Anna Denejkina

Month: September, 2011

News Article – The Release of the WM3

This is a news piece I wrote for Voltage Media following the release of Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley – the WM3 – a case that I have been following for a number of years.
 

West Memphis Three is Finally Set Free Following 18 Years of Imprisonment

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on August 21, 2011

Following 18 years of incarceration, Jason BaldwinDamien Echols and Jessie Misskelley – collectively known as the West Memphis Three – have been set free on the morning of Friday, August 19th, after a plea agreement resulting in the immediate release of the three men.

The agreement stated that Jason, Damien and Jessie were to essentially plead guilty in exchange for their freedom, whilst maintaining their innocence in the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, resulting in the men’s 1994 convictions.

During a press conference following the release of the WM3 – available below – an admittedly shocked and overwhelmed Damien Echols, who was on Arkansas’ death row, stated that the guilty plea is “not perfect by any means, but at least it brings closure to some areas and some aspects,” continuing to affirm that Jason, Jessie and himself can and will continue to bring new evidence and investigation to clear their names.

Jason Baldwin expressed that this was not justice, however added that his acceptance in the deal was due to the reality that “they were trying to kill Damien.

According to NPR, the three men are being released due to questions raised as part of new DNA evidence, and the belief from the prosecution that “the time that has expired since the crimes makes it too difficult to prevail in a new trial.

They get their freedom in exchange for giving up the right to sue the state and acknowledging that the state had enough evidence to have found them guilty in the earlier trials.”

Commented Echols“This whole experience has taught me much about life, human nature, American justice, survival and transcendence. I will hopefully take those lessons with me as I embark on the next chapter in my journey and along the way look forward to enjoying some of those simple things in life.”

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Interview with Rob Maric of Dead Letter Circus

Rob Maric of Dead Letter Circus – “They don’t even need to be right; they just need to speak from the heart.”

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on August 18, 2011

With a UK and a US headlining tour firmly under their belts, Brisbane-based alternative, prog. rockers Dead Letter Circus have returned to their home shores for an extensive national tour, complete with a political viewpoint and a message of awareness toward saying no to CSG operations and the method of Hydraulic Fracturing.

Thus far, 2011 has been a frantic year for the quintet, who became the first ‘not really metal’ outfit to ink a deal with American label Sumerian Records, coming onto a roster boasting the likes of Asking Alexandria, Conducting from the Grave and Periphery. “There is a new decade of rock upon us and Dead Letter Circus is the future,” expressed Sumerian Recordsfounder Ash Avildsen, who released the band’s debut effort, This Is The Warning, in North America this July, following the initial release of the incredible album in 2010 throughout Australia.

Whilst on their American tour, I had the chance to catch up with guitarist Rob Maric to discuss how a rock band partners with a metal label, the reaction to their music from the US audience, as well as their “Groundhog Day style tour”, and began to scratch the surface of the political and social stance of the band.

You’re currently on your first tour of the US, how is the crowd reacting to the band?

Rob Maric: Really good! We are mostly playing to “metal” crowds so we were expecting some unhappy chaps in the crowd who think we sound more like New Kids On The Block than something they want to hear, but they have been surprisingly receptive.

There have also been a handful of people at each show that have driven many hours to come see us so that is an extremely positive sign that we might just do okay over here.

How different are your shows there to that of Australia – as you are huge in other parts of the world, but relatively unknown in the US?

Rob Maric: Punk rock! Show up, plug in with the bare minimum and play. As much as it is a step down production wise it does remind us that being a band is not about all the bells and whistles but instead about a group of musicians expressing themselves with whatever tools they have. Luckily our 30 minute set doesn’t make room for some of the more electronic / percussive songs so we are able to fill 30 [minutes] with our more “rock” material.

And how have you personally found the states?

Rob Maric: It has been really interesting. Being stuck in a groundhog day style tour of sleep/drive/eat/play night after night it’s hard to get a proper feel for the country, but at this stage I’d say it’s a really lovely country, but also at the same time suffering from a lot of problems which seem to only be getting worse in the forms of poverty and violence.

You’ve recently signed a deal with Sumerian Records. How did this come about, did they approach you?

Rob Maric: We’ve had a few of people in the US spreading good things about us since we did our showcasing in LA in 2009. Eventually our band found its way to Sumerianwho were incredibly enthusiastic about the band. We began negotiating with them and pretty soon it became clear that they were a fantastic label to work with.

To be honest, there wasn’t many labels willing to commit due to the tough economic climate over here so it was a case of the only major option fortunately being a great one.

What made you decide to jump on with a label that is mainly known as a metal label?

Rob Maric: At the end of the day they are a label and they are very good at what they do. After talking to them we soon realised they have a much wider vision than just metal and we would be one of the bands allowing them to branch out. In a way it actually made them more appealing as we would be a unique band on their roster rather than one of many alternative rock bands fighting for attention.

Today marks the day of the official release of This Is The Warning in North America, how is the excitement within the band, and what do you hope to achieve through this milestone?

Rob Maric: We feel very fortunate that this is happening. For Australian bands the US has always been a very tough place to even get this far. We hope we get a chance to grow here and have a career that allows us to tour comfortably and play in decent sized venues while making enough money to keep us writing and performing music.

Your forthcoming Australian tour is based on raising awareness toward saying no to CSG operations and Hydraulic Fracturing – why did the band decide to pursue this stance, and what do you hope the tour will achieve?

Rob Maric: This issue makes our blood boil as people. Band or no band. We happen to frequently get up in front of thousands of people who [we] regard as like minded to ourselves, so why not share a little information between friends? We’re just your mates saying ‘Hey, check this out. They’re raping your country and you might wanna know about it‘. If you don’t want to know about it or don’t care about it we still respect you. But for those that are interested, the message is for you.

What is your stance on the current carbon tax debate?

Rob Maric: To be honest I don’t know quite enough about this topic to properly comment. I do know that climate change is big business and when there are people turning over billions and billions of dollars you should always take what they say with a grain of salt, regardless of how ‘scientific’ they appear.

Many musicians have sent comments and responses to the atrocious mass murder in Oslo, what do you have to say on this issue?

Rob Maric: It’s truly depressing that a person can be so separate from others that they are driven to do this. I believe the true essence of each human being is that of compassion and love. I wonder what kind of life this man went through to get to this point. I can’t even begin to imagine the nightmare the victims’ families must be going through.

Do you think it’s important for bands to use their power of influence to create awareness on more political issues?

Rob Maric: Only if it is an extension of how they feel. If you aren’t feeling it, don’t speak out. If you are passionate about a cause and you are in a position to express that to a large amount of people then I think it is very important to analyse any thoughts that get in your way of sharing that.

If your sister was brutally raped, do you really give a shit if a ‘fan’ thinks it’s un-cool for you to raise awareness about rape? Could your ego be taking you for that much of a ride? The world is descending into a nightmare because people are letting their egos steer the ship. We are cut off from other peoples’ suffering and numbing ourselves with materialistic endeavors.

As we lose faith in our ego driven media and government there is a perfect gap for artists to step forward and provide a relatively untainted viewpoint of the world. They don’t even need to be right; they just need to speak from the heart. We lack that today. Everything on our television is calculated and edited for someone’s gain.

Are you currently writing new material?

