Interview with J Dread of Plaguehaus
Hello. To start things off with, would you please give a short introduction to Drear to those still unfamiliar; what is Drear, a short history of the band and such…
N: I suppose Drear started to come together around the end of 2003, with our first demos and ideas getting done in February 2004. Mid-2004 we put out 50 or so copies of Hope is the Opium of the Masses which was greeted warmly by a few and I suppose indifferent by most. Towards the end of the writing and recording of that demo we planned a split with Great American Desert, with whom we'd both been in contact with for a while. Our side was finished late 2005 and it was eventually, after numerous artwork let-downs and mixing problems (Drear's side is essentially our second demo), it was released by Erik at Autumn Wind Productions in mid-2006. Since then we've been working on demo 2, which we can imagine will turn into album 1.
G: The band came together partly as a result of shared musical interests and I guess a desire to turn those interests into something creative. As N said the first demo in 2004 went largely unnoticed, (though they were available for free) because we were a bit shit at selling ourselves. Not really my thing and I expect not N's either. It then took us a while to get the split with GAD out due to numerous restarts and revisions, but we made it eventually! And now we continue. Slowly...
You've been around since 2004 (according to Metal Archives at least) and so far have only two releases out… do you just like to take your time with each creation, or are there some other reasons behind this relatively slow release pace?
N: I'd say it's a mix of prioritising, and a desire not to rush We've both been through degree courses and employment, we both have other musical ventures, and because we don't rehearse as a full band, the songs are written in a way unlike a band jamming in a rehearsal room once a week. We do like to take time with each release, increasingly so., as things are layers (although sadly our production so far doesn't do everything justice). It's nice to have spells of productivity where you bash out a demo over a few weeks from scratch, but we're not at the stage where we're established enough to put out every trimming that we write. Made that mistake before and far, far, far too many bands are shooting their muck too soon, (possibly) before they've done their own creativity justice. It's a shame, but we try hard to avoid it!
G: I would add that, for me at least, it has taken a while to really understand where Drear wanted to go with its - for the lack of a better word - aesthetic, because it has taken a while to understand where I wanted to go with myself. The two are necessarily linked.
Where is it then that you/Drear want(s) to go?
G: Drear as an expression of both frustration and appreciation I guess. It is easy to be entirely misanthropic or suicidal or hateful or brutish in music, but what is the point? It seems to me to be the result of a disaffected suburban lifestyle where melodrama can be the only outlet, and though this is not necessarily a bad thing it does display a certain shallowness of thinking in my opinion. I would like Drear to avoid this cliché not least because I'm not a particularly hateful or depressed person myself. It could have been a trap to fall into when Drear started out as I was a teenager at the time but the slow pace of creation has allowed ample time for changing and thinking, and shall continue to do so I expect.
...Isn't this last bit what Tool say about themselves in interviews? Time to change and all that. Haha, I can see where they are coming from now.
Above all, I would like for Drear to be engaged rather than escapist if that makes sense? The latter has time and place to be explored, but I don't think Drear albums are that time or place. It is a time for thinking and reflecting, I hope, aided by the more "progressive" music (that term has much too many connotations sadly) that N mentions and lyrics that steer away from the standard fantastical fare.
Or maybe I am just being a pretentious twat in answering this question. I don't really want to tell people what to do or how to listen, so it is important to say that everything in this interview is just a person's opinion!
N: Knock yourself down, hah. Musically, I intend for Drear to simply continue in whatever way it continues. There're no plans to make a record of 'x' music and then a record of 'y' music and then collaborate with 'xx' on some 'z' music. It's just something that's unplannable and unpredictable, without falling into that boring realm where a band commands you to 'expect the unexpected'. The only plans I have for the band musically are to continue to grow, creatively.
Your second and at the current time latest offering is the split with Great American Desert. What kind of feedback has it garnered from the listeners? And looking back on it, what is your opinion of your portion of the split?
