Thursday, September 16, 2010
Conversation with Immortal Empire
I do this mainly for the artists and those of us who really give a fuck about the music so some of these might appear on Metal Maniacs eventually, but due to the lenghty wait for them to post on that site I'll be posting them here as well. This solo black metal artist came to me and has been receiving praise throughout the underground for his compositions and rightfully so as this stuff is definitely old school classic bm the way we still love it.
(note) This conversation is casual and shows my usual griping about something, although it's actually not in reality, it just reads that way so view it as sarcasm and don't dwell on it as much as the info given and be sure to check the links out at the end to hear his work.
DOTDR: I was so thrilled when you found me, in fact the more I write reviews and such it seems that the better artists come out of the shadows and I get to work with them. I'm completely surprised that so much good metal, in terms of black metal, is coming out of England these days, although it was sort of the birthplace of metal and has always been a huge exporter of extreme music in all of the styles that I dig, so how's it over there being a solo black metal artist that has managed to continue releasing truly dark and haunting sounds since 2002?
Immortal Empire: Hi, well thank you very much!
This all started off with just having a few ideas that didn't go with my other bands, even though I have always been in metal bands of this sort, my ideas were different and to be honest I don't think anyone (including me) really understood where I was going with them, I just knew I wanted dark and atmospheric and that was it.
Immortal Empire never really started officially until I had stopped playing with other bands in 2008, I came up with the name in 2002 when I decided I wanted to start a solo project and from then it was slow due to commitments for my other bands.
I write stuff with a live set in mind, for example I would plan out each part and as I have played just about every instrument in my bands it helped me to do this.
A lot of solo Black Metal artists don't seem to think about their material purely as a band and just go and record their bits and leave it as that just because it is a solo project (I did at first), but to me really, a recording is supposed to demonstrate what it would be like played live and I've known some people to record something that ends up totally impossible to recreate live. There are so many solo Black Metal artists around these days and I have only just realized the amount looking on Myspace etc. There are way too many for the slightest amount to be realized, but then again some people think it is "true" to be a lost shadow in the underground and lots of them state "looking for label" , but personally I think if you can get somewhere with your passions then it could be done, but due to the masses of bands now, getting anywhere is a long road.
I will continue to look for members for live sets again as playing live is definitely a reward, but again… if it did start to be a band, I would have to be the main decider on the music and I have my personal touches that would need to be understood.
DOTDR: I totally agree with you about the oversaturation of solo bands, I see a lot of it with the drone doom type stuff, which I’m not even a fan of myself, it has to be something truly worthwhile like Fleshpress where it’s a weird almost psychedelic and dark ambient nightmare-scape. I love doom …it’s a weakness of mine, but most of drone metal is just disposable overall and only a few good acts that are rooted in other metal styles can pull it off well.
As for the black stuff, the rawness and adolescent angst that defined the early stuff made it easy for people to just grab an instrument and bang around on it and then call it something like “cult” black metal, but what they fail to realize is that those bands developed and very quickly into the standards we hold others to today, where many of these random acts don’t do it for me period. If these people read up on the old school and actually listened closely to some of the current raw bands that get my foaming at the mouth because they are so awesome like: Prosanctus Inferi, Profantica, Vomitor, Perversor, and even more ethereal stuff like Brown Jenkins , Velvet Cacoon, and Xasthur, they’d see that it’s not just putting something out, there’s a definite melody and/or rhythm and true atmosphere created that makes these acts strong even if the overall sound is lo-fi. There’s a very bold and wide line between say: early Darkthrone, Burzum (although that really is the cut off), Celtic Frost, Satyricon, early Bathory, and what many try to emulate these days, so it shouldn’t be so hard to really miss the distinction between crap and respectability.
So anyway, how's it that really strong acts like yourself are unsigned? There's a few others that are unsigned that I'm working with currently (Ebonmillumini being one) and the level of talent can be substantially greater then when compared to much of the stuff being released by labels, it’s sad to a certain degree. But on the other hand there are also many who choose to stay independent which is the way to go I say, depending on what you really want out of it in the end.
