Today Is the Day's Steve Austin Looks Back on 'Temple of the Morning Star'
Stream an exclusive acoustic demo version of the title track from the new reissue, and read our interview with the noisy metal trailblazer
Back in 1997 when Today is the Day's Temple of the Morning Star came out, a surprising number of people thought it was their first album. Previously, the band had had a number of releases on Amphetamine Reptile Records, the Minneapolis-based noise rock label that helped make Helmet a household name in the mid-90s. They fit in nicely, not only with their brand of dissonant, abrasive avant-metal, but by also conforming with the label's dark aesthetic and outsider vibe. The AmRep trip seemed to consist of people that had cut their teeth on punk in the 80s, and were now older and had to face the realities of paying rent, bills and the long view of living in the American war machine. It was music from the fringes of American life—nihilistic, yet not completely without humor.
Similar to bands like Neurosis and Eyehategod, Today is the Day walked the line between several genres. You can hear strains of metal, industrial, and hard rock, but the result is greater than the sum of its parts. There is a severe individualism to the music which can be attributed to founder and visionary, Steve Austin, who also took on the band's production and recording responsibilities.
Reflecting back on the album's creation, Austin said, "I was living in my studio in a warehouse in Nashville, lost and fucked. All I knew was that I believed in what I was doing and no matter what happened while touring, I just wanted to deliver the music every single day. It was the only thing I had to hold on to. I think being isolated in that fucking warehouse put me on a massive edge that was hard to control. In one way, it was great; I was able to be right there living in my control able to record or make music at will. But, the studio was punk as fuck— it was like a squat with legal electricity. I worked on Temple night and day. It was my bible."
"The style of what you hear with TITD is just me being natural. I don't put walls around my creativity or make anything off limits. I don't want to be like anyone else; I never have. I may hate myself at times, but at least I can be myself. I was sick of everything. Conformity made me sick to my stomach. I just wanted to make the most REAL record that was ever made and to do that I would have to expose myself lyrically in ways that were both empowering and embarrassing. To show my faults and weaknesses for what they are; taking a real look inside and letting everyone see what was destroying me."
"You have to keep an open mind in life if you want to be enlightened or transcend. If you don't, you will miss half of the picture. Music to me is an outpouring of ideas and emotion transmitted by sound," he continued. "I don't think anyone besides myself would be able to extract the same feelings or vision I have about the albums. Everything is a snapshot in time and honesty is about being real. Sure there are things I hear that I would maybe change, but then that wouldn't be honest to the work. It is what it is. Ugly, beautiful, it doesn't matter. I am trying to reach people and want them to know that at least one thing they care about is 100 percent real—something they can believe in when they have nothing else. "
By then, the band had signed with Relapse Records, a label that was a direct conduit to the metal underground of the late 90s. At the time, some of the most creative musical entities in extreme metal were putting out records on Relapse; bands like Neurosis, Soilent Green, and now Today is the Day joined the Philadelphia-based label's ranks, and in doing so, gained a wider audience for their efforts to push the envelope. When Temple of the Morning Star hit the streets, a whole new crop of fans were exposed to Today is the Day's brand of controlled chaos.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the initial release of Temple of the Morning Star, The End Records is poised to release an expanded edition of the record, Temple Of The Morning Star: 20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition on March 24 (preorders are live here and here). The release was remastered by Maor Appelbaum, whose credits include Faith No More, Rob Halford and Mayhem among others, and will be available on a variety of formats (including 2XLP). Austin explained, "Andreas Katsambas from The End had an interest in releasing Today Is The Day records. These new re-releases are going to contain a lot of background and unseen and unheard pieces of the story, so I started digging through tons of DAT masters and retrieved the original audio for all of my records. "
The reissue of Temple Of the Morning Star contains several demos, including an acoustic version of "Temple Of the Morning Star," and a cover of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath." In addition, most of the demos are performed with bass instead of keys, so the listener can hear what the songs would have sounded like with bass guitar. The package also includes an entire professionally shot and recorded performance of Today Is The Day live at The Whisky A Go-Go in 1997, which is included both on the second LP and as a separate DVD. As Appelbaum commented,"With the remaster, I wasn't about trying to make something new out of it, it was already in a good state, I was trying to make it translate better. I didn't fix it, I only enhanced it."
One of the true measures of a band's significance is the degree of influence it has on other artists. With the release of Temple of the Morning Star, Today is the Day inadvertently laid serious groundwork for a new wave of chaotic, noisy, metallic bands. Along with Deadguy's Fixation on a Co Worker, it introduced more traditional metal and hardcore fans to a whole new approach to music. Appelbaum agreed, saying, "I've known of the band since their first album. There were other bands that were doing a similar style, but Today is the Day made the world aware of it. I remember the first time somebody played me the music thinking it was very unique. It is very aggressive and at the same time has certain moods in it. "
With the reissue set to be deployed this spring, Today is the Day will be hitting the road showcasing material from Temple of the Morning Star. Austin explained, "We are still debating whether it will be the whole album from beginning to end or most of the songs from it, plus other cuts from other records. But, I am looking forward to touring, and seeing and meeting with all of our brothers and sisters from across the world. All of my love and heart goes out to all of you!"
Mike Hill is being noisy on Twitter.