One of the more interesting bands ploughing the post-whateverthefuck genre are Pennsylvania’s Rosetta, a four piece outfit who meld riff heavy bombast with a cerebral, mantra like space groove. They have described themselves in the past as ‘serious music by unserious people, which seems about right. Their new album, The Anaesthete is a phenomenal piece of work, and their first attempt at a complete DIY process. Demon Pigeon sat down with lead singer Michael Armine (not really, I emailed him. What you think we can afford to fly to Pennsylania?) to ask about the new album, ice moons and why Spotify is rubbish.
DP: I think you are the only band that I’ve ever discovered through a Wikipedia article about a frozen moon around Jupiter. I was writing a story about Europa and while researching it I stumbled across a link to The Galilean Satellites album. The story turned out to be so bad I had to erase all traces of it from existence, but I’m glad it introduced me to you. So, what’s the new album all about?
MI: A lot of people will be disappointed with the lyrical content of this record. There is an over arching them to The Anaesthete but it is not transparent from the lyrics. Unlike The Galilean Satellites where there were a lot of repetitive symbols, The Anaesthete has only three that repeat very few times. There is one reference to a song on A Determinism of Morality because a theme that I had hoped was laid to rest ended up having a little more life left in it after all. We receive a lot of emails from people dealing with their potentially suicidal episodes. The all say the same thing, that Rosetta made them feel hopeful. So we wrote around that idea.
DP: This is your first album being released under your own steam, how is that going? I’d imagine it’s a little daunting?
MI: It was daunting for each member in a different way, especially for Matt (J Matthew Weed, Guitar). Aside from putting his energies into seeing the album be exactly what we wanted, individually and collectively, Matt set up entire platform and business model the record was released on. There were a lot of nights with no sleep for him. The rest of us kind of got off easy in comparison.
DP: The new artwork is amazing, continuing in the fine tradition of your previous work, each of which is wildly different from its predecessor. Who designed it, and how much input did you have as a band into it?
MI: Jordan Butcher of Work Of Self designed the piece. He’s an old friend of ours we met touring the states. We actually relinquished our input on this as we trusted his good judgement and skills. We gave them themes and symbols to work with, he did the rest. Our reaction to the original cover was the same as everyone else who posts on our facebook page: “What the fuck is this?”
Instead of dismissing it straight off we decided to sit with it for a week. The more we came back to it the more we liked it and ended up going with it. At a time when people too quickly dismiss a piece of art, we decided to package the record in something that people would have to accept and come to like the more they returned to it.
DP: I noted with amusement that the visual presentation of your name on the artwork had certain cretinous buffoons lamenting your move towards black metal. You’ve never before had a set ‘logo’, does this rather lovely ornate typeface represent a ‘stunning new logo direction’ for Rosetta?
MI: The reaction to the logo was something I found really interesting. All of a sudden the hive mind that is the internet decided that design to be a black metal one. It was ridiculous too see people making assumptions about the sound based off the image. I understand that Black Metal is very popular right now but people should have more faith then to think we were jumping on a new trend.
DP: Now that you’ve moved into the murky world of self-releasing, how much of the extra work of being in a band are you now in control of? I’m thinking tour booking, merch, stickers etc. Do you still have people to delegate all this stuff or is it all entirely in-house?
MI: This is a new world for us. Matt is taking care of all the business in terms of how this album will be released in physical form. While we all have input on every decision he’s the go man for that part of the project. Dave (Grossman, Bass) and myself are still taking care of US booking. Overseas booking is always handled by the one and only Mike Persil.
DP: The trajectory of your albums seems very clear, and each album always feels like a natural progression from the last. The new album is no different, but it feels a lot grander in scale than ‘Determinism…’ It’s also crushing in places. Do you look at each album in terms of an overall piece, or are you guided more by the individual songs as they appear?
MI: I think the former is true for albums like Gallilean and Wake/Lift. Determinism and The Anaesthete were very much song by song in terms of construction. It was not until later in the studio that we sat down with the songs and really though about they sounded together. This is especially true of The Anaesthete. The track order was very much intentional and was the center of a lot of debate and conversation. We finalized the record as it is because it has three segments, each having their own feel that flow into one another nicely.
