HEALTH released their third album ‘DEATH MAGIC’ earlier this year. They hit the UK for a string of live dates this Autumn.
I spoke with Jupiter Keyes about pushing the envelope, aesthetic continuity, and er, ‘flailing’.
I read an interview once where you said ‘Die Slow’ was the first song you wrote that had “a beginning, a middle and an end”. Do you think the songs on DEATH MAGIC continue with this development?
A lot of the songs on Death Magic do follow the path that we took with ‘Die Slow’. That quote was a little hyperbolic though. All our songs before ‘Die Slow’ started and ended and something happened in between. It was the use of the standard verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus structure that made Die Slow different for us. We had strictly avoided standard structure on our first record and decided to experiment with it for the first time on ‘Die Slow’. On Death Magic, we’ve embraced popular song structures a lot more while still drawing from our unconventional sound palette.
I feel like I could dance to a lot of the songs on DEATH MAGIC, which wasn’t often the case with the two previous albums. What different influences are present on the new album?
Music itself has changed significantly since Get Color. Entire genres came and went and the technology of music and the technology available to musicians has grown leaps and bounds. So taking the sound of modern music into account was a big influence on this record. Loudness, power and immediacy in music are the compass for most modern listeners including myself, but as long as you’re still trying to do something interesting, as long as you’re still pushing the envelope in one way or another, and your vision is clear, I believe its safe to draw from lots of varied influences when making music. If you’re just trying to copy something, or if you have no clear point of view for your art it can become problematic though and if you’re having trouble dancing to our first two albums, you should try flailing more.
The vocals appear to have gradually become more discernible over the three albums – why is this?
The vocals in HEALTH began as an extension of the instrumentation rather than as a centrepiece like in a lot of music. Our earliest records were built around texture. The texture of the sounds we were making and the texture of the environments we were making them in. By Get Color we wanted to bring more melody and focus to the vocals. They’re still buried by most standards, but it was a step forward from the first record. On this record we wanted to take that development further with vocals that are clearly audible and that are the focal point of the majority of the songs.
You have the best, or perhaps the most striking, song titles of any band I can think of – how do you choose them?
The song titles are almost always strictly divorced from the lyrics. There are few examples of when lyrics are used for song titles in HEALTH. This is a double-edged sword, but it also gives us the freedom to use arbitrary words that are about aesthetic, how they look written down, how they sound, and how they feel rather than their connection to the music.
Your artwork, tour promos and so on have had a consistent aesthetic since your first album. Do you think there’s a unifying theme to your music, too?
That’s always been a goal of ours. Aesthetic continuity is very important for us, but continuity can be difficult when you also want to grow artistically. We’ve taken risks and tried to develop our sound throughout our career as a band, but existential dread, sadness, anger and the feeling of alienation have always been the engine of our music.
Your two previous albums were followed by remix albums – can we expect remixes to follow DEATH MAGIC?
We’re collecting remixes. Whether we put out a proper second remix album depends on whether we get enough quality remixes to support that. Our first two remix albums were really good. I only say that because i’m appreciating the work of the artists on those records, but that was largely out of a specific time and place, and the remix climate isn’t quite the same now, so we’ll see.
With a different sound to DEATH MAGIC, how do you think the atmosphere of your live shows will change?
In some ways we’re trying to make our live show mirror the developments we made in our record making process. We’ve made our live show bigger, louder, and more present sounding, but at the same time we never want to loose the raw, visceral and somewhat unhinged part of us that has always defined HEALTH as a live band. I don’t want to be in a band where I don’t break a sweat during a live show. I’ve never had a good show where I didn’t leave the stage soaked in sweat.
HEALTH play Heaven, London on October 28th and also appear in Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow.
Check out ‘STONEFIST’ below: