A Conversation with Fen’s The Watcher

 

IMG_6013

Photo Credit: Tom Huskinson

Happy 2020 everyone! I had the distinct honor of being able to interview Fen’s vocalist and lead guitarist The Watcher. He discussed a broad range of topics from the conception of Fen’s new album “The Dead Light” to lessons he has learned over the years, as well as his thoughts on the direction black metal is going as a whole. He spent a lot of time giving detailed answers and brought so much insight into the world of Fen and how they have become one of the premiere acts in the United Kingdom black metal scene today. You can check out their new album “The Dead Light” on the following links below. It is an absolutely wonderful album full of greats ideas and new dynamics musical-wise. I hope you enjoy the interview and feel free to comment below.

Firstly, what was the inspiration and ideas that came to mind in the creation of “The Dead Light”?

“The central drive to create what would eventually become ‘The Dead Light’ occurred almost immediately after we finished recording the previous record, ‘Winter’. For me, once an album is completed, it is like the closing of a chapter – what needs to be said has been said and the focus therefore must be to look forward, to give shape to the next phase of expression that needs to be defined, explored and realized.

 With this in mind, we reflected on what we had achieved with ‘Winter’ – we recognized that it was a sprawling, earthy album that was rooted with a sense of weightiness (both sonically and conceptually). Not only this, it was incredibly lengthy and winding from a compositional perspective, which was again a reflection on the labyrinthine, earthy subjects that the album tackles. Therefore, taking all of this into consideration, we consciously decided we wanted to do something very different and found our gaze wandering skywards. I found myself deliberating on the phenomenon of light travelling across the cosmos from celestial bodies that are unimaginable distances away from us here on earth – celestial bodies that may well have become extinct in the time it has taken for their light to reach our mortal, human eyes.

 This initial consideration really cemented the kernel of the avenue we wanted to explore and it was really this premise that underscores the album and indeed gave birth to the album title, ‘The Dead Light’. This is a very direct reference to the phenomenon outlined above – looking upon a window into the distant past, the light from long-dead entities still travelling through the fathomless void to ultimately deliver to us an image of something that no longer exists. From this central premise, the rest of the ideas for the album began to take shape – principally, mankind’s relationship with the cosmos and how this has impacted on the philosophy, theology and scientific thought since the dawn of civilization.  

 Musically, meanwhile, the decision was made to reflect this conceptual stance by creating material that was crystalline, spectral and sharper. It was also key for us to make the new songs more concise – with ‘Winter’, we felt we had taken our indulgent proggy streak more or less as far as it could go. None of us had any desire to simply make ‘Winter – the sequel’ or try and outdo ourselves on the winding ‘long song’ front as I think it would have crossed the line into over-indulgence. So, we set ourselves a new creative challenge – to say as much as we did before but in less time, to really focus on self-editing and brevity.

 For a band such as ourselves who have been writing very long songs since the very start, writing long songs actually isn’t all that difficult. Indeed, you have the freedom to have all the time in the world to basically let your message unfold and develop – the REAL challenge is keeping it brief, keeping the compositions and arrangements tight. We always want to push ourselves and therefore, this was a challenge we were fully up for attempting!”

What was the recording process like? Did you try anything new or different with the writing of the album compared to past albums?

“This album was recorded at Foel Studios with Chris Fielding (of Skyhammer Productions) overseeing the production/engineering. Foel is a place I’ve known about for some time – it is truly in the wilderness, set deep into the depths of the Welsh Countryside and the perfect place to escape from the multitude of distractions that life insists upon throwing at you. When the opportunity arose to record there, we had to take it! Chris is also someone I have been interested in working with for a while – his record speaks for itself after all – so to record with Chris at Foel was something of a dream arrangement.

 It was a real pleasure to record if I’m honest – the isolated setting made not only for total concentration/focus but also the splendor of the surrounding landscape helped inspire, gave us an additional impetus to really deliver. They were hard, long days, don’t get me wrong – there’s only three of us in the band and we all have to ensure that we put in our ‘A’ game – but they were productive, satisfying days. We spent a lot of time experimenting with effects pedals, different amps/tones etc. to ensure that what was ultimately put down on tape was the optimum expression of the sound we were trying to achieve.

 We did try some new things with this record – we worked with clicks for the first time ever, primarily to save a bit of time with the final tracking/editing process but also to ensure that the songs were as tight and as sharp as possible. Writing-wise, the songs very much came together as most Fen records do – myself and Grungyn composing most of the material individually in isolation and then bringing songs (or half-formed songs) to the rehearsal room to be worked on as a full band. As ever, some songs can evolve dramatically at this point in the process whereas others remain more or less as originally conceived. Of course, some rehearsal room improvisation/jamming contributed at points but one needs to be very disciplined with this approach – quite often, ‘jamming’ is a lot more enjoyable for the practitioners than it is for the listeners so a high degree of self-editing and awareness is needed! It can sometimes lead to some quite unexpected and welcome outcomes however so it can be a useful tool for composition when used correctly.”

IMG_6100 (1)

Photo Credit: Tom Huskinson

In your description of “The Dead Light”, you wanted to focus your efforts to the celestial skies above. What made you want to go in this direction instead?

“As I outlined earlier, if ‘Winter’ was an exploration of earth, death, burial and renewal then our drive with ‘The Dead Light’ was to undertake an approach that, whilst focusing on something that was the conceptual opposite in many respects, still encompassed a great deal of spirituality. Not only this, the fundamental bleakness at the heart of the human condition is a thread that runs through all of our releases so it is no different.

 That said, I’ve always been fascinated by the night sky, the mysteries of the universe and the fundamentals of the cosmos. Yes, most kids like ‘space’, that’s true – it appeals to the seeking, questing mind for a start and ultimately, how can something so vast, unexplored and quintessentially ‘alien’ to our terrestrial existence NOT be fascinating? For me, I’ve always looked at it from a more scientific angle I guess and indeed, did study elements of astrophysics as part of my degree.

 Ultimately, however, it is the vastness, the emptiness and the sheer mystery of the celestial aether that inspired me to explore these themes. In many ways, the depths of the cosmic voids are the ultimate embodiment of true bleakness – for a band that claims to channel a sense of bleakness through music, it only makes perfect sense to embrace such a topic!”

Fen have been in existence for over 12 years now, what lessons have you learned as a musician/artist since then?

“Many. Whilst all of us had band experience prior to Fen being formed, we have learned so, so much about how to conduct ourselves as individuals, musicians and (perhaps most importantly a collective) since Fen was originally conceived. The biggest lesson for me has been on the business side of things – and as crass as it sounds, it is only when people are actually showing a genuine interest in your band (as opposed to just being supported by mates etc.) that this really starts to rear its head. Sadly, as soon as any amount of ‘real’ money enters the equation, you need to have your wits about you – not only this; you need to stay strong, stand your ground and defend your art.

 We were probably guilty in the early days of under-selling ourselves; or perhaps not fully understanding the value of what it is we can bring to (for example) a live event. We are lot more confident now in what we do and what we can achieve – and in how we respect our own art. We will never undersell ourselves now and I think it is important for all bands to do this. As much as we all want to play shows or have albums printed/released, it is important to understand that labels, promoters etc. are all businesses at the end of the day. With this in mind, any discussions relating to gig booking, signings, releases, must be approached for what they are – business negotiations. It is vital to go in to such discussions with your eyes open and that you stand firm about what it is you expect. At the end of the day, if you do not respect your own art, how can you expect anyone else to do so? We’ve definitely learned this the hard way since we started.

 The other thing I have learned is to never rest on your laurels – never lose your edge or become complacent. Always work on improving in all facets of what you do – composition, musicianship, even just, in how you express lyrical concepts or think through your approach to bringing ideas to life. When a band has been going for a long time and has an established fan base, I can imagine that the temptation to sit back and ‘coast along’, getting by with ‘churning stuff out’ can be tempting. Not for me. After all, you are only as good as your last album or gig and the thought of somehow getting lazy or moving backwards terrifies me. It literally keeps me awake at night – and it should. Standards within the extreme metal scene are getting higher and higher – I try to attend as many gigs as I can, to check out new and up-and-coming bands, to see where the bar has been set. I need to be kept on my toes, to be pushed and to feel the continuing drive to excel and exceed previously set standards. And in my view, this should be the approach of any self-respecting artist!”

Fen_TheDeadLight_cover_art

What inspires you to come up with your incredible imagery in your lyrics as well as songwriting?

“I’m a bit of a sucker for a powerful metaphor I have to admit! I’m actually not much of a fan of ‘direct’ lyrics really – nor do I feel particularly confident in writing lyrics that express themes and ideas in a way that ISN’T shrouded in metaphor. That’s an important point for me – I am always conscious of trying to ensure that there is an interpretive quality to what we write, that it isn’t just a lecture or some sort of surface-level story. Layers, inference and subtext are absolutely key.

 So, given this, I think evocative – and occasionally unexpected – imagery is a powerful way of driving ambiance within our lyrics. It helps emphasize the drama inherent within the music whilst also (I hope) encouraging the listener to think a little, to start exploring ideas that aren’t initially obvious within the song and to add their own interpretive slant to what is being discussed. It is almost like painting with words in some respects and as I like to think our music/albums are very visual in many ways – after all, we spend a lot of time developing our album artwork/aesthetics – it is fundamental that the lyrics support this approach.

 Ultimately, the best lyrics act alongside the music to drive the listener ever deeper into the material – to truly resonate with what is being said as well as emphasizing or highlighting the drama of the song playing out. When these two elements synchronize harmoniously, that’s when I personally feel that Fen’s art is at its most compelling.

 And as with all of our writing, the inspiration often comes from within – a feeling, a notion, a state of mind that can often be emphasized by situation or circumstance. A bracing walk through the autumnal fens; a splendid hike through the mist-shrouded fells of the lake district; simply sipping a decent whisky at night in solitude can set the fires of inspiration burning!”

I have read in other interviews that Fen was first heavily influenced by Ulver and the Fields of Nephilim do both these bands still resonate with you now after all these years? What other bands have been influencing you as of late?

“Definitely – Fields of the Nephilim in particular are an absolute staple, one of the fundamental bands for me all these years later. There is just something absolutely magical about their first three full-length albums that remains undimmed by the passage of time. Ulver are similarly vital – ‘Bergtatt’ of course laying down the blueprint for this style of black metal nearly a quarter of a century ago!

 As for bands that I’ve been influenced by more recently, it’s hard to say. When I am composing music for Fen, I try to separate myself from what has generally been on my record deck as my goal is (as ever) to write from a ‘pure’ creative perspective, to channel an almost subconscious creative desire to realise the essence of Fen in musical form. And to be honest, I listen to such a wide and diverse selection of music that it wouldn’t always be appropriate – just recently, I’ve had W.A.S.P.’s ‘The Headless Children’ and Pond’s ‘The Weather’ nailed to the turntable which, great as they are, wouldn’t really be massively appropriate to dip into for inspiration!

 I guess one of the big discoveries over the last few years has been finally getting into Yob – a truly unique band with an absolutely unquestionable vision. Instantly recognizable, diverse, heavy (in the ‘right’ way!), excellent riff writing – Mike Scheidt is as close to a genius as we can get in this scene in my eyes. I’d say these guys are a real inspiration to me – forging an utterly distinctive musical path with such elegance and with just three guys to deliver it. Massive respect.

