Thursday, 04 August 2016 08:51

Earth Lands at Pyramid Scheme with Boris

Written by  Steve Miller
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Earth, led by Dylan Carlson (center) performs this month at the Pyramid Scheme Earth, led by Dylan Carlson (center) performs this month at the Pyramid Scheme

Take the band name: Earth — a heavy-duty tribute to Black Sabbath. 

“Earth” was the first name Ozzy and his crew of metal pioneers chose when trying to come up with a suitable moniker in a then-undiscovered genre.

Today’s Earth, which formed in 1989 in Olympia, Wash., is fretting new ground as well. The band’s founder and chief songwriter Dylan Carlson ponders his favorite Black Sabbath albums. After all, he named his band after Sabbath, he must be a hardcore devotee, right?

“I’d say the two [Black Sabbath albums] I go back to the most are Born Again and Heaven and Hell,” Carlson said.

What? Two post-Ozzy LPs? Egads, man. Is nothing sacred?

Lightweight tastes in namesake aside, Carlson is a progenitor of what has come to be known as doom, a molten metal that thrives on thrum and drop-tuning. 

Formed at the height of grunge, Carlson found acceptance in Seattle’s erupting music world. He even forged a close, well-documented friendship with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Early on, Earth also impressed Sub Pop Records label head Bruce Pavitt while performing at a small club. 

“There were people setting out then with a business plan and everything else,” Carlson said. “But for us, it was all happenstance. We didn’t expect any kind of help putting out records, but Bruce came to us and it was the only offer around. Of course we said ‘yes.’”

When the final product arrived at Sub Pop headquarters in Seattle, Carlson and crew headed over to check it out. Imagine his disappointment: it was a CD, not a vinyl set. Carlson was an old soul as the times shifted from records to CDs.

“So when Earth 2 came out, that was this great record, two discs, clear vinyl,” Carlson said of the 1993 record. “The CD, it was cool.’ But that was like, ‘Well, I have really made an album.’ ”

The Pyramid Scheme
68 Commerce SW, Grand Rapids
Aug. 13, 8 p.m.
$23, $20 adv.

And then another and another. To date he’s released eight studio LPs in all. 

Along the way, Carlson has indulged his infatuation with all things Anglophile, which started early with a love of Led Zeppelin. That led him right into an interest in the folk sounds on Led Zeppelin III. His uncle gave him a copy of Fairport Convention’s Liege & Lief, which inevitably led to more exploration of British and Celtic folk. You can almost see the fairies dancing. 

Which dovetails right into his interest in magic: Carlson’s recent reads include Cunning-Folk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanistic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic and Religion and the Decline of Magic: Studies in Popular Beliefs in Sixteenth and Seventeenth-Century England.

But when he’s not taking in otherworldly reads, he continues to write, record and tour. 

On this expedition of the U.S., with dates supporting Boris, the band makes a stop at the Pyramid Scheme in Grand Rapids on Aug. 13. Earth is stretching out some songs from the 2014 LP, Primitive and Deadly

“We have some new stuff to bring out and see how it works, which is how we’ve always done it — play it live then record,” he said. 

But the longer back catalog means having to play some favorites. 

“We’re now one of those bands that has to do things people want to hear,” Carlson said. “Not quite like Sabbath having to play ‘Paranoid’ every night, but there’s stuff people want to hear.”

To its fans, Earth is a beloved blast of heavy. If someone has to lean on labels, doom, drone, whatever — Carlson seems lax about the genre stamps, though he never uses the terms. 

“If it helps people identify what they want to listen to, that’s fine,” he said. “I just thought I played rock ‘n’ roll. It’s weird rock ‘n’ roll — but it’s rock ‘n’ roll.”

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