Wednesday, January 11, 2012

in depth interview with Chicago masters : EARTHEN GRAVE

The year begins and we all have albums that we await impatientlty more than others, the debut of EARTHEN GRAVE is on the top of my short-list (along with the too long awaited new album of  BLOOD FARMERS !) and I'm convinced this is an album that will  mark the minds of many, as being one of the most musical affair ever composed in the Doom history !!
 I already presented you this  killer band from Chicago a few weeks agos, but too briefly considering their talent and originality ! None of those who already know them could contradict me, E.G. is not just another Doom metal band...
Composed by very very experimented guys (of course the name of Ron Holzner -ex Trouble- prevails at first sight, but believe me nobody is left behind here ) and amazingly boosted by the virtuoso violinist Rachel Barton, the band shows  a fantastic will to compose majestic pieces of TOP NOTCH METAL in the greatest tradition of the mid-80's ... Sure, this is basically Doom ,but not only; thrash, heavy and power metal fans will find their count here too without scratching their heads at any moment !!!
I felt  like an urgent need to interview them in depth , in order to know more about ther origins, identity and of course the album and the next following plans... Thanx to you guys for yer cool answers,, the result is in my opinion very interesting :)

So guys, first, let me wish you an Happy new year and all the best to Earthen Grave, well let's go now, I presume you're pretty excited with the very close release of the album ? Are all lights green ?
RON : We are excited as Hell to unleash this record on the world!. We are still shopping it to labels as we speak. March sounds like a good Month to release it, with or without a label!!! Lights are green and pedal to the METAL!!!!!!!

"Blood drunk" contains all the songs of the mini-album (3 originals + the Pentagram and Witchfinder General covers) + 5 new ones, this is not a reproach at all of course but why did you feel the necessity to include those 5 songs again for this debut ?
RON: The actual title of the new record is "Earthen Grave" "Blood Drunk" was the single we released. The "mini-Album" is actually our demo that was supposed to be sold locally at shows, and sent to Labels.We NEVER intended to release it as a mini-album. . Our demo, called "Dismal Times" took on a life of its own. People heard about us worldwide and the demand to buy our demo was too great to put on hold until we finished writing and recording our full record. Demos usually represent the band at that time to show where you are musically. We progressed as a band and so did our songs.We had more of a budget for this record and we feel the rerecorded versions of the demo songs are the true and finalized versions.

This is a song which speaks about love, lust, lies and murder but what's exactly the meaning of "blood drunk" ? Can we see this title as a kind of schematic description of some actual human manners, full of tainted blood flowing in the veins ?
MARK : The meaning of BLOOD DRUNK is when the mind loses all sense of reality, and goes deep into a state of revenge filled thoughts. But in short terms it’s a story of a relationship gone bad. The man was so In love with this women that he does not know what to do. Should he just leave it alone? Should he go after her? Should he take his own life? Love will make you think and do the craziest things/just as much as love can make you do the most beautiful things.

Many DOOMSTERS consider 2011 as an exceptionnal year but on a more personal point of view as a shitty year with a world that becomes more and more mad and sad... what's your opinion on this and your personnal look on this past year ? Do you think that if we were in a far more prosperious period, extreme musics like Doom, Death and Thrash METAL would be as productive ?
JASON : Most people who play metal don't have money anyway so it doesn't really matter what the economy's doing as far as the music's concerned. But I suppose a bad economy hurts the machinery of the genre - labels release less stuff, studios have less clients, bands have a harder time getting their albums recorded, the albums that do get released aren't promoted as much, bands have a much harder time touring, etc. So, artistically I don't think it affects much but logistically, absolutely. But maybe that's a good thing once in a while...weed out the chaff, ya know?
TONY: 2011 for me was a bittersweet year. As far as personal relationships and family things have been pretty good. As an overall view with worldly and political events it has been pretty bad.

No need to present of course Ron Holzner who played such a long time in TROUBLE, and you all guys have serious experiences with other bands like Trifog, Life in Shadow, Stonehenge, etc... but concerning you Tony, I've read in "music in Belgium" that you also played in PRONG and MINISTRY, was it occasionally as a live-member or ... ?
TONY: I worked for Prong and Ministry and Trouble as a guitar tech, I did not actually play in the bands.
JASON: I think you meant The Living Fields, not Life in Shadow? (woops, indeed…)

Rachel has an outstanding experience in music, having played with legends like Jimmy Page, Megadeth or Pantera and recorded numerous albums of classic stuff, even if she's a metal fan and you guys aren't really newcomers, how did it come that she became a fulltime member of Earthen Grave ?
JASON : I had been in touch with her regarding The Living Fields and she invited me to a get together one night. Scotty was there and that was the beginning of Earthen Grave. We had a chance to record a one-off song for something or other (I forget what it was) and Scott called Rachel to see if she wanted to play on it. She heard what we were doing and decided she wanted to do a bit more than just play on one song.

