By Johnny Papan
VANCOUVER — “Our lives and our minds should want change, even if we think we aren’t ready.” Scott Conner, the mysterious frontman who obscures his face with a patterned bandana, has been the core songwriter and instrumentalist of Xasthur since its inception in 1996. Originally a black-metal outfit, the formerly corpse-painted artist delivered guttural guitar riffs, heavy blast-beating drums, and ghoulish screeching vocals for nearly 15 years, before putting an end to the act in 2010. “I made a few too many black metal records,” Conner explains about his musical transition from black metal to an unconventionally dark acoustic sound. “I reached my limit and then some.”
In 2011, Conner began recording acoustic music as Nocturnal Poisoning with current Xasthur bandmate Chris Hernandez. Blending elements of bluegrass, folk, and a plethora of genres, the duo released three hauntingly mellow albums – Doomgrass, Other Worlds of the Mind, and A Misleading Reality. For five years, these albums went mostly unheard.
In 2015, Xasthur was revived with the lineup of Conner, Hernandez, and bassist Rachel Roomian. Agonizing screams and electric guitars would not be packaged in this deal, however. Instead, Xasthur would continue to explore ideologies from the now-defunct Nocturnal Poisoning, further developing its signature acoustic sound. “I think bands and musicians owe it to their listeners to do something new; reinvent a sound or style instead of giving them the same one, challenge them a bit,” Conner exclaims in regards to how old-school Xasthur fans might react to new material. “If they’re looking for something different, I think this would be it.”
Conner was asked if making music as Xasthur again has differently influenced new material. “In my own subconscious, possibly,” he responds. “Some have said the music has been getting slightly darker these days, and the lyrics too. That’s fine, as long as the music and lyrics are naturally coming to me.” Conner also praises his bandmates and their contribution. “They both work just as hard as I do. I really trust their judgement on bass and vocals. They make it very interesting.” Xasthur released their first acoustic album Subject to Change in March 2016.
Much like their album title suggests, Xasthur are subjects of change. They look to make a new mark on another end of the musical spectrum, fulfilling their artistic freedoms. When asked if Xasthur may ever return to black metal, Scott’s response was brass: “I cannot express a goddamn thing playing black metal.” ‘Nuff said.
Xasthur performs at the Media Club on December 12th.BC, British Columbia, Media Club, Xasthur