Self-described as ‘Death Western’, SpiritWorld is the aural vision of Las Vegas native Stu Folsom. The debut album ‘Pagan Rhythms’ was initially self-released last year leading to great acclaim and support from BBC Radio 1 DJ Daniel P. Carter, as well as Exodus/Slayer guitarist Gary Holt and ex-Sepultura/current Soulfly leader, Max Cavalera. Century Media quickly got onboard and now ‘Pagan Rhythms’ is available as a physical product outside of North America for the first time. We caught up with Stu to talk about the multi-medium project that is SpiritWorld, as well as where his love of Western imagery comes from.
Only one place where we can start, and that’s with the incredible video for the current single ‘The Bringer Of Light’, wow, that is one powerful video! The quiet intro and the gunslingers in the distance mean that the viewer finds themselves leaning forward to get a better view, then the body falls into a close shot and turns to the camera…talk us through the creative process of the video; I believe it was a longtime friend of yours that directed it? And, how close is the finished product to the original idea that you had?
Yeah! The director Todd Hailstone and his friends have a film production studio in Las Vegas called Light Forge Studios. He and I met when we were in high school and have always remained close pals, as we explored our different creative kinks. I have always been drawn to the fierceness and chaos of heavy live music and he has been working in film and tv production. A while back when they made the first Popovich movie we let them set up and film a lot of stuff at Hammer Lane in the back 40 of the junkyard. So I knew that when this band started cracking I would be able to take my vision of Westerns and Horror and Thrash and use our videos to build out the world of Godlessness even further. As far as the creative process, Todd and I have been working on writing a screenplay for Godlessness and he is probably the most connected to the source material and how I want to present these stories. So it was very simple. I had the idea for the band to be undead honky tonkers and I got all the costuming procured for the band and gave Todd free rein to deliver a treatment that he could execute on the budget we had. There were no real course corrections. We spoke about the plan on the phone once or twice and then we knocked out the shotlist. It’s easy when everyone involved is super talented and on the same page.
How emotional were you watching the first complete playback of the video?!
I met up with Todd when he finished cutting and coloring the footage so we could add the titles and credits. I don’t know if HELLA FUCKING STOKED is an emotion, but that’s all I remember feeling. Hahahahha. It was a very inspiring project with beautiful friends and it really lit a fire under my ass to figure out how to get the fiction that I am writing up on the big screen.
The video ties in with your book ‘Godlessness’ and the debut SpiritWorld album ‘Pagan Rhythms’, was it the idea of a book that came first?
The book came first. I had the general idea and characters created and a few chapters finished. I think that I had written The Bringer of Light and maybe one other song, just the riffs and drum arrangements about the same time but the two were separate projects. I don’t recall when I had the bright idea to connect the heavy music I was writing with the fiction writing but I do know that at some point I decided to manifest this into reality. Then I just spent hundreds of hours figuring out how to tie everything together and build the foundation for a world that would let me explore making art that would challenge me to find my voice in several different mediums.
One of the results of the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown was a complete halt to the arts industry, meaning so many people were out of work. It must have meant a great deal to you that with ‘The Bringer Of Light’ you could give many a chance to get back in the saddle so to speak?
I have been working on this project every day since probably a year before the pandemic in some way shape or form. It is an incredible blessing to finally start sharing this with everybody!
Prior to ‘The Bringer Of Light’, you released another incredible video, this time for ‘Comancheria’, how many hours went into creating the stop-motion effect?
The Comancheria video was the brainchild of Benjamin Lieber, Kyle Hulett, and me. The pandemic was raging, nobody in the band was hanging out and there was no real way to do any video work so we came up with a clever way to incorporate the toys that I used for the original Pagan Rhythms drop in the place of a band or actors. Ben is super talented and set up and shot everything in an afternoon for that in his basement in NY. When I saw the footage we added in the title cards to bring a little more of a narrative into it, that would really connect it to the album and book. Big hugs and kisses to my dude Kyle who is an amazing human being and just makes the world a better place to be anytime he is involved.
Where did the love of Western imagery and culture come from? Is it something you grew up on? And, what would be your go-to Western?