Rob Maric: We have a new direction for the band in the form of some new song ideas which we are very excited about. Hopefully we can really get stuck into them when this US tour is over!

And what are the plans for your sophomore release, are there any tentative dates planned for recording and even the final release of the album?

Rob Maric: We were originally aiming for early 2012 but we’re now thinking more like late 2012 due to the international stuff going on.

Have you taken a different direction musically or thematically in your new material?

Rob Maric: It’s a bit early to say, but we are definitely changing direction. More of a step up rather than a side step. We’re aiming to make the music bigger and more powerful while at the same time becoming more organic and raw.

And finally, in 2008 the band stated that you’re not going to discuss the meaning behind your moniker for three years. Is it now time to divulge how it came about?

Rob Maric: Not yet! In 2012 all will be revealed!

Interview with Marco V

Marco V, The Master-Mind

Written for Future Entertainment [on line]

Originally published on August 11, 2011

His musical presence was first felt in 1998, and now, over a decade later, Dutch-born producer and DJ, Marco V, is known as one the leading minds within the electronic music scene all over the world.

Accredited as the master-mind behind the fusion and creation of the tech-trance sound, and yet, through all of his success, Marco keeps to a character that is humble as he explains his thoughts on the grandeur of his music and reputation.

“It is something that people stick on you,” he said, “and it’s great to get credit for that, but for me at that point I was just doing what I really wanted to do.”

“I was creating something differently, I really liked techno at that time, and I really liked trance, so that’s something I combined, it worked for me and I really enjoyed it.”

Returning to the Australian shores later this year as part of the annual Godskitchen event, where Marco will be sharing the stage with the likes of Richard Durand, John Askew and Ben Gold, he expressed his excitement for the forthcoming visit, retuning to an audience, which he described as incredible.

“The audience in Australia is just fantastic!” he exclaimed. “You know, you get so much great reaction from the crowd when you’re playing your tracks. So that’s the biggest difference, from even Europe. I’m really excited to be back,” explained Marco, “you know I did Godskitchen once before… and I really enjoyed that. I was with Richard Durand last week in Taiwan and really enjoyed his set, so I’m looking forward to being back with him as well for this tour.”

A man without any pre-performance rituals – only checking that all of his technical specs and equipment is at hand prior to going on stage – Marco’s love for his music and touring was continually growing flagrant in his expression and explanation of what persists to push him, and why he loves what he does – overtly, the fans’ reaction to his music.

“My favourite part is the reaction I get from the crowd when I play out my own tunes, that’s the best part, always…” Marco stated with enthusiasm, “it [gives] you such a feeling, it’s hard to describe it, you know? Making music in the studio, and then playing it for the audience, and then you get a great response, it’s just the best feeling I can get as a DJ.”

2009 saw the release of two pioneering albums from Marco V, entitled ‘Propaganda’, part I and II, which came coupled with a graphic novel from London-based digital illustrator, Vee Ladwa.

“Somebody knew somebody, who knew somebody who knew Ladwa,” laughed Marco when speaking about how the idea of this collaboration came to light. “Yeah, we wanted to do something more, it was just a fun thing, the whole comic thing in the CD. It was something different, and I like it.” And even through his innovative and forward thinking mind, Marco let Ladwa be inspired by his music in creating the aesthetic of the graphic novel, rather than giving own ideas and input. “It’s a creative thing,” he explained, “so I didn’t, and I didn’t even want to be involved – that is his baby – and he had to make it the way he likes it to be.”

Marco V is known as one of the most versatile and altering musicians in his field, so it came as no surprise when in 2010 he decided to push the boundaries once more, with the creation of The Art Of, a new multimedia concept, encompassing more DJ’s and everything of the night becoming a way of art.

“Yeah, again I wanted to do something more,” said Marco, “Before I had my ‘In Charge’ parties, I was playing all by myself the whole night long, but now I want to do something more and something different. It’s more ‘hands in the air’, happiness stuff that I’m doing with The Art Of, while my ‘In Charge’ stuff is a bit deeper and harder, so that’s why we put a new name on it as well.”

Throwing the first TAO party in New York last year, this event could be something that his Australian fans may expect to see in the future!

“Never say never!” He continued to speak after soft laughter, “at the moment there are no plans, but there could be. There is a good possibility that we’re gonna do a big tour with that, but for the moment there are no plans.”

Recently collaborating with Dutch indie-pop outfit Moke, Marco V is consistently composing new music, with new releases set to come in the next few weeks.

“Yeah! There’s a lot of new music coming out,” he said, “I did a new collaboration with a big Dutch band called the Moke, and the great vocalist [Felix Maginn] who did the vocals on the new song, ‘Be There In The Morning’, and that’s coming out in a few weeks. But I also did a lot of new pop tunes, that are coming out in the next couple of weeks – and remixes, I remixed for a lot of people.”

Holding a preference to working with vocalists rather than instrumentalists, Marco V expressed his happiness with the result of the recent collaboration with Moke, mentioning that at times it is difficult, and quite forced, to put an anthemic club sound over a band track.

“[Felix] has an amazing vocal and I like the work he did,” he continued. “He did the song with his guitar, and then we built this whole club anthem around it. Most of the time, it doesn’t work to give a club beat to a band, and then they have to put lyrics on it, it doesn’t really flow, [but] now it was more like a pop song and then we built the club song around it.”

Marco’s music comes through as organic in its composition, approaching him not only in the studio, but in day-to-day environments; plane, bed, “or wherever I am,” he said. Marco continues, “… they also come in the studio in a natural way. But the melodies that jump in my head are also coming naturally, because suddenly you have a melody and think “oh! I can do something with that.” But it also approaches in the studio – you’re working on a beat and think “wow, this could be a cool melody, or a cool vocal” or whatever.

Marco’s relationship with his fans is a very important connection for him, as they are not only the ones that make it possible for him to do what he is doing, but are also there to give a gauge on his new music, something that he likes to test out prior to an official release, he describes it as a “different way of producing”, but one that works.

“Yeah that’s the thing, nowadays when I create music I test it out [before] the audience. You know, you make something, you play on the weekend and you make some changes here and there. So basically nowadays it’s more a process between me and the crowd, you know, if they don’t react the way I want it I change it.”

“So it’s a different way of producing, that’s how it works now, but it’s a good way because when I put a song out I know it works for the crowd because I test it out so many times,” Marco expressed.

Having toured Australia prior to this year’s Godskitchen tour, Marco still has plans to see more of the country and its nature in between shows. “I think I’ve seen a lot in Australia, but we’re gonna spend a few days in Sydney,” he said, “so I think I’m gonna rent a car and do some driving there, go to the Blue Mountains, I’ve been there before but it’s nice to see them again and see what else is going on.”

And with regard to those critical of the trance and techno genre, Marco had only this to say, “What can I say to people that are dumb?” he laughed, “There is no music easy to make, you know, even children’s songs are difficult to make, to make the right ones. It’s easy to say that something is easy.”

“I think everyone should do what they really like to do most,” he continued with guidance for up-and-coming musicians, “too many people want to make it as a DJ or a producer… you can look up to some other [musicians] but don’t copy them. We already have Carl Cox, Swedish House Mafia, and if you wanna be like them, it’s much harder to get success than create something for yourself, you know, and that’s what I think more people should do.”