Immortal Empire: I have been asked lots of times by small labels to work with them and many of them are based in places that I didn't even know existed! I am very weary of that sort of thing. I also get approached with emails, etc. by people from companies that claim to be distributers but I have heard so many stories about people getting screwed that way and really only the big bands seem to get the right support so I just carry on as I am.
The benefits of being signed and having CD's produced (for me) would be the funding (having someone do the producing and distributing and paying for recording and advertising). It gets expensive on your own and the first few CD's will always be of a poorer quality sound, but as more merchandise gets sold I save it for better equipment and for better recordings. I do spend lots of hours printing off CD's and sometimes I get so many people ordering stuff that I just lose track and get muddled up with what's been sent out. Advertising takes all year to save for! I suppose if I really wanted to I could find some slaves to take care of these operations so to be honest I would definitely consider a decent label and it would probably give me even more drive as well as help. But, I do cope and I am content in doing things myself, as it is very rewarding although you never know what will happen in the future.
DOTDR: The whole reason that I started Defecation on the Divine Radio was to create a site that gave good labels that put out my favorite stuff a free place to advertise on and also to show support for the true artists through reviews and the webstream. It’s been a year now and at many points feels like I’m getting my wisdom teeth yanked out again, but this time with no anesthetic and done with a pair of household pliers and brute strength. Every other week I want to flush it because some asshole label won’t work with me because they think that writing reviews for them is asking for a handout, some band wants a review and /or interview and then never sends the files in an email or mails the disc and even worse…I spend hours writing up an interview for them and it never comes back, I really can’t stand bullshit period regardless of whose crap it is. I also can understand frustrations on the side of labels as well as bands/artists because you really never know who’s what and it just takes time and caution to get through it all, but no matter what there’s always someone out there looking to screw someone over. Plus, these days there’s really no new band that is good enough to shit on other people like many do, but the ego is too strong for so many.
When you came my way and I checked out the audio on your page, which I obviously liked, I also saw that you have had some pretty positive reviews from Terrorizer and Zero Tolerance, not bad for a solo indie project in a crowded pond. So what is it actually like in the routine and creative process of DIY? Are there any words of advice, encouragement or discouragement to others considering the same route?
Immortal Empire: There are so many Black Metal solo artists about nowadays which makes it harder for each one to achieve success in the industry, but it is also something that incompatible people and loners can do. It is freedom to create and it is taking care of everything the way I want to and there is nobody to say, "that bit sounds wrong".
On the other hand, a lot of the time (in just about every track) I delete parts, I alter parts and change my mind about the feel of bits and change guitar bits for keyboard bits and vise-versa and sometimes a track will totally transform into a totally different song by the end of it. I've never had a plan in mind and stuck to it. Sometimes I do destroy a whole lot and start again if it don't go right and I have recorded tracks and left them to be forgotten because they didn't seem good enough and found them later and thought, “I like them now”.
The reviews though have been very positive and there is always concern at the thought of a bad review, which may come in time. The songs end up like your children, in the fact that you create them and then send them out to the world to be ripped apart. It is very exciting to see your review in a magazine as a solo artist and most reviews that I have had have made me feel that I have accomplished something once more that I was born to do and it has been accepted- that is a satisfying feeling!
I read a lot of the reviews and feel very lucky and also very sorry for some bands as the reviewers can be absolutely relentless and if they are not feeling in the mood for listening to a certain band, then the band is gonna get it! I have been lucky so far but that is also where it is good to have the chance to get a track on the covermount CD so the listeners can judge for themselves and having that chance is a goal in its self too!
There should be more reviews coming up, I think one in Zero Tolerance is next month.
DOTDR: I know how you feel about putting something out there with the chance of having your pound of flesh and liter of blood tossed around or devalued by some stranger. It happens to me in the chemistry thing, you will always have to prove your point and fight egos and moods, including you own, but at least there you have a saving grace that if the data is good people can only argue so much against your presentation. You can also misrepresent the data and that gets ugly really quickly too as you make an ass out of yourself for not for “not knowing what the hell you’re presenting, yet you got those results”, sort of like writing a prize winning novel and not knowing how to read.
