1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the musical project?
Thief is an electronic project whose backbone is largely built from sampled and manipulated sacred chant music of various forms. I like to call it Dungeon Pop and heard it once described as NIN having sex with Portishead in a haunted church.
2.Recently you have released a new album, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
I think the lyrics are more personal and it has a more aggressive side to it. I’m really happy with the mix/production too. The last two albums when I listen back to them I hear a lot of little things I wish I had maybe done a bit differently but with this one I have not had that experience... yet... time will tell, ha!
There’s also a lot more instrumentation on this album. Guitar and bass in a lot of songs, organ and harpsichord pop up in a few choruses and of course a lot of synth/electronics.
3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explores with the newer album and also how would you describe your progress as songwriters over the years?
The lyrics seem to focus on addiction, transgression or anger, mysticism, heartache and horror. They all happily hold hands and jump around in a circle.
It’s hard to quantify something like songwriting as there’s no right or wrong way to do it, but I’d say with this album I witnessed a faster process and was able to intuit what the song needed and where it was going without much critical thought. I’ll often write in a “blitz” and save the analytical editing brain for later when I start producing stuff out. Lyrics however have always been a sticking point for me and 80% of the time are a total pain to get right. I look forward to when that becomes easier.
4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Thief'?
From the start I knew I was going to be sampling a lot of old chant/sacred work, so I thought it was a pretty fitting name in that regard. There’s also something in the spirit or symbolism of a blackguard or a bandit that resonates with me. But most importantly, I just liked the way the word looks when written: “THIEF” - it has a certain weight and feeling to it, doesn’t it?
5.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The artwork was created by the prolific Spanish artist Joseba Eskubi. The piece was originally a painting by the 17th century Dutch painter Pieter Fransz de Grebber, but Eskubi “defaced” it and to create the surreal almost violent cover art. I actually didn’t know that that was how he made it until after I bought it from him but was very happy to learn it because it's a very “Thief” process
- that is, taking something old and transforming it into something new and damaging it along the way.
6.With this project you record everything by yourself but also have experience working with other musicians, how would you compare the two?
Personally, I approach and understand music much like how a painter or writer does. I see it as a solitary act that should beget a personal, defined voice. I much prefer to work alone. I like to have final say over everything and being able to indulge in the luxury of taking all the time I want to wonder and explore ideas to ensure that they meet their proper destination.
However there are of course benefits to writing and working with other people. There’s definitely an ineffable magic that can happen when two or more people really “click” while writing and it’s something that I think only happens in music. What other medium can work with two people spontaneously writing to create a whole thing? I’ve only really had that with maybe one person.
7.What are some of the best shows you have played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?
My impression/memory of a show is more about the entire experience of the night and the setting as opposed to just how we played or how many people were there. With Thief what immediately comes to mind was this giant industrial bakery turned art-commune in Atlanta. The property was strange and enormous, the people great and the other bands also ruled. Also this old puppet theater in New Orleans... creepy puppets everywhere and it was raining all night in the summer humidity with some bad sleep deprivation. Also coming to mind was while playing in Botanist in Europe: Roadburn in 2015 and the other was at an abandoned orphanage in France that was turned into a kind of art compound.
We’re pretty lively on stage, I think. A lot heavier with live drums and Chris Hackman’s crushing bass tones. I can’t help but spazz-out with some of the more wild tracks so there’s definitely a much more energetic vibe going on that might not be apparent on the album. That’s good I think... if a band sounds and feels exactly like they do on the album I’ll just stay home and listen to the album!
8.I have also read that you live in a 'Zen Buddhist' temple, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in this path?
Sure. Growing up I was always intrigued by the idea of meditation and consciousness but never really did more investigating outside of reading about it and experimenting with psychoactive substances. Then around 2007/2008 I was going through some really painful experiences and I knew this man who had been a Hindu practitioner for 40-something years and he inspired me to find a path that worked for me. I felt drawn towards Zen Buddhism because it is strikingly devoid of any kind of flowery language or intellectualization about life. I liked the seemingly wild immediacy of it and all of its apocryphal stories so I started to practice it seriously when I found a teacher and eventually found this place that I live and practice at now.
9.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of experimental and electronic rock?
To be honest I’m not really sure. People seem to really like Thief, both on record and on stage, and we seem to be accepted by people from all scenes and genres, but I never know what fanbase they really belong to or if they’re representative of anything but themselves. I think that’s because Thief doesn’t really fit into one box so we are able to work in a lot of places and spark interest from all different kinds of people
10.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician during the future?
It’s my life’s work so I’m just going to keep doing what I’m doing: making music. I would hope that eventually I can quit my day job to fully focus on Thief and hopefully with this new album there will be more opportunities to tour.
11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Growing up I’d say bands like Ulver, Bjork, Aphex Twin, classical stuff and Radiohead had a big influence on me, and then when I really got into metal that became a huge creative inspiration in my life. The first time I heard Death and Emperor had a profound impact on me. I listened to a lot of Tool and hardcore punk too. I don’t think all of this is apparent in my music but sometimes I catch a light whiff of the aforementioned in some way.
Nowadays I find myself listening to a lot of ambient/experimental stuff. I think I listened to Eliane Radigue nearly everyday in 2020. I’ve been listening to a lot of Sarah Davachi lately who I just discovered - she’s a really great ambient/drone artist. I really like this experimental electronic band Emptyset, they’re one of the few artists that I have no idea how they make the sounds that they do. Thomas Kroner’s “arctic synth” albums have been droning in my home a lot. Throwing Snow has been getting some heavy rotation along with some old school drum and bass and 80’s electro/detroit house playlists I’ve been building. I find myself happily stuck in older metal favorites so there’s always that going on, too.
12.Does Occultism play any role on your music?
Nah. If it ever makes an appearance it’s mostly as a symbol for something.
13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Thanks for your time and I hope everyone enjoys the album, it's a privilege to share it with you all.