Interview with Will (Guitarist)
By Monika Deviat
Vesperian Sorrow have recently finished recording their latest full length album, “Stormwinds of Ages”, but you may not be able to get your hands on it quite yet. The band is currently shopping the album. Until they find a label you can check out the title track which has been streaming on the bands’ various websites to get an idea of what the new tunes sound like. The symphonic black metal band has a few guest vocalist and musicians on the new album from their home town of Austin Texas, including one of their local legends, Jason McMaster. Metal-Rules.com caught up with guitarist William to discuss the new album and how the DIY recording process went for the band.
What can you tell us about the new album?
Well we’ve been working on it for the past few years. We haven’t had any label support since our second album “Psychotic Sculpture”, so we’ve been kind of doing everything on our own. Basically, the new album is the darkest and most brutal thing we’ve come up with to date. I believe we have stepped it up a notch in every aspect as well, production, musicianship, and execution. I think most people that are familiar with our past catalog will be a little surprised when they take a listen to these songs. There is most definitely a signature Vesperian sound to the album, but it is not like any of the other stuff we have done. The album is taken to two different extremes with some slowed down tempo songs, and songs that are very fast, extreme, and brutal.
“Stromwinds of Ages” is the follow up to 2007′s “Regenesis Creation”. What has the band been doing in the years between? Why has it been so long between recordings?
For the most part, Kris (drummer/composer/keyboardist) and I have been building a recording studio from the ground up. We’ve also taken on a lot of work since “Regenesis”. As soon as the studio opened its doors we were recording a lot of bands. Also, we had to put our live band back together. We had a few live members leave the band, including our long time bassist Tony. So, finding the right guys and trying to become a live act and writing new material, we stayed very busy. Now that we have a very stable band and the studio is up and going, I suspect that the next album will not take long at all to complete. We already have a ton of material to work with and if we find the right label support, I would think we will have yet another album next year.
Can you describe to fans how the music has evolved for you since the band’s inception?
For the most part we have all evolved as musicians. Both Kris and I were eighteen and nineteen years old when we recorded our first demo. Donni and Kris had Unholy Descent before I joined, which was more Swedish influenced melodic Death Metal, this was like 94-96. I joined in late 96 and we started incorporating keyboards. At the time the style I guess that was influencing all of us was a blacker sound with synth. Since then, we have all grown older, become more proficient with our instruments, and of course our tastes have changed a bit. Lately, we have really been trying to beef up the guitars and make them a bit more heavy and brutal.
You have Jason McMaster (who was just inducted into the South Texas Music Walk of Fame on June 4th) as a guest vocalist on the album. Can you tell us about the influence, if any, he has had on your music and why you chose to bring him in?
Jason has always been a Austin music scene staple. The guy is a legend around here, and he’s one of the busiest guys I’ve ever run into with the amount of projects he does at any given time. With the way the album was sounding we had a lot of progressive elements within the songs, we thought that having someone of Jason’s caliber would push the parts over the top, and it did! I think when people hear the song “Relics of Impurity”, they will be pleasantly surprised. It really made me realize the songs on this record transcend many genre labels and names, and that was important to us. We did not want to paint ourselves in a corner with a certain style of music. That would have been creative suicide.
The other guest vocalists are Erika Tandy and Jon Zig, what is about their vocal styles that made you made you think they would fit on the songs ? Are they personal acquaintances or friends of yours?
First and foremost yes, they are really good friends of ours. They were the only people we thought would help shape the way some of the songs were sounding. In one form or the other we have always had female voices and vocalist perform on our material in the past. We did not want it any different for the record. Erika is one of, if not the most powerful female singers I have ever heard. She is truly amazing at what she is capable of. We were very fortunate to have her on our record and I hope that the record does well so that more people can be exposed to her talents. Zig is hands down a monster. We had some sections in the songs that really needed the most brutal death metal vocalist and he is the only person we thought of. Both Kris and I had both heard what Zig was capable of doing in the studio because we had recorded a demo and album for his band Sarcolytic. The main thing is that we wanted to enhance every riff to the maximum potential, and we really couldn’t have done it without their help.
Carl August Tidemann is featured as a guest soloist, how did you get him involved?
Carl has always been an influence on my playing ever since I heard the first Arcturus album. I think we were all sitting around talking about the solos I was going to be performing on the album, and I think it was Kris that told me “Just try to channel August when you do them haha”. Well, I was sitting at home and thought to myself, wouldn’t it be something if we could get him to do a guest solo or two. I took a long shot and sent him an email, and he responded to me the next day. He told me to send him some songs to hear and he would let me know. I heard back from him really soon and he was pretty excited about the songs we had asked him to do some solos on. He has a home studio, so he laid them down and sent them to me and they were fucking amazing to say the least. It was an absolute honor and I can say that through all the trials and tribulations this band has gone through, we have managed to get a few living legends to lend their talents to our project. We were completely and utterly humbled by all of their talent and willingness to help.
