“There Is No God” An Interview with Wrekmeister Harmonies

JR Robinson is an interesting dude. His band Wrekmeister Harmonies has seen guest appearances from just about everyone, from The Body to Godspeed! You Black Emperor. This band has broken all the rules and created something that makes you qustion what muic even is. But guess what? It’s glorious. Resplendent in tattoos, long hair and a beard that swallows most of his face, JR even looks like you would want him to. This is a dude who is changing the future of rock and roll, and he was kind enough to sit down with me and talk about everything from his upcoming material to Primo Levi.

So how has the road been treating you?

So far so good man. Some interesting times with tire blowouts. That was time consuming.

How does it feel to cross the nation in five days?

This is my third time since November. Esther and I moved to Astoria, Oregon from Chicago around then. Then immediately after we went all the way back on a tour with Bell Witch. Now we’re driving even further. You just get used to it. Everyone gets along really well. I don’t mind driving. It’s fun.

Part of the appeal of Wrekmeister is that it sounds so different; what kind of musical background do you have?

I never had any sort of musical training, everything I picked up on was just through my own research and discovering things on my own and trying to keep an open mind. One of my least favorite questions is “What’s your favorite band?” That’s inanswerable. There’s no type of music that I’ve come across that I can’t enjoy some aspect of. Some people can’t listen to specific genres, but I’ve never had that issue and I feel blessed. All of that is available and there, and if you just spend some time you can discover things and pick and choose. I’m not a rapper or anything like that, but I can appreciate production values and I can appreciate construction of tracks which is great. With classical music I can appreciate the absolute bombast. As far as free jazz or something – it’s so fucking out there and mind expanding, like, “Where are you going with this?” Pick a genre and we can talk about it!

How do you distill all of those influences into what you do?

That’s a good question. I don’t know if it’s a conscious thing, but it definitely happens. The end result is a product of all these influences. I can’t give you a formula, it’s just a combination of many different facets of things from what I’m reading or researching at that particular time. You’ll be listening to a certain piece of music that makes you feel a certain way and you keep going back to it to recapture that feeling. That’s the closest I can get to distilling it.

What’s fascinated me about Wrekmeister is that you always have a ton of guests. Why?

I like to think that I want to get the best possible people to help me communicate my idea, and I’m fortunate to have access to so many people all over the world who are willing to take the time to listen to what I’m up to and work with me. Generally it’s well received. I can’t tell you why these people want to work with me, but they do. I’m not the best guitar player in the world, but I know some great guitar players. I’m not a really great drummer but I know a bunch of great drummers. I can’t play violin or synths really well, but I know people who do. I am able to communicate with them, and it ends up working out.

So it’s almost a God given thing?

I don’t know if it’s God given, I have a tough time with that. But it’s something like that. I’m only a capable musician, I’m just good at getting people wanting to take part. Like Bell Witch. I love their shit. I’m just so happy that they wanted to be my backing band and go on the road. I just recorded an album with some of the guys from Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and the fact that they are into collaborating blew me away. Can I tell you why people agree to work with me? I can’t. I’m just as shocked as anybody when people say they would be glad to play. It’s kind of cool, but I don’t know. People have asked me that before, I don’t know why they say yes, they must like the idea.

What’s it like working with band as legendary as Godspeed! You Black Emperor?

So good. They were really easy going, accommodating and pleasant. Their work ethic is insanely high. That’s good because it forces me to bring the best. They elevate everybody around them. They work really fucking hard. They could easily just show up, do some shitty song and leave, but it wasn’t like that at all. They were like, “I know a guy who has a recording studio in the middle of the woods in Quebec!” so they schlepped out a bunch of gear in a truck and spent a week with me on it. I was blown away. I thought we would maybe go to a studio in Montreal for maybe a day or two. They were wholeheartedly embracing what we were working on.

Obviously they are on a much higher level… is that still going to be sold as a Wrekmeister record?

