On July 15 New York City band Psalm Zero will be releasing their second full-length Stranger to Violence on Profound Lore Records. If you're not familiar already, we're great admirers of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Charlie Looker's project, which beautifully blends the martial, industrial tones of Godflesh, the post-punk melancholy of Depeche Mode, and the rainy-day doom 'n' gloom of Katatonia. The new album, Looker's final collaboration with former guitarist Andrew Hock, beautifully refines that unique hybrid even more.
In advance of the album's release, the band has just completed a wickedly cool new video for the politically charged track "Not Guilty", which was directed by Zev Deans, who is best remembered as the visionary behind the incredible video for Portal's "Curtain" a few years back. Looker was happy to answer a few questions about the track and video, which you can read below, but first, check out the new video, which we are honored to premiere.
Stranger to Violence can be pre-ordered here. In addition, a limited edition cassette release of "Not Guilty" (which completes Psalm Zero's special Birthright Trilogy) is available now, and can be ordered here.
What's the story behind the song "Not Guilty"?
Charlie Looker: This song is way more political than anything I’ve ever written. But honestly my political attitudes are often pretty confused and all over the place, so I’m reluctant to reduce the song to some kind of simple message. I will say that it’s about the idea that the so-called War on Drugs has been a racist and classist policy. So in that way, it’s very in line with a popular discussion of the moment. But to make matters weirder, I use a bunch of self-referencing anti-Semitic tropes. I think a lot nowadays about the question, are Jews white? The current heated climate of racial politics seems violently split between far-Left white guilt versus far-Right white defensiveness. It’s unclear where Jews fit into that. My attempts to unpack this for myself are probably somewhat scatterbrained, wrong, and maybe even irresponsible, but that’s why I’m a songwriter and not an activist or an academic.
Why did you decide to make "Not Guilty" the album's "single"?
Looker: This was mostly for purely musical reasons. It’s one of the catchiest songs on the record, and it represents both the metal and pop sides of Psalm Zero.
Why did you decide to work with Zev Deans?
Looker: Well you saw the video he did for Portal, right??? Enough said! He’s brilliant. Also he’s an awesome guy who I already knew socially. We’ve become closer friends through working on this video, and we’re percolating exciting ideas for more future projects.
Can you explain the concept of the piece?
Looker: It’s a semi-narrative song and video. Zev left a certain vagueness in there because he’s very tasteful. It’s not a precisely autobiographical story, but it may as well be. Other than that, I think I’ve said enough for here. But if anyone want to hear me run my mouth even more extensively about this stuff, I did an interview with Haaretz that’s coming out in a couple of weeks.
What's the current state of Psalm Zero now? Who's in the band with you?
Looker: I’m off the bass and back on guitar, which is my primary instrument anyway. On bass is Ron Varod (guitarist of Kayo Dot), and Keith Abrams (also of Kayo Dot) is on drums. So Psalm Zero is now me plus Kayo Dot rhythm section, which is really the life of kings.
Psalm Zero will be on tour this summer:
7/16/2016 Trans-Pecos – Queens, NY w/ Kel Valhalla, Gnaw, Kevin Hufnagel
8/04/2016 Dusk – Providence, RI w/ Tovarish, Hadean, Snowbeasts
8/05/2016 Koto – Salem, MA w/ Sun Drifter, Phantom Glue
8/06/2016 SPACE Gallery – Portland, ME w/ Purse, An Anderson, Clan of Dyad
8/08/2016 Array Space – Toronto, ON w/ Ayahuasca
8/10/2016 Subterranean – Chicago, IL w/ Cool Memories
8/11/2016 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH w/ Nyodene D
8/12/2016 Alternative Gallery – Allentown, PA
8/13/2016 TBA – New York, NY w/ MV Carbon