Thursday, March 1, 2012

Interview with Krokmiten (Text)

Wow, its been a while since I've done an interview. Today I bring you an interview with a great experimental death metal band, Krokmiten. Members Simlev (Guitar and vocals) and Dubg (Guitar) were gracious enough to answer some questions as well as discuss a few subjects about the writing process and the music industry. If you haven't heard any of their music, give this interview a read and check out their site below.

So for those who do not know, where did you guys come from? How was the band formed to what it is today? Just a start to those who don't really know who you guys are to start with.

Simlev: Mathz (drums) and me are from Montréal, Canada. Dubg is from originally from Belgium but moved permanently to Montréal when he was very young. The band formed in 1991, after two demos and years of local gigs, we took a lengthy hiatus in 1995 to concentrate on our careers. Beside that, there’s not much to be said about our early years. In 2005, Mathz and me cleaned up the line-up. Dubg officially joined the band near the end of the making of “Alpha-Beta”.

Dubg: Simlev summed it up pretty well. I met Mathz at the end of the nineties and he introduced me to Simlev. We jammed from time to time. When they decided to do Alpha-Beta in 2005 I wasn't available. I got involved in the end of the process and brought some ideas, recording a whole layer of 7-String guitar for instance. From there, I also added some solos, played with the sound design, worked on the mix, re-amped everything. We discussed about me joining the band during the process and I gladly accepted.

What was the basis of your guys' latest release? Centralized around a theme? Looking at the music video and listening to lyrics, you could kinda tie it all together.

Simlev: Yes our latest release “Alpha-Beta” is theme based. It might be a little vague at first for the casual listener, but if ones pay attention there’s a fictional story in there that can be interpreted in various ways. Overall, the main theme is the scientific creation of the anti-christ. But for me it’s much more than that.

Dubg: Yup, Simlev is the mastermind of the whole concept and there's some part he's the only one who seems to understand...

Haha, so does this kind of the that the album is meant to be listened to front and back? I'm guessing it is one of those concept albums that has to be listened in order to be able to understand what's going on.

Simlev: Yes, the album is meant to be listened to in one sitting. But people do what they want, they might get hooked on particular parts. For that they can always download the “gapless” version on our site; it’s chopped in chapters. On the physical CD, you can skip chapters too.

Dubg: It's the beauty of such albums. I am a big fan of records that you can listen to from beginning to end and feel that everything seems tied together. Not just a bunch of singles to desperately try getting on charts.

Yeah, I can definitely relate to that. You don't find many concept albums anymore, and if you do they are loosely so. I know from the free downloads its all one big file (or the chopped version is available to as you just stated), but is there more to it than that?

Simlev: Well, the album is somewhat built like a movie. The audio and visual structure is loosely based on a film. With introduction, confrontation, climax and conclusion. There’s riffs in there that deliberately repeat with some variations like a chorus in a normal song but it’s happening let’s say, 20 minutes later.

Are you guys doing this as a recreational project or looking to get a label of sorts? I know a few bands do these sort of things as projects but it ends up building up to something much bigger.

Simlev: Good question! I personally do it for fun. Serious fun though! So yes it’s a recreational project. I have a lot of riffs constantly looping inside my head, I need to put them to tape in order to rid my brain of this obsession. Like some sort of exorcism ahah. I also used this to push my creativity further, experiment various techniques; video editing, design. I have my own graphic design business to take care of. I can’t dedicate all my time on music. We’re not looking to get some sort of label. On the contrary, we want to stay away from them. The current music industry is totally lost and in mutation anyway. I don’t know what they could offer us at this point. If Krokmitën ever becomes a job, I think it wouldn’t be as fun anyway. There would be time constraints, limits, budget, PR people to deal with, managers and whatnot. That sounds a awful lot like what I do for a living right now, but with a massive paycut. That’s the last thing I need. Then I would need an other recreational project to vent my frustrations from Krokmitën ahahah. My life would become a major mindfuck. Well, worse than that it actually is!

Dubg: For me it's a very serious space to push my sound engineering and guitar skills. I also run a studio/music production company for tv, films and advertising but I don't have a lot of gigs (none) with that level of violence. I don't believe that labels in their current form are of any use. When a record is sold 15$-20$ and the artist (or the whole band) receive 2$ to 3$ at best, you have to admit that there's something wrong. Artists are rarely the ones who drive the Mercedes. In Quebec, the so called major labels (we are 8 millions living here after all, less than New York city alone) are mainly "riskophobe" and expert at sucking every last drop of government funds. They sit on the same committees giving out those funds anyway, bordering inbreeding. As the highest tax payers in North America, we are technically paying twice for products. The word "product" is very important here, it's far closer to selling chips than making music. Market studies, trends following and so on. They run a business after all... Label or not, you usually won't get rich with this kind of music except for maybe a few bands. With the technologies available today, you can make great sounding records without any label’s financial support. Labels who also demand your soul and sometimes a kidney. Independently produced music is the way to go if you want to get your stuff out there the way you want it. On the good side, I never even imagined we'd get such a nice response, reviews, interviews and an incredible amount of downloads, it's fucking great!

