Even if armed with a reflective shield, curved sword and other aids of divine origin, would you have had the courage of Perseus to face Medusa? One of three winged women with large staring eyes, gaping mouth, lolling tongue, flared nostrils and serpentine locks of hair. Your first look would be your last! Perching my hand on Mario Di Donato’s stone shoulder I wonder why he had been captivated so…
Some six stiff years in the Underworld, The Black emerged with another mammoth double album. Why was it so long in the making?
The members of the band have had a bad time due to personal problems. So, none of us, had the mood to compose. Fortunately, over time, we have left behind these difficulties and we have found the will to enter the studio to record our last album “Gorgoni.”
Please explain your fascination with the Gorgon that led to this dedication of musical and brush strokes…
The Gorgons have fascinated me ever since elementary school. Especially Medusa! They are creatures who represent the evil in man and at the same time his punishment. If you look at Medusa, for example, you can remain petrified! In my music, as in my painting, I often speak of the struggle between good and evil. For these reasons, I have represented Medusa in my music and in my painting.
If she represents the female genitalia and the devouring urges of female sexuality, do you share Freud’s view that the terror of Medusa is the terror of castration?
I can say that I share the point of views of Freud. Medusa is the fear of the male before the discovery of female sexuality. The decapitation of the Gorgon can be seen as an attempt to suppress this sexuality. Woman, over the centuries, has often been the object of this attempt.
The soundtrack is suitably dark and diverse. From the very beginning, it conjures creepy visions and the terror takes different forms as the story unfolds. How do you think it feels compared to previous albums?
“Gorgoni” is the album that has the best production of my entire discography. We were able to take advantage of cutting-edge recording techniques thanks to a higher budget. This has allowed me to develop my typical sound.
Three years on, it is rumoured that the band has another two albums in the making! Centred on human phobias, “Metus Ostilis” seems to slot in well the seven deadly sins of “Peccatis Nostris” and the fear of the “Gorgoni” so why is the human psyche endlessly alluring?
I am interested in the fears of man, his phobias and his weaknesses. I watch with great interest at everything that revolves around these topics. I try to convey the emotions I get from these observations in my music and in my painting.
Boccaccio’s “The Decameron” sounds like a deep well of recounted fables through a 14th Century Italian filter. Of the hundred tales told by ten characters, which is your favourite and why?
I like all stories of “Decamerone.” It’s not easy to choose a favourite though. I can tell you that I’m working on new material, which is inspired by 10 stories from it. But I can’t tell you what these stories are, for the time being, it is still Top Secret!
Did you pen the music with a tale in mind or vice versa? And have used quoted Boccaccio’s language in the lyrics or retold them in your Latin metre?
This is my sequence: history, texts and music. I use Latin for texts. The language of “Decamerone” is the language of so-called “volgare” and it represent the Italian language of the 1500s.
Was it difficult to condense the essence of the whole into an album? And at what point did you decide enough ground had been covered to make it complete?
The subject is very vast. It was not easy to compose the lyrics and music. As I told you before, however, this is a topic that fascinates me and affects me a lot. For this reason, I also had great fun doing it! Before entering the studio to record the album there were some things that did not satisfy me and I had to see them together with the other members of the band. Now I think this one of the best albums of The Black!
The Black does not appear to be a prolific live band although did play the Metal Magic festival in Denmark this summer! Please describe your performance, the songs included and atmosphere throughout. Was The Black represented as it should have been in your eyes?
You’re right. The Black plays few concerts. We try to play only in the best places and to select those dates that really offer anything interesting. For this reason, The Black has played at the Malta Doom Metal Festival in 2012 and at Metal Magic in 2013. In both cases, we were very good. Regarding Metal Magic, Denmark is a great place and the people were very warm and welcoming! I was treated like a King and I hope to come back soon to play in those parts. In this particular concert we played songs from “Gorgoni,” “Reliquarium” and “Peccatis Nostris.” Our performance was much appreciated by the public and supported us from the beginning to the end of the concert. I can honestly say that things have gone beyond expectations!
You have also been billed to play with Misantropus at Halloween! Who booked the concert and will you be adapting your set to suit the festivities?
The date of Halloween has been organized by Misantropus. It’s an Italian group that plays a great Doom Metal. They are our fans by many years. They have all my records and our t-shirts. We have become good friends. Long ago I was their guest in Sermoneta (Latina) and they made me visit the artistic treasures of their city. Everything is ready for the concert to celebrate Halloween, a magic night with a religious significance very strong. Our obscure music is very suitable for situations like these.
When not writing and playing music, how much of your days are spent painting? Is oil on canvas your preferred medium?
Music and painting are two complementary aspects of my personality. The two are not mutually exclusive but co-exist. My favorite technique is oil on canvas but I also use many other techniques such as acrylic and tempera… I really like using mixed techniques for painting. This I was also taught at the art school.
I love your style, colours and particularly the darker themes explored. “Dies Irae,” “Infernal Moat” and “Hell” were all crafted in 1980. What are your memories from the times when you were composing them?
All my paintings are a figment of my imagination. I have certainly been impressed by other works of art but I don’t let them inspire me consciously. So when I paint I’m not surrounded by books, paintings or other artefacts. Work only fancy. My inspiration has remained unchanged over the years. Certainly in the ’80s I have made some very important works, but my art has always been very much alive also in later years.
Tell me about your self-portrait! Is your heart in the past or are you a knight of the present?
Metalheads are the warriors of the present! Despite society usually thinking that Metalheads are like criminals, we are culturally and humanly valid people that very often fight for the good ideals.
Looking back over your career, what is your proudest accomplishment to date?
My preferred painting is “Inferno” (1974) because I had opportunity to expose my opera at the famous exhibition F.P.Michetti. I don’t have a preferred album. But if I have to tell you a preference it might be “Infernus, Paradisus et Purgatorium” (1990).
As a man of culture, please describe some of your favourite pieces…
My preferred song is “Whole Lotta Love” by Led Zeppelin. This song has broken the wall between Rock and Heavy Metal.
My favorite book is “Pinocchio” – the story created for children by Colllodi, an Italian writer! Pinocchio represents the contrast between good and evil. He is a cunning character, a liar but at the same time with a heart of gold and a large humanity. Then he never gives up. It is very strong and in this looks like me. I have a large collection of books and puppets of Pinocchio and I have organised also an exhibition in my city Pescosansonesco…
My favourite work of art is the “Gioconda” for its beautiful shapes and geometries. But I also love a painting less known called “Madonna col Bambino” by Filippo Lippi. This painting was made with oil on canvas. It’s fantastic because the image seems alive!
If you were to design your own coat of arms, what would be depicted, with what motto and why?
The badge should be a wolf’s head in the centre with four lions at the corners. The lion is the symbol of my city, Pescosansonesco. The motto should be “Nunc Et Semper” (Now and ever shall be…)
I have intruded long enough and must let you return to your studio! Thank you Mario. Looking forward to gazing into The Black again soon…
Thanks for the interview! A salute to the readers of your magazine! Metal will never die…
NUNC ET SEMPER!!!
Masters of the Pit #2 (September 2013)
Common Eider King Eider invokes the spirits of long ago. Solemn and cloaked, their ceremony takes shape slowly. The ceiling of the cave is certainly rather high, given the droning passage of the wind, with stick and bone piercing those gusts at intervals. Come “The Dark Winter” and the intensity is magnified a hundred fold. Cymbal splashes and the rapid rattle of wood against taut skin lend a manic edge. The monks become one with icy draughts, the choral vibrato summoning “Litha” for the final rite. Bowed strings bring a beautiful melody. But the atmosphere is fraught. A snarling man beast struggles to purge the demons within. Despair. Anguish. Time suspended. The choir steadfast. On hanging notes, that tension dissipates. Respite for the cast aside?
Enter Rob. You are very welcome in the world of Pariah Child. How are you keeping? Where have you been?
Hello, and thank you for talking with us! I think this year has been challenging, and revealing for all of us. There has been hope, and there has been devastating disappointment. The old world is being challenged, and the new world while embraced by many, is being attacked by those in power. We are being attacked. We are being left to fend for ourselves. We are being left to die.
No doubt this calendar year has not gone quite according to plan. What impact has the pandemic had on your lives and how have you made the time out of time count since lockdown began?
The lockdown has been hard for me and other people who struggle with depression and substance abuse. I don’t think I have made this time in lockdown count, because it has been more about survival. It has been more about self-care and not spiralling out of control into depression and self-isolation.
Please elaborate on your relationship with animism. How does this belief inform your living breathing sound?
Animism informs all that we do. It is the very foundation of our spiritual understanding and practice. Sonically, we channel spirits present during gatherings. We aim to give some sort of voice to those without voice.
Your albums defy convention. For me, they are an experience rather than a collection of songs. So what framework, if any, do you apply to creating music?
We come up with meditative or intentional titles, and build from there. It provides a very intimate exploration of the subject for both Andee and I. We each come to topics with our own unique experience, hopes, and truths, and if we have our own intimate reasons for invoking a piece, it seems more accurate and present. This is true in recording and in live situations.
Vocal elements are woven throughout your work. But my impression is that they are largely wordless. Why is that? Do you find language too limiting? Is sound more all-consuming without the distraction?
If we aim to channel, and we are successful in any way, we feel the meaning and voice, and intention or message will be heard without words. I think what comes out is a type of language, so I what comes out might not be words but transmissions are being made.
You have spoken about striving for simple titles, ones that channel and reflect personal experiences. Dare I say that the poetry of “Shrines for the Unwanted…” almost contradicts that simplicity even if the sentiment is true! Given that this album moved me deeply, would you share its story?
That album came from our first European tour. When we would arrive at a location, we would find sticks and rocks and branches to use as sound sources from the place we were performing that night. During the performance, the branches would break, rock used, dirt… At the end of the night we would sneak away to a quiet spot outside with all of the pieces used and build a shrine in the shadows for all of these spirits forgotten or cast aside… voiceless… unconsidered. We documented all of the shrines in a book. I think we built 25 shrines on that our, hidden all over Europe. I hope some are still standing somewhere, unfound.
For every species of bird, Common and King alike, the nest is paramount. Talk to me about the importance of location. Where is your ancestral home? Or as a shaman leading a nomadic existence does it really matter if you can communicate with spirits wherever you go?
I am a ghost with no one and nothing.
I imagine that the Pyrenees now hold a special place in your heart. Any impressions or memories you would like to share from your time spent deep in the mountains?
Hearing red deer rutting just out of sight in the late afternoon sun…
As “Égrégore” is an occult concept representing a thought form or collective group mind it seems an apt title for the first of two collaborative albums. To what extent did you achieve that elemental goal with Yan?
Collaborating with Yan is simple and easy and natural. I think that we both come from such similar foundations, that intention wise, it was effortless and fluid. We didn’t talk much beyond the initial framework of the concept for this recording. We would meet late at night after his family had been put to sleep… sit in silence for some time… and then start recording.
My copy of “Palimpseste” is in the post so I cannot compare the two movements. From your perspective, how would you describe these differing creative journeys? Has the emphasis shifted somehow with Cober Ord’s participation now more pronounced?
As it is true both Yan Arexis, and Yan H. both originally comprised Cober Ord, it is currently the solo project of Yan H. “Égrégore” sounds more like the creative / ritual / sonic process of sitting still in a space and letting the voices be heard on a slow unfolding time scale. “Palimpseste” correlates to driving all throughout the Pyrenees and exploring caves and streams and forests and Neolithic sites and assembling field recordings and moments much in the vein of musique concrete. I have so much trust and admiration and inspiration for both of those individuals that they will both stay with me and influence me musically and ritually moving forward.
Having never had the pleasure of communing with your live aura, what do you consider essential instrumentation to be able to perform? The bare bones of your craft if you will. I have had a vision that you brought an empty suitcase on tour. Before playing any given gig, you would explore the surroundings and gather together natural elements of the district: sand and shells, soil and leaves, bark or pine needles to sprinkle over the stage, your altar, then played barefoot, grounded in nature, in the moment. Might it work?
That is actually exactly what we do… Ha! I think this concept will be unfolding exponentially in the future into creating total environments or installations for both ourselves and the participants.
Have you a favourite plant?
To what extent do you improvise on album themes on stage? Is there a push pull relationship between channelling and recreation?
All of the arrangements we perform live are actually quite strict as far as framework goes. Framework as skeleton… as the structure that all else clings to for support. There is improvising, and there is being taken by the spirits present. I think the most exciting moments are when we try weaving different themes or sections together and experimenting with overlapping intentions and sonics….
Leaving yourselves open and vulnerable in the moment, have you experienced strange or hostile moods, with or without an audience, when playing? How do you cope with that danger?
I think that when working magic, one should have a framework to operate in that offers the necessary protection. I have my personal system and ritual framework that seems to work for me. With that said, there have been some very intense experiences both live and in private that have opened doors, perspectives, emotions, wounds, both for Andee and myself, and for the participants. I kind of measure the “success” of a gathering by the types of conversations we have with participants afterwards. What went on for them. What opened up for them. Where they went. What was present for them spirit wise…
Returning to the theme of animism, I imagine that you have played in some natural spaces. But how do those energies contrast to the urban environment?
I feel that there are just as many spirits present in urban environments and natural environments… Maybe some are of the same family or clan, and others are unique to location. I feel it is important when going into a situation of channelling or spirit communion to not bring your own expectations or spirits that you work with or spirits from your own place… You have to be totally open to what is going to happen. You have to be totally open to the spirits of that place that want to interact with you. I feel in both places there is sadness and loss and warning.
What was your most striking live experience to date?
L’Homme Savage Festival 2018. The most amazing (festival) experience I have ever been witness to. When we got done playing, I looked up and 300 people were in various states of trance… sitting… lying in the grass…. a fire built in the middle of the audience. One of the most beautiful experiences of my life.
There must be more ideas, perhaps even fully formed albums, bubbling towards the surface. Where will you go next?
Live installations…. 10 hour overnight dream performances where as people sleep, we try to influence their dreams.
Have you been reading much lately? Enlighten us!
Cormac McCarthy, Georges Bataille. Also the Baedan Journals.
We have come full circle. If you can find the words to express your parting thoughts cast them now…
Thank you for taking the time to present us with such thoughtful questions! May these times bring about community which we never imagined. May it open our eyes to the care we might give outside of ourselves. May it expose those who would do harm. And may it shine light on all we take for granted, so that we move forward in a different manner.
To be expanded in tbe next print publication of Pariah Child…
Released way back in late 2011, “The Ninth Hour” should have already been heralded as the return of a legend. Led by Death Row & Pentagram sticksman and multi-instrumentalist, Joe Hasselvander, with old comrade in arms, Martin Swaney on bass, everybody should have been quaking in their boots. This is heavy. This is dark. This is inspired. Why you did not purchase it as quickly as Pentagram’s “Last Rights” or Victor Griffin’s “In-graved” remains a mystery. But it is never too late for redemption….
Welcome Joe to the realms of Pariah Child. Thank you for taking the time to grant us audience. What have you been doing since “The Ninth Hour” tolled?
Well, as a lot of people know, I have been on an extensive North American Tour with Raven supporting our long awaited DVD documentary, “Rock Until You Drop (A Long Day’s Journey)” chronicling the band’s rise to fame in the 1980’s and it’s new found resurgence today. I am also heading up a few new projects with other people set for release in the near future. I love keeping busy.
When speaking to Cosmic Lava last year, you described how you were now painting with much broader musical strokes and it would be difficult to argue that the latest album was neither diverse nor captivating yet still wholly cohesive. So how has your approach changed? Why do you think you have achieved so much here and now? Experience? Hard graft? Undiluted vision?
From all of my playing with different bands and years of vinyl archeology, I feel that I’ve tapped into the real essence of what makes real Heavy Metal tick. It has its roots in so many things musically and emotionally. A lot of tragedy, high strangeness and triumph. It’s much easier to create when you have thrown off the shackles of popular opinion and just rock with the truth that is in you.
While the album was recorded by a band and the sound is undoubtedly rich I still find it fascinating that you handle all of the song writing as well as the lion’s share of the roles as singer, guitarist and drummer. Does this ever pose problems? Do you never get stuck?
No, actually it is much easier that way as I hear in my head, the whole band while I am writing the music on guitar. I can produce an album much faster that way as I already have all the various parts of the rhythm tracks mapped out. The overlaying stuff I save for discovery towards the end of the session. That is often times where the magic happens.
Who was responsible for the cover and how do you feel it captures the mood of the album? For me, there are echoes of the debut Black Sabbath album with the thick undergrowth suggesting the passage of time and the lonely figure in black an omen…
The cover came from a group of photos that were taken next door to the studio where I was recording. There was a group of old tobacco barns and an old imploded house. I was seriously worried at the time about a proper title for the album and a correlating image for the cover. When we reviewed the shots at the end of the day, this image stood out like a sore thumb and said “Use me”. Originally it was black and white and at first just looks like an old decayed structure when suddenly your eye is lead to my figure behind the old vines and scrub grass like the sudden sighting of the ghost of the person that once lived in this ramshackle heap of weathered wood. Quite freaky, actually. When I saw the job Black Widow did in augmenting it, I also caught the first Sabbath album vibe. I like ours a lot better. It also represents the bumpy road I had been on for a few years where the struggle was hard without much return. It kind of says, “Here’s my empire of decay”. Ah, but that’s Doom.