Interview with Nick Littlemore of PNAU

PNAU, Standing on Solid Ground

Written for Future Entertainment [on line]

Originally published on July 26, 2011

Unlike its predecessor, 2007’s self-titled release, PNAU’s latest effort, ‘Soft Universe’, was written during a tumultuous period of heartbreak and depression for vocalist and composer, Nick Littlemore.

“It’s a bitter sweet record for me,” he explains, “because, thematically, I was going through a lot of shit with my ex and this was a way of dealing with that, but now I look at some of the lyrics and [think] ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe I wrote that.’”

The new record, the fourth studio album from the Australian, and now UK and US based outfit, was influenced by Littlemore’s bout of depression; something, which he says, has been a creative presence throughout his life.

“Yeah, I think depression has been my main influence in my whole life… until recently; I fell in love again recently, which is wonderful,” commented Nick, who, escaping London by moving to New York, only a few days past landed in Sydney to a current climate and an atmosphere reminiscent to that of England.

“I just set up house in New York, we just finished in the studio in London – Peter lives there, in London – I just can’t live in London anymore, I just can’t handle it.”

“I need the sky,” he continued, “I need some perspective and I like the American way of life, or maybe the New York way of life, maybe that’s more accurate.”

“It’s really peaceful in that city, I love the galleries… It just feels more grown up for me to be there,” his love for the Big Apple growing more palpable with each word of the explanation, holding great tones of nostalgia.

“I’ve always wanted to live there, I went there first when I was twenty-one, and I loved it so much but it wasn’t time for me to be there, and I always said when I was thirty-five – well I got there a bit earlier than that – it’s a special place. There’s a great energy, and songs write themselves there. There’s such a history of creation and ideas and modernism. It’s great.”

A man that is admittedly driven by his sentiment, Nick stated that his is not good at hiding his emotion, something that overtly comes through in his writing.

“I think that I’m so driven by my emotions that it’s hard to get away from that,” he said. “Whenever you shoot something out of your mouth it tends to be about what’s really going on.”

His feeling toward the release of Soft Universe came forth as nonchalant and his humble character was under no solid expectations. “I have no aspirations of grandeur,” he affirmed, before explaining the differences behind the new album as compared to their earlier efforts.

“Yeah, it felt like a natural progression from our point of view, to step up to the plate I guess, and after the Empire [Empire Of The Sun] thing to kind of do something more vocal for PNAU.”

Only recently completing their studio rehearsals for the forthcoming Australian tour, Nick is optimistic about their live performance, a positivity coming through his voice as he spoke about the impending shows.

“It will be interesting to perform it,” he asserted, “we were rehearsing in the day time, as I popped over for a week… and it feels really good, it’s quite legitimate, we sing and play it acoustically – which is kind of amazing for us, because we’ve always been so electronic and backing-track based.”

He continued, “like Daft Punk, or any of those people, you can’t create that sound live without thirty keyboard players, it would be impossible. So we’ve been doing it with two acoustics and as four singers and it’s so cool, it’s like a hippie sort of thing.”

Nick expressed the new balance within the outfit, and in its live setting, also amusingly commenting on their latest use of in-ear monitors.

“We have these “in-ear” things so you can actually hear yourself,” he exclaimed, “I’ve never heard myself in fifteen years of doing shows – it’s always been this maddening, liminal state of losing my fucking mind and screaming at everyone, which has been great and fun, but now it feels like music for the first time.”

Their brand new record, ‘Soft Universe’, holds a definite transition from dance to pop and rock, something that Nick stated was somewhat of a conscious decision, enthused by their former manager.

“We had a manager for a time who originally signed U2 and he was talking to us about reframing what we do in a more anthemic, stadium-esque – for want of a better term – kind of way.”

“I toiled with, or dabbled rather, with the rockier sound with Teenager”, Nick’s art-rock side project with Phillipa Brown a.k.a. Ladyhawke, “but it was all kind of experimental and never really formed into anything as a song.”

For PNAU, their song-writing came in an opposite way to what, as Nick has described, people normally do, which is “starting with just guitars and pianos and singing, and then [going] into production after ten years of doing that.” But for PNAU, however, production came as the forerunner, beginning when the duo were kids. “Electronic [music] is kind of production, the way you write,” Nick explained, “so I feel like now we’ve almost come full circle, we understand the whole process, the production side as well as the song writing side and the live aspect.”

Peter Mayes [guitars, production], has previously expressed that PNAU have developed into better songwriters, and in Nick’s opinion, “well, we couldn’t get any worse. So I’m glad that we’ve gotten better,” he laughs.

With the release of their new album, it has been made clear that the duo is changing their live scenery, in particular, beginning to distance themselves from the club scene, an environment that, as Nick expressed, has not been in his favor for some time.

“I don’t want to be in sweaty night clubs anymore,” he said, “I mean, I haven’t wanted to be for a long time actually.”He continued, “My brother makes club music and I know a lot of people that make club music, but I just don’t, I don’t really respond to it. It’s a bit like renaissance art to me, it doesn’t influence my culture, [and] I don’t understand where it comes from anymore.”

“I’ve never really loved club music, that’s what I was talking about with Cirque”, Nick explained in reference to the band’s work for Cirque Du Soleil, for which PNAU is currently scoring with production scheduled for this September. “It’s more like German acid music, which was way more melodic and it’s more like a journey, it’s not just hitting you in the head for five hours.”

“I find that music not that musical,” he affirmed, “and if I’m going to listen to something that’s atonal, then I’ll listen to something that’s truly atonal like Ryuichi Sakamoto, Steve Reich or modern classical music.”

Nick’s want for change and challenge was made clear further as he spoke of the natural growth that PNAU has taken from, as he described, their “dancy-dance stuff”, to the release of ‘Soft Universe’ and their work with Cirque Du Soleil

“I think it’s good to challenge yourself… I think it’s just natural to change what you do because you’re just going to get bored. I don’t understand how one person can do the same thing throughout their whole career; it doesn’t make any sense to me,” he concluded.

PNAU’s current work with Elton John has made him not only the band’s mentor, but for Nick personally, a touchstone, and someone that has been able to give Nick a new perspective.

“He’s been through a lot of dark times,” said Nick, “so he was really good with me personally, putting things in perspective. We kind of took all his multi tracks that he ever had,” Nick began to explain the collaborative effort between PNAU and Elton, “about five-hundred-odd songs, and every show he’s ever recorded, which is pretty much from the 70’s till now, and we’re just pretty much doing whatever we want with it.”

Nick likened these musical compositions to that of the Avalanches with samples of Elton John, an effort that for him is “really cool, but [something that] takes forever.”

“I’m not classically trained”, stated Nick, “I’m the most ill refined person you’re ever going to meet,” he expressed jokingly with regard to any formal training that he may have in music. “All I wanted to do was make movies,” he reminisced over his film and art school past, “but I just got caught in this thing.”

Nick’s modest character held a sense of self-judgment as he concluded by comically – or perhaps in light-hearted cynicism – stating that his problems were only first world problems. “They’re not real problems,” he said, “I’m just a little bourgeois bitch. I can eat and I can walk, pretty much.” But he still wants to make movies, and to this day, he continues to write stories, something that came forth as his strong infatuation, “that’s really what I just want to do, is write stories.”

