White Hills are a two piece band from New York City formed in 2003. They are comprised of Ego Sensation, who plays drums, bass, and vocals, and Dave W who plays guitar, synth, and vocals. Their Music has elements of Classic Rock ‘n Roll, Psychedelic, Atmospheric, Industrial, Ambient, Grunge, Sludge, and Stoner Rock. They keep their vocals and lyrics minimalistic and mantra-like while burying and weaving them throughout their songs. They released their new video for Oceans of Sound, which is the fourth track on their upcoming album, The Revenge of Heads on Fire, set to drop on September 16th through their new personal record label, Heads On Fire Industries. The video showcases psychedelicized footage from the long escalators at the new subway station in Manhattan called Hudson Yards.
The Revenge Of Heads On Fire is a double album with original material from Heads On Fire that are remixed. Ego and Dave elaborated in our interview that genre wise, their previous album released from 2020 titled Splintered Metal Sky, has a different overall vibe than The Revenge of Heads On Fire.
The story of how The Revenge of Heads on Fire came to fruition begins with the release of their 2007 album, Heads on Fire, through Rocket Recordings. The album turned out different than they originally envisioned it to. When White Hills recorded the album on two inch tape and transferred it to digital, the hard drive died and they lost a lot of the recordings. Ever since, the hard drive was unknowingly stored in a World War II naval trunk that Dave had. In the recent years, they ended up finding as they were cleaning one day. When they found it, they contacted their friend in San Francisco who is an IT specialist and sent him the drive. They were able to retrieve the files, all of which were unmixed and very raw recordings.
White Hills initially thought about releasing Heads On Fire as a 15 year anniversary album and chose to take a different approach. Ego commented, “There were all these other songs that we had completely forgot about because we had lost them at the time,” as Dave added, “Yeah. We just had moved on from it. And then we started looking through old journals and started to see notes that were outlining “what is the “revenge” of Heads on Fire?” They wanted to follow the notes and do what is The Revenge of Heads On Fire, and what they wanted to do at the time with the original record.
Ego shared the excitement of finding the hard drive to Heads On Fire, “The great thing is when you find something that you forgot about, you’re listening to it with fresh ears. You’re listening to it as a listener, rather that someone who’s creating the Music because when you’re in the moment of creating Music, you have a lot of attachment to it, and you’re kind of automatically judging it because you’re in the process of creating it. When you create something and you put it away for a while, then come back and listen to it, it’s as if someone else has created it. So, when you like it and when you hear it, it’s really exciting!” Dave added, “It was interesting to come back and hear the stuff so many years later, after having done so much stuff.”
After asking Dave and Ego which tracks they found they connect with the most off of the new record, they both mentioned the song, Is This The Road. Ego feels it has a really powerful and emotional swell and the vocals are a little more highlighted and weaved through the Music. Dave feels the song is a bit of an anomaly and different from the other songs. It’s a song they feel is stuck in time as Is This The Road is the only fully untouched and mixed track from when they recovered the files.
Dave added that the one song that hit him the most from The Revenge Of Heads On Fire is ‘Silent Violence‘, the tenth song on the eleven track album, “I really wanted that song to be great, but at the time didn’t feel like it was. And then having the distance between it and coming back to it, I was like ‘oh wow! Why did I dislike this song?’ at that time. So, that one hit me more.”
A lot of the vocals within the Music of White Hills are simple and minimalistic. Dave attributes that to the fact he wasn’t comfortable singing earlier on in his career. Earlier on, the lyrics were kind of buried, as he wanted the Music to have a mantra and be more hypnotic necessarily than storytelling, “on the album, I like the lyrics to Oceans of Sound because those lyrics, it’s about the book…The lyrics come out of snippets of Farenheit 451. I was re-reading that book at the time. I Love that book. The imagery of the bits and pieces, I was cutting this out and cutting that out.”
Dave shared a story about the song Eternity, “And the song Eternity also, is an interesting one because before we were living in New York, we were both living in San Franciso. When we graduated college, I had a little stint of being a publicist at some record labels. One of the record labels that I had worked at, one of the first things that I did was take a guitarist from Molly on a promotional tour along the West Coast and then over to the East Coast. And this guy, his name was Huffy Koite. Molly and Musicians are known as griots. A griot is like the keeper of the stories of the tribe. And they retell the stories through Music, so it gets handed down to each person. So, his Music…In his lyrical content, is retelling stories of his tribe. And one of the songs that he was promoting on this album, was talking about how his tribe explains Death to children. And the main lyric, or how they tell the story of dying, is “Death opens its eyes to an eternity.” And when he was talking about that at this one performance, it really hit me. And I was all like, what a beautiful way to describe Death. Death is an end. Death is an opening. Death is a reconnection to where you came from. And it also is kind of like telling children it’s not about you. It’s like you are part of this vastness. You inhabit this essence now. But even though you are this essence, you are part of this greater eternity that you have come from and that you will return to, and while you are in this vessel, you are still part of it all. Lyrically, that was another song that hits me.”
