The Great Tyrant – The Trouble With Being Born (Album Stream Premiere + Q&A)
A band that you now know as Pinkish Black, The Great Tyrant was formed in Denton, Texas, in the late '10s by PB members Daron Beck and Jon Teague as well as former bassist Tommy Atkins. Atkins unfortunately passed away (RIP) after the making of their final record, The Trouble With Being Born. After that, Daron and Jon remained a two-piece and Pinkish Black was formed.
While some tracks were released on a 7", Daron and Jon have now decided to release the record in full on the same day as their latest release as Pinkish Black, Bottom of the Morning, which also comes out on October 30. Both will be released via Relapse Records.
I spoke with Daron and Jon via email about why they chose to release this album now, how they relate to it now that a few years have passed and whether they will be playing any of the tracks live; the album is also streaming in full below in advance of the record's 10/30 release date. You can pre-order it HERE.
This album was recorded some time ago, and some was released in a slightly limited run. Why did you decide to release/re-release it now?
Daron: We've both been in other bands that recorded albums that never came out. We didn't want this album to be another one like that. Additionally, I felt as though part of our musical story was missing without that record. We never wanted to stop playing these songs, but we had to. This album shows that we've been working on our sound for a long time now.
Jon: I was somewhat indifferent about releasing it. Recording and mixing that record was a nightmare, but Barnhart's final version definitely seemed worthy of release. I just didn't think that anyone would be interested in publishing a record by an unknown, defunct band. Thankfully, I was proven wrong. It will be nice to finally close the book on that band.
Looking back, have you seen new meaning in the songs since Tommy's passing that you might not have seen at the time of recording?
Daron: Yes, in a way. It wasn't something I wanted to even listen to for a couple of years. As time has passed, I can appreciate it again.
Jon: I didn't want to listen to it either. I suppose after everything that's happened, it's a fitting eulogy for a good friend.
More specifically themes of birth and death are obviously prominent in the album title "The Trouble With Being Born" and the track "Softly, Everyone Dies." Do these references hold specific meaning to you now? In what way?
Daron: Tommy turned us on to Emil Cioran's book The Trouble With Being Born which ended up being a huge influence on all three of us. Lyrically, the album is much like the book; all based on dark humor more than anything. I don't think the lyrics make me think about Tommy as much as they just make me think of how our lives were at that time. Tommy told me that "Softly" was his favorite song he ever recorded. I think of that every time I hear it.
Jon: Birth and death effect everyone, consciously or not. If anything, those songs are just more appropriate and humorous to me now.
Tell me about the new Pinkish Black record; how has your music progressed technically and lyrically since The Great Tyrant days?
Daron: Well, I have to do a lot more than I used to. Tommy and Jon were a monolithic rhythm section. I just had to bang a few keys and scream and they did the rest. Musically, I feel we're able to take some avenues we wouldn't have gone down with Tommy. He liked his music weird. Lyrically, I've always written about stuff going on around me, for the most part. It's still pretty much dark humor.
Jon: Tommy and I had played in a band together prior to Great Tyrant called Yeti. We had released a couple of records, and done a bit of touring. Then our keyboardist (Doug Ferguson) died very suddenly. We wanted to continue playing, but a huge part of our sound was gone. We had inherited some gear, so we tried to implement it as best we could. It worked, but not very well. After loosing Tommy, it was a similar scenario.
We had to put a rig together that would fill out the sound, but not be a technical nightmare. Luckily, we had a pile of synths and bass gear to work with. Obviously you can't replace those people, but you can think about them as you are writing what would have been a bass part etc...
Any chance of you playing any of these tracks live at any point? Either in a Pinkish Black set or maybe on a special tour on their own down the line?
Daron: We recently started playing "Handholder" from Trouble. I don't know that we're planning on playing many more... We've discussed doing a one off Great Tyrant show with some friends filling in on bass, but nothing is in the works. I think we're pretty happy with being Pinkish Black now. It didn't start that way. At all.