THE NEW JACOBIN CLUB

This THE NEW JACOBIN CLUB interview with Xerxes Praetorius, aka “The Horde” was done in order to find out more about this exciting Canadian band. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

What is a jacobin club? Is there any greater concept behind using a word like Jacobin in a band name context?
-It is most definitely part of a larger concept that has been present since day one. I would feel ridiculous if I attempted to begin a history lesson on the Jacobin Club was and what it represented, there is plenty of info out there online and in history books. The important part of it that we identify with is that we do not believe in rule by birthright or advantage of wealth. We also are a viciously anti-theocratic lot. When money and religion corrupt and twist governing bodies, we are the ones that are there to challenge it in a very public and grotesque fashion. We are the artistic embodiment of what every fat conservative upper middle class church going bigot is afraid of.

You have a new EP out that you are promoting. Why did you do just an EP and not a full length album?
-The upcoming full-length album is a stand alone concept, where this EP is a special collection. Last year we had studio time at a new place in town and since we were fresh from touring to support “This Treason,” we didn’t have any truly new material. As a sort of 15th anniversary celebration we recorded a few songs that had been in our live repertoire in the 1990’s. 2 of these had never been properly studio recorded or released. The way the 7 piece band in 2011 handled material originally written as a trio in 1996 was so interesting and exciting that we thought it warranted a release of its own instead of just quietly slipping one or two of them on to the next album. This EP forges a link to the bands past, I think it was important for us that people hear it. It’s not raging metal. It’s not symphonic goth. It’s not 3 chord horror punk. It’s something else, it’s what NJC has always been about, no matter how we’ve approached it over the years.

When you are that many people involved what influence does that have on the creative process?
-I would have to say that the interesting part about our creative process is that you often have one person trying to tell 5 or 6 other people what they think they should be doing. Being the polite Canadian artists we are, we always comply. Then the mind blowing revelation comes when someone finally turns it around and says “I’ve been working on something different for this song – we don’t have to use it but check it out.” There’s always a moment where I stop and think – “boy this song was sort of a drag until we started doing it that way” The theatrical performers are also always coming up with more and more elaborate things leaving the musicians a monumental task of trying to work it into a song, sometimes it actually influences the creation of a song. In this wonderful but indirect way, even the non-instrumentalists in our group influence the music.

For the last album you did a DVD too. What was the idea about the DVD and how was it received?
-We wanted people to be able to take our show home with them, and also give our fans elsewhere in the world a chance to be right in front of the stage at one of our shows. At first we had an idea to shoot a few videos that would follow the concept of the album (the story of Sir Hugh Despenser), but in the end we opted for a deluxe live show – multi camera angle, mobile recording studio, the whole 9. We still shot a video for the title track, and included it, but the live show is what makes us what we are. In addition, we wanted to do something big. CD’s are virtually dead as a format, and have become little more than souvenirs for concert goers. We wanted to make the album worth picking up. You can listen to it streaming online anytime, you can buy it on iTunes, but you can’t see any of the 90 minutes of footage anywhere but on the DVD.

Has modern technology made it easier to fully realize your artistic visions in bringing the show to more people in a few easy steps?
-In terms of outlets like youtube, yes, I suppose. For a very long time we were always called “Western Canada’s most shocking secret” or something similar to that. The fact is, people won’t drag their lazy asses to a concert if they’re not sure it’ll be a good time, but they’ll look it up on youtube and then go “holy shit! I’m gonna check this out when they’re in town” I openly admit we have been extremely slow to adapt to the social networking technology available to artists in the 21st century, but we’re working on it.

When you have an as elaborate stage show as you guys have is there ever any danger of the music taking second seat?
-Of course, but for us it’s not a danger as much as it’s merely a possibility. Sometimes the music IS secondary to what’s happening on stage. We play songs that stand alone, and we play some pieces that are designed to co-exist on stage with the theatrical component. We are a group of performers, not just a band of musicians. On CD we are musicians. Live we are something else. I recently saw the Broadway musical “Wicked.” I loved it, I loved the story, I loved the sets, I loved the huge animatronic head, I wasn’t into the music so much. My point is that a Broadway musical on stage is not just about the music. Buy the CD and listen to it at home alone in the dark if you can’t take the extra stimulation.

How do you develop the stage show? From what do you base it on?
-The Angry Teeth and Mistress Nagini have been coming up with theatrical scenarios for the shows, we as a band put together a set and try to tailor it to what will happen on stage.
Sometimes it’s the other way around – we sit down and say “for this tour we’re playing these songs – fit the theatrics in with them” The only time the songwriting part of the group really influenced the stage performers was when we did “This Treason” live in 2010 and we had characters from the concept album on stage – the Queen, the Countess, the Executioner, the Jester – it was probably the NJC’s most collaborative moment.

