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MITHRAS (LEON/ LEE)

HI! HOW ARE YOU? WHERE ARE YOU? Leon Macey: Hi Tobias! This is Leon Macey from Mithras, and I’m fine! I’m at home at the moment relaxing. Lee: I’m ok, currently in torment in Hull. WITH THE NEW ALBUM TWO YEARS IN THE MAKING AND EVEN A DELAY CAUSED BY PRESSING PLANT PROBLEMS YOU MUST BE SO GLAD “WORLDS BEYOND THE VEIL” IS FINALLY OUT! WHY DID IT TAKE SO LONG TO COMPLETE? Leon: Well, I’ve been writing music for this album since before we recorded the last album (2001’s ‘Forever advancing…… legions’) so it’s been a long and hard process. I’m very glad that we got to a stage when we were confident enough in the music, our performances and the album as a whole to finally record the album, as we’ve been toying with recording it since June 2002. It’s taken 3 years in total from starting writing songs for this album to it being released. Lee: I don’t think two years is a long time to make an album, it’s the average really. Most bands take two years. ABSOLUTELY LOVED THE ALBUM! THOUGHT IT WAS COURAGEOUS AND COULD NOT BE REDUCED TO A SIMPLE FORMULA. DO YOU FEEL TOO FEW RISKS ARE BEING TAKEN IN TODAY’S METAL SCENE? Leon: Great, I’m glad the album finds you well! We just played exactly what we played and wanted to hear on this album, and we think the results speak for themselves. It wasn’t a choice as such, just what came out. I personally find most death metal if not extreme music to be boring these days, and as you rightly state, rarely risk-taking. Lee: I’m not sure “risks” is quite the right word, but yes, I think there’s a lack of drive to do something new and different. However, I think writing good songs is always more important than being original for the sake of it. I CHECKED THE BAND BIO PAGE – IS IT MANDATORY FOR MEMBERS OF MITHRAS TO LIKE MORBID ANGEL AND BAL SAGOTH? Leon: In a word, yes. Lee: Yes. Why else do you think me and Ben were asked to join the band? Previous members have had to leave the band as they didn’t fulfil these requirements! DESPITE CLEARLY EXPRESSED ADMIRATION FOR MORBID ANGEL YOU DON’T SOUND LIKE THEM AT ALL. HOW COME, DIDN’T YOU MANAGE OR WEREN’T YOU TRYING? Leon: Well that’s a refreshing opinion. We often get accused of being a “Morbid angel rip-off”. I don’t personally think we sound that much like them, I think the main similarity is the level of techniques we display and use in our music, that we can actually play our instruments to a high level. Lee: It’s funny you should say that, as some people think we sound just like them. Actually the main reason we don’t sound like them is that no-one really sounds like Morbid Angel. Personally I think it’s pretty rare to find two bands that do sound very much the same, that is, a band where you could say “wow this could be a song by that other band”. The more you listen to a style of music, the more you can appreciate the differences and diversity between acts, and also the things that the bands in that style have in common. I think the reason some people have mistaken us for a Morbid Angel clone is because on the surface we seem to have certain things in common with them, such as the drumming style and spacey solo sounds, which most bands aren’t capable of or don’t use. Further listening should make it evident that we have very few riffs that sound like a Morbid Angel riff; the solos are not something that Trey would play, and so on. WAS THE MUSICAL PROGRESSION BETWEEN THE LAST ALBUM AND THIS ONE A CONSCIOUS DECISION OR DID THINGS EVOLVE NATURALLY? Leon: It was a natural progression. The music had been evolving since we formed the band, and the atmospheric elements (which I feel are what sets us apart from other bands) are now at the fore, and are the core of the songs. A huge amount of the music on this album was written by me when I was in an almost blank meditative state. Once I’ve committed a song to tape in demo form, I rarely change it, so nearly all you hear on the album guitar wise is the original song structure as it came out of the guitar the first time I played the riffs, just the natural order it came out in. Also on some of the songs the leads are the exact original takes from the original guitar demos, such as “Psyrens”. We did decide on this album to rein in the OTT speed which was prevalent on the first album. Just to lock it down more but still have a lot more groove and feel and more jazzy drum parts as opposed to the boring standardised drumming prevalent in a lot of bands. We didn’t cut back on the blastbeats, but we have a lot more ultra fast double bass on this album than on our debut. We did also used a metronome to stop problems such as me playing too fast on the drums (which happened a lot on the debut album…ahem) but we had tempo changes all the way through the songs, not just one stupid tempo for the entire song. The tempos were actually crucially important on this album, as some of the songs didn’t sound at all right when played too fast or too slow. I FELT THAT THE ELEMENT OF TIME WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE ALBUM: AT TIMES, YOU SEEM TO PLAY WITH IT, WHEN DRUMS ARE THUNDERING ALONG, BUT ONE HAS THE SENSATION OF STANDING STILL AND IN THE CLOSING SEQUENCE OF “BEYOND THE EYES OF MAN” YOU EVEN