Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ensorcelor Interview

Interview conducted by Nick

Having been a huge fan of Ensorcelor since initially hearing them right around the start of the blog at the end of June, beginning of July last year, I had been wanting to interview them for awhile. I was able to shoot Mike a couple emails full of questions in regards to the workings of Ensorcelor, his label, Media Tree Recordings, as well as his solo project, Æsahættr. Here's how things went:

BS: You’ve recently entered the studio once more for the follow up to Crucifuge. Where’d you guys end up this time, and how has the process been so far? Facebook posts claim a new twenty minute track is in the works.

M: We recorded one track with Radwan Moumneh at Hotel2Tango, and it sounds crushing! I think our dearth of functional equipment figured prominently in our choice of studio, as we chose one with a lot of beautiful vintage gear we could use to really nail the tones we were going for right away and record live off the floor, rather than using gear that sounds bad (ours), and dicking the engineer around forever while mixing, trying, as it were, to polish a tone-turd. This approach definitely works best for us now that we're a little more comfortable with the process of recording.

 Working with a sound engineer who came up in heavy music was an important point for us too, as far as choosing to work with Radwan at H2T. He definitely did not disappoint!

The 20 minute track will be released as a split with Lycus from Oakland way later this year on Flenser and Vendetta. Lycus are awesome.

BS: What was your favorite piece of the vintage gear to work with? Any "out-of-ordinary" instruments to (not) expect on the album?

M: No weird instruments, not even keyboard on this one, just basic rock and roll stuff. For gear I used a Garnet "Hertzog" tube pre-amp which was beautiful, as well as a 1970's ampeg V4 and an old ampeg 4X12 which had recently been refurbished with re-issued (i think) Alnico speakers; this combination was endowed with sickening amounts of low-end, somehow. I also had my Peavey 5150 running through my new D.I.Y. 1x15  and a Marshall 4x12, although i am certain most of the good tones were not coming out of any of those...
  Hal had a very nice combination of Sunn and Hiwatt stuff going on, and Yailen just went through a 1970's SVT and 8x10; there were some pedals and pre-amps as well, but i'm less sure what their exact set ups were... and we've got to have some secrets! There was a beautiful Travis Bean bass in the studio, of which there were only 500 ever made, but the sound wasn't really working out for us, so it basically just served as eye candy – nay, as inspiration!

BS: What influences can we expect to hear on the new albums (splits)? What new(er) bands are you guys currently in to?

M: I'm not sure about what influences affected our songs; if anything, i would say we're starting to sound more and more like ourselves... i'm beginning to notice patterns...

 Lately i've been listening to the new Monarch album (OMENS) like crazy, Craft, Bell Witch, Thou, The Body, Wardruna, Krallice, Nightbringer, Dark Castle, Menace Ruine, Acrimonious, Gorgoroth, Leviathan, Colin Stetson, Moloch, Paysage D'Hiver, Lycus, Laudanum, Graves at Sea, Gottesmorder, Asunder, Darkspace, Ascension, Inquisition, Ahab, Ayr, Sortilegia, Thantifaxath, Martyrdod, Botanist, Moss, Danzig, Pallbearer, Knokkelklang, Durthang, Immortal, a bunch of Rhinocervs stuff, Hell, SunnO))), Ulver, Endless Blockade,  Thergothon, Darkthrone, and lots of Black Sabbath; maybe to cover everyone else just throw in some Roy Orbison, Ash Borer, Neil Young, Wormlust, This Quiet Army, the Cure's demos, Crimpshrine, Bolt Thrower, and some 1960's ska, and that's pretty much what we're listening to these days, as far as i am aware. You know, the usual...

BS: From reading an interview you’d done prior to this, it was said that a ‘trend’ of sorts with Ensorcelor is releasing material much later than it’s actually recorded. Is there any reasoning behind this? When playing live, do you find yourselves disinterested in playing the older material and wanting to play the newer tracks you’d work on in the months between recording and releasing?

M: By the time we've recorded and mixed a song, we never want to hear (or play) it again, so our live shows are often comprised of a lot of more experimentation; there's a lot of drone, synth/keyboard stuff, and weird, haunting melodic singing. Sometimes we'll combine sections of songs into others... it keeps us from getting bored; it also keeps our sets from being awkward lengths.

There's no reasoning in our delays in releasing our songs, but the answer is a simple one: we're all very disorganized and very broke; thus, things tend to take longer. We are slow.

Speaking of which, we have a split record with Moloch coming out very soon! Our side was recorded over a year and a half ago (at the same time as Crucifuge), and it's a song we have not played in a very long time...

BS: Yailen is rumored to have lent her vocals on the upcoming full-length, Omens, by Monarch (due out February 28th). What can be said about this?

M: Rumours nothing, she's all over it!

Monarch and Ensorcelor are buddies. Monarch recorded different elements of Omens in several different locations. As Michel and Émilie were living in Montréal at the time, Émilie recorded her vocals at Crane studios with Matt Cartman (who has done a lot of stuff for us, including Crucifuge), and asked Yailen to do some singing. There are several other guest musicians on the album as well, but i can't remember all of them, so i won't list them here.

