Ebonylake: The Eclectic Duo
December 17, 2011
The past few years, I’ve been getting into avant-garde in metal so I was really happy when the chance to interview a band like Ebonylake fell into my lap. These guys were great to interview, I had a really fun time talking to them and their answers were so thorough that they made it harder for me to ask music relevant questions as the interview wore on. Regardless, their personalities came out in a wonderful way during our talk.
This was conducted via skype so the original vocal version will be posted as soon as the audio file is touched up a bit. You know, so you can hear what they say a bit better.
Update – Here’s the original audio for you all to enjoy:
Transcribed by Benjamin Lazar Glass:
You've had a new release in 2011, "In Swathes of Brooding Light".
I noticed that the sound of the album is a little bit different than your earlier recording -- your earlier album that you put out in 1997, "As Ghosts We Dance in Thrashing Seas". What were the differences in the concepts of each album?
Ophelius: I think the latest album is much more chaotic. Obviously, a lot more things going on at one time. A lot more instruments thrown into the mix. We've probably got maybe 40 to 50 orchestral instruments happening at any given point. Back in '97 we didn't really have the technology to do that sort of more... Maybe two or three keyboard lines happening at once. So, yeah, concept-wise we just kind of pushed it to... We are kind of doing now what we wanted to do back then. We didn't have the technology to do it.
Mass: And also we have recorded this ourselves as well. As before we'd go into Academy Studios, use Max as producer. We'd tend not to use him before, but this time we did actually try to learn to do it ourselves.
Ophelius: Writing the music is one thing, recording it, making it sort of album quality is quite a different beast altogether. It's something that we're in the learning process of doing. Hopefully the next album will probably be a little bit clearer. Hopefully a bit weightier.
The actual concepts are pretty much the same thing, to be honest. We're still inspired by the same sort of stuff.
You're talking about a new album. So when do you plan on having that new album out. Are you working on it now?
Mass: A specific timescale for the album, it's in the process of getting ideas together, creating more ideas through seances and things like that. Obviously it's going to take some time, but it's not going to take 12 years. Probably within the next year, maybe.
Ophelius: Hopefully. It comes down to what Mass said. We do spend a lot of time performing seances, which we like to use as inspiration. If nothing comes from a particular seance, then we don't do anything musically. That's the way it usually works. It's good. We're pretty inspired at the moment. It shouldn't take too long. Hopefully this year, but we don't like to rush these things, as you are probably aware.
Well, it's good to hear that it's on the way and you're inspired. With inspiration, things come freely after that.
Mass: We're always inspired.
Ophelius: Yeah. In some way or another.
I noticed that, obviously, you guys have over a decade in between each release. I'm assuming that the band broke up during that time?
Mass: Yeah. Completely. Completely utterly broke down. Yep. The band split up. Really, broke up in early...
Mass: '99? Maybe, like, 2--well, yeah. '99, probably.
Ophelius: There are people, like the bass player, the guitarist, old guitar player, not seen for ten years. We just completely disintegrated in the matter of a week. But that's kind of what we were like back then. It was either all or nothing. Sometimes music kind of took a backseat a bit. I don't know. Other things were more important than the music. The lifestyle we were leading, constantly looking for inspiration -- seances, using Ouija boards -- it kind of got a bit out of hand and things kind of violently--
Ophelius: --imploded in 1999.
Wow. So how did you guys end up getting back together after all that time?
Mass: Sheer luck.
Ophelius: Yeah. Destiny, I suppose.
Mass: I guess if you put out certain messages from yourself, I mean, individually we both wanted the music to continue in one form or another, but we had no contact to each other at all. But things tend to manifest themselves if...
Ophelius: With the positive thinking, I suppose.
Ophelius: Also, kind of the power of the Internet once things became a bit more readily available, like Facebook. Me and Mass kind of found each other through that, which is good because we'd been kind of searching for each other in a way for ten years. So it's like what Mass said, if you want something that much it tends to happen.
It's good you finally found each other. One of the things that I really liked about the band was the lyrics. The lyrics blew me away. I was reading your influences and stuff like that, but I was just wondering: Who wrote the lyrics or did both of you write it? What inspired the type of introspective lyrical style that you have going?
Mass: From the new album?
Mass: Well, there are no real lyrics to the songs. There's passages, which we've put on the inlay, which actually are hidden in various songs that are actually, say, a verse or some chorus structures. They are lines taken from that passage inside the booklet which are in the songs, but it doesn't run in any particular order.