RON: Jason, Scott and I were working on a few songs(including the one for the project with Rachel). We decided to make a go at it as a band. She told Scott," I Want to be in the Band" We started out being more of a simple Doom band, but things changed in a hurry and Many musical doors were open. Earthen Grave actually exists as two different bands. We write ,record and play shows with her, but also we write , record and play without her. Rachel's extremely busy schedule made us adapt very nicely. We can play big halls and festival type shows with her, than we can play small rock clubs and bars without her. The best of both worlds!!
Your next gig announcement precise that this her return, did she had a downtime period where she couldn't play live (a birth I presume ?) with you or maybe it even forced you to be inactive on stage?
RON : Very good guess!! She was pregnant. She gave birth to a lovely daughter. Rachel was able to continue the classical shows(she was able to sit and there was no "loud" volume). We played many shows without her. We have two identities as a band. Its pretty cool. We are developing two fan bases!! Jekyll and Hyde!!

The "six string viper" used by Rachel is an instrument in its own right, not just a classic violin which amplifies melancholy as (too) often, it can be even heavier than guitars at times... How do you consider its place in the music of E.G. ?
RON : We knew we had something very special, wanted this to be unique.Rachel wanted to ROCK and be a big part of the music. NOT a candy coating. I had her play through a Marshall JCM 800 and Hell was unearthed.We have the mindset like a 3 guitar band. Many harmonies, layers and EXTREME heavyness! All three, Tony., Rachel, and Jason play lead and rythym. Rachel can fill out the music the way other bands sneak in keyboard parts, but then she blasst out a Van Halen meets Paganini solo.

Does she take part in the composition of the songs or at least can decide when she can operate in a song?
RON: We all take an active role in the writing . Our backgrounds in Metal go way back. We all seem to know what to play and when to play it! She recently wrote an extremely heavy Riff warming up. I cant wait to make a song around it.

How about live performances, anything yet planed for 2012 except the Days Of The Doomed fest ?
RON : We have a few things in the works. All our plans evolve around the record being released first.I would likONus to play a few European festivals as soon as possible. South America Looks inviting. We can tour with Black Sabbath if they will have us!!

MARK : I would love to play with SOUNDGARDEN

About the DOTD fest, which bands and friends are you particularly impatient to see/meet ?

TONY : : I am looking forward to seeing all the bands, really excited about seeing Blood of the Sun for the first time. I've really been looking forward to seeing Las Cruces again since the last Doom Fest. Its always a pleasure to see Earthride.
JASON : : Las Cruces, Apostle of Solitude and the mighty Earthride!


Do you intend now to developp the name of E.G. in Europe with the release of the album ?
RON : You Betcha . Playing Europe is where it is at!! I want the band to experience the things Rachel and Myself have in our years of touring. The food, culture, the fans, All amazing...

Do you feel there's more chances for some interest from some countries like Germany or England or ...?
RON.: Absolutely!!
TONY: - Of Course! We have a pretty solid fan base in Germany right now. We also get a lot of attention from South America.

I haven't made a special research for this, but who -at your knowledge- has introduced first Violin as a permanent instrument in Metal ?
RON: I never really thought about it.
JASON: Off the top of my head, My Dying Bride was the first metal band I was aware of with a full-time violinist. They can't be the first, though...

What do you think of influential metal bands like Skyclad, My Dying Bride, Celestial Season and more recently Apocalyptica ?
RON : Trouble had a rockin tour with Skyclad.  Great band!
JASON: I'm a huge My Dying Bride fan and have been since "Turn Loose the Swans" melted my brain in '92. Skyclad was wonderful and all these "folk metal" bands out now doing what Skyclad did almost 20 years ago owe them a huge debt of gratitude. And Martin Walkyier's just a cool cat. Funny you mentioned Celestial Season - just popped up on my radar a few weeks ago and I've been meaning to check them out. How did I miss them?

TONY : My Dying Bride is the only one that I am aware of.

You did things very seriously for the promotion of the album with a nice new website, 4 then 6 songs on streaming, lyrics revealed... was it the result of a particular reflection towards a market that is now difficult to conquer?
JASON: With the economy in the tank, no one has money so you have to work twice as hard for half as much. And the industry is still turned on it's head from downloading, so those two things combined...everyone's trying different things.
RON :  Thank You! Self promotion online is the way of the future, along with digital downloads. Collectively we are getting a good handle on it

Please precise here all details to purchase the album and if any vynil version is planed !? Do you have any other special merchandise as T-shirt and patches ?
RON : We will have an online store on our website SOON. The new record (vinyl to follow),t-shirts, patches. All kinds of crazy stuff.

Thanx guys, all the best to you, add something if you wish
JASON : Thank you for taking time to interview us!

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