Persefone has become one of the brightest shining stars in Progressive Death Metal. Starting in 2001 and with 4 albums under their belt, the band has only been getting bigger and better with each release. After rather sad circumstances, the band's scheduled appearance at ProgPower USA 2015 was canceled. The band did just finish a success European run with Sweden's Loch Vostok and during and after this time, I was able to chat with Miguel Espinosa (Keyboards, Clean Vocals) to discuss all the latest going on with Persefone:
That Drummer Guy: Thank you for taking the time, especially while on tour, to be able to do an interview. I've been a fan for the last couple years since I bought Spiritual Migration. Just to get the bad news out of the way, you unfortunately had to cancel your appearance at ProgPower for a few various reasons. Is there anything about the cancellation that you'd like to mention?
Miguel Espinosa: Thanks to you for the patience on doing the interview and for the nice words! grin emoticon Actually Glenn was very concrete about the reasons of the cancellation. For about June, we were preparing the whole ProgPower thing, when a possible tour in Europe arrived. I jumped in thinking that for that time the visas would be already prepared, but unfortunately the documentation didn't arrive on time so, even that we had almost a month ahead by early August, the actual time was really nonexistent as we had the tour coming and once in September, we simply couldn't afford the chance of not getting the visas in such short time.
TDG- It is unfortunate to see it but it does happen from time to time. Despite of this, is there any chance you guys coming back to North America in the future?
ME- Absolutely! According to the label, most of our sales numbers come from the United States, so we are really interested on touring US. The only thing is when it will happen, as there are no dates yet. Probably with the new album that we want to release next year, we will try to prepare something in there.
TDG- Awesome. I would totally love to see you guys given the chance. You've just finished up touring in Europe with another band that I love, Loch Vostok. How did this tour come about?
ME: This tour was already set up long time ago, with Blindead as headliner. It seems that there was some kind of medical situation with two members that couldn't let them make the tour, so in very short notice, they jumped off the tour. Loch Vostok and Persefone are in the same management, so our manager told us about the possibility of doing this tour as co-headliners with Loch Vostok. To be true, it was a tough decision because we didn't had a full set prepared as we have a new drummer. But Loch Vostok are really good friends, and felt that it would be a great time to make the new live set work. So here we are. :)
TDG: Its great to see that you did decide to keep the tour going. With having a new drummer in the band and this tour to be a part of, did that have to force any changes as far as the set? Was there any songs that could be easily added or taken away?
ME- Actually, it's not the songs itself the what we have changed on the set. Bobby is an amazing drummer and he has learned the songs pretty fast, even though, technically, the songs are terribly difficult. The thing is that now we play with a metronome in our in-ear system, and that's a big step forward and involves a computer system that simply can't crash during a show. Of course, you can rehearse with the system, but when you are really putting that in practice is on tour, as the material is moving all the time, and the chances of it receiving hits are big, or just having to prepare everything with a big rush, as in festivals, where change overs are really short.
TDG- That definitely makes sense. Adding a metronome live definitely makes the whole experience feel tighter when it is done right and I'd imagine with music such as yours, that would be quite the challenge to make all aspects of adding a metronome perfect. Have you felt the difference yet in the sound now that it's been implemented?
ME- Yes! Now we feel more secure, even if we can't barely listen to the rest of the guys (for a bad monitoring session for example). We all are experienced musicians and follow a metronome is not a problem, so now we focus on play on the beat. For example, in cases such as shows with a lot of people, with all the nerves and pressure, we are sure that Bobby won't be fast because of that, making us more difficult to play. Definitely we are enjoying shows a lot
TDG- Glad to hear it. Adding the metronome live is a necessity in some bands and I'm glad to see that it's working out for you. Now with Spiritual Migration being out for 2 years, is there any new music on the horizon?
ME- Yes of course! We are writing new music. We have a part of the new album already written. The plan with the label and management is to get it ready by March and release it a bit later. No dates yet, but at this point that's the idea.
TDG- Fantastic! Is there anything you can mention yet about the direction of the new album?
ME- Not yet. We usually never reveal nothing about the new material, as we always like it to be surprising. We are really thrilled about writing music with a new drummer, as there are always new ideas.
TDG- Now that you guys have completed a successful run with Loch Vostok, what are some other bands that you could see yourself touring with in the future?
ME- We are not very sure, we have just finished the tour with Loch Vostok and One Hour Hell and there's a lot to think about. Our label and management are considering a full headliner show for the next European tour, but if you ask me about bands, maybe Animals As Leaders, Obscura, Ne Obliviscaris or Gojira might be bands that would fit completely in a same tour! With time we will see. :D
TDG- Any of those would be fantastic to see. With the talks of a possible headlining run in the future, do you feel that would be a welcome challenge as far as set length and energy?
