Answers by Ben Andrew (Bass).
Well myself and all of the members of the band have been writing and performing for years. Most of us got into music at an early age and started to really engage with our instruments in our teens. Apart from Adam, he’s pretty much been playing guitar since he was pretty much started walking.
I can only speak for myself in terms of influences. Metal really started to grab me in my teens. Mostly the gateway bands to start with such as Deftones, Linkin Park, 36 Crazyfists and Killswitch Engage but then I discovered bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica and Pantera. With then leads on to more and more music. I think everyone has to start with the classic bands at some point to really understand the foundation of metal music. Then you start to find bands that you connect with on another level. If you looked through my album collection you’d find everything from Tool, Architects, Sikth to Biffy Clyro, Placebo and Johnny Cash. If I was going to give anyone advise it would be not to “pigeon hole” yourself, listen to as much music as you can.
What do you personally consider to be the incisive moments in your artistic work and/or career?
Well not to sound to cliché but I’d have to say our most recent album. The band has taken a little while for us to truly find “our” sound. All the member past and present have had so many different influences and different tastes.
“The Loss & The Rapture” mixes together everything we bring together as a band and turns it all up as much as we possible. The aggressiveness, the melodies, groove, harmonies, progressive elements, the whole package basically. For me it’s my proudest musical achievement.
What is currently your main compositional- and production-challenges?
In the beginning it was tricky to produce anything to a good standard. These days we have our process. We’ve tried different processes but what we have now works for us. We are very much a “in the room” band. Sometimes it’s tricky to see the bigger picture in the early stages. It just takes one of us to have that vision and to push through the doubts. We are all really hyper-critcal with our music but at the same time we stick to our guns if we know it’ll work and one of us can see past that initial writing session.
What do you usually start with when working on a new piece?
Myself, Adam, Fish (former Guitarist) and now Chris (new Guitarist) normally start by writing a riff or a general idea at home on our own. We may send some basic recordings to each other to get a general reaction and to make sure we aren’t totally off base.
After that we all get in a room and start hammering it out with Thomas do see how the drums are going to fit. Guitars, bass, drums and three angry metal screams are all we need to create something. We jam for a while and then some structures start to form. Verse, chorus, middle section etc. But sometimes a whole idea and be scrapped if it’s just not giving us that feeling. We aren’t afraid to throw ideas away if they aren’t working.
How strictly do you separate improvising and composing?
I think one has to come before the other. It all starts off as improvising in the beginning. With the kind of music we play we do have to actual compose our parts eventually. It’s very fast and technical in places, we all need to be locking in to give it that power. At the same time when it comes to live performances we have been know to mix things up a bit. A song is never really “done”, once it’s recorded it doesn’t end there. Songs develop after that point also.
How do you see the relationship between sound, space and composition?
It’s a balance, we always try get it right. As I mentioned earlier we always try to serve the song first. As much as we have a formula we like to start off with in the writing process we aren’t afraid to try new things. End of the day if it sounds good then let it be.
Do you feel it important that an audience is able to deduct the processes and ideas behind a work purely on the basis of the music? If so, how do you make them transparent?
Yes and no I guess. I can see how fans can gravitate to music when they know the story behind the music, Lyricly or musically.
At the same time everything is too accessable at this point in time. You can pretty much use the internet to find out anything. I think it’s good to have some mystery out there.
In how much, do you feel, are creative decisions shaped by cultural differences – and in how much, vice versa, is the perception of sound influenced by cultural differences?
In our creative process we try not to let the outside world effect us too much. Individually we are have our own cultural differences, sure. But as a band we try to stick into our bands own little culture we’ve formed. It’s a very safe space, for the most part anyway. Having good relationships with your band mates is super important. If you don’t have similar ideals and morals it’s just not going to work. Sometimes we may disagree over certain things but we all know it’s for the good of the band and there’s no hidden agendas.
The relationship between music and other forms of art – painting, video art and cinema most importantly – has become increasingly important. How do you see this relationship yourself and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
So important! Some bands forget about this. It’s the whole package, artwork, lyrics, music, video, photos, it’s all connected.
We don’t just pick any random album artwork. It’s starts with the songs and that grows to affect everything in the band. The artwork on the album is a classic example. That piece was an original oil painting design and inspired by the story and themes of the album. We are super proud of the artwork and how it goes with the album.
