To Infinity and Beyond Terror:First of all, congratulations on joining the Willowtip Records roster. How did the signing come about? Besides the distributional and promotional benefits, what other opportunities does label support provide?
Alex: Willowtip has put out a lot of albums we’ve been into and for a long time we’ve thought Willowtip would be a good home for a band like us, so we kept in touch with Jason (Willowtip head) over the last couple of years, keeping him in the loop with what we were doing and what our plans were and stuff. Once we had the “Nadir” master we sent him a track and he replied saying he was keen to hear more, so we sent him the whole thing. He really liked it and sent us a formal offer to sign the band, which we were naturally pretty stoked about.
Even in this day and age with bands putting albums out themselves for free and stuff I think having a label behind you is still important as there is a certain clout and weight that it gives the band, plus the obvious distributional and promotional benefits that you mentioned. It’s still early days, but so far things are working out well. Jason’s very enthusiastic about the bands he’s working with and it’s great to be a part of the roster.
Barring the obvious geographical and cultural idiosyncrasies, how does an Australian tour compare to one of the United States or Europe? How were you received by international audiences on your overseas adventures?
Alex: For the most part both the US and Europe tours audiences were pretty positive towards us, though we had our work cut out for us more in the US as we were so different from the rest of the bands on the package. It was good though as it’s a very good feeling to win over a crowd that may not be expecting, or have heard much of the type of thing that we’re doing.
Touring in general though is fucking awesome, so much fun. While we’re stoked to go overseas again, in terms of Australia we’re really looking forward to getting out and doing a whole bunch of shows over the next few months, playing with a bunch of good bands and building things up a bit here.
I have to say, I was initially pretty disappointed following the announcement of Gallows for Grace’s disbandment. However, with the subsequent enlisting of Blake as front-man for Beyond Terror, not to mention the formation of Entrails Eradicated, one could almost say it was a blessing in disguise. It seems if the Australian hardcore/metal scene was a sex-cult, it’d be of the incestuous variety. Is this an accurate assessment? If so, what are the pros and cons of such an environment?
Scott: Perth especially is very incestuous when it comes to the metal scene. This can be really awesome because it maintains a really friendly environment and a lot of shows over there have really cool mixed bills with multiple genres in one night. I suppose when it comes to bands having beef with one another it could cause other problems, but you have to take the good with the bad.
In my opinion, the more fleshed-out approach to song-writing evident on Beyond Terror’s third full-length release, “Nadir”, is a very welcome development. What was the catalyst behind the drastic stylistic shift? Given your established fanbase, how do you feel followers of many years will react to your new direction? What has the feedback been like thus far?
Scott: When I joined the band, BTBG was a straight out grindcore band in the vein of Rotten Sound and Nasum. Honestly, I had virtually not listened to any grindcore minus Cattle Decapitation at that stage, so it was all very new to me. Coming from a more technical background guitar wise and also being a huge fan of black metal, a lot of those influences ended up coming through in the way I played the old songs. I still love good grindcore, but personally find it hard to put much ambience and real expression into 1 minute tracks.
Alex: When it came to writing the album, there was a certain mood and atmosphere that we thought would be cool to hone in on, something really bleak and sonically oppressive, but there was never any discussion like “that’s it guys, we’re no longer going to be a grind band” or “let’s make our new songs 8 minutes long” or whatever, everything just happened naturally. It might be a bit of a new album cliché but it really wasn’t a conscious thing, the songs are what they are and the length they are because that’s just how we liked them and that’s how long we felt they needed to be.
It’s still early days as the album has literally only just come out but so far the response has been really good for the most part. It doesn’t really bother me if people who liked the old material aren’t that thrilled about “Nadir” though, unless they are a diehard grind fan I think there is something there for people who liked the old stuff as there is still plenty of speed and blastbeats and stuff. Obviously I’d prefer if they were into it, but if not they can just listen to the first 2 albums. At the end of the day our main priority is writing songs and making music that we ourselves would want to hear, and we definitely achieved that with “Nadir”. Anything else on top of that is a bonus.
The rise in prominence of USBM bands such as Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch has seen “Cascadian black metal” become the subject of some controversy. Some would argue that the very existence of the aforementioned descriptor, in addition to the tautological “brutal death metal” and oxymoronic “Christian black metal”, defies all logic. Where does one draw the line?
