Aerial Ruin is a beautiful, solo, dark acoustic project by Erik Moggridge. His music is immediately recognizable by his soft, remarkable voice and his down-trodden, melancholic guitar strums. He has done guest vocal work with the funeral doom titans Bell Witch and in my opinion sings some of the greatest songs they have written, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, and “Suffocation, A Drowning: II- Somniloquy (The Distance Forever)”. He epitomizes that singer-songwriter archetype, a man with his thoughts, emotions and feelings out there for the world to see. When you hear his music it takes you to a place that is so incredibly unique that it needs to be heard. He is a great down-to-earth guy who is immensely talented and has some incredible insights to his craft and life in general. He took time out of his busy US tour schedule to conduct an interview with me. He will be taking Aerial Ruin to Peterborough, New Hampshire on 6/17/2016 with Canadian classical guitar sensation Nathanael Larochette…
What was your motivation in putting together the Aerial Ruin project?
“In the late nineties and early 2000s I was playing in a San Francisco metal band called Old Grandad. All three of us did vocals and mine ranged from screaming to more psychedelic melodic vocals. The melodic stuff was more of a challenge live because we were so loud. It was natural for me to express my psychedelic mental wanderings and growing spirituality through a quiet introspective solo project that naturally suited my quiet melodic voice. At the time this was a perfect complement to the collaborative extrovert metal expression of Old Grandad. For years Aerial Ruin was just a slow moving recording project that I did not contemplate performing live.”
What were the themes and ideas your were going for with both the single “Igen” as well as “Ash of Your Cares”?
“All Aerial Ruin lyrics on all albums are a spiritual, sub-personal expression of sorts. An attempt to express, reflect and channel spiritual energy without the filter of the human ego. So in a sense the lyrics and music are very personal but also sub-personal, the fine line where expressing something very private and introvert gives way to something below or above an individual perspective. At least this is what it means to me, if it resonates meaningfully to others in a different way then that’s great too. There are a few songs that vary a little from this theme and express a more specific narrative or expression that reflects my human experience but this the exception not the rule. This description is also kind of after the fact. When creating Aerial Ruin songs it is a natural stream of consciousness, not a deliberate attempt to do anything. I also think music in general strives to be an art form that often expands and eclipses any intellectual ideas that the words within the songs may contain.”
What made you decide to go with your specific vocal style? What are some of your influences to both the music and the vocals?
“Its just the natural evolution of my voice based on what feels right and my influences etc.”
Do you feel literature or cinema played a part in the vision of Aerial Ruin?
“No but I do love to read and appreciate cinema especially in its more artsy surreal form. I suppose I do see images in my head when I write songs and imagine chord changes, melodies and arrangements in a visual form, this may have been influenced by cinema and literature.”
Being a singer and songwriter what were some of your obstacles as well as achievements to spread the message of Aerial Ruin?
“It is often hard getting a lot of attention doing something so quiet and subtle that is not genre specific and therefore does not have a specific target audience. But that’s fine, I enjoy the slow climb that is my experience getting this music out there and the music lends itself to more intimate gatherings. As far as achievements it’s been great doing all this touring since 2014, being on the road this much would have been much harder to coordinate with multiple bandmates. That freedom also extends to the creative side of things, being able to write and record whenever I’m inspired.”
Some people describe your style as dark folk music, do you think this is a fair comparison?
“I suppose so. I’m usually confused by genre terms but dark folk is not a misleading term when describing Aerial Ruin. The term dark makes sense and the term folk implies acoustic which also makes sense but folk also implies tradition and I do not think Aerial Ruin is traditional at all as is perhaps an attempt to look beyond the human filter. I suppose lots of other musicians have also been inspired by psychedelia or a personal spirituality so in that sense you could say I’m influenced by tradition. That’s quite different than bands like Lynched or my friends Horse Cult who actually re-work traditional songs and whose originals are influenced quite directly by traditional music and other traditions in culture.”
Could expand on what you mean by the human filter?
“We as humans usually perceive everything through the filter of our minds and senses which dramatically colours our perception of the universe although we are simply a part of the universe that is able to observe itself. Psychedelia and spirituality – which have so profoundly influenced elements of our culture and are the primary inspirations for Aerial Ruin allow us to perhaps begin to strip away this human filter and “see” or “experience” the universe more directly.”
In your own words how would you describe Aerial Ruin to people who may not know your project?
“I often say “some people describe it as dark folk” or “mostly acoustic guitar with melodic vocals with a residual metal vibe from my past playing in metal bands”. I usually site Syd Barrett and Mark Lanegan as influences to give some frame of reference but point out my music does not really sound like them.”
