with what we do and not sound kind of odd or awkward, and she sounds really good. It came out really great, our music and her vocal talents.

Sounds like a good recipe. I also saw some comment about Earth allowing itself to become more of a “rock band”. What does that mean?

Well, we were definitely listening to some 80s metal, so a lot of the music on this album is a little more aggressive, a little more in your face. And there is still ebbs and flows, but there is more of an immediacy to it, and we weren't afraid of that this time. Just letting it be as direct as it wants to be, and the sounds of the drums and the guitar are a little more present and immediate feeling. A little sharper. It’s a guitar heavy album too, so we wanted to not be afraid to rock out a little bit, you know?

Aha, so you are in NZ for three shows. What’s the difference between an Earth live show versus putting on a record?

Well, there are some bands that like to do an exact note-for-note replica of what was on their album. I get that and it’s got it’s appeal, especially for certain bands, but we are all about the live experience being unique to that night. And that’s dependent on so many things, I mean it’s dependent on the audience themselves, and the interaction, and the energy to go night-to-night having it feel different and not doing the same thing. You know, an album is going to be pretty fleshed out because you have overdubs and additional musicians, and on the road we are a power trio of three people, who play really well together and it’s an interpretation of each song and letting it build itself and change a little on the road, which is always exciting.

Earth are playing tonight at Bodega in Wellington and tomorrow night at King's Arms in Auckland. Head over here to purchase tickets through UTR.


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