Delving into the lyrics, there is not a strict story from start to finish yet the songs are bound by recurring themes of doom and redemption. The title track warns of time passing and the impending Armageddon. But not without hope, given the tone of “Restless Soul” and “Coming of the King” so ultimately would you consider it to be an honest, reflective and uplifting record?
The lyrics are from my observations of the way society has gone into a hyper-drive tail spin because of its money, sex and power fetish. Sexy is no longer about sex and money is all about who you can bribe. The people who don’t think inside this narrow box are usually seen as throwaway and outdated by the rest of the world and shunned for actually having integrity. It’s a true Twilight Zone episode in real time. I had no shortages of lyrical content.
“Suburban Witch” and “Salem” share a different theme in common. Given that the latter most be relatively close to your Massachusetts’ home, have you a burning interest in the history and folklore?
There is always a grain of truth in all folklore. Sometimes you find that it’s no exaggeration and things can get dangerous if you pursue it too closely as I have learned from personal experience.
“Heavier Than Thou” is a feisty anthem! It could equally apply to any number of relationships or rivalries. Was it written with anybody particularly in mind?
It was originally about my days with Pentagram and a few other so-called employers who secretly hated me and were trying to discredit my work and my personality. I never realized how jealous they were of me. They read me wrong because they wanted to, because I had become some kind of threat to them which was totally fabricated or imagined. I have always worked with people fairly and they know this but you can’t argue with a narcissist nor expect them to have any of your interests at heart. Karma’s a mother and this is what the song is about.
Your rousing rendition of “Don’t Look Around” slots in rightly in to the album proper! I like it when a cover feels at home within a body of work rather than an awkward spare part tagged on to the end. But why this song? Does it capture the wild untamed side of your youth as a musician on the road?
It does capture that in a nutshell. I also once played with Leslie West back in the 1970’s and he truly gave me my first big break. He was a consummate professional despite his career setbacks. He is a very strong willed man that you can’t keep down for long. He has proven that over and over. This was my tribute to him and my favorite song by Mountain.
Now if I understand correctly, “Ancient Rocks” was recorded in tandem with “The Ninth Hour” yet it is wholly a covers album dedicated to the early ‘70s Hard Rock like Jerusalem and Bang. I find it strange that in your youth you fought so hard to break free from the limitations of the covers circuit yet would dedicate such time and energy to this pursuit all these years later! What has changed? What was the motivation? Old friends, comfortable in the skin, knocking out classics for fun?
These were the songs that defined my teenage years and had me perfectly aligned to go forward on my own journey through song writing. These bands were a tremendous influence on how my taste developed in music and they were the best in my estimation. They were all pretty famous in their time but have been all but forgotten today. My parents were both teachers and I think a lot of that rubbed off on me. I find myself constantly educating people that there was life before Metallica. A lot of my efforts have paid off especially with my large Facebook crew who are for the most part, light years younger than me. Did I also do it for fun? Absolutely!
Judging by the artwork released by Black Widow Records, “Ancient Rocks” will be represented by a mysterious old stone structure. Fitting themes. Was that your idea? Given that you had thought it would have surfaced by now, what is the revised timescale?
I toyed around with a few ideas with the title in mind and was one day contacted by a man who was selling artwork for album covers. The first one I saw was called “Ancient”. It has an old stone abbey with a Druid elder standing among the fallen columns looking out upon the remnants of a war torn world.
There had been talk that you would tour to promote “The Ninth Hour” on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean with Martin Swaney, Russ Strahan and T.C.Tolliver. Did either happen last year? If you intend to hit European shores, will you give me enough warning to save up a few pounds for my flights, unless, that is, Ireland is on your itinerary?
I had fully intended to tour with that line up but no one could pay enough for us to make a buck or even cover expenses. I don’t perform for free and never have unless it is a benefit for a worthy cause. The other guys in the band also have to be paid as they are old hats at this. These things happen because there are at times, too many bands out on the road. They would rather book something that has been around a very long time I think. The Hounds are relatively new. If an adult-minded offer comes, we are there.
Given how vast your musical legacy has been to date and that it is still expanding, without any sign of the threatened autobiography, please would you recall and explain the following choices:
My favourite instrument to play is drums.
My favourite line up I have played with is the current line-up in Raven.
My favourite album I have had a hand in writing and recording is The Hounds Of Hasselvander’s debut album.
The song that most captures who I am is “Pull The Switch”
Thank you Joe for so much top class heavy music over the years! I’ll see you in Manchester with Raven in November for my birthday bash. The final words are yours…
Well folks, I’m not likely to stop creating the very best and heaviest music I can for you. This is a life journey that doesn’t stop until the engine seizes up. Rock Until You Drop!!! Cheers.
And Manchester was flattened! What a killer band. For all manner of vivid memories from the man himself, you would do well to set some time aside to read http://joehasselvander.blogspot.com
To celebrate the launch of the “Initiatio” LP, Pariah Child has dug deep in the vaults to exhume an old conversation. Ever since indulging in the “Alchimete” EP and an intriguing interview in Devilment Zine, I knew this would be a band to hold close to my heart. Six summers later that sentiment remains unchallenged. With a haunting, resonating, and almost funereal atmosphere, Ysengrin conjures up images of Abysmal Grief in a parallel plane, inspired by similar sources yet pursuing a different destiny. Base Metal has been transformed into Gold…
Greetings Guido! How’s life in your neck of the Normandy woods?
Greetings Danny! Life is going pretty well with our new house in these old woods, amongst elemental powers and messengers of God… A great place to compose new anthems for the Beast!
Please elaborate upon your motivations to form a band under the banner of Ysengrin! It bears medieval and mythical marks that recall the figure of the wolf…
I raised YSENGRIN from dark and dusty rooms, praising the fantastic writings of Lovecraft and Poe. The wolf was already born since many years in the womb of putrefaction and stench. Death is the constant tendency, from the beginning to now. You cannot find any Ysengrin release without a drawing and so related to Death. “Despise not the ashes as they are the crown of your heart…” had said Morien.
When I said band, you really are the heart and soul of Ysengrin. Do you consider it a solitary venture? How much do you compose, create, play and illustrate alone? Are the current session and guest musicians (or were those in the past) integral to this quest?
Not a solitary venture but more a guild with different individuals gathered together under the sign of the wolf. That’s the reason why other members, be session or guest, are really important! Still most of the riffs come from me. I’ll always be the master (if the word is not too pompous)! I cannot see Ysengrin nowadays as a one-man band…
Given that our readers may be wholly unfamiliar with the band how would you expand upon the sound you have forged? To my ears, it is distinct and whilst I could attempt to draw broad parallels with the untamed spirits Necromantia, Abysmal Grief and Necros Christos would it really be enough to understand Hermetic Dark Metal?
I’m mostly influenced by old music from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. I don’t really like etiquettes, but Hermetic Dark Metal is really the perfect description of what Ysengrin stands for! Of course, I share lots of things with the bands you quoted. You can also add to that list MORTUARY DRAPE, MYSTIFIER, UNHOLY, NEGATIVE PLANE, AFTER DEATH and a few more…
To your credit, Ysengrin has been fairly prolific and incredibly consistent over the years spawning essentially five distinct EPs (of sorts) and two full-length albums. Having had a little time to reflect, how do you review this trajectory?
Well, it’s not really 5 EPs… Anyway, “To Endotaton” is really a peak of what I have accomplished and for the moment, I cannot think of a third album! I don’t really see any trough, but the track “La Procession Noire” on the 4 way split CD suffers a lot from a bad mix in my ears now…
The only composition I have not yet sourced! Anyway, your latest offering, the self-released “Palimpseste” MLP is a revamped version of the split recording with Borgia. Whilst the remastering for vinyl was essential, what I find particularly interesting is that that was only one of the many steps taken to enhance its personality…
I decided to change to running order to fit the 45 RPM vinyl, and also I prefer how it sounds now! It’s definitely a good opportunity to seal on wax, with a proper sound, those old tracks in the YSENGRIN quest…
The name, although obscure, is very fitting! In this case, it’s a musical recording rather than an original manuscript that has had content superimposed. Given your vocation and personal studies, was it only a matter of time before you applied the concept to your artist work?
Before I started to play music as a teenager, drawing and reading were my main distractions since my childhood. Even I was (and still am!) a bad drawer, I tried to put into reality what I had in mind. I would say that the artistic streak was already in me!!! But music is really the best way to express my feelings…
The new artwork is reminiscent of your back catalogue. A trademark touch. But would you expand upon why you used this particular image here and now?
The hooded monk is definitely a trademark. If I do another album, there will be for sure another hooded monk on the cover! This XIXth Century etching (which I reworked a lot by the way) was perfect to reflect both title and music, and as I self-financed the MLP, I cannot afford to pay an artist for the artwork. Money is always a pain in the ass…
Speaking of asses, would you be willing to elaborate on your lyrics? Whilst the particular brand of French is often beyond my comprehension I was surprised by how crude “Abîmes de Joie” reads!
Not all the YSENGRIN lyrics are about assholes! Ha! Ha! Anyway, yes, “Abîmes de Joie” mostly deals with women, associated with lust and blasphemy, all daughters of Eve, sin of flesh… I’m particularly proud of the sentence about a parallel of the fall of the Lucifer emerald to an anal plug (from wisdom to decadence). A pure piece of poetry!!!
“La Soif de Vulcain” on the other hand is much more poetic, which appears fitting for the themes contained within…
That’s right, on the contrary, the lyrics of “La Soif de Vulcaïn” is definitely more male dealing, like an overview of Alchemy (yes, mostly a male science), something more solar and luminous. Both tracks can be seen as the two sides of the head of the god Janus. Nothing is purely black or white you know…
And what do you share in common with the infamous François Villon so that he became the thrust of “Frères Humains”?
This poem is probably the most famous French medieval poem (Villon, by the way, is really a reference in this domain). There is something already very contemporary in Villon words, also a vanguard of the magnificence of the poetry of Charles Baudelaire or Gérard de Nerval. I choose Villon because he fit totally with Metal in the darker form, with a medieval touch of course!
Are these his words? Any recommended further reading?
Yes “Frères Humains…” is really his best poem. I’m pretty sure there are some English translations of his whole body of work. Then you can feel pure French poetry of the XVth Century, from the end of the Middle Ages!
Having not heard any material prior to “Archivum MMV-MMX” and “Alchimëte” EPs when the vinyl landed I was pleasantly surprised by how much it carried a harsher cavernous sound. It reinforces that sense of trajectory we discussed previously as both “Tragédies” and “To Endotaton” have been considerably more refined and feel expansive with, for example, the medieval elements and acoustic interludes. Will you continue to move away from this rough and ready approach or is anything possible along the hermit’s path?
So I guess you still missed “T.R.IA.D.E”, the first opus?!
I have since purchased what appeared to be the last of the cassette copies available in England, Guido. However, I have not yet immersed myself in those hymns…
When you do, you’ll hear some great acoustic interludes too! Well, as a worshipper of old vintage sound, I cannot see Ysengrin adopting a clinical polished one. By the way, the two full-lengths are still quite raw in the guitars and bass sound…
I agree wholeheartedly! It’s a subtle evolution I speak of in terms of song writing as well as the impact of opening up the guild to aid the recording process. Now if I remember correctly, you vowed to drop lead guitar, focus on bass and possibly adopt (again) two basses! I cannot help but recall the glorious sound of Necromantia. However, I should ask why deny the guitar a role?
In the past, I once used two bass guitars, the track “Abstinence” that can be heard on the “Archivum MMV-MMX” compilation tape. No Danny, it’s clearly not a denial of the guitar (whether it be lead or rhythmic), but more a necessary rebirth! Guitars will be used here and there, as acoustic or lead, but bass guitars will dominate proceedings. That’s in evidence! Riffs, words on paper, ideas and improvisations… Always the same shit of development and not prefabricated or so…
Only today, you revealed that there are a further four split vinyl releases in the works that will be coloured to match an alchemical path or process! What can you reveal about the material scheduled for each? And why have you taken this communal approach rather than a single full-length album?
The first split 12” will be with my Chilean mates of BLACK GRAIL! They already released two tapes and soon an album will surface (on which I played guest piano!). They are really one of the best bands coming from their country! Awesome Black Metal, the way it should be! The second split 12” will be with Spanish band SARTEGOS! Their name is starting to become known as another great purveyor of Death/Black Metal! The two other split 12” vinyl are with an Australian Death Metal band and a Hellenic Black Metal band! I cannot say more for the moment..
Each of these splits will be in relation to the alchemical process, from nigredo to rubedo, so the whole thing is a concept and will also be put into both CD and cassette (so a bit like the full-length you described), hopefully when all the aforementioned splits will be out! But nothing before fall 2015, I imagine…
How would you actually describe your music intended for these respective EPs? Single longer compositions for each, comparable to the Ysengrin back catalogue?
There will be four tracks for the first split: two quite short and two at a normal length with a total running time around 13 minutes. For the second one, there will be three tracks including one short interlude with around 14 minutes of music. Don’t worry Danny! The music cannot be more fucking Dark Metal! Mostly mid-tempo, obscure keys and mystic riffs! The only difference is that there are no rhythmic guitars on the split with SARTEGOS whilst there are still guitars on the split with BLACK GRAIL so it’s the last YSENGRIN release with rhythmic guitars…
With different bands and presumably labels involved, how will these split EPs be bound by fitting artwork?
NUCLEAR WAR NOW! And I,VOIDHANGER RECORDS will co-produce all the four split 12” LPs and yes, there will be only one artist involved, my Croatian mate, Marko Marov. I already worked with him for the poster of tape version of “Tragédies…” album.
Then we are in safe hands on a steady path! The last matter of concern is if, how and when the music would be performed live? What circumstances would be required?
Hopefully, for 2016… But first and foremost we have to rehearse! There won’t be any tour or the like. But a few gigs with selected bands. I really hope our rituals will be something intense and refreshing.
If Ysengrin was a book, painting or tapestry, what would it be?
Very interesting question but difficult as well! Please let me choose one of each (in a non-exhaustive way).
The book would be mixture of “The Monk” of M.G. Lewis, any of Lovecraft’s novellas, and René Guénon’s books on Symbolics…
The painting, hard choice again, would be another mixture with a gothic medieval miniature from Limbourg brothers, a hermetic woodcut between XVIth and XVIIIth Centuries, and a German Romantic painting from the XIXth Century.
The tapestry would have to be “The Apocalypse” Tapestry from Angers.
Without further ado, Guido, thank you for taking the time to shed a little light on your obscure laboratory. If anything left unsaid should be spoken let loose your tongue…
Thanks a lot for your interview and I hope more Irish folks will taste the occult world of YSENGRIN! “Regnum Dei intra vos est”. Luc, XVII, 21.
Stream the new studio album now:
With their “Different Dirges” demo collection pending imminent release, it seemed timely to dust down this special old feature from the vaults…
England boasts a proud history of bands cutting across many genres. Sadly, in years past, there has been a discernable decline as the greats lapsed into inactivity whilst those that remained failed to rise above mediocrity. However, there are now stirrings in a number of camps that will surely fill said void and put the island back on the map. One such contender is The River. The young quartet released its latest demo earlier this spring prior to embarking on the first foreign live appearance at none other than the prestigious Doom Shall Rise festival. Both their studio and live exploits to date herald a promising future. But now a vacant drum stool threatens to stall their gathering momentum. Curious to discuss the dynamic new material, their burgeoning popularity and where they go next I went in search of the remaining trio.
Vicky, Christian and Stephen you are all very welcome. Tell me, how has life been treating you since we last met? Back to porridge, as they say…
Stephen – Life has been good! Obviously there have been a few down points along the way such as Jon leaving and the search for a new drummer. But apart from that, it’s been cool. We are now just concentrating on the next release and wandering the demo band desert looking for that elusive label.
How did you find Doom Shall Rise III as a musician and fan? What were the highs and lows?
Stephen – I would have to say that Doom Shall Rise III was the best festival I have ever been to. On many different levels, it was a joy to be a part of it, the bands, the people we met, the organisation from all the staff and we can’t leave out the beer!
As a musician I found it amazing, to play to such a crowd where everyone was there for the same reason, the love of all things Doom. Before we played, I was very nervous. But as the set began I got into the swing of things. I’d have to give it to the Germans. They know what they’re doing. If there was a problem the guys backstage were on it straight away.
Obviously there were a few hitches with our performance including the unfamiliar equipment and Chris being ill. But on the whole I think we gave a good account of ourselves. The only low point was it was Jon’s last gig with us. Apart from that, it was a fantastic time had by all!
Did the experience differ significantly to a typical gig in England? Crucially, the festival will have introduced the band to a wider audience. But what kind of feedback did you receive over the weekend and have you had much since?
Stephen – I think the main difference was the crowd numbers. In England, the crowds can be very fickle. You do get your die-hards, who always make putting on a gig worthwhile. But it’s a real shame when you get someone like The Gates Of Slumber or Slough Feg coming over to play to small crowds.
In Germany, we made a lot of new friends, sold a lot of demos and got a fair amount of good reviews from our performance so we were happy with that!
For those less fortunate souls, The River is still relatively unknown at this early stage in your career. Please introduce the band as you see fit. How and when did you come together? Did you have a specific vision you intended to explore? Has it changed since you embarked on this journey?
