This interview with Nick Orlando of Evoken features questions by U.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Evoken, you are missing what is possibly the best doom band in this country, and easily one of the most powerful purveyors of aural desolation in the music scene. Evoken is really the only doom band in the world that actually makes me feel inspired when listening to their mournful, beautiful melodies, and I had been looking forward to interviewing them for quite some time. Bands like this are very rare. After a great deal of wrangling, trading emails, and (on my part) harassment, I have a lengthy series of questions and answers to offer you, our persistent readers. I hope you enjoy it, and remember, if your curiosity is sparked, to at least do yourself the favor of listening to this great assemblage of musicians. You won't regret it.
- U. Amtey
First off, I would like to introduce the readers of this interview to your band and give them a clearer picture of your sound, your personal history, and your progress in the scene so far. I am not interested in detailing a long biography of your band - rather could you tell me how you, personally, became interested in metal music, how you started on the path towards Evoken, and what influenced your decision to play in the style that you are now exploring? Are there any specific concepts or ideas that your music revolves around? What made you decide to pick up a guitar and start playing? How did you meet the other guys in the band? Was everyone intent, in the beginning, on the style of music that Evoken now plays? Do you work on any other projects outside Evoken, or does all of your energy go into this one band?
I became interested in metal music way back when my older sister bought Metallica's "Ride the Lightning"....at that point i already had a couple of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden albums....but nothing quite like that. I knew i wanted to play heavy music after i heard "Fight Fire With Fire". A couple of years later i got my first guitar and that was it, the path was obvious. While i was in Putrifact in 1991, i had gotten the 2nd Disembowelment demo and that completely crushed me...it was exactly what i wanted to do with my own band. I already had their first demo and it just was an entirely new thing they were doing. After Putrifact, i put out various ads in the paper and slowly but surely found the right people who also loved the same music and had the same visions of what the band should sound like. Our intentions from the beginning were to write the heaviest, darkest, most desolate stuff we could write. I am currently the only member in the band that has another project outside of Evoken...and that is my death metal band Funebrarum.
Please explain the song writing process that Evoken uses in the composition of your material - is there a specific method or pattern that you find yourself following again and again? Who is mainly responsible for the music, or the lyrics? Does it take a long time in the rehearsal room to carve out the architecture of each song, or has it become a spontaneous process now, with each member of the band adding ideas? Are there ever arguments about how the music should progress, or about the place Evoken has in the world 'doom' scene? What makes Evoken different from other bands playing this style of music?
Most of the material is written when we are all together at practice. Spur of the moment stuff usually turns out the best. Me and Dario write most of the music but John and Steve also contribute now and the songs are then composed by all of us.We usually take more time with the composition/flow of the songs...making sure everything fits together well and finding the sections where guitar & keyboard melodies should go. It's better that way as opposed to when the first album came out, when i would write just about everything. We usually don't argue too much in regards to the music...it's a democracy, so if someone is opposed to a riff we don't use it. Vince takes care of the lyrics now for the most part, with me or John occasionally coming up with something. I think what makes Evoken a bit different from most of the doom bands today is our ambient music influence. It gives us a bit more of an obscure atmosphere...as opposed to the usual sad/melodic doom. I personally don't find listening to Evoken as a "sorrowful" experience; but more of a dark, haunting venture. Desolate...hopeless...bleak....are good words to describe it. Of course, that's only my opinion...people can experience it however they choose to. Not quite the cosmic horror of Thergothon, the eastern, mystical feel of Disembowelment, or the simple wall of death like Winter....but somewhere in between.
I know that Disembowelment has been a powerful influence on Evoken - can you explain exactly why you find their music to be so influential in your own writing? What do you think is special about their material - what separated them from other bands? Lastly, what exactly is it that is 'original' in their sound, why are they so influential when other bands from the same 'scene' have fallen into obscurity? Are there any other bands, past or present, that have been influential in the creation of Evoken's sound? If so, why - and how have they inspired you? Are there any specific works of literature that have been particularly influential in shaping your concepts or lyrical direction?
