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LAZER/WULF's Brian Aiken: We're Out to Prove Something

I had the pleasure of seeing Lazer/Wulf perform last month at the Metal Injection/MetalSucks CMJ showcase, along with the even greater pleasure of meeting the fine gentlemen after their fantastic set. When it comes to progressive and experimental acts, it can be difficult for them to translate their drive for exploration into an entertaining live show. But through a rousing show of energy and gleeful enthusiasm, Lazur/Wulf pulled this off with relative ease. And they were so nice, they gave me a copy of their new CD (check out our review), AND a sweet postcard of the band in awkward Christmas sweaters sitting proudly on my refrigerator. Anyway, here are some questions I asked guitarist/lead singer Brian Aiken:

Metal Injection: Hey Bryan, great meeting you guys at CMJ last month! How did it feel to be part of the Metal Injection/MetalSucks showcase?

Bryan Aiken: Thanks so much! Man, I wish I could play it cooler about this stuff, but honestly I was nervous out of my mind! I have such intense stage fright, and that was the biggest show we’ve done so far. We’ve only been playing seriously for a few years, mostly house shows and DIY spots in front of our friends – we’re used to knowing at least all the first names of our entire audience. Then suddenly it clicked, and we’re doing freaking CMJ. It’s been such a whirlwind. I mean, we’ve always been the dudes who visit these sites; we’ve been all over the message boards independently for so many years. Then suddenly we’re on the other side of that lens, and its so bizarre! It’s a living fucking dream.

More and more people are beginning to find out about your band. Still, perhaps you could tell us a bit of background info on how you guys formed and why the music went in the direction it did.

Yeah, Sean and I met in college and started what was essentially a joke band called “Lazer/Wulf.” We were teenagers – it was total nonsense. We’re 29 now, so that was a while ago. It grew to a five piece, even with a stand-alone vocalist, but the band dissolved as life intervened, as it does. Children, jobs, health, the big stuff. Many years passed, and Sean and I came to a pretty dark place post-Lazer/Wulf; it became clear that making music was something, maybe the only thing, that made us really happy. So we found Brad, our current drummer, and started again as a trio. But the stakes had changed, and we had so much more to say, now that we realized how much we actually meant it. Suddenly Lazer/Wulf wasn’t a joke anymore, and three years later, it’s become our lives’ work.

Now that I think of it, we never did find a new vocalist. But once our new identity clicked, we were just so excited by what was happening, that it didn’t seem so important anymore. It allowed us, and still allows us, to challenge ourselves to write more interesting songs and try to say more with our music. There’s also a lot of clichés and pitfalls to work against in instrumental music, so it’s been especially rewarding to try to find our own way through all that.

Besides the palindrome aspect, what would you say went into the making of The Beast of Left and Right? Is there a central theme to the lyrics or the emotions evoked from the music itself?

Oh, man, life went into it. Not playing music for so long put a raging fire under our ass, and The Beast, front to back, is about that. About making huge, course-altering choices and the sacrifices those usually demand. We had a lot to say, and if we were going to do it as instrumentally as possible, we’d have to have a very clear mission statement musically. I know concept albums can make lepers of a band, but that’s a side affect of having such a clear purpose to what you’re working on. One song wasn’t going to say everything we needed to say about choice and death and being honest with yourself. So having a big narrative theme wasn’t about being clever or cute; we had no way of knowing anyone would ever hear this. But we were just so pissed and excited and sad and hopeful, and we poured all that into a bottle and shook the fucker up.

What drove you to take such a progressive and experimental approach to your music? Was it something that came naturally or did you think "man, we really need to create something fresh"?

I hope we are doing something fresh, man; I appreciate that. It’s both, really – natural and a conscious effort. We started in Athens, GA, which is such a bizarre and diverse music scene. It encourages people to be themselves, and equates being different with being great. Like I said before, we’re used to our audience being our friends, so cultivating your sound in that atmosphere can afford you a lot of courage. Especially when you’re getting the most positive reinforcement from being total weirdos – specifically bending genre rules, or outright breaking them. So that instinct, to experiment to whatever end, is in our blood. It’s the only thing that feels worth doing.

What bands do you find most people compare you to? If there are any running themes or bands, which comparisons bother you the most?

Man, it’s all over the place! I love when people do that; and they do, all the time. It’s so much fun. They march over to the merch booth with “eureka” eyes and all manner of accusations, usually prefixed by “a metal version of:” The Police was a great one; Battles; Karma to Burn; Minute Men; it’s all over the place, but we’re very rarely ever compared to actual metal bands. And I think that’s really cool, because it’s actually pretty accurate. We take a lot of influence from so many kinds of music, chew it up and spit it out in our own way. I’m glad people can still pick up on that and embrace it.

It's encouraging to know that people who walked away from music post-high school or post-college can come back to it again later and find some measure of success. How is it balancing a touring band with other work-commitments back home? I feel like that's the norm now for most bands.

It’s so complicated, man. We haven’t gotten to the point where we can outright quit our day jobs, but in order to give music a honest, and tour as heavily as that requires, we had to totally re-evaluate our priorities. That’s the rub of being an upstart band; you have to live that double life. And our choosing to adopt that sort of dual identity, home life and tour life, was one of the big sacrifices we had to survive to switch gears so completely. Sean and I spent a few years building something great in our respective industries, something stable and reliable – I’m a graphic designer and he’s in video production – and then we had to let all that hard work go, one child for another. It felt like Sophie’s goddamn choice, trading our babies in for something that could turn out to be a real bastard. But it’s what we needed to do.

And living through all that is why we’re able to do this at all, I think. All those years weren’t for nothing; you can’t live like this without being totally sure. We’re more certain than ever that this is what we want to do, because we really tried not to, haha. We resisted, and it pulled us back, and now that we’re on the other side of it, we know. We know it couldn’t have gone any other way for us, we were always going to be Lazer/Wulf. We’ve seen the other side, and it’s not us. This is who we really are, and we know that now.

So with all of this in mind, what do you guys have planned for 2015?

We’re really excited to play Roadburn in the Netherlands next April! It’s such a huge honor; what that means for a new band to be invited to something like that is… there are no words, man. We’ll try to book another North American tour early next year also, because we miss all our friends on the west coast, then head out to Europe. I can’t believe I’m saying that. And all the while we’re farming ideas for our next record. It’ll take some time, because we don’t half-ass anything, but that’s already underway. Meanwhile, we’re still experimenting and honing our live experience, so that’s where all our heads are at right now. We’re like a fucking hydra with all these heads, man. We’re out to prove something.

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