I find reviews to be a mixed bag myself, so many put them out there, but they don’t always listen to the album or look into that style or the bands info. Prior to doing so and it weakens the review. If it’s out of my league, or like half of the new Moribund releases… I know Hacavitz and Godless Rising by name, but am not familiar enough with their sounds to feel fully confident reviewing those albums regardless of how much pressure is applied by the PR company to get them done so I haven’t yet.
As you pointed out already, there are so many bands period that even ones like I have just mentioned who put out solid stuff just don’t come my way are sadly one of thousands until someone directs me that way or I just find it on my own.
I’ve also bought my fair share of disappointments based on wrong reviews, I’ve also seen many like most in Decibel that rarely give really solid albums better than a 7 but will rank some juvenile stoner thing like Torche as a 10, I love some of the heavier and better stoner stuff as well, but that band and Floor just don’t work for me and I don’t see the hype in it myself.
I put my full efforts and hours into everything that I do, and it’s not easy to listen to music all day everyday and analyze it, it takes a lot out of me, but in the end it does become worth it when I find that awesome sound and also help a band out who deserves it. I guess it’s safe to say that nothing worth having is easy regardless of what you choose to do, but as this is about Immortal Empire and not my rambling on about everything else under the damn solar sphere, although it’s hard not to get off subject when things really strike a note, talk about what releases you have out, anything that's currently in the works and general info on where we can get some of your stuff?
Immortal Empire: The first CD to be completed was the demo, “Between Necropoliptic Realms”. I made the word “Necropoliptic” up with the words "Necro" and "Apocalyptic". I also have used this idea to create a few words that I have used in songs. The CD really is just demo versions of “Nocturnal (Cursed Rites)” and “Mist of Centuries” along with a couple of "airy" dark ambient tracks. This was also a home recording and really a test run for recording from home.
The next CD was one that kept changing it's title- “Beneath Frozen Forests”, and “Howling Skies” or formerly- “I Await or something similar”, back in 2006 and has been slightly re-mastered and revisited in 2009 to be worthy of releasing. This CD was actually the first plans of Immortal Empire and includes the tracks “Benight the Howling Horde (which was the revisited track)”, “Dark are the hours”, and “I Await (The Ravishing and Flame Adorned)”, which the last two were formed using the first ever ideas I had for my solo stuff that I didn't want to waste.
In the winter of 2009 I recorded the self-titled album. I had stopped playing in other bands by this time as people tended to lack commitment, and not having enough members to do things right and drummers were always very few in these parts, and one drummer always had at least two bands going already and could never fully commit so I concentrated on my own stuff.
In November 2008 I saw a message from Terrorizer asking for a track to be put on the “Terrorizer Unsigned CD”, so I re-recorded the two tracks from the 2005 demo (which were my personal favourites) to submit and I used my new ideas to create the rest of the album. These tracks were heavily influenced by Hammer Horror films and put together with poems/lines that I had written. There are some main parts of this CD that were influenced by classical music too. That CD was written and recorded within two months which was quite an achievement as far as recording goes!.
The next CD was the latest EP. titled , “A New Darkness Begins”, which was a more experimental one with different tunings and a more varied use of lyrical concepts including writers such as: Tolkien, Lovecraft and very old poetical works (Not too many direct influences I must say but more so of language use). The main body of literature was still the old horror films and fantasy (Satan, Witchcraft, and one thing I am always including -Vampirism, all things from a fantasy point of view). This has six tracks: an intro, an outro, and four main tracks. The outro track I had put into a visual piece that was a short video of walking amongst an impressive early morning snow-filled local graveyard in mid-Winter, which is also on the Myspace page.
I am currently in the process of writing a new album, which is a little heavier and a little faster. Elements of old and new are there and with the personal touches that I have become accustomed to it will definitely be recognized as Immortal Empire.
There are CD's and t-shirts for sale on the Myspace site and occasionally there is some stuff available on eBay but generally if I get an email asking for stuff I'll give a Paypal address and use Paypal.
