The Thrones: Joe Preston

interview archive
The dark wizard of subsonic assault conjures a massive world tour
3 April 2000
Joe Preston on stage
There’s some sweet subsonic sludge at the bottom of pop music’s coffee mug, and 31 year old Joe Preston of Melvins/Earth heritage and the land of rain and Cobain would like to treat you to it. This spring he embarks on a one man assault of the towns and byways of America with back to back tours running from mid April through September.
    Preston conceived The Thrones back in 1994, christened essentially for the hell of it (“It seemed like a good idea at the time...”). The Thrones pursue a minimalist and subversive approach to noise making, assembling glimmers and scraps into songs that grow organically from nothing into rock creatures that don’t mean to kill you but you’d better get the fuck out of their way, OK?
    On a mad scamble to get the tour in order, Preston found time to speak with Rockbites recently about film projects, musical influences, sadness, ’60s television, and forthcoming releases.

The Thrones MP3 samples—free download
Buio Omega 23 sec playtime, 128 kbps encoding, 376 K download 76 sec playtime, 320 kbps encoding, 2.9 MB download
Gifthorse 22 sec playtime, 128 kbps encoding, 352 K download 130 sec playtime, 320 kbps encoding, 4.9 MB download
Googander 22 sec playtime, 128 kbps encoding, 360 K download 158 sec playtime, 320 kbps encoding, 6 MB download

Rockbites: Do you consider yourself a perfectionist?

Joe Preston: If I am a perfectionist, I do a pretty shitty job of it.

Rockbites: Which do you enjoy most: composing, recording, or performing?

Joe Preston: I probably enjoy performing the most out of the three. I like recording, but I usually don’t care much for the finished product. As far as composing goes, I don’t think about it much, and if I have to, I don’t enjoy it.

Rockbites: What instruments do you play in the studio?

Joe Preston: All of them.

Rockbites: What instruments do you play live?

Joe Preston: Bass, guitar, synthesizer, and “singing.”

“The Residents have always been a fascinating group to me.”

Rockbites: Is there a typical Thrones crowd?

Joe Preston: I’ve never noticed a typical Thrones fan other than a few recurring themes, but by and large there is a wide variety of people at my shows, and I really like that. My favorite places to play are usually smaller out of the way towns where people are more appreciative of your effort to do something at all than your skill at aping a particular style.
    I’ve toured the west coast so much that I have fans that show up regularly, but a good example of out of the way out here is Eureka, California. I’ve played there a few times and it’s always fun. This guy Bob that puts shows on at the Vista is super supportive of his community and the bands that come through. It’s always worthwhile.

Rockbites: Who’s this “Salty Green,” credited on your records?

Joe Preston: A kind and energetic man.

Joe Preston outside

Rockbites: You once covered Easter Woman, the opening cut from The Residents’ 1980 LP The Commercial Album. Why did you pick that song?

Joe Preston: The Residents have always been a fascinating group to me, ever since my brother played their version of the Ramones’ We’re A Happy Family for me when I was 11. I like the Residents’ “what’s wrong with this picture” kind of feel, and particularly I think they express sadness through their music in a way that really meant something to me. It always reminded me of my grandmother, a resigned but not beaten kind of sadness, as opposed to wallowing in it like multitudes of 4AD and gothy type bands seem to do.
    I picked Easter Woman because it is my favorite song on that record, and it’s also one of my favorite songs, period. It is also short, so I would have less time to ruin it.

“I had no idea what we were watching, and wasn’t too interested until the balloon showed up and that just fascinated/terrified me no end.”

Rockbites: On your Communion album Alraune I’m especially fond of the song Googander, which seems to morph from a dreamy space church ceremony with lots of fog to some psycho carnival midway nightmare. Are you by any chance a fan of The Prisoner [Patrick McGoohan’s British ’60s TV show]?

Joe Preston: I LOVE The Prisoner.

Rockbites: Do you have a favorite episode?