Several months ago Michel snuck me an unmastered version of the record, and i've been listening to it like crazy ever since. Omens is probably the best album Monarch has ever done, and it will definitely be one of the best, if not the best album of this year.

BS: The track released on the band’s Bandcamp, Into Urarctic Mistral, can we expect this on the new album, and is it along the same vein of what we can anticipate the album to sound like?

M: No, that song is not going on the new album, nor any album, actually. Into Urarctic Mistral is one of our earliest songs, taking it's initial form before we had even recorded Urarctica Begins, but eventually being set aside for a long time. The version from which we took the excerpt on the bandcamp page had been signifigantly reworked since then, but once we had recorded it, i think we collectively realized that in addition to being bummed about the end product (our performances, tones, etc), that the song just wasn't very good.

The final section of the song, which is what is up on the internet now, is salvageable, and we have incorporated theses ideas into live sets, as i mentioned above.

BS: So, we have a split with Lycus, and a split with Moloch coming up for you guys, any other splits we should know about?

M: Besides the splits with Moloch and Lycus, we really have nothing else planned out for the time being. We're writing new stuff, but everything is in a pretty formative stage for now.

BS: You ended up reworking a lot of Crucifuge a week or so before getting into the studio. Did you do the same this time around or was it more thought-out and completed the way the band would like prior to entering the studio?

M: We were much better prepared this time. Fewer drumsticks/tantrums were thrown.

BS: How have things gone with the most recent drummer in the song writing process and overall?

M: Hans is working out really well, and is an awesome guy to have around. Despite being more of a powerviolence/hardcore drummer, he has proven to be pretty dedicated as well as malleable, actually put a lot of thought and effort into his drum parts, playing slower, and hitting harder, and as a result Ensorcelor is getting a bit more stark, and slowly approaching our coveted ideal of glacial slowness/crushingness.

BS: That's a hell of a change in pace going from powerviolence/hardcore to the Ensorcelor sound, I imagine that's been a bit of struggle for Hans. It's like telling a rabbit to be a turtle for a day, has Hans expressed any desire to speed up parts or has he become fond of the 'glacial' pace?

M: All of our drummers have come from fast bands, and had little to no experience with downtempo music; in every case, this has been their ultimate undoing, as they gradually lost interest, became frustrated, or the ridiculousness of what they had gotten themselves into gradually dawned on them.

However: Hans' will has been crushed beneath our heavy boots of lead, slain by our sword of sloth...

He is our slowest drummer yet, and is incredibly patient. Definitely at first he would want to throw in some blast beats and stuff, but he's figured out since that that kind of thing is pretty tacky in this context. I think both in his case and collectively, we've become less concerned with having "upbeat" or "rocking" parts, and more focused on being slow and evil.

BS: Can we expect another set of etchings for the new album or any other goodies?

M: Aesthetically we don't really have a concept for this release at this time. Having some help would probably be awesome.

BS: How are things going with Media TreeRecordings? After the highly impressive red vinyl and silk screen printed versions of the also highly impressive Thantifaxath demo, I know myself as well as many others are looking forward to what’s next.

Stressing quality over quantity, Media Tree has only one release planned for the coming year as things stand right now: I will be co-releasing Lycus' first full length LP with Psychic Assault sometime this summer, most likely, as they intend to record the material for this LP as well as the split with Ensorcelor sometime in the coming spring.That's all i'm taking on for the moment, unless i come across something new that totally floors me.Very excited for this release!

BS: What updates can we get on your Æsahættr project? The demo material is absolutely incredible; the tape is frequently in my cassette players (car, Walkman, home deck).

M: Iconoclast Records in Italy is releasing the Æsahættr album on vinyl this spring. It was their idea that i do a European tour to promote it, and they even went so far as to offer to put a band together for me, which although it speaks volumes about their level of commitment, struck me as kind of a strange thing to be a part of, and as a potential disaster. Instead i asked Thantifaxath to come on tour with me as my band, and asked another friend to take over on vocals ('cause i don't wanna!). Thantifaxath will be touring as themselves as well of course, which works out very nicely for all involved. Our practices are going inceredibly well, and i'm really looking forward to getting the fuck out of Canada for a while.

I have written a good deal of new material for Æsahættr, but as of yet recorded nothing.

BS: Æsahættr and Thantifaxath together as one band. That will be outstanding but tiring for Thantifaxath I would assume. Any chance of getting that tour in the States?

M: Depends on how tired Thantifaxath is, i guess...

I honestly haven't given it any thought; which is not to say i'm opposed to the idea; quite the contrary, actually. I think it's better to just take this one step at a time and see how we fare on the European tour first.

A huge thank you to Mike and Ensorcelor for taking the time out to do this interview. Be sure to keep up-to-date on all these upcoming splits and fantastic releases and show your support!

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