Wovenhand's David Eugene Edwards Dwells in the Stars, Between the Sacred and the Profane
Stream 'Star Treatment,' the celestially heavy new album from these iconoclastic "Gothic Country" devotees.
All photos courtesy of Sargent House
David Eugene Edwards has been an exceptionally enigmatic figure since he first began to infuse country, Americana, and dark folk with an unparalleled intensity. What started with 16 Horsepower during the rising “Denver Sound” of the mid-90’s, took on a wider palette and evolved into the more personal Wovenhand. The Denver native also filters this sound through his less-than-conventional world view. The son of a reckless biker and a fundamentalist family, Edwards is an unapologetic, old world Christian with an untamable edge. Working within a darker musical paradigm, this dynamic plays out in mysterious ways as nothing is held back. By laying it all out and letting the pieces fall where they may, the resulting music becomes a sincere blend of Biblical allegory, heavy riffs, ethereal folk, Native American aesthetics, and musical flavors from every corner of the globe.
With the new album Star Treatment on the horizon, Edwards and his band of heavy music veterans—guitarist Chuck French and bassist Neil Keener (both of Planes Mistaken For Stars), drummer Ordy Garrison, and piano/synth player Matthew Smith of Crime & The City Solution—have crafted the hardest-hitting Wovenhand offering to date. The progression towards a heavier and more powerful sound has established them as recognizable figures in the dark underground, reaching as far as rock and metal festivals across Europe and the USA. Onstage, a figure in possessed rapture leads a rock n roll procession somewhere between fire 'n' brimstone and a shamanic ritual.
Match that with the presence of American metal luminary Sanford Parker at the production helm in Steve Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio studio, and you have a sound that attracts plaid-shirted good old boys and church-burning misanthropes alike. Beyond the admirable sincerity and devotion, the record is full of emotive hooks, thundering percussion, psychedelic twang, ethnic rhythms, and formless meditations on what mysteries reside in the heavens above. Edwards’ musical palette has truly become limitless, and Star Treatment takes Wovenhand’s sound to its most realized and accomplished.
Our discussion below attempts to explore some of these forces working beneath the surface. With such a unique perspective as his, Edwards unflinchingly reveals a few of his spiritual inclinations, his distrust of modernity, and finding a home for a sound caught in the sonic middle of it all. Sparing the finer elements of production and arrangement, the details of Star Treatment are revealed in symbol and intention. The album is streaming below, so listen to it sing as we ponder, how will the heavenly bodies bring us a step closer to truth? And where exactly does Edwards fall amongst the stars?
Noisey: You once said your goal with music is to spread the word of God. On stage you are in rapture, almost to the point of trance and possession. Can we consider Wovenhand to be solely “Christian music,” or is there something more at work?
David Eugene Edwards: I don’t know what you can consider it. I don’t consider it that—I just consider it music that comes out of me.
There is a strong duality enforcing Wovenhand: You have your father’s influence (motorcycles, lawlessness, freedom) on one side, and your Grandfather’s influence (piety, church community, duty) on the other… where are you on that polarity? Where does current Wovenhand fit on that polarity?
Well, we don’t [laughs]. We don’t fit anywhere. That’s just the way it is. It’s not the goal, and it doesn’t matter if you fit or not. In a lot of ways, I’m too, what people would say, 'churchy,' for the world at large, and I’m much too of the world at large for the church. So I don’t really fit in either, according to any view that anyone holds from both groups. But that’s nothing new—that’s the way it’s always been with what I do. Not that it’s better or anything—it is what it is. I don't try to reconcile any duality. I believe that all things are reconciled already. I don’t need to reconcile anything, I just let the music that comes out, come out, and just speak about the things that are on my mind.
Currently the Standing Rock Sioux in the Dakotas are in the midst of a stand-off with oil companies pushing the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline) through their ancestral land, and we are keenly reminded of our disgraceful past and present with the first peoples of this continent. The perennial Native American element appears more prominently than ever before on this latest album. How does that fit in your personal life, and how does it fit in your music?
It’s like living in someone else’s home. To be an American, for me, is like living on someone else’s property or home. The things around you that are part of that home and make up where you are, as of course you’re born into it here, has always been a big part of my life growing up—Native American this and that, family history, local history. It doesn’t mean I’m all directly involved in it, it’s just part of my life. Aesthetically and everything else, I’m living in someone else's place, I’m seeing the things and that’s what surrounds me. That’s what I know. The things that we the people who have taken this place over have to offer, to me, is bullshit. From top to bottom. Whether it is doctors, or Walmarts, or trains. It’s all bullshit. So I just look at the things that are actually of this place and actually have something to do with this place, and put my attention there.
Wovenhand has been embraced by many of an adversarial spiritual bent—for example, multiple members of prominent Satanic metal bands have professed admiration for your work. How does that sit with you to have such an antithetical fan base? What do you think is the attraction?
There’s even been an attraction from the beginning with 16 Horsepower. I think folk music in general is popular with the music [community] you’re talking about, be it from Sweden or Norway, or from Portugal, or wherever. These people dig into the folklore and the culture of where they are coming from, and use that. That’s something that 16 Horsepower did, and what I do now, so that’s a connection. Singing about spiritual things, whether it’s adversarial or not, are spiritual things in general. I identify with the aggressive stance they take against what people say I represent. I would agree with those who are aggressively against something, rather that those who just say, 'Eh, I’d rather just sing about something else.'
