The music of When Bitter Spring Sleeps has gone through a lot of transformations. In the beginning, the purpose was to commune ritually with Nature while performing live in the forest. The first recordings were extremely archaic, and the general view seems to be that the background sounds were too loud in comparison to the music. But, that was entirely the point. WBSS was demonstrating that the sound of Nature IS music. And it is MORE important than the music created by humanity. Over time, WBSS recordings transformed to using a lot of nature sounds to very little. The latest album "Spirit in Flames" uses only a few nature interludes to set the stage for it's musical folk tales. Whereas past songs were mainly expressing my personal feelings about the failures of humanity to respect nature as our equal, the songs on both "Spirit in Flames" and "Coven of the Wolves" center on a Pagan / Heathen rebirth and spirituality. Some of these songs are an original folk tale of a tribe of wolves bred by a vengeful and magickal outcast to bring about the downfall of man.
2.You have a new album coming out this month, how would you describe the musical sound that is presented on the recording and also how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
Powerful, but not overproduced. I wanted it to sound like a good quality black metal demo where each instrument is clearly heard. Overall, I wanted this to be about the SONGS and not the performance of the instruments. The drums are intentionally old-school thrash/punk beats. I love double-bass, but it just doesn't fit in my music. Also, I love guitar solos, but I'm not that great of a guitarist, so I focus on memorable riffs. Colin Marston did a great job with the mastering. He took my mix and made it really strong. In the past, I wanted WBSS to be very murky, with intertwining elements that alternately swim in and out of the mix and I wanted you to have to strain to hear each part to the extent that your imagination has to fill in the melodies. Like Paysage D'hiver.
3.When I listened to the album you had a lot of raw black metal riffs but only use clean vocals instead of screams, what was the decision behind going into this direction?
Though I personally love the sound of screams in black metal and always will, I felt that the lyrics of WBSS songs needed to be clear. Many listeners will never purchase the CD, so the lyrics would be lost on them without clean vocals. While many black metal acts want to sound mysterious and obscure, I respect that, but the purpose of WBSS is to express the concepts as plainly as possible. And always, I want to be unique. Clean vocals with black metal has not yet been overdone.
4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you explore with your newer music?
The main focus of the lyrical concept is that humanity needs to change it's attitude toward nature from one of ownership to one of honor and respect. I wanted this album to express a feeling of hope and a challenge to have the strength to change.
Since I've always appreciated songs that have a story, the folk tale of the wolves is used to portray a pagan rebirth and the downfall of man as ruler of Earth. In the story, when the wolves are freed by their master, they set events in motion that bring about the end of modernity. The songs show the annihilation of nature through a wolve's eyes. They reveal that the wolves' Matriarch - an alpha female - can burn away anything she touches. The wolves use her powers to their strategic advantage. "Raven in the Ribcage" is based on scientific fact. Even the native americans knew that wolves and ravens share a symbiotic relationship. Ravens follow wolves to the kill, since they know there will be a meal involved. Likewise, wolves look for ravens to reveal a fallen animal from a distance. The song takes this concept further by postulating that the wolves believe that a raven is actually the soul of fallen wolves transformed. They believe the raven can fly between this life and the Summerlands, or afterlife. The atmospheric songs equate the wolves' fears and longings with our own: What is the purpose of our suffering? Why is our world being ruined?
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'When Bitter Spring Sleeps'?
I wanted to anthropomorphise the season of Spring. Most people see Spring only as a joyous time of regeneration for ourselves. But, what if Spring can feel? Doesn't it breathe and sleep? WBSS also described a similar idea in the song "what the Rain Knows": the world seen through the eye of a drop of rain.
6.At one time the musical project was a duo but now only has one member, are you open to working with other musicians again on the project or do you prefer the solo route?
At one time members of S.A.P. were providing various inputs, vocals and drums. Now it is entirely a solo project. I'm actually open to working with other musicians. Our various work schedules make it very difficult, of course.
7.You have ran 'Pagan Flames Productions' for many years can you give us an update on what is going on with the label these days?
The label has been a major part of my life for a lot of years. It's always been a tremendous amount of work for very little pay. However, I have discovered so much great metal, and met so many amazing artists and labels over the years that there's no way I could ever give it up. It's really exciting to work with groundbreaking bands like Njiqhadda and also to see Panopticon rise to international fame. Though, I was also relieved to have another fine label like Bindrune step in for Panopticon as his fan base is rabid for his music. Austin is still a great friend, but I just couldn't keep up with him, haha! As soon as those LPs sold out, I found myself with so much spare time, I thought I might as well start writing some new music.
