So the other day I was scavenging through the expansive Bandcamp playlists searching for new materials then I come across this band? Due to my immense love for melancholic *read depressive* music; one look at the album title is all that is needed to get every single nerve in my body shouting: press the play button motherfucker! Just like an addiction you can’t get away from, I finally did press play! The music was so fucking awesome I actually downloaded a digital copy! Overfilled with excitement, I decided to take it a step further and unveil the geniuses behind this beautiful work of art. Imagine my shock when I found out that it was a one-man project courtesy of a software developer and former astronomer from Pennsylvania! I was quite impressed that I even set up an interview with him and this is what he had to say:
DISTURBD NATION: Hey guys? First off, let’s start with the band name. I can’t help but be curious…what’s the story behind it?
JOHN KERR: It’s actually pretty simple. I was doing some downtime research about my family name, history, genealogy, etc… and I found out that (at one point at least) my last name “Kerr” can be translated to “marsh dweller”. That’s it. Even if it’s not actually true, I didn’t care! It’s a cool name regardless. But that’s how I found it.
DN: Where do you reside at the moment?
JK: I’m currently in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in the United States. I’ve lived all over the eastern US for the last 5 years or so, but I’ve finally settled here and will be here for a long time.
DN: Who are the band members? Please define their specific roles in the band.
JK: Only me, John Kerr. I write all the music and lyrics, create most of the artwork, and play as many of the instruments as I can. If I write something and it’s too hard for me or I’m hearing an instrument in my head that I don’t know how to play, I’ll get someone else to do it.
Other than that, it’s a solo project.
DN: How long have you been doing music?
JK: I’ve been playing drums since I was 12 or 13 years old. I’m 27 now. My first “real” band was this black/doom/death metal band Vit, which I’m actually still in. We’ve been around for more than 10 years now but only have one full length and an EP.
I’m also in the atmospheric death/doom band Seidr with Austin from Panopticon, Crow from Wheels Within Wheels, and Adam from Motherplant.
I haven’t recorded an album with them yet, despite being in the band for 4 years. We’ve just been playing live for the last few years.
Finally, I’m in Noltem, with whom I’ve recorded one EP in the mid-paced folk black metal style. I play drums in all these bands.
DN: Is music your full-time job or do you have other ‘regular’ job(s) *for luck of a better word hahaha!* outside of the band?
JK: Music isn’t even close to being my full-time job, haha. I’m a software developer at a big tech corporation. Before this I was an astronomer at a university. I dropped out of that because I never had time to do anything else outside of work. That’s probably why my bands have been so relatively inactive…
DN: You have recently released a debut album: The Weight of Sunlight, how long did this masterpiece take to compile?
JK: I don’t think I can say exactly how long it took to write because it was made on and off for years. For example, the chord progression from “Cultivating the Cosmic Tree“, I wrote almost 10 years ago. But I wrote “Forks of the River” a couple of months before I went into the studio.
So, overall, it probably took 8 or 10 years of time, but it’s not like I was actively composing that entire time. Sometimes I’d go a year or two without writing a song.
DN: What can you describe as the challenges faced during this period preceding the release of the album?
JK: I wouldn’t say I had any challenges in the writing process, but my process would probably be stressful to a lot of people. I think of albums as entire pieces rather than a collection of songs, so I try and picture all the songs, riffs, art, etc… in my head before saying
“I have an album”. This is a big reason why the album took so long to be complete. I would rearrange songs, delete songs, and rewrite parts, write new sections, etc… all over the course of these 8 or 10 years until I found the album I wanted to make. It wasn’t particularly stressful for me because that’s all I know how to do, but I’m sure that probably sounds stupid to someone else haha!
Any and all challenges leading up to recording were made up in my head! I had a lot of weird anxiety going into recording. This is because I’d never played guitar on an album before. I thought I was going to constantly fuck up and the audio engineer would hate me for being a shit guitarist.
But at the first day in the studio, everything went completely fine. I finished the album in less than 3 days and everything went smoothly.
DN: The Weight of Sunlight…that album title is so well-thought and artistic; bordering on the lines of depressive…what inspired the name?
I actually got it from my friend Matt Finney. He’s a poet/vocalist for a few experimental bands. But it’s a metaphor for finding solace in the woods and running away from everyday life. When I was stressed and overworked in graduate school, I’d go to the woods and hang out to try and calm myself down. But I always had this lingering sense of anxiety as I would look out past the tree line and see all the sunlight coming through the branches. That’s the “weight of sunlight” from the outside world coming down on you and reminding about your everyday stresses.
I’d add, however, that I don’t think it’s a depressive title, because the flow of the album is about overcoming that and not needing to find solace anymore. This album is triumphant and positive, not depressive and negative.
DN: If you were to classify your music, what sub-genre of METAL would you say you do?
JK: Technically speaking, I’d say melodic black metal with VERY strong heavy metal influence. It’s not unlike the Agallochs, Ulvers, and Dissections of the world, but I have a much more classic riffing style than those bands. I love galloping riffs from bands like Iron Maiden and Metallica, and it felt natural to play these styles in a more extreme setting.
However, I will say that this style is completely reserved for The Weight of Sunlight. I NEVER intended any two Marsh Dweller albums to sound the same. I’m currently in the writing and demo-ing process for the second album, and it sounds absolutely nothing like this.
DN: Which bands can you state as your influences?
JK: For The Weight of Sunlight, In Flames (1993-1996), Iron Maiden, Metallica, Ulver, Dissection, Agalloch, Rotting Christ, Fall of the Leafe.
For the next album: Isis, King Crimson, Rush, Cult of Luna, Giant Squid.
DN: Are you signed to any recording label at the moment?
JK: The Weight of Sunlight was released by Eihwaz Recordings, which is a “sister label” of Bindrune Recordings. I have no idea what “sister label” means. It’s basically just Bindrune.
DN: Any other names (bands) that can be associated with the recording label?
JK: The biggest and most well known is probably Panopticon, but there are also great bands like Falls of Rauros, Waldgefluster, Alda, Vukari…basically all of them.
DN: I know it is a little too early to ask with the new album and all, but, what are the band’s future plans? Do you plan on releasing more music? Please elaborate.
JK: I guess I’ve already answered this question elsewhere, accidentally. Yes, I’m currently writing a second album. I’m not sure how long it will take, but I imagine it won’t be anywhere near as long as The Weight of Sunlight because I’m much more confident in my songwriting and playing abilities now. Maybe it will be out in late 2017 or early 2018.
DN: Talking about plans; any tours yet?
JK: I have something in the works but it isn’t ready to be talked about yet. It might not happen so I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up.
DN: Any message to your fans?
JK: Just thank you. I still cannot believe that anyone cares about my little metal project. I can never thank people enough for caring at all, let alone this much.
DN: Thanks dude! Looking forward to seeing Marsh Dweller make ripples in the heavy metal world… Stay METAL!
Click on the link below to listen to Marsh Dweller’s new album: