Dylan Carlson (Earth, drcarlsonalbion) “Coleman Grey is directing me, drcarlsonalbion, to do the project… I guess would be the easiest way to put it.”

Photo: Holly Carlson

Untethered from his band Earth, Dylan Carlson uses his drcarlsonalbion solo project to draw on older and more mystical influences from English folklore. As a solo guitarist, he’s able to paint in even darker hues and explore tunes in a way that is rhythmically more free, creating a transcendental setting that references his older work with Earth that focused more on drone and tone (see Earth 2).

In the time since he created this project, Carlson has used the drcarlsonalbion moniker to release 2013’s La Strega and the Cunning Man in the Smoke for Southern Records’s Latitudes series and the soundtrack to director Thomas Arslan’s 2014 western, Gold (not to mention this double-7-inch on Wormhole). This year, Carlson self-released his Kickstarter-funded recording Falling with a Thousand Stars and Other Wonders from the House of Albion, a record of multi-tracked guitar arrangements of English folk tunes as part of a supernatural collaboration inspired by ghosts.

Carlson started his first US solo tour at the First Unitarian Church in Philadelphia. The concert took place in the church’s side chapel, an intimate room with large stained-glass windows and ornate dark wood work covering the walls, a perfect place for the godfather of doom metal to spend 45 minutes crushing the audience with nothing than a Les Paul and a couple pedals. Before sharing the bill, Dylan and I chatted about the new project.

Can you talk about the timeline of this record? It seems like this was the first phase of your solo project?

Well, I came up with the Kickstarter project and obviously it got funded, but it took a long time to get finished. The first drcarlsonalbion project was actually the Latitudes session that I did. The Kickstarter I originally conceived as separate. I mean it was influenced by the English thing so it was tangent, but not drcarlsonalbion per se since it was the Coleman Grey thing. But then it’s sort of just become under that name.

Who is Coleman Grey and what’s the involvement there?

Coleman Grey was a child they found in Cornwall in the 1800s that they thought was a changeling, and this guy named Grey raised him as his own but he was always believed to be a fairy child.

What is a changeling?

It’s a child that… Usually fairies would steal a healthy child and leave one of the old fairies in its place.

And you’re giving Coleman Grey credit for being involved with the making of the album, right?


How do you see the relationship there?

Coleman Grey is directing me, drcarlsonalbion, to do the project… I guess would be the easiest way to put it.

Do you feel like it’s a spiritual, sort of magical thing, or is it coming directly from research?

It’s both.

With the Kickstarter project there was like a research project involved and there’s the DVD and book too. How did the research go?

The trip was fun. It was kind of disappointing in a certain respect because, it was like, yeah there were some cool places we visited but nothing really happened, you know what I mean?

You mean you were looking for some magic?

Yeah… I mean the stuff that I had happen to me all happened in London, so I should have just stayed there probably.

What went on there?

Some encounters with entities and stuff, like actual, like… supernatural occurrences I guess you could say.

I saw two beings: one in Camden, one in Waterloo. The first was the inspiration [for the project] and then the other one occurred after about a year into it.

How did you record the guitar tracks for this record? Obviously there’s a drone track and the main part, and then sometimes there’s even overdubs. How did that come together – what was the process?

Well I went into Johnny Sangster’s studio, Crackle and Pop, and just would pick out the guitar for the basic track, a guitar for the overdub, and another guitar and try and pick some pedals just to make the tones sit well and then I used a 12-string guitar on some of it, just trying to layer it.

Is it always different guitars for each part?

Not always but pretty much. I used a Vox on one song, a Rickenbacker 12-string, and my SG. I pretty much used the same amp the whole time. One of those Egnater Tone Tweakers, the 20-watt one, which has a lot of variation that you can get out of it, which is nice.

So this album has more drone than anything you’ve done for a while. Is there something specific that brought about that change or a specific influence you were going for?

I think because I was listening to a lot of traditional Scottish music, you know, with bagpipes. But not like the military marching stuff, the stuff that’s like… they call it the old high music, so it’s all like laments of fallen chiefs and funeral kind of songs and they’re really slow. I was listening to some of those so that kind of influenced the idea for these.

This seems more about the songs than about the playing. So how did you choose the songs?

I picked songs that are based on demons and supernatural interactions, basically.

Did you feel like there was any kind of supernatural effect in finding them?

Uhh…. no, I don’t think so… I mean they’re pretty well known songs.

How does improvisation factor into here? I have things that I think are happening, but I’m curious how you see it?

It always plays a big influence on what I do. I have a real hard time, like, not improvising… you know… trying to do the same thing over and over and over again, which just drives me a bit mad.

When you’re writing, how do you decide if you’re composing something for Earth or something for this project?

Usually there’s something that stands out to me that’s like, yeah this is for Earth and I’m not sure it’s that distinct to anyone else but to me it is.

In 2014, you released a soundtrack to Gold, a western by German director, Thomas Arslan. How does the music you did for Gold fit into the drcarlsonalbion project? I feel like it’s a different genre.

Yeah, it’s different… the Gold thing is, I guess, my more American thing instead of the British thing.

It sounds to me like it has more specific guitar influences.

Yeah – like Duane Eddy and, you know, those kind of people… Tele players.

The Gold soundtrack draws comparisons to Neil Young’s Dead Man soundtrack. I’m always curious, when I feel like someone is referencing Neil Young: I wanna know how it works for them and how they chase that influence. So, I’m wondering, what’s your favorite Neil Young record?

I thought about it more when we did Hex than when I did the soundtrack, but it’s obviously an influence so I’m not gonna deny that.

It’s funny, probably Tonight’s the Night, but I also really like the Crazy Horse records because Danny Whitten is one of my favorite guitar players. It’s not just the Neil Young thing for me, it’s also, like, the band.

You’re wearing a Dead shirt, so I have to ask about them. I feel like, there was a time when nobody wanted to talk about the Dead and it was such forbidden territory…

Oh yeah.

But people embrace it now. People, especially in heavy music, are more comfortable liking the Dead. What’s your favorite period?

I’d have to say ‘76. I like the late ’60s, ‘72 is good, ‘76… I like ‘79 for some reason. There’s some good live stuff on ‘79 and ‘80.

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