DOTDR: Wow, you have quite a catalogue going so far!!!!!
And as mentioned already, you've been around as a strong solo act for some years now, so do you think you'll keep it going? I think it'd be worth it.
Immortal Empire: Definitely, for as long as I am still able to play!
DOTDR: I miss being able to play, I just don’t have the time these days, but I have nice equipment.
Aside from dark literary inspirations, mentioned earlier, what are some of the bands that you find yourself inspired by, even if you don't try to sound like them per se but want to create a certain feel and experience in the track that you produce? I'm completely obsessed with Italian Doom/Horror/prog stuff and kraut rock obscurities, and have a beautiful 5-string jazz master bass that never gets used to do groove along with that stuff .
Immortal Empire: To me, music is all about atmosphere… something to be immersed in. I have been inspired by a lot of different things and I think a wider scope is better for development and finding a personal style. With music, I have interest in progressions / changes / certain patterns especially diminished or classical sounding. I think as I've developed my own techniques I don't find myself looking for inspiration from others as much as I did.
Some of the bands that I have listened to in the past and recently that I have admired for energy and atmosphere are bands like: Theatres des Vampires (early years and especially live), the ruggedness of bands such as Possessed and Desaster(for the AngelWhore album), the older Hecate Enthroned with their heavy synth sound and bands such as: My Dying Bride, Creaming Jesus, The Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend, Cinema Strange and Wolfsheim; all for their personal strong atmospheres and dark tones.
No doubt I will have some sound changes in the future but it won't stray too far from what it is now.
DOTDR: I’m a huge Alien Sex Fiend fan, I really dig a lot of the old post punk/dark.death rock stuff like ASF, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Siouxsie and the Banshees, all of the early forms of The Cult including Theatre of Hate.
I also saw that you are on ReverbNation, a lot of great bands do a lot on there, but I've never asked about how well it works. I have an account but I haven't used it, is it at all worth the extra effort for or is it another free site for bands to throw away valuable time on and still be one diamond among millions of turds?
Immortal Empire: (laugh) Personally I think if you have the time then like any site -yes, it is all good promotion and advertising. ReverbNation is kind of an all in one control panel for all of your music sites as you can link all of your profiles/sites up to keep an eye on the overall progress. I don't know a lot about how it works yet but the good thing with this site optionalit the things like widgets and the media player that you can paste into any profile on the net and I haven't yet done it but you can get your tracks made onto professionaly made CD's to order including booklet/inlay etc. The site deserves credit, you can see which band is in what position in the local and worldwide charts (I had been number two in the Eastern region for quite a while until The Rotted crept up and took it though that was inevitable, I'm happy at number three:) and as it is worldwide there's bound to be benefits if used correctly because the intention of this site is mainly for putting stuff about not just on the site.
DOTDR: I’ll have to reset my account and update it for the website, I just have so little time that even that small effort can be a drain. Then again, the more people who read and hear about the great stuff out there more support will start to show, and that’s what I do it for. I also do a lot with power electronic/neo-folk/dark ambient/post industrial stuff on that site as well as metal so it has a great mix of obscurities as well.
As for the interview part, that's pretty much it for me, is there anything you'd like to add?
Immortal Empire: Yes, thank you very much, I kind of plan Immortal Empire one year at a time, I take the first part of the year experimenting and writing and the end of the year recording. I have drafted out the new album for maybe the start of next year. Setting deadlines never works for me so I will always say "the end of the year or start of next year" but keep an eye out for progress on the Myspace page and there are some compilation CD's coming up that will include some Immortal Empire tracks on so that too will be posted on Myspace page and most probably be for sale there too.
Cheers! and thanks too to anybody that reads this far:)
DOTDR: Thanks so much for the great responses and insight into what you do, it interests the hell out of me as I never went into seriously making music due to my never having the drive or opportunity and love to hear the inside info on what REALLY goes on. It really sheds light on what really goes on and that to me is just as important as squawking about an album for 10 lines.
Immortal Empire info,contact, and audio samples: