Monday, April 8, 2013

Lamentations of the Ashen Interview

Lamentations of the Ashen is a one man melancholic black metal band hailing from the U.S.  It is led by Bon Vincent Fry whom I have had the special privilege of interviewing.  Lamentations of the Ashen is ready to release a new album later this year which promises to be good especially for fans of the past. Here I catch up with Bon on various thoughts, his band, about the metal scene, and more.  This is a great read!  Enjoy it!


Freddy: First things first, How have you been doing? How is the new Lamentations of the Ashen album coming along?  Are you still expecting it to be released sometime in the spring/summer of 2013 or have those plans changed? 

Bon: "I've been well. Just trying to stay busy and looking forward to this summer. It seems there is a lot to anticipate in the coming months. The new record is coming along great. I'm satisfied with how the material is coming together and I cant wait to get back into recording mode. I'm wrapping up a few final things compositionally and then I'll be good to go. These things are always very difficult and time consuming so my original time frame has indeed changed. I plan to spend the summer recording and I'm shooting for a late summer/autumn release. I can say with certainty that it'll be ready this year though,(laughs) but I'm also not rushing anything."

Freddy: Have you picked out an album title for the new LotA? 

Bon: "Yeah, I do have a title but I don't want to release all of that info quite yet.....I could go into a little detail on what the material is like but I'd rather just wait and release the music instead."

Freddy: I can't wait for the new album myself especially since you did mention that fans of "In the burden of the heart's plaint" would take interest but lets keep that a surprise. (laughs)  I am sure you are keeping busy especially with the launch of your label last month, The Evergreen Spires.  How is that coming along?

Bon: "Well, right now the label is in the extreme beginning stages. I'm just observing and on the lookout for potential bands to work with currently but the first release will be the next LotA record so until I have work on that finished I can't really do anything major with the label. It's a work in progress but I am excited about it and what it will grow into over time. Underground, DIY culture is something that I cherish so I want to build it into something that embodies that."

Freddy: Awesome. Glad you are concentrating on the LotA album first. LotA is surely one of the few bands in the genre that can still pull it together in my opinion. Your music has been magical. Can you briefly tell us how LotA began?  Did you think you would be where you are today?  Would you ever consider making LotA a full band for live sessions or anything?

Bon: "Thanks you for the good words. I seem to have become quite flippant myself in regard to the vast majority bands out there, especially in the DSBM realm. Derivative, juvenile banality just doesn't move me. Far too many children with no concept of individuality are content to rip off their favorite bands...."

"My first thoughts about starting a Black metal project came as early as 2006. After ruminating upon the idea and gathering random pieces of recording equipment over time, things really started to become deliberate at the end of 2007/early 2008. The project came from very humble beginnings. After I finished the first song I wrote in Feb. of 2008, I recorded the guitar track into a standard vocal mic that I propped onto a shoebox because I didn't have a mic stand. It was also covered in a big wool sock that I had because some guy told me once that if you put a cloth over the mic, that improves the sound somehow.(laughs) I don't think it really made much of a difference though. I also set up a chair outside of the room the mic was on and played in the hallway so the mic wouldn't record my pick strokes. The amp I recorded with was just a small marshall practice amp with an 8 inch speaker so it wasn't very loud. Then, after I was done with the guitar I played the drums on a borrowed kit in the best way that I knew how at the time. It's funny to think back on that because recording the drums AFTER the guitar is basically the opposite of what you should do. Now I record drums first with nothing but the click track in my ear and the melody in my head. The project came from nothing and I had nothing which in stark contrast to my current situation because I've managed to build something of a decent home-studio set up over the last 5 years. I was just inspired and had this music inside me and was just intent on really making something happen with it."

"To answer the second part of the question, it's funny because I have thought about this quite a few times over the last few years and I will say that this project has met and exceeded any expectation I had. I'm exactly where I wanted to be and even quite far beyond at the same time. It has taken a turn musically that I never expected as I have become experimental at times and have ventured into territories that I never anticipated, but over the years I have just become more diverse in my musical preferences and that has certainly had an affect on me. It was always a personal journey, something to grow with as a person and a musician and it really means a lot to me. It's mine and no one can ever take it away."

"On the issue of playing live.....that's a good question. It's an idea that I've kicked around on and off for awhile now but it's an extremely hard thing to put together especially with the circumstances and nature of this band. I think a big part of the problem is that there isn't a very high probability of finding musicians that will take time away from jobs, family, etc. to go out on tour in a band that isn't theirs. It's not like they'd be getting paid or anything and they don't have the personal connection that I have with the music so it's just not something that's very easy to put together. It also takes a lot of money. I'd basically have to fund the whole thing and make sure that everyone has the right gear to make it sound the way it should. There are a lot of issues that come into play but those are just a few for brevity. I just feel that with all the time, money and energy I'd put into getting a live gig together, I'd rather just write new music. I don't remember being particularly fond of touring in my past experience anyway and the live circuit can really be a fuck story at times, something mired in money, politics and incompetent, stoned sound engineers rushing you through your set so they can get off work. So, with that I will say that playing live is something I'm not interested in at this time and not actively working toward. I would not rule it out as a possibility for the future though. You never know what can fall into your lap...."

