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The Greatest #12 Interview: Cold Cave

The Idealist Issue

COLD CAVE

It’s a shelter, an expression of utopian beauty of the world through words, images, and music. It’s a cold cave where an intimate atmosphere in response to the world can be created; a world that’s individual, at times cruel, but always ready to speak, no matter what. The answer is to call oneself into question, to have ideals, to stand on one’s own two feet, and to learn how to live with what elevate rather than destroy one. It’s an electronic universe made of energy, content, and the profound and tangible aesthetics of Wesley Eisold, poet, musician, and creator of independent projects of artistic expressions, such as Cold Cave and Heartworm Press.

Cold Cave

Idealism belongs to some sort of emotional reaction; people’s reactions are guided by different feelings. Do you consider yourself to be a person that follows his heart or his gut?

I’m definitely a heart person. I believe that the heart is our engine. It’s the factory where our decisions evolve and de- velop; whether they are thought out or taken instinctively, it’s always from the heart that they come from, not from the mind or gut. I also have a conscience somehow tied to a God, but I don’t turn to it that often since the answer can be easily seesawing. I’d rather follow my heart. I’ve always been like this; I’m a slave to my emotions.

To some degree speaking of reactions and ideals also means speaking of activism. Let’s get into it in more depth and focus on the content, the purpose, the thought, and therefore the words: what’s your Manifesto?

Fortunately and unfortunately I don’t see that much
of a difference between Wesley and Cold Cave; my mu- sical project is the vehicle through which I express my perception of the world as much as of myself. If I had to think about my personal Manifesto, I’d say that the first point — the zero grade — would have to be related to how
I see the world and my minimalist approach. What I’m trying to do with my music is to show people this image
of beauty, hoping to leave them with something. It might be just one’s way to escape for a night, especially during
a concert, thanks to the aesthetic part that comes with
it. The atmosphere that surrounds me on stage is very minimal. The music acts as a bridge between this aesthet- ic cleanness and the radicalism that a sound at its peak can reach. Whenever we step on stage, we try not to refer strictly to reality as it is, but to this beauty that we want
to describe, through words for instance. The lyrics are often about impossible love, or trying to live a life that has a meaning and to sacrifice oneself; they’re about answers, sex, relationships, life and beauty in all their forms. I try to show the world the way I see it, through my idea and the attachment I feel, therefore through what we could call my Manifesto.

The atmosphere and the visual impact are certainly a powerful medium, at times a weapon. I like defining the style of something using the word aesthetics, rather than fashion or trend, but let’s talk about business...

I second that; the aesthetics is something completely different from fashion or trend. It’s something full, deep, true, and powerful. There is so much more depth and meaning to it.

There you go. So what’s the power of a person’s aesthetic presence, and what’s the power of project aesthetics?

To do what we do, aesthetics has to come first because it deepens the content. Cold Cave’s aesthetics is definitely something very neat, like a black square can be. Many people could say that they could do it too, which is what often happens when they’re looking at a work of art of
the likes of Yves Klein’s paintings. The fascinating part of the game is to succeed in making that figure simple and that color full, and yet adding a deep meaning, an ideal
to it. Sometimes I think that music is not all there is, or better yet, all that matters to me is the bigger picture with its aesthetics, sounds, and words. My approach and the meaning I give to aesthetics, its importance, it’s like when one chooses a book by its cover. I find it to be a beautiful thing it’s not superficial. If one puts an effort in presenting something, he’s trying to show you his soul, his interpreta- tion of something, and his perception of the world. This is everything to me. Perhaps the artworks of our albums and how we present them in general are the most important and significant thing.

Music is a visual project that could be an expression of a reaction and will. Music has a history of being a medium of reaction to the system, especially for young people. Is that revolutionary power still the same?

