Monday, February 3, 2003

Obsequiae Interrogated

HHH: Why was Autumnal Winds ended and Obsequiae started?
BDN: Let's start with the uninteresting history before we explain the name change since I doubt any of your readers remember or have even heard of Autumnal Winds. I started that band when I was in high school with two other friends that were both interested in underground metal at the time. The demos were produced scarcely and not promoted beyond our circle of friends and our immediate correspondence in the underground during that time. We were just young and way too influenced by what was available to us. I think our style and approach changed every week with the arrival of new packages of demos and albums of killer bands we were obsessed with back then. Eventually we developed a focus and sound but it didn't go far beyond that. And when I was the last one standing, I put my remaining ideas together for a the last AW demo called "Venerari Sacra Mysteria" and recorded it myself. Almost immediately after I finished it, I just kind of put it to rest because it was too much effort to do alone and I was more involved with other bands I was playing in back then. Shortly after, I was contacted by a guy around here who got a copy of "Venerari..." and liked it. We became friends and ended up playing music together. We were both pretty distracted by our respective projects and lives then. Eventually we got around to the idea of actually taking time and working together seriously. But it would be ridiculous to say we "revived" Autumnal Winds. I feel that Autumnal Winds as a whole was more like a period of young, developing ideas that would later evolve into what it was meant to be and that vision couldn't have been achieved without the talent, writing and collaboration of Neidhart. His influence on my playing and ways of thinking were profoundly influential on me. He takes music and art seriously and we share the same passion for the underground, so it was natural that we start something that we could call our own. Autumnal Winds was not the predecessor nor the framework to build upon - more or less the kindling that sparked the fire of what Obsequiae has and is becoming. We have our own identity today.
NVR: There have been a couple of other people who have contributed to this music along the way creatively and technically, but Blondel carried forward the Autumnal Winds thing to the point at which it met me. At the time we were separately doing our own material. I was working on some kind of melodic thrash/death metal stuff, but all in its fledgling stages while I trained myself how to write music, play guitar again and make my own recordings. We were befriended through the demo of “Venerari Sacra Mysteriia,” which I found at a local metal record store. We started talking about and listening to music together and played in various live incarnations of things he and I have both written on our own. The Obsequiae thing kind of happened innocuously out of that. He had tons of riffs and some nearly completed songs archived and we started talking about bringing them to fruition. We decided to start with 3 songs from Venerari because I had a technical learning curve to overcome in recording something while playing guitar, drums and bass, it made sense for us to do something that wouldn't be starting totally from scratch. I've always viewed my role as an embellishment. Venerari was quantized electronic drums, I definitely wanted something more organic and melodic on the drums. So we did a fair amount of re-arranging, I re-wrote the drums, added guitar solos and acoustic passages and spent about a year mixing it, so I guess we more than made up for the time we “saved” by doing material that had already been recorded in some form. But it was a good way for us to find a meeting point aesthetically, since we have very different approaches – his is the medieval/Celtic influence in 2 guitar 4ths and 5ths and stream-of-consciousness riffing – mine tends to be more renaissance or baroque in style and more legato. We try to find the balance between those two different styles.
HHH:If you could be making any type of music, is the music of Obsequiae what you would choose to make?
Obsequiae is the only output I have where I'm able to create metal that embodies so many of my influences. When I sit down to play the guitar without any context, the riffs I tend to immediately write are riffs that suit Obsequiae. It seems I can't escape the fact that this really is the core of who I am as a guitarist. The way we write and collaborate is unique. And, as a musician, that is fulfilling. We both recognize that there are a lot of roads to travel as musicians. I enjoy a variety of styles of music and different styles of metal of course. So it is beneficial and important to build on those influences and styles. We both play separately apart from Obsequiae in other bands/projects and I'm sure we always will. It doesn't affect our dedication or attention to this band whatsoever. I have always felt a drive to write dark, harmonious metal.