Freddy: Ok, so when you are not listening to metal, what are you listening to?  What are some non metal bands that you currently enjoy?

Bon: "I listen to non-metal bands quite a bit actually. My favorite band ever is MONO, I recently saw them live and was so moved that I wept. I also like Bethany Curve, earlier Marissa Nadler, Espers, the folkier vein of Ulver, Codeine and Godspeed you! Black Emperor."

Freddy: Nice! Going back to the earlier days, is there a chance you'd release or re-release "In Distance (Implorations Unto the Wind" for fans interested in hearing your earlier work?  And speaking of which, I have had fans ask why "In the Burden of the Heart's Plaint" is not available on the bandcamp for stream, download, or purchase when I recommend them to your music.  It surely is the pinnacle of your work in my opinion.  It surely has something that EKIMMV doesn't have but that is not to say that EKIMMV is not good because it is just as good but in a less experimental way, I guess. 

Bon: "Yes, I do have plans to re-release the debut EP as a limited edition vinyl in the future. It'll have to be re-mastered for vinyl and there are some other things I need to coordinate to make that happen but it is definitely something I'm planning for. A few years ago, Singularity publishing did a cd re-issue so if there are any fans interested I would recommend getting in contact with the label. I haven't put "Burden" on bandcamp due to issues with the format of the original files I have but that is another album that I want to do a re-issue of. All of my releases have been pretty low quantity and it's something that I want to remedy for those that are interested in hearing the earlier stuff." 

"I hear that often in regard to "Burden" but another thing I've noticed is that the two albums kind of appeal to different crowds or groups of people. "Burden" has always been really well received by the pure DSBM heads and I think EKIMMV kind of steps outside of that circle a bit. I feel like the new record is really an expansion on the style of both records though so I imagine that people who enjoy my previous output will take a special interest in this one too. But at the same time, I've never been one to want to write the same record over and over. I like to constantly push myself to evolve and explore new elements so this certainly will not be a reiteration of past works and will present plenty of new and even challenging ideas and sounds."

Freddy: Yes I did a review for EKIMMV a while back and simply said the same thing.  You can't make the same record over and over. Speaking of releases, wasn't there at one time a split due with A Cloud Forest? A Cloud of Forest is another favorite of mine, that is why I ask.  I guess you guys couldn't come to terms on something or would you rather not say? A split with you two would of been phenomenal.

Bon: "Yeah, to tell you the truth, splits are kinda something I haven't had much luck with. In the arrangement with A Cloud Forest I suppose that's rather unfortunate. At the time I was really concerned on my end about being able to fund it and I had some misgivings about how the overall quality would turn out since we weren't on a huge budget. I had also been obstacled by some things I had developing that involved me relocating across country and it really just got lost in the mix. I thought I had found a label that would potentially release it or partner with us but nothing ever came of it. There was never any bad blood between them and I though. I actually have a high level of respect for what Eric has accomplished over the years in the underground. He's something of a veteran I guess. Perhaps a split with them isn't out of the question for the future as circumstances have and do change."

Freddy: I see! Good to hear. So not too long ago you were getting in merchandise for LotA, ie. shirts, stickers, buttons.  I know I got my two shirts, stickers, and buttons when they were on sale.  Did they sell well?  Are you sold out or do you still have a few left in inventory. I know you wanted to get rid of them because you had new ideas. On the back of the shirt, it also says "Tragic Black Metal,"  Is that what you would categorize LotA as a whole?  It suits the sound very well. I get a lot of people categorizing your music post black, but that really doesn't do justice to the LotA sound in my opinion. It more than just that.

Bon: "Yeah! I remember sending those to you. Many thanks for the support. I think I still have less than 10 of those EKIMMV shirts left so they've been selling slowly but surely. I can't be unhappy about that. I think it's hard for some people to spend money on things like music and merch nowadays with the global financial and job markets collapsing so that makes me extra thankful for those that do support. I don't try to be terribly shrewd about selling things and turning profits(I put my albums up for free download)and I really just like to do merch because its a good thing to have and I think that the fans appreciate the opportunity. I have been working with Adversary designs lately on some new art though so everyone can expect at least one shirt design with some top notch illustration and graphic work. I'm really impressed with this guys skills and I'm glad to be working with him."

"Tragic Black Metal" is something that was coined by the label I used to be on, singularity publishing and It was really consistent with my own vision concerning the project so I just stuck with it. As far as a categorization.....yes and no because I really don't consider LotA to be purely black metal....but I guess that doesn't totally matter. I don't think there is any need to convolute things. I do also hear the post black thing a lot, I guess I don't really have an opinion on that. It is what it is I guess. I think people like to be able to identify what they're listening to for some reason and that explains the affinity for genre tags that you see everywhere.(laughs)"

Freddy: I understand you cannot simply put a tag on LotA.  Speaking of tags, genres, and so forth, it seems within the last few years that the USBM has been booming with an abundance of bands.  What are your thoughts on the USBM scene in general?  Do you follow it or just listen to whatever comes your way?  Also, I would like to get your thoughts on the DSBM? It seems labels are just adding a lot of generic bands these days too rather than going for the ones that stand out.  I think that is hurting that scene. Would you agree with that?