Film Review – ‘Bad Teacher’

This was my first film review, and to date, only film review. 
 

Movie Review: Bad Teacher

Written for Future Entertainment [on line]

Originally published on July 20, 2011

“She just doesn’t give an F” is the perfect byline to Bad Teacher and its leading “lady” Elizabeth Halsey, played superbly by Cameron Diaz, who may be the hottest teacher there has ever been. The drinking, cigarette and marijuana smoking Elizabeth has the personality of a kick-arse rock star, rather than that of a teacher, a role that Diaz manages to pull off greatly alongside a stellar and hilarious cast of Justin Timberlake, Lucy Punch, Jason Segel and Phyllis Smith.

Definitely not a children’s comedy, perhaps unlike to what the title may suggest, Bad Teacher is a push in the right direction from screenwriters Gene Stupnitsky and Lee Eisenberg, and director Jake Kasdan [Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story], who never invites the audience to pity Diaz’s character, instead, making us shriek at her conniving, scheming and misleading plots in order to gain more of what she loves best – that being the materialistic, the shallow, and in particular a breast augmentation, which is the main ideal that surrounds her in the quest to raise money.

Diaz’s physical transformation, at times from scene-to-scene is amusing and cringe-worthy; the sexy, Louboutin-wearing teacher, the hung-over educator with not a penny to spend; the junky, street crawler looking for a cigarette lighter and ultimately sharing a Christmas meal with a student’s family, definitely invokes a nauseating part to her character.

Additionally, Bad Teacher plays host to the most hilarious “sex” scene that I’ve ever laid my eyes upon between Diaz and Timberlake, underlining that there is definitely a good amount of laugh-out-loud moments in this comedy. Timberlake, who plays the rich substitute teacher Scott Delacorte, and Diaz’s gold-digging interest is a dumb character at best, and at worst, well, you’ll have to see the film. Jason Segel, who plays the unfit gym teacher, Russell Gettis, is smitten by Diaz, but do not assume that this is a gross, cliché love story, as Segel and Diaz stray from romanticism, bonding over sarcasm, cynicism, alcohol and pot instead.

Of course, a music cameo summoning the 1995 classic, Dangerous Minds, is fittingly present, with the soundtrack, the one-and-only “Gangsta’s Paradise” playing over footage of the train-wreck teacher that is Diaz.

Thankfully, this film is based on the notion that every character and the entire plot is exceptionally fictional, letting us immerse ourselves in the hilarity of a terribly ill-fitting school teacher, the cringe-worthy plot-line and most of the unconventional characters around her.

Album Review – Katabasis

KATABASIS – Self Titled

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on May 10, 2011

As the vocals seep through in the first few seconds of the opening track, an undeniably Opeth-esque tonality comes forth. The music of Katabasis is infections from its foundation, with the continual guitars leading into an abrupt void that quickly changes into a brilliant dynamic with fantastic and forward pushing repetition.

This is ‘Avernus’ – the opening track off the band’s self-titled, debut album – the thirteen-minute epic that finds itself to hold a number of climaxes, the first of which gives the earliest hint of fervent vocals, coupled with an overwhelmingly beautiful lead melody.

The play between soft and aggressive dynamics is done with great skill, especially as the initial clean vocals pierce through the music.

This track is a fantastic beginning to a great album. It sates the appetites of the progressive and the doom obsessed, letting one linger in their own space and time, whilst the piece holds strong with weeping harmony and resonant vocal melodies reminiscent to that of the aforementioned Swedes.

As ‘Avernus’ trickles to a close with the pouring rain, the strength and beauty comes following in the form of ‘Path of Ruin’. The up-beat tempo of the piece is at first juxtaposed with smooth guitar lines, before lunging into crushing guitars and entirely fantastic vocal lines. ‘Path of Ruin’ brings with it the first instance of a guitar solo, but un-like the sometimes unfortunate guitar solo-wankery [sic], this is one that is not self-indulgent, nor is it inappropriately extensive.

This track definitely underlines my prior thoughts – that this is an album that has to be listened to at full volume – to truly experience the overwhelming nature of all of its elements, as this is a record that sends a shiver down one’s spine, and coils you in emotion.

Hierophant’ comes as the most unique piece on the album; this is a place where Katabasistruly comes into its own, finding its unique stride. The sections of lead guitar tend to push the listener into that all elusive trance of closing ones eyes and bathing in the music. The last turn in direction is taken in the final few minutes, as the harshness returns to really cement ‘Hierophant’ as a personal highlight of the album.

The closure of the release, ‘Aphelion’, is a sedative ending to an emotive record. It’s tempting to state that it holds a touch of ambience, but this does not seem to truly encapsulate the piece. The half-way point brings on an interesting feeling of an alluring climax, that intricate feeling of knowing that something is about to happen, and very slowly, but surely, the progression and lead-up ensues, before the final eruption of the record quenches the auditory appetite.

This is amazing work, and not singularly because this is a debut album. There is something incredibly enthralling about the polyphony of textures and their fragility – the quality, musicianship and the force heard on this record, is all a testament to the talent of the quartet, albeit their influences may be strongly heard throughout the self-titled release.

Now, to the question that begs – can they pull this off live?

Album review – Ghost In The Addict

This is quite an old album review of Ghost In The Addict’s debut effort “Wishblister”. I am in love with this album, hence my decision to include such an old piece on this page. Enjoy!

Ghost In The Addict – ‘Wishblister’

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on November 2, 2010

Wishblister is an album that wears all of its heart on its sleeve. A debut release from Seattle-based Ghost In The Addict, this album has definitely fallen into the select gathering of the most honest records I’ve had the pleasure of hearing.

Eleven tracks that take its listener on a continual journey through the mind and life experience of its creator, the solitary John Spinelli, from the opening of ‘Asphyxia‘ we are plunged into a sea of mesmerizing lyric and music. The undertones and intricate details within the compositions show the almost obsessive and compulsive nature of this album. The cover art, the content within, sends absolutely no mixed messages.

The musical dynamics of sound used within Wishblister are fantastic, as ‘Amphigourl’ climaxes with an unconcealed sense of pain based in John’s voice, comes the soothing interlude of ‘Sleeping In Your Car’ which holds such restful melody and yet, the melancholia of the music is forever present.

With metaphors of the present, and those seemingly covering that of sex, lust and despair – to the long gone, yet not forgotten memories of a younger past, Wishblister reads like a diary, and continues to linger in one’s mind after the record ceases to play.

Tracks such as ‘Boys’ and the incredibly powerful ‘This Skin’, highlight the aptitude present behind the moniker of Ghost In The Addict. The whispers and the upsurge, the tension and release throughout a mix of soft industrial, rock and ambient music present withinWishblister, show the musicianship that is overt within its hold, furthermore creating a definite, poignant correlation within the opus.

The biggest down fall of the album would be its length. At just over thirty-minutes in its totality, the emotional ride does not feel complete and thus would explain the continual rotation of this record on my behalf.

The tale of John Spinelli reads to say that his beginning in writing music is to be attributed to taking acid and the wandering lonesome through the night. I personally do not concur with the use of drugs, but so it is – a conversation with the moon eventually became the trigger for a man who created one of the highlights of this year.