 Alongside this, I’ve been keeping my ears warmed with all sorts of stuff – plenty of 70s Yes, The Chameleons (another great guitarwave band from the 80s who have a massive impact on the shoegaze scene), the first Verve album, The Great Old Ones (excellent French post-black with Lovecraftian themes. It’s a diverse roster indeed and one that I’d like to think all helps inform how Fen ultimately expresses itself.”

Fen Kiev 2016 - 1

Lately many bands I have been hearing have been focusing on space and the universe is there a reason why metal bands (specifically Fen) have focused on these themes?

“It is a bit of a weird one – many bands have chosen to explore ‘spacey’ themes in the last year or so it has to be said! I’m not sure if it’s a pure coincidence or just simply the result of individuals despairing so deeply with what is taking place here on earth that they feel compelled to look to the heavens for some sort of solace…

 Like I explained earlier, I’ve always been fascinated by cosmological concepts since I was a child and it is something that has followed me as I have got older. I don’t see how it isn’t possible to be fascinated by this, frankly – there are so many avenues for exploration, so many incredible phenomena that lurk within the vastness of the universe (or even the multiverse if we want to go there…) that it strikes me as willful ignorance to simply disregard any consideration of the cosmos. Out there lie the very fundamental secrets and tenets to our existence here on our rather unremarkable planet orbiting a rather unremarkable star – something that may give some substance, meaning or context to the origins of life here.

 And beyond that, there are so many other phenomena we barely comprehend – dark matter, space/time, gravity, singularity – phenomena which underpin the very fabric of everything that surrounds us (after all, lest we forget, all matter we perceive on this planet was essentially born in the heart of a star). How is this NOT utterly compelling? And of course, given the type of characters who are attracted to the extreme metal genre, it’s no surprise that such concepts have so many willing enthusiasts within the scene. It’s an intoxicating mix of darkness, mystery, nihility (if one adheres to the theory that we are truly alone in a freezing, uncaring universe), violence, destruction and ultimately, sheer unknowable vastness. It’s a rich, rich wellspring for the metal mind to draw upon and such themes/concepts are perfectly delivered via the vessel of black metal I think.”

Fen has become one of the premiere black metal bands in the United Kingdom, do you think black metal in the UK is going in a positive direction or has it plateaued? In general, do you think black metal is an evolving genre or has it stagnated?

“You’ve asked two separate questions here really – firstly, has UK black metal plateaued? The answer from me is a resounding ‘no’ – indeed, it has never been healthier to my mind. There are so many new, up-and-coming bands forming at the moment who not only exhibit a real sense of considered definition and quality-control in their music/aesthetics but also demonstrate a real hunger and drive to succeed. The scene here just keeps getting stronger – it’s a far cry from the early days of it just being Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned and Thus Defiled being the sole flag bearers for the genre on the world stage.

 We have some acts from the UK now really cementing international reputations – Winterfylleth, Saor and A Forest Of Stars being the vanguard of those who underpin the quality of what has originated from this isle in the last fifteen years or so. But there are plenty of others who are now making names for themselves – all adopting their own unique take on the genre but being united by a sense of common purpose and a palpable drive to succeed. Notable acts include Aklash (excellently composed atmospheric BM), Wolvencrown (searing melodic BM), Abduction (harsh, nihilistic fury), Necronautical (riff-heavy and symphonic), The Infernal Sea (vivid aesthetics married to snarling old-school sonics), Thy Dying Light (monochromatic lo-fi aggression) – there are plenty of others. I’d urge you to spend some time digging through everything our scene has to offer.

 As for black metal itself stagnating? It’s hard to say – it’s a genre that has traditionally seen so much reinvention and genre cross-pollination that it has almost become synonymous with change and with evolution. What is interesting however is how conservative much of the fan base can be also – and if one were to take a bigger step back, have we REALLY seen any significant evolution in the last 15 or so years? The whole late-90s ‘weirding’ of Norway was clearly a time of real experimentation, however whilst we did get a handful of excellent records out of it, some of it has not aged well at all. The ‘black metal meets electronica’ thing of the early 2000s also has been (rightly) condemned to the dustbin of history, though someone had to give it a try I guess.

 I guess these were all exercises in establishing boundaries. I think what a lot of the ‘over-experimentation’ enabled was to define the parameters within which black metal could experiment and still retain its identity – and it is much more about uniqueness of atmosphere, authenticity and songwriting bravery but crucially, within the confines of the ‘traditional’ trappings of extreme metal. Some of what I consider to be the most forward-thinking acts of the last 10-15 years (Blut aus Nord, Deathspell Omega, The Ruins of Beverast) use the traditional ‘guitar/bass/drums/synth’ tools of the genre yet deploy them in such a way that makes them original and write material that is truly unique. In this, I can only see the genre continuing to evolve in this way, for more brave souls to continue to push at the edge of the compositional envelope.

 However, this is offset by what I can see in the conservatism that currently dominates the black metal mainstream – when bands like Mgla end up becoming one of the biggest outfits in the genre by essentially re-writing the same three-chord song seven times and calling it an album, you can’t help but ask some questions about stagnation creeping in somewhere! But I digress – black metal is an individual thing after all and I’m happy to leave this sort of thing to the festival crowds whilst seeking out those acts who are trying to push themselves and the genre forwards.”

Fen 12

What are some of your hobbies outside of music, tell us more about The Watcher as a person?

“Well, I’ll keep this relatively brief – I’m a bit enthusiast of craft beer and single malt whisky. Indeed, I think Scottish single-malt pot still whisky is the greatest drink conceived by human beings – it’s no exaggeration to state that it has been a very important part of the Fen creative process. It’s an evocative, invigorating spirit that carries with it a real sense of time, place and landscape. It has therefore accompanied many a late-night writing session – it’s a rare treat to kick back with the guitar, a glass of cask-strength Ardbeg and then look to summon atmospheric inspiration…

 Other than this, I also quite enjoy hiking across country, up hills and mountains and across rugged terrain. Given I live in the city, it’s not easy to get access to such landscape but we generally try and get away to the wilds once or twice a year.

 I also quite enjoy fantasy gaming – role-playing, tabletop/miniature games and card games. Yes, classic geekery and something that is far more prevalent in the black metal scene than many would like to admit. I know a LOT of folk who have rediscovered their love for miniature paining recently – I sadly don’t have the time to dedicate to it that I’d like but I try and reconnect once in a while!”

Has any movies, books or other mediums helped influence the music of Fen?

“Movies – not really. I enjoy watching films but much more as an escape or a distraction – a way of ‘switching off’ if you will – than as a genuinely artistic pursuit. I guess there’s only so much space in one’s brain and we all need our vices or ways to unwind. So film isn’t something for me that I take inspiration from in Fen.

 Books are a different matter I suppose. Again, I read a lot of escapist fantasy literature to relax, however I also spend a lot of time reading philosophical works also and some of thinking therein really helps with giving form and voice to the lyrics/concepts we like to express with our albums. It’s not something I have the mental energy to dig into all the time but when I can, I do dig into works by many of the existential and metaphysical writers in an attempt to try and add some structure/meaning/sense to my own worldview. Key writers include Hume, Kant, Wittgenstein, Russel – I have also dabbled in the works of Neiztche and Sartre but found these perhaps a little TOO opaque, though some of the key themes definitely resonated.

 Whilst the above are not directly referenced or drawn from as inspirational sources, they have been key in helping shape my thinking and my worldview – almost sitting behind what I do in Fen as some sort of inspirational ‘background radiation’ supporting the concepts and ideas we look to explore in our music.

 For ‘The Dead Light’, I have also drawn upon some of the more philosophical/outlandish theories that can crop up at the fringes of astrophysical considerations. Again, this has also been supported by some key writings that deal with the wider implications of a number of scientific theories – Tipler’s ‘The Physics of Immortality’ and Deutch’s ‘The Fabric Of Reality’ are intriguing reads, even if occasionally being a little questionable from a strictly scientific viewpoint. Nevertheless, these are fascinating subjects and any cursory read into metaphysics, astrophysical phenomena and transhumanism is sure to get the inspiration circuits firing.”

Reading more about your background you have your hand in many other musical projects, which ones are you focusing on as of late? Which projects should our readers focus on?

“At the moment, I think it is fair to say that I am only really involved in two ‘active’ musical outlets currently – Fen is of course one of these and the other is what is predominantly a solo outing, ‘Fellwarden’. The latter is an expressive outlet I commenced in around 2014 to give voice to a more sweeping, epic black metal sound that I had been yearning to undertake for some time. Havenless – who has been drumming in Fen since around 2016 – provides the drums for this and I was actually working with him in Fellwarden prior to his involvement with Fen.

 We have just completed work on the second Fellwarden full-length – the debut ‘Oathbearer’ came out in 2017 – and we started work more or less straight away after this so it’s taken a while to come together. That is understandable though as I’ve really pushed the material further on this record – more epic, more layers, a more ‘widescreen’ approach to the compositions. It also really digs deeper into the themes of the project, taking huge inspiration from the rearing landscapes of the Cumbrian fells of North Western England. I think it sounds great myself and I’m really looking forward to it finally seeing the light of day!

 This said, there are other possible things bubbling away – indeed, there has been talk that the long-awaited second De Arma record may finally see completion in 2020 – amongst other things. I guess you could say I like to keep busy!”

Fen - Stefan - Venue

Photo Credit: Stefan Raduta

Fen has done many shows and tours over the years, specifically which ones stood out to you most?

“In terms of individual shows, we have been quite lucky in some respects as we have had opportunities to play at some incredible venues in front of some amazing crowds. Prophecy Fest last year at Balver Hohle in Germany was one of these – the setting was absolutely mind-blowing, awe-inspiring and atmospheric. It was an absolute honour to play. Our set at Summer Sonnewald in Austria back in 2011 was also something special – playing on an Austrian mountainside as night descended and beacon pyres were set aflame in celebration was something else. And our show in Moscow in 2014 was also awesome – we didn’t know what to expect but the venue was great and the audience absolutely reveled in it. Playing in the US in 2012 was a rare treat also, we had a great time. All of these will live with me until my final day but there have been plenty of other great live experiences along the way also.

Tour-wise, the month we spent in Europe with Agalloch in 2013 was an incredible experience. A great bunch of guys for sure and we had such a good time with them – we also played some pretty cool shows along the way as well which helped!”

If you could describe the music of Fen to someone who may not be familiar with the sound how would you describe it?

“Man, I get asked this now and then (normally by curious ‘normal’ people) and it’s so difficult to accurately sum up to the uninitiated I fear! I guess it would be along the lines of ‘atmospheric yet furiously raging metal music, shot through with palpable sorrow and a sense of the ethereal’. Is that pretentious enough do you think?”

Finally, do you have any parting words for our readers?

“Thanks for taking the time to read this and for checking out our music!”