Ophelius: It is probably more like two short stories put together in the booklet. We both took it upon ourselves to write a short story each and put it in the booklet. Completely different from the first album. For the first album every song had its own lyrics. This time we just--I don't know why we did it; it just felt natural, I suppose, to write a couple of short stories and just put them in there.
Mass: I think the next set of lyrics we do write for the next one will probably be similar to the ones off "On the Eve of the Grimly Inventive". More like, maybe, a set of lyrics for each song rather than it bouncing in and out. We'll probably tend to explore that avenue a little bit more on the next one.
Ophelius: The influence for the lyrics, I mean, again, we get influenced by a lot of different people--a lot of different poets, writers. They influenced us to write lyrics, but that influence doesn't necessarily come across from the lyrics.
Mass: The right lyrics, the words just seem to drop out.
Ophelius: They do seem to right themselves. It's really strange. Maybe after a seance or a bit of Ouija board activity--
Mass: And lots of drinking.
Ophelius: Lots of drinking. Yeah.
Mass: And smoking.
Ophelius: Get a pen, get paper, and start and see what happens, and that's a lot of the time how things happen.
Mass: A lot of it's improvised. It just falls out. I don't know where from.
Ophelius: It's kind of like performance art in a way. We don't sit down... Well, we did with the first album. A lot of it was really, really thought out and structured. The latest one, "In Swathes of Brooding Light", was more like performance art in a way. Just do what happens on the spot. If it works, it works [and] if it doesn't, it doesn't. We do something else. That's pretty much how we built this one.
The music itself, the avant garde black metal, I haven't really heard many bands that are like that, especially within black metal itself. It's kind of hard to explain, really, because they are either really hardcore, old-school, ambient, or symphonic.
Mass: This is a bit of a mixture of everything.
Yeah. So what made you decide on that kind of sound. I know you have basically the same sound since '97 until now. What inspired you to go in that direction back then?
Ophelius: Honestly, I once found myself trying to write something a bit more straightforward, just as a bit of an exercise to see how it would turn out, and it just sounded like Ebonylake. I kind of realized at that point I can't write music any other way, really. If I try to write something more straightforward and a bit more simple, it doesn't work. So, for myself, when I pick up a guitar or a keyboard it just comes out Ebonylake every time. I pretty much know that it is something similar for Mass, as well.
Mass: Yeah, well, it's just the way it comes out. It's very bizarre. It creates itself. We just seem to grab onto the reins and follow it down into the masses.
Ophelius: It is kind of like you are channeling it. It really does sometimes feel like it is coming from somewhere else and you are the portal and it comes through you, the gate that it comes through. Sometimes, when we're writing the music, we really don't understand it sometimes. Sometimes as we're recording the guitar lines and keyboard bits, and it's kind of like, "I don't understand this bit. Does it work? Does it not work?" Then after about ten listens, we're thinking, "Yeah, we're going to keep that bit."
Mass: It tends to make sense after a while.
Ophelius: Makes sense after a bit, yeah.
Mass: Even though it doesn't make sense some of the time.
Well, it all clicks, so... yeah.
Mass: Oh, eventually. Yeah.
That aside, you talk about recording a lot, but is it hard for you guys to play live over there in the UK?
Mass: We're not actually a working live band at the minute. It's just the two of us. Back when we had the old album out, we were a full working band who could play live, even though we didn't play live particularly much. It's something we could do, that's for sure.
Ophelius: We have been thinking about doing it. Talking to a few people that we think could help us. So it's definitely is a possibility that we hope to exploit in the future.
Mass: Several musicians we can get to put a band together, we feel we could pull it off with, but it would be a really big task to do. Things might happen, like Ophelius says.
That would be great if it does happen.
Mass: It would be good. It would be a really good challenge to do.
Ophelius: You got to think to yourself how would that kind of music come across in a live scenario, though, so many things going on, all coming through one PA system.
Mass: Bad sound man.
Ophelius: Yeah, generally, you know, white flag at a metal gig, you know, you get a bad sound, you get a bad sound guy, it could turn ugly quite quick.
Mass: It could turn into complete chaos.
Ophelius: It could fall apart like a pack of cards if it went wrong.
Mass: Maybe people might like that, if it fell apart. They might think it is some kind of improvisation.
Ophelius: You never know. But that will be the excitement in it.
You know, if you guys do manage to do an international tour, I hope, I would love to see you guys in the States. That would be great.
Ophelius: Well, never say never. Maybe one day.
Mass: I'm not sure what the particular audience for that kind of thing would be. It's not like, say, Slayer or Megadeth rolling into town, is it? It's very left-field type of music. Whether it would be feasible to do that kind of thing, as well, because... you know? But it all depends on feedback, obviously, but... Never say never.
