ASHES YOU LEAVE might have a long history but I’m pretty sure most of you out there in metal land have no clue about their existence. That should be about to change now with this interview with Luka Petrovic. Anders Ekdahl ©2012
You are on your 6th album by now. Does it feel frustrating that you haven?t reached further than you have?
-After almost 18 years and six albums in sometimes it is a bit frustrating having to deal with things that smaller bands have to deal with. On the other hand, it is amazing to still be around after so many years.
How difficult is it to keep a band going? How do you get 6 individuals to work towards the same goal?
-Actually it’s seven of us now. Our session keyboards and flute player, Ana Tori?, who has been playing with us live for the last few years is a member of the band now. Well it is difficult at times, especially since our lead singer is from Italy and we all have jobs. But at the end of the day you have to look at it as a great hobby that we all enjoy and we dedicate all our spare time to. When someone becomes a bit tired the others pull more. The most important thing is that we are really good friends. We know each other’s parents, have birthday parties together and so on. So being in a band, for us, is hanging out with your mates and playing the music that you love.
How much do you think it has played that you haven’t reached further that you come from a place not known for its metal history; Croatia?
-I think that it had a major, if not even a determining role for our career. To this day we are faced with statements such as; if you only weren’t Croatian, or your music is great but it works only for Scandinavian bands. In the negotiating deals with labels, throughout our history, it is a fact that always arose in negative connotations. Everyone seems to like the influence our origins had on our sound, but our country is more known for it’s football players or as a tourist destination than a country with a metal scene.
When you come from a country not known for its rock/metal traditions does it feel like you have to first build a foundation to stand on and then take it to the people? Are people more skeptical when they don’t have anything to compare it to?
-When we started out, the war in Croatia just ended and there was no concert infrastructure whatsoever. No clubs, no promoters and no labels. We were among the first bands that got a foreign record deal and step by step the things started changing. Now we have a bigger scene with new bands emerging every day. Several of these bands also have a contract with foreign labels. The perception of metal bends started to change even with Croatian record labels. Some of the mainstream labels from Croatia started signing metal bands as well. All major tours include our country as well, so the situation is much better than ten or eighteen years ago. It’s a lot easier for bends starting now than it was for us back in ’95. They still have to go through some of the things we had to, but at least they are not the first metal bend from Croatia that the labels heard of.
Since medias always liked labeling and comparing, we always puzzled them. They didn’t know where to fit us in, first we were doom, than gothic, than gothic-doom, we sounded like My dying bride but not quite, than like Nightwish and so on. So both medias and the audience are skeptical when you say to them we are a female fronted metal band, there are seven of us, we play a mixture of doom and gothic metal, we have a violin and a flute, and yes, we are from Croatia.
When you have 5 albums behind you does it come easier writing a new album? How do avoid repeating yourself yet not straying too far from the sound that is Ashes You Leave?
-It is never easy to write an entire album, but there are ways you can make it easier for yourself. We have a small studio, which we call “The Dungeon”, where we demo all the songs before we enter the studio to record the final version of the album. By doing this a lot of things get noticed in the phase of the pre-production and not after the recording of the album. Also there are four of us writing the music, Berislav, Marta, Matija and myself, so the task is not on just one person’s shoulders.
The only way to avoid repeating yourself is by always looking forward. What you did in the past has to stay there. You can’t keep writing material that is an reinterpretation of one of your previous records, you just have to reinvent yourself with each record.
When you listen to our new records some pieces of it are not what you would usually hear in this genre, from death metal to slap bass, but the overall sound is still Ashes You Leave. I think that over the years we managed to make a distinguished sound that is there no matter what we play.
Are there choices in the past that you wished you had not made? How much setbacks have you been through?
-All the choices and mistakes we did in the past are what brought us to this point in our career. I think that all that is what made us the persons we are today. So there are no regrets.
Unfortunately there are always things that you can’t influence, like some members deciding to leave the band when you already have a booked studio, but those are things that all bands that don’t make a living from music are faced with. It has been a bumpy ride but one definitely worth taking!
When you signed your first album deal with Morbid did you think that this was going to be your highway to success? How important were those days to build the character of the band?
-We never took things for granted, so we never expected a skyrocketing career or anything like that. But when the first record deal came in it was a definite confirmation that we are doing something good. That was definitely what kept us going. Soon after people from all over the globe started contacting us and congratulating us for the record and it was additional wind in our sails so to speak.
You’ve been through a lot as a band. Has that built the band’s character? Are your goals today different than they were in the beginning?
-We survived the war, we had members leaving us just before the studio sessions, tours canceled, equipment stolen, so our hide is pretty thick. We were always fighters and we will always remain such. I think our goals are more or less the same since we started playing. We wanted to be in a band, to walk on stage and perform our music and to create something different from the bands that surrounded us. It’s the same force that is driving us to this day.
If you look back to that first album and compare it to this new one what kind of progression do you see?
The span is almost 16 years in between so the most obvious one is that we matured, both as persons and as musicians. Our writing is better, our playing is better and we have more experience. But the thing we hit right on the spot with the first record is the sound. It’s amazing what was accomplished with so little. The equipment was either old or borrowed and the studio in which we recorded resembled more a garage than a recording studio. So we just defined and refined our sound and all the rest is just years of experience.
What would you like the future to bring to Ashes You Leave?
-These are are strange times, the music bussines has never been so low, so I hope we will survive these times and record a few more records. I would imediatelly sign up for another 18 years!