UNSILENCE INTERVIEW WITH LORDS OF METAL WEBZINE (NETHERLANDS) 2010.
Original text: http://www.lordsofmetal.nl/showinterview.php?id=3121
Hey Kieron, first of all let me congratulate you with the fact that you finally have a full-length out. It took some time, right?
Yeah, thanks. It's great to finally have the album out, although there's the unreleased album from 1997. I do wonder why we didn't go for an album with the last release instead of a MCD. I think it was a lack of material. And maybe we felt we could go for a bigger label by building things up with another MCD.
The first song we wrote was the album opener, The Last Day in late 2002. Shortly after that our drummer Jonathon left to start a new job down south (He also joined The River). It then took seven months to find his replacement Andy McLachlan. As Jonathon wrote a lot of the material then we needed to maintain the same level of quality without him. By that time our guitarist and soon to be vocalist James Kilmurray had started writing. Although we had some other material lying around, the second song that made it to the album, Barricade wasn't completed until late 2004. Soon after that we were dealt another blow with the departure of vocalist Andrew Hodson. He also had a part in writing much of the lyrics and all the vocals. Not knowing how things would pan out with a new vocalist, we needed to concentrate on lyrics and vocal melodies. So it really took time for the writing to develop. And then nine months after the departure of Hodson, James took up the vocals. So there was also a need for him to develop his vocals, as he'd never done them before. He had a natural talent but it was better that he didn't record vocals for an album back then. By this time it was almost 2006 and a number of the songs on the album came together at this time. We decided we needed to do a rough demo of what we had written, like as a pre-production demo. But we also decided to make these tracks available on the Myspace page just to let everyone know we were still around. This became the Echoes Awaken demo. After that we started to make plans for doing an album in early 2008. But Andy had to leave the band so we then had to look for another drummer. We got a drummer called Graham soon after and we aimed to record the album towards the end of the year. But he left after only six months. Luckily our ex-drummer Jonathon, who had moved back to the area, was available to fill in for the recording of the album, which we finally got around to recording in December 2008. We finished it the following April.
Let's get a bit back into the past of Unsilence first. You were active in the band Burial first, right? So did you form Unsilence as a sort of side-project or was Burial already buried? As Burial was a death metal band how would you describe Unsilence's sound in the early years?
Burial was the death metal band that I was a member of during the early 90s. And a very different band from Unsilence it was. In fact it really had nothing to do with Unsilence. More the old school type of death metal. Burial had finished by the time I got Unsilence going. Although I have a feeling that had Burial stayed together, I might have started a side project doing the type of music I do in Unsilence. I originally had no plans to start a new band in a different direction. Instead I wanted to get a new Burial line-up together. But when I got with some new musicians things were just so different. If I'd have continued doing death metal, I think I would have got a new band together as opposed to doing a new Burial line-up. The other thing was the different ideas the new musicians were bringing. And also the different ideas they were bringing out of me. Personally my musical tastes at that time were going full circle. In the previous years I had been mainly listening to death and thrash metal with some doom metal too. But I was starting to get back into the metal and rock that I was into before as well as discovering more doom metal. So it was inevitable and honest that I would start creating music in this vein.
The first demo, Shadows Cast In Stone, was done only five months after we'd formed. So the influence of the old bands we were in was still there. We hadn't really taken the time to develop a style. Maybe we should have waited a bit but we did what we did. That demo is in a more death doom style. Like a transitional thing. It doesn't really have much in common with how we developed afterwards. There was also material from our old bands in there too. And our first guitarist Rick, who wrote a lot of the music on that demo, was really into the UK death-doom that was around at that time. He then left the band during the writing of the second demo. And as some of the others and myself were a few years older and had influences that went back a bit more, then our writing style started to move away from the death/doom style. At the same time our singer said that didn't want to do growls any more, like he did on the majority of the first demo. I don't think it was something he really wanted to do anyway. Perhaps it was just for entry into a band. We were after all his first band. And generally the doom/death thing was quite limiting for what we had in mind.
What bands did initially inspire/influence you?
