Introverted journey through the mind
What's up in ESOTERIC? I know you have new members...
Yes. The current line-up is myself (Greg) - guitar, vocals, Gordon - guitar, Kris - guitar, Mark - bass, Olivier -keyboards and Joe - drums. Joe and Kris joined us last year and are fitting in well.
"The Maniacal Vale" is my fave album from ESOTERIC. What influenced you at its composition and who is the main author of music?
The creative process varies really. Sometimes the songs are a joint effort, but more often they are written by one member, and then embellished or added to by the other members regarding their own instrument. Sometimes the songs are written as complete arrangements for each instrument by the songwriter. It tends to vary from song to song. The songs are played and experimented with in rehearsal for quite some time before we record them to create the definitive versions. The music is created as an aural painting of what lies within the mind. The atmospheres are created to relive the minds’ experiences or inspiration at various levels. And we are inspired by our emotions and the darker sides of our minds. Gordon and I have been the main songwriters in the band, but Mark and Oliver also contributed a song each to the new album.
After a long time you have released 2CD. Have you know that it will be such long stuff in advance? Do you think next album will be 2CD again?
Yes, we knew that we wanted to record a double CD for the fifth album while we were writing the songs. At least, we always prefer our albums to be long, whether single or double CD releases. I am not sure whether the next album will also be a double CD. It is impossible to predict at this stage, though we have already started writing material for the sixth album. It is certainly quite possible.
How did The Maniacal Vale tour succeed? It's interesting you didn't play in Czech Republic. Do you still remember Slovak gig? Where was the biggest quantum of fans?
Well, we wanted to play in Czech Republic as we always enjoy playing there, but as we knew we were going to play in Czech in August at the Brutal Assault festival we played in Slovakia instead. Yes, we remember the gig in Slovakia of course. It was a good place to play, with a good crowd. The tour was okay overall, we always enjoy playing because the music means so much to us. The timing was not so good, because we were late getting the album released, so we missed some opportunities there, but generally speaking it went well. The biggest audience of the tour was Copenhagen in Denmark, I believe.
Do you think your music fits the festivals? Do you play on festivals?
I am not sure whether the music fits festivals or not, but we tend to play quite a few “all day” gigs with other bands, for example the Moscow Doom Festival, Dutch Doom Day, Belgium Doom night and Ashes to Ashes shows. I think it is good to have some variety of music at a festival, so I don’t see why it wouldn’t work to include Esoteric.
You have had a lot of various guitar effects on the tour. Do you like to play with the sounds? Also the keyboardist has been creating outlandish cacophonous...
We always do our best to reproduce the songs as they are on the albums when playing live, rehearsing, etc. So, of course all the effects have to be used and controlled by us on stage. Every instrument has it’s own effects signals, including keys, vocals, bass and even the drummer has a sampler to trigger alongside his acoustic drums. Creative use of sounds and effects can really enhance the atmospheres within the music.
Six members in one band is really enough. Haven't you sometimes had problems with a place on stage during the tour? Four members are not enough?
Yes, sometimes at smaller venues, we cannot all fit on stage. However, the music is composed for many instruments, so it would be impossible to do what we do with less members and it is important for us to keep everything live on stage.
"The Maniacal Vale" is unbelievably mystic music, sometimes till brutal, hallucinative and psychedelic. How much did help you the drugs?
Drug use has always been present in moderation. Drugs for us, personally, are a tool to heighten sensory perception and inspire the imagination. For me personally, it is something I do that extends my ability to become completely engulfed in the music. Psychotropics have some role in the creation of the music. For some people hallucinogens can offer an introverted journey through the mind that is perceived from a different perspective. Every experience is different, and once you have the experiences you do not have to be in that state to recall what is gained. The enhancement in perception of colour and sound usually associated with certain drugs is a useful tool in sculpting music.
It is in this sense that they are used to further explore and translate the minds’ content into music and sound. The experiences of them are also something that is expressed in the music, where the music becomes a medium for the thoughts, visions and emotions within the mind at various points in time, either whilst having taken drugs or otherwise. The music is a mixture of both. I am not always under the influence of drugs when writing music, and the music deals with many states of mind, not solely drug-induced. But it is inherent, in the sense that it is a part of what we do. It is a catalyst, not a crutch.
Why have you entitled album just "The Maniacal Vale"? What does the cover art express? Who is its author?