Dave recounted the story for the first time in regard to White Hills of when 9/11 happened, and the devastation of watching the first plane flying low enough he could see the faces in the windows and hit the building, “That was a really, really heavy experience for me. Then, seeing how our government reacted to the situation, how people were reacting to the situation. Even at that moment, at the moment when that happened, I was on the corner of Spring and 6th Avenue…I was at the time working two blocks away from there. And when the plane hit, a woman to my right fully collapsed and was just like…Totally broken down, tears and screaming. And then there was a barber shop at the time that was near there, where the barber and the guy getting his hair cut, ran out and were laughing. And so, looking at this like…Feeling very….Out of myself, and looking at this duality, and then kind of seeing what ended up becoming a reaction, and then what ended up becoming this war, and how the government was manipulating the event to go after Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with what happened. It was all intense to me. And the first song that I wrote underneath what became White Hills, was a song called No Game To Play.“
No Game To Play is the title track from their very first album released in 2003. “The lyrics to that is very much mantra mode…The lyrics are “I don’t believe a word you say, if not for greed, you would have no game to play.” So, that song is very dear to me because that is what really launched this.”
Ego shared an experience while playing at the Primavera Festival in Barcelona, Spain that really made an impact on her, “We played there in 2015 with our drummer at the time, Rodney Rodriguez, who is no longer with us. He passed away in 2017. But, we had a great show, we played during the day time, which is always a little strange to play during the day…Because somehow, there’s a certain energy at night. A certain like, Rock ‘n Roll energy at night that during the day kind of feels like… “Where you gonna get that Rock ‘n Roll that energy?!” But, the crowd was so excited and there was so much energy within the air and it’s great when you have that big crowd because you’re already energetic when you hit the stage automatically, because you get a little nervous and adrenaline going. Your mood has to get up there and get all set up. So that nervous energy gives you that electricity to play. And then when you have the audience, that is also excited, then you’re also feeding back and fourth with the audience, and it’s like drugs. It’s like… That was one of my favorites.”
Ego added a story about another peak experience she had while performing a couple years ago, “I was playing bass, and we played with about twenty to fifty different drummers for the first portion of our career, and it was like this drama… We’re always finding a new drummer. [laughs] Because we did tour a lot, finding people that can tour all the time can be tough and finding the right person that kind of fits the vibe of the Music. Having a band is like having a relationship, it’s like…You can’t just plug anybody in there. It’s a special balance of not only personality, but chemistry… Musical chemistry.
A couple of years ago, I decided, “you know what! I’m switching over to drums. This is going to be great because I have played drums in the past…I like playing drums, I like playing bass, I like playing guitar, I like playing piano too. I’ll play anything, I just want to be out there on stage. So, I switched to drums, the first show that we did, which was in New York City, the first show that we did where we played drums, I felt a real high from playing that show, and it was a small show. It was at a local club called St. Vitus in Brooklyn.”
When we went onto the subject of shows that they’ve seen as a fan that made an impact on them in positive ways, Dave shared the story of the time he saw Iggy Pop perform when he was only 13 years old in San Francisco at the On Broadway Theatre, where the show was for ages 21 and over, “It was full on Punk Rock and they let me in. And it was the most violent, yet peaceful thing I’d ever seen. It was like….I was at this place called The On Broadway, there was a balcony, and it was so exhilarating, you could just feel the energy everywhere… And then when Iggy hit the stage…I’ve never seen more glass being thrown at a band, more spit, like…The energy was fucking nuts. At any moment I thought I was going to die! And then just looking at Iggy and how none of it phased him and things were flying by him and he’d go nuts… It was mind-blowing. That show was mind-blowing.”
Ego reminisced about seeing Bauhaus in San Francisco in 1998, “It was so theatrical. They started with the stage…It looked dark, except the TV screen with Peter Murphy’s head on it, singing Double Dare. Every song had this theatrical lighting element and the band is just so on…And it was so exciting. And then the other one. Spiritualized. Spiritualized, I think maybe it was about ten years ago at The Beacon Theatre, and it was a spiritual experience.”
10/12/2022 Urban Spree – Berlin, DE
The Revenge Of Heads On Fire Track List:
The Instrumental Head
Oceans Of Sound
Is This The Road
Don’t Be Afraid
Visions Of The Past Present and Future