As the world awaits the conclusion of his long gestating Lovecraftian trilogy, The Unquiet Void’s Jason Wallach returns from beyond infinite, sightless, soundless space to reveal The Secrets of Vanished Aeons.
An InterView with Jason Wallach of The Unquiet Void
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Since first appearing in 1998 with the rhythmic darkwave of Scorpio, Jason Wallach has taken The Unquiet Void down darker and more experimental paths that transcend the accepted perceptions of dark ambient music. In 2004, he revealed Poisoned Dreams, the first of a planned trilogy of albums inspired by the literary works of weird fiction writer H.P. Lovecraft – channeling the author’s chaotic visions of eldritch terrors full of unknowable creatures that extend from the submarine depths of the Earth into the black expanse of limitless space into a cacophony of dark sound wherein our understanding of music in any conventional sense breaks down. Continuing the trilogy was 2006’s The Shadow-Haunted Outside, in which Wallach did away with any notions of human familiarity and plunged deep into the chaos void, staring straight into the amorphous blight of nethermost confusion. Needless to say, such explorations left an indelible mark on Wallach, leading to a substantial silence over the next several years, broken only by his score for independent horror movie Closet Space. In 2012, So Comes the Yawning Darkness found The Unquiet Void returning to Lovecraft, collaborating with artist/sculptor Jason McKittrick for a special presentation for the 2013 H.P. Lovecraft convention NecronomiCon. Now poised to conclude the trilogy proper, Jason Wallach speaks with ReGen Magazine on the development of his craft, touching on the toll his musical experiences have had on him to culminate in the trilogy’s impending final chapter, The Secrets of Vanished Aeons.
It has been some time since we’ve heard from The Unquiet Void, the last release being a collaborative effort with sculptor Jason McKittrick, called So Comes the Yawning Darkness.
What can you tell us about the status of The Unquiet Void now? What has changed that has affected the way you have approached making music?
So Comes the Yawning Darkness is still very much devoted to H.P. Lovecraft, although it is not part of the trilogy that began with Poisoned Dreams and The Shadow-Haunted Outside. In what ways would you say that the album distinguishes itself from the trilogy?
Wallach: The album occurs at some point during the timeline of the trilogy. It actually begins manifestation in The Shadow-Haunted Outside and stretches alongside in parallel fashion. I was really inspired by the relationship concept between Nyarlathotep and Azathoth, the messenger of the outer gods representing the ego and its expanding self-unaware counterpart. So I began ruminating on that concept.
Now, Jason McKittrick and I became friends very quickly! I love his sculptures and idols – very influential on the release. I called up Jason one day and I said, ‘Jason, Nyarlathotep has 999 avatars and how many do we know of? 20 or so? Let’s create a new avatar for this thing.’ Jason was completely down with the idea, but what would this form be? Why would it be? What purpose would it serve? Jason told me of an experience he had visiting a closed state hospital. The description of the layout of the place alone seriously gave me the creeps. Now, I see the relationship between the Outer Gods as being hierarchal and see Nyarlathotep as personifying a web with its strands reaching outward into our world granting him limited access to assert his influence in whatever form it chooses to take. Whereas I see Nyarlathotep being that which ensnares, I see Azathoth as the spider in the center; Azathoth is a rather one-note being that it has no concept of itself, whereas Nyarlathotep is extremely aware; it’s a symbiotic relationship.
It’s been over 11 years since The Shadow-Haunted Outside; are there still plans to conclude the trilogy?
Wallach: It has been a while hasn’t it? Yes, there are plans to conclude the trilogy and the album is under construction as we speak. In fact, if you look up on SoundCloud under The Unquiet Void, there is a track from this work already posted. The album is called The Secrets of Vanished Aeons and is hopelessly inspired by Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness. I call it my crock-pot method of creating – I throw a bunch of ingredients together and let them sit for a while and become something else. This is a big project for me and I want to do it right and make it worth the wait – there are those waiting anxiously for it. I’m taking a more cosmic horror approach to the sound and construction of this thing. It predates humanity so I have to remove that element from it. Poisoned Dreams is the ending of humanity; The Shadow-Haunted Outside… well, there’s nothing human about it. It’s just a visceral nightmare. So the human response and emotion doesn’t exist in the finale because it predates our existence. Instead of fear and horror, it really has to give off more of a sense of foreboding and awe. Don’t worry. It will be dark; just in different ways.
