Aaron Turner Discusses The Demise Of Isis, Says “Wavering Radiant” Is “Definitely Not My Favorite Record We Made”


Former Isis frontman Aaron Turner (also of SUMAC, Mamiffer, etc. fame) recently gave a revealing interview to Machine Music in which he looks back at the band’s career and their eventual end. The group’s final album “Wavering Radiant” arrived in 2009 with the outfit later calling it quits in June of 2010.

Outside of some reissues, the band remained inactive up until last year when they reunited under the moniker of “Celestial” to perform at a benefit show for late Cave In/Old Man Gloom, etc. bassist/vocalist Caleb Scofield. That performance was livestreamed and is reportedly being readied for an eventual release.

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Speaking to Machine Music on the end of Isis and the complexities that led to them calling it quits—as well as his reluctance to discuss it in the press—Turner stated:

“I think the end of Isis was very difficult for me, even the last couple years of the band, I had so many conflicted feelings about what we were doing creatively and also how we were getting along personally, I just felt like I wanted to leave that behind. So, while I understand people wanting to talk about that and how it also contextualizes what I do now, I have also really tried to push conversations toward what’s happening now.

Because for me that’s what’s more relevant, and if people are interviewing me for what I’m doing now I would much prefer to talk about that than what I did in the past, which for every year that goes by decreases in relevance for me. That’s a roundabout way of saying I’d rather not talk about Isis [laughs]. There is a lot in that that’s deeply woven into the course of my life and I’m also happy that the music has continued to have a life after the band, and that’s it has meant a lot to a lot of people, that’s something that I am very grateful for, regardless of if I actually want to talk about it or not.

And then the last piece of this is that when we disbanded there was a group discussion about how we were going to present it. And it was difficult for everybody to get on the same page there, because we all felt differently about split and why it was happening and how it was happening, so we chose this very diplomatic route of giving a very generalized answer as to why we were splitting. And so in the aftermath of that I was stuck to that, and when people asked me about what happened at the end I didn’t feel really comfortable really delving into the details too much, I was trying to be very diplomatic about it.

But, at this point everybody has moved on and has gone on to do other things and I think that some of the residual pain that was there when we split has dissipated, and so it’s a little bit easier now to speak more candidly about the band in general and also about the years that led up to our eventual split.”

When asked if he was happy how “Wavering Radiant” turned out and it being their swan song, he stated:

“…I think that anybody that has really paid attention could decipher what the creative differences were just by listening to what everyone was doing afterwards. We went in different directions. And to some extent those creative contrasts were what made Isis effective at times, the fact that everybody did have different ideas and pushed and pulled in different directions created a complexity in our sound and some dynamics that I think were ultimately pretty interesting.

As far of the diplomacy in terms of how we presented the story at the end of the band, that was partially accurate. It was accurate in that we said in our statement, basically, that we had said all we could say as a collective, that was very much true. If we had tried to write another record we wouldn’t of had the choice of breaking up it just would have imploded on its own accord.

The component of speaking about creative differences, that was very real as well. When we started the common goal was pretty unified. And at that point some of us are still in our late teens and early twenties, so our creative personas and our personalities were still in these very formative, transitional periods. So it was easier, I think, at that point to put differences aside and just plunge into this collective effort. But as we grew older and our tastes became more specific and more divergent, it became harder and harder to find that common ground and find a way to make it work.

To reference the first part of your question, about whether or not I’m glad that ‘Wavering Radiant‘ was our last record – I’m glad it was our last record because, as I said, I don’t think we could have written another one. I don’t feel good about it as a final statement for the band. It’s definitely not my favorite record we made.

I can’t disentangle it from the difficulty that I experienced in making it. So, for me, though I’m glad that other people have gotten something out of some of the Isis record that I don’t feel really good about, which would be the last two….. I’m glad they exist for the people who enjoy them. For me, personally, I wish ‘Panopticon‘ had been the last record [laughs]. To put that bluntly.”

Later in the chat Turner did go on to state that he is not entirely critical of “Wavering Radiant“, offering:

“I should say that I don’t disavow ‘Wavering Radiant‘ as a whole, I can hear things on that record that I think are good ideas, and there are even parts of it that I would say I almost could enjoy [laughs].”

The deep discussion also shines a light on what he learned from his time in Isis, why he stepped back from Hydra Head Records and a lot more. You can dig in over at

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