HEIRS Interview

Brent Stegeman of HEIRS “I feel that I may have aimed too high…”

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on August 1, 2011

Since their formation, Melbourne-based instrumental post-metal outfit HEIRS has released two studio albums, their latest, the 2010 record entitled Fowl, highlighting a change in the band’s music, a leap forward in composition that is technically complex, and yet holds to a simplicity in its execution.

This October will see the Australian outfit tour nationally as main support to French black metal/shoegaze duo Alcest, but before this, the five-piece is set on releasing a new album, their third studio offering this September.

We recently caught up with guitarist and programmer Brent Stegeman to discuss the forthcoming and as yet untitled new album – a work that for Brent may have been aimed too high, creating a concern that Heirs will not be able to pull it off, nevertheless, “if it does work, it’s going to be fucking awesome!” – as well as their upcoming tour and if the band is spinning another new direction with their latest effort.

Tonight saw your last rehearsal in preparation for the recording of your new 7”, how did everything go? Do you find that the band lays down more of the skeleton with regard to each of the songs – to give yourselves more room when recording – or do you have 100% of each piece completed before tracking in the studio?

Brent Stegeman: We try to have everything as prepared as possible before we head in to the studio. This way we can get down all of the things we feel ‘belong’ in the song as quickly as possible. We often refer back to rehearsal demos, and different electronic reference recordings we make before we start rehearsing, to ensure that any melodic elements aren’t overlooked. Then we have time to layer more ‘experimental’ sounds, and try different sounds and approaches for the main riffs. It took a bit longer to get everything right on this recording, as we are used to working on an entire album at once, as opposed to the 3 songs we put down this time.

How would you describe this record? Would it be safe to say that the band has taken a new direction with its sound, or found itself experimenting, much like with the change from your debut to the latest offering ‘Fowl’?

Brent Stegeman: On each release, we try to expand on something that we touched upon on the previous record, which is guess is a natural progression for any band. Subconsciously assessing what you have done previously and finding something you want to explore further. While Fowl looked toward 80’s industrial and gothic sounds and organic ‘bestial’ themes, this record has a futurist feel – speed, technology, youth and violence.

And how different is the upcoming album to your sophomore release?

Brent Stegeman: I think we have settled in to our own sound with this new material and it is more about what Heirs is, as opposed to the search for what Heirs should be.

Does the new record hold a conceptual motif/meaning to it?

Brent StegemanWe are shooting the artwork for the single next week, and as with all of our records, there is a strong concept that ties the music, titles and artwork together. However, we have set the bar pretty high for this one, so I don’t want to say anything until I have put it all together and know that it works. To be completely honest with you, I feel that I may have aimed too high and been too direct with what I have conceived, and I’m somewhat concerned that we won’t be able to pull it off. But if it does work, it’s going to be fucking awesome!

You’ve just announced a national tour in support of the forthcoming CD – what can your fans expect this time around? And to those who have yet to see you live, how would you describe a ‘typical’ Heirs show?

Brent Stegeman: It’s definitely a different show that we have prepared for the forthcoming tour, compared to our Australian tour for ‘Fowl’. Sound-wise, it’s more akin to what we were doing in Europe last year – the loudest amps available with the best tonal response. Completely overwhelming. I wouldn’t be expecting a ‘typical’ Heirsshow… we have packaged together the best things from our admittedly unpredictable live performances from the last 3 years to create something new and fresh.

Will you up the ante in terms of live performance this time around?

Brent Stegeman: We have produced all of the visual elements prior to commencing rehearsals, so we will be touring something this time that is a ‘full’ experience, where everything works together as a cohesive whole. I’m really proud of what we’ve done visually, and when coupled with the lighting installations we have designed for the stage and the backline we used on our European tour, which we have brought back to Australia, it’s going to be fucking intense!

How did Alcest come about in joining the tour?

Brent Stegeman: We were approached by them to book their tour through our Spanish booking agent, Artur from Wombat Booking.  We have a very strong mutual trust, he knew we were professional and would put on a great tour, and he is also someone who we have a lot of respect for from working with him on our Spanish shows.

I recently came across your LP ‘Alchera’ in Rocking Horse Records in Brisbane – what is your opinion on the forthcoming and inevitable closure of such a hub of the Alternative Australian music culture? [Note: at time of press Rocking Horse announced that they will continue to be open for the ‘forseeable future‘.]

Brent Stegeman: The culture of buying music is changing so rapidly every day, and the unfortunate reality of it is, is that the consumer is shifting over to a terrible format of listening to music ie compressed mp3s.  The whole ideal of owning a well-made stereo and purchasing product that is of utmost audial quality is almost dead, and replaced with compression and bass boost, making everything sound overblown and way too “cinematic”.

We produce vinyl because it is simply the best format, and we produce CDs and MP3s because of their accessibility. To touch upon the actual point of this question… I don’t feel informed enough to make a judgement on why these businesses are closing down, it could be a million different reasons, besides the industry suffering from free downloading.

Have you had first hand experiences with the struggles some bands find within the music industry climate?

Brent Stegeman: Of course. You cannot possibly be involved within this industry, and not be suffering in some way.

However, technology has actually made Heirs exist… we were signed through Myspace, we have booked our tours through the existence of the internet, and 1000’s more people have heard us as opposed to how we would have been known a decade before this. We use recording programs to produce our albums, and we do really well with MP3 sales… so we are completely fine with this shift. It would be quite hard for bands who used to sell a lot of CDs and now sales have declined… but I blame the CD format for this… it is one of the worst products ever invented.

Please feel free to say anything to our readers and your fans!

Brent Stegeman: Thanks for the interview and the time taken to send us informed and researched questions, it means a lot to us when this happens. We hope to see you all on the Alcest tour, thanks again!

Interview with Matt Heywood of Our Last Enemy

An Interview with Matt Heywood of Our Last Enemy

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on April 18, 2011

The last time that I had the pleasure of catching this band live, I firmly planted them in the “why are they not huge yet?” category, and now – the question still remains, but they are surely climbing the ladder higher and faster.

Currently on the second leg of their national ‘Tearing Down The Empire’ tour, in support of the debut album, Fallen EmpiresOur Last Enemy is rapidly finding themselves to becoming a part of the select group of Australian metal bands who are leading the horde.

The Sydney-based, industrial-infused metal quintet, has experienced line-up changes leaving a sour taste on former members’ tongues, and even a life on the other side of the globe, all in the view of advancing their sound and progressing as a band.

Catching up with bass guitarist, Matt Heywood, was an interesting affair, with his insouciant manner being broken only by an amusingly spilt cup of tea, which he fervently tried to cover up, before we continued into the patio of a café to discuss tour plans, the band’s current writing, opinion on industry and even hindsight of past live shows.

We’re always touring, we always have like a month off and then go out, so it’s good to go out and live like pirates again,” explained Matt as we discussed the touring cycle of the band.

We might be busting out a cover,” he continued. “We’ve got a couple, so we don’t know which one yet.” It was evident, at this point, that he wanted to keep his mouth shut as to the moniker of the bands that Our Last Enemy is planning on exploring, but after some persuasion, Matt gave a hint of The Prodigy, alas, only as a maybe. “Everything is a democracy, so it’s going to get voted on,” he clarified.

