Interview: Red Fang

Editors’ Note: Hello everyone. This is an interview with David Sullivan (of rock band Red Fang fame, not David Sullivan, the infamous proprietor of The Sunday Sport newspaper). Red Fang are either a stoner rock or heavy metal band and have been going for a while now. According to Wikipedia: “Red Fang opened the Jägermeister stage on 2011’s edition of the annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival which also featured headliners MegadethGodsmack, and Disturbed.” Good for them.  

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Demon Pigeon: The new album is called Whales and Leeches. What can you tell us about it?

David Sullivan: We recorded this one under a self imposed deadline. We had been touring so much that we hadn’t had time to write. We usually travel in a van, so there’s not really any space to sit with guitars and play while on the road. We could probably write in a hotel room after the show, but usually there’s not much time before we have to get up and drive again, and we’ve already sort of released our musical creative energy during the show, so writing after shows while on tour doesn’t really work for us either. So this time we had a break of about 3 months at home and decided to book studio time and use every moment we had for writing and recording a new album.

DP: The sound is a bit more sludgy than Murder the Mountains, but the songs themselves seem a lot more hook laden. Did you go into this album with a specific sound in mind, or has it been more of an evolution?

DS: It’s a natural progression, we don’t really plan things out or try to do a particular style. We just try to write songs that we like to play, and hopefully people like what we do.

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DP: This album seems a lot more cheerful than its predecessor, are you a happy bunch now?

DS: Hmmmm… I think writing and playing music to avoid depression is still a factor in what we do. But I do agree that musically at least (not necessarily lyrically) the album feels more upbeat.

DP: The album art is pretty special, who made it and how did it come about?

DS: Orion Landau did the art work for Whales and Leeches. He also did the art for Murder the Mountains. He had the idea at first to do a pop-up book style cover, and then decided to do the 3D lenticular cover. I love how it turned out.

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DP: You’ve released details of a European tour which seems exhaustive, and you’ll be out with Lord Dying and The Shrine. What can we expect to see from the three bands when you come over this side of the murky waters?

DS: We always have a great time in Europe. We’re on tour with The Shrine currently, and they are a great band and great dudes. We’ve also toured with Lord Dying and I’d say the same of them, great band, great dudes. Looking forward to drinking lots of new beers.

DP: Have you ever seen the film White Fang, and would you be confident at finding gold during the great depression?

DS: I’ve not seen the movie, but I did read the book years ago. I’m sure I could find gold, if I had a wolf/dog as badass as White Fang as a companion.

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DP: It’s been two years since Murder the Mountains. You seem to have spent all that time on tour, supporting seemingly every band under the sun. Who have you most enjoyed playing with?

DS: It was awesome touring with Mastodon in the US and in Europe.

DP: Do you ever get people coming to your gigs thinking it’s going to be a talk on legendary 1920’s Native American pro footballer Chief Xavier Downwind aka Red Fang? How do you deal with what must be a constant source of confusion?

DS: Haha! That hasn’t happened, but Bryan is constantly mistaken for Rob Zombie. I don’t really see the resemblance.

DP: Your artist profile states both ‘The band runs on beer,’ and ‘Tour to Live’. These seem like two good mottos. What else would you add to the list?

DS: Hugs, snacks, and rock ‘n’ roll!

DP: Last question, whales or leeches?

DS: I’d much rather hang out with whales.

www.redfang.net

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Interview: Rosetta

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One of the more interesting bands ploughing the post-whateverthefuck genre are Pennsylvania’s Rosetta, a four piece outfit who meld riff heavy bombast with a cerebral, mantra like space groove. They have described themselves in the past as ‘serious music by unserious people, which seems about right. Their new album, The Anaesthete is a phenomenal piece of work, and their first attempt at a complete DIY process. Demon Pigeon sat down with lead singer Michael Armine (not really, I emailed him. What you think we can afford to fly to Pennsylania?) to ask about the new album, ice moons and why Spotify is rubbish.

DP: I think you are the only band that I’ve ever discovered through a Wikipedia article about a frozen moon around Jupiter. I was writing a story about Europa and while researching it I stumbled across a link to The Galilean Satellites album. The story turned out to be so bad I had to erase all traces of it from existence, but I’m glad it introduced me to you. So, what’s the new album all about?

MI: A lot of people will be disappointed with the lyrical content of this record. There is an over arching them to The Anaesthete but it is not transparent from the lyrics. Unlike The Galilean Satellites where there were a lot of repetitive symbols, The Anaesthete has only three that repeat very few times. There is one reference to a song on A Determinism of Morality because a theme that I had hoped was laid to rest ended up having a little more life left in it after all. We receive a lot of emails from people dealing with their potentially suicidal episodes. The all say the same thing, that Rosetta made them feel hopeful. So we wrote around that idea.

DP: This is your first album being released under your own steam, how is that going? I’d imagine it’s a little daunting?

MI: It was daunting for each member in a different way, especially for Matt (J Matthew Weed, Guitar). Aside from putting his energies into seeing the album be exactly what we wanted, individually and collectively, Matt set up entire platform and business model the record was released on. There were a lot of nights with no sleep for him. The rest of us kind of got off easy in comparison.

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DP: The new artwork is amazing, continuing in the fine tradition of your previous work, each of which is wildly different from its predecessor. Who designed it, and how much input did you have as a band into it?

MI: Jordan Butcher of Work Of Self designed the piece. He’s an old friend of ours we met touring the states. We actually relinquished our input on this as we trusted his good judgement and skills. We gave them themes and symbols to work with, he did the rest. Our reaction to the original cover was the same as everyone else who posts on our facebook page: “What the fuck is this?”

Instead of dismissing it straight off we decided to sit with it for a week. The more we came back to it the more we liked it and ended up going with it. At a time when people too quickly dismiss a piece of art, we decided to package the record in something that people would have to accept and come to like the more they returned to it.

DP: I noted with amusement that the visual presentation of your name on the artwork had certain cretinous buffoons lamenting your move towards black metal. You’ve never before had a set ‘logo’, does this rather lovely ornate typeface represent a ‘stunning new logo direction’ for Rosetta?

MI: The reaction to the logo was something I found really interesting. All of a sudden the hive mind that is the internet decided that design to be a black metal one. It was ridiculous too see people making assumptions about the sound based off the image. I understand that Black Metal is very popular right now but people should have more faith then to think we were jumping on a new trend.

DP: Now that you’ve moved into the murky world of self-releasing, how much of the extra work of being in a band are you now in control of? I’m thinking tour booking, merch, stickers etc. Do you still have people to delegate all this stuff or is it all entirely in-house?

MI: This is a new world for us. Matt is taking care of all the business in terms of how this album will be released in physical form. While we all have input on every decision he’s the go man for that part of the project. Dave (Grossman, Bass) and myself are still taking care of US booking. Overseas booking is always handled by the one and only Mike Persil.

DP:  The trajectory of your albums seems very clear, and each album always feels like a natural progression from the last. The new album is no different, but it feels a lot grander in scale than ‘Determinism…’ It’s also crushing in places. Do you look at each album in terms of an overall piece, or are you guided more by the individual songs as they appear?

MI: I think the former is true for albums like Gallilean and Wake/Lift. Determinism and The Anaesthete were very much song by song in terms of construction. It was not until later in the studio that we sat down with the songs and really though about they sounded together. This is especially true of The Anaesthete. The track order was very much intentional and was the center of a lot of debate and conversation. We finalized the record as it is because it has three segments, each having their own feel that flow into one another nicely.

DP: You were interviewed for the ‘Blood, Sweat & Vinyl’ documentary, and you are often lumped in as being in the ‘post metal’ scene, or the ‘sludge metal’ scene, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Do you feel part of this or any other scene?

MI: Certainly not anymore. I think for a moment in time we did and were even okay being lumped into the ‘Post this or that’ metal scene. We never focused on that stuff and we never tailored the music for that demographic of listeners. That may be why I’m currently feeling left out of a the loop in terms of what good bands are out there. Because we toured so much. Touring will make you hate music, especially what is currently popular. I personally turned my head to a lot of new music because I was feeling so over saturated from touring. I’m playing catch up. For example, Deafheaven was just a name to me for a long time. Turns out I really like what they’re doing. But it took me a long time to actually give them a listen.

