Thursday, May 31, 2012

Interview: Ihsahn

With Emperor being one of my favorite bands, you can imagine how honored to have Ihsahn on the other line to talk about his new solo "Eremita".

Wil- It's an honor to get a chance to talk with you like this so let's start with the new album, the first of your solo albums outside of the trilogy , So writing these songs was there as sense of freedom or did it feel like a new start?

Ihsahn-In the sense the first three albums were designed for me to develop myself as a solo artist outside of Emperor, so I had some space and ended up writing with more confidence. I felt the need to distance myself from the whole emperor phenomenon felt a return in my awareness , with life on it’s own with nostalgia, I was more at ease to connect to my past. To create some of my blackest work on this album by digging deeper. But more of an attitude.

Wil-What was it like to work with Jeff Loomis and Devin Townsend ?

It was a compliment for them to have asked me to guest on their albums, with Devon
“Deconstruction” and then of Jeff’s full length, so that made asking them easier. Recording “ Eremita” there was a solo section and I imagined his playing would be great on and put to shame anything I would have done as he is one ofthe greatest guitarist out there There was also a section that needed these vocals that were more powerful than what I had done so Devon came to mind.

Wil-The guitar sound on the new album is much warmer and organic and I noticed you are now endorsed by blackstar amplification,so is that the reason for the change?

Ihsahn-Yes though, I have been doing more producing. I wanted a organic yet gritty sound. The focus of my writing is normally for guitar.Record on computer and play back to the piano to allow more focus on the compositional layers as well. A dynamic drummer recorded to a click sound captured the rhythmic nature. I wanted it to have a very loud live sound. I used other amps as well but blended the BlackStar 200 head which I use live to get the metal grit with the 412 to get the clarity in the attack, where you can hear the instruments strings rather than being lost in the distortion.

Wil-The sax is back on the new album, when i heard it on “After” it brought to mind King Crimson to mind. How much of an influence has classic progressive rock been on the more recent solo material?

Ihsahn-Bands like Rush and King Crimson,I am familiar with their music but I can’t say much of an influence as I have always seen the sax as a lonely instrument and had finally found a scenario in which I could use it . Jorgen Munkeby of Shining is a super talented and plays the instrument so expressively , that it interacts with the rest of the music so well. We are also good friends.

Wil-Lyrically the theme of the new album as a more transcendent feel to it rather than the very confrontational feel of your first two solo albums and earlier Emperor, did this just feel like the most natural direction ?

Ihsahn-The method of how I approach lyrics, was to be an adversary rather than just blah blah blah. Alot of metal has words with no meaning . Metal by nature attracts the outsider mentality, but this is very conscious a reflection of something I had to say. it’s about escaping. As a solo artist it’s not like the band dynamic where you pitch ideas back an forth. So i wanted creative focus rather to the point and cohesive rather than a collection of ten song that happened to be recorded at the same point in time. With this album some of the themes are almost like a madman, a protagonist who wonders did he or didn’t he commit murder.

Wil-How would you say your spiritual growth has influenced what you create? Their seems to be more maturity in that as well than from Emperor which was more of an romantic exploration of the occult.

Ihsahn -As a teenage it was romanticized. Influenced by the music of soundtracks, vampire scenarios and delusions of grandeur. Much more pragmatic these days. Metal is larger than life , from the extreme vocal to the imagery.My prespective on thye subjest is to dig deeper. The playful exponents of youth, to see things as a reason being impassioned. An undefined deep point to drive me forward with music as the driving force.

Wil-So what are the plans as far as touring to promote Eremita?

Ihsahn-Well I am doing some festival dates in june and then Candlelight is talking the possibility of getting some U.S dates in the fall.

Wil-When you said candle light I at first thought you said Kamelot and meant the power-metal band and though you would have to stock up on pirate shirts to tour with those guys.

Wil-I did do the Prog-power festival, and it was refreshing as they did not know where I came from, even though I have an established audience for the past past 20 years. I think in some ways a crowd like that is better for what I am doing now than a typical black metal audience.

