Aaron Turner

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Aaron Turner
Aaron Turner, B&W, Guitar -- Isis @ Wagenhallen, Stuttgart, 2009-07-09.jpg
Turner performing live with Isis in Stuttgart, in 2009
Background information
Birth nameAaron Bradford Turner
Born (1977-11-05) November 5, 1977 (age 41) [1]
Springfield, Massachusetts, United States
Origin Boston, Massachusetts, United States
Genres Extreme metal, experimental, avant-rock, ambient
Instruments Vocals, guitar
Years active1995–present
Labels Hydra Head, Ipecac, Neurot, SIGE
Associated acts Isis, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, Mamiffer, House of Low Culture, Split Cranium, Lotus Eaters, Twilight, [2] Unionsuit, Jodis, Greymachine
Website AaronBTurner.blogspot.com

Aaron Turner (born November 5, 1977) is an American musician, singer, graphic artist, and founder of label Hydra Head Records. He is most widely known for his role as guitarist and vocalist for the post-metal bands SUMAC and Isis, while also participating in several other bands and projects such as Old Man Gloom, Lotus Eaters and Split Cranium, a collaboration with Jussi Lehtisalo of Finnish band Circle who toured with Isis in 2009.

Hydra Head Records is an independent record label that specializes in extreme metal music, founded in New Mexico by Aaron Turner in 1993. It has another imprint, Hydra Head Noise Industries, which specializes in experimental and noise music.

Post-metal is a style of music that is rooted in heavy metal but explores approaches beyond the genre's conventions. It emerged in the 1990s through the work of bands such as Neurosis and Godflesh who transformed metal texture through experimental composition. Associated with and inspired by post-rock and post-hardcore, the genre employs the darkness and intensity of extreme metal but emphasizes atmosphere, emotion, and even "revelation", drawing on a wide range of sources including ambient, noise, psychedelic, progressive, and classical music to develop an expansive but introspective sound. Post-metal songs are typically long, with loose and layered structures that discard the verse–chorus form in favor of crescendos and repeating themes. The sound centres on guitars and drums; any vocals are usually screamed or growled and resemble an additional instrument.

Sumac (band)

Sumac is an American/Canadian post-metal band that formed in 2014. It features the Vancouver, British Columbia-based Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), Brooklyn, NYC-based Brian Cook and Vashon, Washington-based Aaron Turner. Sumac released its debut album The Deal through Profound Lore Records in 2015.


Though raised in New Mexico, Turner moved to the Boston area where he attended school and formed Isis and Hydra Head. In June 2003, Turner moved operations of both the band and label to Los Angeles, California. [3] Turner now resides in Vashon, WA which is also the base of operations for Hydra Head and his various other activities. [4]

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

California State of the United States of America

California is a state in the Pacific Region of the United States. With 39.6 million residents, California is the most populous U.S. state and the third-largest by area. The state capital is Sacramento. The Greater Los Angeles Area and the San Francisco Bay Area are the nation's second- and fifth-most populous urban regions, with 18.7 million and 9.7 million residents respectively. Los Angeles is California's most populous city, and the country's second-most populous, after New York City. California also has the nation's most populous county, Los Angeles County, and its largest county by area, San Bernardino County. The City and County of San Francisco is both the country's second-most densely populated major city after New York City and the fifth-most densely populated county, behind only four of the five New York City boroughs.

In partnership with his wife Faith Coloccia, Turner founded another record label, SIGE, in March 2011. It has gone on to distribute material from his musical collaboration with Coloccia, Mamiffer. [5]

Faith Coloccia is an American artist and musician. She is most known as being the founding member and primary songwriter for the post-rock band Mamiffer. Coloccia has also been a member of Everlovely Lightningheart, Pyramids, House of Low Culture and Split Cranium. In 2009, she co-founded the independent record label SIGE Records with her husband Aaron Turner.

Mamiffer American post-rock band

Mamiffer is an American band based in Seattle, Washington. It started out as a solo project for former Pyramids and Everlovely Lightningheart member Faith Coloccia that later saw several session musicians and collaborators, most consistently Aaron Turner of Isis fame and who would later become Coloccia's husband. Turner and Coloccia also perform in House of Low Culture together. Mamiffer has released several albums, splits and collaborations through various record labels, most prominently through Turner's now-defunct Hydra Head Records and Turner and Coloccia's own SIGE Records. The band is known for its collaborations, including albums recorded with Locrian, Circle and Daniel Menche; and working with session/guest artists from bands including members of These Arms Are Snakes, Helms Alee, Sunn O))) and Wolves in the Throne Room.