Sometimes I believe that music has this power, other times I think that everything was different in the past, more powerful, more involved. Of course I can’t declare that this strength was there to be found in every past decade because I wasn’t in the first place. What I can say with certainty is that today everything seems too easy. I want people to have a conscience and express it, but I’m skep- tical about those people who use poor aesthetics, along with random words put together without much effort that lack meaning. Don’t get me started on things like followers mania and web abuse. The best thing to do for me would probably be to get my wife and son, leave everything, and go far away from here. Now, this would be a revolution! Today people are very opportunist when it comes to relationships, work, passions; I’m quite hesitant about the revolutionary power of music today. To be totally realistic, even if music was absolutely pure, it wouldn’t change a thing. There would still be war, corruption, and poverty, because music can’t change the word. It’s an important medium, powerful in its own way, energetic, but it’s hardly the real change. Still, you can educate people, change someone’s mind, improve people’s daily lives leading by example and living without trying to profit from this or being greedy to stand out.

We are without a doubt living in a time of individualism, of refusal, and maybe we don’t understand certain mechanisms that sprang in the past anymore. For instance, in terms of meaning, do you feel closer to the punk concept of No Future as a scream of change and reaction, or do you feel closer to the grunge concept behind the I-don’t-care attitude as an act of surrender? 

Thank you for asking; it’s something that’s very dear to me. I understand both concepts very well thanks to the music that’s always been part of my life. Older people that were already into it and into skateboarding introduced me to punk music when I was 10.

I’d say instinctively that I feel connected to this idea of No Future. It’s not about wanting to change something; it’s more about the acceptance of this existence. It’s always been hard for me to find satisfaction in my emotions, in my body, in my life, and so I’ve ac- cepted this as my dimension, and I’ve tried, as I still do, to make something in order to find a way of expression that satisfies me, which is music in my case. I often wonder about the meaning of things, our purpose, and this is why I’m so committed to my pursuit of beauty and aesthetics. Otherwise many of the things that I do wouldn’t make much sense. Moving on to grunge, many people link it to some bands that were actually products of the movement itself. Grunge is a reaction against different waves of post, like post punk, post rock, and so on. Those guys thought, “What are we doing here? What are we going to do?” I can totally relate to that mood and I believe myself to be a combination of both attitudes. According to my past and my nature, I am a fighter. If I think about how I’ve lived the 90s, I can’t say that I’ve seen people fighting really. My father was in the navy, we moved a lot, and I received a very strict education with iron rules covering etiquette and clothing. Even if I already knew that whatever I was going to do would get me in trouble, I’d do it nonetheless. It was an odd time that I obviously linked back to where I lived, the general atmosphere, my experience, and the American society. 

It was the end of the millennium.

Exactly! The end of the millennium perfectly captures the atmosphere that I’m trying to describe.

Back to music and to who creates it? There are some elements that are fundamental when it comes to its strength. I’m thinking about sound system, the energy that’s unleashed on the people, and the energy that these people unleash on the artist. How much do these two elements matter to you?

I live in an odd dimension: I’m not a DJ, I don’t play techno, but whenever I get the chance to play where that’s what’s usually played, I’m more than happy to. As a band, we get asked to perform in places where usually the sound system is right for rock concerts, but I’ve realized that everything works better when we are provided with equip- ment that’s more fitting for our electronic flair. Especially in the United States, systems are not satisfying; I have to say that it’s very different from Europe, probably due to a cultural factor. I need a powerful system in order to get the right energy. Another peculiar thing is where our gigs are being
arranged, and that’s usually theatres and clubs. Whenever it’s the first case, people don’t come to dance, they come to experience something, and it’s suggestive. It could also happen that the night before you had to play in a club with people screaming, dancing, and singing very close to you, and it’s the most beautiful feeling in the world. I have to say that I don’t know how to respond to that, especially in theatres. It’s something that I still have to learn because I grew up in a hardcore punk band. In that kind of environ- ment, if people don’t lose it and go wild, it literally means that you suck. It doesn’t matter how well you play, it all comes down to people’s reaction. That’s my school, so I still have to take the measures. My concerts and their suc- cess depend on the audience’s reaction, if I don’t feel love from their side, if I don’t feel that energy; I’m not capable of releasing it.

What about when you’re in the crowd, when you attend a concert or a festival, what kind of member of the audience are you?

