Among extreme music's most innovative contributors, the one man wall of sound that is Author & Punisher has unquestionably helped to evolve how the world perceives heavy music.
As an educated, accomplished mechanical engineer, Tristan Shone's approach to crafting compositions and meticulously chasing sounds, compelled him to actually make the drone machines to achieve that. Rather than finding the instrument or the plug-in, Shone embraced his DIY roots and combined with his ability to bridge the know how with the work ethic, Shone has made a career of manufacturing the means to make his own sound.
Since 2005, Shone has churned out a prolific body of work some eight albums deep, all of which further refined his pursuit for the kind of doom-latent distortion that he has become synonymous with. A meld of relentless low end rumble, accented with ominous tones and a sort of apocalyptic sci-fi tension, the music of Author & Punisher has been as maniacal as it is methodical.
Yet for someone wired the way Shone is, his approach to crafting compositions embraces a scientific method, a sort of trial and error to better assess what works and what no longer works. For his ninth full length studio album, Krüller, Shone was saddled with plenty of time to take inventory and better deduce what direction he wanted to go.
Having worked so diligently to perfect his devastating drone-heavy doom, Shone realized that his focus omitted the inclusion of melody into his music. Intent on adding another layer to depth of his sound, Shone utilized the stalled pace of a world gone made to retreat to his work space and like any proper engineer, Shone began to tinker. In the process, Shone found his voice.
Nearly two decades into his career, Shone's most recent collection of compositions showcase an added element of melody to Author & Punisher that counterintuitively seem to make the music heavier. Rather than indulging the kind of distorted "grunts" atop over his brand organized noise, Shone's latest iteration embraces a kind of clarity that provides the kind of in-song contrast that was always living in Shone's sound, yet only now is fully realized.
Armed with new musical findings and ready to again trek in support of the album, Shone explained how he arrived at the inception of Kruller, how the album asserts a new chapter in Author & Punisher, and how the best extreme music couples with it an element of the intellectual.
Much of the discussion about Krüller involves the emphasis of melody. Was the stylistic shift a conscious decision to move away from such dominant distortion or were the songs that resulted on the album more a result of organic evolution as a songwriter?
Shone - When I was on tour with Tool it was basically the best case scenario for me to play – between help from their crew, my crew, the best sound systems, and upgraded gear, I was able to record my sets and listen to them at the end of the tour. During the pandemic I was able to really analyze and listen as a fan. I wanted to hear more melody and less distortion and I also wanted to hear my voice clearer, it sounded like I was buried in a tunnel – there were good things, but others that I wanted to improve, specifically melody and vocals.
Given the kind of narrative in a song like “Blacksmith,” do you feel like vocal emphasis on the album gave you a different perspective when penning lyrics for the music? Do you feel like that clarity allows for what you are saying, not just how you are saying to be consumed more completely?
Shone - Absolutely with clean vocals, the emphasis is more on the narrative and the lyrical content, a song like "Blacksmith" I felt a little bit weird being a white guy writing a song about female Black protestors/activist movement but they were the ones leading the charge and I wanted to show my respect.
The catalog of A & P is usually characterized as a balance of doom and industrial - yet this album includes a pretty audacious cover of Portishead’s classic “Glorybox” - Was the decision to go so left of center more about keeping fans on their toes or tipping your hat to an influence?
Shone - Portishead is a huge influence and I feel like I’ve said this a lot lately but Portishead is the doom band of the trip hop and electronic scene, especially in the late ‘90s. Heavy on the low end and softer on the vocals, something that was a theme on this album.
Songs like "Drone Carrying Dread,” “Maiden Star” and most recent “Blacksmith” have a very cinematic quality - these translate more like score entries than songs. Has there ever been any thought to transitioning into a composer role to make music for film and television?
Shone - I’ve tried that a few times and for whatever reason it’s not something I enjoy a lot, I would prefer to keep writing my own music. With everything I’m working on, Drone Machines, engineering, just getting A&P where I want it, it’s enough for me. But… never say never.
Prior to the pandemic you toured with Tool. Did you find that kind of arena environment was conducive to your music or do you feel like the more intimate, no-barricade kind of show is better suited for a proper Author & Punisher experience?
Shone - There’s a sort of quaintness to playing a small DIY space and that’s where I started and I’ll always have a warm spot for that in my heart, but as A&P has grown, the larger venues with better sound systems are where it’s at. The first note I hit at the Viejas Arena with Tool… that was it for me, I loved it.
Could you explain how the turbulence and uncertainty of the last couple of years permeated in your music? Lyrically, did you find yourself more introspective and reflective or did you see the music as a means of getting some things off your chest?
Sone - To be honest, writing lyrics for me is a bit of a chore and I would rather sort of grunt in a microphone. Having said that, I do have thoughts and I read a lot of sci-fi and have very strong political opinions and I try to put as much artistry as I can into it. Everything right now is chaos and a huge pain in the ass, so I try to make a story out of it to make it a little less painful.
There was an interview you gave back in 2020 where you mentioned how the kind of political/ideological divisiveness would likely start to weed people out of your scene. Have you seen that change come to fruition? How do you see the landscape of extreme music and those that subscribe to it evolving - good and/or bad?
Shone - It'll be interesting when touring resumes this month, as it is for so many of us, to see how my being outspoken will be received by some people who might have shifted further to the right. I think in our scene we absolutely need people who are standing up and not worried about being called woke or snowflakes or anything. I’m sure there will be a lot of eyerolls but the best way to deal with that is to make your music as heavy and effective as possible, which is what I’m trying to do.
Your touring history is very telling. Godflesh, Neurosis, The Body, Cattle Decapitation, Lingua Ignota - that kind of diversity is tough for one artist to compliment yet A & P somehow works well with every single artist on that list. What do you feel like the common denominator is? What about Author & Punisher do you hope is translating across such a broad spectrum of heavy music fans?
Shone - Well I think there has to be an element, the mixture of heavy and dark and not in an angst filled, commercial way. Heavy, dark, non-angsty and it has to be sort of, and I hate to use this word, but it has to be somewhat intellectual because you have to be a thoughtful person. I think growing up with bands like Fugazi, Neurosis and Godflesh, those bands always made me think outside of just really basic phrases and responses to what’s happening in the world.
This has been the longest stretch between albums since you began in 2005. Was that extra time intentional and if so, how did that ultimately impact the finished product in Krüller?
Shone - I tried to delay this album as long as possible, for obvious reasons – pandemic, can’t tour on an album, etc. but my favorite release I’ve ever done is Drone Machines which I released in 2010, but wrote in 2005/2006. I had that album in the studio forever, I’m proud of the songwriting on it, the complexity – I think Krüller has that in it – where I was just able to sit and focus on parts and melodies forever – until it drove me mad.
Krüller from Author & Punisher is currently available via Relapse Records. Order the album - HERE. Author & Punisher will set out on an extensive touring run throughout 2022 with headlining dates as well as a supporting tour with Perturbator & HEALTH. See the complete list of dates below.