ME- Of course it would be a great challenge. I don't think energy would be a bigger problem, as we have already headlined tours in Asia with 90 minute sets and flights everyday, which drove us to sleep barely 4 hours a day. Anyway, promotion and show wise, that would be a great challenge. With this tour we have put in practice the new system playing with backtracks, metronome and in-ears. We should push the show forward to the next step to make people want to come to the show.
TDG- That would be fantastic to see happen in the States or in Europe happen for you guys. Now that is essentially September, do you have any favorite albums of 2015 so far?
ME- This year, Symphony X has released an album, and that, for me personally is something great as they have been always a reference for us. After the tour I have had the chance to listen closely to the Loch Vostok album "From These Waters" and it's simply fantastic! Love it!!
TDG- That is great to hear. Both of those are ranking very high for me as well. In speaking of checking out music. What music were you guys listening to while on this recent tour?
ME- I can't tell the other guys, but when on tour, we are exposed to high volume during long terms of the day, and I prefer listening to quiet music. I'm a lot on soundtracks, and orchestral music. Recently I've been listening a lot to "Colin Frake on Fire Mountain" from the guys of Two Steps From Hell. Thomas Bergersen (one of the two composers in charge of TSFH) has become a great influence for me recently! James Newton Howard has been another listening stop, and, as mentioned before, Loch Vostok's "From These Waters"
TDG- That definitely makes sense. Being surrounded by loud music 24/7 would be vary daunting while touring. And it's good to change things up a bit with different music than what you are playing. It helps keep your mind creative.
ME- Yes, besides living with 18 guys for two weeks can be difficult and relaxing a bit for a while always help keep the good mood when any problem arises. :)
TDG- Haha absolutely. Well thank you again for taking the time to do this interview. It will be great seeing what you guys will be doing in the future as far as the next album and touring. Before we are done is there anything else that you'd like to mention, plug, or promote?
ME- Thanks to you Josh! I would like to invite everyone to check our last album Spiritual Migration, at Spotify, Amazon, Youtube, or whatever you find correct with yourself, and if you love it, share it with your friends! We are willing to go anywhere in the world and share experiences about our music, just as we just did in Europe. Thank you to all the people that attended to the European shows, and a big sorry to all those guys who wanted to see Persefone at ProgPower USA. It was a big bummer for us not being able to go for visa problems, but we are doing our best to make it happen as soon as we can.
Make sure to check out Persefone's latest 2013 album, Spiritual Migration available through ViciSolum Productions.
Hope Drone broke onto the scene in a big way with their Self Titled EP in 2013 and have been steadily climbing the ranks in the Atmospheric Black Metal realm with their added touches of Post Rock & Sludge Metal. 2015 brings the release of their first album, Cloak Of Ash via Relapse Records. I recently got to talk to Christopher & Karl of Hope Drone to talk about all the great things going on with the future front-runners of Atmospheric Black Metal.
That Drummer Guy: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. I have been a fan since the moment I received your self-titled release.
TDG: You guys have been recently signed to Relapse to release your latest release, Cloak Of Ash, which is an absolute juggernaut of an album. How did you approach the album differently than your Self-Titled release?
Christopher- Cloak of Ash was a lot more thought out. With the S/T, we were basically finding our feet as a band. The 4 songs on the S/T were essentially the first 4 songs we wrote together as a four piece once I took over the vocals. When it came to the follow up, Karl wanted to do something with a much greater scope - he wanted us to write something that would be a slow burn, and that demanded your attention. Karl and I spent more time mapping out the ebb and flow of the album. We also made sure the songs were a lot more rehearsed, so that we could capture as much of the album with a live recording as possible. We recorded Cloak of Ash with Christopher Brownbill again (Idylls) but this time we opted to mix with him as well, rather than send it away. We wrote most of the material on Cloak of Ash at Sun Distortion, the warehouse studio where Brownbill lived, so he had a better appreciation than most people of what we wanted to achieve. We liked the work that Sandford Parker did on the S/T, but wanted Cloak of Ash to be more representative of the unaltered live sound of the band. To that end, we all locked ourselves in the (now defunct) Wavelength Studios in our home town and mixed the album together on a big analogue SSL desk. People sometimes comment that the album sounds raw, but I think that people are just starting to forget what real instruments actually sound like.
TDG: Starting off with the 20 minute epic, Unending Grey, is quite an unexpected move. Considering that is the longest track on the album. Was that a conscious thought to do that or did it just feel natural to put the tracklisting as it is?
