Rivers Of Nihil Interview with Metal Gods TV

Dark Juan caught up with Brody Uttley for an email based interview:


Greetings, gents. I’m the overexcited idiot responsible for your 10/10 review… I’m Dark Juan. Introduce yourselves to the world at large…. I’m assuming you’re not the forbidding looking gentlemen in the promo photos REALLY….

Hello Dark Juan. My name is Brody Uttley and I play guitar for Rivers of Nihil. We are a metal band from Reading, Pennsylvania that formed in 2009 and has been grinding away ever since. We are nice guys and we only pretend to be scary (mostly)…

Rivers Of Nihil is an interesting name. Where does it come from? And the name of your rather splendid new album. What was the inspiration behind Where Owls Know My Name? For the record, though, they don’t know mine unless they can now read, in which case you have written the soundtrack to the Owlpocalypse…. Bastards!

The name Rivers of Nihil was created by our singer Jake. I think the basic meaning of the band name is that the human experience is a constant flowing river, and in many cases it is all for naught because so many people go through life not truly LIVING it. They simply exist. So “nihil” is referring to the state of mind that many people exist in. I’ve always interpreted it this way, but it’s obviously up to the individual how they want to understand it. 
The title of our new record is referring to a solitary place away from the rest of the world where one can go to reflect on their life. In this place the only creatures that are aware of your presence are the owls (general reference to nature.) Better watch out for those owls though, they’re very smart and they might be able to read! They’re coming for us all. 

How does working with Carson Slovak compare to working with Erik Rutan? What have both these legends taught you about the music, the studio and yourselves?

Carson and Erik are two very different producers and I love them both for the type of work that they do. Erik was super militant with us on our first record (deservedly so because we were so young and ignorant) and he taught us a lot about being rehearsed, disciplined, and working hard to get the best possible takes without relying too heavily on studio trickery to help us. I think we took the lessons that we learned with Erik and applied them to the last two albums that we have done with Carson. Carson is a little more hands off and I think he trusts us to carry ourselves like professionals. So, without Erik’s lessons and foundation I don’t think that it would be so easy to work with Carson. Seriously love both of those guys and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything. 

On to the actual music – you guys are tighter than a duck’s arse on this record. It’s one of the MOST cohesive records I have ever heard. Tell me about your songwriting style and process. Does it build up from a riff or do you come into it with a concept or lyric and build from there?

99% of the time what happens is that I will start with a simple riff or melody and then build the song from there. I listen to a lot of instrumental post-rock music and those bands have a heavy influence on how I write our songs. I usually like to start with a simple idea, then build on it until the big climax, and then finally deconstruct it back to its simplest form. A perfect example of the technique can be heard on the song “Capicorn/Agoratopia.” Usually after I write a song I will send it off to the other band members and they will give me their opinions on it. Adam Biggs (our bassist) writes most of the lyrics so he will usually put words to it at the very end of the process. 

And leading on from the songwriting – the integration of all the elements to your sound. You are a very eclectic sounding bunch of musicians. Do I detect people who don’t just listen to metal? As I said in the review I heard shades of Swans, Gary Numan, Coheed and Cambria and other prog stuff, 90s Industrial, folk passages and many other subtle influences among the violence. How do you weld these very disparate influences into a cohesive whole?

We are definitely fans of all different forms of music, not metal exclusively. Adam, Jared, and I all grew up with parents who were super into the progressive bands of the 60’s and 70’s so a lot of that sound has definitely worked its way into our sound. I am also a big fan of industrial and jazz music. We really wanted to make this record sound as natural as possible and didn’t want anything to sound forced. So, as much as it sounds like everything “works” together on this record there were definitely things that we tried that DID NOT work (and thus didn’t make it on to the record.) If there is one thing that drives me crazy its when I heard a band trying something new that sounds totally forced and un-natural. We wanted to make sure that everything on this record sounded like it belonged there. You know? Experimentation is key and being that I have a studio in my home it made it very easy to try new things. 

Who and what musically influences Rivers Of Nihil, collectively and individually? Which musicians inspired you guys?