DP: Part of your self-release for the new album was to work under a ‘pay what you want’ system, with a physical release later in the year. Do you think it’s more important for people to hear your music and get yourselves out there than to try and make money off the album itself?

MI: Both are equally as important right now and I hate that that’s the case. We make music for ourselves and are thankful that others are interested and take interest in it. It was okay in our 20’s to push hard just so people will hear the music. Now, 10 years later we have a lot of other outside responsibilities. we need a support system that can finance Rosetta so we can keep creating music for people to enjoy. In retrospect It was a good thing that we worked so hard for the last 10 years. Now we have a support system in place allowing us to keep creating music for a dedicated base of people while still continuing to reach more with less energy.

DP: Your old albums are on Spotify (which I guess is the label’s decision) but the new one isn’t up yet, is this a conscious choice?

MI: Yes it was. Spotify, like Itunes, takes advantage of the artist. Like any business they are out to maximize profit while using an antiquated business model:Pay the worker less than what they are worth. We went with Bandcamp because they are a good-guy company and have the bands best interest in mind. They do not strip the bands of large percentage of the profit. In fact, the more you sell on Bandcamp, the less they take for themselves.

DP: What are your feelings about the way these services seem to be driving the market these days?

MI: Bandcamp’s business model could easily destroy Spotify. It won’t happen. The result will be a division between how independent musicians/ bands promote themselves and how the majors promote their bands. The result I think will be outstanding. Aside from the Bandcamp model making major labels irrelevant, because they work for the artists best interest, Bandcamp will become the platform for independent musicians/bands to launch a career where no middleman can get in their way. Hopefully it means that less bullshit is promoted to us and more quality music is highlighted for us.

DP: I’ve always thought of you as one of the more cerebral bands out there at the moment, as a bunch of clever dicks what entertainment delights should we plebeian fools be enjoying that we might not know about?

MI: This answer would change drastically between band members. Speaking only for myself, Breaking Bad is a new favorite TV show of mine along with Parks and Recreation. Currently I’m reading The Dreaming Void series by Peter F. Hamilton. In terms of new music that’s out there I’m really not the guy to ask. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Autecha, and Public Enemy.

I’ve been feeling it harder and harder to come across good heavy music these days. A few weeks ago my friend introduced me to a band called Cloakroom. Their new record is awesome along with a European band called Ventura. They just did a song with David Yow from The Jesus Lizard that is unreal. Recently my opinion is that heavy music has been vacillating between too technical and premature. It seems like we’re being flooded with a large number of bands and only a small fraction of them are interesting.

DP: As a resident of that diseased isle across the pond from yourselves we were very glad to hear that you’re joining the line up for Damnation Festival, but what are the odds that your European fans will get the chance to enjoy the new album in a full blown headlining setting?

MI: We are doing a very short tour of the UK in November that will include two shows in France as well. This upcoming summer we will be in China for two weeks with a possible tour of Russia in April. A full European tour will happen in the summer of 2015 I’m sure.

DP: Finally, do you have a favourite ice moon?

MI: EUROPA!!!!!!!

http://www.rosettaband.com/

Rosetta are playing Damnation Festival at Leeds University Union on 2nd November, alongside Carcass, Cult of Luna and many more. 

Interview: Kim Newman

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If you are a horror fan of the British persuasion, the chances are you’ll know Kim Newman. Even if you don’t follow him on that there Twitter, or read his Video Dungeon column for Empire Magazine, or read his ever excellent works of fiction, you’re guaranteed to have seen him interviewed for the DVD extras of some classic horror film or whatever and thought to yourself ‘That there is what a horror fan looks like.’

If you do only know him by his hat, tache and waistcoat combo, however, then you are missing a trick, because Mr Newman has produced the best literary horror series this country has seen in a long time in the form of the Anno Dracula novels. Set in an alternate world that supposes that the Count survived Bram Stoker’s tome, this sprawling, magnificently gore drenched series has been entertaining horror fans since 1992, even though it’s still only three novels in length. Now a fourth installment ‘Johnny Alucard‘ is set to invade portable reading devices (and their old fashioned paper counterparts) everywhere. Demon Pigeon sat down (metaphorically) with the Grande Dame of British horror to find out more.

DP: Firstly, it’s been a while since we’ve had a new Kim Newman novel on the shelves, what took you so long, lazybones?

Kim: Last year, the reissues of The Bloody Red Baron and Dracula Cha Cha Cha from Titan included two new novellas which essentially add up to a whole new Anno Dracula book. And I had Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the d’Urbervilles out in late 2011. And there were the three Diogenes Club books in the 2000s. Any gaps in my bibliography are down to vagaries of the publishing industry rather than me being lazy – though, to my mind, I am pretty slothful.

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DP:The new book, Johnny Alucard, is the latest in your Anno Dracula strand, and is set in 1976. What can you tell us about where we find ourselves in the new story?

Kim: It’s set from the ‘70s to the ‘90s, mostly in the US and Romania, and deals with the film industry, drugs, crime, politics, fashion, punk, disco, porn and blood. The surviving characters from the earlier novels show up in new jobs and decades, and Dracula’s cloak still casts a shadow over the whole world.

DP: Like all of your books, the Anno Dracula series melds fact, fiction, myth and legend together. What is it about this approach to storytelling that appeals to you as a writer?

Kim: I find it an interesting way to deal with big issues – I think we all live lives bombarded by momentous and trivial information all the time, and we tend to see what’s going on as refracted through movies, pop music, television, culture, etc. So that’s how I come into the world of these books. I do pay attention to stuff like plot, character and prose, as well – I try to ensure there’s a spine of some sort of reality that would remain even if all the white media noise were removed. It’s fun to do, sort of like collage or mixing, and you do get interesting new things from juxtaposing old or unconsidered trifles.

DP: Although you’ve seemingly taken ages to bring us book four, it’s not as though you’ve not been busy in the meantime. You work tirelessly to watch the dregs of b-movie hell so we don’t have to for Empire, and you are what I consider to be that rare thing on twitter, a celebrity worth following. I especially enjoy your ‘Empire Dungeon Quotes’ of a morning. Do you ever look at your pile of DVD’s to watch and weep?

Kim: The unwatched pile is the size of a 1950s fridge. And that’s just the conventionally packaged DVDs. I also have shoeboxes full of check discs. I have a similar to-be-read pile of books. I even have a backlog of comics to look at. Still,it’s nice to know I’ll never have to flip through cable channels in search of something to watch …

DP: Being an author is often thought of as a solitary pursuit but social media means authors are able (and sometimes forced) to engage with their readers more. Do you enjoy that freedom?

Kim: I’m still in two minds about this. I like the connection with a readership and live about as much of my life in public as I am comfortable with. I do get quite a lot of requests that pile up unanswered to look at films, read books or retweet kickstarter links and that’s a distraction from actual work.

DP:You work across two mediums primarily, film journalism and fiction, which do you consider to be ‘the day job’?

Kim: Neither. I just think of myself as a writer. Some of my fiction is very much an extension of my criticism – Johnny Alucard is all about movies and the cultural issues I am interested in – and I do try to bring the rigour of fiction prose-writing to reviewing and criticism. I do other things too – broadcasting, for instance. Like my novels, I think my life and work are mosaics or tangles where everything relates to everything else. That might not always make me comfortable to be around, especially when I’m wrapped up in a project.

DP: As a lover of cinema, I’m surprised you’ve not been drawn towards writing for the screen. Is there a half-finished screenplay locked away in some dingy corner of your ‘My Documents’ folder gathering electronic dust?

Kim: I’ve sold options on my books and done treatments/scripts … but no feature films, as yet, have been made. I wrote and directed a short film, Missing Girl, which is on my website and there have been a couple of short adaptations of my stories, an episode of The Hunger (‘Week Woman’) and an Australian version of my story Ubermensch. I’d rather be a writer of published novels than unproduced scripts, but I remain cautiously interested in working in film/TV. I have written audio dramas – ‘Sarah Minds the Dog’, which is part of an online horror series called Tales From Beyond the Pale, and a couple of things for the BBC – and last year worked with other writers on a theatre play, The Hallowe’en Sessions, which had a successful run in the West End (albeit in a tiny theatre).

anno drac johnny alucardDP: You’ve won countless awards from the ‘horror’ literary community, but like most genre authors you’ve not been so duly recognised by the wider literary awards world. Does this frustrate you or is it part of the same genre snobbery that means horror and sci-fi films don’t get best director nods?

