Austin Rathmell, now who may that be? He’s the front-figure for the solo-project The Way To Light, and he has his own graphic artistry Hollow Haven Design. Having worked with different labels and artists with the latter, and he’s also done splits with his solo-project together with Crawl, Horders and Feral. There isn’t much more that I knew about him at the time of this interview, so therefore there’s a lot of information that you shall receive when reading the interview. I ask him about his graphic artistry, The Way To Light, his discography, and some more things.
What’s known about you is that you are a graphic-designer, under your own brand Hollow Haven Design, and a musician who goes by the name of The Way To Light. But what’s your background besides that and who are you?
– My name is Austin Rathmell. I am and sorta always have been a reclusive introvert. In high school when I wasn’t at a local show I was probably spending time at home alone listening to music. I was one of the only people I enjoyed being with. If that makes sense. I’ve always been somewhat of an artist, but it was only within the past few years that i’ve really begun to push myself and tap into it. After high school I began delving into bands that really changed my perspective on life. Amenra (and all the surrounding side projects), Integrity, Neurosis… to name a few. These influences and my seclusion were the platforms for which Hollow Haven Design and The Way To Light rose from.
What were you doing before, that was in any way related to music or art, before Hollow Haven Design and The Way To Light?
– Before this I played guitar in a band called Botfly. It was a fun ride, but was very dysfunctional and it came to its inevitable end. The end of that band was the beginning of the path I’m now on. I wanted to be able to do everything myself and not work with or have to rely on anyone. And I had some minor roles within Botfly that had to do with art. But it wasn’t until later on that I really began progressing.
So what was the first “trip” that Hollow Haven Design embarked upon, and was this simultaneously as The Way To Light arose – or simply earlier or later? What were your first concerns with those projects?
– The Way To Light came before Hollow Haven. I started The Way To Light a few months after Botfly disbanded. Hollow Haven was only started recently. There weren’t really any concerns with TWTL, I just wanted to create something different that I wanted to hear. I never cared whether anyone would like the project or not. Hollow Haven of course was different. I had been doing designs for my own projects as well as others for about a year or so. So Starting Hollow Haven was to somewhat put a label on my work as to be able to get in touch with more people in a somewhat professional way.
I know that you’ve created artwork for Die Song, and your own project. But what did you create during that one year, when it comes to other projects and people enlisting you?
– I did work for a small tape label based out of austin called Red River Family, I did a set of patch designs as well as some J-card artwork/layouts. I also did some designs for a band called FALM. To be honest it wasn’t a very busy time for me, I merely did things here and there, but that was the beginning sparks that made me want to dive in as I have.
So, have that created any other opportunities thus far?
– Yes, I’ve been able to get in contact with more people interested in my work. As well as work with Die Song on a few of his releases, and I hope it all continues. I’m hoping to make this year extremely busy for myself, pushing out a ton of art and music.
What kind of graphic artistry influences you when you do your work? Or do you simply have something asked for, and do it within your own means?
– Most of the time I find it works best when someone wants something done that they give me a very rough idea, or simply something they want in the piece, then let me do it my way. When someone comes asking for something very specific, as in they just want to use you as a tool to design the exact image they have in their head, nothing that great comes out of it. I mostly do Photo-manipulations. I love blending images to together to get real obscure forms. So at this point Ive already fallen into the style I love, so that in itself is my influence when creating. My main intent when making an image is creating something that has a strong emotion within it, while still being greatly obscure. Almost as if viewing something completely unattainable .
How do you apply this when working with The Way To Light? You’ve currently released an EP and two splits with other bands. What’s the difference in the method, when you work with your music, as opposed to your graphic artistry?
– I have actually released a tape, a CD-EP, and 3 splits. The Way To Light is an obscure thing to me. Its something completely unattainable, vague, and entrancing. Whenever I begin a song, there is no formula I go off of. I just build from scratch and let it sort of take its own path in a way. It has become a big part of me. Its a way to express the human experience of life in a way that is truthful. It is enigmatic, as life itself is. The process for me is essentially the same between the different mediums. Layering different textures respectively, subtly. In most cases there isn’t a final image or sound in my head that I am trying to achieve, I merely start with something small and basic, then begin building upon it. Then a point is reached where I know its done. In a way, I think both projects reflect each other and give off the same atmosphere. Even though TWTL is done strictly for myself, and Hollow Haven is more directed outward towards others.
So why do you confine yourself within neo-folk and ambient?
– When I first started, this style of music was very foreign to me. But once I had completely immersed myself within it I fell in love with it. There was no turning back. This style I have emerged upon has allowed me to express my work in a way that I don’t think would work well in a different genre. But even then, I don’t consider TWTL “confined” within this sound. I try to do something a little different with each recording. I don’t want to create the same album, the same release over and over. So I never limit myself to what should or shouldn’t be tried. TWTL is an expression of the human experience. So whichever Idea is being presented, the aural side will reflect that. Whether neo-folk, dark ambient, a blend of the two, or something different entirely.
Could you outline the specifically themes of each album? Since you seem to be doing something new every time, don’t they follow anything?
– I think its best that the releases are to be determined by the listener. I don’t like to describe all that goes into a release, its better that the perceived takes their own explanation and emotions from it. Each release has a slight different feel, a slight shift in the atmospheric texture. Listen, and feel it, each one will speak to you differently.
What would you say, as a listener, gives you a shiver down the spine each time you listen to it?
– When I hear that perfect combination of riffs that sing together, with an eerie voice whispering over it, with the atmospheric moans of drone behind it all. Its a perfect combination in my mind when emphasizing emotions and heart felt experiences.
You’ve done a lot of splits, but could you tell me why you’ve chosen the people you’ve chosen for those splits?
– The first split with Feral and Wrecca, (originally supposed to be only Feral) I decided to do a split with Feral because I had heard his sound already and thought the 2 projects merged well. Feral has strong references to nature and I use a lot of that in my imagery as well.
The Second was with Crawl. This is a local friend of mine whose project is unmatchable. Although both projects are pretty different in sound, it was great to have a split between 2 local solo projects that are very different from what is going on in this city. As well as the 2 songs we used for this release go very well together! Even though one is a very heavy distorted piece of hatred, and the other a slow haunt, the atmosphere is there.
The third was with Horders. I have been a big fan of Give Up and Horders for a long time! So it was great to have a chance to work with him. I think Horders and TWTL are very similar, yet very different as well. So it made a lot of sense to do this split. I think this split is the most “alike” sounding on both sides out of the 3. Even though I wrote heavily in ambient drone, they both just sound good together.
Where are you from and what does this localness mean to you, if we speak about Crawl – for example?
– I am from San Antonio, Texas.
There really is no great local community when it comes to underground music. Only a few projects that I think are truly talented and try pushing themselves creatively. Crawl being one of them. I have always wanted TWTL to be a part of a creative community, but there just isn’t the right people in this city. Or maybe I just haven’t met them yet. Who knows…
What have you got going for you for the next couple of months?
– I will be releasing a full-length album for TWTL very soon. The album is in the mastering process and will be complete very soon. To follow that there may be some live performances. On the Hollow Haven side, I have some new pieces in the works, some personal, some for a few projects!