by RS Frost
For the past 12 years Eric Hersemann has been the driving force behind the terrifyingly disjointed, angular and psychedelic death metal monolith that is GIGAN.
Born and bred in the Windy City, a far cry from the quasi-dimensional sparsity of Gigan’s arena, I was eager to pick Eric’s brain regarding his musical output and how it all began.
- I’m originally from, and currently live in, the Chicago area of Illinois. I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to see many classic bands perform live growing up, and was blessed to have played in my old band LORD BLASPHEMER as well as the legendary BURNT OFFERING.
Living in Tampa, Florida, for eight years while playing with DIABOLIC and HATE ETERNAL was also a huge blessing and allowed me to experience first-hand one of the most significant locations of Death Metal’s origins and the ability to jam with some of the best musicians to grace the metal scene.
I’ve loved music my entire life and began learning to play music originally when I was eight or nine years old, in school. I was always focused on the arts of writing, illustration and music throughout my childhood. I started focusing on playing music with more serious intent when I was in my mid-to-late teens. During those times I also had my own printed ‘Zine, was the publicist for OLYMPIC RECORDS and worked at a booking agency that specialized in metal and punk bands.
Music has shaped my life, for better and for worse. I’ve been inspired by so many artists/musicians it’s impossible to name them all. Just a few would be Jimi Hendrix, RUSH, PRIMUS, MORBID ANGEL, AUTOPSY, SADUS, early MEGADETH, 1980’s IRON MAIDEN, CAPTAIN BEYOND, HAWKWIND, Dario Argento, Tobe Hooper, Salvador Dali, etc.
In 2008 Gigan released their first album, ‘The Order of the False Eye’. This release was steeped with occult references, psychedelic language and, compared to what was “popular” within death metal at the time, was completely foreign and inaccessible to most consumers.
- Yes, the first full length was way ahead of its time, in comparison to what most labels were releasing then. A lot of those ideas and riffs were from years before, many from before I had even moved to Tampa when I was trying to start my own thing in Chicago. I could never find the right musicians though and had to put those tunes on the back burner until the time was right.
I had always used dissonance and weirdness in my riffing, even in my more straightforward bands, but GIGAN allowed me to push myself even further.
Then in 2011 the first album in a trilogy of sorts was released through WILLOWTIP RECORDS.
‘Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes’ was unlike anything that existed within the, now loosely fitting, death metal genre. The artwork depicts hooded figures standing to ceremony in what can only be described as a maelstrom within the waters of space.
Track names like ‘Suspended in Cubes of Torment’, ‘Transmogrification into Bio-Luminoid’ and ‘Fathomless Echoes of Eternity's Imagination’ are, on the one hand, an entheogen enthusiast’s wet dream, whilst on the other, completely incomprehensible to the “beer and metal” archetype.
- The second record was really when GIGAN started to assume its proper form. At this point I was writing everything myself, whereas on OOTFE there were a few riffs contributed by my rhythm guitarist/vocalist. When he left I no longer had to write music considering a guitarist that would be singing and playing, as I decided to fully commit to a dedicated vocalist that would only focus on singing my lyrics.
I always wrote all the lyrics and phrasing previously, as well as 90% of the music, but I had to consider the possibility that some stuff couldn’t be played and sung at the same time. On the second record that changed and it was for the better.
I also added a different drummer that was a step ahead of the drummer on the first record in certain ways and I was able to push the envelope even further.
2013 saw the release of ‘Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science,’ which, once again, boasted blotter strength Kthulu infused hallucinatory artwork, but seemed to delve far deeper into the dark side of the unhinged human experience including tracks such as ‘Influence Through Ritualistic Projection’, ‘Bio-Engineered Molecular Abnormalities’ and the venerable ‘Mother of Toads’.
- The third record was definitely very cool to do and my ideas at that time were a bit darker and a bit more linear but still quite abstract. I was feeling a very heavy darkness musically and it came across in the tunes. Less jumpiness and jazz but still musical. It’s a very oppressive and angry record.
In 2017 Gigan presented their most recent offering, ‘Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence’.
Whereas ‘Quasi-Hallucinogenic…’ felt like the preparatory period before plunging into the abyssal fabric of reality, and ‘Multi-Dimensional…’ being the experiential period of this mind-bending journey, ‘Undulating Waves…’ is undoubtedly on a far grander and infinitely vast scale.
It is as though the prior two albums had been leading up to a post-trip clarity and an understanding and appreciation of all things, with track titles such as ‘Elemental Transmography’, ‘Wade Forward Through Matterand Backwards Through Time’ and the finale ‘In Between, Throughout Form and Void’ providing a sense of divine command and the accumulation of wisdom through vortex driven adversity.
- The fourth and most recent record ended up being a seamless combination of the first three full-lengths and had elements from the EP as well. I love it and am very pleased with how it turned out. After several years of walking in GIGAN’s shoes, it was a comfortable journey and everything happened nicely and worked as though it was meant to be. Each record has its own energy and persona, this one is no different and I love it. It’s massive and absorbing to listen to... another world within a greater universe.
Parallel to this complex and daunting thematic trajectory, the listener is also faced with the task of digesting and processing some of the most unique, confronting and generally cacophonous audible expressions to memory.
With Eric being responsible for all Guitars, Bass, Synthesizers, Theremin and Xylophone throughout Gigan’s discography, I was curious as to his motivation behind such persistent and original creativity.
- Stubbornness and an unrelenting need for self-expression. Creating music and playing that music live. Everything else is a necessary evil. Also, I just play what I hear in my head, without any pre-conceived notions of what I should end up with or what other people will like.
I love to share GIGAN with others but I need no one and nothing to feel satisfied with what I do. GIGAN is me, and I am GIGAN. It’s a pure extension of my imagination and what floats in my mind at all times.
What led you to playing the Theremin and Xylophone, given they are not your standard “metal instruments”?
- I really just wanted more ways of enabling my self-expression. The xylophone was more for accents buried within the music, but the theremin is much more present. The theremin creates such a distinct and otherworldly feel; I have always thought that it lends itself perfectly to the GIGAN aesthetic. I always have it with me and use it live at our shows. I use it simultaneously while playing my guitar in songs and also for intros and outros. It’s an extension of me and using it is incredibly gratifying.
Given that you have been involved in extreme metal for over a decade, I’m curious if you have been aware of any shifts in the general attitude of the genre?
- Definitely... nothing for the better I’m afraid. The original spirit of metal has been lost for the most part... there are occasional flashes of hope though.
With quite the profusion of achievements behind you, what does the future hold?
- Impossible to know. I hope only good things, but tragedy brings positivity sometimes too. Hopefully more music and more opportunities to perform that music for those who understand, or try to understand it.
Thank you for your time and insight into your work. I now invite you to offer any closing sentiments you may have.
- Only that people should try to create an expression of what is actually inside them and not what they think will inspire others. Nothing is more original and impressive that what you have inside you, within your deepest recesses and throughout who you actually are as a human.
Fear nothing and let your spirit flow.
All the best to you and thanks for the interest in GIGAN.
This interview is featured in the print edition of Inner Missive #2, alongside discussions with THY DARKENED SHADE, WOLCENSMEN, THE ANTICHRIST IMPERIUM, ART AS CATHARSIS, ALTARS, GRIFT, ALTARAGE, ADRIAN BAXTER, PRIMITIVE MAN, COSMIC PUTREFACTION, EMYN MUIL, BYRDI, SLUDGE, ULCERATE and ÖXXÖ XÖÖX.