IMG_2735

Bandcamp: https://fenuk.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fenofficial

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2rZmcCq

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/FenBandUK

 

 

An Interview with Dan Capp of Wolcensmen

Wolcensmen

Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

Seemingly out of nowhere I heard about a band called Wolcensmen out of the United Kingdom. I remember I was requesting recommendations on Metal Archives for bands that have a mysterious, pastoral, or woodsy sound and one person recommended them. I come to find out that Wolcensmen is the dark folk project of Dan Capp from Winterfylleth. Being a big fan of Winterfylleth I just had to get my hands on this project. I first bought “Songs from the Fyrgen” and when I heard the album I was blown away about how much it fit the pastoral/woodsy vibes I was itching for in music at that time. As time pressed on Dan Capp announced a new Wolcensmen album called “Fire in the White Stone” I immediately pre ordered the album on CD and vinyl. He also included a short story that ties the whole album together. Dan kept in contact with me about the shipping updates for the items, so we started emailing back and forth. I then asked if he would be interested in doing an interview for my blog. He graciously accepted and after weeks of going back and forth I can now show all you readers our in-depth conversation. I also wanted to acknowledge my friend Annie Cúglas who contributed some questions to this interview with Dan Capp. Their questions and answers are italicized so you can differentiate between the two.

I hope you enjoy this interview about metal, heathenism, inspiration, the runes and everything else in between. “Fire in the White Stone” is out now, I highly recommend giving the album a listen it is a masterwork and worth the time to listen to by the fireplace at night. Make sure you have a glass of fine bourbon in hand and get lost in the world Wolcensmen has created…

Dan Capp

Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

Could you tell us the origins of the Wolcensmen project? What made you come up with the name and the concept?
“The earliest spark of inspiration goes back to my teenage years, when I was first exposed to overtly atmospheric, dark music, but the more definitive moment of intent was in 2010 when I was on tour, in a pub in Dublin watching a folk band play. I wondered to myself why such a sight was less commonplace in England, so I decided I could have a go at making some folk-ish music based around the themes of English mythology and spirituality. When I returned home from tour I began composing initial ideas.
The name evolved over quite a while (whilst the demo took shape, with no sense of urgency). I always loved the word ‘welkin’ – which I’d first come across from the title of Emperor’s second album – and came up with the idea of ‘binding’ it together with the word ‘kinsmen’. So the initial project name was ‘Welkinsmen’. After a while, I began to rethink that a little; ‘Welkin’ is the Middle-English form of the Old-English ‘wolcen’; it means ‘heavens’ or ‘clouds’. And because the themes were going to be overtly pre-Christian, I felt that I should use the more archaic form of the word. It lost the ‘kinsmen’ component as a result, but gained something just as powerful: ‘Cen’ is the English rune name representing the torchlight of community and guidance, and is almost certainly connected, etymologically, to the word ‘kin’. The Wolcensmen bindrune embodies the features of the name: The Tiw rune for sky, two Cen runes for kinship and guidance, and the Mæg (men) rune. Wolcensmen, in a sense, means ‘men of the heavens’, or ‘men of the clouds’ – both of which are fitting for the themes I explore and convey.”

As I was reading other interviews I noticed you have been heavily influenced by the 90s black metal scene, how did you first get into the scene and how has 90s black metal influenced your creativity?
“I was introduced to black metal in the late ‘90s by some slightly older friends from school. I’ve been in love with the spirit of the genre ever since, sometimes inexplicably (given that I have no interest in Satanism). Where I grew up, near High Wycombe, England, there was a tangible connection to the second-wave Scandinavian scene in that it’s where Lee Barrett, founder of Candlelight Records is from. I knew of Lee early on, and by sheer chance later became good friends with him.
Black metal is absolutely responsible for the formation of Wolcensmen. It was the dark atmospheres and pagan-mystical themes of black metal which introduced me to the themes and philosophies I explore with Wolcensmen. The acoustic or synth-driven interludes (and in some instances, full albums) that black metal bands used to compose really captured my imagination. The spirit of those melodies and sounds almost re-programmed me on a spiritual level, and I experimented with acoustic compositions of my own. Fast-forward to about 2010 and I felt there was too little of this music and atmosphere being made anymore, and that perhaps I could do something about that.”

I also noticed that Wolcensmen is often lumped into the Neofolk scene; are you a fan of this style of music and do you personally think it has helped with your ideas as a musician?
“It’s a strange one this. I would say ‘no, I’m not a fan’, but it really depends on how one defines ‘neo-folk’. To me it always specifically referred to that breed of simplistic, ‘strummy’ acoustic act; Examples being Death in June and Sol Invictus. It was the more neo-classical leanings of Ulver, Empyrium and Dead Can Dance which inspired me, and so it was strange when I started to see people labelling Wolcensmen ‘neo-folk’. It doesn’t bother me, ultimately. Labels cannot change what music is, nor what its spirit is.”

Annie: How much of your influence comes from Scandinavian post-metal projects (Ulver, Hedingarna and Wardruna) versus specifically English folk music (The Watersons, Sol Invictus, Skyclad)? Do you consider Wolcensmen an English version of what’s coming from Scandinavia, or coincidentally parallel to developments there?
“That’s an interesting question. I’m not familiar with Hedingarna, but Ulver are a particularly key influence, and Wardruna also as I followed Einar Selvik’s work from Gorgoroth through Jotunspor and the origins of Wardruna. Wardruna’s influence on me is mainly vocal, in that many of my other influences tend to be mostly instrumental. I know a little bit of Sol Invictus and Skyclad, and the only English folk acts I can really claim to be familiar with are Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention. I actually don’t feel that Wolcensmen is a ‘folk’ band, even if others do. I love most folk music I hear, but the impetus to do what I do came mainly from a desire to create the sort of epic, mystical atmospheres I heard in Summoning, Forefather, Bathory and Satyricon… but with a different sonic palette.
England is where I’m from, and I’ve never been much good at feigning who I am, or what my passions are. English Mysticism is it! There are enough non-Scandinavians pretending to be Scandinavian these days.”

When I hear both “Songs from the Fyrgen” and “Fire in the White Stone” nature is a huge element to your imagery and the overall sound. What drew you to write such mystical and mysterious music? How did you build a strong spiritual connection to nature?
“It’s simple really: I feel nowhere more content and at peace than wandering among woodlands, hills and shorelines away from the urban sprawl. In my youth, my friends and I would spend our Friday nights lugging a few bottles of beer and a portable stereo up to some nearby woods, building a fire, and sitting there soaking up the atmosphere whilst listening to Dark Medieval Times, Orkblut, Nightshade Forests, Blood On Ice or Morningrise. Going back further still, my grandfather retired in the Forest of Dean and we’d visit him regularly when I was young; he’d take us for long walks through the forest, crossing rocky streams and scaling mossy boulders. I feel like I’m being very cliché, because it’s not exactly original for a black metal fan to glorify wild natural places, but it is nevertheless an important truth for me: I love unspoilt nature and feel perpetually drawn to it.”

In “Fire in the White Stone” you included the release with a short story that directly ties with the album, what made you want to run with this unique approach to the new album?
“It wasn’t a particularly conscious plan. I just wanted a strong concept for the album’s lyrics and moods, but the concept became so fleshed out and detailed that I got to a point where I realised to do it justice, I’d have to write a short-story to accompany the album. I recorded the album nearly one year before it was released, so I knew that I’d have time to pen the story before it went to press. Wolcensmen has taught me one thing about myself: I don’t like to do things by halves. I don’t take the success of Wolcensmen for granted, and I’m not here to make casual, throwaway albums which people listen to once or twice. I have an opportunity I never expected to have, and that’s to make well-produced albums that will be heard by thousands of people. A lot of music gets released every day, in every genre, and I want Wolcensmen to stand as a monument of depth and quality among it all.”

Reading notes on the album on your Bandcamp page you said you wrote the story to get a philosophical message across to your audience. What is the philosophy you were going for in the conception of “Fire in the White Stone”?
“Well, it’s not singular, and I don’t want to go into depth about all of the energies and philosophies present in ‘Fire in the White Stone’. What I will say is that the overall message is one of growth and encouragement. The protagonist in the story is sort of the ‘everyman’ – certainly the ‘every disillusioned man’ – who finds his potential by stepping out of his comfort zone. I’ve studied Alchemy a bit in recent years (the theory, not the practice) and it’s not merely the mundane act of transforming lead into gold, but of transforming anything lesser into its greater potential. This applies on a human-individual level as well as on a societal level. As pretentious as this may sound, ‘Fire in the White Stone’ is designed to be an initiatory experience, musically and thematically. Anyone who truly engages with the music, the story and artwork will find some answer to the question of how they can better their existence. The teachings aren’t mine – they’re the combined wisdom of thousands of years, conveyed through the runes, Alchemists, philosophers and storytellers. I sort of condensed what I’ve discovered into this relatively concise artistic presentation.”

Wolcensmen_EmblemWhite

It seems like the main character is very much a symbol and metaphor of yourself, but is there a story behind meeting someone that is similar to the old farmer?
“No, the farmer really represents recent generations of western men, who were tough, salt-of-the-earth, masculine men but have become domesticated as western comforts set in. Or perhaps, in a sense, he represents western masculinity which has weakened over the course of the last few generations. And by the way, when I talk about ‘masculinity’, I don’t refer to what some people choose to call ‘toxic masculinity’. A real man is just, fair, respectful and honest.”

Were you trying to use a lot of Norse symbolism in the story line? As well as the characters introduced/involved in the story?
“Yes, though I’d politely correct you in that the symbolism belongs to the wider Teutonic (and Celtic) corpus. For example, the swans are closely related to the German ‘Alcis’, and the swan associations of the King Arthur and Lohengrin legends. Some of the symbolism is more commonly associated with Scandinavian lore, such as the Norns, the dwarves who uphold the four corners of the world. Some of it is specifically English, such as the Kalc rune, but a lot of it is common to wider Indo-European and even global mythology.”

What made you come up with the idea of the Swans of Gar’s Edge? You gave them quite an interesting description what is the significance behind them?
“Around the time that I made the Wolcensmen demo in 2013 I had a particularly vivid dream featuring two giant swans. It wasn’t until years later that I understood that this dream was in some way connected to the formation of Wolcensmen and my calling to make something of this musical project. There is an autobiographical aspect to ‘Fire in the White Stone’ and the Swans of Gar’s Edge are a key component of that. At the risk of getting into areas of discussion more spiritual and esoteric than some readers might be comfortable with, the swans demanded something of me and rewarded me in turn. But it’s not a concept specific to me; All of us (who believe in forces beyond the empirical) can connect with these hidden forces to unlock our individual potential.”

When I read the story it really reminds me of the old folk tales about the fae folk, do you do a lot of research on faerie lore and how important are those tales to you?
“I’ve read a number of English and Celtic folk tales, and am particularly familiar with anything that comes to us from an overtly Heathen culture (such as the Icelandic Sagas). I understood early on that the fae folk are intrinsic to the north-west European equivalent of Shamanism and, as mentioned in the answer to your previous question, our willingness to interact with these unseen forces is an important, forgotten principle which I personally try to employ in my life wherever possible.”

As I read the story the protagonist just decided to wander into the woods and the story unfolded from there, what is your take on this kind of symbolism/metaphor?
“It’s a typical, generic basis for an iteration of the ‘Hero’s Journey’, where an unassuming, disenchanted person finds themselves on an accidental journey and discovers something about (or for) themselves or their society as a result. That’s the basic meaning of it. There is another layer which is more specific to the – for lack of a better term – subculture that I and most Wolcensmen listeners are part of. Most of us here are disillusioned with modern existence and seek to enhance the depth and beauty of our existence somehow – usually through immersion in very escapist, otherworldly music, film and literature. The protagonist in a sense represents the conformist finding his way to nonconformity, and some of the dialogue early in the story attempts to convey this.”

