Friday, November 25, 2011
Interview - Ebonylake's Mass
If you're looking for one of the most intriguing metal releases from this year, you have to take a look into the new Ebonylake album, "In Swathes of Brooding Light." After over ten years of not making music together, their new album is easily one of the most experimental and weird sounding metal albums I've heard all year.
Ian: When Ebonylake first formed back in the mid-90s, what were the original influences and ideas for what the band would sound like? Are those influences and ideas similar now to what they were back then? How have your perspectives changed on creating music since you first started?
Mass: Back at the birth of Ebonylake we were mostly fuelled by our experiences of living in an old house with violent poltergeist activity, these events propelled us along with great enthusiasm and we wanted to reflect the random and sporadic nature of these happenings, which inevitably filtered into the music.
Our quest to make music that is genuinely unsettling with different sounds clawing at your skin from out of the darkness has never ceased, and our outlook as only become more fearless. Some of the most profound influences came from (and still do) the worlds of literature, poetry, art, contemporary music, film and classical music. Names such as Bram Stoker, Lord Byron, Sergei Prokofiev as well as films like The Omen, The Devils etc all got our creative juices pouring and . As ever within Ebonylake we strive for inspiration from the adrenalin of real life experiences whether that be hiking, ouija boards or seances, swimming naked in freezing sea's or countless countryside jaunts. Some of these endeavours nearly ended in the loss of life back in 1998 too with one member nearly drowning after jumping into the waves drunk on absinthe, another almost being crushed to death and another on life support due to blood poisoning. These were the first cracks in the inevitable implosion of the band.
Ian: Why did you decide to split after only one album and, as far as I know, little to no touring or live shows? What did you do in those ten years between releases?
Mass: At that time we were more of a secret society than a band, and when we got heavily into the ouija board paranoia ran through us and we felt we needed to step back. Even though we only did one album, music was only one part of Ebonylake. We did a handful of live performances some of which were mindblowing and that's one sea we wish to sail on again.
In the decade or so after the split we found ourselves in an endless labyrinth of caves eating rats and scratching at walls so to speak. We dabbled in things from independent film scores to brutal death metal, but eventually in one cave our paths crossed and there we were starving, deranged, depressed and hungry to return. We stepped out of the cave and saw a breathtaking red sky panorama. Without the band though we found ourselves in a world we didn’t understand and didn’t belong in, so it was only a matter of time before we stepped back into the theatre.
Ian: "On The Eve of The Grimly Inventive" has become something of a sleeper album since its initial release with it being much more popular and respected by the underground avant-metal fans than I'd imagine when it was first released. How do you see the record today? Is it a record that you're still proud of making? How have the reactions towards your music changed since when that album was first released to now?
Mass: “On The Eve of The Grimly Inventive” is something we will cherish forever. Because we poured our entire being into its creation it sounds incredibly authentic to us. Absolute raw art. If it was released today, thirteen years later it would still be cutting edge and we make no apologies for being so proud of it. As you can imagine the reactions to “On The Eve….” at the time of its release were so polarised we found people adored it or hated it but many were just left confused, after all what could they compare it to? We however received some astounding reviews and the reviews from “In Swathes….” could be the reviews from “On The Eve….” they are almost identical.
Around 98% of the reviews have been very, very good to date, although we have had a couple that slated it completely, but that is to be expected with this kind of music. We make no excuses for this, either people totally get it or they dismiss it as a horrendous racket. Without a doubt though there is a much more tolerant attitude than there was back in 97/98 to anything of an avantgarde nature.
Ian: What made you guys decide to reform now? How did the new full-length come about?
Mass: Our paths crossed again because we were both sending out the same signals, things tend to manifest if you want them to.
We had no contact in almost 10 years, not through any kind of malice or hatred at all, we just drifted apart and lead complete separate lives.
When enough positive mental signals are transmitted from within the being, it radiates with like minded individuals and brings them together eventually.
Separately we both felt a yearning that this work was not complete, and had to be fleshed out more than the original concept allowed us to.
It was apparent straight away that we both wanted to continue in this vein of cacophony, and after a drunken banquet to celebrate the rekindling of our friendship the seances soon began again, and plans were afoot to begin trying to fathom out the messages in our heads.
We talked over many brandy's about the concept and imagery that makes Ebonylake what it is, and the music tended to write itself, somehow channeled through us from several ghostly beings that dined with us late that particular evening.
Ian: What inspired the title of the new record, "In Swathes of Brooding Light"?
Mass: Visual imagery has always inspired us and our music has a strong visual element, so when it came to the title we looked inwards and the pictures that came to mind showed us the rebirth of Ebonylake in swathes of brooding light. An unsettling, but enticing haze in the summer evening sky that seems to hypnotize and provoke several emotional and violent reactions.
Ian: Who are some groups and artists that you're interested in and think are doing some creative and interesting ideas? Were they influences on the new record in any way?
Mass: We have always tried to keep any outside influences away from what we are working on, sure there are artists we appreciate but we do try to clear our minds in the run up to the writing sessions to keep it as Ebonylake as possible. We have been impressed by acts such as Perry Blake and Esben And The Witch recently, which in someways are the opposite to us but garner a similar philosophy of loss and tragedy.
Ian: Listening to the album, I only recently discovered it actually, I found a lot of early industrial kind of sounds in the percussion from what sounds like someone hitting bells to more metallic crashes. Do you take any influence from early industrial and avant-garde bands like Nurse With Wound, Coil, or Throbbing Gristle?