Joe Preston: My favorite episode is the second to last one, just because it’s so over the top. I’ve never been able to sit and watch the series in order. I usually catch a few episodes on a sci-fi channel marathon or something, but that show is so high quality! It made a big impression on me when I was like six, and I was spending the night at my friend Chad’s house, and I saw the first two episodes on PBS. I had no idea what we were watching, and wasn’t too interested until the balloon [“Rover”] showed up and that just fascinated/terrified me no end.

Rockbites: Your music is visually evocative and often has a cinematic feel, which I find remarkable given how minimalistic it tends to be. Have you ever wanted to score a film soundtrack?

Joe Preston: Yeah, I’d really like to do that. I’ve put things on soundtracks before, and I’m working on some incidental music for my friend Sadie’s project, but the idea of working on a full film score sounds fun and challenging. I usually write at a glacial pace, so I don’t know if I could keep up with the time constraints involved in putting together movies.

Rockbites: Which films did you work on?

Joe Preston: The one movie was called Forest of Death, which is in Italian. I don’t know if it was actually ever released or what, but the soundtrack came out on Toyo records of San Francisco about four or five months ago.

Rockbites: And who is Sadie?

Joe Preston: Sadie Shaw lives in San Francisco and has put together the first and forthcoming Kill Rock Stars video compilations. She’s currently working on a film called Charm which is what she asked me to do some stuff for, and I’ve already blown my deadline, but so did everyone else, so she wasn’t mad at just me.
    I’ve been asked to work on other film projects, but nothing has ever materialized.

Rockbites: Do you work in any media other than music?

Joe Preston: I seldom work on anything unless it’s band related, but I really enjoy putting things together like album art, flyers, stencils, etc. But none of it is serious, it’s just fun and satisfying to do. My record covers are usually made of pirated images, so I can’t take actual credit for most of it, if credit appears to be due.

“I’m just an animal friend. Although I still eat them.”

Rockbites: What’s on your forthcoming EP?

Joe Preston: The new EP is called Sperm Whale, and will be released on vinyl simultaneously with a CD that contains Sperm Whale and the previous White Rabbit EP. Should be out in May. All songs on Sperm Whale are about bears.

Rockbites: Sperm Whale... White Rabbit... songs about bears... Do you belong to Peta?

Joe Preston: No, I’m just an animal friend. Although I still eat them.

Joe and dogs

Rockbites: Which of your pieces are most enduring and inspiring to you?

Joe Preston: The only thing I like still is Obolus off of the White Rabbit EP.

Rockbites: What sorts of things inspire you to write a new piece?

Joe Preston: I usually come up with ideas while driving. Sometimes they’re directly influenced by my surroundings and sometimes from the fantasy land I put myself in while doing marathon drives alone.
    Other than that, I get musical inspiration from books and movies, and of course I like to rip off parts from other people’s music. Fortunately it usually sounds different through ineptitude or the wrong instrumentation.

Rockbites: Do you ever get ideas for songs in your dreams?

Joe Preston: I have a few times. That’s been a source for lyrics.

Rockbites: What’s next for the Thrones? Any secrets you care to reveal?

Joe Preston: A split LP with Mancampus on Thin the Herd records, a single on Troubleman, a record of Christian music on Vermiform, possible split/collaboration with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, some other stuff I probably forgot I said I’d do. Four way split cover of A Quick One While He's Away by The Who.

Rockbites: Anything else on your mind?

Joe Preston: Just white noise and radio signals.


  The Thrones embarked on the first of three back-to-back US tours on 13 April at Foxes in Seattle, Washington, playing with Golden Ticket. From there they swing south through Oregon and California, then on to Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, and the rest of the contiguous states. They’ll appear with a variety of bands including The Allscars, Armatron, Croatan, Pig Destroyer, Pleaseeasaur, and Spirit Caravan. You can get up-to-date details on the Kill Rock Stars Web site.
    Joe Preston takes a break from The Thrones in July to tour the US as a member of experimental collective Men’s Recovery Project. The Thrones then continue until October, when Preston hopes to make arrangements to take his act to Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. If you live in Australasia and you’d like The Thrones to play your town, or have booking/traveling tips, Joe invites you to send him a note.

Thrones official site on Kill Rock Stars
Discography on CDnow
Discography on Kill Rock Stars
Tour info

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