Thursday, May 24, 2018

interview: Voidthrone

Just like that, Voidthrone has returned with a new recording in 2018 called Kur, which follows the 2016 title Spiritual War Tactics. One way to think of Voidthrone is dissonant extreme metal. Fortunately, the new recording is available for listening now and you can hear for yourself the band’s interpretation of black metal. Be sure to check out the links at the end of this interview.
Hello. This is Metal Bulletin zine. On Metal Archives it says that Voidthrone began in 2016. Who are the members of the band now and what they do in terms of instruments and other responsibilities for the band?
Mac Boyd: Guitar
Ronald Foodsack: Guitar. Recording/mixing. Oil painting on Kur cover
Zhenya Frolov: Vocals
Joshua Keifer: Drums
Austin Schmalz: Bass
Is it true that the band began in 2016? So then, how is it possible that there already was an album in 2016? Was the music already written and all that was needed was the personnel for a band to record it?
Dan (Morris, previous Voidthrone vocalist): The band started with just Ron and Josh jamming together in the Winter of 2015. We were terrible. Ron had just returned from France where he sang in a death metal band called Obnoxious and had not really played guitar in about 3 years. We also didn't know what we wanted to play yet. We waited a few months until we got better and had something that resembled a couple songs. A full line up was realized in 2016, which is also the time when we adopted the name Voidthrone. Another name we almost went with was Rotfeast, but that sounds like a 90s old school death metal band. Anyways, spring 2016 is when we had a solid line up with what you may call all of the original members. This line up was steady enough to write more material, record, and eventually start playing shows.
The 2016 album is called Spiritual War Tactics. Can you take us back to the debut and tell us about your vision of the album? Musically, what did you have in mind for your band?
Musically, the intent was to create music that would make the listener curious, but uncomfortable. We wanted to incorporate dissonance in the music but still provide some hooks and payoff for the listener. It's the contrasts that make music impactful. When writing songs, we stop after playing a riff and ask each other, "how does that riff make you feel?" It might seem humorous, but it is sometimes best to develop songs based on the feeling born from the seed riffs.
Conceptually, what spiritual war were you thinking of? How do you see the spiritual war taking place generally in the world and locally in the Seattle region? How does it manifest itself? What is your role in the spiritual war?
Dan: The spiritual war was not one that conflicts in an outside sense, but more as an inner conflict. Going to war with one's demons and not knowing what the correct voice of reason is. SWT starts in the physical realm and morphs into a tale of metaphysical revenge ending with total consciousness in the "spirit realm". The metaphors used in some of the lyrics revolve around a tribal warrior who is betrayed by his own people and comes back as a spirit. We sketched out the general lyrical concept for the SWT album on a dry erase board and this helped frame things.
For you, how does your thinking about your music a couple of years ago compare to now that you have two recordings under your belt? What have you discovered about yourselves as musicians as your journey deepens and continues? For instance, are you running up against contradictions or into certain turning points in your views of your music, black metal and the execution of the musical ideas? What are your learning?
The songs on Kur feel more like songs and are probably more coherent. They are less of a giant mess of non-repeating riffs than SWT.
On Spiritual War Tactics, we wrote the songs in the order of their appearance on the album. In that way, you can see perhaps how we grew musically. The first song on SWT, for example, has some more generic metal riffs à la Behemoth, Deathspell Omega, 90s death metal, etc. Now we have a much better idea of what our general sound and vision should be and what Voidthrone sounds like. This makes it easier to write.
We have discovered that we still write most of our best riffs and song ideas by jamming together and improvising. This is probably not typical for this style of metal. This can often not be the most efficient way to write music, but it is very fun and results in unexpected sounds. We have learned that it is absolutely key to be willing to throw away riffs. There are good riffs and ideas buried under a vast number of bad riffs. You just have to be confident enough to let mediocre-but-acceptable riffs go if they don't work or make sense.
By the way, are you all in other bands in the Seattle region? If so, what bands are those?
This year there is a new recording by Voidthrone and it is called KUR. In terms of musical directions, in your own view, where have the new songs taken your sound as a band now with a second work completed? Does it sound like you expected in your mind or did you realize that your creation took on a different form? If so, what did you think when you first heard the whole recording as a finished work?
Feeling/soundwise, the album sounds almost exactly the way we wanted it too, so we are thrilled with the result. It is a short album, but we tried to expand our range and have lots of contrasts and small nuances from song to song. Musically, most of the songs were not very deliberately written - they developed as we wrote and discovered them. The only exception is "Phantasm Epoch" which was designed to be short, fast, and aggressive at the prodding of Dan, our old singer who has since moved to California.
