UNSILENCE INTERVIEW WITH TOMBSTONE ZINE (ENGLAND) 2000.
1/ How's it going mate? Everything cool? I hope so, because it seems like your band is jinxed. Two CD deals, one with Full Moon Rising, one with Seven Art Music and both of them fell through. A curse affecting your band or pure chance?
I guess that this is all bad luck. But then again, we've much improved since those early recordings so we no longer feel that we have to sign to ten pence labels such as those. Moreover, we can release the stuff ourselves. But if we wanted to do a full album then we'd prefer it to be on a label as the costs are too much.
2/ What actually happened with both of those deals. I know Seven Art folded, but specifically why? Also, seeing as both those companies are Italian, does that make you, however subconsciously, wary of that particular Mediterranean nation?
Seven Art folded because they were hopeless at their job. They also lost money through rip-off distributors. Seeing that they weren't lucky enough to have a band that was successful or any significant outside investment, they were crippled. We would be wary of signing to an Italian label as they don't seem to last. Remember Polymetheus or Nosferatu? Only Avante Garde Music seem to have developed. We were told by Seven Art that the Italian tax system makes it difficult for labels but I'd also think that Italians have a certain approach to it. In the case of Seven Art, I feel they wanted to make the jump from a small-time indie to a bigger label too soon. They should have just kept to what they had instead of having any delusions of grandeur!
3/ Your first demo "Shadows Cast in Stone" still has a relic of your previous death metal band Burial in there, was that by default- because it was the stuff you were used to writing, or was it actually planned? Why the change to a more doomy sound?
No it wasn't planned. When we got the band together it was straight after Burial had split so I guess we were musically hungover from that and also the death metal band our first guitarist was in. When we developed to a more doomier sound it was just based on the way we felt like writing although our vocalist did consciously decide to use singing instead of growls.
4/ Speaking of the first demo, while I'm not the most professional person myself, I couldn't help but feel that putting half a track on one side and half on another side (for the dubbed copies) made the band seem more sloppy. Did you try to sort it out otherwise? There's a load of death metal stuck on at the end of the tape, sounds a bit like Obituary with a different vocalist- was that Burial or you just used an old tape?
Hmmm. That's probably taped for you on an old demo which I didn't like because I was very skint back then. And sloppier!
5/ The difference between the old demo and the new MCD, stylistically, is a fair amount. Most of the death metal elements have been removed. Natural progression or tired or a stagnating scene? Plug the product and tell the nice people how they can buy a copy.
It's just really natural progression and the kind of stuff we feel like writing. However, on a new song we're working on, there's a few riffs which have more of a deathlier feel than most of the stuff we've been writing. Although we do find alot of death metal stagnant, it's just a case of writing the stuff we want.
6/ How does this kind of stuff go down live? Although underground audiences are notoriously apathetic, in London anyway, it seems to me that you d have to stand still and watch, even if you didn't want to. Have you ever had any particularly good heckles or well aimed bottles?
Well, some people do try to mosh/ headband but as long as we have their attention in someway, then we're happy.It's not non-stop headbanging music really.There have been the odd heckles of "not fast enougth" but there hasn't been any bottles yet. Any anyone who attempts to do so will fuckin know about it!
7/ A few distros have stocked the MCD. How well do distros shift them? Usually they're not that good at shifting zines, by their own admissions, but I would have thought more people will buy random cheap MCDs than random cheap zines?
It's a bit too early to say as they've only had them a couple of months. I get told that people are wary of buying albums from distros as they don't know weather they'll like every track. But some people have bought the MCD off us personally as it's cheaper.
8/ The thought of printing up T-Shirts has crossed your mind. Is this just something you're floating around, or have you actually looked into it properly? As an underground band surely you can't sell that many, which means you either have to charge a lot for them (as they're cheaper in bulk no doubt) or you have to make them crap, boring designs. Given this, is it worth it?
It's still in the floating around stage. We have thought about the more boring, logo-only designs but we feel we would like to make something which people are going to be proud about wearing for some while as well, not something simple which they'll wear to the pub or a gig a few times then only ever wear it when they're working on the car or something. We're going to go by the demand and there have been some people asking about the T-shirts.