MANAGED TO DISCONNECT THE LISTENER FROM IT ENTIRELY. AM I TALKING NONSENSE HERE? Leon: I’m glad you noticed! That song has a very cataclysmic feel to the ending part where you can almost sense doom coming. When composing music for Mithras, really timeless sounding melodies were just what came out, so it’s become the trademark for Mithras now, and is something we will expound upon on the next release to an even greater level. Lee: Yes, I find myself standing still a lot when we play live, usually when playing a difficult riff or solo! I’m not sure what part of “Beyond The Eyes of Man” you mean, as the song is about 6.30, but the track goes on for ages after that. HOW DID COMPOSING GO? WAS ALL THE MUSIC FINISHED BEFORE THE LYRICS WERE WRITTEN OR WERE YOU IN CLOSE CONTACT WITH RAYNER ALL THE WAY? Leon: I wrote all the music on my own (in the manner I previously explained in question 6) bar two sections which Rayner contributed at rehearsal (which did add the final touch to those songs). We worked on the lyrics in synergy with the structure of the music as they were both developing. The guitar parts stayed the same since their inception and were mostly ready 1.5 years ago, but we spent 2.5 years of practicing once or twice a week for 8 hours on the drums and bass/vocals along to a cd of the guitar parts to give the album a really rhythmic feel and to get the vocals and lyrics tied in with the songs. Lee: Yes, Leon and Rayner have certainly been in close contact all the way! YOU CHOSE AGAINST CROSSFADING TRACKS, WHILE THE “TRIPPY” NATURE OF A LOT OF THE MATERIAL WOULD HAVE SUGGESTED ONE CONTINUOUS PIECE. ANY REASON FOR THIS? Leon: Well some of the parts do crossfade into each other (‘The caller and the listener’ into ‘Break the worlds’ divide’ for example). We could have easily crossfaded more of the album, but some of the songs demanded clean starts to give more impact. Lee: Several of the tracks do crossfade. I don’t think there’s any point crossfading every track together though just to make it one continuous piece. Silence is effective. Like the silence between the thoughts of the universe maaan! THE VERY EXACT DRUMMING STYLE FOR “WORLDS…” IS INTERESTING, IT REALLY SOUNDS LIKE A DRUM COMPUTER! HOW DID YOU RECORD IT AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO FOR THIS TECHNIQUE? Lee: Well personally I don’t think it sounds like a drum computer. The toms do have a very triggered kind of sound, which is probably what you are thinking of; when he does a big tom roll it has that mechanical sound. But I think the drums as a whole sound a lot more organic than a lot of today’s death metal bands. Listen to the snare and bassdrum sounds used by a lot of today’s bands; they’re really clicky and obviously triggered. Our sound isn’t like that, neither is it quantised to make it all 100% in time. No cheating!!! Leon: For the purposes of rehearsing this album I recorded the guitar tracks to a metronome and burnt them onto a cd; then we rehearsed the drums and bass/vocals to that cd played through a huge pa system. We changed the speed of the metronome around a lot and did different tempoed versions of each song until we were happy with the final tempos. On the album I recorded the drums to a mix of the demoed guitar tracks and a metronome click which turned out to be very hard work but was worth it. We mic’ed and triggered all the drums to give a natural but consistent sound. The drumming style is just the style that suited these songs. I READ A PREVIOUS INTERVIEW THAT LYRICS ON THE NEW ALBUM WERE MORE PERSONAL THAN BEFORE. AS THEY SEEM TO DWELL ON UNIVERSAL MATTERS (MATTERS OF THE UNIVERSE THAT IS), I WAS WONDERING WHAT EXACTLY WAS PERSONAL ABOUT THEM. Leon:. Interesting question. The lyrics are personal in that they represent ideas that are much more in touch with what we personally believe and are interested in, such as transcending after death, other life in the universe, mankind’s eternal struggle against himself etc., so in that sense they are more personal to us, as opposed to being personal meaning they are about us or our lives in general. THERE SEEMS TO BE A CONCEPT OF SORTS BEHIND THIS ALBUM. IS THERE? Leon:. The basic premise of the album is that in the not too distant future something from another place notices earth and then comes. The results of which are catastrophic for mankind. It also deals with the ideas of more than one reality and other dimensions than our own. The lyrics are all based on ideas/stories that Rayner and I worked on. The entire album reads like a book, with each song as a chapter. Each song deals with a different aspect of what the album encapsulates, and does not always obviously follow on. A lot of the songs use metaphors to give a dual meaning (for example,. the song ‘Psyrens’ can be paralleled with the Sirens of Greek legend, and the song ‘Beyond the eyes of man’ can be representative of an almost Pied Piper-esque figure in parts. QUITE A LOT OF THE SOLO-GUITAR INSTRUMENTAL PASSAGES SOUNDED LIKE THEY COULD HAVE BEEN INFLUENCED BY 70S ELECTRONIC MUSIC. ANYTHING TRUE ABOUT THAT? Leon: Well I haven’t really listened to any 70s electronic music so I wouldn’t know, but if you’d like to recommend me some I’d be interested! THERE IS A NOTE IN THE BOOKLET POINTING