I can agree the music industry is majorly flawed, have you ever thought of selling your music (possibly soon or in the future with any other album projects or something) or do you plan on just releasing free music to the masses?

Simlev: Our music will always be free to download and in excellent quality. We’re giving it for free on our site but still, most pirate sites are offering it anyway. Imagine if you’re trying to sell it only! Some bands might break even or make a little salary but most are dirt poor even if they tour constantly and put out quality records. We’ve put a Paypal donation button on our site and we’re selling a physical CD but it’s not really working, you can see the numbers on our homepage. In a close future we might offer some more alternatives to donate and buy, maybe metalheads just don’t like PayPal ahah. But on the other side, we’re not promoting this much. We’re never gonna intensively beg/bug people to give or buy. You don’t have to pay a single dime to be considered by us a loyal Krokmitën fan. You can download everything guilt free. Don’t get me wrong, we’d love to make good money for doing music but that’s just unrealistic when you’re playing extreme metal. Not having to pay for our beer consumption in the studio would be a much more realistic goal than living off this.

Dubg: I never thought we would get so much downloads. When we look at the numbers we do think we should have other alternatives to PayPal for the fans who wish to support us. Although it will always remain a similar model of paying if you want, but it’s going to be available. That's the way things work these days anyway. Even if we give it for free, many music download sites and torrent sites made it available... they pirate free stuff... or they are just another new distribution channel. Financing will always be an issue if we want to up the quality of the record and release it in a timely fashion. But we knew what we were getting into, music is currently one of the "free-est" form of art. We go with the flow. People have been getting music for free and sometimes pay to support artists if they want to, for more than 13 years now. Even with all the current and upcoming near "totalitarian state" laws they want to put in place to help the majors stay alive without having to change their business model. I don't see things changing anytime soon. Don't get me wrong, none of those laws will benefits acts like us. Also, we have to wonder what's wrong with the system when you could do more jail time for downloading illegally than killing someone. Lobbying and the end of true democracy would be the short answer. No one will ever do jail time for downloading our stuff.

How long did it take to compose your latest release? You mentioned starting on this work quite a while ago.

Simlev: A lot of time! I wrote a lot of riffs over many years during the hiatus. But it’s also hard to say because I kept putting Alpha-Beta aside constantly when I had freelance design projects to do. I would work on a project for a couple of months then take some time off to work on Alpha-Beta for a month or two, then put it aside again for an other freelance project. I bounced like this from one to the other for about 6 years. I was writing in parallel to recording. Also at the same time, I was learning some recording techniques that set me back a lot. Our good engineer friend Éric Thibeault invested a lot of time on the project as well to set us on the right path and make sure that everything is well recorded. He also brought me some great inspiring audio philosophies that somewhat influenced my writing. Dubg jumped-in near the end so the composition changed a little until the very end.

Dubg: I got on board when Alpha-Beta was already finished tracking and partly mixed, so I didn't got to contribute as much as I would’ve like. But it was a new thing for me to attack a very interesting project like this one. I also did get to put my own touch on the album, which is great.

How have the reactions been to the new album? I'm betting there have to be a few "haters" out there for sure. Haha.

Simlev: Ahahah, well so far no word from haters came to our ears. We’re not famous enough yet to make it cool to hate us. The few negative comments I personally red were more balanced and not hate words. When you venture into extreme territories, some people will not like what you’re doing, that’s guaranteed. Could be that it’s too extreme or just not extreme enough. Alpha-Beta isn’t the fastest album ever or the most violent album out there. But the way we “packaged” the entire concept is pretty extreme by today’s standards. I mean, one long heavy 46-minute animated song, and for free. Some people could not get the long song thing or question the purpose of the video. I can understand that, we live in an “ADD” society. An album like this is a hard sell, all considered. If we want people to hear it they must have quick and easy access to it. I’m aware that some people don’t know what to do with Alpha-Beta, especially the medias. It’s a hard album to review, we’ve been refused or ignored by most. The ones who took the time to check it out really like it, in general. We received a massive amount of awesome comments on Twitter and on our official website. Keep ‘em coming we love that!

Dubg: The reactions are way above any of our wildest dreams. You can guess by our music we might not be much into positive thinking and other hippie stuff. We were expecting haters far more than that. Like Simlev said, what could be called negative comments were far more constructive or just simple opinions than just throwing shit at us.The weirdest thing we’ve got so far was being labeled as an industrial band, I've thought a lot about it and can see why some might hear shades of that in Alpha-Beta. But it's kind of far-fetched for me to call this industrial or even others who labeled us black metal. I'm a big industrial fan and Alpha-Beta was not a ground for that IMO. So I guess were pretty lucky so far, I'm not masochistic and am happier with what we got than having tons of haters. All the awesome comments we receive are also a big encouragement to continue the project and release more brutal stuff. We have really great fans.