Because we recorded and mixed the album ourselves, it was difficult to have an objective ear when it was first complete. You get burned out for a few weeks after hearing the same song countless times! However, listening to it now, it feels rich, emotional, and gets our blood pumping. We're proud of it.
What does KUR as a word? Is it KUR or Kur? After the provocative title of the debut, why a more mysterious title for the album? What purpose does the title serve in relation to what you want for your music now?
Zhenya: I take the title as 'Kur', personally! Kur is a Sumerian word for their version of the afterlife. It's a featureless landscape filled with the afterimages of all people that have ever lived. All they do is wander in isolation and eat dust. That's what everyone looks forward to upon death. A friend told me about it a long time ago, and the existential horror that comes with that concept left an impression! I think the fear of total isolation is relatable to most social creatures and I think the Nihilistic emptiness allows for a certain freedom of direction for us.
How did you go about recording the new music? Are you knowledgeable enough to do it by yourselves or do you prefer at this point to work with some experienced people that bring out a better sound for you? Are there good places in Tacoma to record? And in Seattle?
Ron: I recorded everything at my house, which also happens to be where we practice. We recorded scratch guitars to click tracks, then recorded the drums in my garage. After that, we tracked the bass and guitars direct. We reamped the guitars through a Mesa Boogie oversized cab. The heads used were a Peavey 5150 and an Orange CR120. Reamping the bass didn't turn out very good, so we just used plugins for the bass amp sound. Vocals were recorded last, also in the garage. In the middle of all this, my wife gave birth to our son! It was tricky tracking guitars with a sleeping baby, but fortunately he seemed to like the white noise of black metal guitar.
As for the mixing, I mixed Kur using Cubase 8 in my office. I have been using Cubase for a while and it is the DAW I am comfortable with. That being said, I do not do this for a living. Consequently, the mixing takes a long time since I am often figuring things out as I go or am agonizing over small decisions, like which reverb sounds best on the drums, fixing errors I made, etc. It was fun but a very time intensive, inefficient process, and involved lots of late nights. I am glad I do not do this full time! Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and part of the experience. We save a lot of money doing things this way. We probably mess a lot of things up too, but everything we do is DIY (like the album art).
However, for mastering this time we sent our music off to Audiosiege mastering in Portland. It was a smart move - it was relatively affordable and ultimately effective. We got a much fuller and less fatiguing sound that we had on Spiritual War Tactics, which I mastered myself with Ozone. If any of your readers have any questions about recording or mixing, let me know. I will do my best to answer them.
It is common to see bands posting online that they have tickets for a certain big show with an artist that is from out of town. In that situation, does a band pay hundreds of dollars by buying tickets and then attempting to sell them to the fans? Is this the pay-to-play that so many bands have spoken about? What is your opinion about it? Is this the state of the music business for metal bands? In your own observations, does this method of doing things result in money losses for the bands participating in it?
Zhenya: We haven't yet completed our first pre-sale show process, so I can't totally comment on the outcome. That in mind, there does seem to be an obligation for bands to peddle tickets to people and groups (Muted by 90% of Seattle Metal and Punk Scene, probably… Sorry, dudes!). While stressful, it does require a fair bit of reaching out, which is a nice way to talk to people and get them to listen to The Word of the Void. It's a pleasure to share something we think is cool and are proud of. I think the pay to play model makes sense from a venue's perspective, but shuts out a lot of people that are starting out and may not have resources. It'd be a step forward if the expectation to sell tickets was explicit and transparent. Then, at least, the awkward dance of negotiating with venues would be more straightforward. I don't know what the "standard" way of doing anything in music is yet. Hoping to get there!
What is next for your band now that there are two albums done? Do you have any plans that you want to tell us about?
Josh: More visceral presentation and music.
Mac: Dissonant melodies.
We aim to advance our sound and allow plenty of time to experiment on the outer edges of our musical bubble. We strive to be more visceral and breathtaking. We need to have dissonant melodies. We must spread our otherworldly sickness - the beautiful Void.
What do you have in terms of merchandise for fans to support your music? For the album's online availability, what are some places where you have your music?
If people want to sport our profane name, they can do it with shirts, stickers, and patches! We're proud to say that all of the design on our current goods is done by Voidthrone's own, Dan Morris. Any artists working with our incomprehensible prophecies must be hand-picked and have a grasp of the foul divine.
Anything else that you want to tell us?
Death to false metal.

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