Mizmor: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

Anniversaries will abound at Psycho Las Vegas 2022 when it upends the city next month. But one of the quieter celebrations will be the 10-year birthday of Mizmor, a one-man black-metal project that multi-instrumentalist A.L.N. founded in Portland, Oregon, well … 10 years ago.

After breaking free from the shackles of religious confinement he found in the state’s capitol of Salem, A.L.N. set up camp about an hour north. Currently, he records in a studio located in a house he bought last year with his partner. While he enjoys the comfort and solitude of creating his art at home, he is — like the myriad bands with which The Bad Penny is chatting lately — gearing up for the mecca of overstimulation and debauchery that is Psycho Las Vegas.

A.L.N. caught up with us earlier this month, opening up about the thrill of receiving an invite to Psycho, why he is deciding to play material from 2019’s Cairn instead of January’s Wit’s End or last year’s Dialetheia, and why Mizmor’s drummer is a wee bit over bummed the band’s tour itinerary.

How did Psycho come on your radar? It sounds like you were familiar with the festival before you received the invitation.

A.L.N.: I think everyone in our scene is pretty familiar with the fest. It’s pretty famous. They bring in astoundingly large names, and sometimes these bands are reuniting for the fest. It’s also a really interesting, unique idea. I can’t remember how I first heard about it, but for years — I’m in another band called Hell, also — so between Hell and Mizmor, we’ve been like, “When are we going to get invited? When are we going to go to that fest?!” [Hell is a one-man project featuring MSW and for which A.L.N. is a session musician.] I’m working with a new booking agent who submitted me from his roster to the fest this year, and we got the offer, so I’m stoked on that.

So you hadn’t been lined up for any previously installments where it got postponed or complications delayed your participation?

A.L.N.: Yeah, this is the first time.

Well, congratulations.

A.L.N.: Thanks! Have you been before?

Yeah, it’s my fifth time. It’s quite a sight to see people wearing all black walking around in the 114-degree heat. I recently interviewed a band called The Church of the Cosmic Skull, and they wear all-white, so it’ll work out OK for them.

A.L.N.: Haha. I should think about rebranding.

What kind of set do you have in mind, for both Psycho and the tour?

A.L.N.: For the tour, we’re essentially going to play the album Cairn from front to back. I released that album in summer 2019. We did a very short tour afterward where we played a mixed set that had one of the songs from that album. Then we came home, and I was planning to book a full U.S. tour to play the full album, and then COVID happened. So, even though it’s a few years old at this point, I never got to tour that record around, so that’s where I’m picking up.

At Psycho, our set is a little bit shorter than a runtime of the album, so I think we’ll probably skip the last song and play three-quarters of the record.

It sounds like Cairn was a really pivotal record in your career. Do you feel like it encapsulates Mizmor more so than any of your other records?

A.L.N.: That’s a tough question. It was definitely a monumental record for me personally, and I know that it had a decent reach, but I think if you ask a lot of my fans, they would tell you that 2016’s Yodh is the quintessential Mizmor record. For me, it’s more Cairn.

Was strong fan reception the reason you played Yodh in full at Roadburn in 2018, or what is something the organizers of the festival asked you to do?

A.L.N.: A lot of artists do that at Roadburn, and I think it was probably floating around in my mind as the thing you do at that fest.

I like heavily conceptual things, and since Mizmor is a one-man project, when we’re preparing for a live set, I’m teaching everyone everything. So it’s kind of like, “What songs do I want to teach everyone?” If we have 45 minutes or an hour to play, I could pick some random songs that are speckled across a few albums — or I could just pick all the songs from a single album and play that in full. I like that idea.

Did you stitch together your upcoming dates — you’ve got ones with Heretical Sect, Thou and others — around Psycho, with Psycho as the linchpin? Or did you have the other dates planned, and then Psycho came into the picture later on?

A.L.N.: Psycho was the first show that inspired the full tour. We were talking with them early on and realizing that the offer they extended wouldn’t include flights, so I wanted to drive there. I’ve always wanted to attend that fest and play that fest and … figure out a way to make it work. So we booked a tour around the fest, and we decided to do it as a headlining tour [and] support locally. We tried to get Heretical Sect on a bigger leg, ‘cause they’re friends of ours, but they could only do a couple of shows. They’re doing the show in Denver and the show in New Mexico, where they’re from.