At what point in the writing process did you decide that certain songs could benefit from guest vocalists and musicians?
I think we started thinking about it as soon as the songs were out of the demo stage and we were starting to record the album. Like I said previously, the idea to get Carl to help was a complete long shot. We knew before hand that we really wanted to step everything up a notch or two and we were going to take any measure available to do so. It was a ongoing conversation and we planned it out the best we could.
What is the band doing while shopping the album?
Currently, we are trying to book shows and festivals. We are also concentrating on staying active with our web presence and letting everyone know that we are here and we are planning to stay here. All of us in the band are 100% concentrated on stepping the band up to the next level. We’ve been kind of lurking in the shadows for a long time now and we are ready to get out there and spread the message.
Is the band involving themselves a lot or is management doing the majority of searching?
Right now management is doing all the work as far as searching for a potential label. We have a few friends in bands that are helping as well. But our manger Doug Burgess has been a complete blessing for us. He has really helped in every aspect of getting the band back on track.
What are some of your expectations for a potential label?
Honestly, we are really just looking for a good label that will work for us, has great distribution and presence in the scene. This band has always been a band that wanted to tour and play anywhere and everywhere. So I think with better distribution and advertising in the media, we could get this band where we want it. We have kind of always did things on our own, so for the most part we just need a label to be able to distribute our music properly. We are all just itching to get on the road and play these songs for our fans.
Are you already trying to set up tour plans?
Right now we are concentrating on doing shows and festivals. We are thinking of doing some small tours soon, but haven’t worked out any details yet. Like I’ve said before we want to become a full time touring act, but doing it on your own is a very difficult thing to do. We are hoping that this album will give us more opportunities to open up for bigger and better tours.
Why did you pick the title track to stream to fans first?
That song really resonates with all of us in the band. I think that song was kind of the turning point for us stylistically. I also think that song is the new direction for Vesperian Sorrow. We have a lot of material that is in that vein. We were really anxious to let people hear the direction we were doing in. It’s very much VS, but also has a new edge to it.
What is your favorite lyric off the album?
Hands down, my favorite lyrics off the album are from the song “Death She Cried”. Donni has some lines in there that will always stick with me. I think one of them was “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, betrayed by lies and the vows that were sworn”. That song is very elegant yet brutal in so many different ways.
Vesperian Sorrow is a very DIY kind of band. What did you like most about putting the album together on your own? The least?
Well the best part about recording the album yourself is that you are not a slave to the clock. You can work on it whenever you like and you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars doing so. The worst part about doing it yourself is exactly the same thing. We spent way to much time recording and rerecording that we would were our own worst enemies. We love having the studio at our disposal, but next we are going to have to have some self discipline and probably employ the help of other folks to help us stay on track.
What are some difficulties you encountered recording on your own and how did you overcome them?
Too many to name really, but the worst is what I mentioned before. We took way too long recording, mixing and mastering. Yet, I think it helped in a since to, we discovered many new ways to approach mixing such a complex record. We probably didn’t enjoy it so much, but it was a well learned lesson….the hard way. I have to give props to Kris too, because he was the master mind behind the whole mix and production of the album, including writing a bulk of the material. He had a huge burden upon him, yet he was there night after night working away and wouldn’t compromise on anything.
How often do you play home shows?
We play as often as we can. If we have an opportunity to play locally and it’s a gig that we think would benefit us, we do it. I would say for the past few years we play at home a few times a year, we aren’t out there every weekend or anything like that, but every six months or so we will take a gig at home.
What do you focus on for a live show?
Putting on the best performance that we can really. In the past we have had a light guy and really tried to step the productions of our live shows up. We plan on doing the same with talks of doing multi-media type shows with projector screens and intelligent lighting. We are all fans of big production shows and not just watching a few guys on stage jamming, it’s really cool to see a complete show with all the bells and whistles, we think you get your money’s worth with that. But in the same since it takes a lot of money to do that, and we are by no means rich or making any money at all doing this, so we do the best we can with what we have. When we have better opportunities to step up the live show we will deliver.
Any suggestions for other bands to check out from Austin?
Tons of bands are flowing out of Austin these days, Images of Violence, Sarcoytic, Averse Sefira, Ignitor, Billy Milano’s Mastery, and a new band we recorded not to long ago called Perversum is pretty cool.
Do you have a favorite country and/or city to play?
We’ve always had a great time playing in Canada. For some reason the fans are just a little more engaging up there. We have had our most successful shows in Canada. Then again, we have always done things on our own, so I’m sure with added exposure and more opportunities we will discover many new places that will turn into our favorites. However, we have always been treated best in the two small tours we did there.