NVR: We've both proclaimed that Obsequiae is most important, although it is only one of the musics we make. All through the process of mixing the demo I was working on future demos for us or preparing for live performance of that material and it started to feel like a second full time job and too bogged down in technical aspects and not enough creativity. So I came to the conclusion that I definitely need other outlets, and I play drums and guitar in other stuff. We've learned that our experiences outside of Obsequiae help us keep a balance within it though - it all contributes. That extends beyond music too - to life in general. Sometimes my ears and brain need a rest and I need to read a book, watch a film or get some exercise...
HHH: What would it take for you to consider music (or metal) dead?
Perhaps the day interviews are conducted on blogs? Or maybe when crust kids thoughtlessly listen to NSBM, hipsters write extensive articles on black metal almost 20 years after it made its mark and collapsed upon itself when it was given attention and exploited by the media, any 3rd rate thrash from the 90s is now considered authentic and retro, sharing mp3s rapidly is common but the days of writing in your "alternate order" wouldn't even be recognized by today's metal fan, etc. I'm fucking around of course. I really don't care. The internet made all of this convenient. The underground has always experienced sporadic waves of popularity with different gimmicks or inventions. This is no different. Those who were meant to stick around will do just that. The bandwagon will collapse and rebuild itself in time. Extreme subcultures attract people that are extreme - in the sense of emotional extremities. There are a lot of lost, overgrown children who need ideologies laid out for them because they're terrified of the world around them and their own identities. This kind of discouragement can be felt in any community that creates. For music and art to exist, we need extremes. We need minds that can maintain balance and strong art. So long as the will to create is alive - music, art and everything that inspires it will not die.
NVR: Neither will ever die because they're coming from a place inherent in human spirit and creativity. There will always be a minority worthy to carry metal and music forward.
What makes Obsequiae worth making and listening to?
I have no way of answering why it's worth listening to anyone. The people that have made the effort to get in touch with us have been excellent. They all seem to be the kinds of people who appreciate bands we appreciate, recognize and distinguish our various influences and understand our mark on all of it. I'm confident we'll draw in the kind of listeners that were meant to find it.
NVR: The struggle is what makes it worthwhile, in life and in music. As soon as it becomes easy, it's cheap, not worth listening to and not worth doing. As far as listening to us? That's not for me to decide for anyone else.
Are you Blondel de Nesle also a French oil tycoon or is it only Neidhart von Reuental who harvests black gold?
NVR: If by black gold you mean my boogers that turned black from playing in decaying basements, I have long since retired from the occupation. Now I have a practice space. I'm pretty sure it is slowly poisoning everyone who practices there though...
I know you guys are planning an acoustic release. What sorts of themes and inspirations will be visited with this release?
We're working on a medieval release, not an acoustic release. This idea came about early on as we're both invested in this style of music. Renaissance and Classical periods have been implemented in extreme metal (I'm thinking Windham Hell not wanking Shrapnel recording artists or failed "folk metal"). But medieval music is explored less if at all. We're arranging 13th century music from Spain, France & England for Obsequiae. It isn't as far removed from what we currently do as far as working with two-part harmony that develops as it repeats a theme. The only difficult task with medieval music is that most of the music is usually arranged so that rhythm is determined by the prayers or poems from which they're derived. Shifting between so many time signatures, making glorious metal but still authentic to the original works... you can see why this is both intimidating to us just as much as a challenge that we can't afford to not attempt. This is still in the idea stage, although we do have the specific songs selected, so I don't want to curse ourselves should it be too ambitious or we become too immersed in recording our full-length which is nearing completion at the moment.
NVR: Well, we talked initially about making a medieval release that was entirely acoustic, but the path has since changed and we can't really talk about it beyond that because we're still developing the ideas. I can say that it will be authentically medieval in terms of the voicings and rhythms – moreso than that which already happens. There will be some medieval acoustic numbers on the next release, specifically with the nylon-string guitar, which I really like the sound of - akin to the lute which is from renaissance and baroque eras.
How did the "pay what you want" policy go with the digital version of your demo?