When you mix a stage show with music is there ever any limitations to what you can do on stage depending on the places you play?
-Absolutely. We are pretty flexible, but obviously if you want to see the greatest extent of our show you’ll want to find out where we are playing a bigger stage and drive out to see it.
If we limit ourselves to stages that accommodate everything we want to do, we’d play about a third of the shows we do. I think we already limit ourselves enough just by having the sideshow, it definitely narrows down the number of venues and promoters that might want to have it on their stage.

What kind of reactions do you get from the Canadian music fans to mixing stage show with music?
-We get a lot of curious people in the door who might not otherwise be interested in the band, especially people who are sure they won’t get into our music, but then after the show they buy an album. We also attract a lot of people from the performing arts scene – sideshow and burlesque enthusiasts, as we have elements of that in our stage show.

How would you like to see The New Jacobin Club develop in the future?
-We’ve always been a very thoughtful and literate group of artists, I hope the direction we continue to head towards will make that more and more apparent as the group matures.
It’s easy to look like all venom and fire when we want to, it’s a much greater thing to be in control of it. I think we are more in control than we were several years ago, and we are using all the diversity of our colourful sounds and stage show to an advantage. I think this will be apparent when one gets to hear the new material we’ll be performing live this spring.

ROCKA ROLLAS

I heard of ROCKA ROLLAS only by chance. But they intrigued me enough to put together an interview in order to find out more. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

Why would anyone want to start a band on his own? What is Rocka Rollas to you?
-I can do whatever I want without any input from others, as well as concentrating on songwriting only and not try to learn others all the riffs and shit. But that was how it started… I have a guitarist and bass player now, if I ever found a good drummer there will probably be some live gigs, but it’s not of highest priority. Rocka Rollas is most just a thing I do because I want to hear more music in the style of Running Wild, Riot and Scanner. There’s a few who does it good but I can’t have enough of it. I listen a lot to my own work. Heheheh.

How much of an outside influence do you incorporate into the composing of the music? What bands have meant most to you?
The already mentioned are the most influential to Rocka Rollas. However the first album is a quite simple album writing wise, while future albums will contain a lot more epic/progressive compositions ranging over 7-8 minutes per song. However there will always be some in-the-face metal numbers as well. But I’m more for really big stuff, but still aggressive… Grave Digger pulls it off perfectly with thrashy riffs and those massive choirs they have.

What does releasing records mean to you? Does it matter what kind of label it is that handles your music?
-As long as I don’t have any pressure I’m fine. Money is not really a big interest for me. Stormspell fits perfect for me, I get a good amount of copies when an album is released.

If you look beyond the rather typical song titles (all metal and steel) how important are the lyrics to you? What role do they play?
-Lyrics doesn’t matter much at all, but the metal steel lyrics will be down toned in the future. Maybe a song or two per album but not like the debut. There will be more standard lyrics like fantasy/sci-fi/history stuff.

I’m not going to ask you why you play heavy metal because that is obvious but what kind of bands do you identify with, both older and newer?
-Hmmm… I don’t care if a band is old or new, the important thing is that they are good. But of course I think it’s interesting with bands that broke barriers in their time, that doesn’t matter much anymore. Skull Fist are great but doesn’t bring anything new to the table, and Rocka Rollas easily falls into that category as well. I’m not trying to come up with something new. There’s a already good formula and sound that can be used greatly. No reason to change it!

Have you noticed that you get attention simply because you are Swedish or does it not matter where you are from today?
-Of course I have heard somebody point out that we’re from Sweden, but it doesn’t really matter much… For me the best bands today are Skull Fist and Lonewolf, who are from Canada respective France.

I guess it is hard to not use the social media in spreading the word of the band. What disadvantages are there to using these kinds of sites in spreading the band’s name?
-I don’t have facebook, but I upload songs on Youtube as well as posting some shit on a couple forums but I don’t advertise much.

Is there a specific aesthetic to how the art work must look like for it to be a true heavy metal cover? What is the perfect heavy metal album cover?
-Yeah the artwork should look like a action movie. Just like the music needs to sound like one!

How do you avoid ending up a cliché? Is it so bad to be a cliché?
-Nah, I know it’s a cliché. But Manowar was cliché already at their second album but that’s not a concern for me. I like cheese.

When can we expect anything new from Rocka Rollas? What future plans do you have for the band?
There are a few albums in the works, the next one I hope can be released this year!