Chris – We actually formed in 1999 as a continuation of a friend’s band that Steve and I had played in, which split when the singer joined the army. We recorded two demos between that date and 2002 although they were not spread too far outside our community of friends for various reasons. The band members at the time, unfortunately, were happier playing music that sounded exactly like their favourite bands without any of their own identity and didn’t really care for putting in any hard work to promote The River. So after they left, Steve and I set about recording ‘Oneiric Dirges in Mono’ in 2003 with myself handling drums and guitars, and Steve handling bass. We roped in my friend Vicky to do the vocals and thus The River of today was born! We found Jon to play the drums after he left Unsilence and moved south. We then began playing live in 2004. We played some very good gigs and spread the name very far in a very short space of time. However, Jon had to leave after recording ‘Different Ways to Be Haunted’ due to family commitments, leaving us as a trio again.
We’ve never really had a vision of that we wanted to explore. Our intention was simply to be a seriously heavy Doom band but not at the expense of writing a decent song. Sonically, we love low-tuned guitars and feedback. But we also adore a beautifully sung lyric & melody so I guess if The River did have a vision to explore, the juxtaposition of brutal riffs and tender harmonies would be it!! We haven’t changed our outlook at all since we started. With a bit of luck, hopefully, we’re improving!
The River is an intriguing name. It suggests motion and perhaps life-giving properties. How does this natural symbol represent the band?
Chris – There was no other reason to name the band The River than simply we liked it. It also had no connotations. Therefore, people would judge the music after hearing it rather than having a preconceived idea of what we’re about. Having thought about it a bit though, it does suit us fairly well. A river can be dirty and brutal yet it can also be clear & beautiful. It’s sometimes slow yet sometimes fast moving. It’s constantly progressing yet it’s never unrecognisable as a river. These are traits we try to include in our music as well so in that respect I guess it represents the band quite nicely!
There is also an inherent connectivity between a source and a destination. Where do you think The River fits in the grand scheme, if indeed there is one?
Chris – In a physical sense, as you say, a river always has a source and a destination. It provides home and security to a wide array of wildlife, which is very important to the grand scheme of things. Whether, as a band, we could ever hold such a lofty position and be seen as that vital or important to the music world as our namesake in the natural world I don’t know!
Well, my congratulations! Your current offering, “Different Ways To Be Haunted” is a refreshing slab of music. The signature touches are developing. The song writing and performance certainly strike me as more confident. How then do you rate demo? Do you feel that you are now beginning to realise that vision?
Chris – Ta very much! We’re all still very proud of the demo as we are of everything we’ve recorded. There are obviously things we would change given more time and money. But that’s just nit-picking on my behalf! The main reason we came on so well between “Oneiric Dirges…” and “Different Ways…” was that we had Jon on drums. Being able to play live and actually rehearse as a proper band rather than being the doom skiffle band we were before he joined meant we had more time to work on arrangements and melodies than we were previously used to. Certainly having the experience of being a full band meant that we were definitely more confident when writing and recording “Different Ways…” no doubt about it! Although Jon is no longer part of the band, his contribution has been invaluable and we’re at a stage now where we have a very strong musical vision and know exactly where we’re headed. I believe we’ve pretty much got ourselves The River sound and we just need to work on continually improving it.
In my eyes, the three songs form a cohesive unit without lacking diversity. But I have a sneaking suspicion that “Broken Window” was penned first as it seems more in keeping with “Oneric Dirges In Mono”… Is there any truth in that or is it merely coincidental?
Chris – Yep, “Broken Window’” is the oldest song on “Different Ways…” and it just missed being recorded for “Oneiric Dirges..” which I’m now quite glad of as it has changed a fair bit over time before getting to the stage it’s at on “Different Ways…”. The vocal lines and first two riffs are pretty much the only things that stayed the same. “White Library” was written not long after it and “A Close Study” was the newest song. It was only finished about a month before we recorded it. We put them on in newest to oldest order because “Broken Window” was the out and out Doom one whereas “White Library” was the more left of field one. “A Close Study” has some outright Doom riffs but also something a bit different in it. We put it first to set the tone for what lay ahead basically!
On the previous outing, Chris penned the lyrics and Vicky sang them. Has that formula remained as it was? Vicky, will you be playing an increasingly larger role creating as well as performing them as your confidence grows?
Vicky – Chris is still writing the lyrics, mainly because he’s far better at it than I am! It’s not a lack of confidence that stops me. It’s just there’s a better man for the job.
Each of the new song titles hinge on physical space. Is that emphasis deliberate?
Chris – Not really, it’s just a co-incidence! Thinking about it, it is easier to pinpoint something you can physically see to get a point across than to get all wordy and have people not understand what you’re getting at. It also helps to set up a story and set a scene when you’re writing I guess, be it lyrics, poetry or the chapters of a book. In all honesty, I hadn’t spotted it until you mentioned it!
Loneliness, heartache and a lack of confidence figure quite prominently in the lyrics. Are they intended to be universal or do they relate to specific experiences? Do you find singing about them to be cathartic?
Chris – A bit of both! “A Close Study’” and “Broken Window” have elements of loneliness and a lack of confidence in them as they are definitely things I suffer from at times although I see them as obstacles to overcome rather than things to whinge about and hopefully the lyrics come across in this way. The heartache end of it I presume you’re thinking “White Library” specifically. The lyrics were written simply because Vicky said she enjoyed lyrics about relationships. They’re actually my least favourite set of lyrics I think they’re too wimpy although Vicky makes them sound better than they are. They are definitely not about any of my ex-girlfriends! I would not flatter someone I’ve split up with by writing a song about them! However, a lot of people really like them and reckon they can relate to them so they’re good in that respect. On the whole the lyrics are based mainly on my own specific experiences but hopefully written in such a way that people can relate them to anything they want!
Vicky – It’s not quite cathartic for me, as they’re not my words. I can relate to them, understand them and I certainly enjoy singing them But I’m not so much getting things off my chest as helping Chris get them off his!
Ever since I first heard mention of The River emphasis has been placed on your vocals and there have been frequent comparisons to Mourn. But bar gender and nationality, I think there is probably little common ground. Mind you, it must help distinguish the sound of the band in a predominantly male genre. What do you think?
Chris – Mourn was a great band and in actual fact, their “For Evermore” cassette was the first demo I ever bought. However, I agree with you that there are very little similarities in the sound and if the only reason we get compared to them is the fact we have a female singer it shows how naïve some people can be! Caroline Wilson and Vicky have very separate singing voices in my opinion. Besides, you wouldn’t compare Wino to Messiah Marcolin just because they’re both blokes, would you?! Having said all that, there are far worse bands to be compared to. I’d just rather we were both in the category of good music than the category of Doom bands with bird singers!
Unfortunately, you were unable to record a fourth song, “A Relation To Absence” that was intended for the demo as you ran out of time, and presumably money, in the studio. Would you be able to give us an insight into the lyrics and music?
Chris – “A Relation to Absence” is actually a three minute song with no distorted guitars on it! It’s kind of up-tempo by our standards and quite different although ultimately still The River. It will be recorded in the near future, have no fear! Lyrically, it’s about missing out on life’s simple pleasures through no fault of your own but trying to plough ahead regardless.
It was no secret that Jonathan would be vacating the drum stool after Doom Shall Rise III due to changing family commitments. In one sense, it is a shame as his drumming helped define the new songs and his talents will be missed. How is he settling in up north and how is the band coping without having him around?
Stephen – Jonathon is now the father of a baby boy named Sammy. He and Regan are very happy and proud parents. We wish them nothing but the best for the future.
We’re coping at the moment with rehearsals and recording. Mind you, it was a hell of a lot easier when he was here. We’re missing playing live! Hopefully, someone will turn up soon to fill the empty drum stool.
The band appears undeterred, as you have already confirmed that the debut album will be recorded early next year even if you have not recruited a full-time drummer or secured a label deal. The latter is certainly not as crucial as it once was. Please elaborate on your plans. Do you then have a sense that the timing feels right?
Chris – We’ve been going for six years now and have recorded four demos. We pretty much feel it’s time to get off the pot now if you know what I mean! Enough people have shown an interest in hearing an album and one of the nicer criticisms we generally get is that the demos seem to leave people wanting to hear more. I think we’re at a stage now where we need to do an album because recording another demo would seem almost like admitting defeat or showing we don’t have enough faith in our music. If we haven’t got a new drummer by the beginning of next year I’ll play the drums and guitar again like I did on “Oneiric Dirges…” Finding a label is going to be the hard part, particularly if we still haven’t got a drummer by then, as we won’t be able to promote the recording by playing live. We are actively searching for a label at present though and hopefully it will all come into place sooner rather than later. We’ve had a bit of interest even though we haven’t finished sending “Different Ways…” to the various labels out there so time will tell I guess! Whatever happens, the album is going to be recorded in the first few months of 2006 and will be titled “Drawing Down The Sun”. It’s going to have seven songs on it and is pretty much a continuation of “Different Ways…” with some new ideas chucked in for good measure!
Whatever happened to the proposed split 7” with Cambian Dawn? When do you foresee your songs making their way on to hallowed wax?
Chris – The split was due to be released via COTD records but unfortunately the funding wasn’t there to get the singles pressed. 7”s are bloody pricey it has to be said! Again though, we’re looking for a label to release it as we speak and if the worst comes to the worst, we’ll probably have a whip round between the two bands to get the money together and release it ourselves. I think both songs are too good to waste and the opportunity to release a vinyl is not one I’m passing up! As to when it is released, the sooner the better I reckon!
Given that the band has enjoyed a progressively higher profile live in the past twelve months do you foresee it continuing as an integral part of your development? If you had a free reign, where would you like to play and with whom would you share the stage?
Chris – As far as I’m concerned, you’re not a proper band unless you can get out there and play live. It really breaks my heart that at the moment we can’t do it! We were flying high with the amount of gigs we were being offered and it’s such a shame that we’re no longer in that position. We’ve been very lucky with the gigs we have had. Our profile and demo sales were getting higher all the time. We definitely became a much better band from gigging it has to be said. Until we get a new drummer, though we’re knackered on the live front! If we had the choice, it really wouldn’t matter where we play although I have to say I like travelling abroad! At Doom Shall Rise we played with a lot of bands that we would have loved to have seen let alone shared a stage with! Mirror Of Deception, Warning, Isole, The Gates Of Slumber, Pale Divine and Place Of Skulls are all bands I’d gladly share a bill with again! Actually when we do get the drummer situation resolved, the first shows we’re likely to play are with Warning, which is something we’re really looking forward to. We’ve also played with Reverend Bizarre and would like to do so again. As for bands we haven’t played with, there’s Orodruib, Solstice, Revelation and Thee Plagure Of Gentlemen… The list is endless! There are bands outside the Doom & Metal scenes that I personally would love to play with but I can’t see the proposed Lynyrd Sknyrd, PJ Harvey and The River bill ever going ahead!
How would you describe the atmosphere amongst English bands, the press, promoters and the general punters? Is there a tangible scene? Have you noticed any significant changes in the underground over the past five to ten years?
Stephen – The atmosphere amongst the English scene is good. It’s difficult in London because there’s an “in” crowd but the rest of the country’s fine. The bands help each other out when they can with gigs, promoting and information, which is a healthy attitude to have when the scene is not as big as others. The up side is you don’t get as many arseholes and fakes as other scenes.
Some people in the press will highlight Doom bands but they are few and far between. There was a Doom special in a new UK magazine called Zero Tolerance which featured bands like Black Sabbath, Revelation, The Gates Of Slumber, Reverend Bizarre, Centurion’s Ghost amongst others, which is quite unheard of these days. The crowds can be hit and miss but those who do show up make it worth while.
There are a few new bands breaking through such as Iron Hearse, Cambian Dawn, Centurion’s Ghost, and our good selves of course, and there are bands that have established themselves already, namely, Solstice, Warning, Pagan Altar, Solomon Kane, Unsilence and Tefra. Hopefully there will be more in the future.
Do you hold a wider interest in the performing arts or culture? Do you think alternative movements have an impact on the band?
Chris – Not to any great extent really. I’ve only ever been to the theatre when I was on school trips but that was a long time ago now! Museums and the like get visited occasionally but not with any sort of regularity. It’s not that we don’t have any appreciation for the more cultured way of life. It just rarely crops up on our things to do list. We’re not particularly refined I’m afraid. We’re a pork pie, beer, football and game of darts down the pub kind of band!
There is a somewhat foreboding yet subtle atmosphere at the very core of your creation. Have any such legends or folk tales been absorbed into your collective persona? If so, are there any you would recommend as an accompaniment to the music?
Chris – Again, not really! There are plenty of myths and stories in English folklore that are interesting, whether it be the Druids at Stonehenge, King Arthur, the witches of the Middle Ages or the haunting of Borley Rectory and we do have an interest in such things. However, I doubt we would ever represent anything like this with our music simply because we prefer to write about more personal issues. But I do agree that our music would lend itself favourably to such topics though.
If The River was a painting what would it represent?
Stephen – It would be a picture of dogs playing snooker in a pub with a dartboard in the background and some pints of bitter on the bar! That is after all pretty much the natural environment for members of The River!
Please share your thoughts on the following:
Death: Chris – I grew up listening to “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Human” and was definitely a bit upset when Chuck left us. It comes to us all I guess!
Atheism: Stephen – I think it’s a bit of a cop out really. It’s like waiting to see who wins the FA Cup before you support them! Although I don’t really believe in most organized religion anyway, I do respect them apart from any type of extremist and born-again Christians who are just wrong in general! In my view, you have to stick with something to make it worth while.
Reincarnation: Chris – Sometimes when you’re having a hard time of it you do tend to wonder about karma and what you did in a previous life it has to be said! But I’m not sure about the spirit finding a new home as it were although I do believe in & have an interest in ghosts and ghouls. If I was reincarnated, knowing my luck I’d come back as me!
Agnosticism: Stephen – I think you’ve got to have something to believe in. Whether it’s a God or an idea of a higher power you would think there’s more to life than what can be scientifically or physically proven. At the end of the day, I think we do go on to a better place otherwise the human race would be a right shower of bastards with no consequence to their actions.
Eternity: Chris – It doesn’t have the same effect on the ladies as a splash of Brut, in my experience!
Finally, if you could ask me a question, what would it be?
Chris – Lemmy & God are having an arm wrestle, who wins?! Just kidding!
Trick question! Lemmy is God…
What is your opinion on the current glut of bands, not just in the Doom scene, but in Thrash, Death and Heavy Metal in general that are reforming? Is it a case of the time being right for these bands or are they just riding the nostalgia wave to increase their bank balances, pay for the divorce and put the kids through college?
Yes, it certainly has become commonplace and I must admit that I have half been expecting some bodies to be exhumed in a bid to restore original line-ups. Perhaps the science is not there just yet. Anyway, timing is everything and who knows what really motivates folk to come out of retirement. It happens in all professions. I remember a vice principal retiring three times over and he kept coming back on a voluntary basis. If it’s in your blood it’s in your blood. The same is true of music and the frauds will stand out like a sore thumb. The unexpected return of Count Raven was a real godsend. Their moving performance at Doom Shall Rise remains a cherished memory. It is also marvellous to see Elixir and Pagan Altar back where they belong. They sound fresh too! As for the rest, time will tell…
The time has come to depart. Thank you for your presence at this sacred place. May your path be clear and bright! The closing words are yours…
Chris – Thanks for the interview and all your help thus far. Hopefully the answers we’ve given aren’t too boring in comparison to the well-thought out questions! Keep an eye out for the new material around the first half of next year. If anyone hasn’t heard us before and wants to buy or trade demos then please get in touch. T-shirts are available too!
The name may or may not be familiar. But it deserves to be better known. The power trio gives it heaps with each and every album. Straddling Heavy Metal, Hard Rock and Doom, they are incredibly creative and consistent. “Eyes of the Demon” easily reaches the high calibre of the band’s back catalogue. Perhaps it’s a little less melancholic than my personal favourite, “Tears from the Grave” yet no less enjoyable for the upbeat manner and delivery. Having had over a year for reflection this is what the Swedes had to say…
Welcome Patrick to Pariah Child! How have the winter months been in your hometown? Hibernating?
Thanks for having me! It’s been quite a gentle winter this far with only a couple of days with -25 to -30 degrees. Not too much snow, but enough for skiing. It also saw the release of the second album by Quicksand Dream, entitled “Beheading Tyrants” LP. An epic/heavy/doom album with both Henrik and Andreas from Mortalicum handling the drums, and of course my old QD brother, Göran Jacobson, handling the vocals and lyrical content.
Weather aside, your fourth album has that warmth and clarity that really does the song writing justice. How and when were the compositions actually created? Were you aware of any themes developing during that budding period?
Great to hear! I feel I have really improved on my engineering (recording/mixing/mastering) abilities for these last two albums. I believe the song writing started quite quickly after the recording of “Tears From the Grave” CD. For that album, we set out to not restrain ourselves in regards to song length. But for “Eyes of the Demon” we decided for a more straightforward, 45 minutes, album approach. I believe we already started quite soon after we had finalized the recording of our previous album.
Please describe the emotional experience of capturing those songs over a six month period. Was it not difficult to focus and maintain the momentum? If not an issue, which circumstances actually brought out the best from the band?
