|Band:||My Silent Wake|
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Not so long ago the English band My Silent Wake came back (again) on our pages with their "Invitation To Imperfection", an astonishing album, unforeseen, experimental and absolutely wonderful. The band walked a different path from the usual gothic metal one, which they're known the most for, and it's my pleasure to have here none but Ian Arkley to talk with: what's behind this decision? What do we have to expect from the future band's releases? And is it true that you've used (amongst others) a sofa as an instrument? Let's check it out.
Hello My Silent Wake, and welcome to Aristocrazia Webzine.
Ian: Thanks! Nice to hear from you.
As a start, could you introduce your band to our readers? Some of your albums have been on our pages before indeed, but we're all quite curious to get some more personal info straight from you.
The current line-up is Addam on bass, Gary on drums, Simon on keys, Mike on rhythm guitar and me on vocals and lead guitar. We have friends who add extra instrumentation from time to time on our recordings and most of us dabble in other instruments on our acoustic and experimental songs. The band has been going for twelve years and we have had quite a few line-up changes over that time. I have been a constant member. I have played in a lot of other bands over the years. MSW was formed with members of Ashen Mortality and my band before that was Seventh Angel, which reformed about a decade ago.
Your latest effort "Invitation To Imperfection" astonished me, to say the least. It's a deep, emotional, amazing and unpredictable album and I fell in love with it at first listening, congratulations on that. What you offered your listeners this time was a 14-track work where acoustic atmospheres, nature, gothic sounds and ethnic experiments wonderfully merge: how did you develope its many-sided core?
Thank you so much! It was actually made from different (mainly home produced) recordings that we had been amusing ourselves with over the past year or two. A lot was improvised and unplanned. I used a handheld recorder for a lot of the songs and we also had some studio stuff which we hadn't really done anything with so these were enhanced and added to. A lot of the tracks were entirely home made and recorded off the cuff. Three of us have a simple home set-up to record this kind of thing. The mastering was the only part we actually paid for and that was done by my friend Martin Bowes from Attrition. Most of my recordings were mixed in the free software Audacity and my hand held recorder cost the grand sum of fifty pounds. We certainly enjoyed putting it all together and I am really looking forward to doing another like this. It is all so undisciplined and unpredictable and you don't have to actually learn any parts, but just play them.
Some songs, for example "The Fear" and "Helgar Kindir", feature «non-conventional percussion» or «household items». I'm very curious about the specific tool you used, could you tell us your secret?
Basically hitting furniture, drinking vessels, household appliances, that sort of thing. "The Fear" has no normal instruments at all. My sofa (which is sadly no longer with us) made a great sound when you hit it and the central heating was playing up and making apocalyptic sounds so I recorded it. It was fun to manipulate those sounds with effects. Some American metal radio show plays tracks at random and then comments on them. He played "The Fear" and was obviously unimpressed to say the least. It was pretty funny. One thing he said was «what was that? Darth Vader's bathroom?» And said he wouldn't be buying the t-shirt.
Many foreign, ethnic and sometimes even culturally distant instruments were also played, like djembe, mandolin, jouhikko, karimba, ocarina, erhu and didgeridoo. You practically put different sounds from the world together and the result is nonetheless fluid and coherent. How did you find out about all these interesting instruments?
We tend to pick them up when we find them and have a little collection of these kind of instruments as well as normal instruments. Our friends also have some interesting instruments. We do something to start a track and then just add whatever we feel would work on that track. It isn't a fully planned thing and develops more like a painting.
I'm especially curious about jouhikko, a specific kind of kantele, which is a traditional music instrument in Finland — where I'm living at the moment — as well as Estonia and Carelia. Do you know any other bands that use it in their music?
I am not too clued up about these but our friend Craig who played it knows a lot. He came over one day with it and we started jamming. He had a nice tune he had written and his girlfriend Misty played along on the djembe while I droned on the cello and we recorded all three instruments together and then I added some overdubs.
"Vorspiel" welcomes us with classical instruments, such as piano and strings. How do you feel about classical music, is it part of your daily listenings?
