.Steve Von Till’s No Wilderness Deep Enough Tour Arrives at The Ritz

Neurosis guitarist/vocalist comes to San Jose after first album in five years

Speaking with Steve Von Till, it’s clear that what he is after most of all is connection: connection to the planet, to art and to his unique place in this profound thing called human existence.

“My work, in all its manifestations, is a culmination of everything I feel, contemplate, see and experience to relate back to the whole of humanity,” he explains. “The whole of our experience.” 

It’s not the answer most people raised on pop culture think a heavy metal musician might give. But anyone who’s listened to the confounding, three-plus-decade discography of Oakland doom metal act Neurosis knows better.

Along with laying insanely crushing riffs, Von Till is also a poet, scholar and elementary school teacher in his chosen home of northern Idaho. However, this week he returns to the Bay Area for a two-night stint. The first is at the Starline Social Club in Oakland on Tuesday. The second, presented by Foothill College radio station KFJC 89.7FM, will be at The Ritz on Wednesday. Both are part of his No Wilderness Deep Enough Tour, named for his fifth solo album, released in 2020.

“The entire creation of it was very effortless, organic and natural,” he says. “Almost accidental to the point where I thought it felt like it was flowing through me.”

Haunting and ethereal, No Wilderness Deep Enough is as beautiful as it is still. The album began when Von Till recorded some short melodies at his in-laws’ home in Germany, a home their family has inhabited for over 500 years.

“I believe I was channeling the spirit of the land there,” Von Till states. “Because when one family has interacted with one landscape for so long, you can’t help but feel a heaviness, a weight.” 

As the name suggests, the album is a serene journey into all kinds of other—the other side, the other world, the other life underneath the surface. Devoid of guitars, synths, cellos and piano re-create the jet-lagged, dream-like state he was in (“between two worlds—waking and sleeping”) when recording the original melodies. The music is anchored by Von Till’s resonant baritone, softly singing, sometimes almost pleading, always with a quiet tension.

Though he originally intended to make an instrumental album, Von Till says his friend, fellow musician and record producer Randall Dunn, encouraged him to add lyrics.

“He was right,” he says. “Within a week all the lyrics and vocal melodies were finished in the mornings with my cup of coffee. It was the first thing I did when I woke.” 

Last year, he released A Deep Voiceless Wilderness, the instrumental version he originally intended to release, an album with a life of its own. Without the weight of Von Till’s vocals, A Deep Voiceless Wilderness allows the mind to sprawl out across a marine layer of introspection.

He credits his grandfather for his lifelong love for poetry, a connection that brought him to write Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems And Collected Lyrics, published in 2020. 

“I have this outlet that’s basically self-absorbed, but it stops feeling that way when people get meaning out of it,” Von Till says. “It feels like I’ve put something useful and meaningful out into the world.” 

But when it comes to teaching fourth graders at his day job, Von Till’s favorite subject is history. 

“We’re constantly being blasted with mindless consumerism and a constant influx of unimportant information,” he explains. “So to share your passion with the natural world—to art and music and poetry—and light that fire for kids to become natural, life-long learners is very important.” 

As for his other musical relationship, Neurosis, Von Till says they are not working on anything at the moment. However, he says he’s always working on something and fans can expect new material from Harvestman soon. 

For now, he’s looking forward to returning to the Bay, even briefly. 

“Hopefully I’ll get a moment to reconnect with some people,” he says. “I always look forward to putting my feet on the territory that made me.” 

Steve Von Till

Wed, 7pm, $22.50

The Ritz, San Jose

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