Kim: Snobbery seems to me to be inherent in most awards systems – even those bestowed by the genre communities. I’m not especially awards-obsessed … I don’t campaign or nag my friends to vote for me or nominate myself for these things … but I have been happy to receive the weird range of awards I have had, from the Bram Stoker Award to the Bram Stroker Award. I don’t have any particular whine about not being taken seriously by mainstream culture, either – I think my work has been reviewed sensibly by the general press and I get invited to literary fests as much as genre conventions.

DP: The Anno Dracula series is creeping up towards the modern day, but lives nicely in its own little timeline, so do you have any plans for how far you can take it? Will we be seeing Anno Dracula novels set on a distant future space station?

Kim: Part of the set-up for the books and stories is that each takes place in a different place at a different time, at the moment from 1888 to 1991 … and the settings are chosen to have a certain mythic/pulp/literary resonance, whether it be gaslit Victorian London, the front in World War One, Rome at the time of La Dolce Vita, swinging sixties London, disco era New York, cocaine-and-big-deals 80s Hollywood. This means there has to be a certain distance, a time to build up the legends around the truth and to transform even a horrid reality (vile Victorian slums) with an overlay of almost-appealing mythology. I don’t have that on the last 20 years yet. I have toyed with a science fiction one, but probably not space-based … I might do a 1980s Japanese cyberpunk Anno Dracula, or go back and do a Western. I’m not settled on where to go next, though there will be another book eventually.

DP: I understand you got into the Dracula mythology through the film versions. When you got to the source novel, were you disappointed? I recently reread it and was dismayed by how little I enjoyed it. Do you find yourself going back to it for inspiration?

Kim: I read the Stoker very soon after seeing the 1931 film, and I’ve been back to it over and over, and kept up with all the other adaptations. It’s not as good a novel as Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, She, The Prisoner of Zenda, The Hound of the Baskervilles or The Picture of Dorian Gray (all roughly contemporary with it) but it is a great work … I keep finding things in it that send me off down new paths. With Johnny Alucard, I was struck by the Count’s relation to money … when we meet him, he’s looking for buried treasure and there’s a terrific moment (which isn’t in any of the films) when he’s stabbed and bleeds gold coins.

DP: Lastly, do you listen to music when you write. If so, what gets your literary muscles working? I always pictured you being a fan of Viking Metal. Please tell me this is the case…

Kim: I usually have the music collection on random … but when writing about a specific time/place, I do listen to appropriate music. My tastes are eclectic, but include Hollywood/Broadway musicals, 1950s and 1960s pop, early music, folk rock, jazz, novelty records, doo-wop, psychedelia and symphonic classical.

Johnny Alucard is available now in all good bookshops, shit bookshops, some supermarkets and the usual despotic internet sites. Visit http://www.johnnyalucard.com

Interview – Church of Misery

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Church of Misery are more or less the sole breakthrough banner-bearers for Japanese psychedelic doom metal these days; besides them, you’ve got Eternal Elysium, of whom only we have heard, and you’ve got Merzbow’s mates Boris, who aren’t really the same thing at all. That seems to be about it.

One thing all these bands have in common is that their buzz seemed to hit a peak about a decade ago—and then vanished. All three were signed to important, influential labels like Southern LordMan’s Ruin, and MeteorCity, and together they appeared to anticipate a new, influential wave of rumbling Japanese sludge.

That didn’t really happen, obviously. Those three bands are still Japan’s biggest exports when it comes to downtuned drone and flare-trousered riffing. Nevertheless, as the sole remaining founder CoM member, Tatsu Mikami has spent the past ten years plying his low-slung, heavy-bass riffs all over the globe, garnering fans everywhere he goes, and now he has a lovely new album to show for it. If you’re really, really lucky, we might bring you a review of Thy Kingdom Scum soon, but in the meantime, here’s an accurate account of our lovely cosy chat with Tatsu.

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Demon Pigeon: Before we get started, can you tell us who is in the band now, since you’ve had more line-up changes than Spinal Tap have had drummers?

Tatsu Mikami: Well, Hideki (Fukusawa) on vocals, analogue synth. Ikuma (Kawabe) on guitar. He is the new member and the youngest guy at 26 years old. “JJ” (Junji Narita) has been our drummer since 1999, and me, Tatsu—founder of the band and primary song composer.

Yeah, I also don’t want to do line-up changes, it’s really tiring. But I’m really satisfied with this line-up – it’s perfect. Along with band activities, we are good friends. So I hope we can make another new album with this same line-up.

DP: What can you tell us about the new album?

TM: First of all, sorry for making everyone wait a long four years to put this out! We are really satisfied with this new album. New guitarist Ikuma did his best. This album has great riffs, improvisation, good voice and the best sound quality we’ve ever had. We can’t wait to play new songs at overseas shows!

Also, make sure to watch our new video for Brother Bishop on Youtube!

DP: It seems you’ve become a bit more laid-back in places, letting in more of the psych rock to sit alongside the balls-out doom groove you are so well-known for. Was that a conscious effort?

TM: As you know well, I wrote all the songs and lyrics, and it was not conscious at all.

Maybe because our new guitarist Ikuma is from the underground psychedelic scene, and his playing style is far from metal. So maybe that lends a more laid-back feel on the new album. As for song writing, the one thing I focus on is to write cool DOOM songs.

DP: The whole album feels very natural, very groove-laden, and very ‘you.’ Is it a struggle to achieve that level of consistency when you’ve had to deal with so many changes in personnel?

TM: Yeah, I understand what you’re saying. Every band changes their music style by member replacement. But we never do that, I have a strong will to keep Church of Misery’s style the same—great guitar riffs, brutal heavy sound and, of course, the ‘serial killer’ concept.

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DP: The new album picks up where the others have left off with the serial killer theme, do you ever worry that you’ll run out of mad bastards to sing about?

TM: I don’t worry about that. There are so many mad men and mass murderers and serial killers everywhere! So don’t worry.

But there is a story about that with Rise Above Records. First, we had a plan to use photos of Myra Hindley or Ian Brady. And we already finished the artwork for that. But then they refused it and said: “It’s very dangerous. This murder case is still sensitive for England’s people. We will get in trouble”. So we changed the artwork to Peter Kürten, the ‘Vampire of Düsseldorf’ instead.

DP: They were probably right. In the event that you did run out of crazed killers and you had to sing about something else, what would be your number one topic?

TM: Uh… it’s a really difficult question. Always, serial killers are number one interest to me. Oh! My second interest is spaghetti western movies! Yeah, next topic is this.

DP: You remain one of the few big players on the doom scene from Japan, is there a big doom scene out there that we should be paying more attention to?

TM: First of all, I would like to say this: There is NO doom scene in Japan. Except for us, there’s virtually no doom bands. So we always organise our own shows, but every time, our fans always come out. With little to no doom scene in Japan, that’s a big reason why we keep on continuing to tour worldwide.

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DP: Does it annoy you that every interview you ever do asks about coming from Japan like I just did?

TM: No. We are from Japan. But our activities are worldwide. It’s the same playing in Tokyo or playing at Berlin, London, Helsinki, New York, Los Angeles… I don’t feel the distance.

DP: I saw you play at Desertfest last year, and even though you only got a truncated set you absolutely flattened the place. I presume you’ll be bringing Thy Kingdom Scum to a sweaty room near us soon?

TM: Desertfest! We really enjoyed playing there but we wanted more time. We had only 30 minutes playing, maybe. Yeah, I remember, we just arrived at the venue 15 minutes before we played! No soundcheck and no time to drink beer!

Well, we tour Europe every year and yes, we have a plan to tour Europe again. Maybe later this year or early next. We just released the new album and so we will play new songs at our show. Give me two hours this time, haha!

DP: Are you excited about the new Black Sabbath album? It’s the first time I can remember when an upcoming landmark album had everyone more worried than excited.

TM: Uh… it’s difficult to say something. Not so excited, and I’m also worried, haha! I think that already they don’t have the “chemistry” or “magic” like their 70s sound now. So I really don’t expect to listen to the new album.

DP: I first came across you when I got the split EP you did with the legendary Iron Monkey, and you’ve done more split releases with other bands than pretty much anyone else I can think of. Any of them stick in the mind as a band you’re really happy to have been alongside?

