Dylan from WILDERNESSKING speaks about the band origin, his influence and about the planning for 2016.
Hi Dylan, first of all thanks for your answers to our interview. Could you please shortly present WILDERNESSKING to the ones who do not yet know the band?
Certainly! WILDERNESSKING is a metal band from Cape Town, South Africa.
WILDERNESSKING, tell us, what does it mean?
It means a number of things to us, and these meanings seem to change subtly as we progress through our musical career. These variations are specific to our respective lives, but ultimately it is an expressive name, one that we don’t find limiting – both musically or conceptually. We are currently enjoying the opportunity to explore the various themes associated with the image that the name suggests.
Could you please tell us how did you fall into music?
I can say with some degree of certainty that all of us are aware of that particular moment in our lives, when we turned to music completely – as a creative outlet and as a device for reflection. That love and appreciation for the art form has grown over the years, as we continue to enjoy listening to music in all of its different forms. Playing in the band has also reaffirmed our love for the expression of music, especially when composing and creating an album. No doubt, music has certainly played a large part for the majority of our lives – whether it be from highlighting a certain passage of youth and all of the memories contained within, to the excitement of hearing a new song and knowing it will stay with you for a long time to come.
When and “why” did you start to play an instrument such as guitar? Did you have some influence at this time?
I actually can’t remember when I started playing guitar – probably around 9 or 10 years old. I definitely have special memories of those days, and can certainly remember the feeling that drove me to pick up an instrument. It’s quite difficult to convey, but I remember feeling drawn to the guitar specifically. There was always music playing in the family home, and naturally – being young – I was curious about everything going on. There was no exception when it came to music, as I tried my best to play every instrument I could get my hands on, listening to every record within reach. I also remember starting piano when I began school, but after being captivated by heavier music, my interest in piano dwindled in favour of strumming big chords, fast leads and trying to make the guitar sing – perhaps the same reasons most people pick up the guitar. The guitar is just something that has stayed with me for a long time. It’s an extension of who I am, yet I rediscover it all the time. Playing in WILDERNESSKING obviously continues to push my interest in guitar. I’m always eager to find and explore new sounds (and the approach to those sounds), to discover new tones, and just generally learn from the different styles I see – whether it be a local guitarist or perhaps a video online.
Not a lot of metal bands come from South Africa. How was the metal scene in Cape Town, and in South Africa, when you started being interested in creating your own band?
I think we have a strong local scene with loyal supporters. Admittedly, I’m not able to go to as many shows as I used to, but whenever I do, I’m reminded of how much I enjoy it. I’m always amazed by the great new bands here – metal or otherwise – and we’re inspired by how a particular band may approach their work, or create their sound. I guess all of us have loved the scene at one point or another, as we have all been somewhat involved in it over the years, and have played in many bands leading up to WILDERNESSKING . I find that nowadays the newer bands surprise me by bringing something original and refreshing to the fore – as I hope we did when we were younger. This reinforces my belief in our local community.
What are the “trends” over there ? Is it not difficult to create a metal band and to get “known” ?
The metal community is great over here. There is quite a wide range of styles on offer, with about one or two ‘main’ bands in each subgenre. It’s pretty easy to find a show, because the scene is somewhat small – compared to large European/American cities – there are a lot of crossover fans here, and that is something special. Our country is home to a large number of extremely diverse cultures, and so this means something like metal is actually only listened to by a small number of people when compared to the total number of people of the same age. The musical trends vary wildly depending on location really, but there is usually something for everyone.
What was your aim, back in 2012, when you created WILDERNESSKING ? Did you want to create a new music scene and to push some limits?
We never set out to create a new scene – and still don’t – but there certainly is a great feeling when a somewhat unconventional sound is well received. That was never the aim for us though, as we wanted to push ourselves, to try to redefine what we thought was possible in our own personal and collective spheres. We needed an honest and original musical approach – only because we had a particular sound in mind, and hoped that others may appreciate it. The four of us writing collaboratively is a great experience, as there are many moments when we can feel a song beginning to go in an exciting direction together. It’s at those times when we really push ourselves, in hopes to create a song with a sound that is uniquely ours.
WILDERNESSKING first album “The writing of Gods in the sand” was released on 2012, limited at only 150 copies. How did you record this first album?
We had been playing around with the songs from that album for a while, making a few adjustments in terms of song structure, the more and more we played them. It was still during the early stages of the band, and we were completely open to experiment with composition, chords and rhythms used to create an atmosphere. It was also a time when we were getting used to each other as musicians. This was very beneficial as the songs took on a life of their own because we were learning to play off each other. We discovered many similarities in what we were all hoping the music to sound like on that album. From that point, the ideas continued to flow, and all that was left to do was record it. After a few more song changes, we headed off to a studio right next to the Atlantic Ocean here in Cape Town. We all seemed to have time off around then, and met up in the studio every day for about 4 weeks. We worked through the songs one by one and recorded our individual tracks when we felt our sections were ready. We tracked the drums first, and used copies of our demo recordings to help us flesh out the songs in that setting. Many of the leads on the album were only written after a song had been realized and recorded. I feel that we truly benefited a great deal from those recording sessions.
