Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Graven Sign Interview

1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the band?

SC: We are a metal quintet incorporating dual vocals and dual basses, all of us have other musical projects,  including three of the band who are also in the band Skrugg.   We take the music very seriously but not ourselves which is the ideal for me. Gren came up with the name and first musical ideas,  I wrote lyrics this was about 2008 initially when I was still busy with Niroth and so we kicked those ideas around for a couple of years with a view to building a full band,  like-minded people were discovered before  building the full band we are today.  At first it was more of an 'as and when' side project for us all but has become a much more defined, active band in the last few years. Initially we were to be a more standard black metal band but as we developed the concept,  the lyrics and then the music took on different palettes. We wanted to reject some of the clich├ęs of the genre but keep the harrowing bleakness and violence from black metal,  initially this was just on a visual level, I didn't want the 'black and white trees' thing,  I didn't want the 'medieval forest dweller' thing,  that always seemed a bit at odds with a band playing electric instruments and we started looking for artwork that reflected that. In place of pristine white snow and black twilight trees we wanted the greens and browns of decay, the dirty grey of broken concrete. From that visual idea the rest fell into place lyrically and then musically. Much as I love old black metal with all that other stuff in place, I feel a quiet place of nature without many people like that actually sounds pleasant.  The real horror and grim stuff happens when people are densely packed into modern cities and overloaded with pressure, worry, endless useless information, being at the mercy of corrupt scumbags - that's where the real hate and misanthropy festers, I wanted to reflect that,  or the madness that results from it.  The eventual extension of that greed,  corruption, stupidity etc if unchecked is mankinds demise so we're based around the concept of that,  the causes, the event,  the aftermath. The more 'urban' sounding stuff like Amesoeurs or a lot of DSBM has that and that's a lot of what I listen to these days. Collectively we all love all forms of metal but like the freedom to bring in any element we feel would mesh with our concept without worrying too much if it's 'right' or if others will get it. For example we've covered Kraftwerk’s 'Radioactivity', it made sense to us, we made it metal! we listen to a lot of stuff outside metal,  and aim to translate any elements we see echoing our concept into metal to tie it all together. I like where we're at. We're not constrained by metal or people's expectations of us, but we will always turn disparate influences into metal somehow. I like how Ulver for example have gone in whichever direction they wanted and not worried about BM purists bitching. We wouldn't vary our output as widely as theirs, not leaving Metal completely but at the same time we've created the freedom to do so.

2.Recently you have released an ep, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording?

SC: Bleak, at times violent,  at times mournful, part black metal,  part doom,  with touches of post-rock and more traditional metal. We call it 'post-human' but that's more for the lyrical concepts. I would hope fans of all the genres I mentioned could find something they like in it.

3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the music?

SC: Human stupidity and self-delusion, the end of humanity,  man's role in his own extinction,  a return to a feral state or insanity for the survivors,  nature reclaiming this world from humans. Increasingly the lyrics are written from various perspectives as characters,  which is another way we can vary what we do according to the state of mind of the narrator.  So we can have very bleak despairing songs from those who can't adapt to the world and are at mental and physical breaking point,  we can have very bold triumphant tracks from the perspective of someone who feels they are chosen to bring something about,  a cult leader or similar. Lyrically my influences aren't really from metal at all, maybe a few bands,  My Dying Bride for example. I'm probably more influenced lyrically by people like Nick Cave,  Portishead, Tom Waits - people with a turn of phrase I like, or just random things, dreams I have,  often I'll mishear a line or two of someone else's lyrics and try and write the rest of the song the misheard lyrics would belong in. I do make special efforts not to have what I'd see as generic lyrics.

4.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'The Graven Sign'?

SC: The name was in place when I joined,  I can't add any info as to its origins.

JM: It's the name of an Urgrund album, who are a black/thrash band from Australia. When the writing started for The Graven Sign, I was listening to it and it seemed to fit the feel of what was coming out. As the music and lyrical themes started to develop it fit the band better and better, signifying a number of key elements of the concept - the lasting stain of humanity on the world, the musical eulogy for the world that we create, the impression we aim to leave on our audience...

5.What are some of the best shows that the band has played so far and also how would you describe your stage performance?

