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.Read 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.Read more
Dave took some time out to talk drums with Ludwig for “Behind the Beat” before playing a sold out show in Chicago at The Metro in January 2015.
Russian Circles European tour starting March 31st with Helms Alee
as support on all shows.
RUSSIAN CIRCLES // HELMS ALEE 2015
Mar 31 Vienna,(AT) @ Arena Vienna
Apr 01 Padova,(IT) @ Circolo Mame
Apr 02 Rome,(IT) @ INIT club
Apr 03 Milan,(IT) @ Lo Fi Club
Apr 04 Inssbruck,(AT) @ Platform Mobile Kulturinitiativen
Apr 05 Ljubljana,(SI) @ Kino Siska
Apr 07 Prague,(CZ) @ Podnik
Apr 08 Leipzig,(DE) @ UT Connewitz e.V.
Apr 09 Tilburg,(NL) @ 013 - Roadburn Festival
Apr 10 Paris, (FR) @ La Maroquinerie
Apr 11 Karlsruhe, (DE) @ Dudefest @ Jubez
Apr 12 Zürich,(CH) @ Rote Fabrik
Apr 14 Barcelona,(ES) @ Bikini
Apr 15 Madrid,(ES) @ Joy Eslava
Apr 16 Lisbon,(PT) @ RCA Club
Apr 17 Santiago De Compostela,(ES) @ Sala Capitol
Apr 18 Durango, (ES) @ Wombat Fest
Apr 21 London, (UK) @ Islington Assembly Hall
Apr 22 Bristol, (UK) @ The Fleece
Apr 23 Leeds, (UK) @ Brudenell Social Club
Apr 24 Tourcoing, (FR) @ Le Grand Mix
Apr 25 Esch-Alzette,(LU) @ Out of the Crowd Festival
Apr 26 Brussels, (BE) @ AB Box
Apr 28 Copenhagen, (DK) @ Copenhagen Jazzhouse
Apr 29 Hamburg, (DE) @ LOGO
Apr 30 Groningen, (NL) @ Vera
May 01 Dortmund, (DE) @ F Z W
May 02 Berlin, (DE) @ Lido
May 03 Wroclaw, (PL) @ Asymmetry Festival
May 15 Santa Ana, CA @ Pyscho Fest @ The Observatory
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.Read more
The final show of the 10th Anniversary ones will take place in Chicago on
January 30th at the Metro. Special guests on the bill are Wovenhand and Taiga, the solo project of Bryant Clifford Meyers (Isis, Red Sparowes, Palms) The show is already close to selling out so make sure to get tickets HERE
**EUROPE** don’t miss seeing both bands Russian Circles and Wovenhand on their own headlining Spring tours which includes them playing together again at Roadburn Festival on April 9th.
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.Read more
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.Read more
See full show review with more photos by Jess Rechsteiner at New Noise Magazine here
…As Mutoid Man was wrapping up and leaving the stage the crowd was filled with excitement for Russian Circles to do what they do best. As I mentioned earlier, this was not the first time I had seen Russian Circles, and I knew going into it that I most likely would not be disappointed.
The room was dark, and there was a quiet drone coming from guitarist Mike Sullivan’s amp setting the mood before they came out to play. We were all eagerly wondering what songs they would play while we had those we were hoping to hear in our minds. They played a set filled with diversity between albums, which was more than anyone could have asked for. At least one song from each of their five records was presented. Everything about them was flawless. Some of my favorites were their older songs off the album Enter. The most outstanding track they performed in my eyes was a song titled “1777” off of their latest album, Memorial. There was something about that song that captured me into a trance that I hadn’t felt at a show in a long time. Russian Circles opened my eyes and ears to some things about their style that I never noticed before. Being up front the whole time and fully attentive, I was able to pick apart their riffs, and hear what influenced them. They have gone from being a really good post-metal band, to a band that explores both the heavy and ambient parts of their songs with riffs influenced by other genres, such as black metal. Every time I watch them play, I experience various feelings of depression, beauty, and darkness. Russian Circles also proved yet again just how good they were as players. While they each have their expertise individually, together they were like an unstoppable force of pleasantry to the human ear. Sullivan showed just how easy it looks to play guitar and made it look effortless. Drummer, Dave Turncrantz used his unique hard style of drumming to lead the band into their gaze. Brian Cook, who is always interesting to watch, played like an inhuman machine. Everything looked mechanical and effortless on his end, which is very inspiring to any fellow musician.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Russian Circles never disappoints with their live performance, and I’m not sure they ever will.
Russian Circles have added two more shows on their East Coast run with Mutoid Man the new band from Steve Brodsky (Cave-In) and Ben Koller (Converge) joining them on all five of the east coasters. West Coast & PNW dates will be announced soon and will take place in January. See dates below