I like it a lot. Maybe not daily, but often. My dad was a big fan of classical and so it was often on in the house. I prefer instrumental classical in the main and have a love if medieval music which should be fairly obvious. I am also a big fan of folk, mainly from the 60s and 70s and mainly folk rock.
This may sound silly, but I was fascinated by the use of throat singing, a style that never ceases to surprise and intrigue me. How did you learn it, and is it really as hard and demanding as it seems?
Again this was Craig. No idea how he does it but it sounds great. Again this was recorded on the Alesis Palmtrack and added to the track where it fitted.
I can't really pick a favourite song, for all of them shocked me for some reason. I love how "You Drift Away" sounds like a monologue, the Medieval taste you put in "Tempest" and the ambient, artificial element prevailing in "Aventurine"; on the other hand, I believe "Melodien Der Waldgeister" is the true core and soul of "Invitation To Imperfection". It somehow summarizes the whole idea of the album being a journey through the unknown, with atmospheres and music that change and evolve the more the traveler walks deeper into the woods. This is at least my personal interpretation of the song, do you share this view? Is there anything else you want to add?
Yes, I do share it and that was what I was trying to get over hence the footsteps starting and stopping to listen to the music. I think it is almost like an after death experience or some kind of out of body, disorientated kind of journey where you don't know what the hell is actually happening to you but all the same it isn't unpleasant and leads to peace and in the end, silence.
And now, the artwork: even the graphic side of the album has different pictures and styles cohexisting, would you mind explaining them to us?
I had a cover lined up but I saw Simon's photo of part of the pulpit in the cathedral at Mechelen and knew this should be the cover. It was the perfect image for the album as it looked like an Invitation to Imperfection. The hand reaching out but broken. The other images are either from the same pulpit or images of striking imperfect objects.
What's your idea of «imperfection» and why did you include this word in the title of your latest work?
Because it is flawed. It isn't polished, it has mistakes and has a raw feeling. It is home made in the main and is very organic. Take something like "Tubular Bells"; it is far from perfect, but makes its own form of perfection in that you wouldn't want it any different. You wouldn't want the tuning spot on, you wouldn't want the timing spot on. Mike Oldfiield for years seems to have struggled with the imperfection of this album and has put out many follow-ups and a re-recording but you can't get close to the original. I know how this feels as I find it hard to leave things with small errors but you sometimes have to look at the overall picture and what it makes you feel rather than being pedantic.
As for your previous albums, they're more gothic, doom and death metal oriented — to be honest, I personally expected something similar from "Invitation" as well. "Volta" is probably the only song where gothic and dark atmospheres somehow manageed to survive. Why did you decide to leave the heaviness behind this time?
It was just a different way of writing and was the same as other bands working on side projects. We just choose to do all of this under the same band name. The only rule from the start of the band was that there were none and we could play whatever we wanted. This has kept things fresh and enjoyable for 12 years.
What's in store for My Silent Wake's future? Will you experiment with different styles again, and is the metal element abandoned for good?
No, we are working on a metal album now which will start next month. We will always do experimental stuff as well, probably more as we get older. We play the metal side of the band on stage as I don't really enjoy playing our acoustic stuff live. I hope to one day develop a more ambient set.
What are the new album releases of 2017 that you've enjoyed the most so far?
I can't say I listen to much new music. I like the EP from Famyne. Not sure if it came out this year. In The Woods' "Pure", was that this year? A band I discovered recently is Horisont who I like a lot. Age Decay are a band to look out for and Northern Light Exposure.
One last question, I swear: what are your favourite records, the ones you really couldn't live without?
Zeppelin 1,2,3,4, "Tubular Bells", Dead Can Dance's "Aion". Going to stop there as this could go on and on. I love music and many different styles and as soon as you answer and submit an interview like this you remember obvious stuff you forgot to mention.
That would be all. Thanks for chatting with us, it's been a huge pleasure! We hope to host you on Aristocrazia's pages again in the future; for now, all the best! This last space is yours, feel free to leave a message to your readers.
Thanks a lot for the interview. Please check out our YouTube channel under my name Ian Arkley and explore what we have done for over a decade now as well as some of my other bands. If you like what you hear please share it.