SATURNIAN

SATURNIAN are a British symphonic black metal band that really impressed me. Myk (Guitar/Backing vox) answered my questions. Anders Ekdahl ©2012

I’m a bit of a word geek which is why I find band names fascinating. How common words van take on new meanings in different contexts. What is behind the name Saturnian?
-The origins of the word ‘Saturnian’ lie with an ancient Roman form of verse which has been clouded by history, but as well as referencing this it also reflects upon space, the idea of being from outside of this Earth, ‘from Saturn’ as it were.

When you have an album to shop round with what is it that you are looking for that you can’t get doing it yourself?
-The main difficulties with releasing an album yourself are things like getting the correct amount of exposure for it, distributing it globally, although this is mainly in a physical format as obviously mediums such as digital download make it easy for people all over the world to get hold of your music. A lot of labels work with each other ensuring the album will be distributed in different territories.

How hard is it to find the right people to work with? To me it seems like everybody and their uncle gets signed.
-It is fairly easy to get signed these days, home recording quality is much higher and people care much more about production these days, sometimes even more than the music. Also with mediums such as Facebook, Soundcloud etc it’s a much less daunting task to get your music into the public eye. Both of these factors can be detrimental though, sometimes better bands are ignored because they don’t have a glossy production, and it can be a very over-saturated market with thousands of similar sounding bands making it much more difficult for bands with their own sound to get noticed.

How do you plug your band the best without compromising your artistic integrity?
-Well, as mentioned there are the online methods, Facebook etc and it is extremely important to have a strong digital presence. But in my opinion nothing is still as important as word of mouth, actually getting out there, playing shows and making sure people will remember you. There are bands with tens of thousands of ‘likes’ on Facebook that still can’t get booked for much more than a small show in a bar, and vice versa there are bands with less than a tenth of ‘likes’ which will be able to go on tour with serious bands.

Where does the idea to play symphonic black metal come from? What’s wrong with plain old school black metal?
-There is absolutely nothing wrong with old school black metal, it’s most of the band’s favourite genre of music and some of us do play in more traditional BM bands, but the idea behind Saturnians music has always been more than ‘just’ black metal, we take a lot of influence from everything from Black/Death Metal, traditional heavy metal, classical music and film soundtracks, hopefully to create a more unique end result.

What importance does the lyrics and imagery play for Saturnian? Do you focus on some special themes?
-Both lyrics and imagery are almost as important as the music for us. There is a recurring theme from our upcoming album, although not quite a concept. To be put simply, it is basically one of lost knowledge, society and religion has clouded our perception of the world around us and confined us to a very narrow minded, ‘tunnel vision’ way of viewing life. Saturnian’s theme is about breaking free from these constraints, whether that be total nuclear devastation forcing us back to an older, purer way of life, which is referenced in Eternal Eclipse, or as another example, through the use of mind-altering substances, which is alluded to in Dimensions.

When you play symphonic black metal how do you avoid being compared to or even ending up sounding like a band like Dimmu Borgir that seem to have defined this whole sub-genre?
-It is difficult to avoid such comparisons, and during the bands beginnings Dimmu Borgir were an influence. However to be honest no-one in the band really listens to them anymore, and these days the songwriting is generally more along the lines of creating riffs or melodies and then adding the necessary orchestration to it later, rather than mimicking other bands.

How hard is it to stand out among so many bands that pop up every day online and on physical formats?
-I believe I touched upon this earlier but to expand upon it, we try and make the live show as convincing and visceral as we can, write superior music as opposed to just aping whatever the current trend is, and make sure that every step we make is calculated to benefit us, as opposed to just blindly following what other bands are doing.
What kind of scene is there for black metal bands like yours in GB? How supportive are the fans of a national band?
-To be honest there isn’t much of a scene for the music we play, which I believe is one of our main strong points, however there are a few other bands blending orchestral music with Black and Death Metal, examples of these would be GraVil and Phyrexia, both of whom we’ve shared a stage with, as well as our good friends in Xerath, who take the aforementioned influences and mix them with a more progressive style.

When do you think we’ll be able to get anything new on record by your guys?
-We should have some news regarding this very soon, the album is fully recorded, mixed and mastered by the maestro Russ Russell, and we can’t wait to unleash it upon an unsuspecting metal scene. All I can say is keep your eyes peeled and check us out at all upcoming shows, including both Wacken and Bloodstock Festivals!

