Even we must confess that fighting for hope can become a battle against windmills these days. A sense of – let’s call it – dystopian decline fills the air wherever you look on the world. Well, of course there’s plenty of hopeful and passionate signs still visible when you look around but let’s just say that’s not the scenery where HEALTH feel like home. Ever since the four Californians found their band ten years ago it was all about darkness, noise and all those harmony-avoiding elements that would just distract from the core of these epic anthems.
It took HEALTH six long years to finally come up with a new full-length. Death Magic, their third studio album is set for a release on August the 7th and it feels like their apocalyptic noise constructs are more fitting than ever to deliver the soundtrack to whatever goes wrong in this society at the moment. Still, Benjamin, Jake, John and Jupiter don’t like to be treated as the musical equivalent to the four horsemen of the apocalypse. There’s an element of hope in the dark electronic beats of Death Magic, you just need to find it behind all that noisy smoke. NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION met the four Americans who were surprisingly hard to get out of their shell during our little chat.
Listening to the new record I really wonder how much impact frustration got a motor for you.
John: A lot.
Jake: It’s simply channelling the reasons why we got into the music in the first place. It was the teenage angst we had and our music is a possibility to let it out.
Ben: Music you’d like to hear when you want to punch your fucking boss in the face. (laughs)
Exactly that’s what I had in mind. But how much did that ‘musical anger management’ changed over the years? I mean, you’re not frustrated teenagers anymore as far as I can see.
Jake: Yes, you’re right.
Jupiter: It doesn’t necessarily mean all those feelings go away.
Jake: We still have our issues. (laughs)
‘2015 was about hover boards and flying cards. Where’s that?’
But still it took you over five years to come up with a new album. Why that long?
Ben: I was sitting on a yacht in the Mediterranean sea and suddenly I was like: ‘Shit, we gotta make a new record.’ (laughs)
John: That would be a more spectacular answer but the reality is much more boring: It took us a long time to get it right. And it took us five years to get the record we wanted to do.
Would you consider your music to be the perfect soundtrack for the decline of society?
John: It’s not that we’re specifically at end times but on the other hand there’s a crisis just around the corner. No one disagrees about that feeling you get when you look at society.
Right. You sense something wrong but you just can’t quite put your finger on it.
John: Yes and we’re all thinking about it, so that also has an effect on the music. When we were children they kept telling us that bad things are about to happen but nobody did something about it. Now it’s 2015 and nothing has changed. Nothing happened, nobody did anything.
Rob: When I watched Back To The Future as a kid 2015 was about hover boards and flying cards. Where’s that?
John: But you have a fucking iPhone now…
Rob: Yeah, but without a hover function. (laughs)
John: Still, it’s way more advanced than a lot of things they imagined back then. It can’t fly but it’s really badass.
No, the guys aren’t definitely in the mood for big existential questions on this evening. Maybe it’s a too heavy burden to load Death Magic up with so much meaning. After all, HEALTH have never been a band of big statements but rather one that transports a certain feeling with their music. For some it’s the scenario of a dark and devastating city for others it’s a dark rave club. And sometimes even both like the band’s music video for New Coke shows. It was shot at a real warehouse party in Los Angeles and features guitarist Jupiter puking… for real. ‘Having him puke was the only idea we had for the clip, the rest was built around it,’ explains John who also directed the video. The bassist remains the most talkative member of the American noise rockers on that afternoon, sharing my thoughts about society’s decline and powerlessness of doing something against it.
I have the feeling the inevitableness of life also runs as lyrical theme throughout the record, right?
John: Yes, definitely. Those things come to your head once you become an adult. Even if the world is not going to immediately end it will definitely do one time in the future. And so does the universe and, of course, our life.
Jake: For me, that’s very personal and selfish understanding of life. We’re all going to die so what difference does it make?
Yeah, although I think there’s also a certain lyrical balance on the new album. There’s the impending end on the one side but also a resulting celebration of life’s better moments out of it on the other side…
John: I mean, I really, really enjoy life.
Jake: Lyrically that’s what the point of the album is, indeed. That’s what this idea of Death Magic is all about for me. You’re gonna die but life is kind of magical.
John: It’s very profound. There’s the end of it all and the freakin’ universe but on the other side you can also eat delicious food, check out great music and make sweet love to each other. There are plenty of things worth living for. We’re very privileged to do what we do.
Jake: You can’t forget to live life up, man.
‘Everything is set up to take advantage of each other’
But not in a selfish way. I mean when you scratch on the surface you might get the impression that you don’t care about these things…
Jake: … which is not true. It’s clearly stated on the record with lyrics like ‘Don’t hurt the ones you love.’
John: But a lot of people in the nicer countries of the world live a very selfish existence, that’s true.
What things suck the most at the moment? On a personal and society level?
Jupiter: Everything is set up to take advantage of each other. And that’s a big problem of society. It’s the concept of our entire infrastructure.
John: If you’re rich you can get a super lawyer and get everything you want but if not you’re fucked.
Jake: Okay, I don’t know how this effects society but the windows in the back of my car won’t go up… (Everybody laughs)
Jake: Seriously, that’s a big problem in my daily life, a huge pain in the ass. Sorry, I wish I’d had something bigger to say but that’s what really pisses me off at the moment.
Well, it’s the small and personal things that matter in the end.
Jake: Thanks, man.
John: I’ve got running water at home. I shouldn’t complain either.
Is there even room for hope in your music?
Jupiter: It’s not particularly hopeful, that much is true.
Jake: But it is music, though. That’s the part that makes sense. You have something to listen to, something that makes you feel better, frees you from your anger or makes you dance.
Ben: Believe it or not but we’ve always been about catharsis.
And maybe that’s a good way to sum up the specific sound of HEALTH. Inner peace through the power of noisy electronics, hard beats and edgy riffs. Maybe facing all the madness by facing it offers the best solution. But once again: there’s a tendency to overthink these things so we just leave with the fact that Death Magic is one of the most challenging and powerful albums you’ll face in the year 2015. And you can’t argue against that.