While not specifically devoted to Lovecraft, you composed a score for the indie horror movie Closet Space, which did possess some peripheral Lovecraftian influences. What did you find to be the major challenges in composing music to complement the movie’s visual scheme?
In what ways did you find that working on this score differed from how you would approach music on your own?
Wallach: Well, again, I was working bouncing off of someone else’s ideas and visuals and emotions. It gives me room to explore concepts and themes without going into a depression or becoming unstable in any way which has happened in the past. It’s like coloring someone else’s drawing. Normally creating music on my own is an introspective and beautiful experience. Even though the Lovecraft work has been far less pleasant in that capacity, it has truly taught me a lot about myself as a being and as an artist as well. So the approach is quite different and a lot safer.
What are the chances that we’ll hear you performing more soundtrack/scores for other movies?
Wallach: I would love to do it more often!! It’s great fun!! I have to have offers though… any takers?
We’ve discussed Lovecraft’s influence in modern cinema and music before, and it does seem that while many may not be read up completely on his actual writing, there seems to be a greater familiarity with the likes of Cthulhu. To what would you personally attribute this, and what is your reaction to it?
Wallach: I happen to think this is a great question and very easily answerable. There’s a great familiarity with Cthulhu because it’s the only creature Lovecraft describes with any sort of definite form. That’s actually why I’ve stayed away from it in my work. Cthulhu is a thing that people already have an acquaintance with so I don’t ever have to paint it, describe it… I’ve pointed to it in Poisoned Dreams (look at the cover) and I’ll point at it again in the finale, but I don’t ever have to go there. It’s a humanoid body, an alien cephalopod hybrid head with vestigial wings and scaly skin. Great! Humans are highly dependent upon familiarity and comfortability and that’s what they have with Cthulhu… and that’s why I shy from it. It’s almost socially acceptable at this point. I personally don’t mind it, though familiarity is the opposite of Lovecraft. Fear of the unknown is a central theme to his work.
If you were to approach the works of another author or literary work to draw inspiration from, either in The Unquiet Void or in another project, who would you be drawn to and why?
Will you ever return to Lovecraft territory?
Wallach: I honestly cannot answer that question definitively. I have nothing planned and I am moving back into the realm of making actual music again taking with me the experience I have gained. If the inspiration comes then it comes and it will take me where it takes me. If not, then I can honestly say that I’m not going to look for a reason to go back. Creating art is like farting; if you force, it then it is shit!
In the past, it was not uncommon for musicians to draw from literature and arts of all kinds for inspiration – i.e. Blue Öyster Cult, Rush, etc. What are your thoughts on the way modern musicians have approached such influences, or if they are even present?
Wallach: Well, I mean you have ‘Dominion/Mother Russia’ by The Sisters of Mercy (a huge favorite of mine), which most definitely draws from Percy Shelly’s ‘Ozymandias’ (an instrumental B-side to that single)… You can hear now and again, I get it more from older music than newer. I mean Led Zeppelin… very strong Tolkein influence there. Blue Öyster Cult’s album Heaven Forbid features lyrics by John Shirley! So I don’t hear it so much with newer bands or maybe I’m just not familiar with the works they are drawing from. I’m kind of in the dark on this one.
The Unquiet Void has touched on different yet equally dark aspects of music, with past albums having a more rhythmic darkwave approach, while your later work has more of the dark ambient and experimental style. As a musician, how do you reconcile these styles within the context of The Unquiet Void?
Wallach: When I hear the word reconcile, the thought of defending, categorizing, or explaining the differences in earlier and later material comes to mind. I do not dissect what I do. It all comes from me at various times in this lifetime I have and from various sources of inspiration for various reasons. So there, that’s how I reconcile it.
What would you say is the next step in the development of the project?