Is there a personal significance to the actual fire in the white stone mentioned in the tale? What were you trying to convey with that object?
“This is something I’d like the reader to ponder for themselves, having come to understand the wider context of the story. Anyone who’s read the story and still isn’t sure, I would respond to them with the question: What has fire and light always represented in countless myths through mankind’s history? Why is fire so important to Zoroastrians? What is the extent of sun worship, and why? Why will the avatar Kalki’s sword be ablaze? Why does the Yule ritual consists of bringing fire into the home?”

Photo By: Daniel Walmsley

I also noticed you worked with quite a few great artists to help you conceive “Fire in the White Stone” how did you specifically build your relationships with Aslak Tolonen of Nest and Jake Rogers of Visigoth/Gallowbraid? I cannot picture better contributing artists than those two!

You’re right – I’ve been very fortunate to befriend Jake and Aslak. I’ve known Jake since before I made the Wolcensmen demo in 2013, through working with him on some designs. We soon found a lot of musical common-ground and when I’d recorded the demo I asked if he was interested to hear it. He loved it and told me he played the flute, and should I ever want flute on future compositions he’d be glad to help. I took him up on the offer for the first album, ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ and when it came to writing ‘Fire in the White Stone’ I couldn’t fathom it being devoid of flute. It’s an instrument which brings an ethereal, very-human texture.
As for Aslak: His projects Nest and Syven are a big influence, but I didn’t properly make his acquaintance until last year, though I know he was a fan of the first album when it was newly released. I arranged a Wolcensmen release-show for the reissue of ‘Songs from the Fyrgen’ in 2018 and had seen Aslak announcing his readiness to play concerts on Facebook. He’d never performed in the UK before so I thought it was a great opportunity to bring him over. The show was amazing – a real night to remember. Aslak and his wife stayed with me and we got on well. I asked if he might add a little bit of kantele to my new album and he kindly obliged.”

I am also curious how you built your relationship with John A. Rivers (Dead Can Dance’s producer) what is the story behind meeting him and how did you get him to buy into your vision of “Fire in the White Stone”?
“Well, it was purely business to begin with. I’d initially arranged to record with Markus Stock of Empyrium, in Germany. Sadly, that fell through and I was left wondering who else could do a great job with the album. In a moment of madness, or genius, I thought I’d look up who produced the classic Dead Can Dance albums, and to see if they were still working. I sent John an email and to my astonishment we managed to work something out. He liked the sound of the project and was excited to work with me. The rest is recent history. Initially I didn’t share too much with him about the themes and nature of the project – I just wanted to get across to him the sonic qualities and atmospheres I wanted to achieve. He was very attentive and accommodating, and by the end of the project I really felt it had became a labour-of-love. I do believe he’s very proud of his involvement with the album, and that’s a real honour for me.”

Annie: Do you feel like there has been a shift from lo-fi black metal to more sophisticated styles of music that has roots in black/death/doom metal (neofolk, acoustic, ambient, synth work and drone)? Do you think the average metal fan has matured to be more open-minded to these styles of music instead?
“That’s an interesting topic of discussion. The growth in popularity of (for lack of a better term) ‘Viking’ music has been phenomenal in recent years, with metal musicians and fans flocking to acquire nyckelharpas and tunics. But (what is now termed) ‘dungeon synth’ has existed since the early ‘90s. Prophecy Productions has a long history of releasing dark folk and neoclassical music to a predominantly metal audience, and when I first got into black metal there was already an appreciation for industrial, classical and even dark pop and rock music. I think the only thing that has really changed is that widespread elitism has died down, so that people now perhaps take more pride in being receptive to other genres. Wardruna came along at just the right time to tap into a desire for more traditional sounds and styles, and that’s probably moreso a subconscious reaction against the digital, material age than it is evidence of changing tastes.”

Annie: In your opinion how much of Wolcensmen is celebrating a lost past versus generating a timeless present?
“Another good question, causing me to ponder hard. If we consider that technological advancement evolves at an accelerating pace (officially, they say there’s been more technological development in the last 150 years than in the preceding 1 million) then the pre-Industrial way-of-life can rightly be viewed as the more ‘timeless’ state of affairs. So in a way, I see the pre-Industrial era as being timeless, and when I reach to celebrate one, I celebrate the other. The only constants in the history of human existence are things like religion, community, struggle, inter-human relations and our relationship with the natural world. Digital screens, junkfood, bank loans and most modern comforts are but a blip in the timeline.
What I wish to celebrate with Wolcensmen, thematically, are the fundamental truths, mysteries and needs of human existence. The beautiful things which we instinctively know to be good because of our emotional reaction to them. No healthy human is genuinely moved by the release of the latest iPhone, but we are moved by the development of a child’s speech or the sight of a mountain range.”

wolcensmen

What are some other interests you have outside of music? And what have you been listening to for music and bands lately?
“I’m keen on health and fitness, exercising regularly and eating wholesome food. I also like to read non-fiction, to expand my understanding of the world – particularly with regards to existential, spiritual and historical matters. I have a lot of responsibilities, so my leisure time is pretty slim these days. Music is the only ‘hobby’ I have any significant time for.
My favourite recent releases are: Deus Mortem – Kosmocide, Atlantean Kodex – The Course of Empire, Aelfric – Mimir’s Mead, Dautha – Brethren of the Black Soil, Crypt Sermon – The Ruins of Fading Light and Bilskirnir – In Solitary Silence. I’m also never far from sticking on an album by Bathory, Dead Can Dance, Loreena McKennitt, Dissection, Forefather or any of the classic Norwegian black metal albums.”

If you could describe Wolcensmen’s music to someone who may not be familiar with your music what would you say?
“I would tell them that it’s something that needs to be listened to in a state of peace, on headphones or a quiet setting. I would tell them to let the atmosphere lead the way. It’s acoustic, at times epic, cinematic, dark, a deliberate representation of pre-Industrial north-western Europe, designed to take the listener there whilst hopefully also standing as a collection of finely composed, diverse songs.”

And finally, do you have any closing words for our readers and do you see yourself doing some shows in the United States in the future?
“Honestly, no I don’t – not because I don’t want to but because the cost of VISAs, and bringing Wolcensmen to the stage anywhere, are fairly high. I would sincerely love to come and play some shows in America, and if a booking agent wants to help me do that, please get in touch.
To the reader – thanks for your interest and support. It sometimes feels like a miracle that something as sincere and niche as Wolcensmen has been this successful. I’ve never had to compromise or pretend, and I plan to keep it that way. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m very grateful to have had so much support from true music fans.”

Bandcamp: https://wolcensmen.bandcamp.com/

Official Page: https://wolcensmen.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wolcensmen/

A Conversation with Jori Apedaile of Eneferens

logo

Eneferens is an up and coming one-man metal project out of Minnesota, the brainchild behind the band is Jori Apedaile. The best way I can describe his music as a fan is beautiful, resonating, and very introspective in nature. Jori just released his new album “The Bleakness of Our Constant” that came out earlier in November it is a fantastic album full of great ideas and very relatable lyrics/imagery. He took some time to do an interview with me about the new album and the origins/motivation behind Eneferens. I learned a lot about who Jori is and what motivates him to create such beautiful and sorrowful music.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, firstly can you give our readers an idea of the concept and origin story behind Eneferens?

 The project started in the winter of 2015. I had quit all of the bands I was in previously to move to a different city, and inspiration for a new sound emerged with the change in my surroundings. The name Eneferens came to me in a dream one night, and I dissected the root words to form a definition: To carry within one’s self. That resonated deeply with what I was trying to do, and things developed from there.”

What is your creative process in writing your music? Are you more spontaneous or meticulous in putting your ideas together?

 It’s definitely a balance of both. I often start writing a song with something completely out of the blue, but I often have a strong sensibility and can map out where the song needs to go. Other times I surprise myself. I make a strong point to not repeat myself or develop too many songwriting habits, and some of the experimentation trying to steer clear from that has been fairly successful.

When I am I reading your lyrics there is such a sense of melancholy, and themes of love lost how do you conceptualize your lyrics to make them so simply profound?

 Lyrics are by far the most difficult part of the writing process for me because the music already says so much. That’s a very tough question to answer, because I essentially just ponder a lot, and dig deep into what I’m feeling and just hope that something of value will come out.”

Enef1

Photo By: Todd Farnham

Nature also plays a part in your themes and imagery why are these metaphors so important to the image of Eneferens?

 The approach to the whole project is to create beautiful and dynamic music. Nature is by far the most beautiful and dynamic thing, so it very easily translates in the music that I make.”

Specifically in “The Bleakness of Our Constant” what made you come up with this title for you newest output?

“Coming up with the title took me a very long time. It was difficult for me to find a name to bring these tracks together because they are all pretty different from one another. I revisited my lyrics and the very last line of Weight of the Mind’s Periapt jumped out at me: The Bleakness Of Our Constant. That was it. To me, the title represents continuing on in a trajectory that is uncertain, can be bleak and difficult, but there is always that stubborn determination to keep going in hopes that things will get better.”

I noticed the sigils on the album artwork what is the significance behind them?

“The sigil is essentially the earth and the sky joined by a very frail thin line. It represents a very delicate sense of balance. Balance is very important in the creation of my music, so I think it is a fitting image to accompany this new record.”

Which bands/artists are you most influenced by and why? Secondly what acts are you currently listening to at this moment?

“I am all over the map. Regardless of what genre an artist is, the ones that influence me the most are those that perfectly convey emotions that I can strongly resonate with. Some of the strong influences that can be found in Eneferens are early Opeth, Alcest, Katatonia (all of their discography), Rapture, and Kauan. Some artists that have emotionally inspired me but don’t necessarily translate in my sound are The National, Neuman, Hundred Waters, Sufjan Stevens, and London Grammar. My music wouldn’t be the same without them even though they’re far from metal. I’ve been listening to a wide variety of music lately: Fleurety, Lantlos, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, mid-discography Ulver, Camel, the list goes on.”

JWA_0322small

Photo By: Jori Apedaile

It seems like the reception has been quite positive for Eneferens, how do you feel about this?

 I am very grateful for how well things are being received. It’s very validating, and it means a lot to hear that people are connecting to the music on an emotional level.”

There are so many new, interesting and compelling acts in the metal scene these days. Do you think the metal scene has seen a renaissance?

 No, not necessarily. I think things have progressed fairly naturally in the sense that so much has been done before already and that forces bands to either come up with something very unique, or try to do the same thing but better than the last band. It is an exciting time for metal though because some real creativity is emerging in order to stand out.”

After researching, I noticed you do your live shows by yourself how has that been and do you see yourself adding live members to Eneferens in the future?

 Playing live by myself has been very empowering and it has been received well. I did a northwest U.S. tour earlier this year and a common comment was that they were impressed how big the sound was for just one person. I would eventually like to put together a full live band to make the experience more captivating. We will see what happens in the future.”

Enef3

Photo By: Jori Apedaile

If you could describe Enenferens to someone who may not be familiar with your music how would you best describe it?

It’s a combination of many of my influences- black metal, doom, shoegaze, folk. As cheesy as it is, I sometimes call it “beautiful metal” because that’s really what it is. Strong melodies, dissonance when necessary, plenty of atmosphere and a very delicate balance of light and dark.”