Disembowelment were the first band i had heard that actually had all the elements i wanted in my own band in their sound. Super heavy guitars with those clean guitars over the heavier ones....the vocal chants...the mysterious atmosphere....no other doom band or any other band for that matter had their sound. Like some dark, cavernous monastery in Tibet...and the chanting of hooded monks echoing above the music. It still hasn't been touched upon by anyone else, nor do i think it ever will. Our separate influences would slightly vary so it would be useless to tell you what my personal influences are...but i will say Evoken as a whole is influenced by Disembowelment, Thergothon, My Dying Bride, (old)Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, Winter, Celtic Frost, Black Sabbath, and ambient/non-metal stuff like Lustmord, Black Tape For A Blue Girl, Dead Can Dance, Lycia, Monumentum, Portishead, etc...As far as the lyrics go, like i mentioned before...our drummer Vince takes care of them for the most part now. I know my lyrics and poetry are mainly influenced by Baudelaire, Poe, & Lovecraft...the big 3 in my book, along with alot of 19th century French & English stuff. Baudelaire's "Le Fleurs Du Mal" in my opinion is the greatest work of literature there is, period.
A quick question: what was the source for the cover art on your last album, 'Embrace the Emptiness'? That's a really striking image, and it goes perfectly with your music...also, were there any specific concepts at work behind the music on that album, outside of the lyrics? Listening to it again, I've noticed that the songs definitely progress in one direction towards the last song 'Curse the Sunrise' - they just get slower and slower, and darker and more morose as the record runs towards the end. It's almost like being on a journey, where the last song just lets the music completely disintegrate into its separate elements...is this just a reflection of the order in which you composed the material, or was it planned this way?
My bassist Steve found the picture in an issue of Time magazine. One day he brought it to practice and we were all completely stunned by it. We all agreed it was the perfect cover for our album. Its message is one we try to convey in our music....despair, misery, desolation, loneliness, etc. It was taken in Afghanistan a few years back. We did not plan to make it conceptual at all....we did take time to put the songs in the order we felt they would sound the best. I do agree with you though, the album naturally turned out to get slower and darker as it went along.
Let's talk about doom metal, or doom death, for a second. Why do you think this style of music is so powerful or emotionally resonant with doom musicians and their listeners? Is it something about the pace of the music, the tempo, the construction of the songs, or is it more profound? Are doom musicians more interested in detailing or reflecting emotional states than anything else? You always hear doom musicians say that this type of music must be played 'with a great deal of feeling' - what exactly does that mean, examined critically? It has always been my opinion that doom death is much closer to classical, or symphonic, music than anything else - and at times it completely escapes the boundaries of 'metal' music. Doom musicians also seem a lot more open-minded than other types of musicians when it comes to incorporating new sounds or instruments in their music. Could you comment on these thoughts?
Because of its intensity, doom effects human emotions greater than any other music...at least all those repressed, negative ones that some might hide away. I couldn't answer for all doom musicians, but in our case it's basically a statement about our outlook on life and existence in general. Not to say we're complete misanthropic nihilists, ( although i do try my hardest )but it's always the dark, negative stuff that we are attracted to and try to relay in our music. Doom is the sadness, the misery filtered through the soul of the musicians playing it and put to music. A reflection of what we hold closest to our hearts. There is also plenty of positive...we are all relatively happy, normal people. We've simply chosen to explore the darker side of life....which is suffering, depression, misery, and eventually death. And like anything else, if you play this style of music without a great deal of feeling for it, it's going to show in your music. If your heart is in it....your music will have resounding effects on the listener because it is all very real. The open-mindedness stems from the fact that doom/death has different sub genres that are all undefined by any "specific" sound. It is one type of music that definitely has alot of ingenuity and creativity within its ranks. Thus without the burden of outside expectations, a band sees more opportunities to experiment with various instruments/sounds. Not to say that a band willing to experiment should worry about what others think, obviously.
Do you think it's necessary for doom musicians to follow a certain lifestyle outside of their connections with music - to be surrounded by melancholy, for example, every way they turn? Or is this just posturing, pretending? A lot of people feel that musicians who play very sad or depressing music must be intensely depressed themselves - this isn't true, is it? Are there just certain types of musicians who are better at expressing melancholy than others? Does Evoken reflect, in any way, the personal lives of the musicians involved - in other words, has there been real-life inspiration for these tales of woe? For you, personally, how does it feel to play music that is so utterly despondent? Is it a relief - a catharsis - for you, or does it weigh on your mind at times? Do you ever feel an urge to play music that is more aggressive?