Personal life

Turner was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on November 5, 1977. [1] At an early age, his family moved to New Mexico, where he was raised. [1] His mother was a teacher "who taught a progressive curriculum" and his father an author, "mainly [of] non-fiction". Turner describes his upbringing, surrounded by his parents' writer, artist and photographer friends, as "creatively nurturing". [1] At age 17, he started a company that sold rare punk rock records via mail-order. He later moved to Boston to attend art school at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, and in 1995 began releasing music. By 1997, the Hydra Head label was becoming a respectable small record label. [6] Turner describes his early industriousness as being motivated in part by boredom:

Springfield, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts

Springfield is a city in the state of Massachusetts, United States, and the seat of Hampden County. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers: the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern Mill River. As of the 2010 Census, the city's population was 153,060. As of 2017, the estimated population was 154,758, making it the third-largest city in Massachusetts, the fourth-most populous city in New England after Boston, Worcester, and Providence, and the 12th-most populous in the Northeastern United States. Metropolitan Springfield, as one of two metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, had a population of 692,942 as of 2010.

Punk rock is a rock music genre that emerged in the mid-1970s in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. Rooted in 1960s garage rock and other forms of what is now known as "proto-punk" music, punk rock bands rejected perceived excesses of mainstream 1970s rock. They typically produced short, fast-paced songs with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and often political, anti-establishment lyrics. Punk embraces a DIY ethic; many bands self-produce recordings and distribute them through independent record labels and other informal channels.

Boston Capital city of Massachusetts, United States

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 685,094 in 2017, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth-largest in the United States.

I grew up in New Mexico, and there wasn't a whole lot as far as youth culture is concerned. Especially when I started to get interested in straight edge and wasn't doing drugs anymore, there was really nothing for me to do. So that was like a big reason for me, I suppose, to become really productive. Also, I've never been a really social person. So there's not a lot of time taken up by my social life. And music has always been a very very big part of my life. I guess just a combination of those factors is why everything got started so early. [6]

Straight edge punk subculture

Straight edge is a subculture originated from hardcore punk whose adherents refrain from using alcohol, tobacco and other recreational drugs, in reaction to the excesses of punk subculture. For some, this extends to refraining from engaging in promiscuous sex, following a vegetarian or vegan diet or not using caffeine or prescription drugs. The term straight edge was adopted from the 1981 song "Straight Edge" by the hardcore punk band Minor Threat.

Around 1997–99, Turner was living with future Isis bassist and co-founder Jeff Caxide; until this point, he had been a member of the bands Union Suit and Hollomen. [7] Isis was formed in 1997 out of a dissatisfaction with said bands' musical direction and Turner and Caxide's respective degrees of creative control. [7]

Jeff Caxide musician

Jeff Caxide is an American bassist, best known for his time with post-metal band Isis, of which he was a founding member and present until its dissolution in 2010. He was also a founding member of Red Sparowes, but left after the release of their first full-length. He also contributed to side-project Spylacopa. Prior to his time in Isis, he was a touring member of the Boston metalcore band 454 Big Block. He also helped found Connecticut-based metalcore band Cable, for whom he played bass. His stay with the band as a musician was brief, but he did return in order to produce 1999's Gutter Queen.

In mid-2009, Turner moved from Los Angeles, where both Isis and Hydra Head Records were based at the time, to Seattle with his then-girlfriend, Faith Coloccia; [8] they went on to wed in September of the same year. [9]


Touring with Isis in 2007, Turner used two different guitars: a 1976 Fender Telecaster Custom (black), and a 1975 Fender Telecaster Deluxe (brown), played through various effects (his pedalboard layout changed every gig depending on what songs the band decided to play that night), a VHT/Fryette Pitbull Ultra Lead, and two 4x12 Sunn cabinets. [10] He has also acquired a custom guitar from the Electrical Guitar Company (as did fellow Isis guitarist Michael Gallagher). [11]

In the past, Turner has also used a Gibson Les Paul Standard, PRS CE24, and has played through Sunn, Mesa Boogie, and Mackie amplifiers. [12]

When playing with Isis, Turner and his fellow guitarists usually tuned their instruments (low to high) B-F#-B-E-G#-B, to achieve a heavier sound. They also used other tunings, though less frequently, such as F# (octave below)-F#-B-E-G#-B. [12]

In 2016, Turner described the live rig he used with SUMAC as consisting of two custom-built guitars from the Electrical Guitar Company. Both have lucite bodies and aluminum necks, and custom-wound wide frequency range pickups. The newer of the two—a prototype for a signature model—has a slightly flatter fingerboard radius than the older instrument. On a tour of the Eastern US, Turner was using an Orange Dual Dark 100 amplifier head with a slaved Fryette Two/Ninety/Two power amp. Both heads drove Orange and Marshall cabinets, though Turner claimed to have no strong preferences for particular speaker cabinets. While recording, Turner prefers to use a Fryette Pitbull Ultra Lead, an amp model he's used consistently since his work in Isis. Turner described using a variety of effects pedals in his live rig. Specifically, he runs a BOSS TU-3 Chromatic Tuner, a Death By Audio Apocalypse fuzz, a MASF fuzz, a Strymon BlueSky reverb (which he described as the one essential pedal in his rig), a TC Electronics Ditto Looper X2, and an EHX Forty-Five Thousand sampler (used to trigger preset samples during performance. Turner prefers a Heil PR20 vocal microphone. [13] When playing with Sumac he uses two distinct tunings being A-F#-B-D-F#-B and A#-F-A#-D-F#-A#.

