[Interview] Ilsa – « We haven’t bummed out enough people yet »

Ilsa is a band I have been fascinated with for a long time but always had a hard time finding things about. Despite releasing fantastic albums since the beginning of their career, the word of mouth has always been pretty low. Thankfully, they just signed to Relapse Records and have released a split with Coffins. Very much like Hooded Menace, Ilsa is the perfect example of a band who doesn’t feel pressured by the « recording industry » to tour constantly and release sub-par album. They do what they want, and they do it very, very, well. Hopefully, more people will finally catch on with this release and their upcoming album but in the meantime you could do much worse than read this interview and listen to their latest monster, reviewed here.

Could you introduce yourself as a band for people who have no idea who you are?

Joshy (drums): I’m Joshy, I play drums, Orion is the vocalist, Tim and Brendan play guitar, and Sharad plays bass.

Since the release of it’s first album, Ilsa has remained quite a confidential band. You are now signed to Relapse Records, a much bigger label than A389 Records and with more resources. Do you feel that now your time has come to take things more seriously (eg. Touring more and outside of Europe, for example)?

Joshy (drums): We would love to tour Europe, but so far money and personal life crap had kept us from doing it. Hopefully we’ll get our to the west coast at least this year. I’m really not sure what to expect from Relapse, we’re kind of a little fish in a big pond there. I really hope our music gets out to more folks, we haven’t bummed out enough people yet.

Your last album, The felon’s claw, featured a pop up illustration of a wolf, a feature I had never seen before on any record. Who came up with this idea and why did you feel it would suit this album ?

Joshy: If you ask anybody in any band I’ve ever been in they’ll tell you that I have always wanted to do a double LP with a pop up. Doom at A389 was the first guy to actually let me do it. We decided to use a three headed hyena for the pop up because in Africa people believe that hyenas are used by witches for various rituals. In fact some people say that there are no wild hyenas, that they are all owned by witches! We’re also big fans of Judas Priest so we wanted to have a kind of a leather and spikes feel for the front cover.

Much like Hooded Menace and Coffins, Ilsa’s music has also seemed to be inspired by the aesthetic of old horror movies. Would you like to explore a different kind of universe ? Also, how would you feel about writing a song for the soundtrack of a movie ?

Joshy: We definitely are influenced by old horror and exploitation movies, and obviously we named our band after a rather notorious series of movies, but lately along with the movies we’ve been fascinated by satanic killers, occult ritual, and the relationship between drugs and mysticism.

There has been a lot of discussion around racism in metal lately. Do you feel people might interpret the name of your band wrongly ?

Joshy: They might, and in fact people have in the past, but there’s not really anything we can do about what people think. Anybody who does any research on our band will find that we have nothing to do with that stuff. It’s sad to have to point this out, but there are queer people and a person of color in our band, so we probably wouldn’t fit in at a Nazi rally.

Even though your last album was released just last year you have already announced a new album to come out soon on Relapse Records. Have you started writing songs for it ?

Joshy: Yeah we’re just about done writing! Even though the album came out last year we recorded it over a year before it came out so it’s going to be close to two years since we wrote Felon’s Claw. Hopefully we’ll get into the studio dinnertime in early summer.

Do you have any plans to tour in Europe this year, particularly in the UK ?

Joshy: We’d absolutely love to get to the UK, but the past year there has been so much drama in or personal lives we haven’t been able to get out of town nearly enough. We actually had to back out of a tour of Europe with Magrudergrind this year. Primitive Man took our place, it looks like they’re having a blast.

With which artists outside of music do you feel you share a similar aesthetic?

Joshy: In really into illustrators from the early 1900’s like Franklin Booth and John Clement Coll, as well as the guys who used to illustrate the old weird fiction magazines from the ’30s ’40s like Virgil Finlay and Hannes Bock. I also love Bernie Wrightson, Bob Pepper, and a bunch of other dudes that were doing comics and sci fi book covers in the seventies.

Links added by the editor.

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