Catching Up With ISIS' Aaron Harris
Although they disbanded two years ago, ISIS fans still have a lot to look forward to today with the release of Temporal, a career-spanning collection of unreleased and rare tracks. The band’s drummer, Aaron Harris, was kind enough to talk to us about the collection and his new band, Palms, with former members of ISIS and Deftones frontman Chino Moreno. You can also take a listen to the entire album below via Rdio.
Paste: I wanted to ask about the archiving process on Temporal. When about did you guys start going through material for this collection?
Aaron Harris: I would say probably about a year ago. We just have so much stuff, you know? There is so much stuff and each member has—there is a lot in general and then you break it down by member who’s got what, and who has been given what over the years. You know what—-we totally, that song “Grey Divide” we all totally forgot about that song. It never really technically got finished. I found just a blank CD-R and it was in my pile of ISIS demos and stuff like that and it was just fun going through listening to all the stuff. Then I came across this blank CD-R and I put it in and I was like, “Wow what is this?” Then I listened for a minute and I was like, “Oh, this is that song that we recorded with that dude and we never finished it and I wonder if I could track that down.” It was trippy.
Paste: So, keeping and storing songs wasn’t something that was organized over the years?
Harris: No it just, it wasn’t organized at all, it just kind of got thrown in piles. It’s really weird to hear a song that you spent time writing and recording and completely forgot about. It really is kind of embarrassing and really kind of cool at the same time.
Paste: Was there anything else that totally took you by surprise in hearing alternate versions?
Harris: Yeah, we had a tendency to write a song and then once we felt like it was pretty much finished kind of go back and take it section by section and make sure that each section was the way we wanted it. So in going back through these demos, finding versions of those finished songs that were a lot different, like some of the Wavering Radiant demos that had just gone through revisions like “Ghost Key.” I found a version that I had completely forgotten about, and there’s a song called “20 Minutes / 40 Years” from Wavering Radiant. We would demo early on but it was just kind of like to a mini—what are those called?
Paste: Basically a tape recorder?
Harris: Yeah, or a DAP recorder or a mini disc or just a stereo and mic. Further on in the band I started acquiring a lot of gear and when I started getting interested in producing and recording a bunch of crap, we started doing multi-track recording and I would mix them and then you can really start hear what’s going on. So the last couple of records we have tons and tons of recordings, really pretty good multi-track recordings. So going through those, I mean, we recorded almost every practice. Like I said, just finding alternate versions of songs that I had forgotten about, “Oh yeah, when we first starting writing that song it had this part.” It was cool; it was fun to hear that stuff.
Paste: So you said that you got into multi-track, did you end up remixing them or are they as they were when you find them on the album?
Harris: No, they are as they were when I found them. The only one that got mixed before Temporal was put out or had its mastering was “Grey Divide” because I had the track down the reels. It was never finished, it was never mixed so—but all the demos are just as they were
Paste: You went with one of the track names from this collection for the name of the whole collection. Was there any significance for that title for you guys?
Harris: [Frontman] Aaron Turner came up with the name, I haven’t discussed what the meaning is or why he chose that or if he told me I forgot. I thought it was a cool name. He always has some sort of idea. There is always a backing to the names and the artwork and stuff. So I am sure he has a reason, but I am not aware of it.
Paste: Going back to that, you guys have had themed albums in the past. What was it like putting together this album and sequencing this album that is a collection that is varied over the years and doesn’t necessarily have a central theme?
Harris: It was kind of cool, but it was just kind of really confusing. We had way more material than we could really fit. So we had to weed out what stuff would be appealing to people and what people might want to hear and what was just kind of unnecessary and then, you know, figuring out how to sequence it. We have enough material that we could put out two or three more of these, I don’t know if people want to hear it, but there is material there. There is also the unreleased “Pliable Foe” video which is really one of my favorite ISIS videos, and I have just been waiting for this to come out, we all have, we didn’t want to just release it on YouTube. We wanted to wait and do something special with it, so this was a good opportunity.
Paste: Yeah, and it feels like, especially with releasing things on YouTube, it’s on the internet for like a day and it kind of gets buried. This is special and significant for you guys to put it out on this.
Harris: Yeah, we felt like this would be a good way to get it out, and I am glad that we saved it. We did talk at one point, when ISIS split up, “Well, we have this video, maybe we should throw it up on YouTube and get it out there.” I am glad that we waited because like you said it wouldn’t have had the same impact I don’t think. It really is a special video, it isn’t like a last minute thing we threw together. It was professionally shot and a really nice video. So it’s exciting to get that out.
Paste: You had a really long run together and with you guys going through the tracks, does that bring up certain feelings or do you ever consider getting back together?
Harris: It’s super nostalgic, you know. Like I said, finding stuff that I had completely forgotten about and hearing the different eras of the band and now that we are not really living these songs day to day like we were, practicing and playing them all the time, I feel like I can hear these songs differently now and appreciate them a little differently because I am not playing them so often. You know, when I hear them I am not like, “Oh, I want to skip this song,” I am like, “Oh, I remember this song.”
Paste: Did it get to be like that? There were certain songs that you couldn’t listen to anymore?
Harris: Yeah, I mean, with anything that you do day-in-day-out at a certain point things start to become monotonous. Not that I ever took them for granted, but there were songs that we all said, “We are going to give this one a break and not play this one for a little while,” because we were all so tired of playing it.
Paste: Is there still more material you are interested in releasing like this?
Harris: I don’t know how much more fans would really want to hear. It’s a band that doesn’t exist anymore and there is a good amount of stuff on here. Like I said, we have a lot of material still, but I just don’t want it to get to the point where people feel like we are releasing stuff just to release it. We do have some really good multi-camera live sets from Wavering Radiant era, you know we never released any Wavering Radiant live stuff, so that might be an option. Like I said, I think we just want to continue to release quality stuff and I don’t know how much more there is that we could put out, except for some more live stuff, but it’s sort of reaching—the quality is kind of getting tapped.
Paste: You just started a new band called Palms, what all can you tell me about that? You are in the middle of an album, right?
Harris: Yeah, it’s myself and Jeff [Caxide] and Cliff [Meyer] from ISIS and Chino Moreno from Deftones on vocals. It’s coming out in the spring and all the music is recorded, we are just doing the vocals when Chino can do them. He is obviously got Deftones going on and they got a new record, the scheduling has been a little difficult. It’s only because you know he is busy, like I said, Deftones have a new record, and Deftones are priority one understandably, so I mean it just is a matter of scheduling, everyone is pretty busy.
Paste: So this isn’t going to be a full time touring commitment?
Harris: Yeah, we are going to do some touring and some live shows. We had a meeting with our booking agent a couple weeks ago going over some different options. I don’t think it will be a fully, like, months and months touring band, I think we will do some specialty stuff here and there. We definitely want to do this live. It will be here and there for sure.
Paste: What is the dynamic like with Chino? Everyone else has worked together for a while and bringing him in, what’s that like?
Harris: It’s been great, he kind of offers a really different perspective and the way he does his vocals is really interesting. He is super talented. I think he is really easy to work with and is a fun guy to be around. There are no egos flying around it’s just because we want to do this and it’s fun and we wrote these songs with Chino in mind and it’s been great. I have always wanted to do something with Chino and I am super psyched that it is happening.
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