For our Los Angeles and San Diego dates, when my agent was reaching out to promoters, what came back was that it was a busy time and area to do a show, because it was the weekend before Psycho. So there were a couple of Psycho[-related] shows that were already happening and that we could be a part of, and those were the Eyehategod shows. That’s how that shook out.

Have you ever played with them before?

A.L.N.: No. I met one or two of them down in New Orleans when I was playing with Thou; they share a practice space. I’m excited to play with them. They’re definitely legends of the scene, of the genre. That’ll be a lot of fun.

Are you going to be able to catch much of the festival beyond the day you’re playing?

A.L.N.: We will either get there on the 18th or on the 19th, I’m not 100 percent sure yet. We’re gonna catch as much as we can. We’re gonna be there all day on the 19th and all day on the 20th, when we play, and then we’re going to have to take off the next morning for our next show. Which is a bummer, since we’re not going to be able to see Mercyful Fate.

That’s the show the majority of musicians seem most excited to catch.

A.L.N.: Yeah, definitely. It’s our drummer’s favorite band of all time, and he’s a little bit heartbroken. [Laughs.]

Who are you going to make it a point of seeing?

A.L.N.: You know, to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen who’s playing what days yet, so I’m not sure what I’ll be able to see. But I hope I’ll be able to see Blackwater Holylight and Primitive Man. It’d be fucking insane to catch GZA and Emperor, some of the gigantic acts they’ve booked this time around.

It’s also just going to be cool to be there. A metal fest at a resort casino in the desert has always sounded very strange to me, that people want to see that music while being in a pool. So I’m just ready for the whole rock and roll party aspect of it. Seeing friends and catching whatever bands we’re there for.

What friends do you hope to catch up with and who do you hope to get introduced to, whether it be backstage or on the casino floor?

A.L.N.: Some of the bands I just mentioned. It’s always good to see Ethan [Lee McCarthy], Jon [Campos] and Joe [Linden] from Primitive Man. I’m close with Blackwater Holylight too, so seeing all them would be really fun. As for getting introduced to people, I don’t have any aspirations there. It’d be cool to meet some folks — it’s always great to get introduced to people at fests — but I’m just gonna kinda mingle and let whatever happens unfold.

Who are you bringing on the road with you to play as your band, both at Psycho and on the ancillary dates?

A.L.N.: My live band right now is Andrew Black, MSW and Nate Myers [of Eternal Warfare]. These are guys I’ve played music with for many, many years. 

Does MSW have any new releases planned for Hell?

A.L.N.: Not in the near future. I know he’s been writing a lot, and we are planning a tour for next year, but I don’t think he has any clear idea of a release quite yet.

So if you’re going to be touring with Hell next year, and you’re touring behind Cairn this year, are you going to find space to present Wit’s End material to your audiences at some point?

A.L.N.: That’s a good question. We’ll see.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Psycho Las Vegas runs from August 19-21, with a kickoff pool party happening Thursday, August 18. Get your tickets here.

For other Psycho Las Vegas 2022 features, check out The Bad Penny’s new profiles with:

• Jason Shi, frontman for North Carolina psychedelic stoner-punks ASG
• Sidecar Tommy, co-founder and drummer for electronica/world-music/dubstep act Beats Antique
• Alky Dude, guitarist for Polish stoner-rock band Belzebong
• Brother Bill, frontman for British psychedelic-rock ensemble Church of the Cosmic Skull
• Jarvis Leatherby, manager/bassist for power-metal legends Cirith Ungol
• Chad Green, frontman for old-school death-metal revivalists Frozen Soul
• Alternative hip-hop producer and DJ The Gaslamp Killer
• Kyle Juett, bassist/vocalist for “supersonic intergalactic heavy-rock trio” Mothership
• Nathan Carson, co-founder and drummer for Portland, Oregon’s original doom band, Witch Mountain
• Bruce Lamont, saxophone/singer for avant-garde jazz-metal fusion band Yakuza

For more features on bands playing Psycho this year, check out our interviews with:

• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Tomas Lindberg, vocalist for Swedish melodic death-metal pioneers At the Gates
• Alex Mass, frontman for Austin psych-rock princes the Black Angels
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Scott Taysom, frontman for Atlanta black-metal band Cloak
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Judas Priest worshipper and Psycho fest mainstay DJ Painkiller
• Mika Häkki, bassist for Gothenburg doom trio Monolord
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence

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