Quite a rare experience: you more or less accidentally stumble over a release of a completely unknown band and it totally blows you away. Exactly that happened to me recently when I discovered Australian Ne Obliviscaris and their debut CD “Portal Of I”. As I struggled with words to describe my impression of the music, the atmosphere, what´s going on, I take the easy way out and have vocalist Xenoyr himself explain everything about the band and their sound.
First, congratulations for this awesome album Portal of I – it seems you got quite positive response throughout, and a STALKER 10/10. So perhaps could you introduce yourselves (all of the band members)?
Thank you for the support and the great review that STALKER did, a nice surprise. Overall things have been very positive and supportive for us; it really has been overwhelming to say the least. No complaints here.
So to introduce us; Tim Charles is our beaming light on violin and clean vocals, Dan Presland is our workhorse of a drummer, our bassist is the golden child Cygnus, Matt Klavins provides the rhythmic core on guitar, our leading lad on guitar is Benjamin Baret, and I provide the word-smithing and the harsh vocals.
How did you guys meet each other and come up with the idea for this band?
I started the band in April 2003 with a friend (bassist), and then advertised for 2 others, a drummer and guitarist (who are all no longer in the band), we wanted something dark and melodic, something that wasn´t really done in Australia. Black metal was the main influence, yet we had our thrash, doom, gothic influences also, it was a weird hybrid that worked for a while. Tim I found on a music forum and the other guys all came along in tow over the years by finding them through other bands or through friends etc.
How did this style develop? What are your musical roots and influences?
We all range broadly across the musical spectrum, from our influences to our education. As with most bands, our style has developed with the line-up changes we´ve had, each person contributes their own influences…and we see where that can take us. I grew up listening to a lot black metal so obviously I´m quite influenced by that scene, but on the other hand, Tim, he grew up with a classical background, so we´re a bit of everything really.
How did you come up with the band name – is there a story behind it? And what is the story behind the pseudonyms Xenoyr and Cygnus?
It means ´forget not´; Ne Obliviscaris is the motto from the Scottish Campbell clan. The band name needed to be something that resounded with people, something that people could add their meaning to, a personal attachment of sorts. ´Forget not´ ultimately can symbolise where you´ve come from to who you are, or to celebrating the life of a lost loved one…it´s all up to the individual.
We have our own personal reasons as to choosing a pseudonym, mine helps with ´general´ privacy and it´s a reflection on my creative process, to me it means ´strange darkness´, I get so absorbed into things when I create I forget about other things around me…a lot of the time it´s dark where I go. Regarding the pseudonym ´Cygnus´; he´s very influenced by all things cosmic (his head is always up in space), I´m sure it relates to the specific constellation, but he´ll probably clarify that at some point.
How do you write your music, is it teamwork, and where do you get your inspiration from?
We write music as a “team”, this allows everyone´s input, so therefore it´s everyone´s band. No one is left out and we won´t finish the song until we´re all content with the end result. Generally we´ll start with a riff and jam it at rehearsal to see where it leads, it all flows from there…sometimes its successful sometimes not, but it needs to feel natural. As a band we´re inspired by each other.
What are the lyrics about (as the promo download doesn´t contain any) – is there a connecting theme, is this a concept album? What inspires you, Xenoyr?
The album isn´t a concept album, but to people it can be in a sense, it´s a journey. Each song explores the abstract and surreal, but at the same time being based around ideas of self discovery and acceptance, evolution, nature, light, and darkness. My themes appear dark but they all end up having a positive message…negativity is poison.
I´m inspired by a lot of things, life in general but breaking it down; the writings of Shakespeare and Milton, and philosophers, I´ve an unhealthy interest on old world history particularly on epidemics, diseases and general threats on humanity, art is also a passion of mine; especially from the masters of old like Breugel, Bosch, Durer, Dore, Goya etc and modern artists like Beksinski and Giger, I´m also inspired by old movies, nature, music etc…I´m more of an introvert in the end so I tend to spend a lot of time “in my head”, thinking and absorbing things around me. Our brain is there to be used and challenged.
Why did it take so long to release this album? Was it only because of Benjamin´s immigration problem mentioned on your website? How did you deal with the frustration that the debut album was “on hold” for so long?
We joke about writing a book about the band with all the obstacles/delays we´ve had…it´s a long story really, but I´ll be short. As generally every band goes through line-up changes we´ve had our fair share; after our old lead guitarist left a few months after we released our demo in 2007, it took us into 2008 until we got Benjamin from France. Regarding the immigration issue, after being in and out of the country for a year or so, and amidst recording the album, we applied for long term visa (distinguished talent), which was denied when he was waiting overseas in France, we then appealed the decision and won, but that whole process took around 18 months of hard work and a lot of support from fans, friends, musicians, promoters etc. We started recording the album in October 2009, and in that time apart from the immigration issues; we had family tragedies, health issues, and just general bad luck. Last 3 years we´ve have given us some of the best and worst experiences in our lives, there has been blood, sweat and tears…there were times where we had doubts about our future and we almost thought that ´Portal of I´ would never be released, but we kept at it, we kept encouraging one another…and for me personally there was no chance in hell I would waste 9 years of my life for nothing…heaven would have to burn first. When you dedicate so much of yourself to something you believe in, all other options go out the window.
