by Mike Olinger
Stepping into a Historian album is a bit like sitting down to watch a film by David Lynch. He channels an unsettling, dream-like world that is ripe with dystopian imagery and suburban anxiety, all filtered through a haze of psych rock guitars, lulling pianos and stinging synths.
The LA-based musician has released a string of albums that are sonically and visually tied together by a steady, visionary hand that is all too aware of its outsider status. Often, he taps into this fringe zeitgeist via hellish lyrics of a world gone mad with greed and self-righteousness, communicated through hushed, lullaby-like ballads that act as a soothing balm for his fire and brimstone prophesies.
Post-Trash recently had a moment to chat up the dark prince regarding his ambivalence towards convincing others of his opinions, his highly-streamlined aesthetic, and his privileged insight into such matters as the forthcoming zombie apocalypse.
MO: I notice your music often explores the darker themes around our cultural mania. Is songwriting a therapeutic process to exorcise your anxieties?
CK: Definitely. There are times when I need to write solely for the purpose of exorcising my anxieties or depressive thoughts. It also usually helps me make sense of this crazy world. My hope too, is that I’m giving the listener something to think about without spoon feeding them a position. Hopefully listeners can get some sense of solace from it.
MO: How do you know when the subject matter of a song is worth exploring?
CK: If something is eating at me, I’m probably going to write about it. Whether it’s personal, like the death of a loved one, or cultural, like political tribalism. After I’ve had some distance from writing a song, I’ll take a step back and ask myself, ‘do these lyrics suck?’ If they still resonate with me at that point, I’ll keep them. My goal is almost never to try to change someone’s mind when it comes to their views – although I do hope to give them something to think about – so much as it is to provide an outlet for their despair.
MO: Your catalogue is tied together with very succinct titles and wide screen imagery. How did you know this aesthetic would be weaved through your respective releases when you first began?
CK: With our first album, Shelf Life, I really liked that the title was concise but could have several meanings depending upon how you thought about it. In terms of the cover art, the expansive imagery kind of tells the listener that the title may have a deeper meaning behind it, without giving up too many of the details. That’s my intent, anyway. Also, I’m just really drawn to expansive images, especially if it’s to an almost overwhelming degree. It really moves me. This combination seemed to work well, so I’ve pretty much stuck to it since.
MO: Hour Hand feels like a bit of a warning shot for some impending catastrophe. Is there something we should know about a forthcoming zombie apocalypse?
CK: Let’s just say I’ve been privy to a few backroom conversations with some very important people, and I have it on pretty good authority that a zombie apocalypse is definitely eminent, haha. In all seriousness, we may not all agree on the root of the problem, but I think it’s obvious to most people that things in America are not so great right now. In my opinion, America has been abusing its role as the world superpower for a very long time. All empires eventually end, and I could be wrong, but it appears that our time may be approaching sooner than later. I know that’s a pretty long conversation and I don’t want to get too preachy. I’m not necessarily saying I’d recommend people start building bunkers or hiding in caves, but I think we may need to come to grips with the fact that we may be at turning point in history from which there may be some pretty uncomfortable changes. That’s a depressing note to end on, no matter how fitting it is coming from me. So, I’m going to risk sounding like I’m running for president, and say I still believe we can hope and strive for a better future.