I don't think it is really necessary to be a depressed individual to write this kind of music...although i'm sure in alot of cases it may be so. Totally honest emotions put to music. But certain people just have a flair for writing really depressive music just as certain people can churn out aggressive/slam music...it doesn't mean they are the exact same person inside. I for one can get very depressed sometimes...but picking up my guitar and writing riffs is the last thing i think about doing when i'm feeling down. My depression creates a very apathetic state, where i just sit there and rot...not wanting to do anything at all. It's more about connecting those intense feelings of sadness to your music and expressing them as such....the music should be true to your feelings but i don't think it must be played by utterly depressed maniacs. We all have depression sometime or another. Evoken to me is total catharsis....it actually makes me feel better playing this music because it is what i love the most. There are alot of personal emotions tied to the music so it is always a relief to me when i play our music. For the aggressive side, i have my death metal band Funebrarum. That is more than enough for unleashing the demons.
Doom death, or even the more traditional forms of doom metal, have never really been widely popular on any scale - these movements or styles seem to attract specific types of people, and while there may be many listeners who are interested in hearing doom bands, you rarely find people who listen exclusively to this style - even though there are, for example, people who only listen to black metal bands or death metal groups. Can you explain this? Is doom metal just too intense, or emotionally stirring (or inversely, deadening) to listen to regularly? Or is something else, in that it has never really become a 'trend' and inspired a mass following? What do you think will have to happen before doom metal becomes widely popular? Do you even want to see such a thing happen?
Doom metal is too emotionally intense and extreme for most. Even black metal, which in some cases is very extreme, is up-tempo and even uplifting sometimes. Doom goes against all normal human emotions creating a totally negative atmosphere. When you listen to doom, there is a constant oppressive feeling of sorrow and negativity that never resides... ( at least in any good doom band ) Black metal, death metal...its all aggression and rage...as extreme as they are there is still positively in being able to release anger...to become heightened physically by the up-tempos. In doom, there is just that claustrophobic layer of misery that is relentless in its severity....no hope, no happiness. The true anti-life. I personally don't see doom becoming popular anytime soon. Black metal and death metal have both been watered down into easily digestible music for the masses...making them both even more popular then they already were. Doom has had its share of watered down, gay goth-o bands too but for some reason even that garbage still has not become really big yet. It's just a cult form of music and i guess it'll always be. I like it that way.
Evoken drawing out the suffering...
I've noticed, in the past, that over the last 10-15 years, for example, it seems that a country or single national scene can only really support one truly original doom band - you had Candlemass in Sweden, Bethlehem in Germany, Disembowelment in Australia, Thergothon from Finland (?), My Dying Bride in England, and now Skepticism in Finland...actually, to tell you the truth, Finland seems to have more now. Can you explain this pattern? I know I am leaving a few out, but the point I am trying to make is: seen in retrospect, it often seems as if there wasn't enough room in one country for more than one really original doom or doom death band - why is this? Is it just that there are not enough followers to support more than one successful band? Or does one band somehow exhaust the entire scene's motivation towards playing this kind of music? Is it something else? Do you see this changing in the future? Do you see there ever being a cohesive scene here, in this country, for example?
Doom sells very poorly as it is, and also has the fewest fans compared to the other underground scenes. There just isn't enough room for 1 or 2 doom bands to co-exist, especially when your playing extreme doom/death. The lighter, more gothic style of doom you play, the more accessible you become. You basically choose to isolate yourself from the majority of metal fans when you choose to play the style we have.The few who get it and feel it and love it are die-hards and the rest push it aside because its too "boring" or too much for them to handle.There is no appeal to it for most people because its never become a trend or fad. You know how it is....the music becomes trendy and then the market becomes flooded with 8,000 bands of the same style. Usually, there at least a couple that are actually decent and stick around long enough; thus creating a "scene". That's never happened with doom. If it ever did become a cohesive scene, it would probably start right here in the U.S. We definitely have the most doom bands out today. But it's not the same as it was in 90-91...the glory days of the scene.When bands stuck together and corresponded with each other. It's really everybody on their own as far as i can see. We are guilty of this ourselves...we basically keep to ourselves and do what we do. No use trying to make friends with people you wouldn't want to call a friend in the first place. Of course, i'd like to see the scene become a lot stronger than what it is now. This type of music definitely deserves alot more recognition than it currently gets. But scene, no scene, it doesn't matter to us...we're just going to keep on doing what we're doing.