So the story of the scientific creation of the anti-christ... was the idea from something you read? Cause that seems kind of in the extreme for a backstory of an album (for most people). Although it seems like a pretty cool concept.

Simlev: It’s less extreme than the bible if you ask me! It’s a mix of so many things that I don’t think I could really explain it. It surely comes from all the content I’ve absorbed in my lifetime and the crap that some tried to force-feed us. It probably started at church when they force-baptized me lol. Concretely, I deliberately mixed many subjects together and created some ominous fictional story, just like the bible.

Dubg: I liked, and still like the idea. I didn't thought it was that extreme, it's borderline sci-fi, just like the bible. And who knows with the religious lunatics ruling us, maybe they already tried to scientifically recreate the Christ, with our tax money... and they will surely create the apocalypse scientifically if they want to with all the nukes they have. I believe other acts have way more extreme subjects than us. And it won't ever be as extreme as reality where people are giving less and less of a fuck to what's happening around them. What's going on in national and international politics is way creepier and will have heavy consequences on the lifestyles we all take for granted.

What were the major influences (such as bands, genres, etc) when coming up with the sound of Krokmiten?

Simlev: I’m more about the feel of the music than the actual sound. My favorite albums all have one thing in common even if they’re totally different sonically or musically, they’ve got a very cold feel. My goal was to have a very cold and dark feel to it. Even if it means that you need to sacrifice melodies. Albums like Metallica’s “And Justice For All” fits perfectly what I just described; we’re all major fans of this album in the band. Nile “In Their Darkened Shrines”, Voivod “Dimension Hatröss” and Black Sabbath’s first album are others that come to mind that fits that too. I personally shaped my guitar sound (post recording) around this type of feel.

Dubg: There's not much originality in my influences band-wise. Old Metallica and Slayer, everybody dig that. Suicidal Tendencies, Death and Pantera are also big influences of mine. To a lesser degree there's Lamb of God, the early Slipknot stuff, Gojira and so on. I guess my background in film scoring, sound design and listening to a lot of other styles of music like Industrial and other electronic stuff might have an influence on how I do things. Soundwise, I've worked with all kind of styles; electro, funk, reggae, motown, indie rock, punk, acoustic stuff, and even adult contemporary on the edge of country hahaha. Each of those experiences contribute to my engineering craft for sure and probably to a lesser degree, to the way I approach writing and arrangements.

If you guys were given the chance to tour, would you? Where would you like to go and why? Or would you even want to? Some bands usually love touring and others just despise it.

Simlev: Some promoters talked to us about touring in Europe, nothing concrete or very serious in my opinion. I know some people over here that I could talk to for a tour but honestly I’m not fond of playing live. We’ve done it plenty in the past. For now what I enjoy the most is the writing and studio process. That’s where I get my fix. Mathz, our drummer loves playing live, if it was up to him we would already be touring. Dubg and me are running businesses over here, we don’t have that kind of time to put on Krokmitën. I’d be willing at some point to play festivals. But I don’t think we’re at a point where people would be asking. The touring life is not something I’d be looking forward to personally at the moment. It’s not like anybody offered us anything serious at this time anyway. It’s our first album and we’re still unknown. We’re not ruling anything out just yet. I think we should have this conversation after we release our second album. For now my priority is to make the next one. If we were to tour I’d like to play unusual places; Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Cuba, Australia and some parts of Europe. But I’d like to have enough time to visit the place and hang out with fans, not just hop from one city to the other like it’s the case with most tour. So overall, we might eventually tour, if there’s a serious demand because I would want to do something special like playing entire albums with synchronized videos playing in the background, not just some half-assed medley of our stuff. You can’t do that when you’re opening up for some well know bands. I feel it’s all or nothing!

Dubg: As you can guess with the Alpha-Beta we don't do things half way. To put up a live show would be resource intensive and the break even point might be a tad higher than what we could get at this time. Also as Simlev pointed out, we both run businesses here and going on a lengthy tour right now would put them belly up. Mathz and I also have families which is a priority over anything else. Still, on a pragmatic level for the band, we are working on releasing new material. Going to play festivals or short tours would be the preferred avenue if we would be doing live performances. It's been a while since I've the hit a stage but I do like the idea of doing it again. There's no place I wouldn't want to go, except maybe official (and un-official) war zones. I love Cuba, the metal scene down there is just insane, Asia, Europe, the former eastern bloc, Australia, the United States, South America...