As I said in the last question, we had more of a death/doom sound when we first started out. The early releases of bands like Anathema, My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost are things that we still have a lot of respect for even though they may not be obvious reference points for the way our sound has developed. We do like a great variety of bands between us and there are many things we don't agree on. So when it comes to major influences, we would all agree on the classic metal bands like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Celtic Frost, Iron Maiden and Bathory. These are bands we have always come back to over the years. Even though you may not see an obvious influence.
You haven't been very lucky with all your releases in the past. Some recordings didn't even get released. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Well the second demo, An Unfinished Chapter, was originally going to be released as a MCD by some Italian label called Full Moon Rising. But after recording it, they said that they didn't have the money to release it. We then signed to another Italian label called Seven Art Music and recorded our first album, Choirs Of Memory. And more or less the same thing happened again. Seven Art had one of their bands albums distributed by Nuclear Blast. It was originally lined up to be released after ours. But because of the interest from Nuclear Blast, they put it ahead. They hoped that the sales would lead to a better financial return and more in way of promotion for our album as well as their other bands. But the album didn't do as well as expected and they were broke as they spent all their money on that album. They couldn't get any interest from other labels or distributors so the deal was terminated in August 1999.
So you're probably wondering if we couldn't have shopped these releases to another label or released them ourselves like we eventually did with Transfiguration. Well we did send Unfinished out to some labels but had no interest. I did look into a self-release but it was too expensive at the time. On the other hand, the first album was plagued with studio and internal band problems and the recording didn't turn out too well. And in the two years after the recording, we underwent quite a drastic progression so that by the time Seven Art deal was terminated, we wanted to release newer material. Hence the Transfiguration MCD.
I would say you first got some international recognition once the MCD "A Walk Through Oceans" was released in 2002 through Golden Lake Productions. Tell us a bit more about that period.
We already had created a bit of a buzz on the international underground with the previous release, our self-released Transfiguration MCD. But Golden Lake had a better distribution and we were able to get to more people. It could have been better if there hadn't been the line-up changes and we could have maybe done some touring for that release. The guys at Golden Lake had picked up on Transfiguration and offered us a deal for the next release. They were quite cool people to work with. Not the biggest of labels but were quite enthusiastic. We would have probably gone for an album with them. But during the last few years they were active I started getting the vibe that they were losing the passion and were out of touch with the scene. So it was no surprise that they disbanded in 2006.
They still owe us some CDs from the second pressing but they haven't sent us them yet. And as they're no longer active, they've got nothing to lose by not sending them to us. I'd like to think that's not the case and they've just forgotten. But I've been unable to contact them so I'm not holding my breath. Shame really.
You've had quite some line-up changes and currently you're still looking for a permanent drummer. I can imagine that you might have wanted to throw in the towel, but you're still here. So how did you cope with all these changes over the years?
It's mainly been drummers in recent years. But at least we've been able to have some activity with Jonathon helping us out. But the lengthy periods of inactivity, where it's seemed impossible to find a new drummer or vocalist have been dark days indeed. But we have never once considered finishing. We need to pursue this. And that could never happen by finishing. Luckily, the core of the band, which is guitarist/vocalist James Kilmurray, bassist David Elliott and myself have the resolve to do this and the realization that given the type of band that we are, things can be difficult and that we just have to deal with it. We're under no delusions. And when things do come together, like the recent release of the album and playing the Dutch Doom Days, we know it has been totally worthwhile.
On your album you were helped out by former drummer Jonathon Gibbs. Why didn't he stay as a permanent member?
As I said earlier, Jonathon moved to the south of England to start a new job. But he moved back up our way a few years later when him and his partner had a child, as it's not as expensive to live up north. As well as the family commitments, he wasn't able to go straight back into Unsilence as we had a drummer. During that time he also started making some plans for a new band. This is now starting to come together and I'm actually involved with it. It's early days but we hope to have a demo out and start gigging this year. He also has some other music commitment, but nothing has happened with that yet. So it's a case of him not having the time to re-join Unsilence permanently. However, it's been great that we've been able to have him help us out with the album and occasional gigs. He really works with us in the way none of the other two drummers we had after him have done (without sounding disrespectful towards the other drummers - well at least one of them). He'll be drumming for us when we play Doom Shall Rise next April.