We've heard from Marty that several people have bought it. We actually signed with Bindrune Recordings before we even released our cassette and coincidentally Marty was setting up his "digital downloads" around that time. So that's how that happened. We made the covers, dubbed the cassettes but put a Bindrune logo on them to show our early affiliation with the label. But the tapes are getting out there so that's pleasing to hear. I've bought LPs before that have "download coupons" in them where you enter a code and you can download the music if you've already bought the vinyl. I think that's a good idea for those of us who have insane fucking schedules to follow with work, life, etc. As much as I'd like to listen to vinyl all day, it's cool when you can bring it somewhere else on an iPod or whatever. We even received an email from a guy in the Netherlands I think who took our demo to some beautiful landscape he described by a river and wrote to us in detail about his experience listening to our music against the environment.
NVR: Digital mediums have still not evolved to the quality of analog recordings, and they rightly should have by now. That's market driven, which obviously has nothing to do with music or quality. The audio quality of recordings consumed by the average listenership (in the form of MP3's) has been shown to have pretty much the worst fidelity in all of recording history. It's just terrible. But the kids want to cram as much fucking music onto their iPod as they can and don't give a shit about how it sounds. For the stuff posted on our MySpace page and whatnot, I just hope people realize that the quality is abysmal and that its merely a demonstration of a real thing worth buying.

I do think that someone should be able to hear what something sounds like before they commit money to it. And I think that for Bindrune it worked exactly the way we'd hoped – that people still bought the tape. And fortunately most who have bothered have dropped us a nice note to let us know what the music actually means to them and they've obviously invested some real time in it instead of just downloading it and letting it sit on their hard drive with a 4,000 other free albums stripped entirely of their aesthetic.
What do you ask of a person who wishes to wholly grasp your music?
If someone wishes to wholly grasp our music, I would recommend something else in the natural world to assist with the experience. Sit alone or walk alone somewhere without distraction. Our progressions are subtle and detailed and they demand a relaxed and attentive ear. The harmonies typically always repeat themes while constantly changing within the same contemplative feeling as the sections that came before them.
When we make ourselves aware of our surroundings in a familiar natural place, we begin to notice the subtle changes in things - however immediate they might be or otherwise developing over a great period of time. The air becoming lighter from fall to winter, the moisture on leaves, the scents of what is growing and what is dying around us. Not that any of these are essential to a listening experience. This is a personal opinion but I think it's important to anyone who "wishes to wholly grasp our music". The place and the music can become one, defined experience. And one can influence another positively.
NVR: To give it an honest assessment – to find it worthy enough to actively listen to the entire and official release with the lyrics and invest some imagination in where we're coming from - the way it was meant to be experienced. That's a tall order for most people, I think. I know from comments by various people who have heard us that someone is going to appreciate us more immediately if they're familiar with the roads paved aesthetically by the metal underground and darker music in general. Otherwise they're probably just not going to get it. They're either going to say they don't like the production values or the vocals, but they appreciate the musicianship, but the last thing I want people to notice when they listen to us is the “tricky” guitar parts or how fast/slow the drumming is or whatever. We spend a lot of time making Obsequiae the entire package - thinking really carefully about the arrangements, mixes, artwork, lyrics – all of it conceptually. So I guess if we're going to put in that much effort it would be nice for someone to pay attention for an hour.
Why do you play live?
I don't know. It's very difficult, primarily because we don't even really write as a live band and we never have enough time to really get good in that sense. We only do like 2 shows a year with maybe a month of rehearsing, and we have to get the live sound right which has been nearly impossible to convey in a foreign space accurately and instantaneously. We'd almost need all of our own gear and another member to rehearse with us to mix it right. It's also a really a lot to expect other musicians to invest themselves enough in our vision to give what's required to it. We've both been lucky enough to find people who are excited about presenting it live and therefore will rise to the level needed to do it justice. So far we've been pretty lucky to find such dedicated people. This past October we both moved and went through relationship transitions, I had an injury to mend and it just would have been too much. We decided ultimately not to put as much importance on it so we can focus on the creative outlet of writing and recording. Once those demo arrangements are satisfactory, then we'll concentrate on the performance aspect – not just for the sake of playing live, but for the sake of having a good recording that reflects months of intent listening to the demos and the delivery of a song from start to finish that feels organic the way a live band would. That's something we touched on with the demo but have learned how to better mitigate with two people since.

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