Dylan Carlson - Earth Guitarist
Dylan Carlson & Earth - The Early Years
Perhaps best known for being the heroin addicted best friend of Kurt Cobain and the person who purchased the gun which Kurt used to take his own life; Dylan Carlson the artist is probably less known for his musical talent. There was of course, that (in)famous interview with Nick Broomfield in the Kurt and Courtney documentary where Carlson came across as perhaps not the kind of person that you would like to have met at the time.
Born in 1967 in Seattle, home of what was to become the grunge movement, Dylan first became interested in being a rock musician at the age of 15 and started making ‘noise’ with Kurt Cobain who was then his room mate. Kurt went on to form early versions of Nirvana with various musicians before settling on the well known 3 piece line up.
Dylan Carlson however, took a different route to most of the grunge bands that were up and coming then, forming his band Earth. Initially starting as a two piece band, they settled on the name Earth as it was the original name that Black Sabbath performed under and they were a major influence on Dylan who has gone on record as having preferred the name ‘Wormwood’ at that point.
Unlike hardcore grunge and punk which was predominant at the time, Dylan took the opposite path. Taking the low growling riff from bands such as Black Sabbath and Seattle band, The Melvins; perhaps initially inspired by his heroin habit, Earth slowed these riffs down completely and set into motion a lesser known type of music often referred to as 'drone' or 'drone doom'. However, like much music that is thought to be miserable, there is nearly always brightness in this type of music, though it has to be said that in the early music, it is difficult to discern this in the music of Earth.
Whilst Dylan Carlson is the only ever present member of Earth, a number of musicians have passed through with varying influences on the music.
The current (all female) line up which seems to be more settled includes Dylan’s partner Adrrienne Davies is as follows:
Adrienne Davies – trap kit and percussives
Dylan Carlson – electric guitar and devices
Lori Goldston – cello and devices
Karl Blau – electric bass guitar
Whilst early releases by Earth such as their 1991 Subpop release, Extra-Capsular Extration EP focussed on the low fi growls of bass at a funereal pace, more recent releases have shown a lighter (by Earth’s standards) touch whilst still retaining the classic earth sound.
A Bureaucratic Desire For Revenge (Part 1) from the Extra-Capsular Extration EP
A Change of Style
The period between the first release and 1997 saw releases of albums such as Earth 2: Special Low-Frequency Version (1993, SubPop) and Phase 3: Thrones and Dominions (1995, SubPop ). During this period they also released 2 singles with a modicum of commercial appeal; Tallahassee with its driving rock rhythms (and a video showing Carlson’s fascination with guns) and Divine and Bright featuring the ‘vocals’ of one Kurt Cobain.
1997 saw Dylan Carlson take a break from music to deal with his problems, both drug related and legal and little is known about this period, not one of his favourites although he has said that he didn’t even own a guitar for 4 years.
It was probably presumed during this period that Carlson was finished perhaps both musically and with his life. However 2005, a period of 7 years, saw his return with Earth. A new clean Dylan Carlson also came with a new sound whilst retaining the ‘drone’ appeal of Earth. Influenced by numerous musicians from fields such as jazz and folk as well as Neil Young, the music took a turn for the better although it is virtually impossible to spot the influences and these are certainly not folk or jazz records despite jazz guitarist Bill Frisell appearing on 3 tracks of the 2008 release The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull.
Tallahassee video from the Earth LP "Pentastar: In The Style Of Demons"
Divine and Bright featuring Kurt Cobain on Vocals
The reintroduction of Earth with the 2005 release Hex: or Printing in the Infernal Method saw a change in their style with a happier and more focussed Carlson introducing some lighter modes into their songs although retaining the deep bass and lengthy songs.
Their 2011 release Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: I saw this taken further and whilst definitely not commercial does perhaps allow wider appreciation of the Band.
So what next for Carlson? Well, Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: 2 will be released in early 2012 (more information about this and a European tour further down). He is also expected to record a solo album, perhaps just Dylan Carlson on acoustic guitar or perhaps in collaboration with others; at the moment only he knows. However, despite a health scare which he seems to be over, there is no doubt that there is a great deal of great music to come from Dylan and a more positive outlook without the ‘sellout’ that so often comes with people that have gone through rehab, removing the argument that only tortured souls make great music.
Old Black from the 2011 Earth Album 'Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: I '
NEW 2012 Album and Tour
Dylan Carlson's Earth have just announced a new album (note: they always produce a vinvl version) and European tour.
The album which is to be called Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: II is the second album from the sessions that produced Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light: I .. This new one is thought to be significantly more improvised.
The 2012 Earth European Tour Dates are:
March 3 - Arnofini - Bristol,UK
March 5 - Button Factory - Dublin
March 7 - Ruby Lounge - Manchester, UK
March 8 - The Caves - Edinburgh
March 9 - Brudenell Social Club – Leeds, UK
March 11 - Union Chapel - London, UK
March 12 - The Haunt - Brighton, UK
Also on this bill are Mount Eerie and Ô Paon