There seem to be two fundamental tendencies in music today: On the one hand, a move towards complete virtualization, where tracks and albums are merely released as digital files. And, on the other, an even closer union between music, artwork, packaging and physical presentation. Where do you stand between these poles?
I’d like to think that we have an old school approach when it comes to this. We prefer things the old way for the most part. Having a physical album in your hand is amazing. Seeing the complete package and all it has to offer.
What changes would you like to see to the music industry to allow you to make a living from your music?
Tricky question. On the one hand the music industry is growing more and more everyday. Everyone can find all these mirco genres that they want to hear. But the industry is over saturated with bands. Trying to stand out in the sea of bands is no easy task.
If I could change anything it would be having more money coming in. But that comes with success. I have friends in fairly well established bands and I know they still work part time or have their own businesses on the side. If bands had more time to soley focus on their music alone I’d have no doubt we’d get some incredible music. Unfortunately you have to pay the bills at some point
The role of an artist is always subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of artists today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Sure artists change all the time. Artists are influenced and inspired by everything in their lives. If we find ourselves in a shit situation and we are frustrated we don’t let it get us down. It’s all fuel for the engine, let’s turn something shit into something wort listening too. In terms of band goals we want our music to be real and honest. For example we aren’t trying to sound aggressive and heavy in that part of the song, when we wrote it we were aggressive and angry in that moment. It’s a big circle which is what’s so great about working with the guys and hammering it out in the practice room.
Music-sharing sites and -blogs as well as a flood of releases, in general, are presenting both listeners and artists with challenging questions. What’s your view on the value of music today? In what way does the abundance of music change our perception of it?
It depends what you deem as value I guess. Value in terms of wealth or value as what it gives to you. Wealth wise there’s not a lot of money in it. But in a way the music is incredibly valuable to all of us. We invest so much of ourselves into our music. The weekly band practices, saving money for gear, the hours traveling around the world, writing one song for days on end, the disagreements in the practice space. But after all that it’s still worth it to us. Hearing it back once it’s recorded or seeing the crowds reactions when we play it live. The value in that is priceless.
If someone can get anywhere close to that feeling from purchasing an album for around £10 then you’ve got yourself a bargain there!
How, would you say, could non-mainstream forms of music reach wider audiences?
I think the best way is for fans to just simply share good music. People can see through crap music so when they find something good they need to shout about it. Help the artist out and share it with anyone who will listen.
I trust my friends with their music choices. If they are getting something out of it I don’t want to miss out on it!
Usually, it is considered that it is the job of the artist to win over an audience. But listening is also an active, rather than just a passive process. How do you see the role of the listener in the musical communication process?
Think I touched on this earlier. If the audience finds music they like out there awesome. If the audience loves it’s and wants to support it, the best thing you can do is share the wealth. Spread the word and shout about it.
It’s so hard to stand out in the industry at this point. It’s hard to get across everything about the band in a four minute video or one photo. We try our best to try and make those connections to the audience but it’s tough. If we do make that connection the best thing the listener can do is tell us. We want to hear what you think, it’s a great feeling knowing someone is getting that same buzz you did when you first heard a piece of music you connected with.
Reaching audiences usually involves reaching out to the press and possibly working with a PR company. What’s your perspective on the promo system? In which way do music journalism and PR companies change the way music is perceived by the public?
PR is a big part of getting yourselves out there. There are loads of great webzines, FB pages, YouTube channels, PR companys that are doing a great job.
I’m not sure how relavant paper magazines are anymore, I can’t remember the last time I bought one. I used to buy metal hammer every month a few years ago. Found loads of great bands in there over the years. It’s a proud moment when you see yourselves in there.
I’m not sure if the press changes how you are perceived. I see it more of a filter and a channel to send your message out far and wide. A good PR knows how to package you in a way that is going to hit your target audience.
Please recommend two artists to our readers which you feel deserve their attention.
I’ve been really digging our buddies in “The Crawlings” latest release. It’s dark, miserable and heavy. It ticks all the right boxes for me. “Drowned in shallow water” is a standout track for me.
Another act I really like is “Mooneater’ they are from our neighboring county and I just think they’re got a great sound. I used to be in a band with the vocalist Mike, he’s an awesome musician. They definitely need more attention, thier new single “Venn” is worth checking out.