UNSILENCE INTERVIEW WITH BLACK HAND ZINE (SPAIN) 2010.
Hello Kieron! Thank you very much for the interview, your debut album "Under a torn sky" is great. Unsilence formed almost 20 years ago, but since now you haven't released a full-length, why?
Actually, we have been going for nearly 16 and a half years, so few years off the 20th anniversary yet. We did record a full-length album back in 1997 that never got released. The label let us down and the production was bad. I'll talk more about that later. After that we had some new material that was far better than the album. And we thought it would be better to release that as a MCD and put more money into getting a good production. That became the Transfiguration MCD. A few years later we did another MCD, A Walk Through Oceans. I think the reason week did this as opposed to a full length was that we wanted to hold out for a bigger record deal. Possibly a naive idea looking back on it. But another reason is that we are (or have been) very slow at writing. We had only completed 4 songs in the two and a half years between the two MCDs. When it came to the album, there were some additional things slowing us down. Firstly, there was the departure of two key members in the songwriting. Our drummer Jonathon Gibbs left in 2003. It took seven months to find a replacement. But we had to adapt to writing without him. Fortunately our guitarist (and future singer) James Kilmurray started to contribute to the writing. The same thing happened two years later when our vocalist Andrew Hodson left. He did most of the lyrics and all the vocal melodies. So we had to accommodate for that. And it takes time to adapt to these changes and to not only maintain the same quality but also to make a progression. And towards the time we recorded the album there was some more line-up changes with the drummer which culminated with us having our former drummer Jonathon doing session drums for the album.
Nonetheless, you released in the last decades a couple of EPs and some demos. I haven't listened them but I've read that in 90s you weren't playing straightforward doom metal but with a more deathish sound. Why did you move to this kind of melancholic doom? Do you still see yourselves influenced by some death metal bands?
When we formed the band, we had no clear idea of how we wanted to be. We wanted to do something that was heavy but with atmosphere, dynamics and emotion. And most of the first line-up had some background in death metal. Our first guitarist was really influenced by the UK death/doom scene that was around at that time and he was doing most of the writing at that time. I enjoyed those bands but had influences going back further. I saw the need for us to be more than just a death/doom also ran. I guess I didn't assert that in the early days Personally, I had been really into death metal for previous couple of years. But I started to get more into the older heavy metal stuff that I was into before. And also more into doom metal, which I had already enjoyed alongside death and thrash for a few years. The first demo was done within six months of us forming and much of the material was taken from stuff we did with our old bands. I think we were a bit hasty in getting the first demo out. And we should have taken some time to develop our own sound. Another factor was that the vocalist eventually decided he wanted to sing instead of growl. I think growling wasn't what he really wanted to do but he did it to get in a band. The first guitarist left some time after the first demo and I was doing more writing. So it was inevitable that there would be some difference in the material. And although there was some deathly parts on the second demo, the Unsilence sound started to take shape by then. In many ways, I don't really see us as having changed from death/doom to straightforward doom in such a stark way. Just a natural evolution brought about by wanting to progress in a more melodic and emotional way. I remember reading on some forum where some plank was trying to imply some kind of insincerity for us having started with a more death/doom sound. But the sound that we ended up developing is a sound we've stuck to for many years. And with limited success. Had we been some bandwagon type band, we would have changed to something else long ago. So it stands to reason really.
We all still have some admiration for death metal in various ways. And I feel that vibe creeps into our music here and there. In a more subtle way. I particularly admire old school death metal. But our bassist appreciates some modern stuff.
Is that stuff still available or it's over? What other merchandise do you have to sell? I think that you're gonna release "Under a torn sky" on vinyl!
Both the MCDs are sold out. We haven't been able to afford a re-press of Transfiguration. The label that released A Walk Through Oceans, Golden Lake Productions, did do a re-press. But then they folded. We never got sent any more and I've been trying to get some but I fear the worst. Both MCDs can be found through various distributors. Maybe one day, they will both be re-issued as a full CD.
The demos are no longer available but if you ask, I send you the mp3s.