Yeah, I grew up in a Western family. My mom lived on a ranch until her and my dad started having a family and moved to Las Vegas. I have always been equally surrounded by honky tonk, rodeo, and punk rock! Go-to western…. hmmmm. That’s like asking for a go-to album…there are so many!!!!! Unforgiven made a big impact on me. Classic.
Classic Clint Eastwood! Nice! It’s been a few years since movies like Bone Tomahawk and to an extent, Hostiles delivered some gruesome content, is it time for a new bloody Western movie to come along? Sidebar – one of the many theories about why The Lone Ranger movie flopped was that America wasn’t ready for a Disney movie that portrayed US Cavalry using a Gatlin gun to mow down Native Americans – would you agree with that theory?
I’m always ready for a good western and gore!!! I love S. Craig Zahler’s work. His films and books are great. Wraiths of the Broken Land is a novel he put out on Raw Dog Screaming Press that really blew me away before I saw any of his films. Actually, go check out his graphic novel. He just did one I can’t remember the name, but he wrote and drew it. Zahler’s the shit. I heard he likes metal, somebody should give him Pagan Rhythms and tell him to mentor me! I don’t know anything about the Lone Ranger theory! I would need to research to have an opinion. Sounds interesting.
On the SpiritWorld webstore there is so much amazing physical product; the vinyl album looks stunning, gorgeous artwork, and there is the ‘Comancheria’ action-adventure toy set! Having something for people to hold in their hands – be it a book, an album, or a toy – seems very important to you?
For sure. I am just a huge music fan at the heart of all of this. I buy tons of records and when a band can put it together and deliver something innovative and badass I get stoked. So when I think about making records, I aim to deliver something that has depth and can give somebody that little jolt of excitement. The world seems so heavy right now, I am just blessed to be in the position to take my strange thoughts and wrap some chords around them and have the chance for those ideas to arrive in an LP mailer and hopefully transport somebody into my head to enjoy the blood, brimstone, and riffage for a little while and maybe even forget whatever is dragging them down in real life.
‘Pagan Rhythms’ was re-released on November 5th via Century Media Records and is now available (physically) for the first time outside of North America, what kind of connection are you hoping people take from cranking it up for the first time?
I hope they bang their head and listen to it 3 or 4 times back to back and then text it to their bestie and say “Jeeeeezus fucking christ bruh!!!! Have you heard this shit!?” I want to be people’s favorite little secret band, the one they are proud to find first and share with their peeps. To be a part of that connection is a sacred thing to me. Anything else that comes from this is just a plus. Making classics is the goal. That is it.
Once an album is out there, how quickly do you move on to creating new music?
Hahahaha. I don’t wait for that shit to come out. I am just finishing up our new LP right now as I write this! I don’t like things once I make them. At one point I thought Pagan Rhythms was worth someone’s time to listen to. Now, all I care about is making the new record an absolute crusher that will allow me to go play with all my favorite bands and create absolute chaos all over the world.
What band out there at the minute do you feel that SpiritWorld would be best suited to open for?
I think we will translate well with a lot of different styles. Personally, I am geeking out that our first tour is with Obituary… fucking incredible. If I could pick one band to play with it would be a long shot. I’d have to blow this shit up and then have Slayer do a reunion gig or tour and then handpick us to open!
What are your first musical memories? And what was the lightbulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
I remember being 3 or 4 running around the house pretending to skateboard jumping on the furniture rocking the fuck out to Chuck Berry.
The album that you have in your album collection/Spotify playlist that would surprise most people? Some people might consider George Jones a surprise, but how can anyone not dig a Country star caught drunk driving a ride-on lawnmower going 5mph!
George Jones is the shit!
What new albums have you been enjoying in 2021?
The new Enforced is the shit! Outside of that, I have been listening to nothing but Creeper, Salem, and Alkaline Trio lately. I am completely obsessed. I feel bad for Jen. I am just nonstop blasting them
What are your plans for the remainder of 2021?
Working on the new album, playing LA in December, and spending time with family.
Connect with Stu and SpiritWorld, here.