In the future, Pagan Flames has some very underground, very pagan and nature-oriented releases planned. I'm always looking for new acts to release, but I'll probably focus on expanding the distro in the coming years instead of expanding the label.
8.On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer music by fans of pagan and black metal?
I don't follow the internet news too much, and I doubt my music will have too great an appeal because of the raw recordings. So, I can't even guess at that. Whenever I hear modern releases from any of the bigger labels, I can't believe the ridiculous over-production put into the metal albums. They sound impossible! They have a hundred guitar tracks and the drums are inside your head. I like albums that sound raw and grimy and mean and that has never been much of a selling point for music. Since I grew up hearing low cost, low quality recordings, it just sounds right to my ears.
9.What is going on with your other musical projects these days?
S.A.P. is the only other semi-active project. We have a completed EP that we have yet to mix and release, but no new material has been composed for some time.
10.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician in the future?
I've starting writing new songs already for another album and they are already more melodic than previous works. I want to incorporate more guitar synth in the songs, but otherwise it will always be some form of underground metal. Either black metal or doom metal, or both. I have experimented a lot with ambient and atmospheric music, but it is always to accompany the metal aspect.
11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
I listen to metal almost exclusively. I grew up on thrash metal and death metal. I went to sleep every night for years listening to Possessed "Beyond the Gates" - one of my all time favorite albums. A lot of Dark Angel and Kreator, too. In the 90's I was obsessed with doom like Solitude Aeturnus, Trouble, and Skepticism. Lately, I listen to mostly new underground black metal and classic metal like Accept, WASP, Lizzy Borden. The new underground bands are really great at coming up with amazing atmospheres, the old bands are better songwriters. Of course, it should be obvious that I really like Primodial. He is my favorite vocalist in modern metal. I respect their very straightforward songwriting and style. They don't try to be someone they aren't. And if you see them live, you would follow them into war.
There's so many great bands today, I never get tired of metal. There are a thousand new bands every day, it seems, I just wish I had the time to listen to them all!
12.How would you describe your views on Paganism?
I proudly call myself Pagan. It's more of a worldview for me. Everything is connected in a natural way, a cycle that regenerates itself. I believe that we are all part of this great organism called the Earth, and for a short time, we are separate enough to have our own self-awareness, but when we die, we'll return to become once more a small part of the whole. I also have no problem with understanding nature from a scientific perspective. Science and technology is only dangerous when it is used to replace nature. Nature is perfect, and can't be improved upon. If only we could accept that and learn to be more symbiotic with nature, then our species might start to evolve again.
13.What are some of your non musical interests?
Growing my own food, and electronics repair. I spend a lot of time outside planting. In the beginning, it was literally to return to my pagan self. When your fingers are in the soil and you can smell the earth, you are one with nature. After all, soil is where we came from and where we will return. There's an incredible magic in the soil. It can turn a seed into a tree. My interest is electronics, though it may seem strange to someone who considers himself pagan, but I see it in a different way. Electronics are simply our attempt to emulate nature's machines. Unfortunately, most of our technology fails in this respect, since it can neither restore or replicate itself like nature. Carl Sagan told us in his last book, that every man must understand technology in detail, or it will be used to control you. If you can understand how technology works and repair it, then you are the master. And, hopefully, no one believes that black metal artists live in castles and record their music with magic. It takes a bit of self-education and technology to record an album on your own. I started repairing things to keep my small studio functioning with little cost.
14.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
I have both great apprehension and hope for the future of this world. I feel that I am haunted by a macrovision. I don't claim to have higher insight. But, I tend to see things as just parts of larger events. Though you have to focus on small tasks each day to achieve larger accomplishments, we as a species need to start looking at our own behaviors and how those will affect the future. Every small thing we do can have an impact on nature as a whole. And even if we think nature is only here to serve us, we had better learn to nurture it or we doom ourselves as well. My decision to give all profits to Defenders is not to be confused with a xtian act, but to support the survival of one of the most intelligent and beautiful species on earth, the wolf. I figured black metal fans would be honored to support this cause, since the wolf is sort of our spirit animal. They live like every day is their last, they protect their own, and have a great understanding of themselves and their habitat.
Thanks very much for the interview and keep listening to the metal!