What are the best and worst parts of making the album? Any interesting stories while the album was in the creating process? I mean, you discussed earlier the amount of time it took for this album to be created, their have to be a few good stories to tell.

Simlev: Like I mentioned earlier, I was obsessed with some riffs. It’s a little difficult to explain but I had to get this shit out of my head; I was starting to go a little insane. The obsession is surely the worst part for me. Once I started to make some demos, I started to feel much better. After that, the recording was smooth thanks to Éric. I’m always conscious that the technicalities are in the way of creation. He eased that out a lot. The worse part could also be dealing with everyone’s schedules. We’re all super busy, that can cause problems and major lags. Beside that, the rest was very pure fun. The best part is always when you feel that what you’re doing kicks ass. Hanging out with the other members was an other good part of it. They’re all good people and talented musicians.

Dubg: On the worst part side, I guess it isn't that much of a big issue but more of an annoyance; fitting everyone schedules. If we could book a solid 3 months to work on this all together, full time, it would be great, but that's not going to happen right now. At least everyone is dedicated and hard working. Other projects I've been working on in the past died because the other participants were only "week-end warriors" and couldn't be available more than a 3 hours here and there, then a month break... that, just goes nowhere. I need to work with focused and dedicated people who know how to manage their priorities, "trying" is not an option, otherwise it's a waste of time. There's not ONE best part in the process. Every milestones come with its high. The kind of music we make and the sound were after takes time to craft. When you're working on compositions, arrangements and you have amp simulators and drum machines, it kinda sucks real hard, but you have to hear beyond that. And afterward the re-amping, recording of drums, shaping the sound and so on all put things closer to the vision you have. Each of these steps are fulfilling on their own. Then the mix, and the new ideas that sprung out and makes you go back and change a thing here or there. It's fun, but you also need to nail your process and methodology otherwise you get lost. The end results is always a picture in time of what the band was at that time, so there's also that point where you have to let go and say ok, now it's as good as it will ever get for this one. That's not an easy thing to do when you have unlimited access to a studio, but we managed.

Simlev: Yeah that is also true for Alpha-Beta’s animated video. I know I could have done much better, add more here and there, but at some point I had to let it go or the album would have been release 10 years from now ahah.

What can we expect in the future? More concept albums or doing different kinds of releases?

Simlev: We’re about to release a new track “BWV565 Redux”, a J.S. Bach adaptation. This should come out in a month or so. In the meantime, my riffs obsession is back so I’m working on the the album in parallel. This time Dubg will be more integrated into the writing process. We can’t put a release date on the next album, but something sure it won’t take as much time as “Alpha-Beta. There’s talk of music videos as well for 2012. Like I said earlier, now working on the next album is our top priority. Something sure, it will be a notch faster and heavier. We might release the video version of the album a little afterward though, we’ll see.

Dubg: Our next release will be a 10-minute track, Once again it’s only a single track, maybe we have issues with release a standard 7 or 8-song album ahah, but we don’t consider this release like an official album anyway. “BWV565 Redux” is a track I wanted to make for a long time and Krokmitën was the best place to give it all the aggression I wanted for it. We are on the mix final stage of the mix and so far I am more than pleased with the result. I can't wait to see the response. To my knowledge, so far, no other acts have made a full version of this work (at least on electric guitars I guess), and I can understand why ahah, but we did it. We have also started laying down new riffs on Pro Tools and playing around with them. So we can say our next full length release is in the work. There no time frame, but like Simlev said, it will not take as long as Alpha-Beta, that is a certainty.

What do you consider to be the best part of making your own music, instead of doing what people want you to do? I've got to admit, I've just seen too many bands do what others tell them and it's a disgrace.

Simlev: People could like what you do, or not. But in the end, it’s all about something you hear in your head and put it down on “tape”; it’s a very cathartic experience. The feeling I got when it’s been released out there is unmatched to anything I’ve experience in my life. It’s like being constipated for two months and shitting your biggest turd ever ahahah. You feel relieved and proud at the same time, it’s very personal, haha.

Dubg: The best part is doing music for yourself, doing a record you want to listen to and that you can’t hear anywhere else. If other people like it, that's even better, but my main goal is to make something that I like first and will hopefully still like over a longer period of time. Anyway, there's so many bands and releases nowadays that you get lost if you only focus on success and pleasing everybody.

I'd like to thank Simlev and Dubg for giving me the opportunity to talk to them and ask a few questions. Because of musicians like these guys, I feel independent artists can do so much more for themselves then they think. I think with hard work and determination (even with a few obstacles in your way) you can still accomplish a lot more than you may realize.

If you want to check out these guys, if you've never heard of them before, you can find their site HERE. They have tons of free stuff for you to downloads, such as their complete video for the album, different versions of the album, wallpapers, etc. These guys are really talented and can't wait to hear new material from them. Thanks for giving this a read and hope to post some more soon.

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