Released six years after their previous full length, Ritual Abuse, Still They Pray came at the end of a long period of breathing space and self-development for both Cough and vocalist/guitarist David Cisco. This break gave Cisco a chance to re-evaluate his music career as he balances life with a son, born during that gap, along with a chance unison with Electric Wizard's Jus Osborn resulting in his input as a producer. Cisco speaks to LIFE IS NOISE on Cough's return to form with Still They Pray, the ideas of investing your time wisely and their unique approach to writing music and furthering their career.
“A lot of things were changing in that period of time,” says Cisco of the break between full length albums. ”I think at the end of touring off Ritual Abuse, we hit a point where we needed to step away for a little while and regroup. We definitely walked away for a little longer than we expected – I ended up having my son, Charlie, I spent a little while accommodating to being a father which took a little while. It gave us the chance to step away and come back to it all with a fresh perspective – it was kind of necessary at the time.”
Not only did the break give Cough the air they needed to craft a critically successful album – it also resulted in a final product the band were proud of, along with paving a style that could potentially influence later releases.
“This record, I feel like – this is really difficult for me to say - but this is the first record that we’ve done as a band that we’re 100% happy with,” says Cisco. “I can listen to those songs and be completely satisfied. This is the first time that’s happened for me, at least. You put so much work and time into it, so it’s a good feeling to walk away from it without getting a cringe from it – that thought to yourself where you’re like ‘shit, I shouldn’t have done that in that way’. We’re all really happy with how it came out.”
“We’ve started the writing process for another full length, but we’ve still got time to figure it out. Still They Prey has this really cosmic undertone that we heard as we were tracking it, as if we were sitting around saying ‘what is this?’. It’s different, as if we heard some sort of cosmic war behind it. We’re looking at exploring that further.”
Cisco has previously mentioned that the band employed an approach to getting Jus Osborn on board, easily summed up by the phrase “it sounds crazy, but lets run with it”. The wording in itself paints a polarity between risk and reward, fear vs gain – but is surprisingly something that Cisco is no stranger to.
“We’ve always done that from the start,” he says. “Even that first record, Sigillum Luciferi, we didn’t have any money. We didn’t have shit. We finished writing that record and just thought ‘let’s go to Chicago’ – and that isn’t a short drive, it’s huge. A full day drive and we basically ended up living in Chicago for a whole week to record that album and Ritual Abuse, but it was kind of the same for both records too. If we’re going to do it, we’ll do it right. That’s how we made it work outside of our comfort zone.”
Lyrically, Still They Prey has been described as a dark, draining album. It’s unclear whether Cisco himself agrees with the description – however in delving into this, it’s evident that as a writer, Cisco and Cough as a band are more interested in concepts rather than spoonfeeding an obvious story to the listener.
“I think when we write lyrics, I always really try to create a new reality,” says Cisco. “If you’re reading a short story and you find a part or a line, you’ll try to extract everything out of that line that you can and create an entire world out of that, something that’s brand new. Something that you fill in with your own experience. It’s kind of like a spark of something else that can create other worlds that expand over this whole thing. It’s not about writing and carrying your direct personal experiences on your sleeves so heavily, it’s about writing with a sense of transparency. Give people a reason to listen – giving them something to pick at.”
In Cough’s modern incarnation, Cisco now has to not only manage his life as a touring musician, but also as a father. If anything, managing his time in this fashion has given him the drive to perform where it counts, rather than burning himself out through over-touring.
“It’s a challenge. Like I said, I took a bit of time off to get acquainted with it all,” says Cisco. “We have to decide - Obviously I’m not really at a point where I can spend eight or nine months on the road and never see my son. It doesn’t even matter how much money I make. As a band, I think what we decide to do in terms of shows and tours – I mean we’ve got plans to go to Europe, we’ve got offered to go to Psycho Las Vegas this year which is going to be an insane show – but we’ve gotta do what matters. Make the most of those select appearances that we do make. Be more of a select band or have that attitude towards it.“
As far as the next release is concerned, one has to wonder if the benefits of working with Osborn will mean they’ll be working together on the next album.
“I could,” ponders Cisco. “I’m not really sure where to take it. Maybe we’ll head over and work with some people in England - that could be a cool idea - although to come back and do it again would work too.”
Cough joins forces with the almighty Windhand as part of their joint tour this March/April at the following Australian and New Zealand venues:
Wellington – San Fran – Friday March 31
Auckland – Kings Arms – Saturday April 1
Brisbane – Crowbar – Sunday April 2
Sydney – Newtown Social – Wednesday April 5
Adelaide – Fowlers Live – Thursday April 6
Melbourne – Corner Hotel – Friday April 7
Perth – Badlands – Saturday April 8