Some things, however, that can be expected live, are the re-working of the set, perhaps stage props and the band definitely pushing the ante with their already exhilarating live show.

We always like to be the wolf in wolves clothing, rather than a sheep in wolves clothing, meaning that we play heavy and aggressive music, so the show needs to be along those lines.

For anyone who has experienced their live-show, a theme of B-grade horror seems to pop up into one’s mind, Matt however, disagrees, seeing their stage presence as “more of music theater, rather than B-grade.”

Matt told me about a new piece that the band was working on prior to the first date of their tour, and expected it to be ready for their shows. Dubbing the song as the “train riff”, whilst still in the works, he expressed that it is “definitely more on the industrial side and probably a little bit more fast-paced.

Our Last Enemy is a band that is constantly working, and if they are not touring they are writing new material – tentatively scheduling a new release in the form on an EP. “It’s most likely going to be an EP,” commented Matt. “It’s going to be about five or six songs long, maybe seven. We plan to put a cover on there – one that we’re not playing live, one that we’ve never played live before. What I do know is that it’s going to be a bit more of a dangerous sound.

Another mention of a cover leads to more of my urging him to reveal the name of the band and title of the track. So, who they are considering? Well, Matt gave a very business minded answer that definitely brought on a chuckle.

If I tell you, what if some other band goes out and does it before us?!” he asked me in a manner covered in nonchalance and a slight, yet amusing, touch of smart-arsery [sic].

They are an Australian band, they’re not heavy metal. They’re not even heavy, but they were very popular.” After this assertion, facts that the band is circa 1980, and that they are definitely not Midnight Oil came out.

Moving onto the matter of Our Last Enemy’s debut full-length release, the aforementionedFallen EmpiresMatt could only describe the experience of working on the record as being “given a baptism of fire.

The band found itself relocating to the city of Angels for a three month period, to work on the album with famed producer, Christian Olde Wolbers. And after some hold backs, the physical record finally came out through Australian-based metal label, Riot! Entertainment.

Matt continued. “We don’t concentrate that much on album sales. It’s not on our radar at the moment. Our radar is live shows, so we don’t count on album sales at the moment.

I still believe that people still like the physical CD. Physical albums will eventually die out,” he explained, “but I don’t see it happening in the next five years.

An interesting development ensued during the time that this interview was conducted and its publishing, as Our Last Enemy decided to release Fallen Empires digitally through iTunes, finding themselves reaching the number one spot on the metal charts within a mere forty-eight hours. This feat saw the metallers knock off North Carolina-based metal outfit,Between The Buried And Me, and their latest EP release, ‘The Paralax: Hypersleep Dialogues’ from the coveted, number one spot.

Taking another turn in direction of the interview, Matt and I discussed the band’s participation in the inaugural Miss Alternative event, a platform which can be translated as another fashion pageant, throwing in more tattoos, piercings and big hair.

I have two thoughts,” he began. “First, I don’t really like the fact of someone telling someone else that someone else is better looking than you. I don’t believe in it. I don’t agree that someone is the prettiest girl out of all the other girls.

These days, the line between what is considered alternative and what is mainstream is very blurred. I mean piercings and tattoos are everywhere now,” he stressed. “If you really want to be alternative, just cut your hair short and tuck your T-shirt in.

Almost interrupting himself to comment on the show side of things, he expressed that “on the flip-side, it was a fun event, it was a good show.

Nevertheless, his prior opinion on the judgmental factor didn’t deter him, as he continued to underline that this is an event that has to be taken with a grain of salt, and if taken too seriously, “I can really see some people getting hurt emotionally – which I don’t really back. If I was in a relationship, and had a girlfriend who wanted to go in the show, I would probably advise her that it wouldn’t be the best idea.

Interview with Tim Pope of The Amenta

In-Depth Interview with TIMOTHY POPE of THE AMENTA

Written for Voltage Media

Originally published on March 15, 2011

Arguably one of Australia’s leading metal bands, The Amenta is on a current whirlwind – releasing their latest offering – the massive, multimedia gathering that is ‘VO1D’ – earlier this month, before starting their national tour in support of the immense EP in less than two weeks.

Voltage Media caught up with song writer Timothy Pope for an in-depth interview to discuss the aforementioned release; the follow-up to their second, full length album, n0n, as well as a conversation to find out what The Amenta is, and what drives this manic collective in its creation.

The result of this one-on-one evidently digs deeper into the core of The Amenta; highlighting the musicianship and vast intellect of this unit, as explained by Timothy Pope.

Did you expect to receive such an immense reaction to your latest release ‘VO1D’?

Timothy Pope: It’s been a pretty amazing reaction so far, obviously the release hasn’t been out for too long so it’s hard to gauge its appeal accurately in the long term, but I think the fact that the server crashed on the first day we offered it for free download due to the huge amount of traffic is a damn good sign. Feedback has been really positive which has been great. There haven’t been too many reviews as such (thoughVoltage Media can take the honour of being the first reviewer to post) but what there has been has been very positive.

I think people are pretty amazed that we would offer such a huge release for free and I hope that it will get people thinking about copyright, marketing and the music industry in general.

Why an EP and not a new album?

Timothy Pope: There will be a new album definitely, hopefully by the end of the year but the aim of V01D was to experiment with different methods. We knew that writing and recording a new album could take some time and every time we go into hibernation to write or record people think we’ve disappeared. When we write we don’t really play live. So our aim was to give people a little something in the meantime to show everyone that we were still functioning.

It originally started life as an idea to release a single for the song “V01D”. We’d had that track for many years, having been written for the first album “Occasus” but never been used. We imagined it being V01D, a live recording and maybe an instrumental. As we thought about it we started adding things to it until it became the huge release it is now.

We don’t think of it as an E.P. It’s too huge and amorphous. It’s a multimedia release and the fact that it is a free download based on a login process means we can add new items to the download so people can keep adding to what V01D is.

Your lyrics are seemingly very politically charged, what overall message[s] are you trying to render?

Timothy Pope: Rather than being fundamentally political I think my lyrics are social. The lyrics on n0n took on a political bent because of the times in which they were written. At the time of writing those lyrics we had committed to a way in the Middle East, there had been terrorist attacks from both sides, there were huge elections both here and overseas and through out all of this I was watching the way people reacted and behaved and it was terrifying.

For an extreme metal band to say that people are sheep is an enormous cliché but when you see the tears and jingoism on televised political rallies you begin to realise just how much people desire to be blasted free of “self”. Many of these people had latched on to one aspect of their chosen leader (most obviously: race in the US) without any understanding of the political agenda of the party which they were waving their flag for. Considering the impact of these issues on media and mind it was impossible to ignore lyrically.

The message that I would like to get across is that allowing yourselves to be swept up in other people’s propaganda (political or social) without first evaluating it for truth and relevance is just fucking lazy. It has always been the focus of religion to pass the psychic buck and now politics is taking that model and injecting it full of money. This is how autocracies start.

During ‘Spine’, you appear to take a stab at Democracy, what is your political leaning and what is your case behind it?

Timothy Pope: I want to start this rant with two caveats: The first is that I do not want to run the country, I couldn’t think of anything worse, I understand that politics is a series of compromises and I don’t necessarily think I could do a better job balancing the interests of business and the populace. The second is that the stab was against “Democracy” as it stands in Australia and other “democratic” countries, not democracy as an idea which I believe is a noble way of running a country.

