Interview with Children Of God 2013
By Bradley Smith
I know you formed Children Of God as 7 Generations was ending its run, but could you give me a bit more in depth History of the band? Why did you start the band and end 7 Generations? How do you feel COG is different than 7 Generations and how would you describe your music?
Children of God was always an idea Sina (our drummer) and I had. We had been trying to start a more aggressive sounding band. We started off with the same idea of the band and sound being emotionally charged. The early stuff was a lot faster and angrier and the newer stuff is slower and more experimental but we still feel like nothing has changed, it is the same spirit driving our music.
Ending 7 Generations was a mutual decision by all of us in the band. The band had run its course, there was nothing there for me as an individual, I personally had given it my all and I didn't want to be disingenuous when I played another show, so it was done for me. I guess COG and 7 Generations are the same for me as far as how I view music. They both came/come from an emotionally dark place. While I wasn't the one who wrote lyrics in 7G, I am the sole lyricist in COG; and there are no agendas in this band.
Your debut album, We Set Fire To the Sky blew me away. How do you think it represents Children Of God both musically and emotionally? I read that you viewed COG as bi-polar music, what did you mean by that and how do you feel that is reflected in your songwriting?
Writing that record came fairly easy, I think most of the songs we write come easy; because we don't really try to sound like this or that or appeal to any certain person. We just write, add, delete, scrap, build, and rebuild. So as far as a representation of the band; it shows a different side of us that was always there, we just hadn't tapped into that sound. As far as how I approached the lyrics they are same ideas but instead of having them be so direct and calculated; I literally sat in front of a piece of paper and listened to the music and let anything come out. That's why some of those lyrics aren't even coherent at times.
COG is bi-polar, you have the manic episodes that scoop you up into a crazy whirlwind and then sudden drops in sounds and volume. It is a product of being bi-polar myself.
Do you see your playing and writing as a catharsis of sorts? How do you and the band approach the songwriting process? Do you feel like your bandmates understand your intent and your emotions when you compose a piece? And can you describe your relationship with your guitar? I mean on a personal and symbolic level, what does it represent to you?
Playing music is my only outlet, and I think I can speak for all of us when I say it's our only outlet. Playing live is cathartic and it always takes a few minutes for us to come back to reality after a set, when we play there's really no communication; it's one of those things, when you know, you know.
As for song writing; usually one of us in passing mentions an idea for a song a very rough mouthing of guitar or even a drum beat that we play on a table for each other. It just takes one of us to get that idea in all of our heads to get the ball rolling. I write music in my head before I get an instrument in my hand. I am a cyclist and there are times where I'm on my bike for 3+ hours arranging and re-arranging a song; a lot of WSFTTS was written in my head on my bike. Really though, all one of us has to do is play a riff and we build on top of that or scrap it and there's no hard feelings, ever. I think the idea behind the band goes without saying at this point; it's a collective artistic vision.
Personally, my guitar is the only reason I am alive. I'm sure I can speak for Shaun (our other guitarist) too; we both grew up in the same neighborhood facing the same pressures/troubles as each other. It just happened to be coincidence that we both picked up guitars and learned to play them. My guitar is my life's blood, it was there when I felt no one else was, and it continues to be there when I need it the most. I have given it my all and it gives me it's all when I play it in a live setting. The very make and model was something I always aspired to have since I started playing, because I saw a photo of one of my favorite bands using it.
You did a Video for the track Unrelenting Storm. Why did you choose that song in particular? Can you tell me about the imagery you used in the video of the atomic destruction intermixed with periods of the band playing? What was your goal with the video and what were you trying to convey to the audience?
Unrelenting Storm just seemed to fit right for a video. It had that chaotic element that COG always had and then a lull that was new to our sound and to people that already liked us. The visuals that were dispersed throughout the video were taken from various documentaries and films. We just wanted it to be visually chaotic; the first scene is a fall out of an atomic bomb test. I think we would have been one of the last bands to put out a music video, but that is kind of why we did it.
When you were in Seven Generations you said you were surrounded by a political scene and that really angered you. Why? And now that you've "escaped" what would you say are the biggest differences between that period and the fans you have now with Children Of God?
Honestly, without going too far into it; I was just sick of being around a bunch of privileged children that felt entitled to everything in the world. The constant drama and fake kindness that some of the people in the "radical" community perpetuate is frustrating. I felt like being in a band that was somewhat popular in that scene meant that people held us to higher standards; I constantly felt the need to remind people that I was just like anyone of them; a human with flaws.
The difference between people that like COG and 7G is that I can really connect with people on a personal level when I talk to them; When before I felt it was superficial bullshit that was based on labels and lifestyles that had no bearing on a person’s character or intelligence. Not many people from that political community follow this project and I can say I am glad.
Another thing you mentioned is having control of the entire creative process when it comes to Children Of God. Why do you think you feel that need? And what sorts of frustration does the lack of control present to you? Would you ever participate in a band where you weren't the guiding force behind the band?
What I meant when I talked about having control of the band wasn't so much me personally having control, it was about the band having control of ourselves and our art. We worked with labels and while they certainly got our name out there and sold our records, we weren't in control of how much people paid for our music or when it came out; among other things that we felt we needed to control. Now knowing the ins and outs of putting out a record I see how much there is to be made off of a bands art and I'm not ok with someone making money off of my work. Don't get me wrong; it's hard work dealing with pressing plants and all that, but it doesn't justify charging bands double the cost to buy their own record so they can sell at an even higher price. I always wanted to put out my own music and while it's hard work and can feel like a money pit; we have not regretted it one bit.