N: It's been very positive generally! Labels, distros, punters, friends and so on have looked at it favourably, and enjoy the odd paring of the two bands. On our side, I'm not 100% satisfied with it as we lost the masters of it before recording the final layers, so the mix isn't as punchy or full as we intended, and musically it's not as 'progressive' as the stuff we're working on now. But otherwise I'm happy with it. AWP did a great job and the layout, courtesy of D. looks great and makes it feel like a nice SPLIT album.
G: I enjoy the split although I didn't listen to it for months, largely to allow a distance from the creation process and enjoy it a bit more objectively. I think the lyrics weren't entirely suited to Drear, but that doesn't matter because nobody could read them anyway. Arf.
The lyrics of the split are a wee bit hard to decipher… what was the idea behind this? Just to annoy the fuck out of people or something more?
N: To save space, hah hah hah! Sorry...
G: It was a very pretentious thing to do wasn't it? Haha. We just wanted to be annoying, if I remember correctly. The idea came from a night of pissing around and it stuck.
Yeah, it sure is annoying, pretentious and irritating. But so is the layout for the Kaniba-CD too so who am I to judge? At any rate, I was able to decipher enough to note that Ancient Bridge is rather Lovecraftian lyrically. Is that a one-off thing or does Lovecraft and Lovecraftian themes have a more integral role in Drear?
G: You're right, it is Lovecraftian. However, it was very much a one off "dedication". Though I personally have great interest in Lovecraft and all things Lovecraftian, it is not particularly relevant to Drear as band. You are quite a Lovecraft fan yourself, no? All those Terrorgoat and Saaamaaa albums...! You know, I am sure, how well trodden a path the concept is in darker music and thus it is something I'd like to avoid with Drear.
I guess you could call me a Cthulhu Mythos-"fan". Not so much a Lovecraft-though; the older I get and the more I read his stories, the less they appeal to me. But, anyhow, would you say that "avoiding to tread well-trodden paths" is applicable to every facet of Drear, from music to lyrics via the visuals? And is it a conscious choice you've made, or is such an aversion towards "clichés" a natural reaction?
G: Avoiding cliché can't be a natural thing, can it? The natural tendency toward cliché is an implied aspect of the word. Anyway, it would be nice to do something that doesn't become haunted by the phrase "X-clone" or "Y-worship", and so I guess we do make a conscious choice to avoid certain things. For example you won't find artwork from Travis Smith, lyrics about heathenism or any attempts to make the music sound "post-". Otherwise we write things we find interesting and others hopefully will do as well, incorporating lots of different influences both inside and outside of Metal and its generic associations. I consider Joanna Newsom's lyrics to be some of the best I have ever heard, for example, and may consider taking a similar narrative approach in the future. No promises though.
What is the ideological and/or thematic concept behind Drear?
G: I'm not sure how to answer this as it is quite a grand question! A shared respect and admiration of "Nature" (as vague a word as that is) would be a large factor, and an anger at its exploitation and manufacture that is especially virulent in Britain. Such a small island with such a dense population means towns and cities and roads and farms and industrial estates everywhere. All the same, all boring, all frustrating. "We want trees, not factories!"
So in other words you're a bunch of tree-hugging hippies? Seriously speaking, does this respect and admiration of nature stem from a religious/spiritual point of view or a more secular ecologically minded ideology?
G: Secular and based in a political, sociological, ethical and most of all COMMON SENSE approach to life. Drear, however, isn't solely "eco-doom". It is the centrepoint for the next release but in the future will undoubtedly vary in its subject as we have other interests too. Such as alcohol, chicks and British comedy.
N: Yes, the difference between the phrase 'tree-hugging hippies' is that Drear is not based around a flailing, wafty love of the world and every 'nice' person, but more on an admiration/hatred of progress, process and cultivation; both in nature and in people. Whether this is a physical, aesthetic growth in the natural world, or the growth of the personality, strength and creativity in people, it is encouraged, and its hindrance is denounced. Also, the promotion of experiencing things outside (again, we're throwing cliché double meanings of 'outside'!) is very much something Drear has been about, increasingly so, since it has existed. "An object cannot compete with an experience."