I think as far as “heavy” bands we all share the same influences: Decapitated, Meshuggah, Morbid Angel, Cynic, etc. However once you get to the non-metal stuff we all vary pretty greatly. Jake (our vocalist) is into a lot of electronic music including Daft Punk and Boards of Canada. Adam (our bassist) really likes a lot of weird prog and hip hop like Mr. Bungle, Kendrick, Mouse on the Keys, A Perfect Circle, Yes, etc. Jared (our drummer) likes a lot of weird funk/fusion stuff that I couldn’t even name for you. Jon (our other guitarist) really like films scores (think Hanz Zimmer.) As for me, I like a lot of post rock and instrumental music. I’m also real big on classic rock and jazz. I think if there is one musician who influenced us (especially on this record) it would have to be David Bowie. 

The artwork for the album is also a rich sensory experience. It fits the music perfectly. What’s the concept behind the art? It looks like the work of Dan Seagrave to me. How does that make you feel, sharing the artist with such legends as Entombed, for instance? Also, it’s rather more opulent than many record covers these days. Is this a reflection on the Rivers Of Nihil quality control department or a happy accident?

The individual on the cover of this record is the last “person” on earth. He has been alone for thousands of years to reflect on his life, past love and regrets, and general purpose (or lack thereof.) Over the millennia he has slowly began to shift into the nature that surrounds him. We love working with Seagrave. He has done all of our covers and he has literally knocked it out of the park every single time. Dan usually ends up reading our lyrics and then sends us a drawing based on what he gets out of the story of each record. I think the end result on this art is a reflection of what the record is discussing, which is a pretty vast array of topics. So naturally the art came out opulent as you said.

We are all very aware of my new found Rivers Of Nihil fanboy status (but don’t worry, I’m discreet!) but what has been the wider response to the record? Are you pleased with the reception the album has got so far?

We are all incredibly happy about how this record was received by the public. Being that it is an incredibly different record for us I think we were all wondering what would happen. Definitely very happy that people have welcomed the new sound with such open arms! 

Although Where Owls Know My Name has its beautiful bits, it’s also a shockingly heavy record. Is Reading, PA, the entrance to the seventh level of Hell or something? I always thought that that was Radcliffe, UK, the town I grew up in. It appears I may be wrong. What drives the heaviness? What fuels the underlying rage?

I’m sure that the sound has something to do with our hometown, but I think it probably has more to do with the fact that we all love loud amps and monster truck riffs, always have and always will. I think a lot of metal bands who make bold changes to their sounds often times lose sight of the fact that they are a metal band. We never forgot that and I am glad that we still get very heavy. Reading, PA can be a bleak place for sure but I think we all just still really love heavy music so it just comes natural to us!

Are you taking this metal colossus out on the road soon? Please tell me what dates you have planned. Are you planning to visit Europe? If so, come to France so I can come see you, because I am absolutely dying to see this music played live. It’s incredible on record, but I imagine it’s like an army stamping on human faces forever played live and that is something I can get down with.

The rest of this year is going to be very busy for us. We just wrapped up a five week tour with Dying Fetus and Thy Art is Murder. In June we will embark on a short headlining tour in Canada with Alterbeast and Inferi. I can’t really talk about what comes after that yet, but I have a feeling that we will be seeing Europe soon.

Also, because I am a nosey bastard, I’d like to know what the last records you guys bought were.
Last thing – how can we all keep ahead of what’s happening in the world of Rivers Of Nihil and spend all our money on your stuff? Seeing as that’s my plan for this month’s paycheck…..

I’m not sure about the other guys but the two most recent records I bought were Explosions in the Sky- The Wilderness and the new cd from Emil Werstler’s project “Verlorner.” Definitely check out Emil’s newest effort, it’s like nothing I’ve ever heard. 
You can follow us on all major social media sites (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) Our merch is available in EU/UK through Impericon and in the US it is availble on Indiemerch

Thank you for your time, for giving me my first ever interview (just don’t review it!) and good luck and godspeed. You deserve to be absolutely massive. Yours truly is the best metal record I have heard in years. Make sure Mr. Dieffenbach doesn’t join any ice hockey teams. I like him where he is. Dark Juan formally conveys to you, the readership, Rivers Of Nihil. Buy everything they have got. I command you.

Thanks for the questions man! I enjoyed answering.