We have a certain way of working. The creation and recording process for this album was actually very smooth. For the drum tracks, which are recorded first, we focused on 1 or 2 songs at a time. When they were finished we moved on and rehearsed another couple of songs and recorded them. That was the main difference from before, when we used to rehearse all songs and then record them. We save a lot of the creativity for the actual recordings. Most leads and vocal harmonies are developed during the recording phase. So, we need the time to be able to try, rehearse and reflect until we are satisfied. The fact that I handle the recording, mixing and mastering myself gives us the possibility to continue until we really feel we are happy with the result.
So like the old parable, does slow and steady win the race? Or is the race ongoing?
I think we’ve been very productive having managed to release four albums over a 5 year period. We started on new songs basically as soon as we finished the recording of each previous album. In addition to the albums, we’ve put exclusive bonus songs on our label’s compilation albums too. However, after the release of our latest effort, we’ve slowed down a bit, so slow and steady actually fits the description today!
As with the music, there is an inherent honesty in all that the band has to say. What moves and inspires you collectively?
The main inspiration is the feeling of making music together that we enjoy. We don’t try hard to be or make something we can’t stand behind.
The lyrics appear to be riddled with astrological metaphors. Galaxies, suns and stars. The seasons. Are they intended to parallel the journey of life, passing relationships and soul searching?
For this album, I felt I needed a new approach on the lyrical content to find inspiration. The lyrics on this album offer a bit more variety than on previous ones. Some are a bit deeper and allow the possibility to reflect on life and values, some are darker and some are just fantasy.
“Lost Art of Living” and “Room of No Light” explore darker social dilemmas. Would you offer insight into that fear, isolation and threat of extinction? Why are they relevant topics?
“Lost Art of Living” made me reflect on our drive to explore the possibility to colonize Mars. It’s an extreme view where we have used all our resources to enable this, and while there, we look back thinking it wasn’t too bad on old Mother Earth after all. It also ends with a closing line touching the theory that life at earth one time started with a meteor hitting Mars, throwing rocks with lifeforms out in space that eventually landed on Earth. “Room of No Light” was initially called “Dark Side of the Doom” as a project title, an obvious wordplay with the old Floyd classic. I could not find any inspiration to write lyrics for it but fortunately Henrik stepped in and wrote a really dark lyric about one if these nut-cases kidnapping people and hiding them in their basements. There have been too many examples recently with these sick feckers…
War never really goes away. Did the charging rhythm, melodies and lyrics of “The Distant Brave” help expel any of your frustration with backseat generals and politicians who call the shots?
Unfortunately not! Well, basically it was just my simple reflection on the differences between old and modern warfare. The music came first on this one, so I definitely got inspiration from the rhythms and riffs to explore the subject lyrically.
Even though “The Dream Goes Ever On” is fraught with fighting and inner turmoil, there is a sense of hope. Would you characterize yourself and the band as having a positive outlook or at least being prepared to struggle for a better life?
Exactly! There is always hope. The dream must go on! We definitely have a positive view on things…
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the album opens with the explosive positivity of “King of the Sun” and “Onward In Time” underlines it with gusto at the end! The latter is particularly poetic. Would you care to comment on that closing core message?
Nope, it’s definitely no coincidence. The core message is that you should look forward and try your best instead of looking back. Live, love and forget. All that flower power shit… Ha! Ha! No, seriously, sometimes it’s easy to get stuck with issues from the past instead of letting past be past and move on. As far as I know, we only have one life so you might just want to make the best out of it.
How important is it to shape the structure of a record? Did you deliberate long and hard to make it flow?
Really important! I put a lot of effort into how an album is structured. This is something I have done on all the albums I have been involved in. I think the wrong song order can ruin a song, but if it is done right all songs can reach higher levels. Fast songs become more energetic and slow songs become even heavier…
Well, the start, middle and end would carry little weight without strong chapters! But which is your favourite song here? Why?
This is always a tough one to answer. All songs are special in one sense or the other. But for me personally, as a whole, I really enjoy “Beneath the Oak” because Henrik’s vocals on this one turned out exactly the way I pictured it for the music. Delivered with great feeling and emotion. The lyrical topic is also close to heart. The interaction between all instruments in the lead part is great and the lead itself is amazing. The ending is perfect. It’s also a really fun song to play so I just love it! Ha! Ha!
Undoubtedly “Iron Star” is a another gleaming jewel from the introductory bass line and thick groove, the powerful chorus followed by that riff charge, lead break and the galloping bass underneath. Then the final choral refrain. Killer! Surely it’s a live favourite?
Absolutely! This one is really fun to play live. Definitely one of the favorites from the album…
For me though, “Onward in Time” is the crowning glory and very much the epitome of Mortalicum! It strikes the right balance of drive, strength and heart. Genuinely moving vocal melodies and lead guitar breaks too. What’s your secret? How deep have those trio of roots grown together? Friends for life?
Damn it… you found out our secret recipe! Ha! Ha! These elements are exactly what I want in music. We’ve played together 10 years now and even though the last couple of years have been much slower we have really grown together and can easily get up to speed with just a couple of rehearsals. Definitely friends for life!
Returning to the whole, there are a couple of puzzling aspects. Why was “Eyes of the Demon” chosen as the title track? Is either the music or its lyrics really that central to their surroundings?
We thought it was a good song to use as a title track because of the chorus. But we also very much enjoy the drive and groove of the main riff. The same reason we chose “Progress of Doom” as a title track for our first album. For that album, the choice was between “Progress of Doom” and “Into the Night” actually. For this album, in this aspect, the choice for us was easier.
The artwork appears to be a literal depiction of the title. But why this painting? Why Lucifer? Again, does it fit? Or were you playing safe to Metallic convention?
We were given several options from our label. But in the end, they firmly believed in this painting and it turned out well with the purple coloring. Just like our previous album, “Tears From the Grave” it is very closely connected with the actual title. I guess if you are not going super deep or poetic you might as well choose something that is closely connected together. I can’t say it is the best cover of all times, but it is definitely not the worst either. In the end, it is just a cover. Sorry about the rant. Yes, we played it safe! Ha! Ha!
To be honest, the cover sleeve deserves better! Surely the tumultuous narrative of inner struggle could have been better captured by a full moon over a stormy sea? Or Mars and the doomed lost children of the stars?
I guess I should say thank you. The music is what counts in the end!
That’s very true! But to be blunt, did the fact that the release schedule was brought forward by six months have an impact? With more time, might the sleeve have looked different?
Time of course is always a factor. But I have to state that musically we were basically already finished when we got the question if we could be ready for an earlier release. Maybe the cover would have been different if it was planned more in advance. Maybe not.
Moving on to promotion, how important is it to have the opportunity to share your music on and off the stage?
I would say essential, without a doubt!
Do you perceive a particular audience out there that might appreciate your albums? Does it matter? Would any willing ear suffice?
No, it does not matter. Anyone, and everyone, is of course welcome to give us a listen!
In the past, I have drawn comparisons of Mortalicum to Revelation. Throughout “Eyes of the Demon” I thought of both John Brenner and Dennis Cornelius. Is it just my perception or might there be a spiritual home for you somewhere in Maryland?
Well, we don’t have any (known) relatives in Maryland and none of us have been there. Maybe we all drank from the same well of classic blues-based hard rock at some point in time…?
In recent times, perhaps Malta has become a more important location! Having never been, would you please provide an in-depth perspective of the Doom Days as a musician playing there as well as a member of the audience?
All I say, go there! It’s such a great event hosted by the most loving and dedicated people. There is always a great mix of genres. Not too crowded so you can easily interact with fans, bands and friends.
What has been your best and worst live experiences to date? What have you learned from them and where do you hope to reach next?
There have been a couple of shows with terrible sound on stage. I remember when we played in Leeds it was so fucking loud I couldn’t see straight. The sound pressure bent the light! The best ones were in Wakefield, in Malta and in Austria. We performed really well and the audience response was great.
Jowita and Simone work hard to champion the bands on the Metal on Metal roster. How has that relationship developed over four albums? Could you imagine having any other home?
I believe they now know us as very reliable when it comes to quality and delivery. We are very open and honest about everything and I think this is appreciated. The cooperation has been easy and non-complicated, so we have really not thought about changing label.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure. We are currently working on the live video recording from our recent Malta show. But we’ll have to see what the result will be. Of course, we’re also always interested in playing live, so we’ll see what offers turn up…
In my eyes, Mortalicum is still flying below the radar. The band has a rare gift with song craft second to none. On the surface, it may seem simple, straightforward or good honest fun. But those hooks, those melodies, speak to the soul. For those that need convincing to give you a go, even just once, what would you say?
Thank you very much for your kind and truly inspiring words! That’s basically exactly what we set out to do. Well, we can’t do much more than perform our very best and that’s our promise to anyone willing to give us a try. I’m pretty sure that anyone who likes classic Hard Rock, Doom and/or Heavy Metal will find something they like about us…
Thanks for your time, Patrick! The pleasure was all mine. Onward…
Thanks you very much Danny for your support and for an insightful interview. Much appreciated!
Seldom will an exclusive interview be published online before it has graced the pages of Pariah Child. But for this very special artist I’m prepared to make an exception. From humble roots way back in 1988, Tony Tears has blossomed with aplomb. A living, breathing embodiment of the Italian Dark Sound, the catalogue is as stunning as it is diverse. With an EP and full-length album released in little over the last twelve months, the band has just entered the studio again to record their next LP. To celebrate and reflect upon this hive of activity, Antonio spent a couple of long evenings casting a little light and shade on his evolving esoteric path…
Welcome Antonio, to the shadowy realm of Pariah Child. Artistic minds are often considered to be troubled. Would that be true for you?
Hi Danny, thanks for the invitation in Pariah Child. Yes, definitely. I consider myself a person who lives on art and artists are all a bit problematic or if we prefer “a little crazy”. In my art forms, the one that most represents me is definitely music. I come from a family of musicians and poets.
As a child, were you more attracted to the mediums of drawing and painting or creating music?
There have always been artists in my family. My paternal grandfather wrote poems, my father is a painter and was a great guitarist. He played in Rome in the golden years of Italian music. I mainly took up music from my father. Also painting. So, I would say that the form of art that most represents me is definitely music.
How did your fascination with artistic expression develop as you grew?
It was a spontaneous path. When I was very young I liked to draw, and the drawings that came to my mind were things related to imaginary landscapes, mystical creatures and things like that. Over time, my maternal great-grandmother, believed to be a country healer (well known in Abruzzo), realized that I was a child with some particular “gifts”. She told my mother I had mediumistic skills. In the meantime, while I was advancing in mediumistic drawing, I was starting to take guitar lessons from my father. I was 11 years old. It was actually the guitar and music I preferred to do. I realized that this was my true art form. However, over the years I carried on with both. Let’s say that drawing (today oil painting) is more of a personal form of mediumship; that is, to “materialize” what certain Entities teach and communicate to me. The same is also true with music of course. They are two different but equally mediumistic art forms. I like painting because it is intimate and solitary; the other (music) is more to be followed and in a group (for this purpose more demanding) but music, once made, it’s the best for me. There is also another form of art that I have been doing since I was 6 years old: martial arts. This always helped me to develop self-control and a development of inner energies that serve me a lot also in my esoteric life. Everything has gone hand in hand over the years.
Why were you (and why are you still) driven to create? Is the urge unexpected with unseen force or are you a master of destiny expelling inner visions as and when you see fit?
I lead a fairly reserved life. In fact, I don’t like social media. They are present, but I don’t spend much time there. The main reason is because I love real life; in contact with nature and with certain forces that I have always been able to perceive. On a low level, they are often considered to be larvae, or troubled souls of the dead and the like. For some time now, I must have contacted some evolved Entity; perhaps thanks (also) to some successful magical practices. So, I will not be here to say with who knows what torments (because it is not true) but I have seen the results of these rites and fortunately with very positive implications. This means that the tormented Entities always intrude and in the past I have made some mistakes, in some cases it can be dangerous, but I have reached a level of preparation that these low “Entities” can come away with little. So, I follow “teachings” of Masters who often confirm me in everyday life. Universal masters who go far beyond the conception of the man of good and evil; they could be the face of the same coin. I put their teachings and (tangible) confirmations into music. It can be said that I follow what they tell me but above all what they make me live, and since the messages should be transmitted, I pour their communications (or teachings) into my music. The concept that could be the face of the same coin, is my belief, and derives from the fact that, in years of studies (and practices) I have always stumbled upon books where even certain Demonic Entities could be controlled (not easily) to solve personal issues yes, but also for the sake of other people; very special books on magic. I compared them with other knowledge such as Allan Kardec’s books on Spiritism; I am quite attached to the spiritual concept of Kardec (not only to him anyway) and if at the beginning it seemed different from some magical things, studying it in more detail I understood that in reality it could contain issues that also centred on demonic Entities and other Entities that can be evoked with Practical Magic. What may lead you astray on Kardec, is that its first-run philosophy may seem a little too religious but if you are very careful you will notice that it is not so. Many high Entities in his books say they had to speak that religious way because otherwise many people wouldn’t understand, and that says a lot. The very concept of Duality in universal forces (which everyone can call whatever they want) is a real question and is truly lost in the mists of time; it happened in the first Egyptian dynasties with the concepts of Red Dragon (Ra Hoor Kwiut) and Black Dragon (Hoor Paar Kraat) which is the opposite side to the Red Dragon, that is its Entity opposed (but face of the same coin) from these ancient concepts the religions have taken (all) something and incorrectly rewritten. So, Kardec’s philosophy applied to ritualistic magic (trying to make it as correct as possible) is the path I have been traveling for many years and it has led me to firmly believe in certain things and to bring them to music; most of the time they are the ones who tell me what to do; besides it is I who decide what to do. I would say 50% of the two.
How does this process of creation help maintain your psychological balance?
Even if it is not easy to control certain Entities, in the past I have suffered and erred a lot but today I have perfected these matters and I can only do constructive things. This means that I can pass from being a calm and positive person to something opposite; in spite of this, I manage to be fairly balanced and the music, once I have made my album, it is like a seal, I can perceive its magical and particular essence, there is truly something that goes beyond music. This helps me to channel energy better and to give me a beautiful artistic balance but also of life. There are three aspects that in my life are indivisible by now, they are: the Esoteric experiences, the Music and the realization of these two things (linked together) to live life in a total and balanced way.
To what extent has this relationship changed over the years as you have become older and dare I say wiser?
I could say after being initiated by my great grandmother at the age of 15. But I do not want to be accused as someone who exaggerates or who invents goodness knows what story, so sorry I will try to keep it brief. At the time I was already doing some spiritualist séances and I was wrong. I was persecuted by certain Entities that frightened me. I was very young then, it took a few years to get those Entities out of my way. One person literally saved my life. From there, instead of giving up and abandoning certain subjects, I deepened them and slowly resumed practicing. Even after correcting myself, I made some mistakes, but minor ones compared to the past. I understood that spiritualism could be practiced (with greater results) in a different and less risky way by doing other mediumistic forms compared to spiritualist séance. I dedicated more time also to Magic, which is equally important and in a certain sense linked to the first. I started everything at 12. At 15, there was a mistake of mine, I recovered and started doing things in the right way between 20/25 years; but as my great-grandmother said to me, I was predisposed for certain things from birth. In my life I have been initiated into the esoteric world three times (even if it would be enough once). the first time since my great-grandmother when I was 15 years old (very young), the second and third time in more recent times by two important people; one is a Master who has special gifts, very mediumistic and Reiki, the other a Master of Magic and Demonology (and everything that is more related to the esoteric Magical world). As you can see, it’s not a game for me and I’ve always believed in it. You will have noticed (and it is no coincidence) that it is already twice, even in the previous question that the number “3” returns in the most important things in my life; this is proof that certain forces are always there (even at this time). In fact, the Esoteric Magical Master just mentioned above, revealed to me that my vibratory number was “3” and that I had to notice in my life how important it was; a vibratory Entity is associated with it (let’s call it that), that’s all on this question. Believe me, I have not exaggerated anything, in fact, I have minimised.
Your sixth album, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” explores the themes of possession, madness and torment through demonology, film and art. Why does this fascinate you so?
