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Steel For Brains interviews Brian Cook for The Farm Family


As quietly unassuming as Brian Cook is in person or over the phone, the bassist has spent the last decade playing to the deafening other end of the spectrum, whether with the hugely influential Botch or These Arms Are Snakes, or in his current and longstanding role in instrumental metal band Russian Circles. Cook’s talents aren’t limited to the stage, either. Alongside his musical work, he’s written for various publications as well as his own personal blog. Cook’s distinctiveness as a musician draws primarily from an exploration of textures and an instinct for restraint over flippant composition. It’s a characteristic that in many ways mirrors the kind of contemplative nature he exudes in conversation. I recently spoke with Brian to talk about the non-metal music he’s always found himself returning to and why narratives make all things better.

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Ponto Alternativo talks to Brian Cook about Russian Circles' upcoming European tour and more

An exhaustive introduction is not quite needed when the subject is Russian Circles. Let’s just say they’ve kept instrumental heavy music alluring enough to the point of having now a reliable and growing fanbase, particularly when it comes to Europe. Far from hunkering down behind what they’ve already achieved through five exalted records -“Station” or “Memorial” being discographical pinnacles -, the Chicago folks keep pushing forward and do not flatter themselvs aimlessly. What lies next is a European tour along with their Sargent House mates Helms Alee, which will have a Portuguese gig - April 16th, Lisbon - and a special stop at Roadburn 2015. We’ve chatted with bassist Brian Cook about it. But not only.

Time does move fast. And I find particularly curious that some press sources are starting to call Russian Circles «veterans». After being active for more than a decade, is the word veteran comfortable to you? Is aging, as a band, somehow scary?

I’m comfortable with aging. There are downsides, I suppose. Specifically, I’ve found that the longer I play music, the more prone I’ve become to wondering how our current work relates to things we’ve done in the past. I don’t worry so much about whether it’s as good, because I think whatever we’re working on at the time will be more artistically relevant to us, and will consequently be more favorable to our ears than our older material. But I am aware of the audience, and I’m aware that as a veteran, there is a lot of expectation. Different contingents of our audience expect a different ratio of the familiar to the new. Being aware of those expectations doesn’t change the way we write music, but it hovers in the back of my mind when we have to do things like write up a setlist. In that sense, it’s more liberating to be a new unknown artist, because there is no expectation. Whatever you do is occurring on a blank slate. There is a certain luxury in that. But ultimately I really like having a body of work beneath our belt. I feel like there is a certain artistic freedom that also comes from having an extensive back catalog. People are more willing to stay with you through your artistic risks, even if it’s outside of their comfort zone.

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PopMatters Review:  Russian Circles 10th Anniversary Show in Chicago

The way anniversaries are typically celebrated in the music world tends to be arbitrary. Although these usually come up in neat multiples of five—the tenth anniversary, 25th, 50th, and so on—the fanfare is regularly thrown without any concern for whether or not the time that has elapsed, however neat a number it may be, actually holds any meaning for a particular artist’s career. Come the start of each calendar year, publications across the web and globe ready their lists of album anniversaries for a regular glut of thinkpieces—whether or not the albums in these albums are actually worth the retrospective is up for debate. So when the Chicago-based post-metal trio Russian Circles kicked off 2015 with a tenth anniversary tour, there was only one obvious question: are the past ten years meaningfully significant for this band? 

After their final United States tenth anniversary show, a homecoming event held at the North Chicago rock venue Metro, Russian Circles confirmed what their five studio albums in their ten years as a group had already made obvious: yes, this is an anniversary well worth celebrating. Based on the amount of moving bodies and battered eardrums that left Metro just after midnight, much celebration was certainly had.

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Chicago instrumental outfit Russian Circles spent much of the...













Chicago instrumental outfit Russian Circles spent much of the final month of 2014 celebrating their 10th anniversary on the road, with a series of East Coast shows accompanied by the Converge/Cave In-affiliated trio Mutoid Man. While their recorded output is worthy in its own right, Russian Circles have long shined brightest as a live act, and a run of packed club shows felt like the perfect way for them to mark a decade together. The two trios brought their disparate-yet-complimentary live acts to Cambridge’s The Sinclair on December 10, 2014.

The founding members of Russian Circles, guitarist Mike Sullivan and drummer Dave Turncrantz, have been playing with bassist Brian Cook since 2007, and it comes as no surprise that the trio are by now a tight and cohesive unit. By way of pedal arrays and massive tones, Sullivan and Cook have no trouble sounding like more than the sum of their parts. Backed by Turncrantz’s consistently on-point percussion, they do more with a single bass and guitar than many other bands are capable of in a live setting. Each song of a career-spanning 10-track set-list sounded appropriately epic, deftly navigating from hushed interludes to headbanging climaxes and back again while keeping a sold-out audience totally spellbound.

Russian Circles also know the tricks of using atmosphere to deliver a properly memorable gig. The band travels with their own back-lighting rig, which illuminates them in dramatic shadows and silhouettes, foregoing the house lights until a particularly stirring passage demands an extra burst. The three men say nothing on stage and rarely glance at the audience, which might feel dull or disengaged were their attention to detail and mood, both sonically and visually, not so readily apparent.

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Russian Circles Continue 10th Anniversary shows with Mamiffer on West Coast

Russian Circles will play their last show of 2014 in Denver, CO on December 27th at the Gothic Theater. They have also added some more Tenth Anniversary shows on the West Coast and Pacific Northwest with Mamiffer joining them for those. Finally on January 30th they will play their hometown of Chicago at the Metro with special guests to be announced - tickets for all shows are now on sale at links below.

Also just announced are the Spring 2015 EU/UK Tour dates with Helms Alee joining them for all including Roadburn Festival.

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