Interview: Aiwass

A couple of days ago, I reviewed two songs I got from Aiwass, a very interesting US American one-man project who plays «epic psych-doom». Fortunately, Blake Carrera – the artist behind Aiwass – was available for an interview, too. Enjoy reading!

By the way, 666MrDoom will be debuting Aiwass‘ EP His Name Was Aiwass on Saturday the 24th – and it will be live on all platforms on the 24th as well.

Hi Blake, how are you doing?

Blake Carrera: I’m doing great! Really excited to do an interview with you guys. For the most part I’m just trying to avoid COVID as much as possible, get my second vaccine, and keep churning out music that I think is good. 

Did this damn pandemic destroy a lot of your plans with Aiwass?

In a strange way I think the pandemic helped out with Aiwass. Obviously I would much rather there be no pandemic, but if not for the boredom of a lockdown, I’m not sure if this project would’ve taken off like it has. Not being able to do as many of the things that I was used to doing gave me a lot more motivation to work on creative pursuits such as Aiwass. As a one-man band, it’s even more motivation since I don’t need to rely on working with others in order to create my music. As long as I have my gear and my laptop and I’m at home, I can work on new songs or keep tweaking ones that I’ve already been working on. The biggest irritation, though, is definitely the general inability to form up a full band to play live. I’d love to hit the stage again but I’m just not quite willing to do that yet with how COVID is going in America at this time. With that being said, I’ve never missed live music so much and I can’t wait until it’s safely back.

I think there are a lot of readers who don’t know Aiwass yet. Tell us a bit about your project, please.

Aiwass is a one-man project done entirely by myself. I do all of the guitars, bass, keys, vocals, and lyrics and program the drums. I describe Aiwass as epic psych-doom but that’s more of a genre classification. I like to focus on what the music is really about, which is a combination of the occult, mythology, Jungian psychology, mental illness, and struggles with addiction. If I’m just describing the music, I’d say that it’s a big sound because it’s supposed to be. I multitrack all of my guitars so that you can find tons of layers in every song. The guitars are fuzzy, the bass is booming, the drums are bombastic. One of the things I get told a lot is that I balance a line between playing bluesy stoner metal and eerie doom metal – that’s a description I like a lot. Aiwass is supposed to make you feel, make you think, and make you headbang.

How would you define the style of your project?

Like I said above, I’ve described Aiwass as epic psych-doom. The epic nature comes from the lyrical content. A lot of the lyrics use mythology as a way to talk about real-life issues like mental illness and addiction. They’re supposed to be sublime in the Kantian sense of the word, where it’s beautiful but in a terrifying way. I think the lyrics Drink the wine of children’s tears/ Consume their dreams and their fears are pretty terrifying at least. It’s very psychedelic music that tends to go in a lot of directions while holding onto the groove like most doom and stoner metal does. I want to try to put as many interesting sounds in there as possible and create that «wall of sound» effect utilizing as many layers as I can without the music getting too busy. Overall, I want it to really be balanced – beautiful and frightening, light and heavy, darkness and light.

Which bands would you classify as your major influences?

In terms of influences, everything starts with Black Sabbath and, to a lesser extent, Led Zeppelin. Without those two bands you don’t have metal, you don’t have heavy rock and roll, you don’t have stoner metal or doom metal. From there, it’s a really massive group. I have to mention Kyuss, Sleep, Monolord, Mizmor, Queens of the Stone Age, Electric Wizard, and Acid King. I listen to a lot of music, though, so it’s kind of all over the place. I think that if you listen close enough you can hear that I’m actually a big black metal fan. I love the atmosphere of that subgenre and that’s one of the things I hear the most about my music – that it has a really eerie atmosphere. If there was any advice I’d give to a kid who wants to be a musician it’s to listen to anything and everything and pick and choose what you like. 

How popular is metal in Arizona these days? Is there a vivid underground scene?

Metal is incredibly popular in Arizona. If you go to Phoenix or Tucson, the two biggest cities in the state, there are incredible thriving underground scenes. You see everything from death metal to black metal to hardcore to doom and stoner. The environment plays a big role in that I think. When the weather is so cold like in the northern part of the state or so hot like the rest of the state, you’re forced inside a lot and that helps you to make music. Being in beautiful environments like the desert or the mountains is also great. For me, I live in a small mountain town in the north where I’m unfortunately pretty far from any close-by metal scene. That being said, whenever a metal band comes through town, you still get a lot of great metalheads who come out to support bands. Even though there isn’t a big metal scene where I live, the mountains and the trees are very inspiring. If you were visiting and looking for metal, though, Phoenix and Tucson are the places to go. 

Are there any US American doom metal bands who you would like to recommend?

There are so many great American doom metal bands around right now that I could go on forever. But, since a lot of them get a ton of press, I’d really like to spotlight some of the smaller bands that are putting out really great music. I’d definitely recommend giving a listen to Afghan Haze, Taubnernaut, Green Inferno, Sky Pig, and Jurassic Witch. All of those will give you a really different idea of where American doom metal is going today, whether it’s heavy like Green Inferno or Sky Pig, super trippy like Taubnernaut, super jammy like Jurassic Witch, or something that combines a lot of different great aspects like Afghan Haze. If you’re into funeral doom, definitely all of the Bell Witch catalogue is a must-listen.

What’s your favourite festival? Where would you like to play your songs in the future?

I honestly haven’t been to many of the big festivals. For the most part I’ve just seen shows in venues and clubs and I prefer that to be honest. I think you get a much better feel for a band in a smaller venue where you’re close to the stage. Despite that, there are a bunch of festivals I’m dying to play at. The top of my list would have to be Roadburn and Northwest Terror Fest. Some of my favorite bands of all time play at those festivals and I’d love to share a stage with them in front of such incredible fans. At this point, though, I’d like to just be able to play my songs anywhere once this pandemic is taken care of. 

On our blog, we often focus on epic metal. Do you like this genre? If so: What are your favourite bands and records?

While I wouldn’t say that your biggest epic metal bands are necessarily my favorites, I think there’s a ton to be learned from them. In particular, I think Omen had a kickass sound that was really influential. Cirith Ungol is another good one in my eyes and Manilla Road really churned out some rippers. For me, the cool thing about epic metal is the lyrics. A lot of it obviously comes from Dio’s lyrics and you see that influence in doom and stoner metal, my genres. There were also some truly great guitarists in the genre. 

2020 was a disaster, no doubt about it. But there were some great releases: What’s your favourite album released last year?

You’re so right. I think musicians really stepped it up last year and made some incredible releases. Some of the underground doom and stoner metal that comes to mind would be Sky Pig’s Hell Is Inside You – EP or Jurassic Witch’s Black Masses and Ashes. If we’re just talking metal, I’d have to either go for Wayfarer’s A Romance With Violence or Akhlys’s Melinoe. Those albums were absolutely incredible. 

Last question: Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules?

I’m not really a Dio-era Sabbath guy actually. For me, it’s generally Ozzy or nothing with Sabbath. However, if I’m choosing between the two, I have to go with Heaven and Hell. Even though it’s really different from the records from the original lineup, I think Iommi is really killing it on that record. 

For sure! Blake, many thanks for your time – and this really interesting interview. I think I have to check out a lot of stuff [laughs].

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