I’m the kind of person that I don’t like having at my con- certs. I’m in the back of the room, quiet, and I probably leave after three songs. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like it, on the contrary, perhaps what I hear is incredible and enough for me to leave. Of course then I think about when I’m on stage and I see people leaving in the middle of my show, I fear something must have happened, the acoustic perhaps sucked, or things like that. Let’s just say that when I’m in the audience, even when it’s my favorite band up on stage, I decide to leave when the show is at its peak and perfect.

We’re somehow talking about a group of people gathered together, and their different ways to respond in the same environment. From your experience, what’s the power of an individual project and what’s the power of a group project?

Cold Cave was born out of a need of mine to get away from a constant way of living together as a group. Growing up surrounded by hardcore punk means growing up in a community, your friends are your companions, or at least they play the same music as you. You live all together, creating fanzines, hanging out in the same circle like a proper community. Soon after I joined the band, we became fa- mous, and I realized that I was subjected to criticism and judgment coming from the people around me. I felt very naive, and soon after that this reality of life in a communi- ty became too tight for me, I didn’t like it anymore. I first turned to music because I felt lonely, misunderstood, and as soon as I found this common reality, I thought it was in- credible. Then I realized that people are people, it doesn’t matter if it’s a community, and problems will always come up. After seven years in that kind of band, I didn’t want to be represented by people anymore. I didn’t like the way they behaved or presented themselves, and so I decided to start making my own music. First of all I wanted to create music that I could play with or without someone else being there. I only have one hand so I need synthesizers and drum machines, but I didn’t want to depend on anyone else, I wanted to do it all by myself. The name had to represent what was happening, I didn’t want people to enter my dimension, it had to be something isolated, closed. Cold Cave was an idea for me and for me only. I felt more satisfied in doing things by myself. Of course I did different collaborations over the years, but I’ve learned how to see when someone else’s artistic presence is efficient or not, judging everything as if it’s a relation- ship: if there’s no growth, if there’s no understanding. And the best thing to do is to go separate ways. I was lucky enough to meet Amy; she came around without actually wanting to be a part of Cold Cave. She instantly understood and knew my influences that come from art, music, poetry, and cinema. She never acted like she wanted something from me, but it’s been a relationship of growth and constant exchange from the start. It’s exciting for me to meet people with a deeper culture than mine regarding music, but also philosophy, and art. She is one of those people, she’s chosen to make a family with me, and that’s fulfilling. I’ve found someone who wants to help me develop my vision with a better definition than other people have had or that I’ve had when I tried to reach it by myself. She’s in charge of all the visual part of the shows. She knows how to translate the beauty that we seek into images and visual suggestions. 

You often mention this desire of yours to carry on projects by yourself without depending on anyone else. Tell me about your Heartworm Press; is this extremely independent publishing house part of that DIY attitude?

Heartworm Press is an extension of punk. When you become part of an underground community, you want to participate. I didn’t play but I’ve always written a lot, so I started creating very personal fanzines. There are a lot of lyricists that I consider to be poets and sometimes they are even better than real poets. I’ve always wanted to support them in some way, I wanted to give them the respect they deserved and recognize their efforts. Thanks to the Heartworm Press I started publishing works of different friends and my own personal writings. Little by little this project has grown, even though I’m not planning to turn it into atraditional publishing house, I don’t have the time to do it, and I don’t really want to. With time many collaborations have happened, but I’ve always tried to give voice to those authors who I believe to be of great substance. I’m enthusiastic about this new photographic project with Natalie Curtis that we’re going to start working on in the next few months. She had this precious photo- graphic material that belonged to her father Ian, and she wanted to let people know the man behind the personage. We’ve decided to work on it together for Heartworm Press because it’s a dimension of expression free of any market imposition. The authors are totally free. If the project is worth it, if there’s talent, nothing else is needed. I’m very happy to support an intimate and personal vision of one of Manchester faces; it’s a tremendous honor. That’s all I wish to do with Heartworm Press, to support my work and the work of the people I believe in, people that possess that genius that traditional publishing houses don’t rec- ognize and acknowledge enough. Sometimes I genuinely believe that I am one of those people.