Cold Cave’s Wes Eisold Likes His ‘Tough, Sensitive, Sexy’ Fan Base
For the last 15 years, Wes Eisold's musical output has been coveted by many, in large part because of his resonant and poignant lyrics. From his work in American Nightmare, which chronicled lost days in Boston, to his work in Cold Cave, which touches on topics of love and misanthropy, Eisold's lyrics strike a chord with people in a way that leaves them wanting more.
In the last year, Eisold has been busy peforming with both American Nightmare and Cold Cave. American Nightmare have been playing shows with the likes of Cock Sparrer, Madball and Burn. They are now gearing up to go on tour in Europe with Youth of Today this coming February. Cold Cave are preparing to embark on a full U.S. tour with Dais act Drab Majesty this January. In addition to being busy with creative projects, Eisold also celebrated the birth of his son this past year. With so much going on, I took the time to talk with Eisold about what it feels like to be going back on the road, fatherhood, doing double duty with two bands and the impact all of the deaths in 2016.
Cold Cave are getting ready to get back in the van this coming January for a national tour. What about the upcoming tour are you most excited about?
I love playing, and I'm lucky in that I genuinely enjoy being at our shows, because I dig the people who come. Cold Cave shows are the perfect mix of gothic and hardcore. Well-read, tough, sensitive and sexy — what else is there? I've felt like an outsider my entire life, and our shows are the one place where I don't. Very ready to play places we don't get to too often, like Texas, Detroit and especially Philly ... it's where this began. I lived in a loft in Old City and then moved to a house in West Philly. Everything up to [2011's] Cherish the Light Years was made there. We kept the house in Philly hoping to return to it one day, but after Chachi [Justin Benoit] passed away in it, we knew it could never happen. The cover of Cremations is a picture Max [Morton] took of me saging the house. Guess it didn't work.
You've been touring with musical acts over half your life. It's safe to say it's become an ingrained part of your identity now. Last year, you entered the world of fatherhood. What are some of the biggest differences you've noticed in your routine with regard to touring, etc., now that you're a dad?
I never thought I would be a father. I never had any interest in roles or even being alive that long. So, after 30 years of [not] caring less, I finally care about something, someone. I have a family I chose, and I can't believe I'm so lucky to witness truest beauty, purest purity. Neither [partner] Amy [Lee] or I have ever been able to fit in to any traditional role, so that won't change. I don't think about the routine or anything else; there are just three of us now instead of two. It's perfect.
Changing gears for a minute — you've been playing a lot with American Nightmare the last couple of years, in addition to your time with Cold Cave. On a personal level, what's it like for you to have these two acts coexisting with each other? I mean in the sense of performing with one act that represents an earlier era of your life and one that represents a later era.
Both bands are major parts of me. Time and years and age feel irrelevant with them. I don't view them in a linear way, so when performing with American Nightmare — although it's something I first did when I was 20 — I instantly feel how I felt in those times. I do feel lost and hopeless, even though I'm older now. Clarity comes in some ways, and never in others. I don't walk around aimlessly on cold nights listening to the Smiths in between hardcore shows, but that's still very much inside of me. I needed to do American Nightmare again because it felt unresolved. After 10 years or so of lawsuits, we finally got the trademark for the name last month. I didn't love the last album we made in 2003 and didn't want to leave the band as Give Up the Ghost for eternity. The heart of the band is in the best and sincerest place it's been since the first two EPs. No fat, no delusion.
One thing I've always found interesting is your work with Heartworm Press. For readers who are unaware, you run and curate a book publishing company. Obviously, lyrics are a form of expression that have inherent connections to poetry and literature. When you started Heartworm, what goals and ambitions did you have in mind? What goes into the curating process when selecting titles for Heartworm?
When I first got in to underground music, there was an understanding that you would participate in some way. I loved zines and would order them from all over the world and trade with people and read them over and over. Pre-internet, it was the only way to read about bands and topics that mattered to you. I started making my own when I was 16 and never stopped. I was a very wounded — and in some ways shy — kid, and writing zines was a way of communicating that I craved and needed. Later on, I wanted to put out the works of others who I admired. Heartworm releases haven't always been the works of musicians, but it's always had a rock 'n' roll feel to it. Coming from punk, it just seemed obvious. If you want something that doesn't exist, make it. After years of smaller limited releases, I released my book Deathbeds, and from there, it was on. I work at my own pace and am not interested with modern trends in any way. To be released, we have to meet each other on a deep level. We just released a Richard Brautigan book. We are about to release The Devil's Music by Max G. Morton, and a new collection of mine called Thieves of Youth.
2016 will likely be regarded as among the most tragic years in music history, with the passing of greats like Prince, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen and many more. Personally and creatively, how would you say the loss of so many influential people — seemingly all at once — have impacted you as an artist and as a person? Beyond music, did the deaths of any visual artists in 2016 have any profound impact on you?
Some of these recent deaths are of age and illness, but so many are of drugs. Even sadder is [that] these brilliant people climb to the top of the world to discover there is nothing there. That is the tragedy in it. I think these deaths are ringing in the end of a magical time in music and performance and lyricism. Bowie and Cohen had a depth to them that doesn't really exist anymore. Time takes us all, but we still have a few. Nick Cave, Morrissey and Patti Smith are [all that's] left of the literate musicians that speak to me. There's Mark Kozelek, Tom Waits, PJ Harvey, Phil Elverum, Greg Dulli, Robert Pollard — all great lyricists, like Dylan and Neil Young. Poets. Lyrics are everything to me. I loved bands regardless of their sound. The words made me feel not alone. I am always looking for answers. A way to better understand my place in the world. Music was secondary. A complementary sound to accompany a message. Too often I check out a newish band and am instantly let down by their lyrics. I wonder why sing at all if all you are singing are these empty words. If anyone can do what you do, it should not be done. I hope there will be a resurgence of inspiration. Original voices. With our fingers on the pulse of everything, it's too easy to "become" a mosaic of other people's ideas. The lack of information in the past is what made imagination come alive. I'm hoping for substance and style over just style.
Earlier this year, Cold Cave released a 7”, “The Idea of Love,” on Heartworm Press. Since Cherish the Light Years, Cold Cave's recorded output has been released in doses of singles. Is this by design, or did it just kind of happen that way? Can we expect any new recordings in 2017?
The truth is, I find the model and cycle of making an album and touring on it uninteresting and tired. How long are we going to do this for? I release music as I feel it should be released, regardless of time or format or convention. Music is a difficult world to work in if you have a vision and a brain. It's because you love it and you live it and you commit to it, but it comes with so many other people and politics. Friends who are so gifted and accomplished become so hardened and miserable with time. I don't want that. You have to find a path that works for you, or make your own.
With the year winding to a close, this question becomes a little more appropriate: What were your favorite music releases of 2016?
Underworld, Barbara Barbara: We Face a Shining Future was my favorite release this year, along with David Bowie's Blackstar and Leonard Cohen's You Want It Darker.
Last question: You've moved a lot in the last decade — from New York, Philadelphia and now Los Angeles, where you presently reside — but do you ever miss Boston and New England? If so, what do you miss most? What don't you miss?
I romanticize New England. It's my home, if I had one. I miss the fall and the coastal winters. I don't remember my time there filled with a lot of joy, but it did shape a significant part of me. I think New England is best spent when lonely. My era of Boston, around '99 / '00, was special, and the city was very alive then. But then, it could just be the carelessness of the early 20s. People not from there often have a negative idea of it, as if it's the type of city where you could get sucker-punched at any moment. That may be true, but there's so much more. Its history feels alive when you're there. When I think of Boston and New England, I think of my youth, and influences like Harvard Square, the Charles River, walking from Roxbury to Cambridge, Beacon Hill, the Eastern Promenade in Portland, Mission of Burma, SSD, Sylvia Plath, Thoreau, GG Allin, Emerson, the Modern Lovers, Slapshot, Galaxie 500, the Trouble, Swirlies, Converge, Lemonheads, Magnetic Fields, Helium, Cerberus Shoal, Throwing Muses, Belly, Verbal Assault, Arab on Radar. I think of being very poor and very alive. John Waters once said to me, "Philadelphia is a great city, unless you wish you were in New York." The same is true for Boston.
COLD CAVE on TOUR
Jan. 12 — Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse
Jan. 13 — Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
Jan. 14 — Denver, CO @ Lipgloss / Larimer
Jan. 15 — Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room
Jan. 18 — Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
Jan. 19 — Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Place
Jan. 20 — Montreal, QC @ Fairmont
Jan. 21 — Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Jan. 22 — Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
Jan. 23 — Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
Jan. 25 — Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
Jan. 26 — Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter
Jan. 27 — Durham, NC @ Motorco
Jan. 28 — Atlanta, GA @ Terminal West
Jan. 29 — Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
Feb. 1 — Houston, TX @ Walters
Feb. 2 — San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
Feb. 3 — Austin, TX @ Barracuda
Feb. 4 — Dallas, TX @ Dada
Feb. 14 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Regent