Karl- Unending Grey, to me, summarizes all of the elements of Hope Drone, as well as my personal world outlook. It is an opener and a closer all wrapped up into one. As such, I've always felt that song stands as a thesis statement for what the band represents. I didn't realize that so many reviewers would almost perceive it as a challenge, or a bar for entry into the album, though. On reflection, I can see what they mean. – Christopher
To add to that, the track positioning was the one that felt most natural after we’d established the ebb and flow of the record; we did play with a few different configurations but ultimately this proved best. Of course the path of least resistance would have been to have the long epic song with the heavy ending last on the record but I had other plans with Carried Apart by the Ceaseless Tides finishing the album on a more contemplative note, which I felt was appropriate for such an experience. We didn’t set out to be deliberately alienating but at the same time we’re making this music for us and if we end up alienating listeners with long songs or dense compositions we aren’t particularly worried.
TDG: Was there anything left over from the Cloak of Ash recording sessions that may end up on a release down the road or was everything used in Cloak of Ash?
Christopher- In terms of fully developed songs, everything was used on Cloak of Ash. However, we have some material that has been floating around for a long time that we love. When you want to write a double LP, you have to keep in mind the limitations of the format. As a result, there was a fair bit of planning going in to recording to make sure everything fit.
TDG: When playing shows, considering the lengths of songs, does it make it hard which songs are going to be played live?
Christopher- Yes! We have the constant struggle of when we put Unending Grey into a set, you finish one song and your set is already half over. I feel like we may eventually do a cut down version of that song so that we can play more than 2 or 3 songs in a set.
TDG: Combining your blend of different genres into one powerhouse sound. Do you feel that you have found your sound as a band or do you feel there is more uncharted territory to explore?
C- I think that broadly speaking, we have found our sound. We have a long journey ahead of us in developing and evolving that sound, which I am excited about. I would like to tap into some of the more aggressive elements of the S/T again, and we would all like to explore some more spacey and vibey sounds in the future. This is somewhat exhibited in the new material we have written (we have another 20 minute song ready to go).
K- Found has a little too much finality for me, I’d say the core elements of the Hope Drone sound have been established but like many of my favorite bands like Neurosis, you’re always chasing something more and always one step behind. There is definitely always more territory to be explored. Most importantly with Cloak of Ash I think we took a big step toward establishing the core sound in particular with regards to recording, I personally can’t imagine recording any other way but live going forward and mixing on a board together with our engineer.
TDG: I can imagine you guys doing recreation of cover songs done in the Hope Drone style. Would that ever be something to consider down the road?
C- I would love to cover one of the songs off Disintegration by The Cure. Not sure how much luck I would have convincing the other guys.
K- I feel like we could do something interesting with Angelo Badalamenti’s Laura Palmer Theme from Twin Peaks, though given we’ve already started writing for a new release and have vague plans for another after that I can’t say whether it is worth our time to explore these ideas.
TDG: With as much exposure as you guys are now getting thanks to making such impressive music and the backing of Relapse Records, is there any chance of a possible U.S./North American tour in the future? Possibly even 2016?
C- For 2016, we are currently gazing towards Europe. We all lead fairly busy lives back home (I'm a lawyer and I have a 3 year old son), so it is hard for us to find the time for long tours. A U.S. tour needs to happen though. We owe a lot to the U.S. influence on black metal.
TDG: I honestly believe that Australia is the leading hotbed for some of the greatest Metal being produced right now in all the different sub-genres? Do you feel this to be true as well? Is there any other Australian bands you feel carrying the flag of Metal in the right way?
C- The thing about Australian metal is that we're so isolated from the rest of the world, and our population is so comparatively low, that you don't get the same type of concentrated scenes as the rest of the world. As a result, I think many bands are left to forge their own path.
TDG: What are you guys currently listening to? Any favorite albums of 2015 so far?
C- Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress by Godspeed You! Black Emperor is amazing, especially Piss Crowns Are Trebled. I've been listening to this Turkish post-punk/darkwave band a lot - She Past Away. They released an album this year called Narin Yalnizlik which is great. New Locrian, Krallice and Chelsea Wolfe. And our friends in We Lost the Sea just released a new post-rock album with some pretty amazing back stories.
K- I’ll add the new Leviathan to that list. I tend to spend a fair amount of time digesting albums and I’m still just getting onto a lot of stuff from 2014 and prior.
TDG: Thank you once again for taking the time to do this interview. Is there anything else that you would like to mention, plug or promote that I have not brought up yet?
C- Big thanks to everyone who has bought the double LP or supported Hope Drone in some other way. We're heading on the road in Australia with Downfall of Gaia from Germany in November this year in support of their new album. It's a long way for those guys to travel (including Kadnar who is coming from New York), so it would be great if people would come out and show their support.
Hope Drone- Cloak Of Ash is available NOW via Relapse Records and Bandcamp!
