Saturday, January 19, 2013

Then and Now: An Interview with a death cinematic

This post was originally intended to be part of my summary of the year 2012, but the more I think about it, the less that would have made sense to me. It's oddly appropriate that my first interview here is with prolific drone artist a death cinematic, as this project has been important to me ever since I began delving into the deeper reaches of the music community. Forgive me if this post gets a bit personal, but the context is quite important for me.

In 2007, I was just learning about extreme music and had started a musical project with a trusted friend. He recorded all the music and I screamed at the top of my lungs about nature and depression. I remember the music fondly, but the contacts my bandmate made on our collective behalf are particularly memorable. One of the earliest musicians he discovered and contacted was a death cinematic, which was a brand new project at the time. One day I showed up to record a song and my friend handed me a copy of Epochs Shifting Out of Time. The album quickly became mandatory listening and was in heavy rotation for much of 2007 and 2008. I was going through a period of anxiety, self-discovery, and overall turmoil. The bleak yet soothing soundscapes provided me with a sense of familiarity and comfort.

Fast forward to late 2012. Shortly after I established Black Metal and Brews, I found myself in touch with the artist behind a death cinematic for the first time. While I still had the album in my possession, I'd been heavily removed from current output from most artists, and was surprised that the project had grown into something larger and more proficient. As I hadn't heard any of the albums recorded since Epochs Shifting Out of Time, we decided it would be ideal for me to review a death cinematic's latest offering, The New World and compare it alongside Epochs, which I'll pair with an interview with the artist himself. Thanks for reading this rambling introduction, and I hope you enjoy this massive post as much as I've enjoyed creating it.

In addition to having the opportunity to interview a death cinematic/simple box construction today, I’m going to review both a death cinematic’s earliest offering and most recent. Released in 2007, Epochs Shifting Out of Time (which is available for free download), is a hazy, distorted journey through a world that is undergoing the violent yet beautiful process of coming into existence. The song titles touch upon everything from the shifting of tectonic plates to certain species’ experiences as the planet grows and changes. In many ways, the music’s subtle sense of turbulence lends itself perfectly to the turmoil of a world in its infancy. This is all too fitting for an early release from a project whose latest release is an album appropriately titled The New World. While the initial release from a death cinematic is certainly not a work I’d describe as amateur, it’s interesting to see how the art and musical direction has evolved while remaining entirely recognizable as the same artistic mind.

Almost as a direct continuation of Epochs, The New World starts with crackling and frantic guitar that fades in and out of the listener’s awareness, resembling some sort of transmission being broadcast into space. While there’s still a degree of droning ambiance here, the guitars are strummed and create distinctive notes rather than textures and moods. It’s somewhat akin to Earth’s more recent output, with a shimmering beauty that cuts through the overall darkness of the music’s direction. Accompanying The New World is a collection of photographs in a small bound book entitled "A Prelude to The New World." As the title suggests, the photographs contained within detail a bleak, hazy landscape. It's no stretch to say that the marriage of sound and vision here is a documentation of a death cinematic reaching the artistic ambitions made apparent on his earliest of works. While the title and photograph accompanying the first CD from a death cinematic are certainly in the same vein, it's fantastic to see a fully fleshed version of this unique vision.

I had the opportunity to interview a death cinematic himself both about these two albums and his overall artistic process. The interview follows for your information and enjoyment:

Black Metal And Brews: 

a death cinematic has always created very visual music, beginning with the evocative song titles on the very first release, and now including the extensive photography collection included with The New World. How did the hybridization of the two come to mind for you?

A Death Cinematic: 

I guess there was never a question of separation. The two were always entwined for me, so it really became a question of bringing them together in a meaningful and aesthetic way as the projects grew. The visual aspect has always been very important to me and simple box and a death cinematic is an ongoing work in progress. I now consider any artwork, whether it is writing, photography, music, or drawing to be a part and a continuation of this.


Is there a unifying theme to your albums as a death cinematic? Is there a message you’re hoping to convey with a death cinematic’s artistic output?


I think there is a unifying theme. To me it is a journey and each release is the next logical step along that journey. It all goes together. I am not as concerned with conveying a specific message with a death cinematic as I am in building a context for a listener to construct their own message. The work I do has specific meanings for me but I am not concerned that a listener or viewer know what those are for me. I want it to mean something to them on their own personal terms. If I was to say that this album is specifically about x, y, and z and nothing else, it constricts and pigeon holes the work, limiting the experience for the listener. At this time I want to make fertile ground for a willing participant to grow their own meaning.


How has your personal growth as a person and musician changed a death cinematic’s direction? Has it changed the direction?


I am not so sure the direction is changed but I think my personal growth has furthered and moved a death cinematic farther. I work on becoming a better musician/ noise maker and artist and with that this project grows and gets better. At times it feels like there is no movement at all or that it is glacial at best. Those times are the worst, I imagine, for any artist. The times of misperceived stagnation. As I grow and progress with these projects, I get better at editing the work. I also get more efficient with my decisions as how to get to a theme and what materials to use.


You collaborated with Matt Finney on your most recent release. How did that come about?


That was his idea and offering and it was a long time in the making. He suggested we do something back in 2010. He sent me a track of him reading the new world and I recorded the music and sound to it. It was meant to be a download only single but as I was working on that track the concept for the whole album crystallized for me. It just came in a flash and was so complete that I even had the basic concept for the packaging. I then asked him if I could make this album around our track. He was into it and very gracious and patient. It took me a long while to realize the release in its final 150 hand made copies.


What inspired you to establish simple box construction rather than signing off your releases to some other label who can do all the physical production of the album for you? What drives you to craft and oversee every aspect of a death cinematic’s artistic image?


I have been a visual artist or interested in being one for as long as I can remember. simple box originally was going to be a small press for handbound books and limited edition print runs. When I started to get into making music, I looked into finding labels but as I was developing the concepts for the releases, it became clear to me that I should be doing this on my own. So simple box construction was revived and started to be this label of sorts. 

The drive to do everything for a death cinematic is that even though I want the audience to build their own meanings and experiences, I want them to do it in a specified context. That context [is something] I have to construct and be as meticulous as possible about building. It could also be the early signs of madness and OCD, to try to control every aspect and build every copy as if it was a singular piece of art. At times it sure feels that way. I enjoy making the work and it becomes a vehicle to express myself in various mediums at once. Plus, doing it this way I have to answer only to myself and the failure or success of any release is my responsibility.

However, there have been and will continue to be a death cinematic releases on other labels. A lot of the labels that I have worked with allowed me to design and fabricate the packaging for the the releases. On some of the splits, the other artist designed them and the label had them made. It all comes down to what everyone is comfortable with. I found that most of the time everyone is pretty accommodating and respectful of each other's concerns. The new full-length on cassette is being released on tycho magnetic anomalies. They're a great little cassette label who asked me to do a tape release for them. They were very accommodating to my aesthetic concerns and gave me control over the design and fabrication of the whole edition. This was great because I had specific ideas for the album and could work on cassette packaging which I have not done before. So it feels like this album is made on terms that are very agreeable to me. As I talk to other labels who are interested in my work I always ask them to allow me the control of over the design and fabrication of the edition. Even though I have some projects slated on other labels this year, for the most part I still plan on the majority of the albums to be self-released.

1 comment:

  1. Nice interview and the intro was important to the piece as a whole.