Helmed by Jes Aurelius, Destruction Unit’s guitar triad are responsible for the menacing and impenetrable wall of distorted grit that distinguishes the Arizona five-piece’s dark and noisy psych freakery. He spoke to us about desperation, testing the audience and seeing Fata Morgana’s in the Arizona desert
Do you listen to your music at home?
Speaking of Destruction Unit specifically, I don’t really ever listen to it. When the songs are done being recorded, that’s probably the last time. Some of the songs on the new record I haven’t listened to since the studio.
Why is that?
I think the new album is great, both live and recorded, but I’ve already had to listen to it hundreds of times while recording, mixing and mastering so that I don’t really need to hear it again. Plus, we play a lot of those songs every night of tour, so the last thing I want to do is listen to the record when we’re not playing.
So when you’re at home on the couch with a guitar, you also won’t be playing any riffs from the album?
Probably not. Chances are, we’re already working on the next thing. Not specifically Destruction Unit, but something new. We all have a lot of active projects, so when we are at home, we’re probably working on the next thing. Whether it’s new Marshstepper material, solo material, writing, video editing… always looking forward.
What do you like to listen to at home if it’s not your other projects?
Personally, I listen to a lot of classical music. Debussy, Schoenberg, Webern, Berg… For pop music, maybe Kate Bush or Gal Costa.
‘It’s a strange world, and if there is any way to go out to the edge of it and report back, face the demons, learn to survive with what you find most difficult, it’s something worth doing’
There’s a lot of heaviness in your performance. Some might call it anger. Do you feel like a different person after the show?
I wouldn’t say there is anger – desperation, maybe. Honestly, I don’t particularly enjoy playing live all that much. Sometimes it’s nice, but I would rather be in the studio working on new things. However, we are on a pretty long tour at the moment, and I do enjoy the new songs we’re playing, so it’s something that needs to be done. I certainly do feel exorcised to some extent.
Would you say it feels like losing some baggage temporarily?
I suppose you could put it that way, yeah. Our shows are a very physical and confrontational experience, both for us and for people in attendance. It’s really a test of what we can get away with.
What kind of test are you talking about here?
There is both a sonic and a physical aspect to that. Pushing certain frequencies at extreme volumes will cause people to react in different ways. Some people take it as a meditative affair, while others will become quite enraged and sometimes combative. Same goes with the physical confrontation, of completely letting go. Some people enjoy the entertainment; others take it personally.
So then the baggage builds up again, like a sort of Groundhog Day?
I wouldn’t say it’s quite that simple, or that it works in such a clockwork manner. It’s maybe just one aspect of playing live.
Playing out of desperation… That sounds troublesome.
Well, I mean in the sense that this is all we have at the moment. We’ve all quit our jobs, I have no home… Not to say that Destruction Unit specifically is the be-all-end-all, but this artistic movement we’re pushing is of paramount importance to us.
That seems heavy, yet wonderful. I hope the desperation doesn’t come from expecting to fail?
I don’t expect us to fail, because there’s no such thing as failure in art. But the state of affairs in the world, socially, politically and such, is quite unsatisfactory in a lot of ways, and that’s where the desperation kicks in.
Do you do anything to flip that desperation?
There’s a lot of weed smoking, both before and after shows. Other than that, everyone sort of does their own thing.
Talking about psychedelic experiences, DU hails from the Arizona desert. You think it’s an influence?
It is an influence to an extent, yes. But it’s also a utility of sorts. There are many reasons I continue to live in the desert. Its seclusion from the rest of the country encourages innovation and experiment. There’s really not much of an audience in the south-west, so there’s no pressure to ‘get it right’. Being left alone to do what you’re going to do, without influences or scrutiny… you can find yourself getting quite creative. If you’re going to be on the cutting edge, it makes sense to go out somewhere that feels like the edge of civilisation. It’s a great challenge, to survive and keep pushing back. It’s a strange world, and if there’s any way to go out to the edge of it and report back, face the demons, learn to survive with what you find most difficult, it’s something worth doing.
It is probably also worth seeing a Fata Morgana every now and then. You ever seen one?
You see them all the time, certainly. The sun can play many tricks on the eyes.
Destruction Unit unleash their wall of sound on 17 October 2013 at dB’s, Utrecht – free for members. They’re also playing a ‘free for all’ show at Patronaat, Haarlem the next day.