One Man Band | A Q&A With Musical Multitasker Wesley Eisold
It’s Friday evening and I have plans, but nonetheless I’m happy to put a pause on things to sit down to talk to Wesley Eisold, the lead singer and mastermind behind the Dark Wave project Cold Cave.
When I give him a ring, I’m rejected. He’s running late. ‘Here we go again another music diva’, I think to myself. But that’s not the case at all. When he calls me back a half hour later, as promised, it turns out traffic was the culprit. He calls just moments after they’ve parked at their next venue. Most artists would have just taken my call and given half-ass answers while in the tour bus, but for Eisold that won’t cut it. He makes me wait a bit, but the result is his undivided attention.
And boy was it worth it. This guy is absolutely articulate. During our half hour conversation we banter back and forth without ever missing a beat. Eisold opened up about everything from his knack for being a musical chameleon to his publishing company to his internal and external fragilities.
The only downside to this stimulating conversation is I have no idea what quotes to use and which ones to scrap. I mean everything this guy says is fucking gold! So I decide to extend the same courtesy that Eisold did to me. Instead of chopping up our conversation into a condensed profile, I’m showing if off in its entirety. Your undivided attention will be required.
Throughout the years you’ve been involved in a variety of different musical projects (American Nightmare, Some Girls, XO Skeletons, Ye Olde Maids). It seems perhaps there is a certain level of restlessness in your spirit. Where does this desire to cross pollinate come from?
I think it’s directly related to how I grew up, in that I was a military brat so I grew up moving often. Sometimes I went to multiple schools in a single year. I think having to find my place in a consistently changing environment became comfortable to me. I moved as long as I lived with my parents, without choice. Then after graduating high school I continued moving every six months to a year or two years. I’ve lived in LA for almost 5 or 6 years now and that’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere in my entire life.
I think my musical career has mirrored the first half of my life. Music [has been] the constant in my life…my only friend through all these moves and through these strange places I’ve lived in and how I found friends in these strange places. The music I still play, be it with Cold Cave or American Nightmare, is really reflective of the type of music I was listening to and the type of music that impacted my life-the late 80s to mid 90s from punk and hardcore to new wave. I still feel indebted to that music in a way because it was there for me when nothing else was.
It’s cool that you came full circle and you’re now doing what that music did for you.
It’s the best. [It’s] the most rewarding aspect of playing music. I’m not really that great at communicating in conversation with people, but I do feel some urgency to do so, which is why I keep writing and playing music. That it gets to help someone, is sort of the only thing that matters at this point.
How is it collaborating with your partner Amy Lee? Have you guys always managed to strike a balance between personal and professional or do they bleed into each other?
There is no divide. She’s the greatest. I’ve never been around someone this amount of time and in this intense of a way in my life. The collaboration is hard to explain because it’s covering all facets of our life from the creative outlet of Cold Cave, to raising a child. It’s so expansive. We each have strong points. I will typically start making music, and I’ll obviously write the lyrics to something, but she is way better at executing plans for a live show and better at shaping the aesthetics of everything.
Before she was in the band it was really just me just trying to channel my chaos. When I met her, I didn’t know she would become such a huge part of my life in terms of the creative outlet but it’s been such a blessing. She’s taken my fragmented sporadic ideas, and shaped them into this fully functioning vehicle that is Cold Cave now. [The Fact that it] is able to function to the degree that it can and does without a manger or record label or anything like that, is really a testament to not only my songs, but her execution and understanding of them.
You’ve always seen yourself as an outsider and that has been reflected in your lyricism. Now that you have a family, how do you feel?
I don’t think it’s changed in that I feel like even more of an outsider now that I do have a family. Especially being in music, where it’s not that common. So no one I know has a kid really. I know a lot of people who have kids who play music, but they also have a day job. I’m in this weird situation where we’re just going for it…we’re just going to see it through. The only person who actually gave me advice told me ‘you just put the baby in a Moses basket on the side of the stage and it’s all good.’ Most people I personally know are parents are still so traditional in a way that Amy and I are maybe aren’t, so I still feel like an outsider in that approach.
Do you feel more understood by audiences and critics these days? Or more distant from them?