Jim Matheos is the legendary founder of the Progressive Metal band, Fates Warning. In 2015, not only is Fates Warning doing the 2nd North American leg in support of their latest 2013 album Darkness In A Different Light; they are also re-releasing their 1997 concept album, A Pleasant Shade Of Gray. This is a short but sweet interview conducted this week.
That Drummer Guy: With Darkness In A Different Light being released 2 years ago, how is the album holding up for you now?
Jim Matheos: Fairly well. As with everything I’ve done, it’s hard for me to listen objectively without being overly critical and second guessing every decision. So there are things I would do differently given another chance. But, overall, I’m still happy.
TDG: Since this is will be the 2nd leg of the American run for the Darkness In A Different Light tour, will be any significant changes in the songs that are played live on this run?
JM: We’re still about two months out from the tour, so I haven’t given the set list any thought yet. It will probably be similar to what we’ve been doing recently, with a maybe a few different things thrown in for those that came out last time.
TDG: What songs, newer or older are still fun for you to play live?
JM: So much of that depends on the response, really. If the people are really into it, then something that I’ve played a thousand times, such as The Eleventh Hour, is exciting and fresh. Typically though, the more challenging material, or songs that I really connect with emotionally are fun to play no matter what.
TDG: So what brought on a re-release of A Pleasant Shade Of Gray?
JM: We’ve been releasing special editions of the back catalog for some time now. We try to put one out every couple years or so. We’re going in chronological order and APSOG was up next.
TDG: How do you feel A Pleasant Shade Of Gray has held up over these past 18 years?
JM: I’ve had to listen to it a lot over the past year getting this re-issue organized. For me, it’s held up remarkably well, which is not something I can say very often.
TDG: A Pleasant Shade Of Gray has been known to be played live in it's entirety in the past. Would that ever be happening again in the future?
JM: I’d like to. The tours we did for APSOG in 97-99 were some of my favorites. It’s a fairly challenging piece, particularly when you’re playing the whole thing in sequence without a break. Unfortunately, because of that, it’s not something we can just throw together and bring out on the road. We will, of course, be doing pieces of it on the upcoming US tour.
TDG: A Pleasant Shade Of Gray brought on the first full appearance of Kevin Moore into the band in a recording sense, would there ever be a chance of Kevin joining back in for any future FW releases?
JM: Actually, Kevin’s first FW appearance was on At Fate’s Hands, from the Perfect Symmetry album. Once he and I started doing OSI I thought it would be best to not have him involved with FW in order to keep the two entities completely separate. But I always love his contributions, so I wouldn’t rule out a future appearance.
TDG: On a related note, is there any chance of any new OSI albums in the future?
JM: I would love to do another OSI at some point. But, both Kevin and I are busy with other things right now, so, unfortunately, there’s nothing on the horizon.
TDG: With work with former Fates Warning vocalist, John Arch would there ever be the possibility of working with Arch on a new Fates Warning album? Possibly with Arch and Alder sharing vocal duties?
JM: I’ve thought about that and it’s something I’d be interested in. I’m not sure how realistic an idea it is though. Fans tend to be very polarized on this issue, preferring one and often disparaging the other, which is an attitude I can’t understand. So, in reality there would probably be way too much drama involved, from the outside- not the inside, and that’s something I like to steer clear of.
TDG: Is there any talks of another Arch/Matheos album?
JM: As with OSI, John and I are busy with other things, so nothing in the works right now. But I was very happy with that record and the fan response was amazing. John is always inspiring to work with, so I’d love to at some point.
TDG: Or Fates Warning?
JM: I’ve been writing this year, so hopefully we’ll have some news soon.
TDG: Or solo albums?
JM: These are always labors of love, so they’re few and far between. At some point there will be another. Can’t say when though.
TDG: Unfortunately on this current run, living in Minnesota, the closest show for me is in Chicago and I will not be able to make it on this current run. Is there any chance of doing any expanded American touring in the future?
JM: Whenever we announce dates there’s always the “Why aren’t you coming to XXX” questions, and some people take it very personally. All I can say is that we would like to play as many places as possible. There’s no one in this lineup saying – I don’t want to play there! If your city isn’t on the list it’s most likely one of two things – we didn’t get a reasonable offer from a reputable promoter, or logistically it doesn’t work. It’s really that simple.
TDG: Is there any new music or bands that you have been enjoying lately? Any current favorite albums of 2015 so far?
JM: Loving the new Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi.
TDG: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. it has been a tremendous honor to ask these questions.
JM: Thank you!
Catch Fates Warning on Tour October 9th-November November 2nd and check out the re-release of A Pleasant Shade Of Gray coming October 2nd via Metal Blade Records!