Since, like I said, we never really had a home, Wovenhand or 16 Horsepower, we didn’t fit into alternative country even though that’s what we were: it’s folk instruments but those who listen to folk music won’t be interested in what I do. We’ve never had a musical home. But now we’ve been taken in by the metal community, and I’m happy about it. It’s nice to have a place to be [laughs]. All the people I’ve met are all so complimentary and kind and welcoming.
Star Treatment is a thunderous rock 'n' roll album colored with folk, country, and world music, but it’s definitely still a rock album. It seems like your music always will carry that “Denver Sound” pioneered by the collective works of Bob Ferbrache, Slim Cessna, Munly, and anything around Absinthe Studios. Is the newer direction a conscious departure?
Not at all. I always have that in me, but it doesn’t always come out. When I’m playing with the guys I’m playing with now, Chuck French and Neil Keener, they are coming from this heavier world completely. That’s what they bring, and of course I know that. They complement what would be typical Wovenhand stuff, but they also really complement the stuff that I'm doing that is more heavy. It’s easier for us to collaborate. If I stay in that heavy direction it’s easier for us to communicate and make something new.
What can you tell us about the formative days of that blossoming Denver “Gothic Country” movement? I’ve heard whispers of psychedelic infused intensive prayer, engaging in Native American spiritual rituals, and other practices that might be considered unorthodox. Is there any truth to that?
No, there is no truth to that—I don’t know where that would be coming from, really! I go to pow wows all the time with my son all over America: Wyoming, South Dakota, Montana, New Mexico. But I would never even consider entering myself into what they consider sacred. I got no business being there, and I wouldn't do it in the first place. I just like to go and spend my money there with those people. The money that I make, I spend on them. I buy the things they make. That’s how I like to spend my time when I’m not playing music or whatever. But, no, there’s no voodoo [laughs]. But I did do a lot of drugs and all that kinda shit! [Laughs] And that’s voodoo in itself, I guess. But nothing laid out in terms of trying to get somewhere spiritually by doing something like that. I don’t believe in anything like that.
Star Treatment has an expansive, sublime feeling, like gazing at the night sky—stars, heavenly bodies. What forms does this theme take in your mind, and on this record?
They take every shape! That's the point of the record—the stars are everything to us. The heavenly bodies since the beginning of man are what’s above him. These are the lights that light up his life. These are the lights that guide the seasons, and everything else is tied to it. Basically all the religions of the world are astro-religions. They are all based on the stars, the movements of the stars, assigning characters to the stars in the Zodiac. This is a worldwide event, not just in one place but everywhere. People coming up with the same images for what they are seeing in the sky. How that translates into daily life for people. Into art, literature, culture, and, as I said, religion, which is the basis for all of that. There is no escaping it. I just took it head on and started talking about it in very abstract ways. It’s a many layered imagery. It’s very ethereal. Just like the sky.
As we look to the stars and imagine worlds beyond our world, do you ever consider the end of this one? It can be a humbling experience, especially since we’re living in such a volatile and frightening place right now. Are we living in the end times? Is that something you consider?
I’m not so hot on that topic. I don’t think people really know what that means. My worldview is very different from the majority of people I speak to. I don’t believe there are billions and billions and billions of universes. I don’t believe all this. I believe we’re being lied to on a constant basis, for many reasons. The main reasons being money and, well, control. They just feed on whatever the people's fears are and adopt the stories and things to control these people. I believe that all of the universe is centerd around the Earth, not that we all revolve around the Sun or something. I believe that the Sun and everything else revolves around the Earth, and was created for the Earth. The Earth is the center of all things. Whether it’s time for the end or not, that’s beyond my understanding.
But I do believe that it is the center of things, yeah. We’re not just some irrelevant, strung up life form on some planet hurtling 60,000 miles per hour through space with no rhyme or reason. Just hurtling through space and it all just happened to come about? I don’t believe in all that, of course. The Earth to me is central, Man himself and the Creation around him is central to all things—not the stars.
WOVENHAND TOUR 2016:
09/12 COLOGNE, DE @ Gebäude 9 *
09/13 FRANKFURT, DE @ Zoom *
09/15 BERN, CH @ ISC *
09/16 ZURICH, CH @ Bogen F *
09/17 VIENNA, AT @ Flex *
09/18 BUDAPEST, HU @ A38 *
09/20 SALZBURG, AT @ Rockhouse *
09/21 MUNICH, DE @ Ampere *
09/22 LEIPZIG, DE @ UT Connewitz *
09/23 BERLIN, DE @ Heimathafen *
09/24 HAMBURG, DE -
09/26 ARHUS, DK @ Train *
09/27 OSLO, NO @ John Dee *
09/29 HELSINKI, FI @ Tavastia
09/30 STOCKHOLM, SE @ Nalen *
10/01 LUND, SE @ Mejeriet *
10/02 COPENHAGEN, DK @ Vega Jr. *
10/04 EINDHOVEN, NL @ Effenaar *
10/05 AMSTERDAM, NL @ Melkweg *
10/06 LEUVEN, BE @ Het Depot *
10/07 GENT, BE @ Handelsbeurs *
10/08 CHARLEROI, BE @ L'Eden *
10/10 LILLE, FR @ L'Aéronef *
10/11 PARIS, FR @ La Maroquinerie *
10/13 ORLEANS, FR @ L'Astrolabe *
10/14 GRENOBLE, FR @ La Belle Electrique *
10/15 FEYZIN, FR @ L'Epicerie Moderne *
10/16 TOULOUSE, FR @ La Rex *
10/18 LONDON, UK @ The Dome *
* w/ Emma Ruth Rundle
Shawn Haché is not on Twitter, but one of his bands is.