Chain D.L.K.: Can you remember anything about your early days/years as a band? You already sounded personal on your first 7″, but nothing compared to the metamorphosis you crossed later. You’ve changed many line ups (you were the only permanent member) but at the sime time you never gave the impression of a Densley’s dictatorship…
Gentry Densley: Everyone brought something to the table in Iceburn. There was always discussion and discourse and sharing of ideas and influences. So yeah, it wasn’t a ‘you do it my way or you’re out’ kinda thing. It was more a ‘what about this or try this or that’ type of forum. There were very large concepts in play as well, when I presented my ideas it was usually received with, ‘cool, lets try it’. And ultimately my personal filter definitely shaped the end results but that filter was influenced by everyone in the band’s taste and ideas as well. When the band worked its best there was a mutual respect and a mutual inspiration and pushing of each other to explore and expand and excel.
Chain D.L.K.: What influenced you all to follow such an unconventional musical path, I’ve always found interesting you were so unique while at the same time growing in Salt Lake were half of the population is mormon. I remember you used to study jazz at school (or you were working at the jazz department while at school?) but what about the rest of the band?
Gentry Densley: Yeah, I was studying music at the University of Utah, classical, avant garde, jazz, theory… and focusing on my degree in composition. A bunch of people encouraged us to follow our own path, from my professors like Paul Banham, to Pete Hines (Cro-Mags drummer), he turned me on to King Crimson and the world of prog rock. I was also working in the music library to pay the bills so I had access to loads of scores and recordings. Most of the other guys in the band were also studying music either formally or privately on the side. I met Greg Nielsen, the sax player in the early years, up at the U. We had a lot of the same classes. Doug Wright was studying upright bass. The later drummers Dan Day and Chad Popple both studied at Berkelee together. But if I think back “Chubba” Smith, the first drummer, was studying Greek philosophy and mythology at the U and those ideas shaped the music as much as anything else.
Chain D.L.K.: The most of the shows you played have been played with hardcore punk related bands/people/venues. You’ve always had a solid base of fans but I think you disoriented the audience. What do you remember about those days, any funny experience you can tell?
Gentry Densley: We have played a wide variety of shows … even acoustic things in the desert or mountains or events at art galleries or universities what have you. But a majority was in the hardcore/punk scene. I remember one time in Connecticut during the Land of Wind and Ghosts tour, we were playing pretty far out, free noise kinda stuff. Well in the middle of our rather intense set someone threw a bagel and it hit me and bounced on to the drums. The drummer at the time picked it up and was about to take a bite, but I was pissed and I saw these guys laughing leaving out the back so I unplugged my guitar and held it in my hands like an axe and stormed through the crowd while the band kept playing. I went outside and asked the dudes if they had a problem (still holding the guitar like a weapon). They backed down and denied any involvement, anyway I had a surge of adrenaline and went back up on stage and plugged in and just started screaming in the pickups. It turned out to be one of the best shows that tour as far as crowd response afterward. People either loved or hated us, extremes, ice and burn I guess. Another funny story was when we played in a small town in Czech Republic and this guy came up after all excited we couldn’t understand him so someone translated. He was saying, “You play like a Bitch, but I love it!” I guess thats a compliment?
Chain D.L.K.: Following the different metamorphosis of the Iceburn Cllective, and thinking to what followed, I mean Ascend and Eagle Twin I’ve had the impression in some way you went back to the roots of rock. It’s something that happens with a lot of musicians. Is it related to the coming of maturity, I mean the fact to go deeper to the “place” where you belong?
Gentry Densley: Yes surely, Iceburn was all about exploration and pushing the music beyond yourself. The idea that when you lose yourself in music is when you start to find yourself in music. (got that from John Mclaughlin and it made its way into the lyrics on Hephaestus) So in my personal musical arc I came back around to my roots and yes it all felt ‘deeper’ and enriched by all that I’d learned. That’s the place to be, feel at home in your place but open to the rest of the world. I think you eventually develop your own language and you can still incorporate all the ideas that move you in music but when it comes out its in your own unique voice.
Chain D.L.K.: I’ve heard beside the music you work as a librarian in a jail right? I think it’s an interesting job, can you tell something about it? Do the prisoner know about your musical activities?
Gentry Densley:Yeah its a very interesting job and pretty rewarding, you’re always someone’s hero because you’re bringing them books to read. Even if they don’t really read I’ll hook people up with magazines or art books to occupy their time and their minds. Every once in a while I’ll get someone who says they saw me play a show or tells their cellmate that the librarian is a rad guitarist or something. Actually I’ve seen a few fellow musicians end up in trouble and end up in jail for a bit as well, if you can imagine. I’ve been working there close to 10 years, and its good to be constantly surrounded by books, it gives me lots of song ideas. The jail library was where I first discovered Crow by Ted Hughes.
Chain D.L.K.: What would you like to accomplish in music you still haven’t managed to reach? and is there a new “direction in music”? Which?
Gentry Densley: Thats a tricky question, I think I’m always trying new things. And I’ll take the music any direction that I desire. I have a few things on the side with Ascend and ym solo stuff and even a budding project with my brother Tyler Densley (who was frontman for Lewd Acts) I guess what I would like to accomplish in music is to simply continue doing it and continue to love it and be challenged by it and take it wherever feels real and right.
Chain D.L.K.: In general have you ever happened to suffer a sort of old day nostalgia? Both as a musician and a listener ever caught yourself thinking “holy shit, present music sucks…yesterday music was ten thousend times better!”?
Gentry Densley: Sure, I’ve felt that on more than one occaision… but I’ve also had the experience of thinking “Wow, there’s some pretty cool shit going on right there, right now.” I think in this day and age with the ease of media proliferation we’re bombarded with so much and the quality control has gone out the window a while back. There is some real good stuff out there but you have to sift through piles of tons of shit, crappy shit. In order to put out records in the past you had to be pretty good and somewhat talented and dedicated and get a good recording and all that… seems less true these days.
Chain D.L.K.: Gentry, while Jared Russel crossed the field of ambient and electronic music I’ve noticed you usually deal with traditional instruments and you’re experimental in a rock-context. Ever considered facing genres so out of your ordinary battelfield?
Gentry Densley: I decided long ago that guitar was my weapon of choice but that’s is in no way limiting. Plus I’ve written music for String Quartets and Orchestras and Jazz big bands and wind ensembles you name it. Also have done noise and drone installations and
performances for years and years. You just never really hear about that stuff outside of our local art music scene here. I don’t do them to create a product and sell and tour with. I just do them cause I have the idea and the inspiration. Did a cool one at Jared’s Red Light store a couple years back… 17 guitars and amps hanging in a room in the shape of a hexagon, all feeding back into each other, was quite the sensation. Last year I did a cool installation with a local artist where we hung miced gongs about bowls of water on speakers and set up reverberating loops that created patterns on the water. So yeah I keep busy but people mostly hear about Eagle Twin these days.
Chain D.L.K.: Is there anything you wanted to accomplish (musicwise or in general) that was simply out of reach?
Gentry Densely: Well i still haven’t toured Japan… we made it to Australia last year and that was a good time. But yeah there’s a few more places I’d like to play and bring the music, Japan, New Zealand, Argentina, more of Europe, etc.
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