How important is it to create an ambiance with your music? How important is it to lure the listener into your musical world?
-There are a lot of little variables here. We are, by no means, an ‘ambient’ band as we try first and foremost to be a metal band but I definitely think that our interludes, whether they are acoustic guitar driven or synth driven, serve to ‘lure the listener’ in. They are usually downtrodden, even when some of the harmonies are uplifting, and are always designed to capture the feeling of the lyrics. They also play a very important role in how we arrange albums in that generally they are very meticulously placed around songs where they, in my mind, fit. This could mean they are an extension of certain themes in the lyrics or present a juxtaposition against a theme in order to bring about the song that follows an interlude. We aren’t really a typical modern ‘black metal’ band in that we don’t want to capture the same feelings with our instrumental pieces as we do our metal songs. When we set out to write metal the most important thing is that it sounds like a metal band, not a folk band playing metal or a goth band co opting black metal patterns or something. We work hard in attempting to make everything seem naturally connected, across songs as well as across albums, and ultimately fitting into one specific genre isn’t really important to us. It’s very important to me that any potential listener understands this.
You as a band have been very prolific in releasing music on various formats. I don’t know how many albums I’ve downloaded from your bandcamp page. Is there ever any danger of overdoing it? A risk that people find it too much?
-I create with very specific psychological intent. This goes for writing lyrics, writing music, playing guitar, etc. I never write without reason and purging of this nature is very important to me. Given that the world is a very complex and often horrifying place, there is always something for me to eliminate psychically if I am to live a life that is adjusted to the demands of civilization. This allows two things to happen. One is that I’m always writing. I have been for over 10 years now and I will until I die. It’s not always metal, it’s not always full of contempt and longing, but I’m always busy creatively. I don’t question it. I grow and change along with it. The other thing it allows is a certain distance between me and any potential listener/fan. In other words, I don’t care what other people think. If it’s too much or you don’t like it you are free not to listen, free not to read interviews, and certainly free not to buy our/my material.
Is there a purpose to releasing stuff in limited editions. I have one of your CDs that I think was in a 10 copy edition or something.
-I have no idea what CD that is! Honestly, it usually just boils down to financial issues. I don’t have a lot of money and neither do my band mates. It was even harder when I was doing this by myself, which is why a lot of stuff is cdr released, sounds like ass, and generally not worth your time. Having partners to write with, and share some of the financial burden with, has really opened a lot of doors for this project in terms of getting the right production, pressing CDs, and having the fine gentlemen at Clawhammer do some PR work for us.
When you release stuff as downloads only and offers it for free what effect does that have on the actual album sales of albums released on physical formats?
-There have been a decent amount of people who want both. Some of the people that support us are really awesome because they realize we’re doing this ourselves, and they see a product that is worth their time, so they buy a physical copy after downloading or they simply hold off on downloading until we have some physical copies available or something. Every bit of money given to this band goes back into it. The personal profit I get from this band is psychological only. Also, some of the stuff doesn’t cost me any money to record and there aren’t any actual physical copies available so why on earth would I charge money for that? I recently started charging like 2 bucks or something for all the old albums, but it basically amounted to wanting to get money raised to pay off Ryan for producing “Pine”.
You are often described as black metal but to my ears you have very little in common with the Norwegian definition of black metal. Is there an American black metal sound and if so, what is it?
-I’m honestly pretty removed from what ‘black metal’ is. It’s not something that concerns me, these little soap operas and young, simple minded, kids pointing fingers trying to earn street cred or something. I write music selfishly. However, I can comment on this in one way. If you were to take a lot of the riffs from the last 3 albums (Objective:Isolation, Dark Meditations in Monastic Seclusion, and Pine) and play them on a guitar in standard tuning they would sound more Scandinavian. We tune in A# which definitely gives us more in common with American death metal. I think most genres are too diverse to actually exist. What is commonly called “American Black Metal” these days really doesn’t sound like what I knew as American Black Metal back when I was younger and cared about such things. Nowadays everybody wants to sound like Wolves in the Throne Room and have shoegaze elements and shit like that. Not really my thing, even though some of it isn’t really that bad.
How do you take your music beyond being just this or that to become an entity all its own? How do you move away from being stereotyped/type casted?
