By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY – Everything about Tristan Shone, the mastermind behind one-man metal act Author & Punisher, is fascinating.
A mechanical engineer at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, he spends his days working “with biologists, chemists, and physicists developing a bunch of projects and technology based around high resolution imaging.” More specifically, he works in an experimental lab, building gadgets and mechanisms for microscopes, raging from robotic devices to advanced camera and detection mechanisms.
Creating pulsating, unnerving, and downright brutal industrial drone music via machines that he’s invented or altered? Well, that eats up his spare time.
Since forming Author & Punisher in 2004, Shone’s released a myriad of full-lengths, singles, and EPs via multiple labels, including Sonicterror, Seventh Rule, Heart & Crossbone, and more. His yet to be named sixth full-length is being unveiled via Relapse Records in October.
“Everything is in line, it’s already submitted, the artwork is done, so there’s just a few finishing touches,” Shone begins.
“We had a producer who is a friend of mine, his name is Braden Diotte, and he was in a band called Tarantula Hawk and tours around with Neurosis, he’s been a long time friend of mine and was involved in the writing process. “
He continues, “We sent it off to Kurt Ballou, he’s from Converge at GodCity Studio in Salem, Massachusetts. He did the final mix. It’s a little shorter than previous albums, but I think it’s a little more driving and relentless.”
The album follows on his 2017 EP Pressure Mine, a five-track release that deviated from his norm. Shone’s music is generally glacially paced, utilizing drone music structures similar to those found in bands like Godflesh and Nine Inch Nails, alongside heavily distorted and minimalistic howling vocals. Uncharacteristically, the EP was chipper. Recall when Justin Broadrick’s project Jesu went from the crushing misery of their self-titled 2004 debut to the joyous pulsating masterwork EP that was Silver (2006)? It’s kind of comparable to that.
“I had been touring on a bunch of heavy albums for four years or something, and I wanted to work on something a little bit lighter,” reports Shone.
“I had gotten synth and hardware I was messing around with, so I was kind of into more dub [style] and techno, and basically I put out an EP of songs that were a little more mellow. I think I was basically giving my ears a break from what I was doing for the past few years.”
He continues, “This album is not like that. It’s much heavier. I don’t think there are any moments that are light on it. I would say the vocals are absolutely some of that, I would say there’s a lot of melodic vocals, not a ton of vicious screaming.”
We’ll discuss more on the vocal style later.
“Yeah, I think the EP was a bit of an experiment rather than a direction.”
Author & Punisher’s musical evolution is dictated both by the frequency of Shone’s live performances, and the demands of both creating and transporting his rig to many one-off festival dates.
“I’ve had to scale down the setup a little bit,” he admits.
His rig has been the source of much fascination. Creating custom designed machines from raw materials and open source circuitry, Shone first broke into the spotlight yielding a bizarre set-up comprised of masks like the trachea quad mic, dither mask, and mute mask alongside “drone machines” that are difficult to describe without accompanying visuals.
“I basically designed the new set up to be… Each piece is inside of a case and has a certain weight. So it was getting rid of some of the unnecessary weight I had in the past. Which is a bit of a bummer, I like things to always be as heavy as possible, but it’s just not feasible if you want to play festivals.”
He continues, “I basically build basically smaller rack mount devices, which basically fit on a 19-inch rack that are things that you slid, knobs you spin, some new devices that encode. Like if I were to take a disc and put it on a rod that you move it back and forth, kind of like an abacus.”
Not only has his live rig changed, but Shone’s comfort with the vocal aspect of his performance has also changed. On the new album, expect more variation than the monotonic, heavily affected style he’s used previously.
“I’m more comfortable with my voice now,” he confirms. “I used to use my voice as an instrument a little more making sounds, and I think I’m singing more now. I don’t know. I’ve also gotten better rhythmically, with the pitch controllers that I’ve made, so I think things are a bit smoother now.”
Despite the minimalistic changes, both sonically and thematically Author & Punisher sits at an odd intersection of the electronic and metal genres. It’s an odd position for someone who “never liked any of the EBM, dance industrial stuff.”
“Like guys wearing leather when they are too old to be, that sort of S&M goth, Cure look, I really can’t deal with any of that,” he says.
“But they invite me to play festivals, so I play it, and they’re nice people. But seriously, most of the music is not heavy enough for me, not dark enough.”
Shone concludes, “I think the genre as a whole, is not my favourite genre anyway. I just got to be a part of it because of the machines that I make.”
See Author & Punisher live at Terminus: Shockwave, which runs at Dickens Pub from July 27 to 29 [Calgary]Author & Punisher, Dickens Pub, Shockwave, Terminus, Terminus Festival, Terminus Festival Content