We are currently finishing up a new EP entitled "Inexorable Grimness" that should be out either late summer or early fall depending on how long it takes to get it mastered. Of course, the most recent event for the band was the release of the 4-way split with Wormreich, Diabolus Amator, and Vesterian which is now available.
2. Currently you are working on a new ep, how would you describe the musical progress with the newer material?
The way I see it, the new material is what I would consider to be a continuation of where we left off in 2005 with the "Forged in the Malice of Stygian Fire" album. Gravespawn have once again incorporated atmospheric keyboards and epic elements into the music as opposed to the straight forward brutality of recent releases. Gravespawn would have continued in this direction with "Praetorian Maleficus" but I ended up selling my keyboards just to pay for the recording. Strictly musically speaking, all five songs on the new EP were inspired by my recent trip to Europe as I was able to walk through castles, Alpine forests and mountains, ancient ruins, and pagan burial grounds. It was a life changing experience for me to see not just a piece of my own heritage, but also of a past that has fascinated me since childhood. Within a week of returning home I composed and recorded the five rough draft songs that would become the new EP.
3. On the newer material the lyrics are very dark and go into the occult a bit, can you tell us a little bit more about the songwriting?
I sent you two songs from the new EP entitled "Old Dragon's Domain" and "Oath of the Annihilator", so we'll discuss just those two. The song "Old Dragon's Domain" is symbolic of mankind's defiance of the natural order and the resulting punishment for it by elemental forces, personified as the dragon in the song. "Oath of the Annihilator" is about Hannibal and his march on Rome. There is a brief part in the song about the religion and sacrifice rituals of ancient Carthage. For the new material, I write about my interests in ancient history and mythology while incorporating some of my own opinions or beliefs into the lyrics. However, it isn't really my intention to spread a message anymore so much as tell a story. This is primarily the direction Gravespawn's lyrics will take from now on.
4. What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Gravespawn'?
I really wish I had a more interesting answer to this question, but I don't. The name was simply born out of the frustration of trying to find a great name with meaning only to find out every time that it was already taken. So at one point I just said the hell with it. I'm going to just go with the first pointless, cliche, black metal name I can think of and just stick with it. Out came Gravespawn and sure enough it wasn't taken as fate would have it.
5. Originally the band started out as a solo project, what was the decision behind forming a new line up?
I first conceived the idea of Gravespawn around 2003 and wrote the first riffs while I was in the Army, stationed in Fort Sill, OK and recorded my first demo while finishing my last year in Korea in 2004. At the time, I was playing keys for another band back home in Kansas so I really wasn't taking Gravespawn very seriously. It was just something to do. My main band split up not long before returning home after my discharge so I gathered what was left of it, including current bassist Advorsus, and recorded "Forged in the Malice of Stygian Fire." Since then the lineup and direction of the band has changed quite a bit over the years which is why, after the most recent series of lineup changes, I decided to take back the sole control of the creative and writing direction. I pretty much write the foundations and arrangements of the songs (lead guitars, keys, basic drum beats, lyrics, etc.) and afterwards Advorsus, Verigo, and whichever drummer I'm working with at the moment will put their own creative input into their respective instruments. Its entirely possible that I may decide to take over as studio drummer myself for future releases though.
6. What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
So far my absolute favorite show has been Kansas City Black Death Fest. That is my hometown so I am pretty biased. Portland was a hell of a show with a great crowd, and I think our very first show (as well as my first live performance ever) opening for Horna and Bloodstained Dusk was pretty memorable. As far as my stage performance goes, I would say that my performance as the front-man is reflective of my passion for the music that I create. It might be considered eccentric but what's the point in holding back?
7. Do you have any touring or show plans once the newer material is released?
We have nothing set in stone for the immediate future just yet considering that Verigo lives in North Carolina, Advorsus lives in Kansas as well as the fact that he has a family to take care of first, and I live in Los Angeles. One show takes a lot of planning for us. I'd like to put something together next summer probably.
8. Recently you where a part of a 4 way split between Vesterian, Wormreich and Diabolus Amator, what are your thoughts on the other bands that have participated on the split?
When my guitar player Verigo, who is the founder, front-man, and guitarist of Vesterian, approached me about doing the artwork for the split as well and the possibility of putting Gravespawn on there, I wasn't familiar with Wormreich or Diabolus Amator. For me at the moment, doing a split with Vesterian was an inevitability so I was quick to jump on board. After that I did my homework on the other bands and checked out their music. All the bands on here are great in my opinion and cool people as far as I can tell despite only knowing them through online contact. I'm honored to be a part of it.
9. On a worldwide level how has the feedback been to your newer material by fans of black metal?
Well sir, you are one of the fortunate few to have heard the brand new material. As far as past material goes, the feedback has usually been pretty positive. It's rare I hear anything negative. I tried to promote in Europe while I was over there and got some positive feedback there as well. The amount of promotion that the split got worldwide was pretty impressive. The labels, as well as Wormreich and Vesterian's management company certainly seem to have done their job well. The songs on the split were re-recorded to fit the new direction of the band and also so I could present something new without just throwing old material on there. So far the reception for those songs in particular has been pretty great.
10. What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
Well, our session drummer for the recording, Jackson Ferris, is more well known for his work in LA based black metal band Ritual Combat and Kansas City based Viking Black Metal band Stonehaven. Vesterian just signed on to Alpha Omega management recently. I think there were plans to release a vinyl but I'm not sure how that is progressing at the moment. Advorsus' main band, Dark Apostle, is putting out a new album soon which I am also mixing for them. Advorsus and I also work on another project together called Ben Morgh which is sort of like a combination of pagan metal and dungeon synth you might say, inspired by Robert E Howard's Conan stories and Hyborian Age. We've written some new stuff for it but we're a long way from putting out anything new.
11. What are some of the bands or musical projects that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
The albums that influenced me during the "Forged..." era, which continue to inspire the creation of the newer material, are albums like Emperor's "In the Nightside Eclipse", Dimmu Borgir's "Stormblast", Satyricon's "Shadowthrone", and Dark Funeral's "Secrets of the Black Arts." I was also pretty inspired by early Bloodstained Dusk and Crimson Moon because, at the time, they were the only US bands I knew of that were doing the "symphonic" thing, if that's what you want to call it. I also listen to a lot of pagan metal as well as pagan black metal or black metal with "medieval" undertones. Two bands that I listen to a lot these days are Elffor and Kawir.
12. How would you describe your views on Satanism and Occultism?
I suppose the answer to that depends on how general a definition of "occult" you're willing to accept. I love pursuing knowledge of ancient history and mythology. It has been a passion of mine since childhood. Most kids played kickball on the playground, I played Barbarians vs Romans on the playground which obviously didn't earn me any popularity points. I am also active in a nationwide living history organization called the SCA where I fight in competitive armored combat. If you define occult as a pursuit of hidden knowledge than nothing is more hidden than the past, and if black metal is an expression of darkness then there's enough darkness throughout history for a whole lifetime's worth of black metal albums. As far as Satanism goes I can't really comment. That is a path that, for my own reasons, I personally haven't walked since the "Praetorian Maleficus" days.
13. Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
We have a lot planned for the future so keep your eyes and ears open for any news.