TM: I’m really satisfied with every split release. As for our split release with Iron Monkey, they were already split up but still remain a legendary act. And going back to 1996, our split with Sheavy! It was the first release of ours put out worldwide. They still continue to release good material. And we released two split EPs with Sourvein! We toured Europe with them in 2006. I remember that tour was really crazy. Every day was chaos!

DP: Finally, what is your favourite cereal?

TM: My favourite serial killer??? Richard Ramirez—he rocks!

www.churchofmisery.net

Thy Kingdom Scum is out now on Metal Blade.

Interview – Tomahawk

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Hold your horses, I know what you’re thinking. You clicked on that link thinking ‘how in the bejeesus did those clown shoes at Demon Pigeon manage to get an interview with Mike God Damn Patton?’ Well, we didn’t. But if you did think that, then shame on you. Honestly. You’re all ‘Mike Patton is my lord and overseer’ and ‘I love Faith No More‘ and all that, but Tomahawk is made up of some of the greatest talent the world of that there Rock and Roll has ever produced. John Stanier drummed for Helmet for gosh sake. Trevor Dunn is good enough to be bassist to John Freaking Zorn as well as Mr Bungle. And Duane Denison was the guitarist for one of the greatest alternative bands of all time,  The Jesus Lizard. I believe their singer has done some stuff as well.

Anyway, you know all this already. I’m just teasing. You also probably know that Tomahawk have recently released their fourth album, the splendid Oddfellows, which is exactly as good as you’d expect from that kind of line up. We duly asked ‘Mr Denison, sir, may we humbly ask you some questions?’ He said yes, and at the end of the interview he calls me Hoss. I have no idea what that means but that fact that Duane Fudging Denison called me Hoss makes me happier than you can imagine.

Demon Pigeon: Oddfellows is a delight, so well done on that. The album’s been out a while now, and you’ve been touring it pretty heavily. How has the reaction been to the new material on the road?

Duane Denison: Mostly good. People seem to be so happy just to see us that they really want the old songs, I think. They’ll come around. Glad you like it, thanks!

DP: Anonymous was a bit of a curveball, how do you feel about that period now that you are an album down the road?

DD: Well, it was intentionally different. Maybe not a curveball–more like a changeup. I think Anonymous holds up well, and we’ve been playing Totem live lately and people have been responding well, so there ya go…

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DP: The production on Oddfellows is one of the best examples I’ve heard of keeping a ‘live’ sound without sacrificing the overall balance of the sound. How did the recording process for this differ from the other albums?

DD: It wasn’t much different. We set up and play the songs, basically. Maybe it sounds slightly more ‘present’ because we were all in the same room, no baffles, etc and let things “bleed”. Old skool mixed with pro tools = new rules! Haha.

DP: I was (and am) a big Jesus Lizard fan, but I missed the reunion tour. I was lucky enough to see you first time around, but are there any plans to do that again? Do you miss playing with David?

DD: I miss those guys every day. We might actually do some shows later this year in some faraway places we didn’t get to back in ’09, so I hear…we’ll see how it pans out.

DP: You’ve got a habit of working with brilliant and yet slightly unhinged frontmen, how would you say working with Mike Patton differs from working with David Yow?

DD: Well, they’re totally different regarding approach and abilities. David’s voice is a bit more limited, sonically, so I don’t really use much effects on the guitar with Lizard tunes. Doesn’t sound right. Patton has a broader range, more like ‘anything goes’ as per my sound. They’re both great, and underrated as far as lyrics, I think.

DP: I understand that you tend to come up with the original ideas and riffs, how does the songwriting process work with Tomahawk?

DD: I make sketches, demos, whatever at home and send them out to the fellas. They send feedback, ideas, etc and then we work things out when we get together and rehearse. It’s not rocket science, it’s rock-it magic! Oh dear…

DP: Oddfellows has a really dangerous, sexy feel to it, and despite the songs pulling together all sorts of styles there’s a great overall ‘tone’ to the album. Was that something you consciously worked on?

DD: No, it just happened. It’s always tough to get diversity without sacrificing continuity, and vice versa. We threw two songs out because they pulled things back too much, in my opinion. Keeping the ‘tone’ a little more consistent, not letting things drag, but not relying only on energy to keep interest and focus…

DuaneDP: Each of the albums so far has had a very unique feel to it. I take it you all still have faith in ‘the album’ as a concept.

DD: Absolutely. I think of albums in the same way as I think of movies or short story collections–it’s gotta have a beginning, a middle, and an end, as well as some sort of flow. Not to mention varying textures, dynamics, rythmic feel, etc

DP: One thing that you’ve always done in all your bands is combine discordant tones with big melodies. Do you think new bands in the ‘alternative’ scene are too afraid of big melodies these days? I listen to songs like Stone Letter and I struggle to think of many young rock/metal/alternative bands who can write something as punk and yet unashamedly pop as that.

DD: No, I actually think there’s lots of bands that do the pop/punk thing. The festivals are full of them! I just think that maybe people weren’t expecting it from us, or that we could or would actually do a song as blatantly accessible as Stone Letter. We live in a different era now than when this band started, so making a catchy single (or two, or three) that stands up on its own is something I don’t have a problem with.

DP: The four of you have a lot of history at different ends of the music industry, and at all levels. How do you personally view the current state of the music industry? I noticed the album went onto Spotify straight after release.

DD: Like I said, it’s a different world now. Everything about rock music is different now, in most ways. How it’s made, how it’s bought and sold, how it’s listened to, etc. The technology is better–but the sound quality isn’t, in my opinion! People are so impatient these days, everyone wants everything as quickly as possible. But at least the live thing is still rewarded–though a lot of what some bands consider to be ‘live’ is more like karaoke! I’m sorry, but playing to tracks or totally relying on samples to get through a performance is pretty weak, in my humble opinion. But its just part of the overall cyclical nature of things–we went through a period in the 90s when things like rock bands were overvalued. Now it’s going the other way.

DP: Looking at your tour itinerary Tomahawk is going to be the main focus for the four of you for a while yet, but do you have any sense of what your next plans will be? Straight into more Tomahawk, or something completely different?

DD: Oh, there’s other things already happening for me–Sam Fogarino’s Empty Mansions project, for instance. The other guys have their things–Zorn, Battles, etc. I will probably start working on some new T-Hawk, though, just between us….

DP: What floats your boat musically these days? I always envision you being a big jazz fan for some reason. Any albums featuring on heavy rotation at Casa Denison?

DD: I like some jazz–mostly the classic bebop stuff on Blue Note, that kinda thing. I go through listening phases. Lately, let’s see–High on Fire, Stravinsky, Bow Wow Wow, Television, John Cage, Johnny Cash, and T Rex….

DP: Cheers for taking the time to answer these questions, much appreciated!

DD: You got it, hoss.

See! He called me Hoss! That means I get free backstage access to all Tomahawk shows now, right?

Interview – Humanfly

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Meet Humanfly, the latest band to be named after a type of stuntman. You’ve probably never heard of them, but that’s okay because we have, and we want to explain them to you.

Here goes:

Humanfly are a band, comprising a number of men. They make records about stuff.

The latest one, Awesome Science came out about two weeks ago, and it’s a dense and rewarding slab of atmospheric post-metal. Meantime, they’ve lined up a UK tour alongside Bongripper and Conan (another pair of Demon Pigeon favourites, by the way), climaxing with a slot at Desertfest in London, on Sunday 28th April.

Actually come to think of it, we suck at this. Why don’t we just let them explain themselves to you? We’ll give founding member John Sutcliffe (vocals/guitar) a bit of space below, shall we?

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DP: Awesome Science is awesome. We’re big fans of it at Demon Pigeon and we’d like to ask a few questions about your new album and Humanfly in general.

John Sutcliffe: Yeah we’re happy with how it turned out, go for it!

DP: There is a more pronounced prog influence on Awesome Science than on previous albums. Is that how you would characterize the progression from Darker Later?

JS: Hmm, not in my humble opinion but I can completely get behind where you are coming from. It was never a case of ‘let’s prog it up’. Not even sure how comfortable I feel with being pigeon-holed in such a manner.

Our approach to song writing has altered over the last few years, having had opportunities to jam with other people such as Trio VD and Damo Suzuki. We could play massive jams that were completely improvised when we rehearsed and be completely chuffed with it. It got to a point where we just stopped and said ‘why don’t we turn these into songs?’ Then it was a case of working out the numbers, which is the hard part.