“Demons Crawl At Your Side” was made in a period where I was “attacked” first hand. You must understand that when you have known certain forces and have been in some way part of it (even with mistakes of the past) when you improve yourself and as much as you come out of it, you become even more sensitive and receptive. At that time, I saw and felt these (unfortunately negative) Entities around people; I breathed their nefarious energy and they on several occasions made me understand that the very fact that I perceived them bothered them. When you feel these things, it happens that people, on the street (led by these Entities) challenge you, annoy you, and commit all sorts of things that can lead the human being to commit from the most annoying thing, even, to atrocities. It was an experience that led me to believe that (especially today) possessions are real and take place in a subtle way (even when we don’t notice it). It is not necessary that a person necessarily has to vomit green, blaspheme, and twist to suffer a possession. Certain dark forces feed on the ignorance and indifference (superficiality) that the human being has towards them. Many schools of spiritualist thought maintain that in order to remove certain negative forces one must be indifferent to them. I don’t totally agree. What is certain is that if one knows it can prevent, knowledge leads to shielding itself, vice versa, no, because you become vulnerable. I know, an exaggeration may appear; because then all people should be interested in these things, but in reality it would be enough to understand. The fact is that unfortunately today people don’t want to understand. It’s not nice to understand, better to live in a caged world. This generates true evil, true possessions. So, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a very painful, dark, but equally Heavy Metal album. I’m proud of it because the mix of everything I’ve done better in my project and band since 1988 (year of foundation) is just right. The choice of the inserts taken from the films: “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, “Demoni”, “Devil Dog” and “Omen III” were intended to make the atmosphere that permeated the album more sinister and real. I can guarantee you that the choice of these films is less superficial than it seems. These films reflect real facts, and also reflect the ambiguity of real evil. Actually I am fascinated by the esoteric search for man; the positive aspect of Darkness, since Darkness also has its positive end. However, being involved in certain things, when you come across negative energies that attach themselves to indifferent (negative) beings and are attacked by them, you cannot help talking about it. Based on what happened to me (and it often happens) I made a painful Album, a seal (for me and for those who know how to get into it) because I fought against these forces. “Demons Crawl At Your Side” is a fair balance between Italian Dark Sound and Dark Music in the true sense of the word. A complete album and one that has been lived.
Trauma comes in many forms. What is your earliest traumatic memory?
In spite of the esoteric events I already described, my first trauma arose from another matter. You must know that I have a congenital disease that even if it is a nonsense, it was something that was noticeable as a child and was for a short time a cause of suffering (or trauma if you prefer). This “disease” is Microtia, a deformation of the auricle of the left ear, the same that Paul Stanley of Kiss has (among other things, I love Paul Stanley as a guitarist, as well as Kiss). As a child, as I said, for a very short time this deformation was noticeable and I knew the first forms of human malice, the other children (but often also “adults”) made fun of me. I remember that we ended up in many fights, but then I suffered a lot and cried. As soon as I grew up (shortly after) I didn’t care anymore, I realized very soon, that nature had deigned me with a fairly pleasant aspect and that I didn’t miss my first girlfriends and satisfying human relationships. As soon as I came of age, I began a series of surgeries which led me to have a practically normal ear within several years. Today, little is known and thank God, I wear my almost 48 years very well. So, there are no more traumas. However, as a child for a very short period I suffered a lot.
Mental health has really only become a bigger issue in the public consciousness in recent times. For some though, it remains taboo. How has Italian society coped under the rule of the Church and State?
As I said before, when talking about “Demons Crawl At Your Side”, the wider population (including Italy) for several years now, prefers to live in an illusion. In a world that runs fast and doesn’t want to stop. Years ago I made an experimental Dark Sound Album entitled “Vortice” and yes, it spoke of the Mayan prophecy, for many this prophecy did not come true, falling into error because in 2011 the axis of the earth (if only very little) moved, this shift made many things change both materially and also psychically . From there, human beings did not take anything into consideration, did nothing to understand, and began a real free descent towards all kinds of sufferings (climatic, violence, up to reaching viruses, the last one COVID19) and everything is tied together. The saddest and truly malignant thing (the only real evil existing in the world) is that the “powerful”, the political class and even the church are the cause of these things, for the simple reason that many know but for various reasons (including economic interest) they want to keep them hidden. However, by now, many things are before everyone’s eyes and (if you want) if the human beings were more united, united between the “simple” and “common” people, the powerful class (clergy and politicians) could not ignore us. However, that’s just what they don’t want. I am of the idea that even they are possessed by the one true and authentic evil. I never believed in the speech of conspiracy theorists that the powerful “use” occult powers (occult in the true sense of the word) only as an excuse to ask for political purposes and for money. The money god is more important to them. Although I agree with the fact that politicians and the church itself is interested in the God of Money, for me, there is something much bigger and less rational behind all this, I am convinced.
Speaking of troubled minds, how and when did you discover the works of Alfred Kubin? Please elaborate on the lure that draws you in…
I met him in a book of art that my father owned. Although he has always done it out of passion, my father is a very good painter. He has had several requests to sell his paintings in some exhibitions but always refused. Anyway, I realized immediately, looking at the works of Alfred Kubin, that he was a “visionary”, or rather: he saw things as I think they really are. In his works the world of dark figures mixes with man’s atavistic fears until he lives with them and they are made to appear almost like a normal thing and not entirely to be feared. The real terror is to let these same figures take you somehow. A bit like saying that the figures of an unknown world are there. They observe you. If you want to live with them you become a unique world. If you are afraid of them they can drive you crazy and lead to death before your hour. You will have already noticed (if you noticed) the similarity of what I saw in his works and the album “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. Initially one of his works “The God of the Snakes” was to be the main cover of the album, but then we opted to use our photo with the masks and we put this artwork inside the CD. I really like his creations.
The painting adorning the reverse of the album sleeve is by no means his most grotesque or unnerving. Whether it’s a demon haunting or a tortured soul almost pleading, I cannot say with certainty. The line is blurred. How does the image resonate with you?
The figure is clearly a Monster (or a Demon if we want). If you observe the fingers, his hands are pointed and are placed in a position that seems to want to launch an attack on those who are observing him. The rest of his body is like a giant crawling snake body. His face, however, seems to hint at a smile.
It’s that expression that I find so ambiguous!
So, in me, it has always seemed like something with a human face that tries to please but that at the right time, crawling next to us, can launch a deadly attack. All this represents society, as it is in its majority, that is, possessed and always ready to act under the influence of these true negative forces. I saw in that work everything that could represent the meaning and deep meaning of the album.
And what are your thoughts on “The Other Side” by Kubin and the way in which his nightmarish novel dips into the subconscious?
I don’t like to tell lies (if not strictly forced) and I never magnify things. On the contrary, I tend to simplify things that really happened to me. Therefore, I will tell you that I am not a great reader of novels. For heaven’s sake, I don’t deny that they contain funds of truth, but personally I prefer books and real culture over novels. I read some novels I read from the classics of E.A. Poe to those of “Carmilla” by Sheridan Le Fanu, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker, the ancient novels about Ghosts and so on….
As for Kubin’s “The Other Side”, my singer told me about it and I must say that it is in line with my esoteric thoughts. I like the way of describing these worlds that man initially sees as dangerous but then in the end they are truer and less dangerous than man himself. Indeed, the man in these worlds seems like an intruder, fantastic! But I know Alfred Kubin more for his works of drawings and paintings.
It’s intriguing that your front cover depicts the band in demonic masks and on the back cover you are all unmasked. Are you deliberately tapping into the different faces of madness? Possession? Schizophrenia?
You see, today, many bands (besides make-up) have started using masks; I could name a lot of band names, but one thing I’m enormously proud of is that we Tony Tears used them first. In the year of foundation and the first demo “Strane Sensazioni” (in 1988) there was already the photo with my mask. I was 15 years old and already a lover of Rock / Metal music. I followed a lot both the Italian scene and the foreign one, thanks also to my older brother (who kept me updated with the Italian bands) I must say that there was really no one who used the masks, only Tony Tears. Even if someone can say that ours was a project still in its infancy, I say that in any case I already existed. What does a young project or young band have to do with it!? Even Death SS (if we go to see it) from 1977 to 1987, until the release of the anthological record of Minotauro Records did five concerts (if I remember correctly) and a couple of semi-official demos, let’s say that even if the name spread much in the area of Romagna and around; then little was known about them. Still, time has given it back its historical merits, and today we know that Death SS have unique make-up and they are a unique band in the world (for skill and historicity!). Their definitive crowning which consecrated them was from the album “In Death of Steve Sylvester”. I took them as an example because they are (of course) among my favourite bands ever. I love the old and new Death SS! My story (our story as Tony Tears) is very similar in some ways to that of Death SS. In 1988 I had made my first demo (inside it there was the photo of the very first mask…) therefore, without a shadow of doubt, the first Band in Italy to use the mask and not the classic make-up was us! By now, fortunately, in Italy and abroad among those who follow the genre, (and having now made several official albums) it has become known the truth about the Tony Tears masks.
This preamble on the History of the Masks of the Tony Tears it was necessary. For us, the masks are a very heartfelt thing, and I have to take a small step back in telling you that, thanks to my culture (but also practices) linked very much to Spiritism by Allan Kardec and also from other schools and forms of thought I have always firmly believed (since a young man) in life after death; although I am convinced that the life we are living (living now!) is equally important. Indeed, it is from living the present that the great reparation of our Soul starts. Precisely because the soul has a great free will (as well as man in material life) every Tony Tears mask is destined to change. Over the years, between used masks (at least twenty), the unofficial ones (made but used very little) I have created fifty different models of masks (the average of one per year since I was born …). In addition, I designed another hundred never used. The masks in Tony Tears, as I said, are changeable, because every Tony Tears Album is changeable, each of our periods is changeable, the Magic itself is changeable, the soul is changeable (especially the soul). Hence, in Tony Tears the mask always represents and will represent our changing Soul, because this is the way, in the world parallel to matter, that Extrasensory world (both of souls who reincarnate but also of already existing evolved Entities). So, for me (for us), our masks are what we truly believe in, our true face, our true experience and life condition. However, precisely because we truly believe in what we do, we have never hidden our true face; just like in “Demons Crawl At Your Side”. This decision has the significance of the fact that, with or without a mask, we (the human being) always have “hidden” sides which, if not accepted and elaborated, can lead him to madness and his death (before the times foreseen by the Karma). So, this condition will not lead him to a healthy madness (the artistic madness in being different from the mass of ignorant so to speak, that would be a healthy madness…) but an anguished madness, of fear, of torment. The more man rejects certain things that his soul claims, the more he is forced to fight you one day. It is inevitable. Understanding them as soon as possible and accepting them, understanding them, helps a lot. Here is explained the fact that, as much as we use our masks, we do not hide our true face; whether we use them or not, we are always ourselves. We are True. Always!
Please elaborate on the creation of your masks. Which materials have been used? How much preparation was required to make a mask? From the fifty pieces, have any been particularly important representations of your evolving self?
The preparation comes from sketches on drawing. After that, I purchase masks from any theatrical shopkeeper. The masks, therefore, are very simple materials. They can range from (classic) plastic or papier-mâché ones. The latter are certainly more professional, but not easy to find. The colour must represent the soul, therefore, from the first mask of 1988 up to those used to date, I chose white and black. White is the sum of all colours. In an esoteric sense, therefore, for me, white represents the experience of all reincarnations up to absolute purification. The black masks, on the other hand, are the absence of light. In an esoteric sense, it represents the black soul who, having had no light (light in the sense of spiritual search in life, or a life devoted to true evil), pays the consequences also as a soul, retracing the same sufferings in the Soul. The concept of Black may appear similar to White (in a certain sense it is) but, nevertheless, it has a meaning more than souls (or Entities) linked to the earth and in a certain sense more “rebellious”. In any case, the choice of one or the other of the two “colours” is often chosen for an aesthetic taste combined with a design to be used on the masks and not specifically linked to the meaning of the two “colours”. (Black and white are not even colours). There is no fixed rule in choosing a colour or a mask model, they represent Change. Change in the meaning of each album. As each musical album is different, the Mask is different too. In the past (on some rare occasions), on some album there was no photo with the mask. However, there was also a mask dedicated to that album. For many years I applied to my masks only paints (acrylics) with drawings of tears. Even if, at first glance these tears seemed the same, from observing each other you should understand that they were different in the design (and also in the meaning). Over time, improving my techniques on pictures, I also improved the operating techniques on masks, and in more recent times, I also applied clay objects to them. For example, the type of mask used for “Demons Crawl At Your Side” which is certainly one of the most beautiful models ever made. Obviously, since the masks in the Tony Tears are changeable for each album (for a meaning of Occultism and Esotericism) I have never made expensive masks. However, I have always tried to make them as professional as possible. For the latest “solo” album, the Darker Progressive Electronic “The Wail of the Elements” I chose a beautiful Steampunk mask (one of the first science fiction forms born in the Victorian era). I chose this because it aptly represented the human being who tries to evolve until he reaches a point of no return, just as it is happening (really) between man and nature. The Steampunk mask chosen for “The Wail of the Elements” (for example) has not been retouched or modified. I liked it as it was, and I used it without changing it. It was the first case in my entire discography and since the Tony Tears project exists (1988) that this has happened. In other words, to make you understand, there is no fixed rule in the choice of masks.
The time of realization, usually can go from a week to almost two. Again, it depends, if the masks are only painted. Usually a couple of days are enough for the draft of the drawing, and five days to paint the masks, even several times over, in order to give the right colour chroming. Instead, if (besides carrying out what I have just said) I have to add objects with clay, or objects of all kinds, the time doubles and it goes to almost two weeks. Sure, the choice of masks is made on the basis of a belief strongly linked to my esoteric experience and it is not a sham; as someone does (and tries to copy us without admitting it). But the history and name speaks for us. From the fifty masks created, some were double (or second choices). However, all were representing a specific musical and extra-musical period that mirrored us. There will be some fabulous masks for the Band’s new album (already in preparation), but I can’t say more at the moment.
Tony Tears has multiple personalities. Your discography blurs the line between solo works and having a fully-blown line-up. The pattern is not even chronological! How does the differing chemical balance of minds suit you?
This is your opinion. In reality, I tell you that it is my way of understanding esoteric and occultism. I have a well-marked path, and it is far from having multiple personalities; if anything, I am consistent. It is true that I combine “apparently” different currents of thought but I have learned to bring them to my “advantage” in life. I love being consistent and what I just explained is proof that I am. The same applies to the record chronology in the “apparently” different genres. Over the years I have made “solo” albums where I played everything, albums where I ranged from more Metal songs with Martial rhythmic sections, in Kraut Rock style, to more extensive music with Industrial and experimental sounds when the Industrial did not yet exist; as an example I would say the 2000 CD “Fears and Sensations …” although the recording was not very modern, it had its vaguely industrial experimental Italian Dark Sound charm. This was repeated after, with the album “The Reality Before All”, although from this second album the sound began to be definitely more professional. “The Reality Before All” was an album with longer suites, while in “Fears and Sensations…” (with the exception of the last song) they are all catchy songs. Despite this apparent diversity between the two genres, personally, I don’t see a lack or a melodic diversity in the two styles practiced by solo Tony Tears and Tony Tears as a band. In both styles there is always something recognizable and in both there are two essential characteristics in the Tony Tears band, namely: the melody and the compositions are two very important things, they will never be missing. So, the difference is only in the length of the songs that goes from those more Anthem Rock to those more Dark Electronic Progressive stylings. In singing we range from Italian to English, sometimes I leave my most solo albums wholly instrumental (but it’s something I’ve been doing since 1988). So, there is always a great compositional and melodic arrangement capacity in my songs and in my albums in general. The very fact of defining the more soloists and the others as a band, is given only by the fact that the fixed Band is used to play live and to make most of the favourite songs by myself, or the Dark Sound ones with a formation behind. In fact, the so-called “solo” albums are because, there, I find myself doing (as in the past) all by myself. One day, when we have a keyboard player in training, also the songs from the “solo” albums will be reproduced live in the Tony Tears Band. Therefore, Tony Tears’ discography understanding be done by inserting both the Albums played alone more in the style of Electronic Dark Progressive, with the Albums where more is done Metal with the Band. The difference is not in proposing something very different from one another; even in the Albums with the Band there is no lack of more atmospheric songs (even if combined with Metal and they are much shorter). The so-called “solo” albums are not minor or simpler than those with the band, they are not a filler or something very different from the things done with the band, they are (in reality) to be considered all Tony Tears albums. I can guarantee that in many “electronic” Albums (so-called soloists) by Tony Tears there are musical finesses that if you don’t know how to play will never be able to do, there is great music inside them. As you can see, also on a chronological level there is a unique and coherent path. The so called solo albums are born from personal ideas that I feel I can use in music in a totally solitary, but there is no musical difference, we are always consistent. Our minds are on the same wavelength, also because, when I make my “solo” albums I don’t keep the band still, we are always active, and they are excited to play in the Tony Tears.
Apologies for the interjection. But on that thought of training a keyboard player, have you already played live as Tony Tears? Will this become a priority in future? How do you envisage the ideal presentation of your works on stage?
