Photo: Billy Eyers
It’s understandable to covet the ability to consume art without having to confront difficult questions about the world around us, but regardless how long the debate over politics in metal rages on, nothing will change the simple truth of it: music is inherently political. Whether a piece of music is confrontational or cathartic in nature or not shouldn’t matter, everything we create is a product of our experiences, thoughts and beliefs. It is a mirror showing who we are, where we come from and what we’ve been through. And no life occurs in a vacuum, unaffected by history, politics and the lottery of birth.
In fact, you don’t even need words to say something profound about your experiences or the foundations that uphold the world at large. Divide And Dissolve, an Australian duo of Native descent, have been showing us this ever since they first emerged, dropping their stunning debut LP Basic in 2017 and following it up with the immense Abomination in 2018. Their aims have remained focused from day one – “to secure Black futures, liberation, and freedom; demand Indigenous sovereignty; uplift people of colour’s experiences; and destroy white supremacy.”
On new album Gas Lit, a sonic monument of existence and liberation, the band channel this struggle through noise, through gargantuan drones and monolithic riffs that move at a glacial pace, bearing the weight of centuries of injustice. In the way that Takaiya Reed’s achingly poignant saxophone cuts through the distortion, we are reminded that this pain still reverberates today. The oppressive frameworks of white supremacy that uphold society are omnipresent, built upon a foundation of slavery, genocide and subjugation.
So does Gas Lit mark the lighting of a fire to demolish these frameworks, or does the title refer to the way ordinary folk and marginalised communities are gaslit by those in power on a consistent basis? Reed and bandmate Sylvie Nehill tell us that everyone will draw something different from the album, but it is clear that whatever you take away from your time spent with Gas Lit, it will have a profound and lasting effect.
Compelled to find out more about the time and care that went into the creation of the record, we posed some questions to the duo…
So Gas Lit is absolutely phenomenal. Can you tell us a bit about the record, when it was written/recorded and how it came together?
Gas Lit came together organically. We had been thinking about writing another album, before we got around to it Ruban Nielson from Unknown Mortal Orchestra contacted us with interest in producing our next album. There the process began. After we wrote the album in the bush we began tracking it at Black Lodge Studios with Joel and Ruban. Ruban mixed the record and sent it off to be mastered by JJ Golden Jr. Then Geoff Barrow of Invada Records wanted to put the record out on their amazing record label. The test pressings got sent to somewhere in Germany and pressed onto 180g vinyl. Hopefully the record is in hand while reading this.
Your music sits loosely in the realm of doom metal but it’s fair to say it’s quite original in the genre, with shades of drone, noise and dark ambient, not to mention the use of saxophone. How did your unique sound come about, and how would you describe it?
Our sound came about by us connecting with our ancestors and nature. We seek to bring honour to them with our music. The sound came about organically. We played what we wanted to hear.
The term “gaslighting” has become more widespread in use in recent years, often in reference to emotionally abusive relationships, but it can be seen on a wider scale too, and it often feels like ordinary folk and marginalised communities are being gaslit by those in power. How and why did you choose the album name Gas Lit?
The album is named Gas Lit because of the pervasive existence of pain and suffering: that is often invisibilized and causes erasure, provoking an even greater trauma. It’s called Gas Lit because it’s such a tremendous problem that is costing people their lives and normalising systemic tragedy, justifying the colonial project, white supremacy, genocide and colonial governance. Gas Lit seeks to acknowledge the unacknowledged.
What do you hope listeners take away from Gas Lit?
Everyone will find something different in the album.
Art isn’t a replacement for direct action but it can inspire, motivate and help us envisage brighter futures. What role do you think music (and art generally) can play as a tool of resistance?
Music is an accessible non-judgmental point of access that occurs at the pace people need it to. There is no external pressure, only internal movement whenever the person is listening. Art is intertwined just like with people’s lives. People are always resisting.
You’ve noted that your music is designed to “decolonise, decentralise, and destroy white supremacy” but is it also a means of personal catharsis for you? (And if so, would you say that makes your music an example of the ways in which the personal is the political?)
Politics are useless when they justify slavery and genocide. Everything is very personal. We will continue fighting for what we believe in.
When someone mentions political music or “protest music”, a lot of people picture bands like Rage Against The Machine – artists who shout what they’re thinking and display their anger openly. As a largely instrumental band, it’s interesting that your music still has a distinct political point to make. How do the sociopolitical points that inform your work manifest in your music?
Music is a universal language that we are able to communicate in without words. The relationship between our art and politics is tightly woven. What is happening to people and the earth all informs our lives and our art. We will continue to talk about the importance of decolonisation, the destruction of white supremacy and prison industrial complex and the survival of indigenous sovereignty.
Words: George Parr