Ireland might be known for a lot of things but metal isn’t exactly the first thing you come to think of. Is it because they get lumped in with the British? Or is it because there are no bands. Read thjis interview with CHOSEN’s Paul Shields to find out the answer. Anders Ekdahl ©2013
For those that don’t know you guys that well could you please introduce yourself?
-We are a two-piece metal band from Ireland, consisting of just two members: David McCann on drums and percussion and yours truly on guitars and vocals. Some other basic facts about us: the band formed in Ireland in 2005, relocated to Vancouver, Canada for a year and toured the country, put on a tribute gig to Death in which we played the entire Symbolic album from start to finish, and have now just released our debut album ‘Resolution’ for free download.
Ireland isn’t a large country. What is it like to be stuck on an island?
-Ireland isn’t that much different to most of the western world and we do appear to take a lot of influence from aspects of North American and English culture. We may be on the edge of Europe but cheap air travel allows many of us to visit any part of mainland Europe in less than two hours or so. Perhaps the best way to describe a certain type of living situation is by actually living in different parts of the world. As mentioned, we both lived in Vancouver, Canada for a year and we find that living in Ireland is much like living in a scaled down version of Canada. Essentially, we work jobs, go to college, socialise with friends, browse the internet, and play music in very similar ways to how we lived in Canada. Okay, so the scenery in Vancouver was spectacular but we pretty much enjoy the same kind of lives here in Ireland. To be honest, I think we’d be living a similar lifestyle no matter what part of the planet we lived on.
How would you like to explain the origin of your sound?
-It is hard to pin point an exact origin for our music. There is very little Irish influence in our material though as the majority of the bands we listen to come from the US or Europe. However our music is not just influenced by the bands we listen to but also from other life experiences such as authors, writers, filmmakers, or whatever happens to trigger the want to write music.
When you are in the process of recording, on what criteria do you chose a studio to work in?
-We were lucky to have worked with producer Alwyn Walker in 2006. We got to know how he operated and he got to know us as a band. So when it came time to pick a studio to record ‘Resolution’ it was always going to be with Alwyn, who had then recently taken over Westland Studios in Dublin. In an age where more and more musicians are opting to self-produce, Alwyn embodies what every musician hopes to find in their ideal producer: someone who gets the absolute best performance out of them and has the experience and ears to take their songs to the next level. It’s not so much the studio as it is the person in whom you entrust your creative vision. We’d probably record with Alwyn if he set up a studio in an old dingy warehouse.
What are your feelings on the album now that you’ve had to time to live with it?
-I am sure most bands know their own material inside out. With ‘Resolution’, the material has been with us for some time, as the process of recording the album stretched over a number of years due to some line-up issues. So, you could say we have ‘lived with it’ for much longer than people might think. Of course, we are delighted with how the album turned out and could never have imagined that it would be downloaded over 15,000 times in its first 45 days of release. In the grand scheme of things, those numbers are pretty insignificant but for a niche band such as ourselves, with no record label, it’s a heartening result.
When you have an album to promote how do you know what people to work with? How do you find the right kind of people?
-Finding the ‘right kind of people’ typically involves locating individuals who are good at what they do, have a solid track record, and who usually charge a fee for their service (there’s no such thing as a free lunch, as the saying goes). When we toured across Canada in 2009 we came in contact with Jon Asher from Asher Media Relations. His agency assisted us greatly in promoting the tour and did a great job overall. Since then we’ve wanted to work with them again to help with the PR for ‘Resolution’ and it’s been such a necessary stepping stone; self-promotion only takes you so far. We also worked with another PR company in England to help assist with the UK market. At the end of the day, finding the right people involves a process of trial and error and not settling for less.
We live in an age that is less and less depending on personal interaction and more on anonymity. What are your feelings on downloading and digital file sharing?
-Downloading and file-sharing is rampant and won’t stop anytime soon. There’s no getting around this, so we’ve accepted the reality. There’s lots of artists and bands out there who oppose file-sharing and I empathise with many of their arguments but it’s not going to actually change the behaviour in many people. They might as well be pontificating about how contraception is morally evil and will be the downfall of society. I suppose for new bands like ourselves the question is: would you prefer a fan base of a reputable number or boxes of CDs sitting in your garage gathering dust? And anyways, whether you’re an unsigned band or a household name, everyone gets downloaded. People who download don’t really discriminate in that regard. Taking all this on board, we chose to release ‘Resolution’ for free download from our website www.chosen.ie while offering the option to buy two limited edition versions, one of which features a 60-page art book. This way, our music is much more accessible and can get into the hands of more people, while still allowing people to buy a hardcopy or make a donation to fund future recordings.
How important are social media really in getting a band’s name known?
-I think it can work great for some bands, depending on the music style and genre. Any website that allows ease of access to bands worldwide can only be a good thing. We’ve been fortunate enough to have lots of people recommend us to others via their Twitter and Facebook accounts, so it’s just an extension of word of mouth, only now it can extend right across the globe.
When you write songs how much focus do you put on things like lyrics and titles? Is it important to you that things match, that things make sense?
-Yes, we do care very much about what we write. While most of the topics we focus on are probably not going to be unique, they are some of the issues we think are grounds for consciousness-raising and personal reflection. We’re all searching for meaning and making observations about our world so our music is just an expansion of that process. Some of the subject matters we look at on ‘Resolution’ include mental health, evolution, the rising tide of narcissism, impact bias, mortality, group conformity, self-deception and lucid dreaming.
What kind of future do you envision?
-I don’t foresee Chosen ever becoming the next big thing or ascending to even the middle tier of the metal music scene, despite some of the very encouraging reviews and praise we have received to date. It would be nice to be able to make a little more money playing this kind of music, at least to the point where we break even, but we accept that this may not be possible. People have lots of things competing for their entertainment spending money and not everyone will ‘give something back’, especially when you look at how many charities there are which struggle to raise much-needed funds, and that’s concerning people’s wellbeing and lives, never mind a metal band playing for their own self-expression. My own hope for the future is that there will always be an audience for the kind of metal music we are interested in writing (as we’re not going to change our style to suit mass appeal) and that we live long enough to put out a few more albums before we both shuffle off this mortal coil.