Do you have any parting thoughts for our readers?

“Never fear to be different! The best things of all are always one of a kind. Cheers.”

Bandcamp: https://eneferens.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/eneferens/

 

A Conversation with Dis Pater of Midnight Odyssey

midnightodyssey logo

Midnight Odyssey is a one man musical entity out Australia, I can best describe the music as epic, sprawling, pensive and spiritual sounding. I was so interested  in the immersive music of Midnight Odyssey that I wanted to interview the man behind the project Dis Pater. He more than graciously answered a series of questions about what made him conceive this timeless and memorable aural journey to the stars . I learned a lot about his creative process and the symbolism behind the music. I hope after you read this interview you will take a chance and listen to his latest endeavor “Silhouette of Stars” which is a compilation of unreleased tracks from different  Midnight Odyssey eras.

midnight_odyssey_promo_pic

Photo by Ales Gillies and Francesco Gemelli

Could you tell us about the origin stories of Midnight Odyssey and Death Comes Crawling?

“Midnight Odyssey was a concept I had started back around 1999, when I began writing ‘black metal’ music, although it was only on an acoustic guitar. Soon I had saved up to buy an electric guitar and keyboard and soon was able to make rough recordings. I even experimented with a bit of synth music around 2003 but it was quite crude. I spent many years just writing stuff for my own amusement until I thought I might try and put something out to the public in 2007. That’s really when Midnight Odyssey truly began.”

From prior interviews I have read you came up with the moniker of Dis Pater as a symbol of the Roman god of Death. Why is the concept and symbolism of Death so important to the creation of Midnight Odyssey/Death Comes Crawling?

“For me death is the one certainty in life. It is one of a few things that we all have in common, it spans generations, eons, species, even things that by definition don’t live can still die. It is something that relates to everyone, most of us have experienced it, a lot of us fear it.”

As I listen to your projects I get such a sense of vastness, I am reminded of Big Sky Country in the US as I hear your music. Geographically does Australia hold a major influence in your creativity?

“I think the many different forms of geography in Australia, even close to where I live, does play a big part in my writing. I guess in my mind when I write about a forest I’m probably thinking about European forests, but it is the Australian rainforest that would be physically influencing what I write and relate to. But in many ways, things like caves, mountains, waterfalls, even just the sky itself are all contributing factors to me, so again, it’s all from my viewpoint here in Australia.”

There is so much symbolism of space, time, and mortality throughout all your music. Why are these ideas metaphorically significant to your creative process?

“I think these are the key factors of existence. I don’t like to write music that is tied to a time specific moment, so there are no reference to things like phones, tvs, movies, cars, guns, etc. It’s something that doesn’t change even as technology changes. Space and time will affect us and have affected us since the beginning, and will continue to affect us right up until the end. The past for me is the most important, because humanity never really changes, everything we need to know has already happened in one way or another.”

Being a one man band I think there is a lot of freedom found in this format, have you ever thought of adding others to help you develop your vision/themes (specifically in Midnight Odyssey)?

“No I’ve never really considered it for my metal projects. Guest musicians sure, but to turn it into a band is something I’m only considering with Death Comes Crawling. For me Midnight Odyssey would probably ruined if it were on a stage. I don’t think of it as music where people head bang or fist pump the air, where stage lights flash and people applause or banter. It’s really not what Midnight Odyssey is about, it’s as far removed from humanity as it possibly can be.”

You mentioned you were looking into band mates for Death Comes Crawling is there a thought of doing this band live?

“Quite possibly yes. It wouldn’t take much in terms of other people at all, but for me the real issue is time, as I’m very busy with personal and work life. It’s something that I would want to focus on 100%, not kind of stumble my way into it. I think too the style of music is far more worthy of a live setting than anything else I’ve done.”

While hearing your albums there is a huge dark wave vibe going on with the vocals and music of Midnight Odyssey in some moments (even in The Crevices Below) which in turn made you create Death Comes Crawling, what do you like most about dark wave music and why is this style so significant in your albums?

“Well I almost simultaneously got into that music at the same time as metal. For me the two went hand in hand, they were darker in tone, they were about more meaningful things, like death, more emotional and just generally weren’t popular forms of music. It was never about being a guitar god for me, it was creating something through sound that represented what I was feeling, engaging the darker more sinister thoughts within me and finding an avenue to bring those thoughts out. These concepts aren’t unique to metal by any means, and dark wave and other styles like classical music create just the same unique experiences.”

What are some bands/musicians you have been listening to lately? And do you recommend any other dark wave acts that our readers should look into?

“I’ve been listening a lot to the Ancient Records releases, and also the recent Mare and One Tail, One Head. For dark wave, well, I think the best of the most recent bands have been Drab Majesty!”

Also researching prior interviews I noticed you are heavily influenced by Dead Can Dance, I can see their influence in your music what about them stands out most to you? And are there any other acts that have the same significance in your creative process?

“Dead Can Dance embody something that is otherworldly. It is hypnotic, it is mystical and it transports you as the listener into another age. They use ancient instruments as well as new, and Lisa Gerrard’s voice to me is the epitome of beauty and danger. Similarly, Arcana are another that followed that path of sound and who have influenced just as much, particularly for their more dark medieval sound and are perhaps my favourite of all the other neoclassical bands that came out during the 90s and after. But a lot of the old Cold Meat Industry stuff like Ildfrost, Mortiis, and Raison d’être are up there as well.”

 

dispater

What are your thoughts and feelings of the current metal scene? I have noticed more and more creative bands come through on the regular. Do you think the scene is in a good place right now?

“I think the metal scene is healthy, but there are just too many bands. I think maybe it is a little too mainstream, well at least black metal is creeping into popular society more and more. It’s become appealing to casual audiences and I think that is where a lot of problems will happen. But otherwise, I don’t think metal has anything to be worried about. The only thing is over the next ten years when a lot of the older bands will have gone, either through members dying or just breaking up because they are too old, there has to be bands to come in and fill the void.”

Specifically how has the metal scene been in Australia? Has your projects been getting a lot of support locally?

“The metal scene is okay. I don’t have a lot to do with it.  There is some support in Australia for me, but I think my bigger audiences are in Europe and the States. It’s quite diverse, in the fact that I can go to three gigs and see mostly three different crowds of people who I haven’t seen before. But I’m not really into keeping up appearances as such. There are those that I like and though we may not see each other often, we remain supportive of each other’s works and outputs.”

Have you ever got a chance to visit the United States? Are there any specific states or areas you would like to experience to help you develop your ideas and themes of your projects?

“I’ve never visited the United States and to be honest, I think the only place I would travel to specifically to develop any ideas as such would be the volcanoes in Hawaii, as that is something we don’t have in Australia. Everything else would be purely holiday.”

Are you currently working on any new material for Midnight Odyssey or Death Comes Crawling?

“I am working on quite a few things related to Midnight Odyssey at the moment, but it is too early to go into detail about that. I haven’t really got anything else started for Death Comes Crawling just yet, as the bonus track on the CD that is soon to be released was the last thing I had worked on.”

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of your music?

“Well I read a lot of ancient and medieval history books, and latin and greek literature and poetry. It  feeds the lyrical and conceptual side of Midnight Odyssey quite well. Most of my spare time is taken up with music and collecting really.”

And finally do you have any parting words for our readers and how would best describe your music to someone who may not be familiar with your work?

“Thank you for taking the time to read this interview, and I hope you can make the time to listen to some of my output. I’d suggest headphones, at night, alone, looking up towards the stars and planets.”

Hubble Goes High Def to Revisit the Iconic 'Pillars of Creation'

Bandcamp: https://i-voidhangerrecords.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/midnightodyssey/

Official Page: https://midnightodysseyofficial.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dis_pater_official/

Imperium Dekadenz Interview

impdek_zps25aa0e03

Imperium Dekadenz have been around for 10+ years writing some incredible black metal that is both unique and very introspective in nature. When I found out about them I noticed their albums were highly reviewed and to no surprise when I heard their album “Dis Manibvs” my mind was blown about how good, powerful and emotional it sounded. So many images came to my mind when hearing the album. I really wanted to know more about how Imperium Dekadenz came up with their concept as well as inspirations for songwriting. Horaz (vocals, guitars and keyboards) one half of the band took time out of his busy day to answer my questions. He has some great answers and really sheds light into the whole process of what makes Imperium Dekadenz write stellar albums consistently.

Firstly, since releasing “Dis Manibvs” the reaction so far has been positive, what do you think of the recognition you are receiving as of late?

Horaz: That album ended up being an immense amount of work (next to our daily jobs and businesses). Besides the time and money we invested in it there were also many emotions that took over in the recording process.. Of course it feels good to get that recognition from all these people around the world. We feel our message was understood and if we read reviews like your’s we are happy that we are able to create such intense emotions and mind-images.

Can you describe to the readers what made you conceptualize the ideas of “Dis Manibvs’? Is there any specific or interesting moments that happened when you recorded the album?

Horaz: The title is Latin and means “To the Gods of Death”. I had that idea when I went to the Emperor Nero exhibition in Trier (Germany) and found all these Roman tombstones signed with “D.M.” or “Dis Manibus” (also used with Dis Manibus Sacra). It came to my thought that our whole life is geared on death (hopefully the correct expression, hehe) and somehow it could be understood as the meaning of life, as our hope is to have a good death. The concept of the album has different scenarios handling that topic with different experiences, views and stories.

What is the creative process like for Imperium Dekadenz? And what made you come up with the name “Imperium Dekadenz”?

Horaz: Vespasian and myself start with a new song separately and if the main structure is done the other one is adding his ideas on to it. The good thing here is that it gives us various options we can run with, because if for example Vespasian does not like a new idea of mine the song will be discarded or completely revised. I think it is important that you only start the songwriting if your heart has really something to say. Meaning, you cannot force the creation of a good song, there must be a kind of salvation to put your emotions and thoughts into it. The name is inspired by the 70s movie “Caligula”. It’s about the Roman Emperor Caligula and his cruelties in ancient Rome. We love history and especially ancient history including the Romans, Greeks, Celts, Egyptians, Germans and other tribes, but it is not any main concept of the band.

dismanibvs

When I listen to your albums I get a huge sense of triumph and even closure in the albums I have heard. Did you intentionally write your music this way? What made you want give the music such a powerful and emotional resonance?

Horaz: To answer that question is similar to answer on the question “how magic happens?”, hehehe. Certainly it is the mixture of the different characteristics of Vespasian and me and also our different tastes and inspirations. As I already said, the most important point is to create emotional art if your heart has really something to say. The foundation of each song has to be an emotional expression of a moment in your life, the hard work comes later for the details. Maybe it is also an advantage that we start the songwriting separated. I do not know if it would be the same to create a song together with 5 band members in a rehearsal room.

When listening to “Dis Manibvs” it immediately reminded me of the many various styles of black metal from Depressive, Cascadian (Wolves in the Throne Room/Agalloch) to classic Scandinavian 90s black metal, in your opinion what black metal category would you place Imperium Dekadenz?

Horaz: It is dark, rough, atmospheric and emotional art, based on 90s Norwegian Black Metal and Doom Metal. We listen to Metal for over 20 years now, starting with demos and Cannibal Corpse cassettes on the playground to the point of obsession. Also many YouTube sessions thru all the genres and other music influences on Vespasian’s couch. I think it is correct, you can hear many influences, but on the other hand there is absolutely no band that sounds like Imperium Dekadenz.