Scott: What the fuck is “Cascadian Black Metal”? Haha. I guess I’m really out of the loop. I really dislike all these terms and genres that get thrown around these days. I listen to a lot of older bands like Darkthrone, Bathory and Emperor, which is where most of my black metal influence comes from. These bands were doing this a long time before subgenres within black metal were even a consideration, and I wish that was still the case. I think it sucks that just because you write 5+ minute long songs and use tremolo picked riffs and crescendos (Like 90% of black metal bands, EVER) that you should suddenly have a label slapped on you and be lumped into a basket with “X” number of other bands.
Our music is written to create a mood and reflects the influences and backgrounds that the four of us bring to the band. We don’t have long hair or wear corpse paint and spikes because that isn't what our music is about. Great black metal is about creating atmosphere, conveying concepts and being true to yourself. Fuck genres!
Extreme music, particularly black metal, is often considered synonymous with Satanism, misanthropy and anti-Christianity. From the little I’ve managed to discern, however, your lyrics don’t appear to express such sentiments in any overt way. Despite this, as a band, what are your views on organised religion?
Alex: I don’t think any of us have any religious or spiritual beliefs. The lyrics are really Blake’s domain and as he has a pretty keen interest in nature, animals, science fiction and things like that, those influences played a big part in informing the lyrical side of the album. As a band I don’t think we really have any agenda, other than just thinking for yourself I guess. We’ve never really talked about it, what type of message we’re trying to put out there or anything. Blake just writes his lyrics and if he’s happy with them then it’s all good.
Scott: I myself am a very outspoken atheist and believe that organised religion is a very archaic way of dealing with, not only our own lives, but that of future generations and I think we’re all on the same page with that. All of us are fairly opposed to the idea of any “organised” religion that forces or coerces people into following a particular lifestyle or creed.
The bands I most enjoy listening to typically combine genres in a very blatant and jarring way (Mr Bungle, Between the Buried and Me, et al). Whereas with “Nadir”, while there is a distinct melting-pot of influences apparent throughout, for the most part, Beyond Terror seem primarily concerned with blurring the lines between the traditionally disparate genres of black and death metal. Was the act of hybridising these genres, along with post-metal, a conscious one? Or was it merely a naturally occurring process?
Alex: As I said before, it was all very natural. The only thought was to make music we all liked and try to make an album that we would be really into if we stumbled across it on a blogspot or YouTube or something. One of the things I like about what we’re doing now, definitely as opposed to the old grind material, is the tension between the wide variety of influences and sounds that we’re drawing upon. There’s quite a lot of different dynamics and stuff going on across the album so I think to put any one label on it is actually a bit hard, which is a good thing I think.
Technically demanding and/or experimental metal is often written off as “music for musicians” by detractors. Considering the compositional complexity of your material, have any of the members of Beyond Terror studied music at a tertiary level, or are you all autodidactic? Do you feel a background in theory is of any practical importance?
Scott: I was classically trained in guitar at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music from the age of 5 until about 13, at which time I had a fairly long hiatus from playing music in general. When I did pick up the guitar again quite a few years later, I had lost the ability to read sheet music and therefore now only use tablature. I don’t think any sort of musical theory is necessarily important in most forms of music making. Unless you are playing super complex metal stuff like math metal which requires a lot of breaking down of time signatures and interesting scales, I think a basic knowledge of an instrument and tabs is all you need to share music with people. Some of the best musicians in history (metal and otherwise) have been completely self-taught, without the knowledge of traditional music theory.
Alex: If people want to think the songs on “Nadir” are technically hard or compositionally complex that’s awesome, but besides the drums and the balls-out tremolo picking they really aren’t, I don’t think. I’m not particularly drawn to technical music myself, some of it’s cool, but for me it’s just about the song and what serves it best. A lot of the time the best riffs or moments in songs can be the simplest ones.
As one of the three most recognisable names associated with atmospheric blackened death metal south of the equator, comparisons to Ulcerate, and to a lesser extent, Portal, seem inevitable. Are you inclined to view this as complimentary, or just a symptom of needless pigeon-holing?
Alex: Being mentioned along with both of those bands as a result of this album is kind of cool, but at the same time I think the Ulcerate comparison, which has been thrown a bit already, in particular is actually pretty lazy and short-sighted. They made an impression on us when we played with them ages ago mainly in terms of how they created atmosphere and mood in a live setting, but if you look past that and the fact we share a few influences I don’t think we really sound like them at all. In particular in terms of the guitars and vocals I think there’s a hell of a lot of difference. They are a super-technical band across the board and we have a lot more of a simplified, black metal-orientated sound guitar wise. They are a great band and do what they do very well, but I think we’re very much our own band with our own style.
