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"Senescent Signs" by doom band The Drowning appeared on our zine a few weeks ago; today we proudly present you all Steve, Mike and Matt in the flesh (or sort of): they answered our questions about the album, the band and so on, not to mention the amount of despair they shared with us.
Hi guys, and welcome on Aristocrazia. How are you?
Mike: Sick and tired of our normal jobs!!
First of all we would like to know something more about the band and its members, would you mind telling us who you are and how The Drowning started making music?
Mike: The Drowning hail from Wales, our homeland (well fucking mine anyway); started writing music in the early days of 2003, at that point in time there was no signature sound for the band. We started off doing demos and we kind of knew the genre we wanted to be fitting into, but we didn’t let that limit us in what we wanted to do… The first album is when we came together and found the start of our sound around the doom area, all the stuff prior definitely wasn’t doom. Originally it was just me and James (the ex-vocalist) and it was going to be done in the studio as a project. Now the only original members are myself and Jason but through the new members our sound has evolved into what it is today. All the members have had previous experience in other bands and projects, so everyone brings different experiences to the table which allow us to create a doom heavy sound with aspects form other genres.
"Senescent Signs" is your fourth full-length and I truly enjoyed it, for it gave me the exact amount of doom I needed, very well done. I always find myself focusing a lot on the graphic element of an album, what can you tell us about the cover and booklet images you chose this time?
Matt: Cheers dude, that’s cool that you get what we were trying to convey, like we always shy away from classing ourselves as a doom metal band, like first and foremost we're a metal band who like dark shit and write what we think sounds good.
Steve: All the artwork was commissioned by Matt Vickerstaff, we gave him rough ideas of themes and lyrics and… did we send some demos?
Mike: Yeah, we sent him the demos.
Steve: Yeah, so Matt Vickerstaff pretty much had free reign after we gave him some thematic ideas and concepts and he produced the artwork. We're really happy with it, we feel he really captured what we were trying to put across and it's great to have someone do the artwork who has worked with some seriously big and well respected names like Mayhem, My Dying Bride, Anathema, Darkthrone and a shit load of others.
What about the album's name?
Mike: Album name simply came from what I see today as I'm getting older: things change as you're getting older, things are moving quickly, things don’t last forever and everything seems to lose that strength, so for me "SS" is literally about being over the half-way line, and when you're over the half-way line everything starts to slow and age. Those around you, people you haven't seen for a while suddenly look fucking ancient, you can see it in your pets when they change. The life cycle from young to old, the life cycle you see in everything and I feel aging brings a lot of sorrow.
Matt: Mike is the driving thematic force in The Drowning, but when he was chatting to me about the album title and what it meant I felt it's an emotional and philosophical exploration of the concept of entropy.
"The House Of The Tragic Poet" is both the title of one of your songs and the name of a second century BC Roman house in Pompeii; while we all know the carachter you talk about in "The Lament Of Faustus". How do you feel, in general, about history and literature? Can they be considered influences on your music?
Matt: Yes, massively. It heavily influences the lyrics, the music is more based on how Mike and Jason feel today but the lyrics are hugely inspired by history and literature. Since a young age I have been obsessed with philosophy and history so when I listen to a new demo I see what feelings and ideas it inspires in me, I think about how I can translate that to people. "The House Of The Tragic Poet" is a site I’m really interested in and the house of the tragic poet I sign about is a metaphorical house, like a manifestation of someone's mind and the portraits that dwell in the house are memories warped by the tragic poet's desire for perfection and through the curse of his own imagination he is destined to be heartbroken and therefore tragic. Using this idea I was able to express feelings I had experienced throughout my own life. Whereas for "The Lament Of Faustus", I have always loved Marlowe and rated his work over Shakespeare. Faustus has been fertile ground for metal bands as well as most obviously "A Cautionary Tale" by Sabbat. But with "The Lament" I wanted to write a song based upon an instant flash of panic from Faustus' perspective right before he gets dragged to Hell, as he replays everything his mind that has led him to this point and in that moment he laments for his fate.
What are the most significant bands that inspire you and, somehow, introduced you all to the genre you ultimately decided to play?
Matt: I’m a death metalhead at heart and I love my extreme black metal, but for me My Dying Bride's "Turn Loose The Swans" has to be one of the greatest albums ever made and that what drew me to the doom genre. As far as vocals go my absolute fucking hero is Corpsegrinder from Cannibal Corpse, he’s literally the reason I stopped being a sub par guitarist and became a sub par vocalist.
Mike: Over the years the previous albums have always been compared to the big three, Paradise Lost, Anathema, My Dying Bride and yes, this is true, they have been an influence hands down. As a player I get influenced by old school death metal and thrash bands such as Sodom, Destruction, Dark Angel and even the likes of Judas Priest are a massive influence as a player, not a writer though. Jason can’t be here but he loves his Motley Crue and Iron Maiden, which I think brings his classic metal solo style to the table that you don’t see much of in this genre.