It was definitely more of a natural flow than previous song writing which was reliant on putting pieces of a song together like a jigsaw puzzle.

DP: The way the twin guitars work separately and yet together—it’s like the Fripp/Belew rock guitar gamelan thing King Crimson do. Was that influential on your sound?

JS: Andy and I really try to not play the same things, otherwise there isn’t much point in having two guitars. So he approached his guitar playing for this record very differently. Very unique. I kinda see it as if he’s making his guitar sound like a completely different instrument for the most part; almost like keyboard melodies, followed by blistering Santana and Fripp solos.

My approach was a mixture of influences. I wanted to strip back some of the complexity and remove the ‘chug’ elements to free up some room to introduce vocal melody. So I guess I was going for a mix of fuzz and space rock and wah-wah solos and noise. Pretty standard, I guess.

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DP: There’s a natural live sound to the new album. It sounds like the full band playing together in the studio. Is this how you approached the recording?

JS: Yes, we’re pretty much used to recording in that way now and I personally prefer not to ‘fake’ it as much as humanly possible. Even when we shoot videos, we crank the amps up. We’re not actors so having to follow a false process to get a ‘studio’ sound doesn’t really appeal. Might work for some people but I need to see people’s heads bopping and some aggressive body language to adapt and bring a bit more heart to what I do.

DP: Your songs follow a very organic flow, as if they’re evolving from one section to the next, like a collective improvisation. Is improv a part of the writing process?

JS: Yeah totally. Massively into jamming stuff out and trying new things. None of us have any jazz training or experience but we are pretty big fans of the concepts behind it, in that we will approach our instruments (fnar) with a different perspective and challenge our own perceptions, at the same time as showcasing our abilities. Yeah, nice

DP: The lyrics on Darker Later had social and ecological themes. Which subjects fired you up to pen words for the new album?

JS: Oh, variations on a theme. Quite a lot of positive thinking went into this. I’m kind of telling a story but backwards, beginning with ‘the end in mind’. Picture your own funeral in your mind… how would you like to be remembered? Then set your life’s goals and ambitions around that. Time is running out… all things will end. Commit to something and be involved. Birth from death, gravity, time travel, distance, self-belief and a positive perspective…

Type O Negative had a song called Everything Dies. So don’t waste time on shit that doesn’t matter because in the great scheme of things you only have one life.

So yeah, there are quite a lot of themes that are built up around space/science connotations. Make of it what you will, because I really enjoy hearing back from other people as to what they think it means and how it makes them feel.

DP: Four albums down the line, and with a busy tour schedule this year, are there any plans to release a live album? If you could pick one live album as a model for your own which would you pick?

JS: Hmmm, no solid plans to do that as we don’t really play ‘best of…’ sets. We write songs and we play ’em live. That’s how it stands at the moment but I never say never.

Live albums sound pretty poop more often than not but I really like Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous LP. Also King Crimson’s USA album and Black Flag’s 1984 Live albums are pretty buff.

DP: Unlike many bands (and Demon Pigeon, for that matter), both Humanfly and Brew Records seem pretty savvy when it comes to using social media for PR and for engaging with your audience. What advice would you give other bands to improve their profile?

JS: Really? I kind of thought we really sucked at that. Brew are more savvy than us in that they know how computers work and have smartphones! Our own self-promotion is okay, I suppose, but that’s through playing live and hoping that people still dig us enough for word of mouth to spread to the kind of people who dig what we do.

DP: You’re playing Desertfest in April. They’re letting some of us at Demon Pigeon out for that. Which bands will you be watching?

JS: I’m super excited about watching Hammers and Black Moth in particular, as their recent albums have blown my balls off. I will also be hunting down new things for my tender ears to latch onto, so feeling ultra-excited about being involved.

DP: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck with the album!

JS: Thanks dude, my pleasure. All the best!

www.facebook.com/HUMANFLYBAND

Interview – Enochian Theory

Given the number of musicians and bands I’ve known over the years, it’s slightly surprising how few of them have ever really made it out of the little leagues.

That may be confirmation bias at work, of course; we all like to think that the musicians we hang out with are much better than the dorks we see loading out at the practice rooms when we arrive. But as the years pass, you notice differences of attitude between the musicians you know, differences in outlook that affect not just their music, but the way they approach the whole being-a-band thing. Southsea – the closest thing Portsmouth has to a bohemian quarter, and where I spent nearly half my life – has always had a thriving local scene, but the number of bands who made it beyond the city limits is vanishingly small. Understandably, this is something that Southsea bands have discussed, sometime quite heatedly, for many years.

And while geography plays its part in that, so does something else. Where does success come from? The Southsea bands that achieved escape velocity were almost always the ones who grafted like coalminers; hell, I remember a couple of bands who got their name around the country by touring on the Megabus, borrowing backline and sleeping in train stations when they couldn’t cadge a place to crash overnight. But is it just hard work, or is there some sort of magic that can turn hard work into real results?

Screwed if I know. But when an email hit my inbox last week to tell me that Enochian Theory – a band whose frontman, Ben Hayes, I’ve known since long before they even formed – were tooling up to play a London show in support of prog legends Gong in the wake of a handful of big headliners of their own, I figured I had a chance to find out.

Of course, Ben’s answers apply only to Ben. (This is true of all people, but especially of Ben; you may know someone similar, though the statistical odds of them also being a lanky Cornish yeti are presumably pretty low.) But in these troubled times, both for the music industry and the world at large, one individual’s answer is a data point in an otherwise unpopulated field, if nothing else.

What I know for certain is that Enochian Theory have worked like dogs for years, somehow subsisting on what I assumed was a mix of faith, fury and sheer bloody-mindedness, and for many of those years it looked – from the outside – like an expensive exercise in futility.

But now it finally looks to be paying off, so I dropped Ben a line to see if he could explain how he got from there to here.

PGR: It’s probably getting on for three years since last we met, Mr Hayes, and it looks like you’ve been as busy as ever in the interim. Tell the nice people of the internet what you’ve been up to lately, why don’t you?

BH: We’ve been slowly but surely promoting our second full record, Life… And All it Entails, which came out through our evil paymasters, Mascot Records in March this year to quite a lot of good press across the board – despite, it would seem, some people’s best efforts to deny us this… We’ve been beavering away behind the scenes, as ever, with a view to building our profile with what we think is, obviously, our best record to date… not that we have an extensive back catalogue to compare it to!

We signed a publishing deal with the rather fabulous Northern Music Ltd, run by the industry magician known as Andy Farrow, who have many great acts on their management roster (Opeth, Katatonia, Devin Townsend, Paradise Lost and more). So, besides getting our second record out against a lot of odds, signing with Andy’s company has been the co-highlight of our year thus far, from both a business and opportunity point of view.

We’ve been hassling Andy to work with us for years, and he’s always been very honest with us in saying that we needed to build our profile more before he could do anything with us… and now, he’s opened his door a bit, taken us on board and subsequently delivered some great things already, like the Gong support (Monday 19th November, Shephard’s Bush Empire) and the Tesseract shows we did, and he’s generally fighting out corner for us. It’s great to have a real industry heavyweight supporting us and we’re very thankful for it thus far.

We’re working on some great touring plans for next year, which hinge on tricky negotiation and the all-powerful Euro, along with a plan to release a new EP in early 2013 to help reignite some interest in the band; this will perhaps draw some attention to the album and cover up the criminal job the original PR company did for us when Life… was released. I find it amusing that a paid PR company couldn’t achieve with their ‘budget’ and contacts half of what we, as a band – or, more accurately, Shaun (our bassist and PR guru) – achieved for ourselves.

Let’s just say that this is a very sore point with us still and we’re still battling with the label for things that we feel should have been done, but simply weren’t. But I’ll put my rant on hold for now; despite what people think of our success and how “easy” they think we’ve got it, I can assure you that it really is NOT that way. Anyone who works in this industry will tell you the same.

But hey, 2013 is already shaping up to be better than 2012… and that’s got to be good.

PGR: What are you most looking forward to about playing on the same bill as Gong?