Musically you exist somewhere between Black Metal and Funeral Doom; if you had to choose, which do you identify more with?
N: Difficult to say really. Originally we set out, as most people do at their band's genesis, to be a [funeral] doom band, but the way it progressed, the more elements seeped in.
When I'm in writing and recording mode, a phase which comes and goes, I don't tend to listen to much other than my recordings to allow only influences which are stored in my head to be manifested within the music, to avoid this dangerously boring thing of setting out to create a piece of music which sits nicely where you intended it to sit. It's much more healthy to really draw on the lasting, stark, powerful influences that you keep with you and plough them into your project than to think "I want to splice Bethlehem with Burning Witch blah blah blah blah blah".
That's why I'm a lot more satisfied with the forthcoming Drear demo material, because there are no conscious efforts to do anything other than Drear songs, whatever they turn out to sound like. I find it a much more free and healthy way to create.
It's also why I can't say I identify with either, to be honest.
G: Vocally, nothing specific. It is not too dissimilar though to a lot funeral doom bands, with a mix of deep growls and the occasional raspy Black Metal type of thing. I'd like to add in some clean vocals but unfortunately I am not too great at singing haha. Someday though...!
England. Underground Metal. The "scene". What's your take on it? I did an interview with Vintyr a few years back and his sentiments were far from positive. Do you agree with that, or are things better now or in your eyes?
N: He's right.
I don't pay much attention anymore to be honest though. There are a few bands about which SOUND good, and do things that other highly regarded bands do, but I don't consider that to be very appealing at all. Generalising as I am, I see that 'fans' are lapping up boring bands with nice production, and musicians are either showing disregard to production and releasing 'necro' sounding stuff, complete with computerised hiss and sloppy playing, or they're putting more time into production to give themselves a little 'edge' over other bands, but still recording boring music. If music is boring, a crushing production won't extend it's shelf-life, it'll just aid it's immediacy and impress the easily excited. Some people can probably see an improvement on the general standard, but this isn't music that'll stick in your mind for many years really, is it?
My second boot (although it's more a futile dead arm punch!) into the country is that all but a pinch are still following suit and trying to maintain a cool, knowing and 'true' image on internet forums and it's very boring to read! If you're going to be misanthropic and moody, don't post about it, just live it. It's tantamount to Estuary English (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Estuary_English), some of the obviously self-conscious (and very boring) comments people make in public forums to keep their status in the pecking order.
But as I say, I ignore it all. It's far too tedious and far too samey. Boring boring boring.
G: There are quite a few underground (extreme) metal British bands I enjoy and it is sad perhaps that they are tarnished by the reputation of British bands being "a joke". It might be something to do with people misunderstanding bands can be both somewhat tongue-in-cheek and serious at the same time. However I am also sure most of these bands don't really give a shit about reputation and that is the way to go really. Any band that cares is not a band worth listening to in my opinion.
I agree with what N said also, but personally I'd say that sort of thing is not limited to Britain or England, although this place seems to have gained a particularly bad reputation for it - in Black Metal at least. Maybe it is all the stupid band photos.
Whatever happened to England? Just the other day I was thinking how an overwhelming majority of my post-60's favourite bands are from the UK. But, to talk about the "scene" a little more; do you identify yourself with any scene or musical grouping or whatnot (national or otherwise), or do you see yourselves more as a separate entity from that all, unconcerned with it?
G: A lot of "legendary" and influential bands have come out of this country, it's true. I guess the increased amount of PCs (due to ever lowering prices) and the advent of the internet at home has meant everyone can make their own music and display it to the world. I think this is quite a good thing actually but it does mean wading through greater amounts of shit to find the good stuff.
With regards to Drear: of course we cannot be separated from music that comes out of the UK, since that is the place we have emerged from. However we are not a reactionary band trying to "raise the bar of UK metal" or something like that, we just want to take our influences and create something from them. Drear is not my / our only creative outlet and I think that is quite beneficial as it means I can be quite focused with what we want to do. And this was rambled on about previously of course!
