Death From Above
CoC talks with Erik Moggridge of Aerial Ruin
by: Johnathan A. Carbon
Erik Moggridge has been heard in the past with Epidemic and Old Grandad. Today he is the sole creator and performer for a one man acoustic act known as Aerial Ruin. While the break in distortion could have sent this act towards a different crowd, Aerial Ruin recently toured with Agalloch and the Worm Ouroboros. Moggridge sits down and candidly opens up about Aerial Ruin's past present and future.

CoC: How was Aerial Ruin started? You ran in metal bands for more than two decades before reaching this type of music. Was a minimalist acoustic exploration the product of your past or just another evolution?

Erik Moggridge: It was a mixture of musical evolution and personal, spiritual and psychedelic experiences. I wrote the earliest Aerial Ruin songs in 1999 when my band Old Grandad was active. I do some melodic vocals with Old Grandad but feel my singing is better at lower volumes, so I experimented with a four track and clean and acoustic guitar tones. The songs came came very naturally and ritualistically. Around 2005 I released the first Aerial Ruin recording, a 22 minute EP called _133 306 668_ -- actually I didn't really release it, mostly just gave away and sold CDRs. In 2008 I finally started performing Aerial Ruin live, at which point it became more serious, especially now with the first official full-length _Valleys of the Earth_ coming out on Vendlus Records.

CoC: Was there any active musical influence which played a part in the creation?

EM: Syd Barrett, Mark Lanegan and Sixties and Seventies Pink Floyd were influential, and I think you can hear that, but not blatantly so. As I said, the inspirations and influences for Aerial Ruin were more spiritual and psychedelic than musical.

CoC: What was the recording like for _Valleys of the Earth_? How did it differ from your previous, louder records?

EM: The recording was different in every way. Everything else I've done has been in a professional recording studio with an engineer / producer, usually Guy Higbey who was also my bandmate in my first band Epidemic. I started recording _Valleys of the Earth_ by myself at home on Adat, so I had to engineer it myself and try to maintain objectivity while falling over mic stands trying to reach the recording button, etc. The other difference is how much less forgiving recording acoustic music is, I hadn't expected that. Every trace of imperfection is magnified, whereas if you're recording a chunky metal riff cranked through a Marshall and you double or triple your tracks, you won't notice minor flubs as much. The second half of recording _Valleys_ was done at Jeff Leppard's home studio in SF, where he engineered and we mixed it together. Much funner with Jeff's help and skill. Three songs also feature guitar accompaniments from Eric Peterson of Lost Goat and Night After Night. From there I passed it on to Jason Walton for mastering. This all happened over a long period of time with tons of left over material. That was another difference, no professional studio equals no deadlines or rush.

CoC: When I saw your Baltimore show, despite some idle chatter in the back, the majority of people were intently listening. Have you found most of your audiences receptive to acoustic music before a metal show? Do you think Agalloch and The Worm Ouroboros draw a contemplative crowd?

EM: Yes, the Agalloch / Worm Ouroboros crowd was definitely contemplative. Agalloch fans are not typical metal fans, so far as I can tell, just as Agalloch is not a typical metal band. It also helped that Agalloch promotes all their opening bands before the tour, so some of the crowd seemed to know a little about Aerial Ruin already. It's understandable that people who like _The Mantle_ and _The White EP_ would like Aerial Ruin and Worm Ouroboros. I think both Agalloch and Worm are great bands to play with, so I was thrilled to be on those shows. I have played different shows where there's much more chit-chat and seemingly less people paying attention, but I try not to get all pissed about it, I just can't be that self-important -- it'd be nice if they'd shut the fuck up though. Sometimes when it feels like a lot of people are not paying attention, I'll get a bunch of compliments after the show. Just because they're yapping doesn't mean they are not listening. Overall I'm pleasantly surprised at the positive reactions I get from a wide range of music fans.

CoC: What's the worst show you've played?

EM: Well, I've played plenty of shows in front of very small audiences, but that doesn't bother me. These days I'm comfortable performing, so I consistently feel good about my playing and singing. When I first started doing Aerial Ruin shows in 2008 I was nervous and my performance was much less consistent, but I've never played a show where I felt it was a bad choice of bands or I felt unwelcome. I'm definitely comfortable playing with all sorts of bands. There was one show at Thee Parkside in SF a couple of years ago where I felt my performance was very stiff, but the show in general was cool, it was with Saturn Returns (Eric Peterson's new band) and Covetous Woe (Brian Hill's project).

CoC: During research for this discussion, I found a 1997 CoC interview with Max Barnett from Old Grandad, a stoner/death outfit which you are still listed as an active participant. Did you contribute to their 2005 _Hocus Corpus_ and do you have any plans for continuing the band?

EM: Yes, I played and sang on _Hocus Corpus_ which we wrote collaboratively, just like the three albums we did in the Nineties. Old Grandad is a band that would never have a line-up change, it's always been the three of us. These days we play the occasional show, but are not active beyond that. If someone came along and offered to pay for us to record another album, then maybe it would happen, but unlikely otherwise.

CoC; Favorite metal record of the past five years?

EM: It's a tie between Opeth _- Watershed_ and Agalloch - _Ashes Against the Grain_. Other heavy faves of the last five years are: The Atomic Bomb Audition -_Roots Into the See_, Walken - _Walken_, Samothrace - _Life's Trade_, Lesbian - _Stratospheria Cubensis_, Alcest - _Écailles de Lune_, and Ludicra - _The Tenant_.

CoC: Favorite use of acoustic instruments in an album or favorite acoustic record?

EM: I tend to appreciate acoustic instruments a lot when they are mixed with electrics; there is some electric guitar in Aerial Ruin too. I love the texture and layering on Agalloch's _The Mantle_, great use of clean and distorted electric guitar tones combined with steel and nylon string acoustics. I worship all the Elliott Smith albums, but his self-titled album stands out as being entirely acoustic and one of his best works despite being a somewhat lo-fi recording. The first two Mark Lanegan albums have great use of acoustic guitar, although most of the guitars are played by Mike Johnson. The Syd Barrett solo albums are possibly my favorite albums of all time _The Madcap Laughs_ having some acoustic guitar, the song "feel" being so beautiful and haunting and a great example of stripped down Syd Barrett. He used clean electric a lot too, though which I think sometimes people mistake for acoustic.

CoC: What does the future hold for Aerial Ruin? Is the sound heard on _Valleys of the Earth_ going to be explored more or was this just a stopping point?

EM: Aerial Ruin will probably continue for as long as I am alive. I hope to record regularly and not take as long on future recordings as I did on _Valleys_ -- I have so much material, it just takes a long time to get it into a cohesive album form. I really enjoyed the small amount of touring I've done as Aerial Ruin and want to do lots more of it. I'd love to tour extensively, but for the immediate future might only be embarking on more mini tours. I hope to return to the east coast soon, perhaps this year. Europe would rule, but at this point i don't have the connections for that; hopefully that'll change soon.

(article submitted 15/5/2011)

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