I'm kind of hoping to hope so. You guys pretty much have a lot ahead of you. Your plans sound pretty damn amazing. I got to be a fan of your stuff. As for the demographic, I think, there are some open-minded people, for instance... Well, this is kind of hard because metal-heads...
Mass: Well yeah, there's lots of people that have started popping up from all over the globe. Really just weird people popping up and claiming being huge fans of our first album from the last ten years. It has even gotten almost, well, not cult status, but a large following. There's been people popping up from really obscure places. It's been real strange.
Ophelius: Like we said before, when we released the first album, we never really toured. Played a bit in the UK. Never really went abroad. Didn't get much press coverage at the time. The press that we did get, we got absolutely slaughtered by the majority of them because, bear in mind, avant-garde metal, there wasn't really any scene back then. So we were, I don't know, one of four or five other bands doing it. But the best thing about it was that people that did like it absolutely loved it, so that kind of spurs you on a bit.
You guys do seem to have quite a bit of an underground following. That's great.
Ophelius: Like Mass was saying before, it's people in obscure places, from Russia, Australia, America (obviously), France. There's just about enough people that's getting the album, getting the T-shirt. Hopefully, we'll get better distribution next time. There's nothing wrong with what we've got at the moment. LADLO [Les Acteurs de l'Ombre] Productions has done a real good job of getting it out there, of getting us plenty of interviews. We're really happy with them. We're going to shoot for the sky next time and take it as far as we can take it.
Is Ebonylake your main thing right now, or do any of you have any side projects?
Mass: It's the main thing.
Ophelius: It's the only thing for me.
Mass: To do this we're already limited to the amount of time that we can actually get together. Individually, we sort of do our own thing on our own time. This is basically the main project we're involved with.
Ophelius: Yeah, once we start the writing and recording process, it takes such a long time. Not necessarily the writing stage. It's the engineering and producing the thing. I mean, how do you make sense of 40, 50 tracks--or should I say lines--inside one song? So the overall producing side of it takes a long time. So I don't think we have time for anything else at the moment.
Well you put a lot of time in it, and passion, in Ebonylake. I think it shows.
Ophelius: Thank you very much.
You're welcome. The Ebonylake artwork is pretty damn cool. Did one of you do that or did you get an artist? And what was the idea behind the concept for the artwork?
Mass: It was a guy from France. The guy who runs LADLO, the label, Gerald, put us in touch with a guy called Slo who does his own artwork himself. We basically sent him the CD and gave him a rough idea of things we wanted and basically just bounced ideas back.
Ophelius: We'd give him like a word picture of what we were looking for and he'd send us a few versions. We kind of said to change this, change that. Which he did. We were really, really happy with the product at the end.
Mass: He designed basically all the outlook and inlay graphics, everything. He's done a real good job. Just bounced ideas, basically back and forward until we got something that we felt captured the music and the style of what we're trying to create. So yeah, he's done a really good job. We will definitely use him again. He's also the guy who designs the T-shirts, as well. He's been really good.
It's definitely paid off, especially with the booklet with your release. Came out pretty well.
Ophelius: I actually think the booklet for the latest album is better than the first album, even though we had a lot less money this time. On Cacaphonous Records the first time, obviously, they were a much bigger label. Much more money behind them. So they were able to put much more money into the booklet, but I actually do prefer the latest one, to be honest with you.
Mass: The big difference is really that we have been able to have hands-on access to what we're doing rather than leave it to the record label and then they sort of give you some stuff. That's what you get. Basically this time we are in total control of everything. That's the way it should be. We have the final say and nothing goes to print unless we want it to. It's been great.
All in all, welcome back to the music scene.
Ophelius: Thank you very much.
Welcome. I'm glad to have you back, and I'm sure all your fans around the world are glad to have you back. As a closing, do you have any messages you would like to leave with your fans? Any last thoughts?
Mass: Take lots of opium. Drink lots of brandy and absinthe. Smoke lots of marijuana. Practice on the Ouija board. Seance. Have the banquet. Have the orgy.
Ophelius: Keep an open mind. Take a look at the world around you because it definitely is not what you think it is. That's one of the biggest things I'll say right now is that you are not where you think you are. Regarding Ebonylake: Keep your ear to the ground because any movement stirs, we're going to take you places you would not believe.
Thank you. We look forward to you taking us to those places.
Ophelius: Thank you very much.
Mass: We'll enjoy taking you there.