Words by David C. Obenour
The harshness of Sightless Pit is up front. The blasted apart beats, the distorted vocals, samples from unknown sources, the sheer blanketing and suffocating heaviness of the music, even Lockstep Bloodwar’s cover speaks to the brutality as a collage of a distorted and mauled face.
Though staring deeper into the latest project from Lee Buford (The Body) and Dylan Walker (Full of Hell) reveals more. Lockstep Bloodwar is a Cronenbergian amalgamation of influences, drawn together by the duo and an impressive and eclectic range of collaborators, including Midwife, YoshimiO, Gangsta Boo, Lane Shi Otayonii, Frukwan, claire rousay, Crownovhornz, Foie Gras, and others. Noise is the palette, but dub, electronic, ambience, and beat music are the strokes.
Off Shelf: Following Grave of a Dog, Lockstep Bloodwar continues Sightless Pit’s uninhibited exploration of sound. Can you talk about some of the first thoughts you had when concepting the album?
Dylan Walker: I think a huge priority for both of us has been to work with our friends. The project itself was just an excuse to make records together, in the first place! The first record really materialized out of the dark, we weren’t sure what we even wanted to do, beyond knowing what we had to offer on an individual level – beats, screaming, noise etc. The second time around it felt right to lean more into dub territory. Expounding on features was only natural and gave us a way to add vibrancy to the songs and flesh out our initial goal.
OS: Was much of this conceived of, written, or recorded during the pandemics and lockdown? Whether or not, how do you think that time molded you to create the album that you did now?
DW: It was entirely created over the lockdown, actually. I’m not sure if it had a massive influence on the project, mainly because the entire thing operates remotely. There’s so much distance between Lee and I on a day to day basis that something like that didn’t really alter our schedules at all. It certainly had influence over the subject matter and lyrics, of course. It was a turbulent time mentally for many of us.
OS: Admittedly not a genre I’m well versed in, what is it about dub that made you want to explore it further on Lockstep Bloodwar?
DW: I think Lee has loved dub and dancehall style music for his entire life. The way that the Body traditionally writes music – especially since electronic drums took on a larger role – is really conducive to a project like this. We start with the drums first and build off that initial beat. My parents were very into reggae when I was young, so by extension, I was too. I’ve also always loved repeating phrases, beats etc.
OS: What were some of the things about the genre that you knew you’d want to maintain or stay true to?
DW: To clarify, I don’t think anyone involved in this project would really call Sightless Pit a dub project. There’s obviously some heavy influence there, but it’s still pretty removed from being an actual dub record. The pieces that remain are the ones that already exist in projects like the Body or even something like JK Flesh. The idea of repeating instrumental beats with guest musicians adding their own identity to the tracks feels very dub to me.
OS: What were some of the elements you were most excited to experiment with? Did you try anything that ended up not working like you’d hope?
DW: I’m always excited to see what we can do with sampling. The idea that you can stretch something, a sound from your life that means something to you, and it can become a central hook to the song, or become a texture that’s kind of buried but still there to find like an Easter egg is very sick to me. Everytime I go into Machines with Magnets I always feel like the kid at the adult’s table. Not in a bad way at all, I just want to listen and learn and I’m never really bothered if something I bring along doesn’t work. I can’t remember anything off hand, but there’s no way we didn’t hit a couple minor dead ends with ideas. It helps that there aren’t really any defined parameters for the project though, we are open to almost anything.
OS: Stated explicitly in the title, there’s a bleak and stark focus for Lockstep Bloodwar – the inevitable violence and selfishness of existence. How does this translate into the desire to create or perform?
DW: I’m not sure that there’s a relationship between our desire to make art and perform and the violent nature of human beings. At least in this specific case. Those are subjects that I’m always stuck on, they come naturally to me and it’s most important to be honest with your work.
OS: With so many collaborators, did any guest’s input change the direction of a song from what you had initially envisioned?
DW: It almost always completely alters the songs to a point where we don’t even know what the song is going to be until we get those guest spots. The most dramatic one to me was “Flower to Tomb” which was performed by Lane Shi Otayonii, one of my favorite modern singers/musicians. We sent her a pretty bare bones track and she absolutely floored us.
OS: Did any of the musicians take any convincing, or maybe at least further explaining, for what you were trying to do with Lockstep Bloodwar?
DW: None of the musicians on this record took convincing to contribute. I will say that we asked a few more that either didn’t respond or said no. One of the funnier ones was asking Tony Molina if he’d be down. We are casual friends/contacts, and I’m a big fan, so I figured it was worth asking. He took one listen and said something along the lines of “bro what the fuck is this??”. Classic.
OS: His second album working with you, can you talk about Seth Manchester’s role as engineer in helping to pull together songs into a cohesive album?
DW: His role is enormous. He has a really old and deep friendship/partnership with Lee through the body, so he’s able to really fluidly work as an extension of Lee’s thoughts. I’ve never worked with such an intuitive producer in my life. At times it’s a completely alien experience for me. He really gets what we want and even more importantly, he knows where to push and where to interject.
OS: It’s normally a throwaway question, but I’m fascinated by what’s next for you as a band. Are there other genres you’d like to explore in a similar matter?
DW: I think we’ve found our zone. We haven’t talked about what we are going to do next. We usually don’t. I think part of what makes this project important for us, is that there are no stipulations, no guidelines, no expectations. It found it’s identity naturally, so whatever we do next will come naturally on it’s own.