Steve: Mike brought me to doom period. Influences for me come from little of more mainstream stuff Slayer, Testament, Gene Hoglan being one of my favorite drummers.
Can you name 5 significant albums in your musical growth, individually and as a band?
Matt: Dicky and Jason can't be here so no answers for them!
Steve: FUCK! That’s hard! 5 significant albums…
- Metallica – "Master Of Puppets" – My Introduction to metal as a kid;
- Motley Crue – "Shout At The Devil" – Tommy’s showmanship is second to none for me;
- Machine Head – "Davidian" – Big influence when I started playing drums;
- Slayer – "Seasons In The Abyss" – Because Slayer;
- Devil – "The Devil" – For bringing me back to doom for what we do now;
Mike: I got this easy right.
- Paradise Lost – "Gothic"
- Judas Priest – "British Steel"
- Bethlehem – "Dictius Te Necare"
- Endura – "Black Eden"
- Pink Floyd – "The Wall"
Matt: I agree with Steve, FUCK that's tough man….
- Metallica – "Kill 'Em All"
- Cannibal Corpse – "The Wretched Spawn"
- Aborym – "Generator"
- Watain – "Sworn To The Dark"
- Marduk – "World Funeral"
- Devil – "The Devil" – We have to mention Devil again
- The Vision Bleak – Deathship Has A New Captain
We can only come up with 2 that really kind of influence to band, in the sense that we have been to their gigs together and they have really blown us away; as far as albums influencing the band, we kind of work in a way that albums influence individually and when we write we blend that all together, as opposed to the sound being directly influenced by other music.
An Italian singer and songwriter, Luigi Tenco, was once asked "Why do you always write and play sad music?", to which he replied "Because when I'm happy I go outside". I personally believe sadness, disappointment and this kind of negative and obscure feelings are those elements which cause the best songs to come into existence. How do you feel about the matter? Do you think you could ever choose a positive subject to talk about in one of your songs?
Matt: All drama stems from conflict, if you are happy you never strive for anything because you already have it all, negativity is a much better motivating and creative force, and we enjoy it. I think it's as simple as that, we’re attracted to the darker side of human experience. If we did write a song about a positive subject, it wouldn’t be The Drowning.
Do you all actively participate in the songwriting process or does each of you have a single role within the band?
Matt: Mike is the driving force in the band, it's his vision that we help to bring to life. He will have an idea and some riffs and then we run over them in practice. It's not completely regimented, everyone can have an input on what anyone brings to the table. But Mike is the heart and soul. Jason comes up with all of his parts working around the foundation and the same goes for Steve and Dicky. I write all the lyrics but often will run things by the band and run with ideas anyone wants to throw out there.
What's the extreme metal scene like in Wales? How often do you play live and are there any upcoming gigs scheduled for the next months?
Matt: It's crap at the moment to be honest, there's some resurgence in the death metal scene but whilst we have death influences we don’t fit into a straight death lineup.
Mike: It's getting better, just after Matt joined the band four years ago it was much better and we were playing Cardiff sometimes twice a month. Since then we played a lot in Tilburg at The Little Devil and we have more of a European following. We do have a Cardiff gig lined up supporting Ancient Ascendant and we’re working on putting on a European tour in the second half of 2017.
What else do you like doing besides playing?
Mike: I’m a professional drinker… it doesn’t pay well.
Steve: I’m a tattooist, so art is a big part of it for me.
Matt: The gym and escaping from reality.
If you could live in any other country in the world, where would you move to?
Mike: Bavaria, Germany, strictly for the beer. I’d have a nice mountain retreat with a lake.
Steve: Australia! I spent a year there tattooing, fucking love it there.
Matt: Japan, they are fucking mental but really polite with it… my kind of place.
People and musicians often complain about contemporary music scene, where everyone seems to be more interested in making money than in creating their own sound. Is everything related to music business really this miserable nowadays?
Mike: Pretty much, yeah. It is a business, it's a way of making money out of people's talents, and today's bands don't see any of that money.
Steve: We’re not here to make money from it, that’s an unrealistic goal these days; we play because we love it. It is nice to be paid but that always goes back into the band for recording, merch, touring costs.
Matt: All we want to do is make enough to keep playing shows, that's it, enough money to keep performing.
2016 is about to end, how has this year been for you so far? What about your plans for 2017?
Matt: It’s been very slow as far as gigs are concerned, but we feel that it has been a positive year with the album release and how it's been received, such as this interview and others alike. We feel we’ve reached a far wider audience through magazines and online webzines. As far as 2017 goes we want to capitalize this and get out there and play as many fucking shows as possible.
We are at the end of our interview, thank you for answering these questions. I wish you all the best for your future activities and I encourage all of our readers to give "Senescent Signs" a listen; you can leave a message for them as well, the floor is yours.
Mike: If you're looking for something darker and full of metal, that's not one note held for ten minutes but still miserable, we're your guys!
Matt: Cheers for the interview, it's fuckin' awesome to come across someone who gets what we try to put out there so comprehensively, nice one!