Yeah! It’s not all the Godspeed guys, it’s three of them. It was Sophie Trudeau, Tim Herzog and Thierry Amar.

Is there any chance of you guys touring together?

That’s the plan! The record comes out in September, and then we will be doing some touring. That’s another thing – the fact that they are into touring. I feel pretty good!

You mentioned that a lot of your music comes from what you are researching and studying. What were you researching and studying during the recording of the record with Godspeed?

I was reading a lot of stuff by Primo Levi. I was reading that and it was just blowing my mind with this idea of how brutally inhumane people can be towards other people and the coldness and the alienation that is a part of that process of canceling out another race. What’s the mindset behind that? Like, I’m looking at you and you’re looking at me and you have to dehumanize me. What is that? What are the repercussions, mental health wise? That was the material I was working off of.

The nihilism in Levi is just brutal…

The interesting thing about Levi is that he doesn’t hold any hatred. It’s almost like he steps back and looks at it as a science. He was a chemist first. It’s like he is looking for the scientific rationale behind it and looking at it as a more universal thing. This hatred can clearly dominate your life, but that’s not where he went with any of that. As far as I can tell it’s more about trying to understand that. All of his work seemed to be trying to reconcile what happened and then realizing that there is no reconciliation. It was a complete aberration and the world spun out of control and there is no understanding.

Do you think in light of recent events we might be facing a similar crisis?

I think that, and I’m going to be careful how I word this… (hesitates) fundamentalist religion, be it Christian evangelicals, radical Muslims, hardcore Judaism, any religion, they’re all based on fables. Now it’s just gotten to the point where they are trying to annihilate each other in the name of God. But I don’t believe in God. I can’t get behind the people saying “You’re evil I need to cancel you out.” I can’t get behind any of that shit, it doesn’t make sense to me. When you’re driving through the country and see billboards saying “Jesus Will Save You” it’s like, I get it, they are good stories and have endured a long time. But to me, at a certain point we are going to have to grow beyond this and realize there is no God, there is no judgment system. It doesn’t happen. The only thing that we know is that we don’t know a lot. We barely understand our own universe. The only thing that we know is that there is so much out there that we don’t know. To sit here and think that there is some sort of God that makes decisions that affect you, I can’t get into that.

Are you a nihilist?

I’m not a nihilist. No one loves living more than me. It’s great. I’m maybe an atheist. I think that would be the only word that could describe me. I don’t think being an atheist is a bad thing. I just can’t accept any sort of structure or theism. I’m curious to see what that would be like.


Stay up to date with Wrekmeister Harmonies on Facebook

Written by:

Published on: March 29, 2016

Filled Under: Interviews

Views: 1674

Tags: , , , ,

  • Jom Pootersan

    Interesting interview. I had never heard of the man or his music before, but checking it out now. Pretty cool stuff.

    • Pagliacci is Kvlt

      I assumed by the spelling change from Werkmeister that it was a joke/grind band.

  • Waynecro

    I really enjoyed reading this interview. Thanks, Mr. Bacon!

  • CyberneticOrganism

    THE METAL WIZARD! Nice interview!

  • Jason Kolkey

    I like this guy.

  • You have some big riffs? Let me search them. Let me find out how hard I have to Wrek them. There your Wrekmiester-flem-ther-riffers. There your Wrekmiester-flem-ther-riffers.


    Great interview!


  • Paddlin’ Rites ov Beargod

    Interesting read. Been slowly digging into Wrekmeister Harmonies since sometime last year, not far yet but getting there. Adding Primo to my shopping list though I’m not quite sure about everything Robinson says on this here thing.