DP: You were interviewed for the ‘Blood, Sweat & Vinyl’ documentary, and you are often lumped in as being in the ‘post metal’ scene, or the ‘sludge metal’ scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Do you feel part of this or any other scene?
MI: Certainly not anymore. I think for a moment in time we did and were even okay being lumped into the ‘Post this or that’ metal scene. We never focused on that stuff and we never tailored the music for that demographic of listeners. That may be why I’m currently feeling left out of a the loop in terms of what good bands are out there. Because we toured so much. Touring will make you hate music, especially what is currently popular. I personally turned my head to a lot of new music because I was feeling so over saturated from touring. I’m playing catch up. For example, Deafheaven was just a name to me for a long time. Turns out I really like what they’re doing. But it took me a long time to actually give them a listen.
DP: Part of your self-release for the new album was to work under a ‘pay what you want’ system, with a physical release later in the year. Do you think it’s more important for people to hear your music and get yourselves out there than to try and make money off the album itself?
MI: Both are equally as important right now and I hate that that’s the case. We make music for ourselves and are thankful that others are interested and take interest in it. It was okay in our 20’s to push hard just so people will hear the music. Now, 10 years later we have a lot of other outside responsibilities. we need a support system that can finance Rosetta so we can keep creating music for people to enjoy. In retrospect It was a good thing that we worked so hard for the last 10 years. Now we have a support system in place allowing us to keep creating music for a dedicated base of people while still continuing to reach more with less energy.
DP: Your old albums are on Spotify (which I guess is the label’s decision) but the new one isn’t up yet, is this a conscious choice?
MI: Yes it was. Spotify, like Itunes, takes advantage of the artist. Like any business they are out to maximize profit while using an antiquated business model:Pay the worker less than what they are worth. We went with Bandcamp because they are a good-guy company and have the bands best interest in mind. They do not strip the bands of large percentage of the profit. In fact, the more you sell on Bandcamp, the less they take for themselves.
DP: What are your feelings about the way these services seem to be driving the market these days?
MI: Bandcamp’s business model could easily destroy Spotify. It won’t happen. The result will be a division between how independent musicians/ bands promote themselves and how the majors promote their bands. The result I think will be outstanding. Aside from the Bandcamp model making major labels irrelevant, because they work for the artists best interest, Bandcamp will become the platform for independent musicians/bands to launch a career where no middleman can get in their way. Hopefully it means that less bullshit is promoted to us and more quality music is highlighted for us.
DP: I’ve always thought of you as one of the more cerebral bands out there at the moment, as a bunch of clever dicks what entertainment delights should we plebeian fools be enjoying that we might not know about?
MI: This answer would change drastically between band members. Speaking only for myself, Breaking Bad is a new favorite TV show of mine along with Parks and Recreation. Currently I’m reading The Dreaming Void series by Peter F. Hamilton. In terms of new music that’s out there I’m really not the guy to ask. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Autecha, and Public Enemy.
I’ve been feeling it harder and harder to come across good heavy music these days. A few weeks ago my friend introduced me to a band called Cloakroom. Their new record is awesome along with a European band called Ventura. They just did a song with David Yow from The Jesus Lizard that is unreal. Recently my opinion is that heavy music has been vacillating between too technical and premature. It seems like we’re being flooded with a large number of bands and only a small fraction of them are interesting.
DP: As a resident of that diseased isle across the pond from yourselves we were very glad to hear that you’re joining the line up for Damnation Festival, but what are the odds that your European fans will get the chance to enjoy the new album in a full blown headlining setting?
MI: We are doing a very short tour of the UK in November that will include two shows in France as well. This upcoming summer we will be in China for two weeks with a possible tour of Russia in April. A full European tour will happen in the summer of 2015 I’m sure.
DP: Finally, do you have a favourite ice moon?
Rosetta are playing Damnation Festival at Leeds University Union on 2nd November, alongside Carcass, Cult of Luna and many more.