A chat with Mr. Andersen and his portrait of flesh and blood


Band: A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood

  • Neil Andersen – Vocals and programming
  • Yusuke Hasabe – Guitars, bass and drums
  • Stefan Traunmüller – Keyboards and orchestrations

During our recent explorations of the Japanese darkest underground, we’ve come to meet various bands and projects with different, great ideas – all this while paying tribute to the tenth anniversary of a local label which is actively part of that world: Zero Dimensional Records. One of the names that actually caught our attention was A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood‘s, whose debut album Gallery Of Sorrow brought local depressive black metal artist Yusuke from No Point In Living together with Austrian master of synths Stefan (Golden Dawn, among others) and American extreme metal singer Neil, the one responsible for the birth of this project in the first place. So we got in touch with the band’s vocalist and had a little chat with him in order to satisfy our thirst for knowledge (and evil), and here’s the result!

So, Neil, Gallery Of Sorrow has been out for a year, now: how do people feel about it? Where has it been appreciated the most?

Neil: It has been amazing the feedback I’ve seen with this album. It meant a lot to record this and get it out and I am glad many people worldwide have been enjoying it and supporting APOFAB.

Gallery Of Sorrow is also the first A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood album released via Zero Dimensional Records. How did you end up contacting them? And how do you feel, now, about your collaboration with them: are you satisfied?

Yes that is true. The Pale Enchantress was self released and with Gallery of Sorrow, I contacted many different labels that I saw this project fitting well with. I emailed Shota about the music and after talking, we discussed a contract that would be very mutual for both of us. I am very happy to be a part of ZDR.

Speaking of the band, I’ve read on Encyclopaedia Metallum that it was first born as a one-man band project in the late 90s, it had a different name and… Well, why don’t you tell us more about it (and about its name, too)?

So I originally started in my early teens under the Echoes of Silence name. I wrote and recorded a lot of music, mainly being known for doing all parts synthetically through FL Studio and after time passed, I wanted to start with a new style and name than the previous stuff. The Pale Enchantress was actually supposed to be the last Echoes of Silence release but I decided it fit well with the APOFAB name. Echoes of Silence was more of my younger work and APOFAB became my serious and more mature work.

Nowadays, then, the band’s line-up stabilised and A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood is, as a matter of fact, a trio. What are your thoughts on working with Yusuke and Stefan?

Well, as of current, Stefan and Yusuke are working on their own projects and lives so this project is back to a solo project. I really enjoy and look up to both of them dearly and it was a dream come true to work with them on Gallery of Sorrow. I hope maybe down the road we can work together again.

When did you meet them? And how?

I actually met Stefan after buying a Golden Dawn album and I looked him up online. I reached out to him through MySpace back then and asked what he thought of my ideas for an Echoes of Silence album and he said it would be a fun project. Over the span of a year, we recorded Stormbringer (which sadly never saw actual label release back then). This was around 2008 I believe. As for Yusuke, I discovered him through a channel on YouTube that would have album streams of DSBM and I was really blown away by his music. I found and contacted him on Facebook and he agreed to write and record with me.

What about the band’s dynamics? I mean, how do members of A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood work together, when it comes to writing stuff: is there anybody suggesting what to do to the others or do you build your songs all together?

Well as for Gallery of Sorrow, I gave all freedom of writing to Yusuke for the instrumentals. It was later when I hit a dead end mentally for the orchestrations that I decided to ask for Stefan’s help. After he agreed, we would send back and forth changes or ideas and it was everyone putting in their thoughts and making suggestions.

How do you like your colleagues’ other bands? They don’t seem to belong to the same branch of black metal: Yusuke’s bands, No Point In Living as well as Retreat Neurosis, both have a depressive core, while Stefan’s projects have always been characterized by symphonic and epic elements…

I grew up a big fan of Golden Dawn so that was already a dream come true working with Stefan and as for Yusuke’s projects, I love his raw talent and sound. Both are amazingly talented musicians and I really have enjoyed all their projects, past and present.