-It’s all relative and I don’t take insults or praise too seriously. Some people do stereotype us. I can’t tell you how many reviews we’ve gotten comparing us to Wolves in the Throne Room or Agalloch and I personally don’t see it. It’s just that that is what sound is ‘in’ these days so it’s real easy. We have nature photos and interludes so it’s easy to just say that that is what we are going for. Honestly, I love Agalloch and “Dark Meditations…” has some Agalloch moments in the acoustic songs and some of the harmonies on “Half Open Gates” from “Pine” have some influence, but we are a bit more ‘metal’ influenced in my opinion. There are riffs on the new album that were influenced by Root and Inquisition more than anything. On top of that we openly embrace old thrash and death metal as well as elements of grind and doom when we write metal. In my mind, that’s how we avoid it. Do what we want when we want, never throw away a good riff, and never care what people think.
How would you like to describe the progress your music has made on your latest album “Pine”?
-“Pine”, to me, is the most actualized Shroud of Despondency album to date. It’s also a bit different for the project in a few ways. For starters, there isn’t nearly as much acoustic work on this album as previous albums. Instead there are four “Wanderlust” interludes that were written by Jon (guitars) on Synth and have me playing Balalaika and Cello on them. Greatly influenced by “Ommadawn” by Mike Oldfield. A close friend said he was pretty disturbed when he heard them and that’s what we were going for. This is also the first album I’ve written lyrics for where I outright stole passages/lines from another writer(Nietzsche) in order to move the album. In terms of the metal songs themselves, I think it is the most diverse batch of tunes I’ve ever participated in. There are elements of black metal, old school death and thrash metal, grind, doom, and traditional metal. But I also feel that the songs were written honestly and have a natural flow to them. It’s not like ‘ok it’s time for a thrash riff now’ or some shit.
How do you take the band one step further without losing all that is connected to what the sound of Shroud Of Despondency is to the listener?
-Not really concerned with this ‘connection’ to the listener. Again, the listener has every right to not listen. We are starting work with a new drummer, as Jeremiah had to leave the band after recording his tracks for “Pine”, and I imagine this will affect the song writing process. I’d expect a bit more thrash metal in newer material, but it’s also too early to comment. We’re taking it slow for once and we’re gonna begin working on the next album when we feel everything is right. However, I have also been writing some material with drum programming by myself and it’s a continuation of the “Objective: Isolation” album in terms of style (Tech death meets black metal). This will be seeing the light of day very soon. I don’t mean to sound arrogant or like I don’t appreciate our fans here because, as I alluded to earlier, we’ve got some people who support us and I love their kind words, honest criticisms, and general interest in my/our music. The simple truth of the matter is they aren’t there when I create. I’m inside myself and my own experience on this planet and I need to be honest with myself when I do that and that means not stopping the building process of an idea for anyone. I’ll listen to my band mates if they tell me something is ‘off’ or they just don’t like something and I greatly enjoy the building process with them but I also do a lot of stuff on my own. Music, to me, is the greatest thing on earth and I’ve been exposed to it from such an early age that it’s all just kind of a melting pot in my head and I can’t shy away from that. I never let the media or a fans criticism prevent me from thinking for myself, discovering my own reason, and having the courage to actualize it.
I’ve noticed that the art work seem to follow a specific imagery. How conscious are you of the bands portrayal, of the way the fans see the band?
-Every picture in the layout for “Pine” is of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I was born and raised. This cultural importance is all I’m aware of in terms of the ‘imagery’ of our discs. I’m aware that many bands use nature shots and such, and I enjoy a good portion of bands that do it, but I simply can’t imagine having a Shroud of Despondency album that doesn’t have them. To me a good nature shot, of water or trees, captures more emotion and evokes more thought than anything other metal bands use. This is not necessarily an insult to other metal bands, I just don’t see it changing with us. Most of our fans are from Michigan and Wisconsin and I think they inherently understand the importance of the woods and water. If you haven’t been in the calmness of a forest at night and experienced that connection, you simply haven’t lived. It’s been a part of my life since birth. Despite the fact that we live in the city, our friends and fans live in the city, it’s just not typical to be raised in this area and not have a getaway place in nature. I think a good portion of our fans share these thoughts with me/us.
What future is there for Shroud Of Despondency?
-More music. Hopefully somebody that wants to put out some of our material on vinyl someday. Those interested can visit our bandcamp site at shroudofdespondency.bandcamp.com and “like” us on facebook and all that jazz. The downloadable version of “Pine” comes with 4 bonus songs and, if you prefer, we have some hard copies available. Contact us if interested. Thanks for the interview. Thanks to those that show support. Mitt Romney 2012.