Heathen Harvest: Greetings Matt and thank you for accepting this interview opportunity! Could you start by telling us how the thought of Godheadscope was born and when and why it was manifest in music?
Thanks, Sage! I would say that GODHEADSCOPE began in restlessness. I wanted to discern a musical terrain where I could make connections between the genres that I admire—chamber music, ambient, black and doom metal, new music, jazz, whatever—and make music that could not be reduced to any of these. I simply wanted to integrate my musical life.
By some miracle of judgment and accident, discipline and surprise, I found it, by remaining fiercely loyal to the calling that each composition makes upon my conscience. With GODHEADSCOPE, I approach composition as a form of learning, as a challenge to learn what kind of composer I must become in order to stay loyal to the path I am charting.
HH: You've mentioned that you don't know what the name Godheadscope comes from. Now that the music has been released, and has had time to sink in, is there anything subconsciously that you think could have led to you forming this word?
That’s a very interesting question. I have grown into the name. My poetry for GODHEADSCOPE increasingly explores theological and moral ideas through ambiguous or otherwise strangely-described situations. These raise questions about the callings and obligations to one another that make us fully human.
The poetry challenges me to think beyond myself and approach the world in new ways. In effect, the poetry has become a kind of myth-making that invites many interpretations and conversations. “GODHEADSCOPE” seems as fair a word as any for describing this ethic.
HH: You've also mentioned in a previous interview that you started out on French Horn in high school. French Horn is an instrument known for its potential to create epic music with its strong deep brass sound. Have you ever considered making more epic music?
I don’t aspire to make any particular kind of music per se. I just want to challenge myself and improve my craft.
I loved playing the French horn, although it’s been more than a decade since I have done so. It’s both epic and intimate. It can call a musical world into being for the listener, as if announcing a great arrival. But it can also wrap itself around the listener in incredible warmth. I loved that range and possibility, to call the listener from afar and then whisper close to the listener’s ear.
HH: Do you have plans for any other projects of a different musical nature, or have you any currently besides artists that you've worked with in the past?
As I said, I get restless musically. I’m not inclined to repeating myself.
Session work and collaborating with other musicians are wonderful. They provide an outlet to wipe the slate clean a bit, step into someone else’s musical playground, and discover new aspects of my craft. I bring those discoveries back to my own work. Recently, I’ve been doing work with Dormant
, Twilight Congregation
, and (as is frequently the case) Dead Raven Choir
I also hope to release the debut CD of my Cindervoice project sometime in the near future.
But GODHEADSCOPE is a very flexible and evolving project. One album will never sound like another. I continue to grow as a composer, as does GODHEADSCOPE’s instrumentation and tonal palette. I don’t feel constrained in any way that isn’t productive musically.
HH: How protective are you over the instrumentation of Godheadscope? i.e. do you ever plan on inviting guest musicians in for a spot on your recordings?
I’m not attached to any pre-conceived ideas of what GODHEADSCOPE “should” sound like, within certain broad and obvious limits. But I’m very protective of what each given album wants to become and can teach me in the course of composition. Sometimes this will mean inviting others to perform on an album, and other times it will not. The key is to reach out to people whose musical judgment I trust, given what a particular album is becoming—and to do so at the right time, so that I might still discover something surprising.
I’m not dogmatic, but I demand a lot of myself and others. The music deserves my commitment, and GODHEADSCOPE’s best work comes from remaining loyal to the surprises and lessons of each composition or album.
HH: What are your plans for Cindervoice after the release of the debut album with Godheadscope grabbing such a sufficient audience? Who will be releasing 'Inertia Set Aflame'?
The Cindervoice album is mostly finished, save for a few tweaks to the mix and a vocal duet yet to be recorded. The album is a very interesting mix of chamber music, psych-folk, and the singer-songwriter genre. I’m very proud of it, though it’s taken literally years to complete. I’m currently shopping it around.
HH: Are you an artist in any visual mediums?
Not really. My only visual gift is in working on the layout for my releases. But that is nothing without the visual gifts of photographers and others. I depend on their generosity, and am thankful for it.
HH: You plan to release a split with Stroszek. How did this come about, and who will be releasing this split? What medium will it be available on?
Claudio Alcara (from Stroszek/Frostmoon Eclipse
) and I became friends through our mutual respect for one another’s work. I don’t remember which one of us first contacted the other, but we started talking about doing a split almost immediately upon getting to know one another. At the time, I had just completed work on “A City Out of Sight,” and had not yet gotten in touch with God is Myth
about the album.
Ideally, it will be a CD/vinyl release, with GODHEADSCOPE and stroszek alternating tracks in a more integrated fashion than is typical of splits. But we have not yet reached a deal with a label to release it. We are open to interesting and serious offers.