My problem with “Democracy” as it operates in this country is that it is so perverted. How the fuck did we end up with a two party system? There is nothing in the constitution that stipulates a two part system. Answer: money. Why is it unusual for politicians to “cross the floor” and vote against party lines? How can there be a party voting plan?

The way democracy is supposed to work is that a constituency votes in a representative who will take up the voice of that constituency in parliament. The way it works is that a constituency votes in a party representative based on electoral promises, propaganda and subterfuge and then that representative represents a POLITICAL PARTY in parliament. How the fuck does that make sense? Every vote should be based on what would best serve their constituency, not one that best serves the party interests.

From this stems all the other issues with our political system. We have career politicians who will do anything to stay in parliament because that is their job. Would you lie to your boss to keep your job and feed you family? Of course you would and that’s what happens in Australian politics.

So as for my political leaning I am viciously apolitical. I believe they are all the same and all as bad as each other. I do not vote because I don’t see any difference between Labour or Liberal in power. Any differences are cosmetic. I truly believe that, unless you have all the facts, you shouldn’t vote. I do not have any interest in politics as it runs in this country so I don’t know all the facts. I then should not cast my vote because it is completely uninformed.

You have quoted Marx in the track ‘Nihil’ – “The opiate of the masses”. Is this to show your disagreement with dogma and religious structure? What are you personal; may they be even spiritual, beliefs?

Timothy Pope: I am not a spiritual person in any way. I don’t feel any need for spirituality. I am a complete person with or without a god or belief system. My problem with a lot of religion, particularly Western religion is it is based around the Master/Slave relationship. Even if there was a god, why should I worship? Should a slave kowtow to the slave owner?

In “Nihil” I referenced Marx to illustrate not only Marx’s point that religion exists to keep the proletariat heavy lidded and malleable, but also to show how it becomes corrupted over time until it barely resembles its origins.

The full line from “Nihil” is “The opiate of the masses/Diluted and polluted.” I’ve never really understood how people can accept the constant revisionism of religion. Take the Christian bible: assembled in Rome from disparate writings some hundreds of years after the death of Christ. Writings were dismissed if they conflicted with Roman politics at the time. Yet this is the Christian “word of god!”

An amusing side note: I have a copy of the bible as an iphone application. Of all the applications on my phone it is by far the most commonly updated. What are they updating?

Have you had personal experiences with the duplicity of organised religion that you’ve witnessed first hand?

Timothy Pope: Only as an observer. I don’t come from a religious background, despite the name. My father was a history teacher who fostered in me a love of exploration of ideas. I recall him once saying to me (possibly quoting someone else): “If you don’t consider yourself a communist in your twenties then you don’t have a soul. If you consider yourself a communist after this, then you don’t have a brain”. He had a lot of books about ideas when I was growing up and I took a lot of my current world view from my research at the time.

Looking back over histories you can trace the paths of organized religions and clearly see that they are a political, rather than spiritual, force. The papacy, for one, has been overrun by self serving, political manipulators making the Catholic Church the rich, land owning oppressor it currently is world wide.

Here is something I don’t understand: Christianity comes from Judaism. I understand that after the Christians accepted Jesus as the son of god there was a schism. That’s fine and makes perfect sense, but ask your self why their rituals diverged so suddenly. If Christians were Jews who believed in Jesus as the son of god why would they worship god any differently unless explicitly told to by Jesus? No good reason other than that religion, in order to spread virally over the world, had to change and mutate to be locally acceptable.

An obvious example of this is the Christmas celebrations taking place during the festival of Saturnalia so that Romans would adopt Christianity. Christians at the time knew that Romans would never take up a new religion if they had to give up a party. Simple solution: re-badge the fucker. And from these changes and compromises the “word of god” becomes perverted until it merely becomes a cloak you put over the bony limbs of business.

There have been bands who want their fans not only to come to their shows for the music, but also for the “message” that stands behind the band. Is this an opinion that you hold personally with The Amenta?

Timothy Pope: I would love people to appreciate the message of The Amenta but I am also aware that this very, very rarely happens. I long ago came to terms with the fact that most people who consider themselves fans don’t even know what the lyrics are, let alone understand them. But that’s fine. This is art and it is not the artist’s role to tell the public how to appreciate and interpret the art. If people love my band because the drummer [Robin Stone] is fast, then that’s great. If they love the band because we wear make up, that’s weird, but fine. Obviously I would prefer that everyone understood every aspect of The Amenta, but I am happy that people get some form of enjoyment from my artwork.

It’s important to realize that, though people may not understand 100% of what we do, that is no excuse for a compromise. We have to continue making the music we believe in whether people like it for simple reasons or complex reasons.

The only reason for someone liking my band that would piss me off is irony. I fucking hate how Black Metal has become embraced by ironic fans. Irony is for terrified people who are too scared to stand up for what they believe in. Anything else is fine by me.

Your live shows are stimulated with anger; do you find that performing live is your release, a chance to push out what you hold in during your day-to-day life?

Timothy Pope: I tend to think of our live show is a crystallization of my anger. Generally, in day to day life, I would consider myself reasonably laid back and even quiet. I wouldn’t say I hold anything in but I express my anger and frustration verbally rather than physically.

When we play live I can express it physically without being arrested. I can also say what ever the hell I want as it’s too damn loud to hear. I do definitely feel drained after a live show, so maybe it is even more of a release than I realise.

The other side of it is that it is a performance and, as a punter, if I saw a band, whose lyrics were about frustration and anger, disengaged on stage I would discount their lyrical content, assuming them to be posturing verbally. I want people to know that when they see us that I mean every fucking word I write.

That said it is not a premeditated approach. I don’t go into a gig thinking I will jump into the crowd at this point in that song and scream at everyone here. It’s something that feels natural at the time. It is an expression in the same way that a vocalist may use a vocal nuance to express feeling.

You are soon to leave on a national tour, before hitting Europe; will you be taking your live show to “the next level”?

Timothy Pope: We’ll definitely be adding some exciting things to the live performance.Shane “Swanee” Thomson, who has been doing our light show for years (and was also responsible for directing, filming and editing the live videos available as part of V01D) came down for a first production rehearsal the other day and there is a lot of exciting things happening.

I think V01D gave people a good indication of our new line-up and, for those who have yet to see Cain [Cressal, vocals] live it will be an experience. He is a creepy guy and the best front man I have ever seen, let alone had in the band, so it will definitely be a night to remember.

Have you ever been threatened after a live show?

Timothy Pope: This is the best question I have ever had! Am I that confronting on stage? No one has ever threatened me after a show, yet. Who knows what will happen this time around. I did think I was going to get threatened once in the US. We played a gig in a place called Virginia Beach and it was amazing. The venue had been changed last minute and the new venue was in the middle of a shopping complex. It was like walking into Blockbuster to play a gig. We go through this door into a pub full of “the regulars”, old guys who came with the furniture. The PA was blowing up all over the place. We got on stage and played an amazing set. We couldn’t hear anything except blown speaker distortion but we had a crazy crowd crammed into this place going nuts.

