-Interview- This Mortal Mountain (2/25/20)

This Mortal Mountain talks about their unique style of Metal, the Pennsylvania music scene and much more.


From: Pittsburgh, PA
Sounds like: Metal

1. How did you get started with music and how did you develop your sound? Who thought of the name “This Mortal Mountain" and is there any meaning behind it?

Nolan: I was 18 and my buddy showed up unannounced and just handed me his old guitar and amp because I wanted to be just like Matt Bellamy. From there I listened to and tried to emulate everything under the sun, but felt most at home with stuff like Cult of Luna and Suffocate For Fuck Sake. This started as a solo project, but Rys came to me one day with lyrics and I talked them into doing vocals, then Colin came by wanting to jam on drums and he liked what I was working on with Rys. After Ophidian came out Sean and Teo joined up and we started jamming all together. The name This Mortal Mountain comes from the short story by Roger Zelazny, probably my favorite author, and in the beginning this was just my solo project so I picked whatever felt right in the moment.

Teo: TMM is a really fun band and a departure from my usual bluesy guitar sound. It’s really fun to be able to learn some new tunings as well as play heavy riffs - and I really dig contributing weird noise elements which have endless possibilities.

Rys: I honestly never imagined myself being a musician, much less screaming in a band. I was always friends with musicians and I listen to a variety of different sounds, but I didn’t think I was qualified to make music myself. I sent Nolan some poems a few years back that eventually became our lyrics for TINAH and I am a Coffin, and the rest kind of fell into place from there. I ended up watching videos on how to breathe correctly and scream without damaging my vocal chords, and I was already pretty comfortable with performing in front of people/spoken word type stuff. Right now I’m working towards learning how to play bass and will hopefully be on instruments and vocals going into the future!

2. What do you want people to take away from your music?

Nolan: Anything they can. Whether they relate to the themes, enjoying the noise, or dissecting the lyrics, I just want to make something people feel and enjoy. Beyond that, as the others have said, we all have a lot of strong feelings about gender, race, climate change, capitalism, and the harm done to marginalized peoples, and I want to get through to people as much as I want to vent the stress and anger and anxiety.

Teo: I really enjoy participating in the transmission of a clearly defined political stance the band takes on with regard to topics like climate change, gender inclusivity and domestic abuse awareness.

Rys: For me, our music is a way for me to express the anger I feel towards the current system in place and its disregard for the environment and marginalized groups. I want to reach people who also feel angry, and often hopeless, and bring them a sense of not being alone. I struggle with finding hope myself but I think music has a way of finding new paths forward.

3. How would you describe your sound to the average listener?

Nolan: An awkward mashup of sludge, screamo, post-rock and whatever weird stuff I can come up with. We try to make it cohesive.

Teo: My friend called us screamo with black metal sprinkles - I liked that, Lol.

Rys: Oh, man, I usually describe us as sludge metal/post metal. It’s hard to put us into one genre because we have a lot going on.

4. Who are three bands you’d like to tour with?

Nolan: The Republic of Wolves, Junius, Circle Takes the Square.

Colin: Me personally? Gorillaz, Broken Bells, Band of Horses.

Teo: Lightning Bolt, Ty Segall, The Fucking Champs.

Rys: La Dispute, The Republic of Wolves, The xx.

5. What are your three desert island albums that you'd never get tired of listening to?

Nolan: Blazing Fires and Helicopters... by Suffocate For Fuck Sake, Varuna by The Republic of Wolves, just A moment by 凛として時雨.

Colin: Demon Days, Era Vulgaris, A Crow Left of the Murder.

Teo: The Fucking Champs “IV” - My Bloody Valentine “Loveless” - Mudhoney “Superfuzz Bigmuff”.

Rys: PANORAMA by La Dispute; The Girl, the Cat and The Tree by LAUSSE THE CAT; and HiLo by Jack Stauber.

6. What’s your take on the current state of Metal?

Nolan: I just look at the communities in general, less about the music and more about the people, you get a lot of bigotry and misogyny and abuse and gatekeeping and sexual violence and a lot of people forgiving/defending the culprits and/or their music with, "separate the the art from the artist," bullshit without acknowledging how they're directly supporting the artist's actions with their money when they buy records/merch or go to shows, or, "if you don't like it don't listen just shut up,” but these same people can't make that separation when leftist or feminist ideals are espoused and can't shut the fuck up about “SJWs” ruining their genres like having the same old pieces of shit continue to sell their tired ass tropes and being assholes while they do it is some kind of fucking golden age being infringed upon. I think there's more good people in the situation than bad, but as always the bad have a loud ass voice and support artists who perpetuate the shit, and not enough people really look into an artist before they buy their shit to see what they're supporting. Every band that's all white and all straight men requires investigation.