Listening to "Under A Torn Sky" you can quite easily tell that Solstice is quite an influence on your music and sound. I guess they're a huge influence?
Not in any way like some people would think. I would put it down to having some similar influences. For instance, I know that Celtic Frost, Candlemass, and the epic Bathory, who have been major influences on us, have influenced them. Other similarities could be having the same guitar tuning and the folkier elements that crop up in both our styles (more prominent in their style). But generally, our music focuses on more deep, esoteric and melancholic emotions, whereas theirs is more epic, pounding and majestic. Like their desperate battle cry and our more silent mourn. Lyrically, our stuff deals mostly with human emotions. But theirs uses more mythological, fantasy stuff. Probably used as a metaphor. And we also have roots in the doom/death sound. The Unsilence sound really started to develop with the second demo, An Unfinished Chapter, and at that time I was only vaguely aware of Solstice.
How did you get in touch with Psychedoomelic, who released the album? Did they offer you a good deal?
I had previously been in touch with the guys when they did Psychedelic fanzine. They interviewed us and included us on their compilation CD. Our paths did cross a few times later. I actually met them at the Belgian Doom Night back in 2004. But I hadn't been in contact with them for a few years by the time we did the album. But when reckoning up which labels we should shop our album to, I remembered PsycheDOOMelic and send them a copy. And they made us a definite offer. They were quite flexible with the deal they offered us. Making sure that we were happy with it. It's too early to assess weather they've done a good job with the album. But they are a small label with limited resources, so we're under no delusions of grandeur. As long as we can together create a buzz to get the album out to the potential audience then we'll be happy.
Aside from gigs in England, Ireland and Malta, you recently did your first ever gig on mainland Europe, on the Dutch Doom Days at Baroeg in Rotterdam to be precise. Looking back what are your thoughts on that show?
After finally waiting years to get over to the continent, and after a number of letdowns. We weren't disappointed. It was an awesome show! Although I believe that the turnout was disappointing when compared to previous years. However, it was good by English standards so I didn't really notice. It was also the first time that the venue ever gave us a hot meal. It was a good insight to the way things are in Europe. As gigging over there really is our future.
Do you get a lot of opportunities to play live? I mean it's common knowledge getting gigs in the UK is quite difficult, right?
Things have picked up a bit in recent years. Metal has become more popular again and there are more venues prepared to put on gigs again. You still get the apathy from the fans towards lesser well-known bands that aren't hyped in Kerrang or Terrorizer. Generally we have been doing at least four gigs a year for much of the time. Our best year was 2001 when we had 12 gigs, though two of them were in Ireland. The gigging has been sparse in recent years due to not having a drummer. The Dutch Doom day was the only gig we did last year and Doom Shall Rise is the only scheduled one for this year, although we're trying to arrange a local warm-up show.
Right, that's about it from my side. Any important things I might have missed you want to get off your chest? Be my guest.
Usually, future plans are one of the most common things I get asked about for a final question. So I'll state some here. We're determined not to take seven years to do another album. We hope that we can be at least looking towards recording our next album a year from now. Having said that we've always been slow writers so we'll need to work on it like we've never done before. I believe it's possible but we won't just churn out any old crap just to have another album out soon. And if it takes another seven years then so be it. Although as I stated earlier, part of the long delay has been due to major line-up changes. So unless there are more of them, then it shouldn't take half as long. And if we haven't found a drummer we'll have a drummer guest on the recording like we did the last time. As for the direction our music will take, it's difficult to describe at this stage. But I think the character of the material will be more consistent due to the shorter amount of time it will have been written. There was also a lot of material on the latest album than was written by either by James or myself without anyone else's input. And I think that most of the newer material will be more of a combination of our ideas than on the latest album.
Thanks for the interview. Everyone buy Under A Torn Sky.
Interview by Pim Blankenstein. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
A FIRE ON THE SEA
A TORN SKY