Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm lucky enough to know a stupid amount of wonderful, talented and nice people in this grotto that is our global musical underground, so why not take advantage of that to actually have someone cool writing on this blog, for once? So, I'll try to have a little Q&A with some kickass musician-or-related person every Thursday here for your enjoyment. First of the cool brigade is Mike, who plays in Ensorcelor, one of the new bands that have gotten me more excited (here and here) in the past months, and who had the patience to go through the 10 rounds and come out unscathed.

1. I called your vocalist Jonah a sewer mutant last time I talked about your band in public. If you were all horrid fictional creatures, what would each of you be?
Mike: Jonah is definitely a sewer mutant. Maybe a CHUD? Hal is a reptilian humanoid beast warrior with poisonous spikes... Taylor is a doom goblin. Yailen is a harpy. I am a squirrel. Martin is an ent.

2. What is exactly that thing around Jonah's microphone stand?
M: Jonah's mic stand is a log. Its sort of wrapped up with vines and twine and teeth... so I guess it depends which of these things you're actually referring to...
[in my defense, it's not entirely obvious from this photo, for example. If I had looked at this one, I would have realized it was a log and not made a fool of myself. Ahem.]

3. Besides Ensorcelor, you also have a solo project, Æsahættr, and a cool record label, Media Tree. It all seems like a lot of work, but are they actually activities that take a lot of your time? How’s your day to day management of those things?
M: It varies. Ensorcelor has been slowly getting back on its feet - after a pretty busy summer of shows and recording, etc, our drummer Greg decided to leave the band, which was an amicable parting, but a bummer all the same. Right around that time, Hal left for a European tour with his other band for about 2 months, so we've been slowly picking up again and working on new material with our new drummer, Taylor.

Media Tree stuff has been slower lately too (buy more tapes, people! [hear, hear]), but it's going to be a lot of work very soon...

Æsahættr is a pretty sporadic thing, that I tend to only have inspiration for in the winter, as cliché as that may sound. Things are progressing pretty slowly with that right now, due to unseasonably mild weather. With Æsahættr i'm sort of struggling with new recording software as well, because I swore to myself I would never record another record the way I made the last one; unfortunately, I'm a bit of a curmudgeon; realizing they weren't going to go away, I finally bought my first computer about a year ago, and the steep learning curve involved with this new way of recording has me at a bit of a standstill.  Honestly, I'm a bit antsy, as things stand at this moment, but the enormity of what I have planned for the next few months is staggering. Intimidating.

I guess despite being in a bit of a doldrums, project-wise at this moment, the reason I am able to juggle all these things is that I have no social life whatsoever, at least not outside of these projects (that is, if you can call once-weekly band practices “having a social life”). I have become a bit reclusive, it would seem...

4. Speaking of Æsahættr, I think the self-titled demo is awesome and it deserves to be more well known. Enlighten everyone about that project a bit further.
M: Æsahættr is my black metal project. In 2008 I was living in a city I hated, where I knew no one, and where I was stuck. A car had hit me while I was biking, and I spent 8 months in intense pain, going through rehabilitations and surgery, and learning how to walk again. A small solace was that I had an electric guitar (no amp) and regular access to a computer.  I wrote and tabbed all of the songs for the most part while recovering from surgery, and only started to record them upon returning to Montréal, and to what of my gear had not been stolen from storage in my absence. I made the entire recording using a boss BR-8 that I had purchased in 1998 or somewhere thereabouts (It takes zip disks; ever heard of those?). I tried to track all the guitars as “honestly” as possible,  playing every track from beginning to end without punch-ins (there are as few overdubs, though), with the amps cranked to the same volume they would have been had I been playing live. I then took this mess of zip disks to my friends Mark Lawson (yes, the same guy who works on the Arcade Fire records...) and Tyler Crawford, and they made it all make sense.

Thematically, Æsahættr is inspired by His Dark Materials by Phillp Pullman, which, if you have seen the film version of The Golden Compass, you will think is silly, but if you've read the books you may think otherwise. I had seen the movie adaptation of The Golden Compass, and as much as I was initially stoked about armoured polar bears (i'm fascinated with the Arctic), I thought the film was beyond awful; it took a lot of convincing from a good friend to get me to read the books after that. The film really gives no indication of the atheistic and gnostic themes in the books, nor does it reveal that the culmination of this story is a war against god, (“the authority”) and the church. Sure, the books are written for kids, but they also take place in the Arctic, have witches and talking polar bears who wear armour, as well as a knife that can cut through the fabric of reality and kill gods. Metal!

I have vague aspirations to cobble together some able musicians (from Ensorcelor, mostly) and perform live with Æsahættr. This will most likely mean I will have to slow the songs down a bit for the sake of finding a mortal who can actually play the drum parts... but we'll see. Many new songs have been/are being written, but will likely not be recorded for some time. I would put the ETA on a new album at 2-3 years, or maybe never. Who knows?