Wil-Well hope you can come through the states.

Ihsahn-I do to. I would like to but there’s alot to consider if bringing a band over from Europe is financially feasible

Wil-Particularly in the current american economy.

Ihsahn-yes,it’s a very challenging time for music. but I have managment, to let them woory and work that out and just focus on making the best music I can.

Wil- Well you've continued to succeed in that department.

Ihsahn- Thank you, I appreciate it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Interview -Pelle Ahmen-In Solitude

When the Decibel Tour rolled into town, I was lucky enough to have sit down with Pelle Ahman in the In Solitude van. Wil- So first off man, whats up with your death metal band Invidious, when is that project seeing a release date ? Pelle- the mix is taking a really long time because it needs to have a certain sound, so we are taking our time with it.There is something rewarding about being able to release it about being able to release it yourself. Wil- so what is the plan for following up " The World, the flesh, the devil" . It got a lot of critical acclaim, so where are your heads at in terms of a follow up? Pelle- We are writing pieces of songs here and there. We came up with a good foundation of a song in Portland. On the road we are really just limited to writing on guitar. As far as after this tour, we are playing some festivals then after that maybe another tour. Wil - your guys did a Samhain cover for the flexi disc, Revolver released and after seeing how much rawer and explosive you guys are live , how big of an influence is punk rock for you ? Pelle- Huge, punk rock and hardcore . Stuff like the Birthday Party, Danzig, the Misfits..though really Samhain , had more of a darkness. Discharge's music when you hear it has such an emotional connection. When I listen to Discharge though it might be political, I don't hear the politics I only hear the emotions. Wil- So how have you liked touring in America and how do the crowds differ from European ones? Pelle- Europe it's more of a social thing. They are there to drink beer and wanna fuck. In America the are up in front of the stage having this emotional release. When we toured with Down, it was slightly different. It was more of a hillbilly crowd. Sometimes they were shooting birds and fuck off, but I respect that it's a strong emotion. That is what I want for people to feel something whether it is to cry or bleed.It's power which transfers to the performance for us to create something that is devastating. Wil- Maybe that is because in America there are not many healthy outlets to find emotional release. Pelle- Yes, there is very much a sense of being hand cuffed, of living under a gun.It is something like they are living in betrayal. Wil- It seems to me like this has made the climate in the States, to where people are looking for more, causing a flourishing of interest in the occult. The first seeds of this being in popular culture and media . What's your perception of this ? Pelle-With the occult I think a lot of people like the imagery. I did at say 13 or 14. But it is a whole other thing.It's life and death, the whole idea of the occult. To choose to destroy and rebuild. The destructive force, you might choose to call Satan. But then again the Bible is very inspiring,some of the ideas. As a teenager music and literature are great gateways. Blessed and burned, when you look inward. Religion is about frame work, the occult is about isolation. You speak to a christian about these things and they don't understand. Wil -So back to music... Pelle-Yes lets talk about music. Wil- how was touring with Down? I know Fenriz also choose you guys to play the festival he curates, so between him and Phil how have those relationships influenced you as a young band ? What have you learned from those guys? Pelle- Phil was more of an influence on a personal level and the biggest influence of the Down tour was having the experience of playing with intensity every night and destroying yourself. Wil- I know you get pegged with the Mercyful Fate thing all the time and there's alot of classic metal like old Maiden in your sound but what other types of music are you into? Pelle-Everything from Darkthrone to P.J Harvey to Swans. Wil-Did you catch Swans on their most recent re-union tour they did without Jarboe? Pelle- Yes, I saw them in Sweden it was incredible. Wil- Yeah, When I saw them it struck me that in the sonic sense they are heavier than a lot of metal bands. Pelle- Yes,defiantly. Wil- What about My Bloody Valentine ? They are one of those bands whose influence is being felt on metal bands now. Pelle- I know is one of our guitarists' favorite bands.You said Mercyful Fate and that is easy to say at first listen, though if you listen to us for 30 or 40 mins or see the live show then there is much more there than that.Why write reviews? Write poetry don't write reviews. Wil- What about on tour is there anything you are reading or listening to help you escape? Pelle- as a singer I mainly listen to music with out words, this tour just modern classical piano music. We live out of this van so the road is meditation and medication. We are all loners. Everyone on this tour is a loner. So you go inside yourself. Wil- Well it was great, talking to you and was refreshing to go to a show, where all the bands connected with me on a very powerful level, it's not often a tour comes through like this. Pelle- Yes, it has been a very intense and rewarding.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Huntress: Spell Eater