Moreover, you’re part of different bands, too. Homophobic Fecalpheliac – which have been recently put on hold, it seems – are more of a brutally slamming band, while, on the other hand, The Hollowing feel much more like a deathcore-related one. Overall, though, A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood, followed by A Cursed Spirit In The Mirror, seems to be your first project, definitely a black metal one. How does your diverse music tastescoexist in your life? And where does it come from?

Yeah [laughs] I have bounced around with all different genres since I was 11 when I discovered metal. A Portrait of Flesh and Blood would technically be the oldest if people include the Echoes of Silence era then it would be The Hollowing next as that band has been around since 2006 (under a different name). A Cursed Spirit In The Mirror came as left over songs that were “too” black metal to be Echoes of Silence tracks. Homophobic Fecalpheliac was a joke between me and the guitarist, Alex Ippolito, one night that ended up being fun and gaining popularity. My tastes change almost daily so I try to keep variety. I grew up with parents who listened to all kinds of music from one day I’d hear jazz and the next it could be some Ozzy Osbourne.

I may surely be wrong, but I noticed that your singing style on Gallery Of Sorrow felt much more brutal than that, which’s usually found on other black metal records. Do you agree with my opinion?

Yeah it is, I have always had a different kind of vocal tone. It’s actually funny because after recording vocal tracks, I’d send them to Stefan and he would ask what kind of creature makes these noises [laughs] I like to stand out and this time I guess my vocals naturally did that.

Let’s talk about A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood’s future, now. Is there already another album in the works?

There are ideas, plans and everything for an upcoming release but I’m starting off with talking to other musicians and hearing their ideas and styles. There will be a new album but not sure on a time frame, maybe by next year.

What about playing live, then: is there anything moving in that direction?

I get this one a lot and there is no way honestly. I would not want to play live unless Yusuke and Stefan could play too but that would be too hard and too much with us all on three different continents.

Still speaking of live music: what’s it like, there? Is there any black metal scene where you live, whether it’s solid and active or a bit fragmented? And what about Japan: has Yusuke ever told you how these evil things go over there?

We have some really good black metal bands out here, some that I can think of right now is Imperialist, Gravespawn, Anshelm, Lightning Swords of Death, Highland, Sothis and many others past and present. It is still pretty solid these days, just pretty quiet now. I have heard about Japan years before from friends who live there. They have a crazy metal scene.

Where would you prefer to play live with A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood, then: California or Japan? And why?

Definitely Japan, metal bands are everywhere here and not many people would enjoy our music as much as Japan would.

And what about Austria? That country has a certain history, as it comes to black metal, and Stefan should definitely know a couple of things about that…

Yes that country has plenty of influential black metal bands such as Trifixion, Pervertum, Pazuzu, Summoning, Vuzem, Knechte des Schreckens, Cromm, Abigor and of course Golden Dawn (The Austrian Black Metal Syndicate). He was a huge part of that history so he would know.

Now, before saying goodbye, you must know that our readers always crave for discovering new, underground bands to follow: it’s in their nature. So, why don’t you give us the names of those bands from your country you believe our Italian readers would be deeply satisfied to find, as they’ll be reading this interview?

I have a lot to list off, from all genres and styles haha. Some of my favorite US metal bands are Imperialist, Dzö-nga, Infirmity, any band on Gore House Productions, Goreatorium, Zombie Eating Horse, The End of an Age, Serpents, Shrine of Malice, Uada, Angel Splitter, Blood Vomit Ritual, Gravespawn, The Convalescence… There’s way too many to list off.

That’s it, I think. And now, as I wait for the next A Portrait Of Flesh And Blood album, Neil, I thank you for our nice chat and give you some space to say whatever you want to the readers.

Thank you for this interview and thank you to all who are reading this and have supported this project. Keep looking out eventually for an update on new music.