Art is the tree of life

David Eugene Edwards marries Heaven and Hell.

By YIFA YAAKOV
June 22, 2010 21:27
ALL THE world is a stage? ‘Basically, if you’re go

Woven Hand 311. (photo credit: Mark Holthusen)

 
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The term “gothic country” may befuddle some. It sure isn’t easy to imagine sunny old-time American guitar and banjo tunes melded with deep vocals, grim lyrics and somewhat industrial post-punk sounds. Listening to Woven Hand, though, makes it seem like a natural synthesis – not to mention a potent one.

The story of Woven Hand began in 1992, when songwriter- guitarist David Eugene Edwards and bassist Pascal Humbert met while building Hollywood sets for B-movie director Roger Corman, then formed a band along with drummer Jean-Yves Tola.

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Over the following four years the band would go through a series of line-up changes, eventually releasing their first studio album, Sackcloth ’n’ Ashes (1996), under the name 16 Horsepower.

Against all odds, the album achieved success around the world. The addictive, repetitive bluegrass-inspired hooks, lyrics heavy on biblical references and use of traditional instruments like the banjo and concertina left listeners riveted.

As the band continued to record and perform, Edwards began to work on a solo side project which he named Woven Hand, releasing two records and one dance score under that alias by the time 16 Horsepower disbanded in 2005.

In a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post from his Denver, Colorado home, Edwards sheds some light on the progression from 16 Horsepower – with its raw, banjo-driven alternative country – to the more musically diverse Woven Hand.

“From when we started till when we ended, the music changed quite a bit, and we were already headed off in another direction, which we were happy about and wanted to explore,” he says. “It’s a continuation. The songwriting process basically is the same… Hopefully I have a more mature understanding now.”



On the musical side of things, Woven Hand incorporates country tunes, traditional sounds and instruments of the American south, minor-key piano melodies and Middle Easterninspired guitar riffs with the darker, more dramatic sounds of the underground music of decades past – from droning distortion to soul-searching guitars to dabbles in sampling and electronica.

Many influences color the music, among them Nick Cave and the latter works of Johnny Cash, along with Native American rhythms.

“I love music from everywhere; I love the sounds of the instruments,” Edwards says of his own tastes, then goes on to recommend Middle Eastern, Mongolian, North African and Hungarian folk music. Among more contemporary groups, he cites OM, the doom-metal band remembered around these parts for its legendary fivehour show in Jerusalem.

Somewhat surprisingly, Edwards also mentions Frank Sinatra as a major influence.

“That’s all I listen to at home – music from the ’40s or ’50s,” he says. And indeed, Edwards reworked the bossanova tune “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars,” which was recorded by the famous crooner in 1967, for Woven Hand’s 2008 album Ten Stones.

MOSTLY, THOUGH, the most palpable influences in Edwards’s music are life, landscape and, as a Christian, love of God. The lyrics Edwards writes tend to shift between spiritual extremes: Heaven, Hell, shame, sorrow and redemption, contrasted with the grace and glory of God. Gospel comes to mind – as does, of course, the Bible.

Nature and the backcountry also play a role; many of the songs on Woven Hand’s second and third studio albums are named after birds.

Though the brooding intensity of Edwards’s lyrics can be construed as blackand- white or too severe, some insight into his thought process reveals why his music delves so rigorously into the darkest corners of spirituality.

“These things are extreme,” he says. “The music is... kind of melancholy.

I use a lot of minor key. That’s aesthetically what I like, what I like to hear. I find it beautiful. The lyrics are sometimes very opposed to the sound, the mood of the music. I sing about what I believe in – [there are] many different aspects to what I believe in – not just happiness. There are a lot of other things that go along with life that I guess I kind of focus on that other people might not focus on.”

Religion, though, is not necessarily the focus. “That’s not the right word,” he stresses.

“I believe in God, Jesus, the Bible, not ‘if we live by a set of rules, then we will be good people’ or ‘if we disobey a set of rules, then we are bad people.’” Edwards goes on to provides a biblical analogy. “The snake in the Garden [of Eden] – what does he say to Adam and Eve? He says, ‘God is basically trying to hide information from you.’” The biblical snake, he explains, gave Adam and Eve the false notion that they would “be able to choose,” that they’d have free will if only they disobeyed God’s word. “But it’s never really worked out, because it’s a lie.

“God gave us the Law because we chose to live by the knowledge of good and evil – basically trying to show us that we’re never going to be able to do it... That was the whole intent of the Law – the Law has to drive you to the place where you say, ‘I can’t do it, I need God.’” This, Edwards says, is where his songs stem from.

“Basically, I bring the Law into the music. This is what people hear as the serious, heavy, religious notes going on in the music; this is the Law pointing you to the place where you realize, there’s no way that I can obey the Law; I can maybe convince someone down the street that I can obey the Law, but I can’t convince God.”

EDWARDS AND the band – Pascal Humbert on bass, Ordy Garrison on drums and Jeff Linsenmeir on keyboard – will be making their first visit to Israel in July, something they’re “very excited” about. “We’ve wanted to come for so long and finally it’s going to happen,” Edwards says. “I love to travel, I love to see all of Creation.”

According to Edwards, Woven Hand’s shows in Israel comes after years of requests from Israeli producers.

“We go wherever people want us to come,” he says.

“They have wanted us to come [to Israel] for many years, [and] this is our first opportunity, so we’ll play for whoever wants to be there.”

Asked to his opinion of initiatives to culturally boycott Israel, Edwards states firmly, “Basically, if you’re going to start boycotting countries, then every country on the map should be boycotted.

“I see people as loved by God – all people – and He desires a relationship with all men. My goal is to help men draw nearer to God. I’ll go anywhere to give this message... so it doesn’t really affect me – the politics of the day. I just don’t live my life by that system, I guess.”

Despite Edwards’s clear predilection for minor keys, our interview ends on a positive note. I ask him if he has anything to say to his Israeli fans. “We’re coming!” he replies emphatically.

Is that his final answer? “(Laughing) Yeah.”

Woven Hand perform at the Yellow Submarine in Jerusalem on July 2 and at Tel Aviv’s Barby club on the following evening. Tickets are available through the Yellow Submarine (http://www.yellowsubmarine.org.il/shows.asp), the Barby (https://tickets.barby.co.il/) and MisterTicket (http://misterticket.co.il).

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