  • Dubs

    This is very interesting attitude. “I never had any sort of musical training, everything I picked up on was just through my own research and discovering things on my own and trying to keep an open mind. One of my least favorite questions is “What’s your favorite band?” That’s inanswerable. There’s no type of music that I’ve come across that I can’t enjoy some aspect of. Some people can’t listen to specific genres, but I’ve never had that issue and I feel blessed. All of that is available and there, and if you just spend some time you can discover things and pick and choose. I’m not a rapper or anything like that, but I can appreciate production values and I can appreciate construction of tracks which is great. With classical music I can appreciate the absolute bombast. As far as free jazz or something – it’s so fucking out there and mind expanding, like, “Where are you going with this?” Pick a genre and we can talk about it!” Love it.

  • Óðinn
  • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

    this is cool. maybe he and Godspeed will come my way later this year

    • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

      probably not tho.

      • EsusMoose

        I’m already expecting it to skip whatever city I’m in at the time for all the cities around it.

        • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

          im expecting no where within 3 hrs

  • Óðinn
    • Matt Bacon

      OH GOD

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Real cool interview man, real interesting. Nice work. But is he really a Bela Tarr fan?

  • Guppusmaximus

    “I’m maybe an atheist. I think that would be the only word that could describe me.”

    Nah… You’re just sane. No sense in applying a label that means you’re without something that most likely never existed in the first place. Actually, you sound more like a Humanist and it’s sad that we have to have a label for that instead of just saying “I’m Human”.

    • Ol Dirty Blastbeard


      • Guppusmaximus

        How could it not. That term needs to be retired…

        • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

          what size fedora do you wear

          • Guppusmaximus

            So, I’m arrogant because I think people should stop segregating themselves, move past the superstitious nonsense and actually speed up the progression for ALL societies?! Or are you a butthurt “god” worshiper?

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            Oh I was really just yanking your chain you should stick around here more often you don’t know what kind of person I am

          • Guppusmaximus

            My bad… it’s a touchy subject.

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            Yep I called it in my first reply to you

          • Guppusmaximus

            It must be nice to be free of all obstacles. How old did you say you are?

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            im 30

          • Guppusmaximus

            I’m 42, I wasted too many years under the promises of Religion and now my mom & my mother-in-law have tried to impose this bullshit upon my son. It ain’t happening and if I lose acquaintances here due to voicing my opinion then so be it…

          • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

            im sorry, i dont have/wont have kids (that we foresee). i have been to church maybe once in my life. my family is “baptist”

    • Sanity doesn’t have anything to do with belief choices. Implying that those people that believe in some kind of God/Goddess/Gods are superstitious or blinded by a joke or a lie is the same as religious people ditching atheists for being evil worshippers, to me.

      Religion or belief systems/spirituality are just personal and individual picks that everyone must made for their own side and their own reasons.

      • Salmon of Knowledge

        The “recent events” are also only very one-sided in regard of religious hatred.
        Anti-muslim/refugee hatred is mostly race-based and ecological or religious arguments are fallacies.
        From the bottom to the top, the current events in Europe and the USA are racially motivated on a larger scale than one might expect.

        • Óðinn

          The racism factor when it comes to Islam is rarely discussed. However, when it comes to Americans, Muslim is often a dog-whistle term for foreigners and people of middle-eastern heritage. It’s socially acceptable to be critical of Islam, but not socially acceptable to be a racist.

          • Salmon of Knowledge

            Same here in Germany. People from the Balkan are almost the only ones who hate Muslims mostly on their religion, caused by the recent history of that region.

        • Guppusmaximus

          I’m not certain how a good portion of Muslims who live under Sharia Law (even those who don’t / 8% in the US) and support the recent violent events could only be construed as merely a larger issue of “race relations”. That might be what the slanted media in this country wants people to believe but those same people also want Trump (the fascist) as President.

      • Guppusmaximus

        That might be true if those personal beliefs didn’t impact the way those people live their public lives as well as those around them. In 2015, we shouldn’t have had such an issue with Homosexual Marriage.

        • I don’t know, man. At least in my country, people do whatever the fuck they want. I think that religion isn’t the only variable in the social game, and going on a witch hunt ironizing about the All Mighty Evil Religions is very silly to me.