Female fronted metal bands have held a place in my heart, going back to Lita Ford whose writhing leather jumpsuits furthered my transition into puberty.  Over the past decade, the primal sexuality of the leather clad sirens was replaced by Andrew Loyd Webber acrobatics. This took away the dominatrix persona of the female metal singer and replaced her with melodramatic mezzo sopranos who croon to teenage girls reading Twilight books. Jill Janus’ band Huntress takes back the power.
I was skeptical at first glance of the video for “Eight of Swords” . I then learned Eric Harris the ex-bassist of Skeleton Witch is in the band, they still had a strike against them for being  from Los Angeles. In the over saturated Hollywood music scene,  retro-thrash thing could be an over zealous manager trying to steer a band away from being the next In This Moment.  
A little digging and  my suspicions were confirmed as Janus’ other name is Penelope Tuesdae. Under this name she has sung in “Under the Covers” Dave Navarro’s other cover band that’s not the popular Camp Freddy. Janus also spun as a d.j under this name as well.  
Despite the double nature of their frontwoman,  a few listens later  I was more  sold on the albums sincerity,despite the occult references being more for show than say the Devil’s Blood. This wouldn’t be the first band whose outside bull shit I forgot once they made it to my I-pod. Granted Janus’ look got their foot in the door for me but at the end of the day it’s music. I don’t care how nice your tits are if I need to clear some memory on my hard drive.
  Huntress  clearly soars in on the wings of the retro thrash band wagon with little new ground broken. At times "Spelleater" reminds me of  the first few Metal Church albums more than say the obvious comparison to Warlock. The riffs are not derivative enough for me to play name that tune with. Janus’ melodies assist the often atypical chugged riffage. The guitar is competent but not wowing.
Sure Angela Glassgow has a more of a snarl as does a half dozen other few growlers  from bands like Cerebral Bore,  Walls of Jericho etc.  Janus is actually singing. Not operatically but with the rough and powerful lungs metal asks for. She delves down into a growl or two for an effect but normally hovers over the proceedings with a healthy power metal yodel. \The band's Facebook bio claims she boasts a four octave range. This is either an exaggeration or their publicist does not know an octave consists of eight notes. She has a substantial range but is no Kate Bush. I hear traces of King Diamond, in her more theatrical moments. The choked  demons growls are very similar to what King did on “Them”. Given Huntress' more straightforward attack it comes across a little silly, but forgivable as she is at least trying to do something different.
 All of the great thrash bands, had a monster drummer on the throne behind them. Ex -Dark Black drummer, Karl Weirzbicky, gets the job done and on the  title track he even flirts with being blasty mcnasty. By and large this is no attempt at being blackened thrash. The double bass gallops are as needed, yet the drum mix didn’t really do him any favors as he is buried under the guitars. The bass is also not very present in the mix, I think if the rhythm section had gotten a little more love in post-production the album would sound tons heavier.
The guitarist’s were sitting at the left hand of their producer when this was mixed. They give the vocals plenty of room but take up everything else. They are mean enough. This album isn’t going for brutality but fist pumping.
When I back away from the magnifying glass to head band to this it’s fucking fun. Huntress succeeded at making nostalgic for the days when this sort of this was new and coming out on Combat and Megaforce. Maybe D.J. Tuesdae was snorting lines of cocaine off Tommy Lee’s dick as he spun dance music in a metal bra, here a Jill Janus she makes a helluva metal singer so I can’t begrudge her too much for it . “Spelleater” takes it time to grow on me  and  has a few moments which drag a little in the final few songs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interview: Erik Danielsson of Watain

Currently on the Behemoth headlined  Decibel Tour with fellow Swedes the Devils Blood and In Soltiude, Where I caught up with Erik on their stop at the Masquerade, Watain is also gearing up for the release of a dvd box set called "Opus Diaboli " . After the current tour they are following it up with headlining gigs as a four piece with Erik doubling on guitar duties in place of Salim  Lemouchi of The Devil's Blood.