5. Are these your first bands, or were you in any kinda embarrassing pre-demo or high school sort of formative bands?
M: Sure, we were all in embarrassing high school bands... except Yailén; Ensorcelor is her first band! That was a long time ago though. Quickly, here's some of the stuff we've been involved with recently:

Hal: Preying hands, Snake Master (the poor man's Skeleton Witch), To The Cliffs.
Jonah: Snake Master, To The Cliffs (7 piece death/thrash party), Shelley (sword waving NWOBHM), did “Canadian vocals” on a Takaru record.
Me: Ballast (crust), Kale (crappy off minor?).
Greg: Die Brucke (Haligonian thrash attack), The Literati (punks that read)
Taylor: Womb Raider (thrashy power violence), Barn Burner (total party metal)
Martin: Vile Intent, Womb Raider, Barrier
Yailen is now doing vocals in a brand new doom band called Xothogua as well, with members of Boneblack and To The Cliffs. They have many big amps, and definitely have a more traditional doom approach.

As a side note, the reason so  many people are listed here is that i'm including both the old and new drummers; additionally, Martin has recently joined forces with us. He does a bit of everything... he's a multitasking drone wizard. We're getting a little noisier, as a result.

6. Ensorcelor’s and Æsahættr’s first (and only so far) demos were released on the proper demo format, tapes. Gorgeously packaged tapes, if I might add. You also release other band’s tapes on Media Tree. Are tapes the new vinyl?
M: No. Vinyl is my favourite way to experience recordings, by far, and it has always been  my intention to start releasing vinyl. Tapes are what I can afford to put out at this time, and the format I felt was most appropriate for the material I was putting out. It's true what you say,  it's not really a “proper” demo unless it's on cassette. For me tapes never “went away”; I have always loved them, and always will. I know there's been kind of a cassette renaissance lately, oft maligned as a “hipster fad”, which is unfortunate, and pretty off base. I think this resurgence can be attributed to peoples disenchantment and boredom with compact discs and (even more so)  mp3s. Despite serving a purpose, Mp3s are soulless and tawdry - they sound like shit. They lack so many of the enjoyable aspects of a tangible release. The warmth of analogue. Full sized artwork. Well thought out booklets and inserts.  The satisfaction of holding a 180g LP in your hands, or the surprise when you open a new record for the first time and find out it's on some crazy colour of vinyl. Tapes hissing, and vinyl popping. That shit is good, and people miss it.

Having said that, I think Mp3s and downloading serve a purpose for sure, but they shouldn't be an end in themselves. I have found a lot of great music by downloading things that looked interesting; in as many cases possible I have sought out the physical format of the release as well; on the other side of that coin, I have definitely downloaded a lot of things I'm really glad I didn't buy! A cool thing about mp3s, ,and the whole blog thing too is that it makes rare recordings available for free that would cost a lot of money to track down copies of, or which have disappeared entirely.

7. The designs for both the releases and the t-shirts of your bands are seriously amazing. Who of you is the designer?
M: Jonah's brother Zac drew the “Tentacleburg” for the Ensorcelor shirts and demos under Jonah's direction; Jonah and I collaborated on the “logo”. I put it together, and did all the layout etc. for Æsahættr and everything else beyond that. Eibon were pretty specific about what they wanted, and supplied most of the artwork. All I designed for that was the cassette shell imprint. I did make all of the cases by hand, though, which was a terrible pain in the ass.

8. Speaking of t-shirts, the only reason I don’t wear one of yours to work every day is that Canadian shipping is insane. Is there an explanation for this? And if so, who can we kill to resolve the situation?
M: Just be glad you don't live in the USA! Just to ship something across an imaginary line, the costs are pretty much on par with the European shipping rates! I feel terrible when I have to tell someone it's going to cost them $12 to ship a t-shirt and a cassette from Montreal to Albany... it's absurd!

9. Couldn’t help noticing your last name is Kirkenbrannsår, or at least that’s what it says here. So you do all this cool occult metal because you’re secretly Norwegian?
M: Yes, exactly.

10. What were your five favourite records of 2010? (Media Tree releases don’t count!)
M: 1. Since technically I haven't released it yet,  I 'm going to have to say the Pallbearer demo. I can't stop listening to it, it's so perfect and amazing. If there's any justice in the world, this band will be huge. Well, you know, underground huge...
2. Monarch - Sabbat Noir. Not sure if this is technically a 2010 release, but it rules, and Monarch rules. I love how closely their live shows resemble their recordings, despite being largely improvised, structurally. They operate unlike any band I have ever seen...
3. Ludicra – The Tenant. Ludicra are black metal royalty in their own right, and they are an incredible live band. The tenant is their strongest album yet.
4. Woe – Quietly, Undramatically. The first Woe record was great, and this one is even better; I don't care what you think.
5. Haggatha - second s/t LP why does this band seem to get completely overlooked? Really solid sludge/doom band coming out of Vancouver B.C. Their records are great, their live show is crushing, and they tour their asses off, so what the fuck? Their last LP is one of the coolest things I have ever seen, as well... get into it!

Honourable mentions:

6.    Ayr – Circling. Repetitive but solid black metal. Nice tapes.
7.    Necrite – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi. Probably the only reason this isn't higher on the list is that I haven't had time to give it the amount of attention it commands. Through-composed, atmospheric, creepy black metal; incredibly well done.
8.    Sorrows - s/t. 2nd wave Norwegian orthodoxy from the USA in 2010. hmm...
9.    Ascension – Consolamentum. Unrelenting! Evil! Brootal! Vræææææææl!
10.     Gates – Moths Have Eaten the Core. - Exceptional drone project from Canada. Heavy.  Again, not sure if this is a 2010 release, because it was recorded in 2008, but I think the CD version came out in 2010.

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