          Politics, economics and cultural topics can be way more subtle and more effective to control populations. We don’t live in the Middle Ages anymore.

          • Guppusmaximus

            If it was just a social construct then I wouldn’t care so much, but, in my country The Constitution has been shat on to the point that people use their religious beliefs to gain voting popularity. The US has separation of Church & State. Initially, it was enacted to eliminate the crime of Apostasy as well as provide protection of personal beliefs. However, that has been bastardized to imply that the Gov’t can’t stop Citizens from using those personal beliefs for discrimination, to trample civil rights or to hold prejudiced ideologies when it comes to passing legislation.

            Honestly,if your spirituality is completely personal and doesn’t hound you to dictate towards others then that’s freaking awesome. Have a fucking blast with it.

          • Óðinn

            I think it’s important to note that you are living in Venezuela,and the Catholic Church was a big part of colonialism. Do you find that the Catholic Church wields a lot of influence where you live?


          • That’s a very interesting question, Odinn.

            From a psychosociological level, I think that Venezuelans borrowed some moral codes from the Catholic Church, but that doesn’t means that we are a very religious nation. For example, the Santería (or brujería) is a sincretic belief system that mix Catholicism with african and indigenous rites; and to be honest, a lot of people that claims to be Catholic also believes in the spirits like Santeros do.

            Catholicism resonates with the need of solidarity and gathering very close together that Venezuelans have in our inner culture; but I think we have a very mixed belief system that is still rebelling against the European mandates of the Church. So, to me, Venezuelans can be very indifferent to religion in this era and are willing to accept different beliefs, like it happened with Muslims, Jewish, sincretics and protestants.

          • Óðinn

            Interesting. The mixture of beliefs into syncretic religion. The need for solidarity makes sense too, regardless of whether you take religious dogma very seriously or not.

          • Yes, it is indeed a matter of various academic studies on multiple disciplines. Sincretism is a constructed belief system, and it resonates with the thesis we have in some theoretical studies on our communication sciences that Latin América didn’t really entered modernism.

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Oddly enough, there is a religious ceremony to a gangster in Caracas, and a shrine.

          • Yeah, there are numerous santos malandros.

  • EsusMoose

    Never heard of this guy but seems like a very interesting individual, I’ll probably try to set aside sometime tonight or later this week to listen to his work. Especially excited to hear that he collaborated with some of GSY!BE

  • Óðinn

    I’m an atheist. It’s really not that big of a deal. I just recognize that the Abrahamic religions are part of the human construct, and “God” is not an actuality but an idea. I firmly believe in higher learning, and religion is often at odds with philosophies or ideas that don’t fit religious dogma. I believe it’s important to understand religion, historically, socially, and anthropologically, because it’s been a big part of the human story.

    I grew up in cities where most people aren’t very religious if they follow a religion at all. I find that to be a stark contrast to people who grew up in areas where religion is very much a part of the community. The differences in opinion on religion, depending on where you live, can be quite pronounced.

    But I do believe we need to have a morality. It just doesn’t necessarily need to be a morality or a code of conduct dictated by a religion. Religion doesn’t have a monopoly on morality. In fact, many people misuse religious morality to justify doing what many people would consider wrong (oppression, killing, etc.).

    I do recognize the positive social aspects of religion. Human beings are social creatures, and we need human interaction. Religion provides that for many.


  • Dave Vincent’s Perm

    I liked this chap in the one man metal documentary. This is the same guy, right?

    • Major Zim

      Are you talking about Wrest of Leviathan and Lurker of Chalice?

      • Major Zim

        Cuz that dude is much less chill than this guy.

      • Dave Vincent’s Perm

        No, this is the guy who interviewed them.

  • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

    is it me or is the subject matter keeping this post dead?

    • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

      how about i just preordered Arktis. vinyl? orrrrr ummmmm my favorite Godspeed song (with one of the BEST rants/spken werd parts ever)

      start around the 30 sec mark

    • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

      I dunno. I’m as atheist as it gets, much to the chagrin of many of my friends. I consider myself one of the good atheists, and I had to explain that to my religious roommate. As an atheist, since I’ve been since 12 years old, the definition of it is simply that religion has no part of my life. I couldn’t care less. My neighbors and and many people around my area are Muslim, and are some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, same with many Muslims I’ve worked with. Same with churches that actually do work for the poor and ask nothing in return. Most Christians couldn’t care less what you believe as long as you have a good heart, from my experience. Same with Jews.
      Bad atheists would be the Richard Dawkins assholes who bitch about things like “In God We Trust” on the dollar bill, and things like that. Only time I get pissed about religion is when people shove it into politics and, well, get shovey about it in general. Especially the anti-gay slant.

      • Ol Dirty Blastbeard

        i guess im just one of the bad ones then

      • Guppusmaximus

        “Only time I get pissed about religion is when people shove it into politics…”

        The dollar bill being currency of the US NOT the currency of ONE religious denomination. The Pledge of Allegiance being a pledge for ALL AMERICANS not just those who believe in unfounded assertions. Honestly, the reason why the Richard Dawkins / Christopher Hitchens assholes like me get all bitchy is because the majority religion in this country wants people to believe that it was founded on Christian principles which is farthest from the truth. The founding fathers were Deists at best. Hell, Thomas Jefferson rewrote the Gospels by removing all the supernatural occurrences found within the originals. Not standing up for the separation of Church & State has allowed the Puritans to attach that unfounded assertion to everything America stands for…Which it really doesn’t. The overzealous, xenophobic Christian / Catholic majority in this country has always stood in the way of true progression. The real Dubya (please stand up) let his fictitious “god” worship stand in the way of stem cell research. Sorry, but, regardless of how friendly these people might be or what the churches seemingly do for free, their books call for conversion and to enlighten us about our sinful life and the fate that will come if we don’t obey. OR to kill those who want to proclaim a free life for everyone…

        *steps off his soapbox*

        • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

          Touche. But if you’ve missed out on how much reality TV rules the current elections, you’ve missed the whole point.

          I’m just talking from my own experiences with religious folks. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass in a sewer pipe what’s on the dollar bill, as long as it gets me some Cheetos and booze.

          • Guppusmaximus

            I completely understand but it’ that whole blase, pacified attitude that has gotten us to where we are. And , believe me, going out to cast a ballot in a broke as fuck voting system as ours is isn’t going to change a fricken thing. Luckily, Trump doesn’t have the gumption to stay the course in terms of Fascism to really make a dent and if he was to get elected, he doesn’t have the wherewithal to eliminate the lobbyists that turn the Congress into flip-flopping bitches who seem to have the talking heads mystified every year. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. I foolishly laughed at the movie “Idiocracy” once…

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Trump has even admitted in interviews that his whole talk about building a wall around Mexico is something to wake up his audience.


            He says what sells to his moronic fanbase.

          • Guppusmaximus

            How convenient. Right on the heels of the Iowa Caucus. Not that his back-peddling in a Conservative paper owned by a company that values Plutocracy over the well-being of its own employees did him any good. That mental midget Cruz won. I agree, Trump’s fans are absofuckinglutley moronic.

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Fox News is actually tearing into him nowadays. It’s an amazing feat when a far right wing conservative manages to piss off the far right mental acrobatics of Fox News.


            Take your pick.
            PS, Cruz won what, exactly?

          • Guppusmaximus

            My point is that all the popular media outlets in this country have an agenda and it isn’t reporting factual news. If you follow the money on any of these media conglomerates you’ll find that agenda.
            Btw, Cruz won The Republican Iowa Caucus.

          • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

            Only one president in the last 60 years won the Iowa caucus and won the presidency. And that was George Bush, Sr.

  • Lisa Ling: Devourer Of Souls

    I pray to Rob Schneider for strength to get us through the day (and yes, that’s me in the picture, back in the day):