Mass: The sounds you mention are indeed bells, chimes and anvils. Though we never took any influence from any of the bands you talk of nor the early industrial scene. We can imagine those sounds being used in that context as they could be seen as primitive percussive instruments.
One of the cold autumn days when the sparrows attacked the nearby village, many were left dead or dying, the scene was horrific as per usual when this time of year comes around. The Bell Ringer failed to rise that morning and never sounded the alarm, and after days of gathering up the dead and burning them in the furnace these sounds harked back to the days when the village did prosper, before the dark times.
Ian: How do you write songs? Is it a collaborative process or does one member bring in an entire idea/song on his own? Is it any different from how you wrote the first album?
Mass: The ideas for the material seems to be coming from elsewhere as described beforehand. Once an initial idea is created it just goes in the direction it pleases, it steers itself and we try to hold on and make sense of it.
We tend to write the material together after a prolonged bout of meditation and conjuring communication with the ghosts. Identical to the writing process we used many years ago which almost lead to insanity and total mental breakdown.
These are the boundaries we wish to cross and yearn for a deeper vision beyond the norm , controlling these actions has become more fruitful recently and someone or something is watching with us, guiding us on the path.
Ian: A lot of the songs are very paranoid and schizophrenic sounding, what is the inspiration for the dense and very solid sounding composition of a lot of these songs?
Mass: The way we compose the pieces is very much like orchestral music with multiple lines playing different parts to create one entity. Even though some of it may sound random, each line does have its place and co-operates with the rest. For example the flutes may be following the pattern of the bass drum, the french horns maybe bouncing of the bass guitar in a kind of question and answer fashion, pizzicato strings could be stabbing out certain notes from the guitar lines, all this creates a certain sculpture which would then be garnished with vocals with chants following the pattern of the snare then quickly switching to the rhythm of the piano part. It is easy to think that it is all random but it is music truly entwined within itself and every note of every instrument has a part to play. Besides we like to be challenged by art, and things that are easy to swallow are gone in a second.
Ian: What made you decide to include the "As Ghosts We Dance In Thrashing Seas" demo songs onto the album? For myself, the transition between the album songs and these songs felt very seamless and natural, was that intentional or do you believe it was only by coincidence?
Mass: It basically completes the current circle of the Ebonylake world. Most people who pick this latest album up will more than likely have the old album, and it shows that the blood that runs through Ebonylake is still very much apparent now as it was then. We never fully released the demo back in 1997, and we have been inundated with requests for the demo tracks to be released. So a case of killing two birds with one stone comes to mind, it shows the thread running through As Ghosts/Eve/Swathes as a natural progression we feel.
Ian: During one listen to the album, I imagined that this is what it would sound like if the orchestra from any one of Dimmu Borgir's albums got together with a band like Gorguts and started jamming out to songs from Mr. Bungle's "Disco Volante" record. How would you describe the sound of the new album to someone who hasn't heard it?
Mass: The easiest way to describe the sound is violent, abstract, surrealism.
Truly gothic with multiple paths to follow. There is a strong spiritual thread but on the other hand it is extremely savage and bleak.
Ian: When I listen to your music, despite how complex and intricate it all is, I still get a very romantic sort vibe from it. Is that intentional or accidental? What do you think of romanticism and more gothic sort of artwork, musical and otherwise?
Mass: Romanticism is key to how we try and live in a ever increasing concrete world of materialism and consumerism where the cord that connects the soul to the body is slowly being severed so that all that remains is an empty vessel. We endeavour to live rich and diverse lives ever searching for that perfect moment, pushing at boundaries so it was inevitable that this would manifest in the music.
Ian: The darkness and the night are common themes in metal music, notably in black metal, do you feel you receive any inspiration from the night or the dark? What's your view of the idea of light and darkness within music?
Mass: The night is inspiring but so is the day in equal measure to us. A fresh spring morning or a blustery autumn afternoon is just as important in the world of Ebonylake. Within the music itself light and dark and all shades help shape the compositions and hopefully elevate them. Dynamics are often overlooked within metal.
Ian: To what extent is sex an influence on your music?
Mass: At last! This is the first time we have been asked this and you have hit on an important point. Sex is a massive influence on the music, the longing, frustrating, anxious, anticipation that leads to something that can be somewhat otherworldly. Like sex the music can be dominating, ritualistic, selfish, selfless, dangerous and often serving no other purpose than animalistic pleasure.
Ian: How do you feel about being lumped into the "avant-garde metal" or "avant-garde black metal" and genres like that? What do you think about the genre? Are you fans of the avant-garde music?
Mass: We are not sure about the term ‘avant-garde metal’ it seems to be a bit of a contradiction, if avant-garde means to be at the very cutting edge, then every so called avant-garde band would be at the very cutting edge, which they clearly are not. We do not like all avant-garde music because this can incorporate any style, we do however have a love for avant-garde classical and orchestral music.
Ian: How does it feel to have a group named after one of your songs? An Autumn For Crippled Children has recently been gaining praise, have you heard any of their work?
Mass: We did hear about the band and they sent us their album having contacted us. Obviously its always nice to have an impact on others especially when they are a class act. Needless to say we enjoyed the album.
Ian: Well that's about it from me, thank you for the interview. The last words are yours.
Mass: Thank you for taking the time to ask interesting questions, keep your ear to the ground a new movement stirs.
Obviously Ebonylake is an interesting group, and if you haven't heard the album yet, you are surely missing out. Definitely look into them if you want to hear some of the weirdest metal out there.