Southern Lord has some great findings, one of them is Hissing. The blackened sludge outfit from Seattle are an outstanding band. They mix death, doom, black, and sludge metal in an unholy mixture that is dark, heavy and loud! We got to chat to Zach Wise who talks about the band’s origins, touring with SunnO))), their latest self-titled release, playing with Inqusition, the future of the band and The Exorcist!
Jack: How are you doing?
Zach Wise: Great.
Jack: How did you meet with all the guys at Hissing?
Zach: I met Joe at a Morbid Angel show through his girlfriend Anjali, who I have known for a long time. We played some Godflesh-esque stuff with a drum machine for a bit until we decided a real drummer was probably a better idea, so I contacted Sam, who I had played with before in a few odd projects, including a Black Flag cover band.
Jack: Did you always want to form as a death/doom/black metal hybrid when you started the band?
Zach: Not at all, we threw around a lot of musical ideas before we ended up writing the songs that were on our first EP, including long form black metal in the vein of Fell Voices, doom, and noisy powerviolence. Our very early songs were more grindcore influenced, around two minutes long, one of which we still play live sometimes.
Jack: What bands are the main influences of Hissing?
Zach: Portal and Incantation were touchstones when we started out for atmospheres that we wanted to reproduce, but we never really created anything that sounds like them, and since then we’ve pulled from a wide variety of influences.
Jack: How would you say Hissing has evolved since its inception?
Zach: We’ve tightened up as a live act, as well as ironing out a few creases with our songwriting. We’re continuously pushing ourselves to create music that is challenging for us as performers, which has resulted in some interesting songs.
Jack: As Joe is the younger brother of Stephen from SunnO))), do you feel this is mentioned in reviews/interviews too often?
Jack: What was it like touring with SunnO)))?
Zach: We played to gigantic audiences, which was incredible, and got to see Sunn O))) every night, which was a real head trip. Their performances are like portals to another dimension, some nights I had to leave before they went on because I wasn’t sure my mind could take it. The other touring band, Big|Brave, were great, and were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Jack: Your latest self-titled album came out in June, are you happy with the response?
Zach: Well, it wasn’t intended to be an album, Southern Lord offered to do a 7” with us, and those two songs were what fit the format. It’s more of a short EP. But yes, the response has been positive.
Jack: The lyrics are centred around the effects of the metropolitan environment on the human psyche, exploring themes of agoraphobia, urban decay, and incarceration. Why did you focus on this?
Zach: From early on we agreed that we didn’t have much interest in exploring the fantastical traditional tropes of death and black metal (gore and murder fantasies, satanism, etc). I enjoy horror movies as much as the next guy and I certainly have no love for Christianity, but there’s been plenty said already about these things. The songs we wrote around this time, including the two that ended up on the EP, are mostly reflections of experiences at this moment in time in this country, filtered through Samuel Beckett, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, Thomas Bernhard, and similar modernists. The A-side deals with the microcosm of the urban environment – the ever-shrinking unit of living space designated to a person in a growing metropolis through the eyes of an agoraphobe – while the B-side deals with the macrocosm – the growth and homogenization of a city to serve a single capitalist purpose juxtaposed with the last blossoming of a plant before it decays, the perpetual cycle of failure inherent in the notion of human “progress”.
Jack: What was it like working with Rusty Graeff?
Zach: Great, although there isn’t much to tell. We set up a recording interface at our practice space and tracked in a day and a half. We did the mixing and post-production work ourselves. Rusty’s band Bone Sickness is working on a new record, I believe, go check them out.
Jack: The songs have been referred to as hymns in the press release. Why is this referred to as hymns?
Zach: I have no idea, they certainly aren’t in praise of anything.
Jack: Will the next release be a full-length or haven’t you decided yet?
Zach: We’re working on a full-length as well as material for a split 12” with another band. Time will tell which of those will see the light of day first.
Jack: What is it like working with Southern Lord?
Zach: Superb. Greg has been very supportive of us and a consummate professional.
Jack: How was it playing with Inquisition?
Zach: Inquisition are the best 2-piece live act I’ve seen in quite a long time. Dagon was also very friendly and supportive of us. Great show all around.
Jack: You’re supporting Black Breath in October. What do you like about them?
Zach: I’ve been watching Black Breath live since they first started. Before they moved to Seattle they were actually part of a small town scene north of here, and they were the only good metal band in that scene. An old grindcore band of mine opened for them up there years ago and it was very fun. They put on a hell of a show that pulls just enough from their hardcore roots to get people moving (not easy in Seattle) but not so much that it becomes all the boring preachy things I hate about hardcore. Plus, they have a song about eating out a witch, which is just absurd.
Jack: What other plans do you have coming up? Any plans to play Europe?
Zach: We tentatively have another US tour next year that is in the works. We would love to play Europe, specifically the UK, and we’re working to make that happen feasibly one of these days.
Jack: Finally, as you uploaded a photo of yourselves at the Exorcist stairs, what do you like about the film?
Zach: The Exorcist was the first movie that I saw as a child that truly scared me. I specifically remember the scene where Linda Blair starts masturbating herself with a crucifix and screaming “your mother sucks cocks in hell” – I had no idea what was going on but I think part of that abject terror resonated with me as a positive feeling, because here I am now making horrible satanic metal twenty years later.