SC: We've put on some of our own shows which has allowed us to do things our way and really present the band as we want, those have been fun, lots of smoke,  wasteland debris and glowing liquids etc. I can't really quantify 'best' gigs, some go by the size of the crowd,  for me if I have fun,  we see other bands we like and nobody tries to kill us that's a good show in my book. Performance-wise, we're very much trying to present the idea visually as well as sonically. Grime, blood, shredded clothes,  battered, unusual or home-made equipment,  whatever helps build the atmosphere.  At the same time we don't want to push it to the extent it becomes gimmicky, or the music becomes secondary - or we feel like we're having to explain every last little thing,  the audience must fill in some of the concept themselves to make a connection with it that's their own. We want to give people something extra that they wouldn't get with most bands,  but still keep the focus on performing music without it becoming a circus. There's a very visual side to this band but once our intro tape ends,  BLAM - it's on, our only focus is making the music cut as deeply into your soul as possible. That and not fucking up.

6.Do you have any touring or show plans for the future?

JM: We're planning to hit the road a little more in 2016, trawl through more far flung locations around the UK (further afield if the opportunity arises). However we have made a conscious decision to focus more on getting our next couple of releases recorded and unleashed, so we will probably be a little selective in our gig choice.

7.Can you tell us a little bit more about the deal you have signed with Hibernacula Records?

SC: They have been foolish enough to ally themselves with us and assist with spreading our sonic weapons so we accepted their alliance, as they are run by a genuine music lover for the music rather than money/ego gratification.

8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your music by fans of black and doom metal?

SC: Too early to say as far as the worldwide response.  We've had a good response from our first year of gigging and early response to the EP so either we're doing something right or we're good at finding suitably deluded people to play to the response has been equally good from those who prefer black metal and those who like doom.

9.When can we expect a full length album and also where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?

SC: We have enough material for a full length,  but as for when it might be finished,  I can't say.  We are currently building interest in the band via this EP and possibly an upcoming split. I think the band can go in many musical directions and that's what keeps it interesting and rewarding. By focusing on what is right for the concepts or lyrics we can tie all our songs together coherently but have freedom to take each track into the musical style that it lends itself to.  We don't feel constraints to stick to the rules of any genre but it will always be  expressed as some form of metal, as that is our shared love. So a full album would still be extreme metal,  how similar it would be to the EP I'm not sure. We have a couple of tracks that would definitely go on there but we'd want to present a cohesive album with common threads and atmospheres.

JM: Absolutely, we definitely want our first full length to be right in terms of atmosphere, concept and presentation, so we’re happy to take our time with that. Hopefully our split, for which we have prepared some great material will be unleashed in the first half of 2016. We are also considering another EP before a first album, but if the stars align and we feel like it’s coming together well, a full length will be forthcoming.

10.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?

SC: Well, musically Gren can provide answers on this best as he writes the majority of the music. Personally the bands that made me want to create rather than just listen to this kind of music are bands like In The Woods.., Ulver,  Neurosis and especially Weakling who I think made the greatest BM album of all time in 'Dead as Dreams'. It's hard to overstate the importance of that album to me. Bands that all of us are agreed on would be bands like Agalloch, Primordial,  Katatonia,  that kind of thing.

JM: The early material (some of which is on "transmission #001") was heavily influenced by Agalloch, early Katatonia, Morningside, plus a whole mix of other stuff that bleeds through. As our ideas and writing have developed the sound is growing to incorporate more and more, whilst equally becoming more focused, which is pleasing. This includes more ambient black metal textures, drawn from bands like Wolves In The Throne Room and Weakling, as well as post-rock and avant-garde elements from artists like Amesoeurs and possibly Ulver. I could go on endlessly frankly because I believe elements of everything we listen to eventually find their way into the music.

11.What are some of your non musical interests?

SC: Obviously all things post-apocalyptic appeal,  movies, books, and immersion in virtual worlds  has been useful to the realisation of the bands concept. Poking around abandoned buildings to get the feel of the world we're creating.  Personally I'm also interested in photography, martial arts and fascinated with old vehicles and machines.

12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?

SC: I'm afraid I won't have any final words until I'm about to die.

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