From this album the band have been very active as you released one EP in 2012, another one in 2014. Then two splits, in 2014 and 2015. Did you use “old material” for this records or did you work on new stuff and wanted to try new things ?
Those particular releases all contain songs that are unique to them. After the debut album, we were very conscious of writing to a particular theme, or to achieve a certain goal that we had envisioned for the band. We were playing quite a few shows at the time, and that proved to be a great platform for us to experiment with new sounds as we performed them live; a very productive period that helped us to explore our music even further. After a while, we were itching to write a second LP. This is part of the reason why we really appreciate our full-length albums, as they seem like a sort of consolidation for everything that preceded them.
Let’s jump to the present. Few weeks ago you released your second full length album called Mystical Future. You work now with the French label “Les Acteurs de l’Ombre”, how did it happen?
They approached us at some point in 2013, and we like to make good on our promises to work with a collective that takes our music as seriously as we do. We had some commitments at the time, but eventually we were able to work together, much to the delight of both parties involved. We’re always excited to work with new people, and will continue to do so as our career evolves.
The first approach for ‘Mystical Future’ is this painting on your cover (CD version), which seems to represent a human shape. What is the meaning of this artwork and who created it?
Angelica Luthi is responsible for the CD cover art. We were going for a slightly more abstract feel for that particular artwork. We felt that it encapsulated the name and feel of the album quite well. It’s an image of a human/ghost leaving/disintegrating…
On the other side the vinyl released by “Sick Man Getting Records” is very different as it’s represent a colorful landscape. Why did you propose an “opposite” cover for the vinyl version?
The cover for the vinyl was actually our initial idea for the artwork in general – or rather, I should say that we finalized it before deciding on the CD artwork. We always try to work with different artists for every release, as well as for every format. With respect to the vinyl artwork, it is actually a photograph of a dune on the beach in Noordhoek. It was taken by Eckardt Kasselman one evening after we had completed a promotional photo shoot on that very spot. After seeing the photo, we thought it would be a perfect choice for the album cover as it captured a very special moment. We wanted to have a photo of a landmark or a particular setting on the front, and have it be something discernible or at least familiar to some, yet entirely unknown to others, and hopefully captivating for both.
If we take a look into the lyrics we can noticed that a lot of songs are related to the “dream concept”. Which theme did you wanted to share with us and how did you came to it (inspiration and so on) ?
We definitely had an idea of the general theme heading into the project, even though the finer details were yet to be discovered. The concept for the album progressed quite easily and organically, as we began to focus on individual songs and their role in the grand scheme. At some stages, Keenan would share concepts from the lyrics he was currently working on, and sometimes we would focus purely on the instrumentation. If one approach benefitted that particular song, we ran with it. We tried our best to try and get the album to run smoothly from start to finish, telling a certain story along the way. The story is very much personal for each one of us, but it definitely seems to have a dream-state, or mystical quality – something that we’ve never really explored in the past. It also touches on some deeply emotional situations which can happen in one’s life – as well as the illusions or uncertainty that accompanies those situations. Whether it be a joyous or a painful realisation, this feeling of looking ahead – while being aware of the unpredictable nature of life – could be one aspect of someone’s mystical future.
One interesting fact is also the sentence “Bass and guitars recorded in Jess’s bedroom” which appears into the digibook. Could you please share with us the songwriting and the recording processes ? Why the bedroom ?
We have always tried to change recording locations as much as possible – and also try to work with new and different people along the way. We had worked with various studios before, and had recorded elsewhere in the past before doing the Mystical Future record. We were playing the songs for a long time (about two years) and we were also playing our individual parts frequently, so we didn’t expect to spend a lot of time working towards a certain sound in studio. We had handled these aspects already as the final product was to be re-amped, mixed and mastered overseas. For these reasons, we settled on a comfortable location to do our work, and Jesse’s studio setup in his house was a great place to lay down the guitars and bass.
For this album to be as expressive as possible, we really tried to do ‘longer’ takes and capture special moments rather than ‘construct’ the album in a linear fashion. We had experimented with these songs during rehearsals, and we wanted to capture all of the nuances and variations in a familiar and comfortable environment. Jesse’s house was the setting we decided on. The tracks were sent through to Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden Recording Studio for the final stages of production.
May we know the gear (guitars, amps, pedals, etc) used for this album ?
We stuck to our familiar electric guitars for the tracking of Mystical Future. I played an old Ibanez PG model – which I really find the most comfortable guitar to play on. Jesse used his Fender Telecaster for the majority of the rhythms and we both used a few other guitars for leads. We discovered a really great sound from a piezo in one of my semi-acoustic guitars, and made use of it for some clean parts on ‘To Transcend’. All in all, there wasn’t outlandish variation in terms of gear for the recording process. This aligned nicely with our aim to produce a flowing album – or more specifically, an album where we could reproduce the sound we were discovering in the rehearsal space, only now in a more professional format. For reamping Jack used Top Hat Emplexador 50 and Orange Rockerverb 100 w/ Marshall 4×12 v30s for guitars and 70s Silverface Bassman 100 w/ Ampeg 8×10 for bass.