N: No, we can't seperate, as that'd be silly. We just ignore and continue with our own concerns. Until people come along and understand what we're talking about, we feel no need to maintain UK contemporaries or anything like that. I don't get much out of being patted on the back; my life comes before my music, as important as my music is to me.
What music do you find to be inspirational to you/Drear? And in general, what inspires Drear?
G: For lyrics: dreary (!) weather, horrendously cultivated English landscape, a lot of literature, certain strains of contemporary thinking and basically being angry or sad or sadangry. Vocally, nothing in particular.
N: As I've mentioned before there aren't really any completely concious influences within the music, but there're things in there that I notice after recording. To name a few I've noticed.........Nortt? Emit? Sabbath? Portishead perhaps? Reviews of the split came out with the usual "Xasthur, Leviathan, Skepticism etc etc etc" but I don't think I was influenced by anything other than Nortt. It's really hard to say what's slipped in there, which I find quite pleasing.
From the first listen, Drear sounded to me like a near-perfect musical depiction of a typical, rainy Finnish autumn evening. Earlier you talked about spells of creativity; are these in some way connected to the seasons?
G: Well, talking about the weather is a very typically English thing to do! Haha. Finland is not somewhere I have been (yet!) but I from what little I know of the place I can imagine it is not too dissimilar in autumn to where I grew up. Except colder. In Norfolk, which is on the east coast of the UK, because much of the warm weather blows in from the south-west (which, perhaps ironically, is where I currently reside) by the time anything reaches that part of the country it is mostly cold and miserable. Thus: October till March meant overcast skies and rain. I have grown up loving - or rather, appreciating - this type of weather, and Drear I guess is partly a reflection of this loving relationship with it. I also fucking hate hot weather! Perhaps because Norfolk was never really that hot even in summer. Thus "Warring Against the Sun" and those lyrics for "The Weather Report for Judgment Day" on our first demo. Musically I guess there is quite an oppressive but vast atmosphere to the music which I find to be quite a good reflection of the ominous clouds that would spend so long in the skies, and the covering of dead leaves on the ground, and the massive walls of rain that would fall for days at a time.
What plans do you have for the future? Do you have any plans for another more widely available release within the foreseeable future?
G: As N mentioned earlier, the first full length is in the works but it probably won't be out before Spring 2008. We have yet to concern ourselves much over labels or distribution.
N: We should be having a friend jump on board as a drummer, starting in a year's time. Perhaps a live show sometime, but there's no rush. As I ranted in the UK question, a boring band can play live and get a bit of excitement and praise from the easily-impressed, but I haven't seen many underground bands in a live setting that have impressed me. Drear could work, it could fail. It'd be nice to be given an opportunity to rile and encourage!
You mentioned that the new material is more progressive than the older stuff… so what can we expect from the full-length musically?
G: Songs with lots of cowbell and wanky titles.
N: Punk blastbeats, a guitar solo or two, more weird guitar techniques and we'll actually mix the thing in stereo this time? Haha, I do hate describing music in text... One thing to note is that there are still no keyboards (a common mistake people made when listening to the split), but there are electronics on the final song. So as G cringed about earlier, it's not progressive in that sense of the world. It's just a progression, for us, and I suppose the genres we've been lumped in.
Live. Have you ever considered playing live with Drear, or would that be an impossibility?
G: Yeah, as N said, we have definitely considered playing live after a drummer joins the line-up but we haven't made any concrete decisions. It is a while off yet so many things could change in the mean time. I also suffer from a little stage fright so I would have to work my way around that to actually put on a good show! Or maybe I will hide at the back, with my back to the audience, hooded, masked, backed by shadows, back, back, and attempt to avoid N as he waves his guitar around like some sort of slippery snake.
I guess that was the last of the questions I had. Thank you for taking the time to answer this interview. I'll leave the final words to you if there's something left unsaid…
N+G: Thanks. Look forward to any (re)actions from this interview! Also we will have a promo tape available sometime soon that have songs from the upcoming release. Anyone that wants one can have one: contact address is on the website. Bye bye!