Former 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards has been a murky American music figure for approaching two decades. Having begat a genre that could be considered alt.country, indie rock, Christian music or, at the same time, none of the above, the Denver-based artist just released his fifth album under the Wovenhand epithet. In support of Ten Stones, Edwards pays New Mexico a visit this week, playing as a three-piece with Pascal Humbert on bass and Ordy Garrison on drums. We rang him up on the old horn for a chat.
What's the music like in Denver?
It goes through different phases; it's just like every town, I guess. There's a scene for each type of music. There is what everybody seems to call the “Denver sound,” which is some gothic Americana type of thing. That kind of started in the early ’90s. I guess I've been associated with that scene since then, and there's been many different variations on that. And of course, there's punk rock and straight rock and hip-hop and black metal. There's everything. And now everybody has a beard and a baseball cap and plays acoustic guitar—tender indie, whatever it is. That is big here.
Is it difficult to tour?
I have a lot of other things going on outside of music, so it's hard to juggle. I've been doing it a long time, so my family is used to it. It still doesn't make it that much easier to be away from home for weeks at a time, and mostly over seas so it's even more difficult—I can't just pop home when I need to. I kind of feel like a sailor.
I guess that's kind of the terrible consequence of being a performer.
Yeah, of course there are a lot of people I know who just tour constantly. That's probably what I would do if I was available to, but I'm not, so I try to spend as much time at home as possible, and go out no more than three weeks at a time. My last tour in Europe was five weeks and that was brutal.
Why does macabre, Americana-type music appeal to people?
I think different people have different reasons. There's always this wave of going back to your roots as a person and a musician. Alternative country music has gone through these phases for a long time. It happened in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s—it happens every generation. For my own part it was, as a teenager, listening to Joy Division and The Birthday Party, but at the same time listening to Johnny Cash and Hank Williams. Through this stuff mixing together, it molds itself into something new. There's some sort of romance to it, some aesthetic. I like the way it looks, the old-timey things. I like the instruments. I like it better than things that are modern.
When you're dealing with dark themes, how do you keep the music from turning maudlin?
You have to be realistic, for one. Certain people can go all the way with it and still not be cheesy, but it's pretty rare. I think you have to balance yourself with where you are now in the world, and the way the world is now. Mainly it's just concentrating on your art first before all the other stuff. You have a lot of influences musically, stylistically, artistically, aesthetically, but all of these things come second to being honest and sincere with your music.
“And now everybody has a beard and a baseball cap and plays acoustic guitar—tender indie, whatever it is. That is big here.”
Your music tends to contain Christian ideas. I was recently talking with someone about the difference between a Christian band and a band that deals in Christianity. What's your take on that?
Well, you have what is called CTM music, which is contemporary Christian music, and there's different types of music under that banner. It's a business, just like any other business, and there's kind of a formula—you do it a certain way and you will be popular. When people talk about Christian music that's usually what they're thinking about. I play music, and I also make money at playing music, but I'm not part of any genre really. We're not accepted in the Christian music world, or the alt.country world, or in the rock 'n' roll world—people don't know what to do with us, basically, and I'm glad. There are a lot of other people who are believers that are just artists whether they be musicians, or painters, or writers. They just do what they do outside of that controlled environment.
What's your relationship with it, and why do you choose to include it in your music?
I'm a believer, and I sing about what I believe in. If I didn't believe I would sing about something else. It affects every part of my life, so that's what I communicate because that's what's inside of me.
Is there a possibility of 16 Horsepower reuniting?
No. You know, there's not really much difference between the two bands; it's just a different name and a different drummer. Some of the people were so disappointed when 16 Horsepower ended and Wovenhand started, but I had the same experience with the band I was in before 16 Horsepower and the band I was in before that. People grow accustomed to things, and it's really hard for them to accept something different. If they would see the bigger picture they would realize it's the same music and a continuation.