I feel more understood by audiences. In the last few years, from just doing relentless touring, I think we’re kind of finding these different groups. Taking people from here and there that I think Cold Cave has appealed to. It’s just taken a long time for some reason. It didn’t work in 2010 when I was having a label pay for it to work. It’s a total blessing in a way, even though it was frustrating then. People are finding out about it now and we’re reaping the benefits of it, as opposed to a label.
It’s really gratifying because I know it’s not paid for instagram likes or paid for Facebook clicks. I’ve had so many friends, and I was victim to it for a bit, that are kind of subjected to this false popularity where you have your sense of self and ego inflated by invisible fans, who as soon as this deal is gone don’t even exist because they weren’t real. We deal with that still to an extent because we’ll have festival promoters tell us ‘well you have to be billed here on this festival because this band has more instagram followers.’ So if I went and bought 200,000 fans I could headline the festival!? The logic doesn’t even make sense. It should be about cultural impact. I know that our tours do well and people come to our shows and we have this really cool connection that is hard for people to have. I’ve been in music since 1999, [So I’ve] kind of built up to this slow but steady pace of being a lifer. We still feel [isolated] but it’s exactly where we want to be.
Were you writing from that headspace? What influenced this latest Cold Cave EP?
I wanted to fully represent the band, who it is right now, because, I think it does tie in these different elements of the band in a more cohesive way than past releases did. For this I wanted it to be four cohesive songs that I could introduce or reintroduce to someone what Cold Cave sounds like. It has these factory record influences and also early 80s industrial influences but it’s still lyric based. We though it was beautiful the way they fit together and that’s the way we wanted to present it. We get asked a lot why we don’t make albums and it’s not that we don’t, but it’s just that we keep coming across these little records that we enjoy. We just keep doing whatever feels right at the time. I think if we make an album that feels right we’ll release it. We like to keep in motion and keep releasing music as close to real time as we can.
Just to clarify, does Heartworm Press publish music in addition to literature now?
Yeah it does now! It started as just me making zines. Zines were a huge thing for me growing up. I was ordering records and reading and tracking down everything. But when I started getting actual physical zines that’s when I felt like I was really on to something like truly underground. In my early 20s I started making more and more poetry based zines so they were still kind of directly related to my band’s lyrics at the time. I wanted to put out other zines by other musicians that I thought were great lyricists that maybe didn’t get the literary praise that I believed they deserved, because their writing was only used in song. I wanted to start releasing books by people I thought were great lyricists and it kind of just turned into my label and a good way to release Cold Cave [music].
That brings to mind Bob Dylan winning the Pulitzer Prize. There’s such this connection between music and literature because lyricism is so poetic.
Sure but you’ll still hear people who say Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison aren’t poets. There’s still these people who are stuck in this traditional idea of what poetry is. It all ties together-wanting to defy tradition. I have a book press that puts out records I guess.
You’ve dabbled in fashion design alongside your music career. How were those experiences?
I’m really attracted to avant garde designers. People like Alexander Polakav and Rick Owens. To me it’s an extension of forward thinking art. I’m attracted to it the same way I’m attracted to progressive music, progressive film or progressive literature. I think it’s another facet of self-expression that is overlooked and that has a bad stigma not too dissimilar to the way poetry has a bad stigma. To me it’s a deeper issue since I have a ton of body issues, since I was born without my left hand, so I want to control how I look as much as I can because I was forced, without choice, to look a certain way. I’m really into that aspect of it which I could talk about forever. On a simpler level I think it’s almost crazy how little effort people put into how they physically dress themselves, because it’s such a big representation of your inside. It’s this really great opportunity for self-expression.
It’s interesting how most people will just get what is trendy and not make an effort to find what they actually like.
It’s the idea of what goes into the design of the clothing and it’s really leveled and layered. It’s really special to me. At this point I’m not really comfortable wearing a shirt made by any person in the world. I have to fully subscribe to the ideology behind the creation of something. Which is the same way I have a hard time getting into a lot of bands, I have to fully subscribe and believe in their ideas for what they’re doing.
They say there is no true original since everything is inevitably inspired by what came before it. So it’s more so about how you take something old and make it new again in a way. I like that your music brings back 80s new wave but makes it relevant and contemporary.
Thanks! I agree with that theory in a way. The original aspect of it is the human element of it. If people are open to letting themselves free up a bit that should allow for the original aspect of music.
Written By Tori Adams
Photos By Nicole Busch