The United States black metal scene is always growing and changing as the years go by, in your opinion what do you think of the state of black metal and even metal today, specifically in the United States?

Horaz: To be honest I have no overview of the US scene. I am not a typical scene character. I am more interested in the art itself instead of the bands and the guys behind it. My experience is that you are often disappointed if you meet any band members or to give more attention to a band’s background. I think that is safe bet, because how could someone present himself in a normal situation (for example somewhere backstage)  if you only know him as metal star. That can only fail. Well the BM scene today… or be more exactly the Post Black Metal scene, is not my personal taste. Somehow the whole appearance of these bands is too flat… I don’t know…. Basically I think it is a good thing that after all these years “Black Metal” (if you can call it still Back Metal) is one of the genres that still changes regularly.

horaz

When listening to “Dis Manibvs” there is a seemingly spiritual connection in the music that is almost cosmic in nature, how important is Imperium Dekadenz’s metaphysical thoughts to the creative process?

Horaz: It’s hard to describe the connection between “metaphysical thoughts” and the creative process. But to describe our way until the goal is reached is simple… you have to put all your passion, emotions, time, money, sweat, blood, knowledge and skills into it… from the first tone you play on your guitar until the last adaption on the mastering. We do not spend time finding out why we sound how we sound, we spend it to create art.

There is undeniable imagery of Nature within your albums artwork and lyrics, what is it about the natural landscapes of Germany that makes you write this way?

Horaz: We grew up in one of Germany’s most remarkable landscape, the Black Forest. It is similar to a Scandinavian landscape with high mountains and dark forests. I always loved to be outside in these woods until the night falls. I think that forest is one of the reasons why I fell into love with Black Metal. It is still a very important source of energy for me and I still try to be there as much as possible. And yes… I also think that you always hear the forest in these songs.

Currently what are you both listening to as of late? Do you recommend any particular albums for our readers to check out?

Horaz: I am currently listening to Murg (Sweden), Vemod (Norway), Glerakur (Iceland), Abyssion (Finland) and Skepticism (Finland).

Digital StillCamera

Are there plans in the works for Imperium Dekadenz to tour the United States? Have either of you spent much time in the U.S.?

Horaz: We have never visited the US yet, but it is one of our big goals! We had no luck so far, but we have high ambitions and we really hope to start a US Tour one day.

Imperium Dekadenz has been around for over 10 years now, in this time span do you think your ideas and concepts have evolved? What direction do you hope to take the band in the future?

Horaz: I think it is natural thing for an artist to evolve the whole band thing. I think we did a good progression during all these years with finding new elements and improving the old strengths. It was always our main goal to intensify the emotions on each upcoming album and we will still follow that path in the future.

If you could describe your music to someone who may not be into metal but is interested in branching out how would you describe it?

Horaz: Be ready to make a journey towards your within.

And finally do you have any parting thoughts/words for our readers?

Horaz: Stay active, stay awake, fathom the darkest parts of your soul and keep the flame burning. Thank you for your support!

Bandcamp: https://imperiumdekadenz.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ImperiumDekadenz/

Homepage: http://www.imperium-dekadenz.de/

Label: http://www.season-of-mist.com/

winterblackforest

A Conversation with Jason W. Walton

 

khoradaname

Bassist Jason W. Walton of Khorada, ex-Agalloch, Snares of Sixes, Self Spiller, Nothing, Dolven, Especially Likely Sloth and many other musical acts has been a pillar in the Pacific Northwest metal community. He was one of the original members of Agalloch and then went on to do a new and highly-anticipated project Khorada with fellow ex-Agalloch band members Don Anderson, Aesop Dekker and Aaron John Gregory of Giant Squid. I wanted to learn more about his music projects, vision and hope for the future in regards to being a musician. Me like many others are waiting with bated breath to see what Khorada will sound like in the meantime we can look forward to hearing his new project Snares of Sixes which he talks about at length in the interview below.

khorada

 

You have been working on multiple projects for many years now, out of all the works you have done what do you think stood out the most to you as an artist?

JWW:  Albums I’ve been a part of stand out to me for different reasons. Agalloch’s “The Mantle” jumps to mind immediately because of the critical acclaim it received and how that afforded us to tour and bring Agalloch to places we never imagined going.  On the other hand, the debut Snares of Sixes ep that I just finished stands out as well, because that was a beast of a record and is easily my most ambitious recording to date.  Every recording I’ve been a part of has been important or noteworthy to me, because each acts as a stepping stone and a learning experience for the next one.

A lot of your works are tied to electronic, ambient and drone scapes what made you want to go this direction? What about this style do you like most?

JWW:  I first started working in these styles because I loved the freedom it afforded me.  I loved being able to work alone.  I could compose, record and perform entirely by myself if I wanted, and didn’t have to rely on others to get work done.  The nature of the music itself is basically limitless as well and I feel very free to do whatever I can possibly imagine.  

Is there any new or interesting things you can update our readers with about Khorada?

JWW:  As of right now, there is not much to report.  We have news coming soon, but as of right now I can tell you that we are deep within writing our debut album.  I feel like we are at the point where we have found our voice as a band, and are refining our sound.

What direction do you hope to accomplish with Khorada?

JWW:  I don’t really want to use too many descriptors or make too many comparisons just yet, as the music can still change quite a bit at this point.  We all came into this being very aware of our previous bands, and not wanting to repeat those themes, or ideas. Obviously, when you have ¾ of Agalloch in a new band, there are going to be some undeniable elements of Agalloch in Khorada, and of course, there will be things reminiscent of Giant Squid as well, due to AJ’s large role in Khorada.  

jasonwalton1

In regards to your influences and points of inspiration what are some triggers that allow you to create and conceive new ideas?

JWW:  It really depends on the band. Khorada is lyrically and thematically controlled by AJ.  Of course we all have ideas thrown in here and there, but that is largely AJ’s department.  For a band like Snares of Sixes or Self Spiller, I typically focus on a single idea, or a feeling, and work around that. Self Spiller’s “Worms in the Keys” album was written around themes of travel, homesickness, allergies and being caught in an unfamiliar space. The Snares record I just finished is literally about Kombucha, yeast and bacteria.  Many of these ideas have come from books I’ve read, or experiences I’ve had.  

You have done many tours over the years, in your eyes what do you think was the most memorable?

JWW:  I think the most memorable tour for me was the first time we went to Europe. Most of us had never been to Europe before, so playing to audiences all over Europe was unreal.  Also we had a month long tour with Fen in Europe, and that tour was highly enjoyable.  Usually for me, I remember stand out shows, or places, not necessarily tours. London, Copenhagen, Lithuania, Tel Aviv, Bucharest. These are the places and shows that are the most memorable for me.

You have been working with Don Anderson, and Aesop Dekker for many years now, what about them do you admire most and with this new chapter in your life has your creation process changed at all with them?

JWW:  Don and Aesop are amazing musicians, and my closest friends. They always push me and challenge me as a musician. Aesop rarely plays the same way twice. He is always trying new things and is not afraid to experiment. This pushes me to be quick on my feet and forces us to lock in together and feed off of each other. Don’s command of the guitar is inspiring. He knows enough theory to be dangerous, but loves punk enough to not be a snob. Within an hour of Agalloch breaking up, the three of us had a group text going about what we were going to do next. There was absolutely no reason for us to stop playing together.

Have you taken on even more songwriting duties with Khorada, and if so what are some ideas you decided to run with?

JWW:  Writing as a bassist is a very odd thing. Of course writing basslines to existing guitar parts is one thing, but writing the foundation is tricky. It’s very hard to listen to a line of singular notes and imagine what can come out of that. We did that with Agalloch once. I wrote the foundation to “Birth and Death of the Pillars of Creation” this way and it was very rewarding.  We are trying a similar approach with Khorada but AJ and Don are writing the lion’s share of the music.  

If you could think of three words to describe Khorada’s sound what would they be?

JWW:  Hungry, heavy and beautiful.

jasonwalton

Do any of your outside interests help you conceive new ideas at all?

JWW:  Most definitely. My love of cooking heavily informed the Self Spiller debut, and a couple years ago I became quite passionate about brewing Kombucha which was the inspiration for Snares of Sixes “Yeast Mother” EP.  

And finally where do you hope to see yourself as a musician in 2017?

JWW:  In 2017 I plan to record with Khorada, and hopefully start booking some shows with them as well. I also plan on releasing the Snares EP, and recording more Snares. I’ve also assembled a live band for Snares and we hope to start performing this Winter or Spring.

Bandcamp: https://jwalton.bandcamp.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/khorada/?fref=ts

A Discussion with Nathanael Larochette

nathanaellarochette

Photo by: Jamie Kronick

I had the pleasure to interview Nathanael Larochette about his conceptualization and inspiration behind his upcoming album “Earth and Sky”. I was impressed with this new album and was really curious about what drew him to write it. it is an incredible piece of music that needs to be heard more than once. I knew about Nathanael’s work in Musk Ox many moons ago and was always excited to hear what new music he comes up with. He is a really down to earth and interesting person and gave some wonderful answers to my questions. I hope you enjoy the interview and feel free to comment below.

1) What are the key motivators and concepts that drive your solo work as well as that of Musk Ox?

My love and passion for music have always been my main motivators for every project. Music has had such a profound impact on my life so the fact that I can possibly have that kind of impact on listeners has definitely driven my musical pursuits. I love the idea that even if I know my own work inside out there are people who will experience it with completely fresh ears. I find that amazing. The nylon string guitar has also been a key motivator for the past decade. When I started learning to finger pick something clicked inside me. The sound and depth of possibilities I could achieve through this technique sparked my imagination and continues to do so. Another motivating factor that drives all of my work is my desire to create something that doesn’t exist yet. With “Earth and Sky”, the influences are clear but I’ve never seen them presented this way. Like all music fans, I’m always constant looking for something new which greatly influences what I create. I want to capture the spirit of the albums and artists I love and re-imagine it into something that is hopefully unique.

2) Specifically what was your main motivator in conceiving “Earth and Sky”?

The funny thing about “Earth and Sky” is that the album’s conception came together largely on its own. Over the course of many years I had been slowly creating a collection of solo guitar pieces that I imagined would be released in some form but I wasn’t sure when or how. Along the way I created the “Sky” piece but again wasn’t sure how it would work as a release. Eventually it dawned on me that the two albums complimented each other perfectly. I feel they are strong albums on their own but that together they create something special. Once I had the concept of the double album solidified in my mind, I applied for some funding from the Ontario Arts Council and thankfully received a grant which helped me fund the album’s creation.

3) When listening to the “Earth” section of the double album, a lot of images came into my head, mostly about solitude, peace, and introspection. Would this be pretty pertinent to you specifically?

Absolutely, but not entirely. There is definitely an element of solitude and introspection when you’re sitting for hours trying to figure out how to tell a story with just a guitar and your hands. It can be very peaceful but I feel there is a misconception that peaceful music is always created from a peaceful state. I believe that any act of creativity involves a challenge, struggle or question of some sort. While “Earth” is definitely inspired by the qualities you mentioned, it was also inspired by feelings of sadness, turmoil and upheaval. The songs you are hearing represent me trying to understand these emotions and hopefully make peace with them.

earthandskycover

4) You mentioned to me that the album was influenced by your time in Nova Scotia. What about this place in particular was so special to you?

I think everyone holds a special place in their heart for the environment that raised them. Whether positive or negative, it’s undeniable that the setting where one spends their formative years will leave a deep imprint upon an individual. It wasn’t until I was an adult going back to visit Nova Scotia that I truly realized how beautiful it is. As a child, you notice your surroundings but your awareness is much different than when you are an adult. It was fascinating to go back to the places where I grew up and realize how beautiful they were but how as a child, I wasn’t necessarily aware of it. Living by the ocean had a particularly profound impact on me that I gradually became more aware of the longer I was away.

5) The ambient second disc “Sky” is one of the most beautiful things I have heard, what made you want to go this route for this song?

Thank you very much for the kind words! The birth of “Sky” was completely unexpected. A few years ago myself and a handful of Ottawa musicians were commissioned to each compose a piece of music for a particular bus route in the city. The intention was to have the songs appear on an app that listeners would use while riding the bus. I chose the bus route that takes you to and from the airport as I’ve taken it many times and loved the feelings of departure as well as homecoming which this bus route evoked in me. I was pretty nervous as I knew I had to create a long composition but I accepted the challenge. I ended up creating “Sky” at my brother’s studio over the course of three days. The original mix was 70 minutes which we later trimmed to 40 minutes. It was a wonderful experience as all I had going into it were a few chord ideas. The experience was amazing and very fluid which was completely different from how the songs in “Earth” were created. The “Earth” songs were composed, and constantly reworked over a long period of time while “Sky” was basically improvised in the studio over a few days. I loved that contrast. So to answer your question “Sky” is actually meant to be listened to on the 97 bus route in Ottawa haha.

6) When I heard “Sky” I thought of bands like Hammock, Explosions in the Sky and a bunch of other post rock outfits. What is it about the post rock sound that made you want to create the song “Sky”?

When I was first introduced to post rock back in 2006, there was this deep and far reaching emotional quality to the music that floored me. Like most genres, the aesthetic characteristics eventually defines it which is an unfortunate reality. For me, the emotional content has always defined this genre beyond how often a band goes from quiet to loud. My biggest post rock influence has always been Mogwai and I can fully admit that “Sky” is directly inspired by them. This Will Destroy You also influenced “Sky” in a big way. I’ve loved this style of music for over a decade so I’m thrilled to have finally added my own modest contribution to the genre.

photojamiekronick

Photo by Jamie Kronick

7) You are a self-professed metalhead, do you think there are major correlations between your acoustic work with that of the metal world?

I don’t think I would be where I am now if there weren’t! I get this question a lot and I always give the same answer: listen to the first minute of “Battery” by Metallica. When those first strummed acoustic chords come in the feeling is one of undeniable heaviness. It’s an implied heaviness that is fulfilled when they play those same chords distorted. Opeth use this technique a lot as well. It’s this sense of implied heaviness that connects metalheads to certain types of acoustic music. What I found interesting when I started writing this type of acoustic music was the effect of not going heavy but rather keeping things purely acoustic. Strange as it sounds, the tension that results from simply maintaining this feeling of implied heaviness creates its own kind of heaviness. I always found it interesting how an acoustic guitar by itself could sound so heavy. It’s a different type of heaviness but a heaviness nonetheless, and as metalheads, isn’t that what we are searching for in music?

8) When I hear your music I immediately think of the poetry of Robert Frost, Thoreau and Yeats do these poets hold a special place in your heart in creating your music?

To be honest, I am not familiar with their work but am aware of their impact and influence. I know they were a big inspiration for Agalloch. The poet that has inspired me the most would have to be Kahlil Gibran. I actually used his words in the layout for the last Musk Ox album “Woodfall”. There is a profoundly spiritual quality to his work that never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

9) Nature and the seasons are central characters to your music. What is it about the natural world that you appreciate most and which season out of the four has the biggest influence to your music?

I’m not sure if there is one specific aspect of the natural world that inspires me most. Maybe the fact that NOTHING would exist without it haha. It’s strange but when I started listening to the acoustic Ulver and Empyrium albums I was floored by just how evocative of nature the nylon string guitar was and still is. When I started learning classical guitar, the sounds I produced always seemed to evoke this natural imagery in my mind. I believe nature is a big influence to artists because it is so dynamic. It can be intimate and peaceful as well as vast and terrifying. It has it all! As for seasons, each one holds a special place but something about fall hits home for me. Winters here are pretty brutal so fall is an evocative reminder of what is to come.

10) Do you feel there is a spiritual connection to your music and the nature that surrounds you?

Absolutely. Nature encapsulates life and death so completely that one cannot help but be humbled and mystified by it. I believe those qualities are at the core of spirituality.

nathanaellarochette

Photo by: Erik Moggridge

11) I never got to spend time in Ottawa, is there something about this city in particular that helps you conceptualize ideas? Is the music scene different there compared to the United States?

Ottawa is quite a small city that has a lot of natural beauty and space. I imagine the hustle of a big city would invoke its own sort of inspiration but Ottawa is much slower paced which I find helpful for conceptualizing ideas. Nova Scotia has this quality as well. As for music scenes, I think they are more or less the same wherever you go. People everywhere are creating music while trying find places to share it with people who want to listen. After my short tour this summer, this really hit home. Music fans are music fans wherever you go.

12) Out of all the gigs you have done, does any stand out to you the most?

Back in 2012, Musk Ox had the honour of opening for Wardruna at the Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany. Since then, Wardruna have garnered a huge following but before the show in 2012, I had only just been introduced to them. I wasn’t totally familiar with their work at the time but their set was one of  the most amazing performances I have ever seen. No amps, no distorted instruments, just some of the heaviest, most overwhelming music you will ever hear. I hope I can see them live again some day. The gig was great, but the fact that we got to share the stage with Wardruna made it unforgettable. It was also our first show in Europe so that made the evening all the more memorable. Having the opportunity to share the stage with Agalloch will always hold a special place in my heart as well.

13) In your own words how would you describe your music to someone who is not familiar with it?

It depends on who I am speaking with. If I’m talking to a metalhead I’ll reference bands like Opeth, Ulver, Empyrium etc. I usually end up recommending and nerding out about Tenhi when discussing my music and influences. If I’m talking to the average person, I would describe “Earth and Sky” as acoustic/instrumental and electric/ambient music. I’ve described my music as “heavy mellow” in the past which seems to get some laughs so I use that one when I can.

14) Finally, do you have any parting words for the fans?

As much as we make music for ourselves, it wouldn’t be the same without the opportunity to share it. I am deeply humbled and grateful to anyone who has ever taken the time to listen, buy an album, come to a show or write about my music. This connection is such a deep and beautiful thing. Like I mentioned before, the fact that I am able to create musical experiences and memories with people around the world is unbelievable and I feel so lucky to be able to do this.

Thank you to Dreaming Metal Muse for the support!

Links:

Nathanael Larochette – http://nathanaellarochette.bandcamp.com

The Night Watch – http://thenightwatch.bandcamp.com

Musk Ox – http://muskoxofficial.bandcamp.com

A Conversation with Aerial Ruin

 

aerialruinerik

photo by Photic Photographic

Aerial Ruin is a beautiful, solo, dark acoustic project by Erik Moggridge. His music is immediately recognizable by his soft, remarkable voice and his down-trodden, melancholic guitar strums. He has done guest vocal work with the funeral doom titans Bell Witch and in my opinion sings some of the greatest songs they have written, “Rows (of Endless Waves)”, and “Suffocation, A Drowning: II- Somniloquy (The Distance Forever)”. He epitomizes that singer-songwriter archetype, a man with his thoughts, emotions and feelings out there for the world to see. When you hear his music it takes you to a place that is so incredibly unique that it needs to be heard. He is a great down-to-earth guy who is immensely talented and has some incredible insights to his craft and life in general. He took time out of his busy US tour schedule to conduct an interview with me. He will be taking Aerial Ruin to Peterborough, New Hampshire on 6/17/2016 with Canadian classical guitar sensation Nathanael Larochette…

What was your motivation in putting together the Aerial Ruin project?

“In the late nineties and early 2000s I was playing in a San Francisco metal band called Old Grandad. All three of us did vocals and mine ranged from screaming to more psychedelic melodic vocals. The melodic stuff was more of a challenge live because we were so loud. It was natural for me to express my psychedelic mental wanderings and growing spirituality through a quiet introspective solo project that naturally suited my quiet melodic voice. At the time this was a perfect complement to the collaborative extrovert metal expression of Old Grandad. For years Aerial Ruin was just a slow moving recording project that I did not contemplate performing live.”

What were the themes and ideas your were going for with both the single “Igen” as well as “Ash of Your Cares”?

“All Aerial Ruin lyrics on all albums are a spiritual, sub-personal expression of sorts. An attempt to express, reflect and channel spiritual energy without the filter of the human ego. So in a sense the lyrics and music are very personal but also sub-personal, the fine line where expressing something very private and introvert gives way to something below or above an individual perspective. At least this is what it means to me, if it resonates meaningfully to others in a different way then that’s great too. There are a few songs that vary a little from this theme and express a more specific narrative or expression that reflects my human experience but this the exception not the rule. This description is also kind of after the fact. When creating Aerial Ruin songs it is a natural stream of consciousness, not a deliberate attempt to do anything. I also think music in general strives to be an art form that often expands and eclipses any intellectual ideas that the words within the songs may contain.”

What made you decide to go with your specific vocal style? What are some of your influences to both the music and the vocals?

“Its just the natural evolution of my voice based on what feels right and my influences etc.”

Do you feel literature or cinema played a part in the vision of Aerial Ruin?

“No but I do love to read and appreciate cinema especially in its more artsy surreal form. I suppose I do see images in my head when I write songs and imagine chord changes, melodies and arrangements in a visual form, this may have been influenced by cinema and literature.”

Being a singer and songwriter what were some of your obstacles as well as achievements to spread the message of Aerial Ruin?

“It is often hard getting a lot of attention doing something so quiet and subtle that is not genre specific and therefore does not have a specific target audience. But that’s fine, I enjoy the slow climb that is my experience getting this music out there and the music lends itself to more intimate gatherings. As far as achievements it’s been great doing all this touring since 2014, being on the road this much would have been much harder to coordinate with multiple bandmates. That freedom also extends to the creative side of things, being able to write and record whenever I’m inspired.”

Some people describe your style as dark folk music, do you think this is a fair comparison?

“I suppose so. I’m usually confused by genre terms but dark folk is not a misleading term when describing Aerial Ruin. The term dark makes sense and the term folk implies acoustic which also makes sense but folk also implies tradition and I do not think Aerial Ruin is traditional at all as is perhaps an attempt to look beyond the human filter. I suppose lots of other musicians have also been inspired by psychedelia or a personal spirituality so in that sense you could say I’m influenced by tradition. That’s quite different than bands like Lynched or my friends Horse Cult who actually re-work traditional songs and whose originals are influenced quite directly by traditional music and other traditions in culture.”

Could expand on what you mean by the human filter?

“We as humans usually perceive everything through the filter of our minds and senses which dramatically colours our perception of the universe although we are simply a part of the universe that is able to observe itself. Psychedelia and spirituality – which have so profoundly influenced elements of our culture and are the primary inspirations for Aerial Ruin allow us to perhaps begin to strip away this human filter and “see” or “experience” the universe more directly.”

In your own words how would you describe Aerial Ruin to people who may not know your project?

“I often say “some people describe it as dark folk” or “mostly acoustic guitar with melodic vocals with a residual metal vibe from my past playing in metal bands”. I usually site Syd Barrett and Mark Lanegan as influences to give some frame of reference but point out my music does not really sound like them.”

You have done numerous solo tours in both Europe and the US, do you have any interesting stories about your time on the road?

“It has been so great meeting so many cool people and musicians in the DIY community. I think it is the utter diversity of shows and experience that stand out. Touring with Sangre de Muerdago in Europe and playing totally un-mic’d acoustic shows in everything from squats to museums to living rooms. This was amazing as was returning to Europe a year later and doing a similar tour by myself largely on public transportation allowing me to gaze out the window at epic views of the Alps from the train. This was in stark contrast to say opening a handful of east coast shows for Agalloch and Worm Ouroboros in 2011 at pro venues to a larger audience which itself was an interesting contrast to the variety of DIY settings I normally play.

I really like touring with bands like Horse Cult, Solace, Divine Circles or Knives of Spain – other acousticy acts that one would expect me to gig with but it’s also fun being the odd man out like I was when I opened for Capitalist Casualties and lots of other punk bands in Phoenix and Vegas or the countless metal shows I have played. And of course it is wonderful to be able to meet new people and experience new places. I had never been to New Orleans till last year and was utterly captivated by the music and vibe of the city and have played two really fun shows there with Bosques de Fragmentos, My Graveyard Jaw and Meschiya Lake. However it was Prague that stands out as the most beautiful city though, I stumbled around for hours in the rain in utter awe of the beauty and architecture.”

You will be playing a show in my home state New Hampshire, what was your experience like, and do you think more bands/musicians should tour the state?

“I really enjoyed the New Hampshire show last year. It was a small crowd but the people were attentive and interested in the music and almost everyone in attendance bought t-shirts, records and CDs which is always nice so I definitely recommend playing New Hampshire and enjoying the nature and history there.”

Outside of music what are some of your other interests?

“I have been enjoying reading a lot Sci-Fi and fantasy novels in recent years and am fairly fascinated with space and astronomy and watch a lot sciency stuff on YouTube etc. I enjoy getting lost in my own mind about the “meaning” of this whole physical universe and being alive thing. I also enjoy live music and go to lots of shows when I’m home in Portland, OR, there is such an extensive music scene in the Pacific Northwest. Lots of good coffee and beer too, two other things I enjoy. I go hiking a lot too, you don’t have to drive very far out of town to be among towering waterfalls or epic views in the Columbia River Gorge or the myriad of other beautiful places close to Portland. Within Portland itself there is a lot of natural beauty too.”

Are you currently working on new material for your next album?

“Yes, I have quite a lot of new songs already and am performing some of them on this tour. I hope to have the next album out by spring 2017 but we’ll see…”

You have partnered up with numerous musicians for some songs, how did you develop that relationship with Bell Witch and Stevie Floyd specifically?

“I first met Dylan Desmond from Bell Witch on tour in 2009 in Seattle but I think it was at a Samothrace show about a year later in Portland that I gave him a unmastered copy of the Aerial Ruin “valleys of the earth” album which was not yet released. We were big fans of each others music from that point on so when he mentioned he had a new two piece band I offered to do a guest vocal. I met original Bell Witch drummer Adrian Guerra soon after that when he played in Portland with his other band Sod Hauler and Adrian had soon hooked up a Bell Witch/Aerial Ruin show Seattle, the first of a handful in Seattle and Portland around that time. We jammed on the Bell Witch song “Rows(of endless waves)” and I pretty much came up with my vocal melody you hear on the album instantaneously and Dylan and Adrian loved it. We performed it live quite a few times before recording it for their “Longing” album so I had a long time to finalize my lyrics. “Somniloquy” from Four Phantoms developed much quicker, they sent me a rehearsal tape right before going into the studio so I wrote and demoed my parts for that very quick right before the final session. We are all very stunned and saddened by the recent passing of Adrian Guerra but he leaves behind an impressive musical legacy and fond memories from his many friends and family. Jesse Shreibman is bringing his own unique power to the Bell Witch sound now.

I had seen Dark Castle play in Portland in 2011 I and was blown away by their unique style. Stevie Floyd’s vocals struck me as so haunting and unique. Soon after,  I did a couple of shows with her other band Taurus and I asked her to do a guest vocal on what I originally planned to be a self-released 7”. While in the process of recording and working on that Stevie suggested we expand the idea and do a full-length split with collaborative elements. The album ended up being 2 separate solo recordings with us each doing guest vocals on two of each other’s songs plus Wrest doing vocals on Stevie’s side. It was a really cool experience.”

Do you have any parting thoughts for the fans?

“Thanks to everyone that’s come to shows, bought merch or offered a couch to crash on or an  interesting conversation and thanks Ryan for the interview, look forward to seeing you in New Hampshire…”

Website: http://www.aerialruin.bandcamp.com

An Interview with Sylvaine

Sylvaine-IMG_9156-Daria_Endresen

Coming from Oslo, Norway the multi-instrumentalist Sylvaine (http://www.sylvainemusic.com) conceived an album that is of stunning beauty. The new album “Wistful” came out on May 13th, and Sylvaine created an excellent slab of blackgaze for the masses to hear. In the interview below she goes into more detail about the Sylvaine concept as well as the motivation behind writing “Wistful”. She is a very interesting and unique person and has taken the time out of her busy day creating music to chat with me.

What was your inspiration for the Sylvaine moniker?

 Always having had a strong connection to nature, I really wanted this to be present in the title of my new project. I was thinking of the world “sylvan”, but figured it might be a bit too generic, so mixing it with another word, to create something new and more personal for the title, seemed like an interesting idea. As poetry always inspired me a lot for writing lyrics and music, I thought maybe the project name should reflect that as well. So I choose “Verlaine” for that. In other words; “Sylvaine” is basically a mash-up of those two words. Later I also discovered it is a type of butterfly, haha…. Guess it could be worse!

What ideas helped you conceptualize “Wistful”?

Wistful” is an album that holds extremely personal moments to me, conveying a heightened state of alienation, frustration, resignation and restriction, showcasing a more aggressive and darker approach to the Sylvaine universe than on my first album “Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart” from 2014. Along with being in a completely new environment when moving to Paris during the writing process of this album, where everything known was far away, making me feel more lost than before and with elevated emotions, one of the ideas that brought “Wistful” to life would be that our soul doesn’t come from this planet, but is only placed here for a certain amount of time, inside a “car”, which takes shape as our human bodies. This new vessel restricts the soul, causing the connection between our human world and the spiritual world to be more or less broken. This makes for a feeling of being trapped, of being restrained; the feeling of not belonging to this place. It also causes a primal longing for something, without our human mind understanding exactly what or where we are longing for. You could also say it would be the idea of belonging to a different time I suppose. This is something I spoke a lot about on “Wistful” and that shaped big parts of the album.

Describe your writing process, are you more spontaneous or methodical?

Definitely more spontaneous than methodical. I tend to write music in a spontaneous way, trying to always write in a purely emotional way, not over-thinking my process too much, but just doing and making choices intuitively. The only important part is that the music expresses something real, something I think is most easily achieved by just letting your mind flow and work with whatever comes out at the time. That being said, I of course have some habits or systems that I tend to follow, as it seems to be the natural way to do things for me. In general though, there are no rules when it comes to writing music and each album seems to take shape in a different way.

Do you feel the Norwegian black metal scene helped influence your music?

I think you can feel a slight presence of this scene in my music, yes, especially when it comes to the atmosphere and certain elements, such as the screaming vocals, tremolo guitars, but also the sound choices of the different instruments. I really like a lot of the bands from this scene, so it’s natural that it has inspired me somewhat for my own project.

What are some of your non-metal influences?

I adore the whole shoegaze/dreampop scene, as well as the darkwave scene, the post-punk scene, and the more modern post-rock and post-metal scenes. I also draw inspiration from classical music, with minimalism being one of my favorite directions. I was always very fascinated by the concept of taking the smallest pieces and evolving them slowly over time into something else. This is something I try to do in my music, to really create those hypnotic, meditative patterns that lull the listeners into some sort of trance.

What types of books and movies do you tend to like? Do you think they play a part in Sylvaine’s  music?

Both movies and books definitely inspire me a lot. For my first album, I drew a lot of direct inspiration from books, more specifically poetry, by artist such as Baudelaire and Verlaine. I wanted to pay some sort of tribute to them, as they have inspired me for many years before this record too. On “Wistful”, I was inspired by literature in a more indirect way. Movies inspired me a lot to write lyrics actually. Sometimes I will be sitting with my notepad while watching one and just writing throughout the whole film. Any movie or book that has an interesting story or a meaningful story, with good characters can be of interest to me. Lately, I’ve been in a horror movie phase for some reason, which is not exactly the best genre for interesting, deep stories, haha…. You still have some gems though, and the rest is usually good for some light entertainment.

What other interests do you have?

Music is pretty much what dominates my life most of the time, and it has been like that since I was about 14, but I also enjoy spending time in nature, taking long walks, watching movies, playing games (boards games and retro video games mostly), cooking, doing small arts and crafts projects, reading, traveling, hanging out with friends and family and so on.

What are some ideas you have for future albums?

I don’t really have any precise ideas at this moment actually, as my music tends to be more a direct result of whatever is going on with me at the time the song is written. The only thing I can tell you for sure, is that I am pushing myself to make better and better songs and to make more of them, so for my third album, I will be able to choose the absolute cream of the crop. I think the sound will be in the same vain as “Wistful”, but at the moment, I only have about 4 songs ready for the third album, so nothing is set in stone yet. We’ll see what happens I suppose! I would like to make some more energetic tracks in the future, like “Earthbound” from my last album.

What was the story behind working with Neige of Alcest?

I first discovered Alcest in 2011/2012 and immediately fell in love and connected to their music. In 2012 I had the pleasure of seeing them play live a couple of times and I ended up meeting them one night. After that, I stayed in touch with Neige, we became friends and I started to show him stuff I was doing with Sylvaine. He was very positive to the music and basically became a supporter of the project. This eventually led to the tour I did with them in South America in September 2014, and after that, Neige playing drums on “Wistful”. I really like his style of drumming and his attentiveness as a drummer, so we both felt it could fit really well with the music in Sylvaine. After that we basically tried to play thru the songs and both agreed it sounded amazing! I know Neige was in the mood of getting back into playing drums again at that period too, so it was a golden opportunity for me to take advantage of that, haha. It was a huge pleasure to work with such talented musicians for “Wistful”, including Neige, and I really feel it added another dimension to the music on the record.

And finally do you plan to tour the United States at all?

I would absolutely love to tour the US in the future! Hopefully, it won’t be too far off in the future either. We’ll see if we have any opportunities coming our way for next year. Being an American citizen, it would be very easy for me to do a tour, but of course the rest of my band will have to deal with the standard visa procedure, so its always a bit more of a hassle than playing in Europe. Either way, we’ll be coming over at some point for sure, as the US is a great and diverse territory that we would like to be present in!