Bon: "You know, truth be told, I can't even really say that I listen to a lot of black metal right now and I haven't for awhile actually. It's not that I don't listen to black metal at all but there was a time when the ONLY thing I even heeded was obscure, miserable black metal. I didn't want anything else and now I see that as folly but to answer your question, I have noticed a huge surge in black metal in general or at least a certain vein of black metal and I think it's probably nothing more than a passing trend or musical fad. I'm almost 30 now and I've been into metal since I was a kid and I've noticed a recurring pattern of transient musical 'movements' and every time there are these deep divisions between what I guess are variants of the genre. You have the more traditional end of the spectrum that hate the newer bands, the differences in styles, the trend mentality etc. and I think that's what we're seeing right now in black metal especially in the US.. That's  why you have what could be called the black metal "orthodoxy" denouncing other bands as "hipster" and whatnot. I'm really not surprised and I pretty much understand the reasons for the contempt because you have this massive wave of bands calling themselves black metal that are culturally and philosophically at odds with what black metal is. So much of this stuff you see now can be really bloated with political correctness, humanism, feminism, veganism, and green propaganda. Black metal is anti-human, offensive and threatening, the opposite of what you are seeing currently for the most part.  I suppose it has just reached that "vintage" status in its existence and naturally has placed it in a position of appeal for those that collect culture for fashion, nostalgia, or novelty. But I'm sure it will pass, I've seen this before, whether it was the hardcore wave of the early 2000's or the whole death/metalcore trend that we've seen more recently. It passes and when it does, the bands drop like flies... The pinnacle of USBM for me is Nightbringer and other than that, Leviathan and Xasthur are essential for me. Ceremonial Castings, Deathspell Omega, Black Boned Angel, Earth, Forteresse, Hate Forest, Rosetta, Editors and Fall of Efrafa are some bands, not all USBM that I listen to often."

"I don't really hold DSBM in a very high regard to be honest. I'm just not interested in it and it's got nothing to offer me. It is indeed a sheepish, bland movement that is utterly juvenile and total garbage. It's annoying really, like, how many fucking times do I have to see some "new" album with a noose on it and some black and white cover or something. Everything is just clad in these ceremonious bromides about suicide and shit that are totally uninspired and vapid. It just gets kind of old you know? I also don't want to listen to an 8 minute song that is basically 2 riffs with a shitty drum machine. I'm not going to go into a bunch of detail and rant about it but I denounce "DSBM" and want to have nothing to do with it or any other musical scene. The Black metal I make/made is dark and miserable because black metal IS dark and miserable. We'll just leave it at that."

Freddy: Understandable!  One thing that lingers me about the DSBM scene is the fact that I think DSBM is a way of the mind, not a way of life.  You have all these guys and girls physically inflicting pain on themselves which I guess would make sense but that is not what it really is about or is it?  It just sends the wrong message but I guess it has to be evil.  Of course, that is my opinion. 

Bon: "I think I'd agree with you on that. It's a degenerate, histrionic, attention seeking state of mind. Again, I can't stress enough how juvenile I think all of that stuff is, the theatrics of it all, the self-pity, the so called 'negativity' , the whole glorification of narcotics, and the self-mutilation. It can't be a way of life because its not conducive to growth, it's destructive and it stands for nothing. It's a behavior that is a by-product of a stare of mind. My own struggles and demons in life and my magnetism towards the enjoyment and creation of sad music have ultimately taught me that through suffering there is ultimate enlightenment and beauty to be attained. That might sound like some bullshit platitude but it's true and I think that my work with LotA has been a reflection of that. I've learned that it's easier to be negative than positive, that's just human nature, and matters are not made any simpler by the fact that contemporary society has built up this false, idealistic vision of reality for the masses to subscribe to and such notions estrange us from the true nature of our being and have a way of compounding our sorrows. To tear away the veils of worldly illusion and understand our true nature is to transcend life's sorrows and build  a more virtuous existence."

Freddy: Well any last words for the fans on what to expect or just in general? I really do appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with me.  It has been great chatting with you and getting to know your thoughts on various subjects and what not.  It's been an honor.  Now go finish that LotA album!  No rush of course. (laughs)  Thanks again.

Bon: "I very much appreciate the interview and acknowledgement and also for the review of EKIMMV last year or whenever that was. I'd also like to thank anyone out there who have supported the project and I'd advise people wanting to stay up to date on the workings of the project to follow the Facebook page for now. 

Stay tuned for the release of the upcoming full-length later this year.."



--Interview conducted by Freddy Garcia--

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