9/ Looking at the colour scheme chosen for the MCD inlay, back cover especially, I can't help but assume you'll either have to have someone else do the T-Shirt colours, or else ending up with something that will clash with any piece of non-black clothing you'd want to wear it with. While that's not a problem for most metallers, wouldn't this be restricting the kind of circles you can get advertised in? Just a thought?
Out of the options for T-shirts we have already discussed, we feel that the idea of a MCD cover T-shirt will be impractible. So it will be something different.
10/ How different is it recording in the Academy after years of working out of M.A. Studio? The production is undoubtedly better, but on the first demo production wasn't so important to the sound, as it is now. Was it significantly more expensive?
It couldn't be more different. We first went to Academy when we mixed the album for Seven Art and we were taken aback by how professional they were and wished we could have done the recording there. M.A. studio was good in the early days but never up to that standard. Besides the engineer there (Martin) liked his pot too much and when we got to do the album it had got to a ridiculous level that along with some other personal stuff, he had no interest and was just out to prise as much cash out of us as he could. We had to bring another engineer in at the last minute and the whole recording was a pain. M.A.studio is no more and I've heard that Martin in now some kind of teacher though I'd have preferred to have heard that he was at the bottom of the Mersey with a millstone round his neck! When we went to Academy this time we're less shocked at how good they were as we were more prepared for it and I'd even say the time we were mixing there was an important part in out development. Their engineer Mags, as well as being more knowledgeable takes a big interest in getting the bands sounding and playing as good as they can for his own reputation. M.A.Studio
was cheaper in the beginning but when we did the album is was nearly the same price for 24 tracks, which is stupid. But we got it cheaper through using 16 and an additional discount as two of the band were students.
11/ Thanks to aforementioned fallen through deals, you have an album and a MCD lying on the shelf Will you ever release those? When you re-recorded two of the (unreleased) MCD tracks for the (unreleased) album, it seems you were admitting it would never see the light of day. Given that, why not re-record the whole thing? If it wasn't as good as the newer stuff, presumably you'll never release it. Did either label give you any money towards recording costs?
The first MCD was released as a demo and we have talked about releasing the album on MP3 from our website. We may even press a few up but this depends on the demand. When we re-recorded "Of Being" and "An Unfinished Chapter" for the album, we did know that the MCD wouldn't be released but it was mainly for those who would have never heard the MCD. We're not interested in re-recording the album as we're obviously into recording new material. But we have talked about re-recording the track "Far From Waking" as this one has stood the test of time and we'd like to hear it with the production and playing standard we have nowadays. None of the labels gave anything to the costs. he best consolation we can have is that the first MCD was originally to be a demo (and became one) and Seven Art were ripped-off themselves.
12/ On the thanks list you thank "everyone at the Ritz". Pardon me for being naive, but I presume this isn't the Ritz that is one of the capitols finest hotels, that you don't get away for the weekend by staying at Julia Roberts and Hugh Grants old haunt. So what is the story behind it?
The Ritz in a club in Manchester and they have some studenty thing on every Monday night which our bassist attends. So he was just wishing all the best to his mates there. What would a bunch of scummy Northerners such as us be doing at the Ritz hotel on London anyway?
13/ Personally I think the violins fit in perfectly with the whole sound, and thankfully they're used appropriately, and not at dumb points. Not that I'm accusing you of copying the idea off other band, and you can answer the allegation should you have a guilty conscience, but would you have thought of using them had you not heard My Dying Bride etc do it first? This is the problem I have with the idea of ripping off, very few people have ideas that didn't come to them at the age of six while playing with Lego, or at the age of forty seven while playing with the six year old playing with Lego.
To be honest, I don't think we would have. But would My Dying Bride have thought of the idea if they'd never heard Celtic Frost do it? Would so many bands have thought of heavy guitars if they'd never heard Black Sabbath? Would black metal bands have thought of using screamy vocals if they'd never heard Bathory? I guess it's not mearly using something someone has used before but how you put your own vibe into it. We felt those particular parts, better suited a violin instead of keyboards but would have used keyboards if we didn't have access to a good violinist, who's our drummers dad.
14/ What do you do about violins when you play live, or do you just miss this bit out?
We've yet to perform those songs live but will do at the end of the month. We're having to miss them out but we may do some parts on a guitar and have talked about the drummer Jonathon doing them on keyboards if they're in a drum break.