As far as being in a band where I wasn't the guiding force, probably not. I am a control freak but everyone in this band has contributed their own piece to each and every thing we do. If I wanted to be the sole curator of a band, then I'd just do a solo project; which I have on the side.
I was intrigued when I read that you felt that your motivation for creating music as being a "need" versus "want"? Why do you feel there is a compulsion within you to create sonic art and what happens if you try and shut that down?
I feel like it is painfully obvious when people are in bands to gain notoriety, you can feel it in the music, and you can feel it in the performance. I think underground music being as accessible as it is more susceptible to the kind of people that want attention for the sake of attention. I'd be lying if I said "artists aren't doing bands for attention" but then comes the question: are you doing it cause you want to or are you doing it cause it is something inside that is clawing to come out in some way? All of us are plagued by demons; some find their way out through music, through drawings and paintings, through photography, through writing, or through other forms; regardless we need to get them out.
If I try to stop or neglect playing music for a while I turn into a resentful and spiteful person with a lot of pent up emotions. It's like trying to skip my medicine, it's not healthy. Realistically, music is one of the few outlets that all of us share in this band. We all have our non-music outlets, surfing, reading/writing, and cycling; but music is the most constant for all of us.
Awhile back you did a Sonic Cathedral mix tape for Cvlt Nation which seems to be so popular these days. So I was wondering how that came about and what your mix tape reflects you as a person. What was your motivation behind doing the mixtape and song choice? And on a similar topic, what is your favorite compilation tape/CD/Lp ever and why?
Sean at CN has supported our band since day one. I remember he was one of the first online entities that reached out to us and really backed us; so he's always been in contact. A month or so before the second Cvlt Nation anniversary show; Sean contacted us and asked if one of us would like to make a mix cause he always has bands do that. I took the task of making this mix for him that I felt COG has been inspired by on different levels than just sound.
I listen to a lot of music that isn't heavy or chaotic in the typical sense. I wanted people that listen to COG to be able to know that heavy music isn't just loud guitars and drums. I wanted to collect emotionally heavy songs that really trigger the sense of urgency that I get when I re-listen to COG songs. I also wanted to leave people scratching their heads because they don't get why I would put a bunch of noise and piano compositions in the midst of only two "heavy" songs.
I think my favorite compilation/collaboration is Mono/World Ends Girlfriend. It is one of the saddest sounding records I have ever or will ever hear.
Do you still see yourself as a politically/socially conscious and active individual despite Children Of God not being an activist band like 7 Generations? What is your view on possible intervention by the US and other governments in Syria? And how do you think major governmental issues like this affect you as an individual citizen?
I'd like to think I am still politically conscious.
I think US intervention in Syria is hegemony veiled as world policing. The US has had interest in this civil war since it has started and it has supported the rebels since it has started. The US has made no secret about how it feels about Assad's regime; by trying to place sanctions and giving intelligence to the Syrian rebels. As long as Assad is out, the west has more influence in the middle east. What people fail to acknowledge is that a lion’s share of Syrian rebels have ties to Al Queda and other terrorist groups. As of September 10th 2013 the US has started giving these organizations weapons to arm themselves against the regime the US wants out. However, just like we did with Bin Laden and Hussein, we are arming some of the very people that will undoubtedly bite the hand that feeds. In short I think if the US intervenes in Syria, we're going to have a lot more debt, and a lot more people with plenty of reasons to hate the west and it's supposed "humanitarian" work.
I think as an individual citizen the effects of US foreign policy are still being felt to this day. NSA wiretapping, the Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay; these are all products of terrorism caused because of US intervention/occupation. The US claims it is for our safety and while I understand that; the privacy each and every one of us is allowed is being taken away day by day.
How do you delve deep into your own personal Darkness and imbue music with your emotions? I would have a fear that in the end it can that be too taxing to pour yourself into your music on such a level? Do you ever consider that perhaps music is a vampire and someday you are going to be drained completely? What will happen then?
I can't really answer that in any way. I am 100% honest when I say that what I write is just a combination of time and place and emotional state. Playing live is taxing, but when it's all over we are all relieved.
The day I have been drained completely of emotion that is so invasive and taxing that I need to write music? The day that comes is the day I have found happiness or the day I am dead.
I know there seems to be endless touring/performing in your future, but what are some of your other upcoming plans? Any new recordings we can look forward to? What about any "special" shows? A 7 Generations reunion show?
We will be going on our first ever tour in early October. We aren't really looking at a game plan; we just go when we want and write when it's right and practice when we can. We have material written and it will be released, we're just not giving our selves a time line. Who knows? We might even scrap all these songs and start all over.
Thanks Adrian for the interview, your music with Children of God and 7 Generations have both meant a lot to me. I wanted to leave any final thoughts and deeds to you? Expel some of your rage right here!
Thanks for the interview Brad; I speak for all of us when I say that we appreciate the time and chance you give us.
As for last words: here's a quote from a poet Sina showed me.
“If I write what I feel, it's to reduce the fever of feeling. What I confess is unimportant, because everything is unimportant.”
― Fernando Pessoa