This is something of a difficult question, but please answer it as honestly or completely as you can. The doom scene, and the doom death bands in particular, have always seemed to have something of a love affair with the thought, concept, and personal history of suicide. Can you explain this? What power does suicide have to enchant, or inspire? Is it just a logical expression of the intense desire these bands have to create music that is despair-ridden or depressing? Why do you think suicide is so endlessly fascinating for our culture? And connected with this is the concept of death, which seems to be the central topic (if there is a true center) for doom death bands - what, in addition, is so eternally inspiring in the thought of death? What relation does Evoken have, if any, in connection to these two important ideas? Is doom death the best (or most relevant) style of music for expressing the thoughts or emotions that spring from a contemplation of death and suicide? If so, why?
Well ,death is a topic of some of our lyrics as well as alot of other doom bands....but suicide is something we've never actually touched upon. I myself have never been really fascinated with the concept of suicide other than the feelings of utter dread and despair these people must have to cause them to commit such an extreme and final act. Which is probably what makes suicide so fascinating to most people....why would you purposely invoke your own oblivion ? I think doom plays into this from the perspective of lost love... Doom bands have a fondness for singing about tragic stuff like dying brides, departed loved ones,etc...and of course many suicides are caused by just such tragic events. We like to keep our lyrics similar to obscure, dark poetry-more fantasy than reality.
To change the subject, let me ask you this: I know that you recently signed a deal with Avantgarde Records out of Italy. Can you tell me how this deal came about, who contacted who, and what this deal will offer Evoken? Were you having problems with your former label, Elegy? What will Avantgarde be able to do for you that Elegy couldn't? Will there be any chances for your band to tour in the future? If so, which bands would you really like to go on the road with? Are there any specific places you want to go to, outside of this country?
I had been in contact with main man Roberto when the first MCD came out back in 94/95. Since then, i had lost contact with him for a couple of years until he had sent me an email complimenting us on "Embrace the Emptiness" and how much he had enjoyed it. From there, we corresponded a bit more until he offered us a contract in which we gladly accepted. They have some pretty classic releases that we are all big fans of so the choice was relatively easy. The deal is for 2 albums; to be completed by 2002. We didn't have any problems with Rob & Elegy Records. He is a cool guy and his label is definitely getting bigger each year. It's just that a relatively unknown band such as us needs alot of promotion...which we didn't really get. Money is a little tighter with smaller labels, and i can understand that since he did give us a very generous amount to record...we just didn't have the promotional push that could've really helped us in the sales department. Chances of us touring are probably pretty slim unless we sell a really god amount of albums. We'd love to do a small tour someday...especially Europe ! That's a big goal of ours. I think with Avantgarde's awesome promotion we could really do well. They cover all the big zines...so who knows, perhaps a tour is feasible in the not so distant future. If i were to pick the places to go, we'd play England, Italy, France, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Germany... fuck, i'd love to go to Australia !!! I know it's kind of unrealistic, but it's good to set goals. Most bands i'd want to tour with are long gone, but i wouldn't mind hitting the road with Esoteric or Monumentum...even Black Tape for a Blue Girl. Anything atmospheric would be great.
Evoken has recently completed, or is in the process of completing, a new album...can you talk a little about this new work? How has Evoken's sound changed? Were there any specific forms of evolution in the band or the song writing process? What can people expect to hear on this new album - in what direction is Evoken heading with the latest material?
To be honest, our sound has not drastically changed. We've gotten perhaps a bit more experimental on this one in certain parts, but overall it's still very much what Evoken has been doing all along. Our sound is slowly becoming our own with each recording, and we do attempt to put some new ideas in our music; we do not want to become totally stagnant. But we refuse to change and become a totally different band overnight and disappoint any of our fans. We were raised on brutal old school death metal and doom and we will always have those influences in our music. We refuse to compromise for anyone. Ignore brainless industry fools who tell you that bands who fagged out are simply "maturing" or "branching out"....it's just a matter of seeing green and all the stardom that comes with it. There is such a thing as changing for the better, without selling out or becoming weak crap.
And to finish up the interview, please add anything extra here that you would like to have our readers see.
like to thank you for the interview....it was by far the most in-depth one i
have ever had the pleasure of answering. I apologize for the insane delays !! Good
luck with Endymion & Erebus....both of which i thoroughly enjoy and am a
supporter of. Support the doom scene & Keep it heavy !!!!!!!