We have some T-shirts available. One with the logo and one based around the album cover. We also have stickers and badges. Go to www.unsilence.co.uk/merchandise.
htm for more info.
Under A Torn Sky is to be released on vinyl through the Greek based Labyrinth Of Thoughts this summer.
I think 5 years have passed since you began to write your album. Was the process very hard? The songs were old ones or the stuff is all new? When you play live, do you focus on these songs or also play from your previous releases?
The first song to be written for Under A Torn Sky was The Last Day during late 2002. So it took six years from writing the first song to when we started recording it. I've already mentioned the line-up changes that slowed down the writing process for the album. The second song that we wrote, Barricade, was completed two years later. There were a few other songs that we did before Jonathon left in early '93, but we dropped soon after. And there was at least four more songs written which we didn't use. And there was periods where I had ran out of ideas. It just took time to get the material up to the desired quality. One significant area of progression was when the original vocalist left. It created more possibilities with the songwriting. He would always do his stuff after we'd completed the music. But now we can write lyrics and vocal melodies the same time as doing the rest of the music and this has shown in the progression made on the album. Virtually all the material was written in the six-year period leading to the recording except the main riff for The Burning Midnight. That riff was originally on a song called To Wish Without Hope from the second demo. At recent gigs we have been playing mostly album material with a song from each of the MCDs. With a longer set time, we would perhaps include older material. But it wouldn't be anything prior to the MCDs.
How is being the response to the album? Do you think that you still have the same audience that 8 or 10 years ago or it has grown? Do you often see youngsters at your shows?
It's a mixed response. But some of the positive feedback is by far the most positive we've ever received. And there have been a few people liking the album who disliked us in the past. We seem to have kept the same audience that we've had in the past. Nobody is disappointed with the direction of the album of James' vocals (it's the first official that he's sang on). But there has been younger people getting into the band in recent years like there never was before. This is because metal is generally more popular again, especially amongst the younger generation. And I think the likes of Myspace has further brought this about.
And talking about shows, I think you played last years at Dutch Doom Days and also are gonna play at Doom Shall Rise. How do you feel playing in those festivals? I think that kind of events could open many doors.
Both shows served as landmarks in our existence. They were the first gigs we'd ever done on the European mainland after all the years we'd been together. And after a number of failed attempts to get over there in the past. They both provided great opportunities to play to both new audiences and to those who'd been supporting us over there for many years. Playing live is the ultimate way to experience a band. As no matter what kind of press you get, people can then decide for themselves. And I always feel we can hold our own when we get out there and play. Regardless of what the tastemakers say. Hopefully more European gigs will follow. Maybe some gigs in Spain.
I see in your bio that you were supposed to release your debut with an italian label circa 1997. But that label was something like a kid illusion, wasn't it? What happened exactly? That stuff will remain unreleased forever?
It wasn't just with the first album. The second demo was originally intended as a MCD and was to be released through another Italian label called Full Moon Rising. But it turned out that the guy was a waste of space who had planned everything before he had the money to see it through. So it was released as a MCD. The label that was meant to release the first album, Seven Art Music, was more than a kid illusion to be fair. They had released a few albums. But they put one of their other bands albums out before ours as Nuclear Blast were interested in distributing it. They hoped they would be able to make some extra money from that to put into their other releases. But it didn't sell well and it bankrupted the label. In many ways, it was better for us that the album wasn't released, despite it setting us back for years. The production turned out bad mainly because of problems with the studio and the guitarist. And generally we were less of the band than what we were when we released Transfiguration two years later. We had an offer from a label to release it but we've no plans right now or in the near future for a release.
I know that some people claim to find Unsilence more like a gothic band than a doom one. Do you agree with that statement? I can't see gothic stuff at all on "Under a torn sky" to be honest (maybe some guitar riff a la Joy Division in the beginning of the last song).
No. It's crap! I wouldn't say we're the most straightforward of doom bands and some would put us in the gothic category, as they simply don't know what to do with us. Or maybe they've another agenda. I neither know nor care. It was our singer/guitarist who came up with the opening riff of the last song (Winds Of Enlightenment) and he's a big Joy Division fan. So maybe you're not too far off the mark.