OUT EXACTLY WHERE A SYNTHESIZER WAS USED. DOES THAT MEAN YOU TRY TO LIMIT THE USE OF KEYBOARDS? AND IF SO, WHY? Leon: Well noticed. A lot of people misconstrue a lot of my guitar parts to be keyboards, so, on each album we point out exactly which bits are not guitars so there can be no confusion. We don’t limit the use of keyboards, but I’d much rather have the main bulk of our non-instrumental songs playable live on guitar, so there are no keyboards in the main songs on this album, just the instrumental passages. Lee: Keyboards are for wimps!!! Seriously, if we had keyboards in the songs, we couldn’t reproduce it live unless we had a keyboard player. SOME OF THE MORE DREAM-LIKE PASSAGES WOULD MAKE FOR A GREAT INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM. DID THAT THOUGHT EVER COME UP? Leon: Yeah! It’s something I’m thinking about doing now, whether I’d use the existing songs as a base or do something totally different I don’t know. Watch this space… “THE SANDS OF TIME” IS AN INSTRUMENTAL, YET SOUNDS AS THOUGH IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN INTENDED TO FEATURE LYRICS. WAS IT? Leon: No, it was never intended to have lyrics. For all the instrumental passages, Rayner wrote words for them which are in the booklet, to be read alongside the piece. These are also important to the overall flow and concept of the album and he did a great job with them. DO YOU THINK THIS ALBUM WILL WORK IN THE REGULAR LIVE SITUATION? AS YOU SEEM TO LIKE GOREROTTED AND AKERCOCKE, WOULDN’T THAT BE A NICE TOUR PACKAGE? Lee: Yes I think it works in the live situation, but I think Mithras is more suited to a bigger stage, and we want to have some of the instrumentals and stuff playing between the songs, so it’s more like the album. We want to give some sort of impression of… vastness I guess, some enormous entity bearing down on you (and I’m not just talking about Rayner). So far we haven’t played the kind of live show we are aiming for, so the best is yet to come! About your tour idea, maybe fans of English death metal would like to see us play with those bands, though there might be a fight for who gets the headlining slot! Leon: Given the fact that all the above bands are at a fairly similar level I doubt we will be doing any shows together as we are very different from both bands ideologically. WHAT EXACTLY IS THE STORY BEHIND THE PROBLEMS WITH SINISTERWEB? Leon: People were making comments not about the music, but about my personal life between me and my fiancée (Lisa McManus who publishes Terrorizer magazine) on the Sinisterweb forum. They insinuated that there was an unprofessional bias whereby Terrorizer gave us a better review due to the personal relationship between us, even though the guy who reviewed our album had been lined up to review it for a year and these then denigrated into extremely disgusting and personal attacks on us, particularly Lisa which I found totally unacceptable. Content on the internet is still subject to laws relating to slander, and the webmasters are responsible for the content of their site, so we contacted them and asked for them to simply remove the offending posts and pass on the IP addresses so we could pursue the matter further without making life difficult for themselves. They decided to go offline instead and have remained so since. It was their call, but that obviously started more senseless gossip amongst the online community – such is life! YOU’RE A QUALIFIED SOUND ENGINEER. DOES THAT HELP OR MAKE THINGS MORE DIFFICULT – SINCE YOU PROBABLY HAVE EXTREMELY HIGH DEMANDS ON SOUND QUALITY, BUT RATHER LIMITED STUDIO TIME (WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT THE ALBUM DOES NOT SOUND GREAT!). Leon: Yes the job I’m qualified to do is Sound engineer (www.dreamingstudios.co.uk), and as such we didn’t have any restrictions on studio time on this album. Lee and I recorded the drums in the main studio (which we did the entire debut album in) over five long days (and nights) in May, then I did all the guitars at my studio between May and September. Rayner recorded the bass parts at my studio too and then we went back to the main studio to do the vocals over five or six sessions between July and September 2003. Lee and I spent 7 days mixing and mastering the album at the start of September and then it was released pretty soon after! We had extremely high demands as to what we wanted and I feel we achieved what we were aiming for with this album. Lee: You have to do the best you can with the time and resources available. If you do this, then you can be satisfied with your work. DOES THIS ALBUM SOUND LIKE THE MITHRAS OF THE FUTURE OR ARE WE IN FOR ANOTHER SURPRISE WITH YOUR NEXT PROJECT? Leon: The next album will undoubtedly be similar in some ways to ‘Worlds beyond the veil’, but another step or two forwards. I’m working on ideas and concepts for it now. I’d like to take what we did with this album and push it even further beyond what anyone else has done. Lee: Yeah there will be some better solos on the next album *wink wink* maybe some duelling guitars! har har. ANY FAMOUS LAST WORDS? Leon: Fantasies lead to creativity. Lee: DEATH METAL TILL DEAFNESS OF ALL MANKIND THANK YOU!

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