Teo: I guess I am happy with the direction of inclusivity in the metal scene - even though it is still male dominated I see the progress it is making in subgenres like screamo. Generally I feel it is oversaturated with new subgenres - but I have come to respect the need to create more distance from racist, sexist, homophobic historical narratives. That is, I feel metal is changing for the better.

Rys: I’m not sure if I can speak on this much, but I agree that it feels like more people are being included and I’ve been to some awesome hardcore shows where everyone is cool and respectable. I think the more bands make their spaces inclusive and state them as such, the more accessible the genre becomes.

7. What’s the current music scene like there in Pennsylvania both locally and state wide?

Colin: There’s a wide range of local shows, from DIY to Pay to Play, and larger “big name” concerts of course. The DIY scene envelops pretty much every genre, and many times will throw them all together into eclectic shows containing everything from singer/songwriter to thrash metal. Locally (pgh) there are so many shows sometimes that it’s hard to pick just one to go to, other times the scene is dry, and a bit lacking. We do try, however, to have/play shows and have space for touring bands as often as we can.

Teo: Can’t speak to statewide. Locally there is a really cool emergent noise, metal, punk and hardcore scene - and I am really happy about that since these are the places I feel most at home. It’s encouraging that basement shows are becoming a thing here again after a long pause. I got a bad taste in my mouth with the electronic/EDM/DJ scene after trying to explore it firsthand and finding a lot of egoistic drama and too much exclusivity for me. I feel that modular electronics is improving the vibe in that scene though. I like the fact that bands touring here and moving here like Machine Girl, HYDE, Dreamcrusher and ADULT are making crossover metal, industrial and electronic music a lot more common.

Rys: I don’t know much state-wide, but I think Pittsburgh has a pretty awesome local music community. I at least want to shout-out some local artists who have been doing music longer than I have in Pittsburgh/starting in the Pittsburgh area: Konscious Kell, Mitch the Wizard, Jorts Season, The Childlike Empress, AllegrA, Hunty Lytes, Jack Stauber, plus many more. I don’t go to as many house shows as I used to but I’ve seen almost all of these people at small venues/at houses and I love that so much of the Pittsburgh scene is like that. We also have a huge jazz scene! Catch the local jazz radio on 101.1 WZUM. I definitely want to go to more jazz shows. RIP Sunflower Club.

8. What’s your take on legal/illegal music downloading?

Nolan: I think with streaming services where they are right now, there's really no excuse to pirate music these days. Stream it, and support the artists you love if you can afford to. Content creators are workers and we're all struggling.

Colin: ^^^

Teo: I think playing live is the only effective way to sell merch and music these days. Unfortunate, but pirating is always going to challenge artists to get creative in marketing/production.

Rys: If you aren’t doing as much as you can to support the artists themselves, then you aren’t a good fan. Go to the shows, buy the merch, and pay for the music when you can. So many bands have $1 donation to download on Bandcamp or release their music for free. There’s no reason to steal from artists who are underpaid in the first place, yano?

9. What’s next for This Mortal Mountain?

Nolan: Another EP in the works, and we're working on new songs. Hoping to have a full-length album ready to record by this time next year.

Colin: A nap.

Teo: New merch is coming tandem with the EP featuring Rys’s artwork, local performance, and hopefully a regional tour within a year.

Rys: The winter months are slow and hard, but as the weather warms up we’ll be releasing a new EP, have some merch coming, new shows, and new music!

10. Any shoutouts?

Nolan: Big thanks to Kathleen of Circle Takes the Square for encouragement and critical advice on live vocals, and OWL Hollow for booking our first show this past summer even though we're a loud as hell metal band.

Colin: The DIY scene in Pittsburgh, Owl Hollow, Ba Sing Se, the Glitterbox Theater.

Teo: I want to shout out to the few inclusive dive bars/spaces in the area Rock Room, Remedy, Roboto...all places where you can easily get a foot in the door for shows. I am specifically not naming Gooski’s because they have staff and clientelle who have a disturbing record of non-cis gender phobic behavior that I refuse to tolerate. There’s an amazing collaborative performance space called Collision where we are currently holding our practices and storing gear. We will likely be hitting all these ports when we reconvene after recording the new EP.

Rys: Thank you to OWL Hollow for hosting our first show. I would say thank you to Howlers but they recently banned hip-hop which is a complete show of racism, not cool. Shoutout to the Roboto and Glitterbox Theater for always being awesome spaces. Thank you to everyone who’s donated to our first EP and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for us!