Is your music only inspired by misery, darkness and solitude or there are also room for positive things on doom metal? I mean, i like doom metal all the time, but albums like yours or "Watching from a distance" are more enjoyable in one of those "dark days" i think.
I don't think we're that aware that we're creating feelings of pure misery. We just write what sounds good for us. I suppose we all have some personal interpretation of our music. Different parts will remind us of different things. But it's not like there is a master plan to make the most desolate and miserable music possible. Some of the up tempo sections of our music have a more aggressive feel to it. Which I guess ties in with misery. There is some stuff there, which could be a bit more positive. But it will blend in with the darker stuff.
And, by the way, do you think that England have something special to make doom? Black Sabbath were from England, and also Witchfinder General, Solstice, Warning... I think that the style of the british bands is darker than the american for example (in fact European doom almost never sound with the Maryland's rockish vibe), maybe that is because the rainy and dark climate?
I think the music that we create, as well as the bands that you've mentioned is a reaction to their surroundings. Bad weather, desolate moorlands and post-industrial cities. Also there's the history and heritage of England. Which has a unique kind of mystique. You wouldn't get that if you were American of Mediterranean.
I've named Warning two times right now, and it's not a coincidence, because your music is in some ways similar to theirs. I've read on some interviews and reviews that you're also being compared to them, but in fact you were playing this style for many years. Anyway, do you think that you have a similar style playing doom?
With Warning having been the most acclaimed doom metal band of recent years, they have probably become a reference point for many bands. And in some of the more over zealous comparisons we've had to them, I guess it's a case of the writer not being the most intelligent and having to resort to making comparisons rather than trying to describe what the music is really like. Yes, we had established our style by the time we became aware of Warning. And there are many differences. Too many to mention here but if anyone's familiar with both our styles, then they will see the obvious differences.
And we don't have any references to any other bands when we write. Which is the outcome of the length of time we've been together.
I've seen that you send thanks to bands like Mourning Beloveth or My Dying Bride but also to other more classic like The lamp of Thoth or Forsaken, so I supose that you aren't something like a doom fundamentalist. Early 90s british doom/death bands (My Dying Bride, Anathema...) are so important like Vitus or Pentagram e.g. to the history of doom? Or it was a momentary trend?
The doom metal purist thing does make me a bit sick. It's up to the individual what they like and which bands they want to support. And I can understand that they might not want to be associated with certain bands, which those who are less sussed about things may lump them in with. It's just some of the nastier elements that have crept into this which leave me disorientated. Also, we're from an era or scene where things were that bit less fragmented. So that always follows us. Death/doom was an inevitable development. Not necessarily in doom metal, which bypassed the whole extreme metal thing. But that eventually bands would come along that would merge the two styles. It's debatable as to weather it was just a trend. Especially when some of the leading bands like Anathema and Paradise Lost moved away from that style. But that style has gained something of its own momentum. For us personally as a band that did incorporate a strong element of death/doom in its early days, I was worried about the trend element of that style. But generally felt that to adhere to death/doom was limiting to the developing vision of Unsilence.
Members have changed lots of times in Unsilence, but you have been a stable line-up since about 10 years. Despite that, many drummers have passed through the band those years. Have you found one drummer at last? Would you work with programmed drums if you can't find a decent drummer?
We still don't have a permanent drummer. Our recent gigs have had our former drummer Jonathon filling in. And it's probably going to be more difficult for him to help us in the future. But we're trying a drummer out this week and there are also some other possible drummers. So it's looking hopeful that we'll have a permanent drummer in the future. No, we'll never work with a drum machine. We have made some plans with another drummer we know about filling in for us in the studio should we not find a new drummer.
Ok, I think that's all, so far. Thank you for answering my questions, I wish you the best of the lucks, please say whatever you think that i've forgotten to ask
Thank you for your support Manuel and good luck with the zine. Whatever setbacks we've had in the past, as outlined in this interview, we hope to do our next album sometime next year. Preferably, during the first half. But we won't just churn out any old shite just to have another album out.
Interview by Miguel
Sanchez. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A FIRE ON THE SEA
A TORN SKY