WC: "Lawless darkness"  was my favorite album of 2010 and goes down as a classic in my book, so where are you at in your head in regards to following that up ?  are those thoughts  in fruition yet?

Erik : We are at where we have always have been living in the world of Watain. It is where we have existed since the beginning and will continue to be. Within that world there is inner development and new ingredients but it is something we live not think about.

WC:  I know you are a big fan of Fields of the Nephilim, and they  have reunited  and are back on tour, what are your thoughts about possibly going on tour with them?

Erik: I will be going to a lot of the shows , but it would be like opening for the Doors or Pink Floyd. They are an enigma, something unto themselves. Would their crowd even appreciate a black metal band ?

WC: Well i would think  Fields would love to have some one like you guys to expose a younger audience to them.

Erik: Maybe so. I would not turn down the opportunity, but their are a lot of politics involved that I would like to stay out of.

WC: They were often lumped in with bands that are now called "goth" . Bands like the Cure, Swans , Joy Division and Death in June. Are you into any of  that sort of stuff as well?

Erik: Swans and Death in June. The Cure was always to poppy. But music with the darkness like Current 93.

WC: One of the similar traits of all the bands on this tour is connection to the occult. Recently as least in the states there seems to be a resurgence of interest in the occult , like in the late 60's when LaVey founded the Church of Satan and people were seeking out alternate methods of spirituality . Do you see this on tour and are audiences more receptive of your message?

Erik: It's easier to talk about it and people are more willing to listen.It's a natural reaction to the plastic form society has taken on in the digital age.The occult is more about a greater search within ones self.

WC: With all the coverage about the Mayan calendar predicting the end of the world in 2012 and a shift in the collective consciousness towards that do you feel their is more urgency to your mission statement of bringing the darkness to this plane?

Erik: We have always been urgent with what we are creating. Rock n roll is just very fitting for the times. I think it even goes back all the way to Elvis. Things that would have gotten you burned at the stake at one  time are now being brought to the surface. We are living in very critical times no matter what doctrine.

WC: How's the energy been on this tour since Behemoth is based in Thelema a gnosis of more traditional kabbalah, while the work of the  Misanthropic  Order is kliffotic and the reverse or the anti-kabbalistic tree of life?

Erik: There's enough points in common. The bond is .the dark and sinister. This is after all a music tour and about entertainment.There have been some moments of deeply inspired communion.

WC-How does the vibrational frequency of metal music  inspire the ritual nature of what you do ?

Erik: Very much, we did a Bathory tribute show that felt great. Bathory has been important and inspirational . As well as the time the time I spent playing with Dissection.

WC-You and Dissection are in spiritual agreement I see you as kind of carrying that torch so to speak.

Erik: nods head...Yes, though a different current.

WC- What other present  mediums of art do find inspiration in be it literature or cinema?

Erik: Glad you said present. I read quite a bit I'm currently reading an American book that's collection from the eighties of various aspects of the occult. Some Luciferian,  some Nazi occultism, it's very eclectic and subversive.

WC- Stuff like Boyd Rice ?

Erik: Yes, he is in there  

WC: You need to check out this documentary about  him called "Ikonoclast" .

Erik: You are not the first person who's told me that . So guess it's a sign that I need to do that

WC: It show his flirtations with pop culture through out the years going back to the 50's , and NON , as well his friendships with Anton Lavey and Charles Manson.

Erik: Sound interesting ,I'd like that very much.

WC:  Well, I have to say this Decibel tour, is the tour in a long time where all four of the bands are in heavy rotation in my I-pod.

Erik: yes it has been a good experience , as you are right there are not a lot of tours like this nor will there be for some time.