At some point I must have knocked a microphone stand into the crowd because after the show a guys came up to me with blood streaming down his face and told me I had hit him in the face with the stand. I was just in the middle of apologizing to the guy when he stopped me and told me it was the best thing he has ever seen and he wanted to by an album.

I have been told that you have a myriad of interesting stories behind the lyrical content of your music, can you share any?

Timothy Pope: The lyrics aren’t so much based on stories as taking elements from my interaction with the world as lyrical detail. For example you mentioned the song “Spine” whose recurring metaphor for democracy is a car crash. That came from a car crash I had after we shot the “Erebus” film clip.

We had been up all day shooting and it was a very exhausting performance as we were in full PVC regalia so we were sweating like crazy. I was driving home from the shoot at about 11am the next morning after having no sleep at all and being physically and mentally exhausted when I fell asleep at the wheel. I smashed into another car but thankfully no-one was hurt.

But it was such a strange experience. I remember being about 50 metres down the road, changing a CD at some traffic lights and then the next thing I know I hear a smash and open my eyes. That loss of control and terrifying blindness became a recurring image in my writing for a time, and references to it are strewn through out n0n, but when it came to describing how people will blindly allow politicians to control their actions and thoughts I saw this as the perfect metaphor. “Asleep at the wheel/coasting in neutral/Psyche mirrored in a crash victim’s fender”.

The track “Skin“, also from n0n was the first narrative driven piece of writing I had used for The Amenta. It was based around a prostitute I saw in King’s Cross as I was drinking in a pub. I watched her react as a drunk guy walked passed and spat at her feet. From there I imagined a back story to a similar encounter.

There are others, some of which are private, some are boring and some I can’t remember but I would hope that the lyrics are intricate enough that they would allow others to project their experience onto them.

Your forthcoming full-length has been said to hold “some of the organic grandeur of Occasus”, how is the process going so far and are you able to reveal any details of what we can expect from the release both musically and lyrically?

Timothy Pope: It’s really too early to say how it will turn out both musically and lyrically at the moment. We’ve written some stuff but they are just skeletons of songs at the moment. Once thing that is a return, is a stronger focus on guitar riffs instead of using the guitar to generate rhythmic noise.

We fell out of love with the guitar after Occasus and had no interest in using it as a primary writing tool. Having played live over 100 times in the last year, we began to get re-inspired by the guitar. So there are some very hooky riffs in the skeletons. I also want to explore more natural sounds in terms of electronics and effects. A lot of the electronic tracks on V01D show my explorations in this approach. I wanted to bash bits of metal rather than program a drum beat. I played a whole bunch of stuff for V01D on the violin, which is an instrument I can not, technically play. That’s the kind of thing I am interested in. Finding new ways of expressing our frustration and anger.

Lyrically I am not sure. It will depend on where my head is at when I start to write. If I were to write lyrics now I think they would be more about a personal struggle with the world. And I guess in some ways that would fit the trajectory. Occasus dealt with spiritual matters, n0n with political and this new one with personal matters. But anything can happen in the meantime. Wars could erupt and I would get into Reuters-mode.

Erik Miehs [guitar] and yourself write the totality of the material for The Amenta, will the new album feature more input from other members of the band?

Timothy Pope: Maybe. It’s not something we would ever chase down. The reason Erikand I write everything is that we are The AmentaThe Amenta’s aesthetic is due to our decisions and what we believe is the definitive definition of extreme metal. This is also our only band.

Every good idea we have is for The Amenta, we don’t share our creativity with any other project. Every time we have tried to write with other parties it is a frustration affair for both sides. We have our own musical language and way of working and having to spend half an hour trying to explain to someone why we are not going to put a traditional guitar solo EVER in one of our songs is time consuming and unnecessary.

Of course, we are definitely open to the idea of people writing and adding but only if they come to us. If a member brought in an idea that was excellent then we would definitely use it. If Cain wrote a set of lyrics that I believe fit my concept of The Amentathen I would happily use it. It would save me having to do it!

I don’t want people to think that we are complete dictators however. We show ideas to the guys and get feedback and they can suggest changes and often they are great ideas and there is often a process of reevaluation based on other members’ feedback. It’s just that initial process which is the problem. I hope, for the next release, that I will look back on this answer and shake my head at how wrong I was. I hope the other guys force their way into our writing sessions brandishing fists full of ideas. But generally I have found that true democracy in a band is a sure fire path to true mediocrity. When people’s egos and feelings come into play then you start compromising which hurts the finished product.

When composing a new song, what have you found to be the most challenging of the process?

Timothy Pope: I think the biggest challenge is structuring a song. Song structure is one of the unacknowledged pillars of song writing and the piece of music creation that separates true musicians from hacks who can just string riffs together and play them fast.

Songs need to have an ebb and flow. There must be hooks at the right moment and you can’t over play them. We spend a long time ripping our songs apart and putting them back together to find the best way of structuring them. And sometimes you have to “murder your darlings”, a term I stole from Stephen King, which means you have to sometimes get rid of your favourite part because it just doesn’t work within the song. The song is better without it.

Extreme Music is strange when it comes to structure. In pop music there is a quite rigid pop structure which makes the “perfect pop song”. Extreme Music, possible because of the generally unmelodic vocals, has a different “perfect structure”. We have no idea what it is. We spend a lot of time trying to find it. One thing we have found is that, where pop music will make a song from verse, chorus and middle 8, extreme music seems to need a second middle 8. It’s like it needs to breathe before repeating a verse or chorus.

We find writing exciting parts relatively easy. It’s putting them together in a way that makes the most exciting whole that is the struggle.

Apart from the aforementioned, what are your influences in creating music [authors, literature, film, history etc]?

Timothy Pope: I don’t really think in terms of influence but rather inspiration. I would like to say we are influenced by no one but inspired by many. My inspirations change all the time depending on what I am reading, listening to or researching.

When it came to make the electronic music for V01D I had a complete writers block. I knew I didn’t want to repeat the electronic ideas from n0n, which tended towards a more “industrial” vein, or the ideas from Occasus, which were more modern composition/avant. I couldn’t get anything happening.

The inspiration to try other things this time was Jim Thirlwell, who records music under a variety of names, the most popular being Foetus. He claims not to be able to play an instrument but makes these amazingly detailed pieces of all sorts of different music. That was the inspiration for me to pick up the violin, which I can’t play, to try and just get some sound out of it that I could structure into music. And that’s where the track “Nil” from V01D began.

Other inspirations lately have been Thomas PynchonVladimir Nabokov and Salman Rushdie. Their approach to the English language is amazing. Nabokov, as a Russian who’s English is probably his 400th language, knows more words than most suburbs of Australia put together. All three fill pages with so many layers of humour that you can read and re-read many times and still find things you’ve missed the first time.

Musicwise, I’ve been listening to a lot of the Australian Metal that I grew up with:Abramelin, Armoured AngelCruciformLord Kaos. That was the stuff that got me into playing extreme music in the first place and it’s inspiring to go back and listen to how well they stand up.

Thank you for the interview, and please feel free to add anything.

Timothy Pope: Thank you very much for the interview! Everyone is encouraged to go towww.theamenta.com to download our huge, FREE new release V01D. We are attempting new models getting our music out. If it’s a success you can expect more free content so get it out to everyone you know.

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