The album is, from my point of view, very emotional and melodic for a “black metal album”. Chorus are catchy, guitars and drums play some “mid break riffs” and a kind of nostalgic atmosphere is present as well, especially on the second track called “I will go to your tomb”. What did you wanted to achieve with this album?
We basically wanted to explore the musical content as fully as possible, while still allowing it to remain a cohesive album. Even though ‘The Writing of Gods in the Sand’ will always be a treasured album for us, we definitely wanted to refine the many things that we were reaching for at that time. If that album was headed in multiple directions, we wanted Mystical Future to be more of a consolidation, both in sound and from a musical perspective. We tend to discuss the music a great deal, whether it’s talking about a particular riff or a song title, we place equal importance on both, nurturing our ideas into the overarching framework. During the entire process of the album, we were all going through rather interesting times in our respective personal lives, and I feel those hurdles we overcame on a private level shine through wonderfully. At some point, we may have wanted the sound of chaotic and collapsing rhythms, and at others, we may have shifted our focus on delicate melodies in quiet passages. I feel that these softer, somewhat ‘emotional’ moments are very effective, and excite us when writing. We feel that the songs would not be complete without them; these parts that may swing WILDERNESSKING away from a particular genre or two.
The album has a “clear sound”, as well, and the title “To Transcend” is a very beautiful and peaceful track. Does this track represent what the band will like to achieve in the future?
Not necessarily. With ‘To Transcend’, we set out to write a song to place right in the middle of the album – one which would act as a bridge between the two halves. We also wanted to explore the dynamics of our sound a bit more, and opted for a somewhat calm song. Originally it was going to be entirely an acoustic interlude (after settling on the chords featured in the intro), but as the track started to take shape, we decided to expand on the ideas within, and add distant vocals to produce a haunting/ghostly effect. In some sense, we would definitely like to incorporate what we’ve learned from that song into future compositions, but it does not necessarily mean our sound will head in a strictly softer direction.
“Mystical Future” has only 5 tracks, for 42 minutes, but the time goes so fast when we are listening to your album. Did you choose to release only 5 tracks, meaning are there still songs, recorded at the same time as Mystical Future, which could be released later?
We had been playing around with a couple of song ideas in the build-up to the album. These ideas were slowly grouped together, and we ended up having three complete songs, with a few extra parts to push elsewhere. We knew that we wanted a ‘softer’ song in the middle of the album, and everything else remaining from the writing sessions seemed to head towards an album closer. We had many different riffs and sections for the final song, but after a few intense rehearsal sessions, we actually decided to start again with the song, and everything slotted into place (finally). At that stage, there were five complete songs that seemed to make a comprehensive whole and we immediately felt there was nothing more to add, and the album remained five songs. No songs were scrapped, or recorded and not released. We are fortunate that it happened that way, as we really wanted to see the overall picture come into view through those songs alone. It was a perfect chapter for us.
Even if the album has been just released a few weeks ago, may we know how the public and the press welcomed the album?
The response has been really great so far. We’ve had the opportunity to be a part of some wonderful interviews, as well as being featured on websites, magazines and radio broadcasts that we never would have imagined. Overall, we really enjoy the correspondence from those who have contacted us, reviewed or commented on the album. We hope that people will continue to share these moments with us, as we truly appreciate all of the support – whether it is from a long-standing fan or someone who may have recently discovered us.
The album has been released, what are your plans for this year ? Are you willing to tour ? Are you already working on new material?
We are knee deep in working on new material at the moment, and I guess time will tell what it is for. I know that we have solid plans to continue working on our third full–length album, now that we have time again, but may write an EP while we gather ideas. We are also looking to tour Europe in the not too distant future. After recording these releases, the opportunity to go and play shows abroad is one that we are excited to make the most of…
The black metal scene changed over the years, label such “Les Acteurs de l’Ombre” try to propose new concept and the whole scene has evolved to a kind of “post black scene”. Which bands inspire you ?
All four of us are extremely similar in some ways, while wildly different in others. So it truly is difficult to pinpoint influences and bands who inspire WILDERNESSKING, without excluding a vast majority, or the context in which they inspire. What can be said, however, is that we are all moved by bands or artists that approach music in a unique way, that results in moving and original music. We are also inspired by other art forms and everyday occurrences, or the lack thereof – experiences besides music. But with music, and metal music in particular, we are aware of how easy it is to become stagnant. So inspiration comes from watching the bands who branch out. The ‘post-movement’ is perhaps an expression of the same feeling. Perhaps black metal was too closely linked to a specific location, time and cultural movement for it to be something that everyone could feel intimately connected to. It definitely influenced a lot of music and general thought, but the scene is always expanding and diversifying. This makes for interesting listening, but unfortunately makes for tricky classification.
Well, that’s it! Thank you for this interview. Do you want to share a last word for our readers?
Thank you for the in-depth questions! It was a pleasure to respond. We really appreciate all the support and we would like to send a big thank you to all those who feel strongly about WILDERNESSKING. We are very excited to share more music, tour and meet all of our fans the world over!
A big thank to Joffrey Billand for his help.
Pictures : Matthew Schnetler
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