Wednesday, June 7, 2017

interview: Wreche

Let me start with a question for you, friend: What do you think about translating the feeling of fast black metal through piano, drums and vocals? Wreche is that: music with the feeling of black metal played through fast piano and drums, and of course, the lunacy of black metal vocals. Does that sound interesting? Or do you have suspicions that it might be too weird? Maybe you’re thinking a bit of both, curiosity and reluctance? In my opinion, it’s not as strange as you would think. In short, you’d be surprised how song-oriented Wreche is and how much of black metal translates well into Wreche music, as you can hear for yourself on the complete work on Bandcamp, for which you will find the link at the end of this interview.
Hello! I know nothing about your band! The only thing I know is your self-titled album. I hope that my questions do not seem too stupid for you because I am not a musician. First of all, who are the members of the band and what instruments do they play?
Thanks, no worries. There are two of us – myself, John Steven Morgan (piano, vocals) and Barret Baumgart (drums). I write music for solo piano outside of Wreche and Barret is a published writer. His book, China Lake won the Iowa Prize for Literary Nonfiction in 2016.
Are the members of the band now the same people who played on the album? I hear vocals, drums and piano. What else I am hearing? Are there no bass guitars at all? No guitars at all?
Barret and I are the only two members. The instrumentation is pretty much as you described, but there are some synth parts added in for texture. And yeah, no guitars, no bass. The sound you are hearing is piano and drums.
Do you use a real piano, and not keyboards? In other words, did you play on those traditional pianos, you know, the ones that are really heavy and huge?
I am first and foremost, an acoustic piano player, but on the album, I used a Korg for definition in the bass and overall clarity. I didn’t have an acoustic on hand that was properly regulated, tuned and studio ready, nor the proper mics for something like this. They need to be maintained frequently for recording purposes and this project required too many months of experimentation to invest in all the maintenance. It was better to rely on my keyboard. However, for a living, I do transport those heavy acoustic pianos myself and play in strange public places around the city.
How did you get the idea of making this music?! Did you think it was a crazy idea at first? I have seen videos of Dimmu Borgir, Immolation and other bands’ songs just on piano, but I do not know of anyone taking it as far as you have.
Wreche revisits and revises a project that Barret and I started in 2007/8, where we just played as an instrumental band (piano/drums). It wasn’t necessarily black metal, but had elements of metal in it. When we got together this time, we both found a shared interest in the possibilities black metal had to offer – both the long, dreamy atmospheric aspects and the aggressive pummeling undercurrents. I think I may have seen some of those videos, but like some modern jazz that quotes and covers metal, they fall into a mimic category. Over the years, my playing style developed because of what I was listening to and the emotional continuity I found in classical, jazz, and metal. We wanted the piano to be the singular source of the sound, not a quote or cover. I would say we were mostly excited about doing this, as we had never heard of anything like it before.
I wasn’t sure about listening to your music because experimental or post-rock is not something that interests me. I am not interested in slow, ambient stuff. However, your music is uptempo and it is energetic, which is what I want! I was wrong about Wreche!
Thanks! We like atmosphere, but also love to destroy s##. This debut was written with a few breathers, but ultimately it is a relentless onslaught. There’s time to pare down or introduce stranger ideas on later albums, but we felt that our first had to be strong, violent and set a solid foundation to build off of. We avoided the integration of too many styles, odd technical parts and overkill ambient tracks on purpose. The focus was on emotional content, fluidity, and building the baseline for our sound.
I like the sounds of the piano. It’s fast or uptempo, but the piano as an instrument has a pleasant quality to it, regardless. How long have you been playing piano? Do you play other styles of music on the piano? Of course, your song “Petals” is totally a soothing, piano-only song. Do you have other songs that are more in that traditional classical style?
I play and write a lot of solo piano music that is in the vein of “Petals” – maybe not as dark or hopeless, but it certainly is “soothing” and in the classical/jazz tradition. I think it is a wonderful and complete instrument that can run the entire gamut of emotions. Some of my solo songs build into a heinous fury and with Wreche, I wanted that to be taken to the next level. Although I love Scriabin, Chopin and Beethoven, I was mainly a stride-piano player (with classical sensibilities) before writing this new material. Since my teen years, I’ve loved Fats Waller, Jelly Roll Morton, James P. Johnson and a lot of that old Jazz. I’ve been playing for around 15 years.
How much of the drums is real drums? In metal music, lots of fast extreme modern stuff sounds like fake plastic clicky toy drums.
For us, it was about finding a raw and real sound. We’ve both been playing together for so long that when it comes to recording, we always opt to do it “live”. With the drums, I spent a lot of time figuring out how to capture Barret’s sound. He’s a hard hitter that can play complex, winding delicate passages with crushing blows. I attempted to capture both the room we were in, as well as make each part of his drum-set clear. The piano/drum tracking was done simultaneously in single takes to preserve and capture the energy of the compositions. If there’s a couple missed notes, so be it – it’s better than sterility. It feels like a human being is playing it. That’s what we were shooting for.
Is Wreche is a studio project? Is it a band that will play live if there’s enough interest?
We would love to play live if there is enough interest, but I might add that we are very focused on making the best music we can. Writing will always take priority. That’s where the fun is.
What’s the best way to keep up with your activities? If you are to recoup some of the money spent on the recording, would you be willing to continue the music of Wreche?
For now, the best place to keep up with us is on Facebook. We always post reviews/updates/new stuff there. The album is available on Bandcamp to stream and buy digital/CD copies. The CD includes some astounding artwork by our friends Max Moriyama and Athena Wisotsky. If you want a cassette version, our label Fragile Branch has those for sale. As for the money, there is no way at the moment that I’ll ever recoup those costs nor did I make this music to earn that money back. This project is what I love most about making music and I will always pour whatever resources I can scrounge up into it. There will be more!
Thanks for your time! It’s been interesting to hear your music. I think I’m finding it very soothing at the moment.
Thank you for the thoughtful questions! Glad you are enjoying it.
wreche.bandcamp.com
facebook.com/wreche/

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