HH: How large of a part will you be playing on the next Dormant album?
The process is still young and unfolding. I’m contributing clean vocals and piano. I also act periodically as a sounding board for Todd Paulson, providing feedback and constructive criticism.
I’m quite excited to be working on it, and feel honored that Todd trusts me with his vision and music. That trust—working on behalf of someone else’s creative expression—is something I take very seriously indeed. It’s a sacred thing, and a privilege.
I have a very, very good feeling about the next Dormant album. Todd is on top of his game, and I won’t accept anything less from myself on his behalf.
HH: What was the epiphany like when you read 'The Philosophy of Loyalty' by Josiah Royce? Did you know immediately that you had to write into this atmosphere?
I first read Royce’s The Philosophy of Loyalty as an undergraduate in college, about 10 or 11 years ago. To be honest, I did not really understand the book at the time. Royce’s argument is one that I think requires some life experience to appreciate and admire fully. I think it requires seeing Royce’s core insights—that there is no worthwhile self without a legitimate cause that dignifies the causes of others, and so forth—embodied practically in your own life, as you work with others to build careers, callings, homes, families, workplaces, compositions, artworks, and so forth, before you really “get it.”
I “got it” first outside of music. But when I began to reflect on my work in GODHEADSCOPE and what the project means to me, I “got it” musically as well.
Perhaps the greatest lesson I have taken so far from GODHEADSCOPE is that, at its best and most worthwhile, composition is an expression of loyalty. Although the music arises from my actions, it is distinct from me and requires my commitment and my willingness to learn. I trust that I will find listeners who are willing to join in the journey and the conversation if I do this well.
In retrospect, perhaps there is a hint of Royce in the name “GODHEADSCOPE.”
HH: Your poetry seems to be an immensely personal aspect of your life based off what I've read on your website. Does your poetry find other uses in your life besides your music projects?
Poetry is personal to me because it is social. In the end, each poem depends for better or worse on my own artistic judgments. But I work over my lyrics with other poets and friends whose judgment I trust.
As my life gets busier, I write less poetry outside of music. But one gratifying consequence of this increased focus is that GODHEADSCOPE has become more literary, subtle, and complex—and increasingly social. I’m grateful for the friendship and perspectives of those who join me in the process.
HH: Can we inquire as to what you have majored in / are currently attending college for?
I hold a Ph.D. in Education, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy. This is, no doubt, why I approach composition as a form of learning.
HH: Has where you've grown up had an effect on you as an artist/musician?
I grew up in Texas. I think Texas’ primary musical influence on me was vocal. Think Waylon Jennings
and Ruthie Foster
—vocal resonance that transfigures suffering through a joyful noise. I aspire to that.
HH: A City out of Sight came across to me as a rather spiritual experience. Does spirituality have a large part in your life, and if so what do you focus your beliefs towards? Can you give us insight into your spiritual side?
The spiritual or moral sense behind “A City Out of Sight,” at least to my ear, is very complex. Hopeful to the end, and quick to embrace a legitimate cause for celebration—but thoroughly conscious of, and even steeped in, the burdens of living. Dancers whirling in alleys, like flowers springing from cracked sidewalks.
I’m content to let that sense of spiritual tension serve as a fair expression of my personal disposition and aspiration—with the caveat that, like any artwork, this expression is only partial, and has a logic and life of its own.
HH: Is there anything that is important to you on a political basis?
The music speaks for itself. At its best, it invites conversation and dialogue.
HH: It seems that you're fairly close with your father as he handled at least the photographic side of the artwork for A City out of Sight. How much has his artistic side influenced you as an artist growing up?
When I was growing up, I attended my father’s poetry readings. He also published a chapbook of poetry when I was fairly young, which still sits on my bookshelf, next to a more recent collection.
Although young kids sometimes get restless listening to adults read poetry, and I was probably no exception, I always understood that something very serious was happening. It made an impression on me. It gave me one of my first models of what it means to be loyal to one’s craft without being limited by it, and to keep family, art, and profession poised in a reasonable, if always changing balance.
My father and I spend a good deal of time working over my poetry for GODHEADSCOPE, and my first inclination for artwork is to look to his photography. It’s a very meaningful collaboration for me, and I like to think that we learn a lot from each other in the process. We’re closer now than at any other time.
HH: That's it for us! Thank you again for the interview, and if you have anything further to say please feel free to say it here!
Thanks, Sage, for the opportunity to talk! I really appreciate your questions, and your very kind words about “A City Out of Sight.” I’m very pleased that the album found a place with you.