The album title was something that I thought over for quite some time before settling on “The Maniacal Vale”. It was not easy to find something that could be fitting as an overall and general meaning. The word “Maniacal” was chosen because it suits the feeling that is quite often present within the music and lyrics - a maniacal intensity that lies within. And “vale” is taken from a middle-English word that is used to mean “a long depression in surface of the land”, which I took for it’s metaphorical value. Its modern meaning is “a valley” or “the world, or mortal or earthly life”. Combining the two words gives a few possible interpretations, all of which are relevant to the album.
Regarding the cover artwork, we basically put out some adverts on the web to look for an artist who might be suited to create something in line with our style of music and also searched ourselves. We chose Kati from many artists who had sent us samples of their work. Her style seemed perfect for us, because it was deep, detailed, dark and very psychedelic, but also versatile and varied in it’s moods. She created the art for our album through listening to it, drawing inspiration from the music, lyrics and her surroundings. She is based in the USA although she is originally from Poland. We are extremely pleased with her work, which is excellent and suits the music and lyrics very well. Also, we owe a lot of thanks to Mauro Berchi (Canaan, Eibon Records) for doing such a great job with the layout and design of the CD booklet. The artwork was created to be representative of the music and lyrics.
Do you believe destiny can be changed, or it exists beyond human abilities to influence? I'm aiming at Order of Destiny song lyric....
I believe that we each have to build our own paths in life. Time, circumstance and the influence of environment and the people in our lives can also affect the path we build. I do not believe in some kind of greater order that decides upon our destiny.
What kind of styles or bands do you listen to besides doom metal? Which PINK FLOYD album you prefer?
You would get a different answer from each band member to this question. Personally speaking, “Ummagumma” is amongst those I prefer most. Though I find it hard to choose. I like to listen to many unique bands, it can be any genre, any form of metal, and anything from classical to dark ambient and everything inbetween. To give an example of some bands, I listen to Unholy, Neurosis, Guapo, Diamanda Galas, The Kronos Quartet, Pink Floyd, Portishead, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Ved Buens Ende, Stravinsky, Beethoven, Stockhausen, Autopsy, King Crimson, Rachels, Shinjuku Thief, Raison D’etre, Bethlehem, GGFH, Dead Can Dance, Canaan, Caul, Death, Slayer, Morbid Angel, Spacemen 3, Winter…The list goes on.
In 1995 you were on small UK tour, but you have to had to cancel tour after two shows. What happened back then?
Well, the van we had hired caught fire while we were in it, driving down the A1 from Scotland into England. So, we had to bail out, but the fire was too strong to get the equipment out, so we lost quite a lot of it in the flames. That made it impossible to carry on with the tour.
Your photos are almost unavailable. Is it important for you to stay in anonymity?
Not so much that we feel the need to be anonymous, but we don’t really like having our photos taken for promotion, etc, because we don’t think our appearance has anything to do with our music. The music is what is important to us, not how we look as people.
I've heard in England is mostly bad, sombre weather. Has it effect at your music? Suppose you like tenebrous weather...??
Sometimes the weather can influence your mood, I guess. But I think it is mostly other direct factors that determine frame of mind. I don’t think it affects our music too much. The weather in England is not that bad. It doesn’t often get extremely hot or cold. It just rains often and is quite changeable and unpredictable.
Why have you such long intervals amongst the albums? Is it sign of funeral doom metal?
No, it has nothing to do with any “genre” for us at least. It is partly because we have actually written and recorded a double album, which takes the same amount of time as 2 albums, really. And secondly, also due to line-up changes, being without a drummer for 18 months before finding Joe Fletcher and then having to replace Steve Peters on guitar with Kris Clayton. Also, the recording process is quite involved, because we are recording so many different sounds and layers of instruments, being a six-piece band that changes the sound of every instrument several times within each song. The music and arrangements are quite complex and intricate. We are not a formulaic band, so it all takes time.
Are you satisfied with Season of Mist? Are you going to stay with them?
Yes, so far things have worked well for us with Season of Mist. We have only just released the fifth album, so we have not even thought about what we might do for the sixth album.
Ok, thanx very much for the interview. Can you add your actual music top 5?
I don’t really have a top 5 if I am honest. I find it impossible to choose so few bands as “favourites”. Music depends so much upon mood and state of mind. Lately I have been listening to Portishead, Neronoia, Unholy, Whelm and Guapo.
Thank you for this interview, Storm. Your support is much appreciated!