Beg Towards the Sky – Steven Graff, Jackie Frank Russell III
Art: Cory Curly Swope
HMA: What are your thoughts on occult practice in music?
Steven: Bands should do whatever they want, but I’m a practice-what-you-preach person who writes songs about spirituality/religion. I enjoy some bands that use the occult as an aesthetic, but you will only catch me writing lyrics about worshipping Satan if we make a horror story that deals with that subject.
Jackie: Weirdo music that I love and try to participate in wouldn’t exist without the people who purposefully try to think outside the normal realm of reason. The occult opens a path for many people I know to reach musical environments I could never fathom recreating. I’m an atheist, but this isn’t ever lost on me. Diversity of religion/ideology has always been a major factor in music construction.
Steven: We just like being part of something greater than ourselves, along with a way to explain what we don’t understand. Some people need it; some don’t. I wouldn’t call it a religious instinct as much as a need for a connection to something greater than you.
Jackie: It seems so natural to meet people who feel some unnamed spirituality in the world, and this makes me think there will always be a religion of a personal nature—this is probably the most rewarding connection you could have with it, in my opinion. Organised religion can greatly foster community, but we’ve seen perversion of their messages for atrocities against our own people. The battle between love and power is always the moral quandary.
HMA: What is doom?
Steven: To me, doom is purely the music style. A majority is depressing, but there are still bands like OHM, and that’s what I try to do. I like what sōtō zen teaches (I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist because I will never stop smoking weed and collecting shiny objects), so I try to incorporate some of that into the music.
Jackie: It all depends on the mindset. Lately, I’ve been digging back into the thematic roots of doom’s depressive nature, facing it full-on to gain catharsis from the process and connect with others who understand the emotion. Before, I’d prided myself on writing metal music that flips this pessimistic script into a euphoric celebration of joy and love. I’ve achieved this best within other sub-genres like grindcore and Devin-Townsend-Core. However, I’ve yet to find the perfect way to do that in a track that I’ve orchestrated while still sounding authentically within the doom genre—it’s a tricky tightrope walk to breaking the rules in a cheeky way instead of an unpleasing/disrespectful way.
HMA: Thoughts on drugs?
Steven: Big time. I only got where I am on guitar because I jammed/practised on ten trips. Our first album ‘Nightmares’ is about a good chunk of our most traumatising trips.
Jackie: It was the catalyst for Steve and me having this intense urge to create and put music into the world. Psychedelics were our deal, and I consider it lucky we had friends hooked up with this instead of something that could be more harmful overall. Still, years after I’ve stopped taking this stuff, I’m still feeling the fuzz that won’t go away. The moments of joy were great, but it feels like something’s lost for the rest of my time here. Drugs started Exosphere’s push, but now I make music to help me understand the world for which these drugs make me feel ill-equipped.
Steven: A few drug experiences that almost ended in severe injury and my death, a lot of drug experiences that felt like they evolved me, many losses, dealing with my own mental and physical health, the list grows day by day.
Jackie: I tend to overdramatise my own life, so every event at the moment feels like some serious life drama unfolding.
HMA: Does evil influence your music?
Steven: It gives us lots to pull from lyrically. Musically, I wouldn’t say it gives much because we like the dark rather than the evil.
Jackie: Our first EP gave some due props to the evil forces around us, but I’m less about moral black and white lately. We like that grey zone around here, baby; give me some of that moral conundrum ferry.
Steven: Good and evil are totally subjective; it’s all there. It’s just where and how you look at things. Metal is definitely the best to express the chaos of existence to me.
Jackie: We’re all doomed to die regardless. There is good, there is bad, and we seek out our best preference before we’re put in the ground. Metal is Exosphere’s best preference.