“Sometimes you just need rock’n’roll to save you”: Neurosis' Steve Von Till picks his top tracks

Steve Von Till
(Image credit: Bobby Cochran)

As the guitarist and co-vocalist of post-metal pioneers Neurosis, Steve Von Till has a record collection that’s as diverse and mind-bending as you’d expect. From hardcore punk to ambient sounds, he shares a playlist of his favourites. 

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“The band that became a part of my DNA, not necessarily stylistically, but part of how I identify as a rock fan, is MOTÖRHEAD. I was raised in a musical household, and my mom took me to see KISS when I was nine. But the raw energy of Motörhead really spoke to me. It wasn’t this untouchable arena presentation, it was down-to-earth and gritty, and that’s what I’ve always been attracted to. To this day, Stay Clean is the ringtone on my phone!

“As I got older and discovered punk in high school, DISCHARGE’s Hear Nothing See Nothing Say Nothing was mind-expanding. I didn’t realise that guitars could sound like the radiation after a nuclear bomb! That debut is still one of my favourite albums if I’m feeling the need to listen to something hardcore. JOY DIVISION was also a game-changer. It opened my eyes to music that was just as much about what you don’t play as what you do play. From a guitar player point of view, I’ve always loved New Dawn Fades.

LAUGHING HYENAS are blues rock, but it’s tortured, it’s drug-fuelled, it’s gnarly. I would start with Everything I Want. The guitar playing by Larissa [Strickland] was really unique; she didn’t learn to play in any traditional way, it was all made up, with very unique stylings. I’ve always gravitated towards people who find their own sound and way of playing, rather than people who wanna be Randy Rhoads or Eddie Van Halen.

“I recently went back and revisited the entire CRASS discography. It’s hard to pick one song, but I’d go with Mother Earth. People think they’re a crusty hardcore punk band screaming politics, but actually they’re all about liberating your own mind from anybody else’s way of thought. They didn’t seem influenced by anything else, which goes with their whole ethos.

“I love the concept of using the studio as an instrument. Adrian Sherwood from London and his On-U Sound Label had many incredible projects, and one album that was a big influence for me on the use of sound and creative mixing was CREATION REBEL’s Starship Africa, and the track Space Movement 4. I think Adrian was pretty early in using samples in a creative way, being able to reintroduce sounds into this kind of rhythmic bedrock, and I love doing that with my Harvestman project.

“I probably listen to ambient music more than any other genre at the moment. If I’m travelling, or in my classroom with my students – I teach fourth grade – I like to have it on. If I wanna go for influential, it has to be BRIAN ENO. I’ve slept to Ambient 4 a million times on airplanes! What I love about the song Lizard Point, and this album in general, is that it’s darker than a lot of his other ambient records, and I think it set the tone for what I would enjoy about bands like Coil.

“A current spin for me is THE BUDOS BAND. Al [Cisneros] from Sleep told me I needed to check them out. They sound like if somebody was really into Fela Kuti and Black Sabbath! It’s all instrumental, and instead of vocals they have a horn section. I’d go with the song Old Engine Oil. It sounds like it’s probably the most fun band to play in. I also think WARDRUNA are making some of the most important music in recent years. As a kid in California I was interested in Ancient European folklore and pre-Christian, earth-based spirituality. I wondered who the people were that built the stone circles, what did they think, what was their outlook on the universe. Somehow, Einar Selvik was able to channel a reference to the past, to these ancient, obscure ideas, and channelled it into something new and compelling. Helvegen is probably their most popular song, and it really sticks in your brain. When I first heard Wardruna, it was one of these moments like, ‘This is what I’ve always wanted to hear’.

“Then, sometimes, you just need rock’n’roll to save you. You know those days where shit feels weird, but you get a bit of sunshine, get in the car and crank something up and it makes everything okay? For me, that’s Pet Semetary by THE RAMONES. It just lifts me up.”

Steve’s new solo album A Deep Voiceless Wilderness is out now via Neurot Recordings

Hannah May Kilroy

Hannah May Kilroy has been writing about music professionally for over a decade, covering everything from extreme metal to country. She was deputy editor at Prog magazine for over five years, and previously worked on the editorial teams at Terrorizer and Kerrang!. She currently works as the production editor for The Art Newspaper, and also writes for the Guardian, Classic Rock and Metal Hammer.