ARCHERS & ARROWS “S/T”

ARCHERS & ARROWS
“S/T”
(-)
With a name like Archers & Arrows you kinda want this to be as cool as possible. You don’t want it to be middle of the road and everyday common like the stuff you hear on the radio. Conformity is not allowed. And from looking at the cover you too kinda get the impression that this could be one of the wildest trips you’ve ever been on. And from the start I got a The Clash feeling to it. I just love The Clash. There is also a pop punk feel to it that I don’t care too much about. Maybe not the tech/math metal that I kinda hoped for but still with enough attitude to make me enjoy it. But the wildest trip ever this isn’t. And while not being middle of the road there is still a too degree of conformity to it to make it stand out fully. Good stuff but not the mind blowing stuff. Anders Ekdahl

BLODHEMN “Holmengraa”

BLODHEMN
“Holmengraa”
(Indie)
Norwegian black metal in 2012 might be as hot an entity as in the 1990s but there are still some treasures to be found. Don’t know if Blodhemn will be treasured but this is black metal the way we’ve heard a thousand times before. Nothing wrong with that if it is done well. And good this is. Black metal that is very basic and raw just like early Burzum was or Darkthrone before they went all punky on us. Do not expect any greater symphonic moments on this album. This follows in a tradition of simplicity that was started by Hellhammer back in ancient times. If you like Mayhem’s masterpiece then this will be one for you. Just don’t go expecting anything as great as that album. This is still a pretty good black metal album. Anders Ekdahl

EARTHMASS “Lunar Dawn (Keep, Relic & Ritual)”

EARTHMASS
“Lunar Dawn (Keep, Relic & Ritual)”
(-)
It is quite adventurous to release a one song only record. It’s a win/lose situation. You gotta win over the listener in one song and if it isn’t any good you’ll lose them straight away. No redeeming features, no other songs to win the m back. Just one, long song the way Sleep or more lately My Dying Bride has done it. My hope for this is that it will musically be like a cross between Sleep and My Dying Bride. Doom and gloom times 4. And it started promising. With the promise of something potentially good I sat back to enjoy this 20 minute journey. Perhaps not as psyched out as Sleep or as doomy as My Dying Bride this still turned out to be heavy and psychedelic enough for me to want to go on the ride again. Another 20 minutes of enjoyment to look forward too. Anders Ekdahl

ENTHRALLMENT “People From The Land Of Vit”

ENTHRALLMENT
“People From The Land Of Vit”
(United Guttural)
This Hungarian band are new to me but I still had high expectation on it. And it lived up to all my expectations. This is death metal the way it is played by Cannibal Corpse. This is death metal that is so zombified that you wonder if the dead will rise to conquer the world. If you like melodeath you better stay the hell away from this or you’ll be buried under a pile of rottening meat. I like when you don’t have to think. You just put it on and let it embrace you. It’s like being stuck in quick sand. The more you move the more you are trapped. Let this album flow from your speakers. Let everybody around be embraced by the full on force that is Enthrallment’s death metal. Gotta go, can’t speak anymore. I have to spin this one more time. Anders Ekdahl

HERMAN FRANK “Right In The Guts”

HERMAN FRANK
“Right In The Guts”
(Metal Heaven)
Can I be frank with you Herman? Almost anything will be forgiven simply because you’ve given us some of the greatest heavy metal with Accept. This, your latest solo album could be the worst kind of dump and you still be forgiven. “Right In The Guts” could sound like a washed out old man and you’d still be forgiven. Nobody can take away what you have done. Not that he has anything to be forgiven for. This is heavy metal the only way Herman Frank seems to know how to play. And while this isn’t the latest Accept album it might just as well have been that. There is that distinct Accept-ish feel to it that makes it so great. This is heavy metal period. Anders Ekdahl

KATANA “Storms Of War”

KATANA
“Storms Of War”
(Listenable)
OK so there’s a hype about Katana. I don’t really care. I have never ever been into hype. I only go for what I think is good and don’t care what anybody else think. Which might explain why I sometime don’t get the hype. When people rave too much about something I tend to have a hard time understanding why. If you like your heavy metal Swedish then this will be for you. I know I do. Don’t know why there are so many playing a style of metal that was born long before they themselves were but I’m happy that they do. You can never get too much good old heavy metal. This might not score high on the cool scale but hey, heavy metal has never been about being the coolest. It’s all about the music. And this music is good. Anders Ekdahl

KENOS “Nightrain To Samara”

KENOS
“Nightrain To Samara”
(Club Inferno/My Kingdom)
OK so melodic death metal doesn’t conjure up to much of a stir these days but truth be told done excellent this kind of metal can be just as rewarding as any other form of metal. Having formed in 1999 this is the first time I come upon Kenos. With four previous releases to their name you think that I’d heard of them but no I haven’t. And that might be my mistake. This wasn’t as sugary as I had thought. There’s actually an edge to this that makes it stand out from most other melodeath bands. There is a Fear Factory kinda groove to this that puts it aside. Not too shabby for a MCD. Just wish that there had been a couple more tracks to enjoy. A MCD is so quickly done with. And you’re left with a desire to hear more and not having to repeat it for that to happen. Anders Ekdahl