15/ Is there any reason you think heavy metal doesn't get in the charts in England compared to other European countries. I'm going to limit the question to exclude Korn, Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Metallica and The Almighty from your delibarations.
I guess there's a certain stigma attached to metal over here which is encouraged by the media. Also, people will only buy the stuff which the media hypes.
16/ Can you talk us through the exact cost of doing a CD from start to finish, including, roughly, what you think shop and label mark ups are. Given this who's making the killing when a shop charges £15/£16 for a CD? I used to think these places were fronts for money laundering simply because they had such high rents and were usually empty. Have you ever thought of that?
Well first there's the recording costs. And as we used a top-notch studio in the form of Academy, then our costs were nearly £1000. Then there's the cover art and photos. We used the art and photos which were intended for the Seven Art album. I can't remember how much they were but they weren't too much. Then there's the inlay layout
and on-body print which we got for £30 as a mate of ours did it. It was a lot cheaper than other quotes. Then there was the mastering, pressing and inlay printing which was all done by the same company for £730 (for 500 copies). We did get some quotes for cheaper for smaller runs but they would have cost more in the long run if we wanted some more pressing. I think that the record shops get a large chunk of the £15/£16.It could be to do with the rent but I've always assumed that they were greedy bastards!
17/ Why did you get rid of Paul Gemmell, your old guitarist? You've said he was slow at learning stuff, yet it seems a bit heartless to chuck him for this. A bit of patience and understanding goes a long way!
It was taking a lot more than a bit of patience and understanding. It would take him three or four weeks to learn a song and despite having a tape and tablature, he still needed me to be there showing him. And that meant me having to take a half-hour run to Preston. It was taking the piss too much. This and some other things we were aware of when we took him on so I guess it was a bit heartless. But it's a case of the way we were then. Back then we didn't feel it was a problem but a year later our ideas had progressed and we felt he was holding us back. But this was not all as there was some personal things which we could have only found out after having him in the band for some time. Things I'd rather not go into here. I guess it's one of these "if you were there, you'd do the same yourself" situations. We certainly gave it a lot of thought in getting a new guitarist and we're sure our new one ,James Kilmurray is the right one.
18/ What exactly happened with you having a video filmed? How exactly would Seven Art have used a bootleg video of a live gig to promote an album- it doesn't exactly sound well thought through to me. For a start where would they show it- it's too expensive to send out to people anyway.
It was only a bootleg of a gig we did supporting The Blood Divine in Bradford. Remember what I said about Seven Art being hopeless at their job!
19/ You've said you're starting to write lyrics for the band. Were you getting bored with Andrews stuff? Have you ever told him what he'd written was stupid, or laughed out loud in the face of his attempts at being poetic?
The reason I've got involved in lyrics is because I feel that we need more lyrical input as Andrew's not the most prolific of lyricists. I've never laughed at anything he's written as I've never had cause to.
20/ As per usual I haven't asked you anything about your music, even though a review should be somewhere within these pages, so is there anything you want to say on that score?
We try to cover a range of emotions from aggressive heavy parts to more gentler atmospheric parts. Really, it's based on our own experiences.
21/ Despite the depressing demeanor of the MCD, overall it sounds optimistic, and certainly doesn't make you feel as down as it could have. I figure if you can have "untrue" black metal then you can have "untrue" doom. Do you reckon you're mournful and morose enough to be "true" or should you be outcast on the heap of commerciality, vilified and hated at every step?
We're not pre-occupied with trying to be "true doom" but doing what is true to us. I think there's more to our style than doom. Also, Doom isn't about out-and-out moroseness. There's quite a few different emotions. On material the recent Cathedral releases(Which for the record, I'm not a big fan of) there's more up-tempo and groovier stuff and with Solstice, there's more majestic stuff. Any optimism you've detected in our material is not us failing to be depressive, it has it's place!
22/ I'm sure there's stuff you're burning to say that I've not asked you about, go on- help yourself. You have unlimited space here, though I might cut stuff for boredom reasons or because you're attempting to get me to include your lyrics book as a free gift.
I haven't really got anything else to say. Just that people should follow their instincts instead of trends.
23/ Anything else?
Thanks a lot for the interview. All the best!
Interview by Robert Spain.
A FIRE ON THE SEA
A TORN SKY