Pretty weird article I read recently, that Australia plans to put all illegal immigrants on an island… how “real” is this project, do you know anything about it? Anyone of you also active in politics, “occupy” movement or sth? (maybe you should, your protest initiative was pretty effective :D)
Ah yes, the “boat people” issue, it´s a big agenda within Australia that´s always being talked about. Personally I dislike politics and don´t dabble in it at all, but I know that Australia needs to work these issues out a lot better. Ask Tim on the other hand, and prepare yourself with a comfortable chair and a bottle of red, ha. If he wasn´t a musician, he´d be a politician.
And there was also a change on the drum seat – the info I got mentioned Nelson Barnes, now it´s (again) Dan Presland -- what happened?
Yes, Dan left after we recorded the album, for personal reasons, we then recruited Nelson shortly afterwards (from The Schoenberg Automaton), he´s an outstanding drummer and a very genuine guy, but our style is certainly quite different, and travel interstate for rehearsal and shows was ultimately not ideal for either party. Dan expressed interest in coming back to us and in the end nothing was better than the original chemistry we had. So, here we are a unit once more.
You just played at Progfest – how was it?
Progfest in Melbourne was great, fantastic vibe from the crowd, good energy on stage…it felt right. The prog crowds are obviously a little more open-minded and accepting than other genres I think, so we made some new fans (perhaps we lost some too ha), but ultimately if you make at least one fan, it´s worth it. It felt good to be playing to a few different people this time than the normal metal crowd. Sometimes you worry that being one of the only metal bands on the bill will affect the turn out…but on this occasion I believe it intrigued people more. Apart from playing, we got a chance to see other bands we wouldn´t normally get to see…
How many Prog-bands are there, is this now the most popular genre in Australian Metal scene?
Prog music in general is quite large and still growing, but prog metal bands are few and far between, it´s not as popular as other genres.
What´s the Australian scene like, are there different scenes in different areas?
I don´t think we have different areas for different scenes really, I think we´ve a good mix in most areas; we simply don´t have the population for much division. The Australian metal scene is constantly growing now, mainly due to a few breakout bands in recent years and I feel that the quality of material is improving. We´re being noticed more internationally now…and just like the Australian way of life; it has been slow progress!
Besides AC/DC the bands that come to my mind are Vanishing Point, Sunset Riot and As Silence Breaks (reviewed/interviewed by STALKER) – which other bands would you recommend to check out?
Off the top of my head; Virgin Black, sleepmakeswaves, Arbrynth, A Million Dead Birds Laughing, Arcane, and Katabasis.
There´s a lot of things popping up in your mind (as European) when hearing “Australia” -- Red Rock, Aborigines culture, Kangaroos, Koalas, Crocodile Dundee, Mad Max, AC/DC, deserts with opal mines, beaches, surfers and shark attacks, a weird accent and lots of beer. What is the cliché about Australia you find the most annoying (doesn´t have to be one of the mentioned)?
Ha, probably most of them I find annoying…but they´re actually all true. Having kangaroos in our backyards is a cliché that annoys me, we simply don´t (and personally I wouldn´t want to; as I believe beautiful creatures like that need to be completely free). I strongly dislike the Australian accent too though, it sounds lazy and bland and I´ll dig my own grave before I ever develop that accent. “G´day mate”…revolting.
As most musicians cannot live on “being musician” alone, what are you doing besides music?
Apart from music, I have a very full life and schedule. I have a fulltime time job during weekdays, but I also do graphic design (mainly band artwork like album covers etc), I do photography, and I´m in the process of writing a book. As you say, it´s rare for a musician to survive without having another source of income, so all these things I´m trying to build up so that I´ll be able to work for myself eventually, which will give me more flexibility for being a musician also.
What are your goals, dreams, what do you want to achieve with your music/the band?
What I want to achieve with music is what most musicians do, they want to be able to make records and tour the world, and somehow be able to survive financially from that. Whether that´s possible is another story, we have to be realistic, that´s why we all need things to fall back on (as stated in last question). I don´t think a lot of people grasp the amount of sacrifice and effort musicians put into their craft.
What are your live shows like? What´s the perfect venue/show for you?
Our live shows are…passionate, to describe in one word. The stage is how we all let out how the music feels to play, but for a better idea you´ll have to ask our fans what their thoughts are. The perfect show would have to be playing alongside some of our favourite bands…don´t ask me where, each venue can have its pros and cons…I´ll take a European festival anyday though.
Do you have a weird /absurd story to tell, e.g. about mishaps at a gig/tour?
Our tours are generally absurd and most stories wouldn´t really be appropriate on a public forum, haha, we´re an uncouth lot. There was an amusing mishap at our show on Oct 13th with the supporting band before us. Their drummer fell ill during their last song and vomited everywhere…so our drummer had to sit through the heat and stench for over an hour…not impressed!
If you could freely choose a band to tour with, who would it be, and why?
If I could resurrect them, it would be Emperor. Their music is so poetic, complex, atmospheric, and basically everything I want in a band, they take all the best elements to make something so dark and majestic. If we´re talking about a currently active band though, I would say Satyricon…I just need to see them play ´Walk the Path of Sorrow´ live again!
What are your plans in the (near) future? Coming to Europe maybe?
Firstly, for the rest of 2012 we´ll be doing shows throughout Australia and we´ll continue writing songs for the next album. In 2013 we´re looking at touring overseas, and yes Europe will definitely be on the cards. At this stage we don´t have anything concrete to say, but in the coming months we´ll have more of an idea…and finally we´re looking at hopefully recording our 2nd album towards the end of 2013 for perhaps an early 2014 release.
”Famous last words?”
Thank you for the interview and best of luck with STALKER, and to the fans; thank you for the continuing support, we´ll see you all on tour.