Here in Genoa, it is difficult to find keyboard players and bass players. Maybe more so keyboard players. In my project and band, the majority of fans see me as the guitarist of the Tony Tears. I hardly see my band with two guitars; I wouldn’t even like it, because, having a very particular touch, I want to remain the only guitarist. I’ve always rather imagined the Tony Tears Band with a good keyboard player. However, the risk of finding a Power Metal style keyboard player is there. Precisely for this reason, we are looking but with great caution and without haste. Among other things, in Tony Tears Band (always) I deal a lot with keyboards, therefore, as we now find it, any player should accept the condition of dividing the keyboards with me (at least in the studio) and this makes the matter even more difficult. On the other hand, thanks to the technique and the harmony that we have as a Band so far, we are able to make up for the absence of both a second guitar and a keyboard player. Both our former bass player and the new one have always done a great job of bass, both for power and for filling, which makes our songs explosive (in the true sense of the word). Anyway, to answer your question, yes, we have already played live. In 1989 there was the first concert, even if in an unofficial way, in the sense that there were no albums but only demos, therefore, the members of that band of kids did not have time to study the pieces. We had a concert with masks, sets, however the songs were Dark / Doom Metal improvisations, more or less sketched in the rehearsal room. In the same vein, there were other concerts in the 90s. For many reasons, in the following years I dedicated more time to bands to play live, but the idea of bringing a fixed line-up to Tony Tears has existed in my mind since the project was born in 1988. Although I made several albums first like Tony Tears, the difficulty of having people capable not only technically but also within the project with the right frame of mind (since it is not just music) pushed me to wait and not to be in a hurry. For this reason, there were no concerts before the last period that goes from 2019 to today. I repeat, as Tony Tears (myself) in other bands, I played a lot in all eras and this made sure to keep the name of Tony Tears alive. This meant that when Tony Tears (Band) played, it was like we had always played and in a way it was the truth. From 2019 to today, we have played three very important concerts. One in Parma at the Obscura Doom Festival, in its sixth edition, with: Ferum, Chains, Night Gaunt and Messa. Many people in the audience came especially for us. Then, we played at the Carignano Theatre in Genoa on a large stage, with Rebels Under Rain, Deathless Legacy and Freddy Delirio And The Phantoms. Finally, we played at Angelo Azzurro, also in Genoa, as Headliner. Angelo Azzurro is the most Metal venue in Genoa and although we were at the end of the night and thought no one would come; the place was full of fans. We were stunned. We didn’t think it could happen because nearby there was a concert by a well-known Metal band. Yes, from now on, it will become the normality that Tony Tears will play live. Believe me, it was a fire that burned under the ashes, since it was my will from the time when I was a kid, when I started with my first official 1988 demo “Strane Sensazioni”. The sets of the Tony Tears will always be particular, the feel never tacky. In the three concerts that we played, we brought my esoteric paintings, our masks, statuettes that David and I use (also for our rituals). We have not managed to bring everything completely. In the future, we would like to enrich our stage decoration further, but I don’t want to make suggestions for other bands to copy. I will keep it secret for now…
Having released two albums as a trio in three years do you feel more cohesive as a group? To what extent do you think that this partnership made “Demons Crawl…” a stronger album than if you had tried to execute it alone?
In reality there are three titles when counting “Follow The Signs of the Times”, “Demons Crawl At Your Side” and the vinyl EP celebrating thirty years of the project (and band) Tony Tears. So, the works with the formations are from 2015 to 2020. Even in the past, there have been guest musicians in different works. So, as you can see, there has always been consistency (even in trying to establish training). The things I did totally alone, were just the Dark Electronic Progressive works, because I liked it and it was a job that allowed me to do it. Today we are very cohesive as a band and as a group, and by group I mean the things just explained above. Today Tony Tears is a team, therefore, necessarily, it is better than doing things alone; but they are two different things as a way of understanding the works, so the thing is not comparable (in measure). Both things are important, even my so-called “solo” works have evolved compared to those done years ago. To give you an example, while I’m writing this interview, my latest album “The Wail of the Elements”, an album on the electronic dark progressive style, has been released for less than two months, yet, compared to previous works, it is ten spans higher. I have improved exponentially in terms of sounds, recording, mixing in these types of works (which I do totally on my own, including mixing, everything). I am very proud of “The Wail of the Elements”. If I had done “Demons Crawl At Your Side” alone it would have come out equally beautiful but different from thinking of it as a Band. Instead, thinking about it for the Band, a great album came!! And that’s okay so…
The names of your esteemed colleagues should be at least vaguely familiar to those with even a passing interest in the Italian Dark Sound. Please tell us how and when you met. What brought you together and how have those bonds strengthened over time?
Two old friends who understand me and follow me of many years (since the early 90s) are: David Krieg on vocals, and Lowrence Butleather (Lorenzo Mapelli) on drums. David, I met him in the very early 90s in the Black Widow Records store. Lawrence, on the other hand, I met him in the company of friends always in the very early 90s. They are the friends and musicians I’ve been playing with for the longest time. In addition, there is always a long-time friend and Tony Tears fan; that is, Regen Graves of the Abysmal Grief. Regen, I met him at “The Black” concert in ’98 where with Abysmal Grief, they rang on the support. For a short time, he played bass with us, then he decided to devote more time to his band (and we understood it). Regen remained as a helper; sound engineer, and graphic aid. Regen is also very good at graphics. I, however, in the graphics I should improve a lot. I have a lot of taste in the choice of covers but the result that Regen obtains with graphics, light effects and title logos, he is always excellent, we often leave this task to him. He cares for us and is happy. Then, there is the second female voice, which is my partner, that is, Sandra Silver (Sandra I don’t think she needs any introduction, also considering her vocal past with Paolo Catena and some performance collaboration with Steve Sylvester). I met Sandra when I was a boy (in the 90s) when I went to visit Paolo Catena at their home; I saw her again after years at a martial arts internship (which I have been practicing since I was 6 years old) I immediately snap the spark between me and Sandra. Only after a few months did we decide together that we could embark on a journey with the Tony Tears. Personally, I have always believed in Sandra Silver a lot, I have always supported her, since her works with Paolo Catena. Then there is the new and definitive bass player: he is a fan of ours, at our concerts (in Genoa) he has always been in the front row. A young boy but with a great interest (and culture) for the esoteric, in addition, has an exceptional musical culture for his age. This boy is actually a guitarist of a very good Genoese band, but he also has a passion for bass and plays it great; he is a young boy (the youngest of the band) but he brought great enthusiasm and a breath of freshness, it took! Then there is the girlfriend of David Krieg (Lisa) who is a good designer and author of paintings of various kinds. Lisa, created the design of our T-shirts. There’s a kind of team behind the Tony Tears today, and that’s a great thing. Each of us has a partner who can do something and everyone can bring ideas inside.
We have already touched upon the Italian Dark Sound on multiple occasions. As a native, please explain what it means to you personally…
In my opinion, the term Dark Sound cannot be reduced to something restrictive like Doom. Traditional Doom Metal (which is then the classic Dark Metal) is the real Dark Sound; Trouble, Candlemass, Manilla Road, Sarcofagus, Witchfinder General, Angel Witch and Demon; but also Iron Maiden in many moments, Judas Priest, MercyfuL Fate, King Diamond, Saint Vitus and many others. In Italy, our historical Bands of true Dark Sound includes Jacula, Antonius Rex, Goblin, Mario Di Donato with The Black and Requiem, Death SS (also the modern one of the last period), Paul Chain (with all its variants of name), Black Hole and Run After To (never mentioned, yet very good). All these foreign international bands have contributed to the Dark Metal world in all its forms. As for the Italian bands, the same is true; and in fact, you want our esoteric cultural tradition, you want the popularity of all our bands just mentioned, but I think I can say (without a shadow of a doubt) that Italian bands are second to none, and are well known and appreciated by now all over the world. Tony Tears, by name historicity, beginning of the project, and bands (1988) are not very second compared to the historical Italian bands. Indeed, by now, in various reviews and interviews we are seen as a band of the time (rightly in my opinion), as well as for the year I started (1988) also because Tony Tears Sound takes a lot from the old school of Italian style; even if we managed to put it, sometimes, into modern contexts. For me, therefore, this genre (and this tradition) transcends myself, goes beyond music itself. Tony Tears’ music is a continuous change and evolution of my esoteric experience poured into music, something so profound and lived that it cannot be described in an interview. However, I don’t like having the Doom label (as it is understood today). Today, this term refers to something slow, spasmodic, even too much in my opinion. Tony Tears is not like that. Our melodies are always open (they breathe), even when they are very gloomy. Obviously, in Dark Prog Electronic style music, music is more atmospheric, but the melodies and composition are many and open. In the Metal pieces, we have here and there some calm but never excessively slow moments I don’t like excessively slow music and I don’t like the opposite extreme either. For this reason, I am a lover of Classic Metal (and classics) rather than Doom as it is understood today. For me, the Italian tradition is not Doom as someone else might understand it. If I listen to the “slower” things of the Italian bands mentioned above, they are never excessively slow. If you hear Tony Tears’ things, they are not overly slow. By slow, I also mean songs that are half an hour on the same notes that make Rock repetitive with: drums, bass, guitar, voices. Personally, I could never do such a thing. For me this is to force something. In fact, the labels that some reviewers give to bands always leave the time they find. Some labels have been attached to us, such as Doom or simple but fascinating music. I don’t agree with these labels and statements, because: first of all, Tony Tears is not canonical DooM and we never want this to be and secondly, our rock music, like a band, our songs more stage, are deliberately more captivating. But I can assure you, in the middle there are many of those musical and technical subtleties, which if a person does not know how to play he will never be in able to do them. I have studied music from a lifetime, and I continue to study, therefore, I tell you these things as a competent musician and not an amateur. For this reason, a band like Tony Tears wants to get out of the discourse of labels, because they are always made by those who have a very limited vision of music; I’m sorry to say it but it is so.
Look at The Black, who now make reputable Dark Metal and with “Gorgoni” they have taken a monstrous step forward, yet there are those who continue to catalogue them as cult bands, when (instead) they have gained (especially with this album) a place among the most important bands of Italian Metal in general and not necessarily in Dark / Doom alone. Look at the ridiculous criticisms that some make of the new Death SS, saying they have marketed, only because they have “detached” themselves from the traditional Dark Sound of the first seal. But why, sorry? Has the band Death SS not always made a dark and gothic Dark Metal? I think so. Was it supposed that the new Death SS would remain the same like almost forty years ago? Absurd! This is what I mean. Those who make music do not care (rightly) about the opinion of the few who would like to relegate a musical genre to worship. There are bands that want to get out of the cult logo (or label), and it will seem strange, but Tony Tears is also part of this movement. The new album (now in preparation) is a big step forward in this sense. I know someone will be disappointed. Patience. In addition to those who understand us (among old fans) we will gain new fans. We cannot remain anchored to someone’s thought. From birth, Tony Tears was already projected to evolution and a proof of what I say lies in the fact that if somebody listens, in a chronological sense, right, our albums (our discography) they will notice what I am saying. We have gone from making a Dark Sound Metal to experimental electronics, a little old-fashioned perhaps (but made with our style) with technical improvement and increasing recording capabilities, therefore, it is not surprising. One thing is certain. Tony Tears will always be sincere in what they propose, wanting to make a qualitative leap does not necessarily mean marketing yourself. That’s what was said about (new) Death SS and it happened to many other bands; statements and “accusations” made by those (few but don’t give up) who would like to have a Doom job (Doom as it is understood today). It seems like they are a distressing machine that cannot stop. So for me, the Italian Dark Sound tradition meant having loved (and having lived) the bands mentioned earlier. But having a project and a band (Tony Tears) that existed since the age of the bands mentioned above and being (us) changeables (changeable by our nature), we cannot remain anchored to canonical Doom, it has never been like this. Evolution is an important thing, often the difference between professional bands (even in the Italian Dark / Doom) and those that are not, lies precisely in this difference. Tony Tears is part of the Italian tradition and we will always be proud of it. We also look at the evolution, both in the most theatrical songs (Dark Metal) and for my solo works. “The Wail of the elements” is much more professional, modern and powerful as a solo album compared to things done years ago, but it is consistent with an Electronic Dark Prog style I’ve always done. Our tradition is wonderful and second to none. Tony Tears is part of it…
To be continued…
Their camp has appeared eerily silent since the release of second album some three years ago. It even occurred to me that the band had since passed out of our worldly existence. Fortunately, my fears proved groundless whenever Northwinds was confirmed for Doom Shall Rise II. Better still, during that energetic performance in Germany they aired a couple of new songs taken from the forthcoming record. Later on in the same day, a mutual friend introduced me backstage where I shared a few words with them in my rather rusty French. Anyway, Sylvain Auve, drummer and lead vocalist, kindly agreed to answer some interview questions once “Chimeres” had been completed. Admittedly, the artwork is still on the easel yet I have since received an advance recording of that previously elusive third album. This is the next chapter in the Northwinds saga…
Finally Sylvain, we meet again. Take a pew! What news do you bring? I trust Lady Luck has been a good friend to you over the last few months?
She’s been good to us for two years now. Her best present was a stable and complete line-up! Thomas Bastide, the second guitarist, who made his only appearances on “Dancing In Moonlight” and “Violet Rainbow” on “Masters of Magic” LP as well as “Clear Windowpane” for the Saint Vitus tribute is now implicated on all the songs of our forthcoming “Chimères” LP. We have reworked some of the songs recorded for it to extend the contribution of our new bassist, Thomas Boivin and our full time keyboardist, Emmanuel Peyraud. Furthermore, we finally recorded 8 more songs, one of which will appear on the Hawkwind tribute boxset, “Daze Of The Underground”. The stability of this line-up also helped us to do the Doom Shall Rise II, which was another present from the Lady Luck! We are more than confident about the future of our team. We are working a lot and we have composed enough new songs to complete our fourth album! But now we hope to play live more than we do in the past.
Marvellous news! You cannot fully appreciate how pleased I am to be listening to the new record and not simply because it is a delight to behold. I honestly feared the band was no more. There have been none of the customary compilation or tribute appearances and there was little to no news prior to the billing for Doom Shall Rise II. Why the silence? Was it deliberate?
We must admit that we are not the champions of communication and promotion! But Emmanuel, our keyboardist, does not agree with us on this point and he’s doing his best to kick our asses. His first move was to create our website: www.northwinds-music.com But don’t forget we had to face line-up difficulties once again, just after the release of our second effort. That forced us to go back to square one.
May I say your return is most welcome! How did you find the Doom Shall Rise II experience in Germany? Please share with us some of your most poignant memories of the festival.
Thanks for your kind words! DSR II was more than a good experience. It was the recognisation of our Doom Metal status as it was our first gig outside of our country! All the people we met were very kind and open minded. The experience also proved that everyone in the band was pursuing the same goals and it has reinforced the communication between us. Our must poignant memories centred on meeting Count Raven and some of the guys who have followed Northwinds for many years now and to see how much they still support us. It gives us the strength to carry on.
Was it the first live appearance of the band in recent times? I imagine there must be rather limited opportunities for Northwinds to play in France. How then did it compare to gigs you have played in the past?
We had done two concerts prior to the DSR II and they are no possible comparisons to it.. It was the first time we have the opportunity to do a performance with a real light show, a real good sound and most importantly, to a real Metal crowd who know about Doom Metal in all its guises. I think that in the future we will have to search to play live outside of France because Doom Metal is not a winner here.
Well, I am satisfied that the band is still very much a going concern. For those who have yet to be initiated into the coven, how would you introduce Northwinds here and now? Please describe your style, flavour and content. Do you have a message to share?
We are very much a band of contrasts and moods. We do not hesitate to use the kind of instruments you are not use to listen to in classic Heavy Metal. We are much in the vein of the heavy music developped in the ‘70s, which was often labelled at the time as progressive. It was free from all trends without a neat pigeon hole. Thanks to Cathedral, they have shown the way to reaching a large Metal public and helped the seeds of a once glorious past to grow again. Our label, until now, greatly helped us to develop that side of our music. They know what we’re talking about. It is a real progressive label that focuses on the heavy side of the music! To put it simply, we are a mix of our roots. That includes a lot of groups from this beloved heavy and progressive era from the ‘70s, folk music, especially the brand made in Britain, which also had a great impact on the French scene that lasted til the late ‘70s and has returned only five years ago. If you want names, think Alan Stivell, Tri Yann or Clannad. But overall, our major influence is BLACK SABBATH and all the bands that have a link with their sound. We have seen and lived through the evolution of the scene from “Sabbath clones” as you read about it in the early 80’s to “DOOM METAL”. Our music is also a blend of the ones who still had a foot in the ‘70s such as Witchfinder General, Quartz, Witchfynde and the radical development embodied in Trouble, Saint Vitus or Candlemass.
Your new record, “Chimeres” bears an intriguing name with a range of possible meanings. It could describe the different sounds, movements and ideas that collectively form the album or it could equally represent the difficult process involved in completing it, one which you thought may have been unattainable. Can you offer any insights?
Your view is an interesting one and you cannot be wrong. The title is, once again, intriguing so the people do what they want with it. I love it when listeners are constructing their own conceptions with our titles and talk with us about their views. It is always an enriching experience for us. They are many meanings in this title but the one that is most prominent is idle- dreams. Sometimes you spend your life pursuing idle dreams. They make the return to reality harder and even destructive. They are like sirens. Here we choose the chimeras: monsters and lies.
There is often talk, primarily in the media, of the difficult third album. I have a problem getting my head around the concept. Then again, I am not a musician. But to my ears, it sounds like “Chimeres” came even more naturally than your first two albums. Would you agree with my interpretation? Is the difficult third album then a myth?
What you say is naturally correct. However, it reflects our maturity. We feel that the mix of our different faces and colours is more coherent than ever. It is natural. Personally, I feel that the lyrics and the musical parts are more overlapped although we always took care in the past to develop this aspect. To have a full time keyboardist also helps us a lot. He sees himself as a sound designer and it cements our ideas more effectively than before. But remember it is a collection of songs written by two different line-ups and on the previous album there were three! We all think that the difficult album, with every one waiting for you at the corner, will in fact be the fourth one.
As a whole, it is a particularly compelling album. It is well written, it carries all of your signature touches and is delivered with real panache. Perhaps the band has not yet had enough time to distance itself from the recording process. But how do you rate it? Do you wish you had done anything differently?
It’s impossible to be happy with everything. We appreciate that we still have to make efforts to perfect the sound register and recording techniques. On this point, there are many regrets. We were certainly better prepared than our previous times in the studio. But there is always the improvisational aspect here and there. We always regret it afterwards. But as time passes by, we can see tha listener loves it a lot and even considers that it is our mark, our 70’s touch. But please don’t put our errors and our liberty of improvisation in the studio in the same league!
In the past, you have described your music as an array of colours that blend and disperse. The notion intrigued me and on this basis, the new record has been put to the test. Please share your views on the crude theory that follows.
Blue is the colour of denim and the rough texture of rock. It epitomises the spirit of “Masters Of Magic”, “Dusty Pictures” and “Life On The Run”
White is the appearance of soft clouds and gives the impression of floating. It is the ethereal journey of “Le Cercle Des Fees” and “Neverneverland”
Red is blood and the substance of horror. It is the haunting “Winds Of Sorrow” and “Crystal Ball”.
Without dealing with the lyrics, I agree with you. Your propositions are logical except “Crystal Ball” has nothing to do with horror or blood.
Then it will come as no surprise that I struggled most with that song as I think there are elements, which would pull it to each of the categories!
Turning to the lyrics, “Master Of Magic” and “Crystal Ball” would be the coloured ones. But the others bear the mark of the deception, loss of illusions, the lie and the idle-dreams. It all ends in ultimate disillusion, a descent to the vault where the “Winds of Sorrow” blow. It is the death of all hopes. Brrrrrrr!!!! Try to imagine what kind of colours illuminate the deepest vault. I think some of Lovecraft‘s works you may offer a glimpse of it…
You announced some time ago that interpretations of Ange and Witchfinder General would appear on this album. But was there any initial debate around the bands or specific songs that would be incorporated in it? Why did you finally settle with them?
Black Widow Records asked us to cover a song by the progressive French masters, ANGE, because they are great fans of their music. They proposed “Le Soir du Diable” to us. Even if we would have like to cover another one we’ve chosen to do that one for them as some kind of present for Massimo and Pino! We are very happy to have done it! It was a real adventure for all of us and we had a lot of fun doing it. The way we have reworked it improves it. We are far from the original version. But I think that we have kept its spirit alive. As always, we have worked it as it was one of our own compositions. Everyone in the band loves it! The dream to cover a Witchfinder General song goes back to the beginning of the band. We never realised it at the time, but on the first album you will notice that “Forest of Konkoret” is sub-titled “Friends Of Hell” so it was natural to follow through with it. But due to lack of time and personal difficulties for some members of the band, doubled with a natural tendency to be lazier than anyone could imagine, we finally began working on “Music” from the same album. It was a good idea because it helped us to play with joy again and with some friends implicated it became a feast! But our label mates don’t like this song! For them, it is the worst song the duo Cope and Parkes ever written! They encouraged us to return to our original plan and cover “Friends Of Hell” with the result that we have recorded two Witchfinder General covers. I’m now more than happy! “Friends Of Hell” will appear on the CD and we will add “Music” to the LP version.
I love the ‘80s feel of “Music” and the heavy keyboard instrumentation would be ideally suited to Northwinds! I look forward to hearing it. Anyway, somehow both cover songs feel integral to the flow of the music. “Le Soir Du Diable” extends the macabre ambience of the red songs then “Friends Of Hell” provides a fitting blue contrast and upbeat close to the album. Were they intended as more than simple bonuses? There seems to be an unspoken rule that Northwinds will always go that mile further to make a cover song their own. Why is that so important?
As I have already said, we always try to work the songs we cover as one of our tune. It is always moments of fun, some kind of feast and naturally we keep away from the original sounds, doing it as a freshly penned tune. However, I think that people are not interested in a copy of the original tune and if you wish people to return to the original and rediscover it in its proper form I think it’s important to give your own view of the song, to enlight one of its aspects. In this way, you argue “ it’s a valuable song so give it a chance regardless of what has been said or written bout it”. But we always try to keep the spirit of the original band alive and I think we have never defaced any of the songs we have covered because we have always done them with faith and motivation. After all, it’s the least we can do. What do you think of a label that helps you to cover Death SS, Black Widow, Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath, Hawkwind, Ange and Witchfinder General? We are more than lucky…
Agreed! Have you any more in the pipeline? It would be fascinating to hear you tackle Angel Witch, Elixir or even Pagan Altar…
Yes, you are right about Angel Witch. We worked a lot two years ago on “Gorgon” and we even talked about playing it at the DSR II. We finally choose to honour Death SS by covering “The Night Of The Witch”. But who knows…Maybe we will, one day, complete our poisonous version of “Gorgon”…
Please do! Northwinds also invests much time and effort into lyrics and vocals. Who takes the initiative when it comes to creating the words and melodies? How do you decide which parts Vincent will sing and which parts you will sing?
There is no calculated thing here. We have been working together for so long now that we know which one will have to pen the lyrics and sing without discussing it for hours!
It is a pleasure to hear that the French language continues to hold a place in your songs. Have you considered expanding its role? Without meaning any disrespect, surely it would be simpler to express yourself in your mother tongue? What then is your motivation to sing in English?
Oh, yes it would be logical in the way that our English is not the best to be heard or read over the earth! We are the subconscious victims of strange prononciations, th sounds like z, “Ze Night Of Ze Witch! (laughing) It is guaranteed to be a good laugh for our English listeners! We always regret it the morning after. Raise your tankard and celebrate German Thrash! But it is not easy to make the French words sing. We would be more exigent and pestered by too many questions. We feel free with English. But there is no shame for us to sing in French. Two songs are in French on “Chimères” and even the title of the cd is in French! We will do it every time we feel its suits. However, we have listened to the English language through the years via our beloved bands so it’s a natural movement to associate it to our music. In fact, we never really think about this problem. But it is clear that we do not find it easier to write the lyrics in French!
Would you be so kind as to elaborate on the themes behind “Le Cercle Des Fees” for those, like myself, who have a limited grasp of French? Is the Fairies’ Circle more than a symbol to you?
Circles of fairies are frenetic dances. Mortals have to stay away from. If caught in the round, you will have a lot of fun. But with the first light of the morning, when the fairies are gone away, you discover that you are now very old because in the fairies’ world time has not the same value. After some minutes of delight your life is gone. It is symbolic of course. As you may see, there are a lot of ideas behind the theme.
One reading could be as you blinded by bright lights and sweets, you choose the wrong way. Here the fairies are our sirens although, in that case, they are not consciously working for you undoing. On this level, the song is the counterpart of “The Forest of Konkoret (Friends of Hell)” on our first album, “ Great God Pan”.
There seems to be a general extension of the mystical themes contained in your previous albums to “Chimeres”. How have they developed throughout the years? And are there any significant differences between a song like “Great God Pan” and “Dusty Pictures”?
There are some extensions. “Le Cercle des Fées “is the counterpart of “The Forest Of Konkoret”. There are also parallels between “ Neverneverland” and “Northwinds” although that is all. I think the lyrics are now more direct and not just an evocative suite of words. In a way, they are maybe more down to earth. The words stand for what they are and not too much for the images they carry. That is the major difference between the likes of “Great God Pan” and “Dusty pictures”.
Which composition on the new record makes you most proud? Why?
Many of us love “Winds Of Sorrow” for its sweeping atmosphere. It is cold and carries a feeling of oppression. We have done a video of it. Once again, Emmanuel kicked our ass to do it! We have also chosen this song to appear on the DARK WORLD compilation by Final Chapter Records. Details can be found at www.finalchapter.net
Have you, once again, asked Danielo Capua to prepare the illustrations for the front cover and inner sleeve? Who is the woman peering into the crystal ball?
Yes, we asked Black Widow Records to contact him. But they have chosen to work with another artist, and until now nothing we have seen has gained our approval. I know the label will propose a new illustration. But we will try, on our side, to obtain something more in line with our views. We have already taken care of the concept of the booklets for the CD and LP. After all, some of us in the band find it natural to achieve the work by taking care of even the illustration of the cover. I know that our label adores being included in the artistic point of view of their bands, and liking to follow some logical image of the label, some kind of trademark! It won’t be easy to find a compromise! The woman with the crystal ball has already been used by the label for promotion, and at a time we decided to choose it because we were deceived by the other propositions. But it is quite far away from the concept of the record. We hope now to find a solution as soon as possible to achieve our work.
When do you anticipate the eventual release of the album? To what extent do you intend to promote it through the traditional means of touring and replying to interviews?
We still have to work on a few things to make the vinyl edition a real gem so it is hard to give you a date for the release. We hope to see it in our hands before the first flakes of snow! Yes, we hope to play live to promote it. We cross our fingers! Our live development would be a logical evolution, and we all think that it is now a condition for the duration of the band. Every help will be appreciated.
Black Widow Records has played a pivotal role in the history of Northwinds. Have you felt like a valued member of their musical family over the years? Could you imagine have taken the journey with any other label(s)?
To work with Black Widow was the supreme gift of Lady Luck! We are always feel free because in our minds we are in total osmose with the concept of the label. We don’t wish to work with another one so we cross our fingers!
If line-up instabilities are now a thing of the past, touch wood, where do you foresee the band going from here?
Now we have the chance to work as a unit and our goal is to play live as much as possible. We have already worked on a lot of new compositions. There is enough for the fourth album even if the third one is still in Limbo! We are keen to return to the studio.
Do you feel Northwinds belongs to a wider musical collective in France or further a-field? Are there any bands with whom you share a natural affinity regardless of superficial boundaries?
That is a difficult question… In fact, we feel very close to the Doom Metal scene although we have a foot in some kind of ‘70s revival. I have read that some people consider us as a band having a Stoner Rock touch! However, we don’t mind because our heart belongs to the Doom Metal scene. It is the one that carried the heritage of Black Sabbath and from whom we have also retained the progressive dimension.
While I am not well versed in Ange I would like to hear more of their music. Where would you recommend I begin bearing in mind my preoccupation with the darker and heavier side of things? Have you any other recommendations?
I recommend the album “Au-Delà du Délire” FROM ’74. I think it would be easy to find it on CD. I would also recommend SHYLOCK. But do not forget SORTILEGE and BLASPHEME!
How could I? I love French Metal! Anyway, as a man of literature, which authors or poets would you recommend to the Northwinds audience?
Just take the time to visit our website at www.northwinds-music.com In the links pages, you have the opportunity to visit websites dedicated to some of our favourite authors!
In the past, I have enjoyed reading some stories by Maupassant. However, “L’ Etranger” by Albert Camus remains my favourite piece of French literature. Have you any other thoroughly French recommendations for me?
On the fantastic level, try Jean Ray who is in fact from Belgium. “Malpertuis” is well-known and considered as his masterpiece. But there is a huge collection of novels, sometimes written under the name of John Flanders, that are also worthy. They show a writer who is able make you share the internal life of his heroes as well as brilliant macabre stories. Claude Seignolle has written a lot of stories influenced by local superstitions and sorcery. He creates a special and bewitching atmosphere akin to Arthur Machen. Maupassant is also a very good reference. You may try some stories such as “Avatar” by Théophile Gauthier. On the classic side, you have in Ireland good references: Fritz James O’Brien and J. Sheridan Le Fanu. And the stories of Lord Dunsany are treasures, time and space without restraint and a golden key for the world of dreams!
Previous commitments have prevented me from travelling to France. However, I intend to remedy that next year. If I could only visit one place where would it be? Why?
Paris! We will be able to meet and there are a lot of second hand records shops!!!
What do the following images inspire in your mind?
Revolution: A bloody and destructive moment of our history
The Guillotine: “Rendezvous with the blade”…”Frontal Assault” by Angel Witch! I hope that one day “Screaming and Bleeding” and “Frontal Assault” will be recognized as good albums. They were shunned fifteen years ago and it’s a shame!
Mushrooms: One of my numerous passions!
Finally, if you could ask me a question, Sylvain, what would it be?
Is Lord Dunsany recognized as a major author and poet in Ireland? He’s a kind of myth for us and some of his works had been recently re-released.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you found stimulating. Good luck with your ongoing quest! The closing sentiments are yours.
Many thanks for your interest. We hope to see you soon in Paris!
Belatedly discovered via Kommun2 some years ago, the hypnotic rumble of these free spirits became firmly lodged in my skull. Then more recently, another flurry of activity caught my attention. With the flowers in full bloom it seemed opportune to delve into their roots before they either wither away or are trampled underfoot. But much like the seasons, any changes in the cycle have been subtle and they come back, renewed, time and time again, brighter and bolder than before…
Flowers Must Die is a strong and feisty name! Are promoters ever afraid to book the band?
Well, promoters are maybe afraid of booking anything that doesn’t look or sound sexy, attractive or profitable these days. Our name comes from an Ash Ra Temple song and just that, a guideline for what kinda music we play or at least in which kinda vein we want to create music. The name also reflects the contrast that we try to present in the band: music that is free and psychedelic, hippie, prog or whatsoever and other times dark, noisy or just weird. And I think the name is simply perfect! It’s like you say, strong and feisty but it’s also just a very natural and simple meaning: everything will DIE!
Please describe the atmosphere of your last gig!
It was in Gothenburg in Sweden. The promoter, Höga Nord, who also released our latest 12” vinyl, hosted the night and we opened up for our friends Hills. It was a great gig and I think we actually nailed all songs with only one rehearsal. A weekend gig with about 400 people on a massive PA helped us play well and the audience was even dancing!
Which songs did you play or was it an improvised jam? How did they compare to those that appear on the records?
We opened up with the track ”Dimman” which is from our first vinyl and a classic track for us that we felt was time to dust off a bit! It sounded quite much as on the record. Then I think we played a new track with no name so far, the working title is ”Nya funklåten” and as the name suggests it’s a bit funky. Then we moved on to a cover of Sade´s “Why can’t we live together” but as always I don’t think people would say it’s strictly a cover! We just borrow the bass line and some other parts of the song. We have some recordings of it too but not one of them is perfect yet. We finished with the track “Montana” from the latest release and did a good version of that song.
To what extent does your live set differ to a typical rehearsal? Do you experiment with guest musicians or is the core band fairly steady and crucial on each occasion?
From the start, we wanted to be free and always like to think of ourselves as Amon Düül or Incredible String Band, as a big family that creates music all day long, while kids run around and bang on sauce pans! We have invited guests on vocals, electric Oud, Clarinet, flute and percussion at live gigs. The difference between our live and recorded tracks is that we at least decide which tracks we are gonna play when we play live, but often it’s only with one rehearsal and very often not with the whole band so a lot is based on jams and improvisation!
It seems that 2014/15 has been a prolific period! Beginning with the 7″ single, was it challenging to be comparatively concise to create songs that fit the format?
Yes, it has been, although at the same time, all tracks on both the 12” and the 7” were recorded some years ago! The new material that we recorded in 2014 and more recently in 2015 are for future releases. I am a big fan of 7” singles but for sure our music is hard to fit in that format. “Psykjunta” was around eight minutes so we just cut it. “Pärsonligt Söund” is also from a longer session. On the later recording sessions, we have actually managed to do songs around six minutes and even down to four minutes without thinking it should fit on a 7” or not!
The throbbing bass of “Psykjunta” really means business! It acts as a heavy anchor around which the guitars circle, ripple and spread. It must be a blast to jam out, speed up and slow down…
Yes, it’s a massive bass line! The song was a first take and actually just a jam to set the levels of the instrument when we were in a studio in 2012 (I guess). An improvisation without Jonas on guitar. In 2013, when we were invited to play at the first Psykjunta festival in Sweden we also got the offer to include one song around six minutes on a compilation tape for the festival. We choose this one and finished it with some guitar tracks from Jonas and cut it to the right format. Then Rundgång Records thought it was the best track on that tape and wanted to release it on a 7” single so we just kept the working name – ”Psykjunta”
”Parsonligt Sound” is a much stranger and spacey affair. When it heavies up, it does so with gusto! What was your intention with this intense trip?
This is from a long improvisation in the studio, which we called “Pärson Sound” song after the fact because it had the same nerve as the great Swedish band with the same name. In the first part of the song everything is just muted with only some guitar and saxophone, so you can actually hear some of the drums and stuff way back in the background. The intention, at that time, I can’t really remember but from my side I played almost only Saxophone and tried to create the same hopeless frustration as from Brainbombs!
The Zeon Light cassette is a very different experience altogether! Were these songs recorded near or in the mountains to which you paid homage? How and why did they inspire you? Perhaps fond memories of childhood walks up Helags…
(Laughing) No, these tracks are actually recorded in a country house in another county from where Berg and Berga are located! The track names are more a game of words. Sure mountain is called “Berg” in Swedish but “Berg” and “Berga” refers to two towns, suburbs in the county of Östergötland where Linköping is in. The cover art is from a painting from Maria Segersäll, It’s a big collage with crayons, wool and paint and when I saw it I immediately thought it should be on a tape cover. She had an exhibition after she had a residence in the mountains of Norway
It’s difficult to imagine how a mountain might be captured in song although I have to say, I love the gentle shimmering guitar lines of “Berga” with residual synths at the back of the palette…
The tracks are not at all inspired by either the towns or mountains when they were recorded! But the last part ”Berga” of the tape reminds a little bit like the band Kebnekajse which took their name from a mountain in Sweden. As for our titles, we often found a theme after they are recorded, and rarely have we a title prepared before a recording. Often the title refers to where we have found our inspiration and it can often be very nerdy, like on the first album, we do a Angelic Upstarts “cover” of their song “Police Oppression” and on the single release of that song the other side contains “The Murder of Liddle Towers” so we paid an honour to both him and Angelic Upstarts and called the song “För Liddle Towers” !!!
Was the acoustic shift six and a half minutes in intended to be celestial? Another layer of heightened trance, per chance, aided by hand percussion?
I’m sorry that I have to let you know it’s not like that… The tape is really three songs recorded separately, so the first four minutes of “Berg” is the same song as the first six minutes of “Berga” so not some higher forces making cosmic things happen! Maybe just good mixing? (Laughing!)
Listening back, where does the trail of reflection take you?
Hard to say! All improvisations and a first take on this particular song! I think we started with Sven playing the flute and went from there, probably with some idea of doing something more folky. At this session, we also recorded “Sally free and easy” in the vein of Trees version. That and being surrounded with only woods we probably felt the call of nature and created some shamanistic folk music.
Whilst the very beginning of the a-side shares some common ground, “Berg” is an odd and minimalist synth journey. Why such an unsettling detour?
All those tracks come from the week of recording in a country house where we had the idea of not play our “usual” instrument on all songs. We brought loads of instruments, both acoustic and quite a few synths, so at this track, three of us play synths. Most of us are very inspired and listen to a lot of synth, ambient and kosmishe music so at times we like to improvise with fewer guitars!
Hopping between formats and labels, your brand new recording is a 12″ picture vinyl! Having not yet heard the side-long jaunts please describe the background to these sessions. How did they happen and to what extent were they improvised rather than composed?
The first track, “Montana” is one we have played live many times almost like a standard (for being us) but we have never recorded it properly (we thought) so when Höga Nord asked us to release a 12” in their series of picture discs we dug through our recordings and realised we actually did have one good recording of this song. We just added some small things, like more synths. The title name refers to Jonas Hanna Montana guitar, which creates that oriental vibe to the song. We also thought the name Montana sounded a bit exotic, because we often use Swedish titles. ”Nusrat” is a cover idea from Sven, and as the title says, it’s a “cover” of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. Also there we had two-three recordings and thought none had “IT”. But again we got the master tracks from the studio recordings and just had to add the lead guitar and then it was another hit!!!
Please describe in detail your impressions of “Montana” and “Nusrat” respectively! Do they provide light and dark contrast like the single and cassette before them?
Well, I think of them as light and positive tracks. The tape might be darker and weirder but then the last track of “Berga” is more similar to the “Höga Nord” release. The 7” is more intense and the track “Pärsonligt Söund” is dark and mystic. I think most people will think both “Montana” and “Nusrat” are more direct and easy to like with loads of melodies. They are even dancy! “Nusrat” begins very laid-back with a drone sound like in a Raga and with Djembe, it builds up with some guitars and a bass line which again is basically the only thing taken from the original song. The intro is six minutes long and then it explodes with four or five guitar tracks and some handclaps like a true Qawwali song…
The Flowers Must Die canon is undoubtedly vast and diverse. I would generally suggest readers begin with “III” DLP for the scale and scope. What would you recommend? Why?
Yes, you get most music for the money then! (Laughing) It’s certainly a good start. It’s like all of our records so far, recordings from different years and studios. But with longer playtime, you get almost all the kinds of music we play from the opening track of minimalistic motorway rock to Sabbath style Hard Rock to Swedish hippie-folk music to improvised No-Jazz and Oriental weirdness to the Hawkwind-ish encore!
But as always, bands would recommend the latest release and for this time too, I think it’s the first time all of the members are so proud of all (yes, only two) songs!
Talk me through the lack of vocals in your songs. Not that I feel anything is missing! But was it a conscious decision not to make use of this instrument from the beginning? Do you feel words distract and clutter?
Well, not really a decision! When Jonas and I started the band we were heavily influenced by bands like Sir Lord Baltimore, The Heads, Loop and Hawkwind and Jonas must have sang in most of his bands before so it wasn’t anything we said wasn’t going to happen during the first jams. But I think with that kinda massive Psych-Noise-Punk music we created, in the early days, we had a hard time trying to fit in some vocals, even if I tried sometimes. You can hear a example on A-side and the last song the tape on Rev/Vega Recs https://flowersmustdie.bandcamp.com/album/rvr-tape
Also for me, even if I listen to music with words I actually like instrumental music the most and if not instrumental I enjoy music in languages where I don’t understand the lyrics. I just hate music when people say, “It has such good lyrics” and then the music sucks! For sure, if combining great lyrics with great music I’m totally knocked, like Tim Hardin, Nina Simone or Scott Walker for example. Then saying all of this, I must inform you that we have got a singer in our band! Lisa Ekelund has sang and played electric violin with us for a month and we have recorded some new tracks together. She sang in the mighty band Katla before. So you will definitely hear some more songs with vocals in the future…
Is artwork also an important part of presentation?
Yes, when we started to talk about artwork for our first self-released vinyl, we decided that none of us should do it. We are all in some form interested or are doing some art, so it was easier to give it over to the hands of a sixth part. Also we wanted to have a signum for the covers so people can recognise them, like Derek Briggs and his art for Iron Maiden.
In the past, Danilo Stankovic was very much responsible for your colour sleeves yet you, your brother and Maria Segersäll have taken charge of the single and cassette. Going forward, will you be more hands on or is it really a release by release decision?
Like I said before, everyone in the band is an artist in some way, Lars, our drummer, is an art teacher and has been an artist since early ’80s. Jonas is a multi-talent and has both done some live videos and the cover art for the “Ljudkassetten” tape. Sven and I met at the art school where Lars is a teacher and Martin is really into old print techniques. We wanted Danilo to do all three covers for the Rev/Vega Recs releases. We all love Danilo and his work. We have already described him as a sixth member. But he has been doing so many other psych covers lately we felt it was important to strike out in different directions and will continue to invite collaborations with other artists…
How does Flowers Must Die fit in the local scene now compared to six or seven years ago? With which bands do you enjoy sharing the stage? And what are favourite venues? Any special regular festivals?
I think it’s hard for us to comment on the local scene when being split between two towns and now even three towns and two countries! But if we look into Linköping where we formed and where four live now, it’s a small town with two or three venues and then some art places. The bands now and six to seven years back are into Hard Rock more than experimental acts, which we are more labelled as when it comes to genres. The scene is the same with not many original bands around and hardly no record shops. As Lars used to say about the crowd who goes to concerts “Rogga people” referring to a name of a country man going into town to get drunk as hell and yell loudly with (at least) one beer in the hand while shaking the hands up and down in front of the stage and for sure has a huge lump of snus under his lip (yes, it’s always dudes). But there are some good things too. The record label, Gaphals, has put up some great live shows and releases loads of records, Ljudkassetten, who released our live tape, is based there and the art gallery, Passagen, is really good.
For Malmö, where I lived for almost eight years, I would say it’s the opposite. The only difference is that people are poor and don’t wanna spend £4 on three touring bands from the abroad. But it’s a vibrant city where the underground culture is big, many venues and many bands. Although the last one or two years, it’s beginning to be harder to get shows and people to go to the shows. Some live venues are doing less or stopped doing live shows and are focusing on disco. With bands, there are some really good ones out there both now and before, some that I have worked with and have supported since their start, such as Ved, Technicolor Poets and Skeppet and then we have the mighty NOS/Noe Spagato which is a legend in the Malmö area, he is truly a one of a kind.
About sharing stage, I would say the ones mentioned before and for Swedish bands overall, I really like Hills both as a band and as persons. Favourite venue is Truckstop Alaska, simply a great place, food, drinks, sound, the aura of the place and even the accommodation. Also the gigs we have done with Klubb Kristallen have been great even if the venues have not been so good all the time. And for sure my own place singsang in Malmö, just the best place for shows!!! And for festivals we have only played at one in Sweden but it’s also the best, Psykjunta!
Living in London, have the cities much in common for fans and budding musicians?
Hmm, maybe too early to answer? I have only been in London since March this year. But what I have noticed here is that people are willing to pay for an entrance and are curious about hearing new music. Sometimes in Sweden, people are afraid that the music isn’t cool or hip enough. People there are very sensitive and nervous.
Flowers Must Die must be due their overseas debut! Any truth in the rumours that you will play the UK in and around Halloween with a well-known Japanese combo?
(Laughing) Yes, we hope so! We are aiming for three to five gigs in the UK as well as opening up for Acid Mothers Temple in Glasgow on 30 October this year.
What else will Flowers Must Die accomplish before the end of December?
Hopefully, one more release will see the light of day! We are planning some more recordings with Lisa but also have hours of material already so might do something with them too.
Thanks for the insights, Rickard! Anything we missed? Final thoughts?
Thanks, it has been a fun interview with good and interesting questions! Nothing missed. But we are hoping that more people will get to know about us and that we can come out and play more regularly. And as Lars used to say “soon we lie there in the eternal sleep” meaning it’s better to do stuff while we are up on our legs!
Psychedelic, subversive and chronically overlooked, the Texan collective has been farming spaced out acidic punk pastures for decades. With meticulous motorik methodology, they have dug deeper and wider than most wayward dreamers. Their catalogue of misadventures is daring, dizzying and damned delightful, so much so, it begs the question of where to begin. Self-diagnosed as “I’m Not Good” it would have been negligent not to offer a thorough psychological assessment before the state mental hospital comes a-knocking…
There appears to be a recurring pattern of paranoia. When you mumble, “Down on us” who are they? And are these delusions of deadly buses not a little drastic?
SLT – Most of the blame for “Down On Us” can be laid at Lisa’s doorstep! We named our 2002 CD of the name after this underlooked gem of a 1984 B-movie: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Down_on_Us and in our typical contrary fashion, decided to use the film as inspiration for a song, as we did not have a song called “Down On Us” on the CD entitled “Down On Us”… Lisa actually made us have a movie watching party one night and forced us all to watch this cinematic tour de force.
Jimi? Janice? Jim?
SLT – As the movie is about three illustrious members of the 27 Club, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix, we decided to echo this obsession in the final moments of the tune. Occasionally when we do it live I’ll throw in the direct quote from the film “Hey, Hendrix! I hear you got a big dick!” – (Joplin) – but prudence dictated (heh) that I refrain from doing so on the recorded version.
Perhaps it was just “Baxty” going off the rails again. I bet the drunk has your missing tennis racket from five or six years back. Hardly the ideal tour driver, eh?
SLT – “Baxty” is a loving tribute to one of the guitarists in my other band My Education, Mr. Chris Hackstie, who became such an expert at backing up the U-Haul trailer-laden Ford E150 van we called home back then that he earned the sobriquet “Baxty”. It tells the true story of our exploits in Philadelphia and Washington DC in 2009.
Oh, I’m almost clean out of forks! Have you spied that silverware dealing “Doppelgänger” lately? I need a loan…
SLT – “Forks” almost invariably becomes “fucks” when we play that song live. The lyric stays equally true. After all, those fucks are just as hard to get, and definitely harder to replace…
Having been kicked out of “The Secret Society” before, it’s highly unlikely you ever fitted in with the “In Crowd” so why have you flipped this ’60s single on its head? Is it really a homage to fellow Texan, Dobie Grey, or a thinly-veiled swipe at the establishment?
SLT – It’s a cover of a cover, actually. Bobby and I were both equally enthralled with Roxy Music’s version from the bootleg “Why Do You Think I’m a Funky Chick”. ST 37 has never been particularly hip, though we do cycle in and out of fashion occasionally, so we thought it’d be weirdly ironic to do the song.
And what on earth have you done with Edwyn Collins’ “Girl…” ? Did you spike her drink? Never has she been so hypnotic, racy and utterly out of it all at the same time! I’m infatuated.
SLT – Joel started playing the riff at rehearsal one night and well, we just went with it. One of the first times we ever played it live, one Bacchanalian night at Trailer Space Records, one of the finest venues here in the ATX (Hi Spot!), it turned into a ten-minute drone, so we decided we liked it that way!! We deliberately did not go back and listen to Edwyn’s version so it would remain, ahem…”pure”
Do you often dream about film stars? Well, Jean Harlow’s “Red” should hardly be placed on a pedestal! She’s a blatant affront to marriage as the script to “Dirty Little Homewrecker” testifies…
SLT – I am so glad you enlightened us to that back story. Joel says he chose that film to use because of “the Rita tits” but found the “30s bombshell dialogue” he was looking for later on in the film, in the “Dirty Little Homewrecker” scene…
Frogs! Talk to me about frogs. Why do you like them so? Is that the princess in you?
SLT – Joel lives way out in the countryside in beautiful Cedar Creek, Texas, so he gets a pretty untainted nature soundscape at night… He recorded several versions of the frog/cricket chorus… The one we eventually chose is called “frogs better!” We decided to put it at the beginning of the record pretty quietly to lull people into a false sense of security, hoping that they would turn their stereos up real loud, so that when “Down On Us” kicks in, it would hopefully scare them… Kinda like “India” by the Psychedelic Furs!!!
JC – I also like the metaphor for playing a show with absolutely no one there… Nothing but crickets and frogs.
Not only do frogs open the record, “Magnetic Amphibian Hydrated Gills” conjures equally strange visions when set to music. Are we in danger?
SLT – That one’s an odd combo for ST 37, as Lisa wrote the music and Bobby wrote the words and ended up singing them too. Yes there does seem to be an undercurrent of menace there… Bobby?
BB- The lyrics are a combo of those old school Godzilla monsters washing the time release coating off of oxycontin tablets and destroying the world in search of the finest of pain clinics in the land.
LC- MAHG was a song that took six years to write! I wanted to write a tribute to the Butthole Surfers set in a spaghetti western landscape, hence the amazing horn work by the “Thee Three Amigos” – Jonathan Horne, Leonard Smith, and Bill Jefferies – and the ending with a shout out to Amon Duul II or Popol Vuh. Then Bobby B added in some serious hustle and flow lyrical science weirdness when we decided to put some vocals on it.
Bulgakov? Yes, have you ever read “The Fatal Eggs” before? Are you a Russian sympathiser or simply enamoured with science gone wrong?
SLT – Sadly, I have not read any, though I have at least heard of “The Master and Margarita”…
Not another new wing of “The Insect Hospital” by any chance?
SLT – Groundbreaking is now under way for the Erickson Wing.
Well, you’ve almost certainly been reading that blasted Ballard again! What’s the lure of the man’s dystopian writing?
SLT – Ballard remains a touchstone for me because of the luminous beauty of his writing. I have seldom read another writer that combines such innovative themes, brilliant ideas and dystopian worldviews with writing that is so gorgeous it could be read as poetry in many instances.
LC- One of the best examples of that in my opinion is “The Crystal World”.
And what was the impetus to put not one but two silent films of Fritz Lang to music?
SLT – Well, “Metropolis” is such a natural. That one we were approached to do at the very outset of the Alamo Drafthouse theatre group’s planned silent-films-with-live-music series. I was so pleased to be given this opportunity that I became something of a Fritz Lang devotee and did a bunch of research in preparation for the score. I read two biographies and watched every film of his I could get my hands on. I was struck by the Expressionist beauty of “Destiny: Der Mude Tod” and thought it would be ideal for us to do if we ever got another chance to score another silent film. Now that My Education has done “Sunrise: A Song of Two Human” I almost feel like a little bit of an expert in doing rock scores for silent films!
Were you triumphant?
SLT – Oh, indeed!
Some say his visions were less about science-fiction and more focused on social commentary. Do you identify with the factory workers? Are you sure you’re not a socialist at heart?
SLT – I am definitely a socialist at heart, and, yeah, I do identify with the workers to a certain degree, sure.
LC- I second that emotion! “Metropolis” was a really important film for me because it merged the two so well. And I’ve always believed in the concept of speculative fiction being a sort of vision of Things To Come.
Well, apparently it’s 2015! Where are you headed?
SLT – Right now we are headed out on tour for five weeks with Acid Mothers Temple. We’ve never toured for longer than two weeks, so this will be quite the adventure! Also, we have three shows in Canada, so these are our first international appearances. We are super excited to be heading out across North America with one of our favorite bands!!
Do you think there is scope to top the number of performances you played in the past twelve months with that potential Acid Mothers Temple tour looming?
SLT – We will definitely be playing more shows this year than in any year since our founding in 1987. 32 shows in 32 days, if you include our KFJC on air radio broadcast performance, which we just added. Look out!
Might it be time for the next step in your improvisational series? There needs to be more ST37 etched in vinyl…
SLT – You are correct, sir! Yeah, we have kinda slowed down in our old age a bit… One thing I have noticed, and we pretty much expected this to happen, is that the improvisational side has sorta merged with our song-oriented side and the edges between them are getting kinda blurry… now we have songs like MAHG (Magnetic Amphibian Hydrated Gills) that have improvisational bits throughout and improvisation-based pieces like KBDP or Grandpa’s Birthday where our improvisation has themes that we return to… A natural progression, methinks…
Before I forget, is your foot still cut off?
SLT – No, but would you get me a Band-Aid? The crows keep flying into my third eye.
Great! I’ll keep these nail clippers for myself. Give my love to Roky. I’m off to speak to the Men in White Coats…