Scott: I think due to the small size of the genre we play in, comparisons are going to be unavoidable. People are always going to compare with other bands. These days nobody really does anything COMPLETELY new; influence is always drawn from somewhere. All you can do is try to make the best music you can.
Given the electronic nuances, ambient textures, layered guitar parts and samples found throughout your back-catalogue, how do you go about emulating the dense, claustrophobia-inducing soundscapes that permeate your recorded output in a live setting?
Scott: We play with a noise track throughout our live set so that even when we are not playing there is consistent ambient noise throughout. There is very little talking between songs which also adds to the vibe. I use a lot of effects when I play, especially some very wet delay with the higher crescendo parts, which helps with the wall of sound effect we like to create.
Without revealing too much I have recently moved over to a very effective digital guitar effects unit, which allows me to simulate my guitar signal as if it was playing through multiple amps and cabs, which again helps with the illusion of several guitars playing at once. Added with the frantic drums and massive dirty bass guitar tone, we feel that our live show really reflects well the tracks on the album.
There’s been quite a bit of discussion regarding intellectual property theft as of late, especially with the recent shutdown of Megaupload. A lot of people tend to think illegal downloads are tantamount to lost sales. However, as someone who regularly “steals” music via file-sharing sites, I feel it’s perfectly reasonable to want to “try before you buy”. What is your personal stance on piracy?
Alex: I’d be a hypocrite if I condemned it as I’ve definitely done my fair share of downloading along the way. I have to say though that these days I have a lot more of an appreciation and respect for the physical product, in particular vinyl, and so I’m much more inclined to go out of my way to support bands and labels I like. One example in my own experience is with Deafheaven, a band Scott and I are both really into; I downloaded their album “Roads to Judah” from a blogspot and loved the shit out of it, so I went to the their label’s online store (Deathwish Inc.) and basically bought as much as I could afford, the vinyl version of the album, a couple of shirts and some other things. Downloading allows that “try before you buy” aspect you mentioned and if something similar happens with our album, it basically evens itself out.
It definitely has its good and bad points though and while I’m stoked if anyone is listening to and enjoying “Nadir”, as a band who’s on a label it is obviously much more preferable if people support Willowtip and actually buy the legitimate version or pick up a copy at a show, as recording and pressing albums does cost money and every sale helps.
Scott: I also use the internet to “procure” a lot of the music I listen to. A lot of the time it is extremely hard to find obscure black metal or doom bands' albums to buy online. If I really like something I will go out of my way to buy it, but sometimes it just isn't possible. I think if bands are really great and market their albums well, they shouldn't have a problem with selling records. Selling albums at shows is always the best way, in my opinion!
From what I’ve seen, the members of Beyond Terror tend to dress in a relatively modest fashion. Do you think the rather flamboyant attire worn by Behemoth, for example, enhances the live experience? Or are you of the opinion that the music should be allowed to speak for itself, without the use of visual aids? Coincidentally, Behemoth’s sophomore album, “Grom”, was my introduction to black metal. What was it like being on the same bill as a band of their calibre, amongst many others?
Scott: I don’t think clothing has ever really been an issue for us. We all tend to wear somewhat similar things on stage and the fact that we play with very low lighting live means that it really isn’t part of our stage show. We’re not that fond of the whole “everybody in the band wears a band shirt of a band they love” look as it can look really cluttered and would clash with the atmosphere we are trying to create.
We hope that people focus on our music rather than how we look, and in the live environment focus on Blake as he always puts himself out there as an engaging and captivating vocalist.
Alex: It really just depends on the band. Some bands look a bit stupid, but in terms of image and theatrics and stuff, in Behemoth’s case it suits them and definitely enhances the live experience. They’re always mentioned as being one of the best live bands in metal, and rightly so. While it wouldn’t suit us at all to adopt an image similar to The Amenta and Portal, they have an image and visual component that totally works for what they are trying to do, it all fits across the board; their live image, the atmosphere of their albums, their promo videos, the works, so good on them, but that’s just not our thing.
Something we have talked about and what could possibly work though is one day playing to some sort of unsettling and disturbing visuals or film on a projector or the like behind us instead of a back drop, and creating a very intense live experience, a whole sensory assault. While there’s a fine line between something being cool and something being wanky self-indulgent shit, what I’m picturing could be very cool and definitely something we could start looking into more in the future.
We’ve been lucky enough to play with quite a lot of bands we’ve been into for a while, both as one-off supports as well as part of a few tours and every time has been a real blast. It’s a good feeling to say you’ve played with a band you’ve listened to for years as a fan, and hopefully there’s more of that to come.