Musical influences

Turner cites Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Godflesh, Tool, Neurosis, and Led Zeppelin as influences on Isis' sound. However, he points to the electronica and hip hop genres as shaping the group's rhythmic focus and use of sampling, as well as their occasional digressions into ambient passages. [14] [15] He has also listed Melvins, Jimi Hendrix, Swans, Björk, Beastie Boys, Oxbow, Earth, and Coil as among his favorite artists, and has noted that Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer were important to his early interests in the guitar. [6] [16] In addition, he has noted Black Sabbath as an influence during his formative years. [17]


Performing live in Colchester, UK, in 2004. Aaron Turner 2.jpg
Performing live in Colchester, UK, in 2004.

With Daniel Menche

With Drawing Voices

With Greymachine

With Hollomen

With House of Low Culture

With Isis

With Jodis

With Lotus Eaters

With Mamiffer

With Old Man Gloom

With Split Cranium

With Sumac

With Tashi Dorji

With Thalassa

With Twilight

With Unionsuit

As a guest contributor


Turner's artwork tends toward the abstract or surreal, often depicting strange or fantastic landscapes and structures. His work on album covers, concert posters, and other music-related graphics is distinct from typical work in heavy metal or rock graphic design. In part, this may be because of the way that Turner views his objectives in creating designs, which he has discussed on his blog in response to criticism of the clarity of text on one of his concert posters:

I also generally reject the idea that posters and album sleeves and t shirts have to be marketing tools with overly obvious type/graphics, as opposed to more artistically oriented pieces that invoke the true spirit of the music they are intended to represent. if the bands being represented aren't writing 3 minute pop songs with inane choruses that beat the listener into submission, why should the representative graphics serve that purpose? i like to think the audience that follows these bands isn't the type of audience that requires overly simplified/commercial imagery and type in order to draw their attention to the "product". it is precisely the type of corporate design mentality as exemplified by the statement above that i have striven to avoid with what i do in the realm of music related graphics. we're not trying to sell our music to wal-mart shoppers, so if you expect our graphic personality to fall in line with what you were taught in design school about corporate branding and "truly effective" type and illustration techniques you shall be continually disappointed. clean type has its time and place, but this poster which is meant to showcase the personality of our label and by extension the show itself isn't it. music related design can be art simply beyond the idea of selling something... [29]

In 2008, Turner's artwork was featured in a FIFTY24SF Gallery group show entitled Catalyst. [30] Turner has created album covers and liner note artwork for a variety of artists and bands, many of whom are signed to Hydra Head Records or Tortuga Recordings.

Related Research Articles

Isis (band) Los Angeles, California-based post-metal band

Isis was an American heavy metal band founded in Boston, Massachusetts in 1997 and later based in Los Angeles. The band borrowed from and helped to evolve the post-metal sound pioneered by bands such as Neurosis and Godflesh, characterized by lengthy songs focusing on repetition and evolution of structure. Isis's last studio album, Wavering Radiant, was released on May 5, 2009. Isis disbanded in June 2010, just before the release of a split EP with the Melvins. In 2018, the group reformed as 'Celestial' for a one-off show to pay tribute to Caleb Scofield.

<i>Oceanic</i> (Isis album) 2002 studio album by ISIS

Oceanic is the second full-length album by American post-metal band ISIS, released on September 16, 2002, by Ipecac Recordings. On November 4, 2014, a remastered edition was released via Hydrahead/Ipecac Recordings.

<i>Celestial</i> (Isis album) 2000 studio album by ISIS

Celestial is the debut album by American post-metal band ISIS, released in 2000 by Escape Artist and Hydra Head Records. It is their third solo release and first full length.

<i>The Mosquito Control EP</i> 1998 EP by Isis

The Mosquito Control EP is the first studio release by American post-metal band Isis, released in 1998 by Escape Artist. The piece runs fluently through all 29 minutes, and all four songs are linked through consistent bouts of chaos and lyrics glued by the metaphor of using mosquitoes as a symbol for mankind, society and population control.

<i>Sawblade</i> (Isis EP) 1999 EP by Isis

The Sawblade EP is a handmade CD-R made by Isis for their tour with Neurosis and Candiria, limited to 200 copies. It was sold at these shows at a limit of 15 per night, and the leftover copies were given to friends of the band as a year-end "thank you" gift. The vinyl run of this release was limited to 250 copies. As such, Aaron Turner doesn't consider this an 'official' Isis release, describing it as “more like a special artifact for us and the few converts we had at the time”.

Hydra Head Records discography

This is a complete discography of Hydra Head Records releases. Hydra Head Records is an independent record company based in Los Angeles, California, founded in 1993 by Aaron Turner. It has two imprints, Hydra Head Noise Industries, which specialises in experimental and noise music, and another entitled Tortuga Recordings.

<i>Christmas</i> (Old Man Gloom album) 2004 studio album by Old Man Gloom

Christmas is the fourth full-length album by Old Man Gloom, released in 2004 by Tortuga Recordings. Aaron Turner, owner of Hydra Head Records and former Isis guitarist and vocalist, described this album as “one of the most engaging projects I have been involved with both musically and visually”.

Phantomsmasher is an experimental grindcore/electronic band led by musician James Plotkin, previously known as Atomsmasher.

Isis discography

Isis was an American post-metal band, active from 1997 active until their disbandment in 2010. They released five full-length albums, five extended plays (EPs), five live albums, two singles and have collaborated with other artists on numerous other projects.

Bryant Clifford Meyer musician

Bryant Clifford Meyer is a keyboardist, guitarist and vocalist, best known for his tenure with Los Angeles, California-based post-metal band Isis. He was with the band since its debut full-length, Celestial, in 2000. Previously, he was a formative member of Boston-based rock band The Gersch. He is also a member of post-rock side projects Red Sparowes, Windmills by the Ocean and a solo project named Taiga.

House of Low Culture is a musical project which is fronted by Aaron Turner, and includes other members of the band Isis. The ensemble also includes Stephen O'Malley from Sunn O))) and Luke Scarola from Old Man Gloom. It is named after a song by Isis from their Sawblade EP.

<i>Melvins / Isis</i> 2010 EP by Melvins and Isis

The Melvins and Isis released a split EP on Hydra Head Records in 2010, with each band contributing two tracks. Isis' "Way Through Woven Branches" had previously only been available as a bonus track on the Japanese edition of their last full-length, Wavering Radiant, whilst "Pliable Foe" was exclusive to this release. Both tracks were recorded during the Wavering Radiant sessions. Meanwhile, the Melvins tracks are reworked from their release The Bride Screamed Murder, described as displaying the "dadaist/trickster tendencies of the band which has frustrated and delighted fans in equal measure since the beginning of their existence". The album was released July 13, 2010 on CD format, with vinyl copies available a week earlier from Vacation Vinyl in Los Angeles.

<i>White Silence</i> 2011 studio album by Cave In

White Silence is the fifth studio album by the American rock band Cave In. The album was released on May 24, 2011 through Hydra Head Records. White Silence was listed as one of Decibel magazine's most anticipated albums of 2011.

<i>Disconnected</i> (Greymachine album) 2009 studio album by Greymachine

Disconnected is the debut album by experimental music act Greymachine, featuring Justin Broadrick, Aaron Turner, Dave Cochrane and Diarmuid Dalton. Produced by Broadrick, it was released on 4 August 2009 via Turner's own record label, Hydra Head Records. In February 2018, Disconnected was reissued as a limited 2xLP with unique artwork and clear vinyl.

<i>Mare Decendrii</i> 2011 studio album by Mamiffer

Mare Decendrii is the second studio album by American post-rock band Mamiffer. It was released through SIGE records on March 15, 2011. The album was recorded at Studio Litho, Aleph Studio and London Bridge Studio in Seattle and mixed by Randall Dunn and Mell Dettmer. The album was mastered and produced by Mell Dettmer and Randall Dunn, respectively.

<i>The Deal</i> (album) 2015 studio album by Sumac

The Deal is the debut album by American post-metal band Sumac. It was released on digital and CD formats through Profound Lore Records and on vinyl LP via SIGE Records on February 17, 2015. The album was recorded at Aleph and Litho studios in Seattle, Washington between July and August 2014. The album was mixed at GodCity Studios in Salem, Massachusetts by Kurt Ballou. The artwork was a collaborative effort between Aaron Turner and Faith Coloccia.

<i>The World Unseen</i> (album) 2016 studio album by Mamiffer

The World Unseen is the fourth studio album by American post-rock band Mamiffer. The album was announced in December 2015 streamed in late March 2016, and released through SIGE Records on April 1, 2016. The album was recorded mixed and produced by Randall Dunn at Avast! Studios in Seattle with final mastering by Jason Ward.


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