You have done numerous solo tours in both Europe and the US, do you have any interesting stories about your time on the road?
“It has been so great meeting so many cool people and musicians in the DIY community. I think it is the utter diversity of shows and experience that stand out. Touring with Sangre de Muerdago in Europe and playing totally un-mic’d acoustic shows in everything from squats to museums to living rooms. This was amazing as was returning to Europe a year later and doing a similar tour by myself largely on public transportation allowing me to gaze out the window at epic views of the Alps from the train. This was in stark contrast to say opening a handful of east coast shows for Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros in 2011 at pro venues to a larger audience which itself was an interesting contrast to the variety of DIY settings I normally play.
I really like touring with bands like Horse Cult, Solace, Divine Circles or Knives of Spain – other acousticy acts that one would expect me to gig with but it’s also fun being the odd man out like I was when I opened for Capitalist Casualties and lots of other punk bands in Phoenix and Vegas or the countless metal shows I have played. And of course it is wonderful to be able to meet new people and experience new places. I had never been to New Orleans till last year and was utterly captivated by the music and vibe of the city and have played two really fun shows there with Bosques de Fragmentos, My Graveyard Jaw and Meschiya Lake. However it was Prague that stands out as the most beautiful city though, I stumbled around for hours in the rain in utter awe of the beauty and architecture.”
You will be playing a show in my home state New Hampshire, what was your experience like, and do you think more bands/musicians should tour the state?
“I really enjoyed the New Hampshire show last year. It was a small crowd but the people were attentive and interested in the music and almost everyone in attendance bought t-shirts, records and CDs which is always nice so I definitely recommend playing New Hampshire and enjoying the nature and history there.”
Outside of music what are some of your other interests?
“I have been enjoying reading a lot Sci-Fi and fantasy novels in recent years and am fairly fascinated with space and astronomy and watch a lot sciency stuff on YouTube etc. I enjoy getting lost in my own mind about the “meaning” of this whole physical universe and being alive thing. I also enjoy live music and go to lots of shows when I’m home in Portland, OR, there is such an extensive music scene in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of good coffee and beer too, two other things I enjoy. I go hiking a lot too, you don’t have to drive very far out of town to be among towering waterfalls or epic views in the Columbia River Gorge or the myriad of other beautiful places close to Portland. Within Portland itself there is a lot of natural beauty too.”
Are you currently working on new material for your next album?
“Yes, I have quite a lot of new songs already and am performing some of them on this tour. I hope to have the next album out by spring 2017 but we’ll see…”
You have partnered up with numerous musicians for some songs, how did you develop that relationship with Bell Witch and Stevie Floyd specifically?
“I first met Dylan Desmond from Bell Witch on tour in 2009 in Seattle but I think it was at a Samothrace show about a year later in Portland that I gave him a unmastered copy of the Aerial Ruin “valleys of the earth” album which was not yet released. We were big fans of each others music from that point on so when he mentioned he had a new two piece band I offered to do a guest vocal. I met original Bell Witch drummer Adrian Guerra soon after that when he played in Portland with his other band Sod Hauler and Adrian had soon hooked up a Bell Witch/Aerial Ruin show Seattle, the first of a handful in Seattle and Portland around that time. We jammed on the Bell Witch song “Rows(of endless waves)” and I pretty much came up with my vocal melody you hear on the album instantaneously and Dylan and Adrian loved it. We performed it live quite a few times before recording it for their “Longing” album so I had a long time to finalize my lyrics. “Somniloquy” from Four Phantoms developed much quicker, they sent me a rehearsal tape right before going into the studio so I wrote and demoed my parts for that very quick right before the final session. We are all very stunned and saddened by the recent passing of Adrian Guerra but he leaves behind an impressive musical legacy and fond memories from his many friends and family. Jesse Shreibman is bringing his own unique power to the Bell Witch sound now.
I had seen Dark Castle play in Portland in 2011 I and was blown away by their unique style. Stevie Floyd’s vocals struck me as so haunting and unique. Soon after, I did a couple of shows with her other band Taurus and I asked her to do a guest vocal on what I originally planned to be a self-released 7”. While in the process of recording and working on that Stevie suggested we expand the idea and do a full-length split with collaborative elements. The album ended up being 2 separate solo recordings with us each doing guest vocals on two of each other’s songs plus Wrest doing vocals on Stevie’s side. It was a really cool experience.”
Do you have any parting thoughts for the fans?
“Thanks to everyone that’s come to shows, bought merch or offered a couch to crash on or an interesting conversation and thanks Ryan for the interview, look forward to seeing you in New Hampshire…”