The New York and Fort Worth based collective known as Sabbath Assembly have turned a corner here on their third full length effort, Quaternity. The album, while still taking influence from the Process Church of the Final Judgment and their spiritual hymns of the 1960s and 70s, offers more in the way of The Assembly's own identity; a musical service which is dark and somber, yet with moments of jubilant, ecclesiastical glory. Quaternity is a record which stands tall against prior Sabbath Assembly testaments Restored to One and Ye Are Gods, yet also boldly forges a new scripture for the band; one which should serve them well as Sabbath Assembly continue to grow and progress as something truly original occult entity. The duo of David Nuss and Jamie Myers reveal more...
The music here is certainly beautiful at times, even when lyrically the album ventures into violent territory, a la "Jehovah On Death." The dichotomy worked in a big way for me, and I was also deeply impressed with how well a lushly recorded, gorgeous track such as this worked when led straight into the comparative musical heaviness of "I, Satan." How long did you work on the arrangements and songwriting for Quaternity, and was there a lot of pre-production prior to entering the studio? Additionally, how important was track placement on the final release?
Dave: Different from our previous albums, we felt generally free to write outside the expectation of being a rock band, beginning each song with the songs melody and building with our imaginations from there, as opposed to assuming there would be drum set, bass, and electric guitar. That’s why the instrumentation is pretty unusual, with strings and orchestral percussion and layers and layers of vocals.
We worked for many months on these songs, and all the tracks were recorded at various times in various locations, including people’s homes. We’d send Jamie some guitar and she’d record some vocals, and I’d add percussion and find some string players, then she’d tweak vocals and Kevin (Hufnagel, Gorguts) would add a solo. The process just built and built. The real fun part was mixing this album because each track has SO much happening. Bringing the elements together to create cohesive tunes was a huge task.
The concept of the “4” was discussed early on due to some William Blake and Carl Jung texts I was reading after Ye Are Gods was done. There’s a Jung Institute in NYC that has an incredible library of esoterica, and every text I was drawn to kept coming back to “4”. It had been a longtime dream to record the Process song “The Four Horsemen”, so we did that song first. Then Side A started falling into place as an extension of the four Processian deities and research into Blake’s Proverbs of Hell in which his concept of Quaternity is applied.
Could you go into detail regarding how former Process Church member Anthony D'Andrea contacted you, and how he ended up collaborating on the record? I understand that he took umbrage to how you were tackling the Church hymns on prior records? Have you had any other recent contact with Process Church members, and do you think that, through your work, you've increased their visibility over the years?
Dave: Generally former Processians remark that we are playing the hymns very differently than they ever did. We’re not doing sing-a-longs, and we’re not a Church. D’Andrea just happened to be way more public in social media, and a bit more aggressive about his accusations. So I got his number and started talking with him about coming out to meet him and record every hymn he could recall. We’d still never heard any Process hymn performed by an original Processian. So one time on the phone he sang a completely unpublished hymn “Lucifer” while I was recording him. In the end he backed out of recording other hymns – I was hoping to get a whole record of them and release it as it’s own non-Sabbath Assembly project, but it didn’t happen. I am sure that SA’s albums have attracted some attention to the legacy of the Process Church, but ultimately it’s only historical as there is no active body of Processians today meeting outside of social media.
What are your thoughts as to how Sabbath Assembly's music has translated live thus far? How have the responses been, how can they improve and do you feel that 2014 might usher in more live rituals for Sabbath Assembly, perhaps performing the full "Four Horsemen" epic?
Dave: We’re definitely not doing the full 20 minutes of the “Horsemen”! At least not on our upcoming Spring tour. We have endless discussions about how our live show should be – how much should be rock, how much should be Church. In the end we always side with rock, although our next tour will have some props and a couple of ritual readings. In the end, we feel the same as your readers – Church is generally a tepid experience, so why bring that to a rock scene?
Church members aside, how has response to Sabbath Assembly been over the course of these three records? Do you feel that having such an original sound makes the group something special for those who follow your work? Something which has had palpable impact for people such as myself, who await new music with a hunger and passion for the creative things you're achieving?
Jamie: To each their own. This music can be quite personal for the participant. At least it is for me. I can only hope that on some positive level it moves someone.
Dave: That’s great to hear that you have been inspired by the music. I agree that the band has a unique sound, and that’s been inspiring for us to all be a part of because there’s no walls in terms of what we can and can’t write. As a performer it’s really hard to know how music impacts people. I think of all my favorite bands that have meant so much to me, and I’ve never contacted any of them. So we just have to trust that it’s reaching people.
How did you contact the other musical guests which appear here on Quaternity, and how was it collaborating with them? How did their varied talents affect the end result?
Jamie: Some guest spots we meditated upon, while others' involvement could be chalked up to us having a little luck and impeccable timing. When it came time for me to imagine the male counter part on Quaternity, I didn't have to search far. The dark crooner Daron Beck, immediately came to mind. He and I grew up in the same scene. I've always been a fan of his, so he was an easy choice. Of course our rapport with Kevin had already been established, so working with him was a given and we couldn't have done it without him.
Dave: I have been an admirer of Jessika Kinney since before Restored to One – we tried to get her to join us on that album but couldn’t make it happen til now. She and Jamie both sang for Wolves in the Throne Room at different times. Ed from Negative Plane is from New Jersey so I approached him after a Brooklyn gig when the guy from the label Ajna was in town visiting. Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston live together in a big music building in Queens where I’ve been recording projects for years. And Mat and Marja found us through our label Svart and came to NYC to record, which led to our subsequent tour with Hexvessel.
What of your interests in the occult beyond the Process Church? Would you consider this to be a subject about which you're particularly passionate, and can you remember a time when the occult first piqued your interest? How did it come about?
Jamie: I think I was intrigued early on. Interest in it stemmed from observing different cultures from a young age. Some of which made a lasting impact. I remember a time or two of being bewildered by my surroundings, and being curious about things I was too young to understand. We used to lived on the 7th floor of this apartment in Nigeria. Beyond the wall of the Apartment complex, there was a beach. It wasn't the kind of place you'd want to go and relax though. This place was deserted and a little dangerous.
One time I was looking out the window and saw a procession of people in red cloaks leading goats down toward the edge of the beach. I could hear them singing and beating their drums. I quizzed my mom about what was going on and asked her what would become of the goats. She tried her best to answer honestly, without freaking me out. I was in total awe of the whole spectacle. They marched on for quite a distance before they reached their destination. I could barely see them, they were small flecks of red on the shore.
I remember that their ritual went well on into the night and I could see their fire and moving shapes around it. I also remember sneaking out to the balcony and sitting in wonder, for what seemed like an eternity, just listening to their chanting. That's when I first realized there was more than one path to center.
Is continued occult study something which is a part of your daily life, and how does Sabbath Assembly play into that for you? Is it a mutual journey of knowledge and understanding for Jamie and yourself with each new record?
Dave: “Occult study” to me means following one’s unique path towards self-empowerment. For me this path is completely about creative expression, finding my unique voice apart from any tyrannical structure – church, school or otherwise. The “majick” has much more to do with achieving particular goals through mental focus and clarity, and Quaternity is an excellent of example of dreaming big and attaining that dream, which has only happened as a result of study and practice of one or two strains of occultism that I won’t mention specifically here.
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