BH: In all honesty, I’m looking forward to playing a venue that will not only be our biggest UK show to date, but one that we’ve seen favourite bands perform in many times; to be able to say I’ve played on this stage is another tick off the non-existent mental list I have of things I perhaps (or perhaps don’t) want to achieve before I choke on my own vomit, in my bunk on a tour bus, somewhere in Europe…

My adorable band mates, Shaun and Sam, are very excited about the show; it’s a testament to the hard work and dedication that we’ve put in since we formed in 2004… or rather, since we really knuckled down at the end of 2008 after becoming a three-piece.

We’re hoping that they’ll be open minded people there who will be able to appreciate our music. And if not, well, hell – we’ll have had some fun and played a massive stage to bunch of disinterested people…result!

We’ve managed to get some respected people in the press to come down, so that’ll be good to hear what they think of us, post-show.

PGR: You’ve played alongside a pretty stellar list of prog legends lately, as well as doing some big headline shows of your own; I’m not so cruel as to ask you to pick favourites, but what would you say was the show that’ll stick in your mind for the longest, and why?

BH: That’s a tough one, because I’m very critical of our performances live, especially my own. However, I guess that’s the only way to be, the only way to improve: Analyse, Address, Improve.

It’s lovely that people can come up to you and say “Wow, that was amazing dude!” or “That was so beautiful, you really won me over!” And don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate that a lot, because at times it is what keeps me going on the road, and without people coming to our shows, we’d be just another practice-room band. But, if I know I’ve had a stinker of a show, I tend to have to smile through grinding teeth, because I’m seething with myself for not being able to play my own songs live.

But the most enjoyable show I can recall to date was the ill-attended London show we did in September, because it was our first headline show, playing both albums in their entirety and we nailed it…we really did. I was grinning like a fool during and after the set, because after all the worry and stress we’d put on ourselves trying to nail all those silly technical parts in the songs during rehearsals, it just flowed naturally, and that showed in our performance. Playing for two hours nearly killed us, but hot damn – we did a job, and the coverage testified to that with some great live reviews, particularly the Classic Rock: Prog review.

That was cemented a week or so later during our first ever headline show in Germany, where we played even better and had a crowd to go with it! I love Germany; they really seem to have taken us on board, and we’re doing ok out in mainland Europe.

I tend to look at each show as a testament to our survival instincts. With each performance, we’re getting better and can be thankful that we’ve not been swallowed by the big, bad industry… and that, my greasy chums, is just fine with me.

PGR: What about the flipside – if you could erase one gig from the timeline of consensus reality, which one, and why?

BH: I don’t really tend to remember bad gigs, or rather, I get over things pretty quickly now… although I may scowl at my bandmates or punch myself in the face for a bad show –  usually actually during the show – but I tend to get over it quickly and just get on with it these days. I’ve learnt to NOT show my displeasure onstage, because nine and a half times out of ten the crowd know no different and it’s only me that noticed that I bent a note half an octave too high or I was little flat in my vocals for a fraction of a second.…

But if I have to say one that really sticks out for being a frustrating experience… it was the last show on the five-date ‘Classic Rock: Prog 2.0’ Tour we did in early 2011 with our buds in Touchstone and Jurojin. We didn’t get a sound check, and then one of the power supplies blew onstage during our set, rendering my guitar and microphone useless for a great part of the set, and the rather useless stage crew at the venue simply stood about, while I glared at them like a harassed madman… Thankfully, we now have all our own equipment – much to the annoyance of some venues, but sod them, I’m not going through that ever again. People pay good money for a show, and we certainly intend to give them what they paid for.

PGR: It’s been a long road for you, hasn’t it? When first we met, you’d have still been fronting In This Defiance, roaring at people in the Horseshoe in Southsea while Johnny Thrash jumped back and forth over his pedal board… but you and music go even further back, I believe. Can you recall when you graduated from just loving music to thinking “this is something I want to do”? What was the trigger?

BH: In This Defiance… now that’s some memories! ’The Blastbeat–Driven Sarcasm Machine’, as I liked to call it… [laughs] I’m still in contact with Alex D’est-Hoare (the human drum machine from ITD), which is nice. Sadly, me and Johnny were never really that close, but I hear he’s doing good things with his own band, so that’s good for him.

I’ve been playing music since I was 8, when I first had drum lesson in school, merely so I could skip boring lessons. But for some reason, it became a love, and being in bands, learning from other people and learning other instruments, keeps me entertained. There is always something more to learn.

But in regards to Enochian Theory, I’d say it was in 2008 after Scott left the band that we decided that it was going to be all or nothing, because we’d reached a point where we’d built the foundations of something good with the band and our own label, Anomalousz Music, and there was no way we were going to give it up.

I still remember sitting down with Shaun and Sam, and us all having that grim British, steely attitude to it all. We’d lost our guitarist, our practice room and a lot of money we’d invested, and we literally had to start again from scratch. We knew that by working smartly and writing a full album, investing in technology, we could achieve a lot more… so that was the day that shook our collective worlds, and here we are, still standing. A bit lop-sided, maybe, but still standing.

PGR: What kept you going? I remember you telling me – rather resignedly, it seemed at the time – that the UK prog scene was just to small for a band like ET to make its mark; what changed? What did you do that finally got your fingers over the parapet?

BH: Sheer stupidity, some might say… but more like a shameless, unapologetic attitude of  not caring what anyone else thought kept me going. My bandmates pulling me up by my depressed head kept me going. People taking the time to buy our records and get excited about us online or at shows kept me going. And my family continually being supportive of me, despite that fact that they and I both know that I could get a “proper job” that would be a much better way of living… but I question whether it really would be.

I’ve driven myself near to the point of madness and actual hospitalisation by being in a job that, despite making me financially secure, leaves me feeling utterly empty, unfulfilled and unrewarded – and that is more dangerous to my health and mental well-being than driving thousands of miles in a van to play shows across Europe. Maybe not statistically, in regards to accidents and such… but you get my point, I’m sure.

Personal stuff aside, I guess prog became a marketable product again. Don’t ask me why or how, but it did… or then again, maybe it never went away? Perhaps it’s those bands that have been working their asses off for 10-20 years finally getting their dues, or perhaps it’s the fact that they’ve worked smartly in the face of an industry that was slow to catch up with the internet revolution? Perhaps it’s the fact that popular music is so dreadfully devoid of soul, that people are looking for something a little more honest.

Suddenly, you have dedicated magazines for the genre across the world once again, with the likes of Classic Rock:Prog (which is a massive magazine, when I think about it, and one that is very supportive of us); and it is cool again to play twenty minute songs with eighteen minutes of that being a guitar solo… or, in our case, four-minute pop songs masquerading as introspective, depressing rock… [laughs]

But in seriousness, I just think that things move in cycles, which means we’ll be due another nu-metal explosion in about a decade. At which point, I’ll be sure to take a pistol to my grey matter.

There’s always been a lot of bands in the underground doing a lot of progressive things in their own right, regardless of whatever sub-genre they’re shoe-horning themselves into, or of whatever timeframe/era we’re in. When I was bang into my metal, bands like Coalesce, Drowningman, Cryptopsy, Botch and Dillinger Escape Plan always attracted me to the heavier side of things, because they broke free from the confines and trappings of the genre, by utilising (read as: “chucking in”) elements of fusion, jazz, electronica, blues and everything else to make their music more interesting. Even more so, mainstream bands that I love like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and such, utilised more ‘progressive’ elements (even if people didn’t recognise it), like odd time signatures, polyrhythms and such, to make their music better, and good on them for it.

The UK scene has produced some amazing bands, true pioneers in many senses of the word… and now, if what I read is correct, we’ve got our Anathemas and Porcupine Trees to show everyone how it’s done, alongside our King Crimsons and Genesises (Geneses? Genesii? – Ed).

PGR: How do you think geography influenced the band’s development? What effect did being stuck in one-horse Southsea have on that?

BH: I think remembering what it was like to live in Cornwall was enough to drive me forward. Southsea was paradise compared to my old town of Camborne, trust me on that.

In regards to Cornwall, I still see my old friends doing the same things in the same places, having no drive to escape, which is fair play to them, but it was never for me. You could say that “I want more life, fucker…” [laughs]

But I think that for all its negativity to anything that wasn’t metalcore, chindie or ska, Portsmouth still had a small group of people who weren’t sheep, and who would support us in what we did, who had a kind word to say, or would randomly play one of our songs at their local club nights, which always made me smile.

I think the attitude of some other people led me to wanting to prove to them that I was worth more than what they thought, which in itself is rather sad, because I let people get to me. But I don’t care any more; I’ve achieved more than I ever hoped and, above all, I’ve achieved more than they ever have. Hard work and a steadfast “don’t care what you think” attitude helps. It’s the only way to be true to what you’re doing. It’s a shame other people and bands didn’t have the same convictions, but hey, that’s their problem, and they can moan about it into their pints in their dingy local, all evening.

PGR: If I suggested that Southsea – and, by extension, other music scenes in insular sorts of places – had a weird attitude to ambition, how would you respond? What influence on the band’s development did Southsea have, whether musically or otherwise? Do you still think of ET as “a Pompey band”? Did you ever?

BH: I guess it does affect you, mentally and in other aspects. I believe sometimes that there is a small town mentality in some parts of the city, with Southsea being its own town in many ways – very clique-based. Sure, we’re all products of our environment, but to make a change, you’ve got to be the change, or some other new–age hippy crap like that. I’d hazard that we, as a band, knew what we wanted to do – and that was to NOT play the same local venues, week in, week out, to the same disinterested people. Really try to get out of the city to play shows, perhaps sell some CDs. That’s ALWAYS been our mindset really, and it hasn’t changed.

Joking aside, life affects you in many ways, and that of course becomes a contributory factor in how you feel, which in turn, becomes how you create music and what you want to say. I’ve had some great times in Portsmouth, and I’ve had some truly hellish times too… mostly because of my own idiotic choices, but that’s how it is. That is how life is. Meeting great people and being in a good mindset has been great, but drink, drugs and assholes have not been so great. I think that’s why I recently took the decision to leave Portsmouth after some thirteen years, if only to try and meet the same sort of assholes and disasters in another city!

I do still class us as a ‘Pompey’ band, though. It’s where we were formed and moulded, where we worked our socks off, using it as our base, and where we still practice and run our business. For all its faults, Portsmouth/Southsea is just another place that we chose to live in, and we have a strange sense of support for it. It’s still our home.

PGR: Your lyrics are pretty personal stuff, albeit obliquely so, and there’s a definite sense of soul-baring and emotional exploration in the music; is this a kind of exorcism attempt, a catharsis? Why didn’t you just go with the usual metal clichés; surely that would have got you further sooner?

BH: I feel that art has to be truthful, and above all, it’s a chance to get some things out that perhaps you don’t feel you can speak about normally? That may sound strange to some people, but we all spend a lot of times hiding behind mental barriers and walls we’ve put up to protect ourselves from other people, even though, deep down, we all know that we’re all as fucked up as each other, and should just accept that.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I am messed up and I embrace that wholly now but I try to deal with it and not be a butthole all the time, and this is working out just fine for me. I tend not to hide things anymore and this can scare people sometimes, but I’d rather be honest and hit things head on, than keep hiding. That’s not me; I say what I want to say and act how I want to act – and if that pisses someone off, then tell me and I’ll see what I think of it. This usually ends with a middle finger on my right hand being displayed. [laughs]

A lot of my lyrics are a form of catharsis, and a lot of them are explorations of things I want to say or get out, but perhaps they aren’t directly personal, more a lyrical projection of a feeling, a thought or an emotion. It’s how I’ve always written lyrics.  As for going with the clichés, again, that’s not really me. I do write about war and such, but in my own way. It’s hard not to be influenced by what you see around you in the world. It can be a cold and ugly place, but it’s all about trying to remain positive in the face of almost overwhelming media saturation of how bad things are. I feel that it’s all open to interpretation…some things are not always so black and white.

PGR: There’s a lot of loneliness in the tunes, too, a sense of inner space, a hiding place; how would you react if I accused you of being a singer-songwriter who decided that a guitar and a mic wasn’t enough to contain you?

BH: An interesting observation, and perhaps one that I would agree with, to an extent. Although there’s a lot more positivity coursing through our work than people perhaps realise at first. Perhaps it’s the musicology of the material, with most of it being minor-key related, if you want to break it down to a non-sensitive level. That can affect a person’s mindset when interpreting things, and it’s a technique I’ve deliberately worked with.

Some of the lyrics are about the acceptance of something… it may seem like it’s very dour and dark on the outside, but dig a little deeper into the plays on words, sarcasm and commentary, and perhaps they’ll reveal the true meaning to you.

As an example of what I meant, Singularities is intrinsically about a friend who took their own life. It’s a song I promised myself I’d write for them, and for the clusterfuck of emotion that surrounded that phonecall I got one evening. It’s to remind me that life is worth living, as much a celebration of life and hope… and, in parts, perhaps me having a go at them for being such a selfish bastard. But I know the ins and outs of their issues and illnesses, and I can never truly comment on how they were feeling or what drives someone to do that. So it’s a complex lyric in that respect, but a song that I dearly love playing for its positivity,  its reminders of how life can be.

As for the mic and guitar thing, it’s an accusation that I cannot deny. But is it  as simple as a case of something that couldn’t contain me? I always wanted more from life and always wanted more from music, once I got my head around what I wanted to do, and I’m just thankful that my band mates tolerate me enough to work alongside me to build our empire.

I think anyone who wants to be better will strive to learn more about their chosen path and try to develop accordingly, acquiring new skills and abilities, and in my case, getting a degree in music and sound technology helped, because it actually made me learn things I would not have done otherwise.

I’ve always sought to learn more, to prove to myself, above all else, that I could perhaps do something that worked for me. And if by some miracle, this musical vehicle of lyrical self-deprecation reached other people who could share an affinity or find something in it for themselves, even if I was always being selfish about it secretly… then that is a result, no? Finding your own path in life is probably the hardest thing to do.

Loneliness is something a lot of people feel in this modern age of technology and so-called advancement. We’re in touch more than ever, but we’ve never been further apart as a race. The whole idea of being so alone yet being surrounded by so many people, is one that always confused and intrigued me in equal measure. It’s a truly baffling idea, and one that has led me on many drink’n’drug fuelled negative journeys, but it’s also one that I use to fuel my anger and frustration nowadays, and I don’t let it control me and how I project myself.

I’ve answered questions like this before and I have to repeat myself again here… but I feel that dealing with matters and subjects that are hard to talk about is a form of true positivity. Being able to form those feelings and thoughts, then put them into words and song, is a testament to an inner strength, though whether anyone else finds it that way is no concern of mine. It’s a sort of “I’ll deal with my crap how I want, you deal with yours” attitude, I guess. I deal with my demons in a more positive way than a lot of people, and for this, I’m thankful. I don’t fight (unless I’m fought), I don’t abuse people (unless provoked) and I don’t cause problems for the law. Much… [laughs]

I’ve not the got the greatest track record for being the most ‘sane’ person people could meet, but as time goes by, I have perhaps matured a lot, and that’s another positive aspect to take from it all. As a certain Canadian once said “I know I have my issues, and we know you have yours!”; and that is a truth right there, my hairy chums. What right does anyone have to judge me, when I know they are exactly the same chemically inept, dumb-ass primate that I am?

In summation, I do this for myself; first and foremost. We do this for ourselves… otherwise, what is the point? I’m not going to make millions, like some pop puppet with shiny teeth and coiffed hair… so, I’ve got to make it my own, get something from it and be truthful to myself. That honesty apparently conveys an openness to people that they respect.

PGR: ET were rather plagued with personnel problems at a few points, but have been stable for some time now; what was the cause of the instability, and how did you fix it? Do you rule with an iron fist? How does the division of contributions to the song writing process work out?

BH: I wouldn’t say plagued; we’ve only shed one band member, and that was through a mutual agreement of “either you go of your own free will, or we’ll shove you”. The whole Scott thing seems so long ago now that I don’t really give it much thought any more. It was all to do with Sam (drums) and Scott not getting on, and then this started to radiate onto myself and Shaun. It became intolerable; we hadn’t written a new song for 18 months and it was just a very trying time, where music became a real chore that I didn’t want to face.

So, what do you do when you’re faced with a major issue that affects friendships, business and all the work you’ve done to date? You either hide from it, or you tackle it head-on and get the best result you can from a very shitty situation. We’ve come a LONG way since our first EP with Scott, and are so much better for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still like Scott and he’ll always be part of ET’s history, there’s no denying that. We all started this band together, and for four years of touring and working together, we were a family, but something had to give, and thankfully Scott was man enough to realise what needed to be done, even if it hurt him a lot.

After Scott left, I remember sitting down in my room and simply holding my head in my hands, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life. My personal life was heading down the pan with a relationship that was doomed. But as humans, we try to grasp onto something, even if we know it is going to fail. My band was in utter turmoil and it was all just such a depressing time.

So, what’s a fella to do? You write music. You write true to yourself and you make it the best you can with what you have, and that’s what I did. I wrote The Fire Around The Lotus, and that was the first song that I took into the practice room to show the guys. I could sense that it was something special for us at that moment, because after not writing anything for almost two years at that point, it was a relief, and perhaps where my determined attitude to not ever be reliant on another person for musical output came from. If I want to write something and use it, I will, as long as it’s good enough. Songwriting has become a focus that keeps me going.

With Evolution, I wrote most of it – songs, structures and everything else – but we’d always work on it as a band in the practice-room to ensure it all worked out right in the end, but there were usually very few changes needed. Things just worked, and if they work, there’s no need to change them. I introduced the use of technology more, so we could expand on the sound we’d started. I still wanted to play keyboards and sing, but now I needed to play guitar as well… so, I tackled that with technology and it’s worked out lovely for us.

With the Life… record, that was almost all me in my home studio, except one song that was put together in its basic form between Sam and myself at our practice space with some riffs I chucked together. It was just how it was; it wasn’t something I did on purpose, but it was something that needed to happen. I’d spent a lot of time learning a lot of things, musically and technically, and it just came out that way.

Shaun and Sam do their own thing for the most part, but I’m always watching and listening, ready to point out that 7/8 into the 11/9 section needs to be played that way for a reason…BECAUSE IT SOUNDS GOOD! [laughs]

It’s not an ego thing, it’s merely that I have the guitars, the keyboards, the synths, the software and the (apparent) know-how in using it all. I remember asking Shaun to contribute riffs to the records many times, but he always said that he worked better with having a strong template, so that’s that really. However, I’ve finally convinced Shaun to join me in tech land and he’s bought a lot of equipment so he can work on things himself at home, which is great. It’ll be good to see what he creates, and it can only benefit us as a band. Providing that I like it. [laughs]

In summation, we are a band and we work on things until they’re right – no matter who starts the idea or who does most the work.

PGR: You’ve spent years driving the ET train, and I know for a fact that, for a lot of those years, a lot of people thought you were at best Quixotic, and at worst just plain nuts. How aware of that were you, and how did it affect the work?

BH: I always wanted to do what I wanted to do, that’s never changed and I hope it doesn’t. My feelings on what people think of me are dying, day by day. I reached a point where I thought to myself “hey, Ben, are you really doing this all for yourself, or are you trying to seek some sort of validation from certain people?”

It’s interesting that people found me plain nuts, though. I guess I never truly understood why someone wouldn’t give something their complete all, you know? I looked at this as a business from an early stage: businesses take time to grow, you have to have a good product, and the means to get that product out there. I guess it could seem crazy to many people, but those people simply do not have the passion I have for this.

Some people confuse passion with insanity or ‘difficultness’. I don’t. It’s very clear to me.

PGR: What was the biggest sacrifice you had to make? What do you regret most?

BH: Sometimes I get very angry, so angry that I worry myself. I wonder sometimes whether it’s all been worth the hassles, the debts, the sleepless nights and sheer inner turmoil that I’ve put myself through, you know? It’s hard to not commit yourself to something like being in a band properly; there’s no leeway. There is no correct path to follow, and when things don’t go the way you expected, it can be soul-destroying.

I’m not going to describe a particular thing that I’ve let go, but I will say that I’ve passed up great job opportunities, chances to travel, chances to do things that everyone seems to have done. But above all, it’s cost me relationships, not just with the opposite sex, but with my family. Sometimes it’s been hard to see the wood for the trees and I’ve been so steely in my resolution (stupidity?) that I’ve not dealt with the real world, because I’ve been dealing with my other real world, if you follow me.

I think I tend to relive those choices – and, don’t get me wrong, they were my choices – through the songs and the lyrics I write. It’s back to the catharsis thing; when I sing it, and it doesn’t hurt me any more, I know that ghost has moved on. The songs take on a new meaning for me, and allow me to be respectful of where I’ve come from – so that, perhaps, I won’t go to that place again.

PGR: And now you’re here… so, what’s next? Have things gone as planned, and where does the plan take you next? How will you know when you’ve done what you set out to do? Where does your ambition end, if ever?

BH: No, things don’t always go how you plan; people ensure that, money and time ensure that. Things that you cannot foresee happening ensures that.

I’ve always said that I’ll keep doing this until it stops being fun… and at times it’s not been fun, but that spark for wanting more has never completely died out, even in those all-time lows. So, I’ll keep writing music, we’ll keep pushing forward and hopefully Enochian Theory will keep going until… well, until we’re done with it.

With every step back we take, we eventually take two forward. When I look at what we’ve achieved and where we’ve come from… it’s amazing. I never thought, when I was living in my scummy bedsit in the middle of Camborne in Cornwall as a teenager, drinking cheap cider, drinking cough medicine for kicks and doing bad drugs, that I’d have cleaned up, toured Europe, played festivals in countries I’d never heard of at that time, released three solid recordings to nothing but good reception in magazines that I used to buy, and have the band I work in used as a comparison touchstone for newer bands… that, my friend, is something that I have to be proud of.

Whatever plan I made has slowly come to fruition, even if I truly never had a plan that I was aware of. Shaun and Sam have helped there, shaping the crazy into something that works. Sure, things could be better – they always could be – but you’ve got to be happy with what you’ve got to be happy with. For now, I don’t know when I will realise when I’ve done what I’ve set out to do, because I never set out to do anything, really. It all just became a logical progression, year in, year out, just to continue doing what we wanted to do. Complete Point 1, which will allow you to achieve Point 2, and this in turn opens up paths to Points 3 and 4, you know? That really is how I look at it, how we look at it.

We’re not stupid enough to pretend we’re going to make massive amounts of money from this – but you know what? That’s just fine with us. It’s that struggle that keeps us going and keeps the fires burning for wanting to achieve more. I take each day as it comes because I know life is a fragile thing, and it could be taken from me in an instant, but that doesn’t mean I don’t look forward to things and plan them accordingly.

But overall, who knows? It’ll be done when it’s done. And right now, that point is so far in the distance it’s inconceivable to even imagine letting go of all this. I ask myself sometimes, when I’m feeling down and despondent, how many people I know have truly stuck to their guns and really given something their all. I don’t know many, but those that I do know I tend to be close to, because we’re from the same breed of “don’t care, get on with it” life forms. How many people in all the bands I’ve ever actually known have achieved even close to what I have? I can count ’em on one hand, probably. It’s each to their own, but I still get people I know saying “oh, I wished I’d tried harder…” to which I can only say “yup, you should have – now get me a beer and I’ll tell you about the awesome stuff I’ve been up to!” [laughs]

You pay the cost and take the massive loss to stay at the top. And hell, we’re not even at the top – yet – and that is something I want to aim for, even if I’m not truly aware of it. Does that even make sense? I doubt it.

PGR: If you could go back in time to the evening of ET’s first show – not your big posh shows you do now, mind; I mean that first tricky set in some dingy Southsea venue or another – and give that earlier Ben one piece of advice, what would it be?

BH: Our first ever show was at the King Alfred’s in Southampton, and we rocked! [laughs] We were very tight, even then, because we’d practiced the hell out of our songs, and always played like we were playing to a 100 people in our practice space. So it was almost a natural transition; I always remember that. Think we’ve still got the video recording somewhere…

But if I could ever give any advice to myself then, it would be… nothing. What could I possibly say that’s going to make a headstrong person like myself change? Life is truly about learning, and you can only learn by making those mistakes. No one can live them for you. All the anguish, the hurt and the pain you cause yourself or that gets caused by others, along with all the joy, the happiness and contentment that comes along too.

That is life, and all it entails.

PGR: And what advice would you give to some young person with a band and some big ideas in a town where no one cares much for either?

BH: Do what you feel is right and do it for yourself; sod everyone else. Work smart and work hard, and above all, try to enjoy those few moments where you do feel on top of the world – because even if no one else sees it that way, it’s about how you feel at that moment. Embrace life, and simply get the fuck on with it.

Enochian Theory play the Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 19th November in support of the mighty Gong. Their latest album, Life… and All it Entails, is available now.