A Forest Of Stars Interview
with Vocalist Mister Curse and Keyboardist/Percussionist The Gentleman
Interview by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs
No you’re not in the wrong place, you’ve entered into A Forest Of Stars’ Victorian time slip. These Gentleman’s Club members are an exclusive brotherhood injecting a different kind of drama into the black metal scene, and certainly a touch of class. Taking time out in this modern pace of life, Mister Curse and The Gentleman discuss new album A Shadowplay For Yesterdays and the draw of the past…
Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for me!
The Gentleman: Not a problem, thank you for taking the time to ask them!
As a band founded in 1890 how are you finding modern day life?
The Gentleman: Modern life is good. Though in truth I miss the lack of free healthcare, computers, unsavoury sanitary conditions, arsenic in the wallpaper, low life expectancy, high infant mortality rates, perpetual endemics, central heating, over the counter hard drugs and of course, the lingering smell of horseshit, raw sewage and factory chemical processes. But I’ll manage as best I can.
Is there any particular reason you’ve been drawn to the Victorian era?
The Gentleman: Yes, though I honestly couldn’t actually say why. I am simply fascinated by it and have been since I was a wee nipper. I cheekily suggested it as a way to frame the band – to give it a backbone – and that then became the platform upon which we based the music, artwork, videos, lyrics, live performances and imagery to one degree or another. It seems to have been helpful so far, thankfully!
Did the band name come from the Kevin J. Andersson novel of the same name? If so what was it that attracted you about this title?
The Gentleman: No, that was just an accidental coincidence – we didn’t find out about the novel until after we’d released the first album, by which time we figured it was too late to bother changing it, so we didn’t.
On the subject of names, as a band A Forest Of Stars has some of the best names ever – is it important for you to have a strong alter ego?
The Gentleman: Indeed, it is important to cover our tracks and deflect flack. The point being that A Forest of Stars is about the band, not the individuals. The real “us” (if such a things actually exists – I’m beginning to doubt that) is something of absolutely no relevance or interest. The band is a collective and alter-egos (with the emphasis on “egos”) are the perfect way to create a uniform feel. And it’s also sort of a traditional thing with black metal, save that we didn’t want to call ourselves something in the traditional vein of that genre because we’re mightily pretentious and all the Norwegian/German words for war, death, wolves and blood were already used up.
Curse: I was once told by a colleague in a short lived former band that I couldn’t possibly be the singer, as I had no ego. Take that as you will. As for the name of Curse, it was a nickname bestowed by a friend due to both the fact that I seemed to attract bad luck and that I have something of a penchant for hexing those that cross me…
Things are a little more restrained, if that’s the right word!, on new album A Shadowplay For Yesterdays – what was behind the writing process?
The Gentleman: I know what you mean, but I’d actually say the previous albums were more restrained and this one is less so, simply because we decided to absolutely properly do what we wanted to do this time – to feel less shackled in terms of genres and to write from the heart. There were of course, certain restrictions. For one, I wanted to trim the songs down in terms of length to be only what was absolutely needed; we really did try to trim the fat this time, though the album still came out at just over 60 minutes, so what do I know?
Curse: Lyrically, I would say that restraint was certainly not upon my list! Having said that, I did intend to try to write less lyrics this time, in order to aid my leaky memory – it turned out I wrote more than ever, so I suppose restraint was put to the torch there as well.
I love the album title – it conjures up shadow-theatre and old-fashioned smoke and mirrors to me – but does it have a particular meaning to you?
Curse: I like to leave it mostly up to the interpretation of the individual, though the overarching intention was to paint a picture of a life ‘flashing before the eyes’ in a structured fashion; hence ‘A Shadowplay for Yesterdays’.
What has the response been like to the album since release?
The Gentleman: It’s difficult to say, really, from our point of view. We seemed to have elicited a great and tremendously positive response from both the fans and critics, but perhaps we are only seeing one side of the story? I don’t rightly know…
Curse: The angry looking lads with the pitchforks and torches haven’t arrived at our door yet, so I am taking that as a positive sign!
I understand that A Forest Of Stars has just completed a UK tour – how’d it go?
The Gentleman: The tour went extremely well, thank you for asking! We had a tremendous amount of fun and played to a large amount of people (a lot more than we were expecting, to be completely honest!) and the whole thing seemed to be a rather successful venture.
Curse: I think it was a tremendous tour – very hard work, but very rewarding. Touring with Wodensthrone was an utter pleasure, as they are some of the nicest, most genuine people you could hope to meet – and are extremely dedicated to their cause.
Did you include some tracks from A Shadowplay For Yesterdays in the set-list?
The Gentleman: Absolutely, the set-list was deliberately weighted in favour of the new material; I did wonder if that would be detrimental to people’s expectations, but it seemed to have been the right choice. Or at least, nobody loudly complained to me about it.
How do you find the experience of playing live? Do you think it’s difficult to carry the audience off into your world?
The Gentleman: I personally love it. There’s a genuine air of chaos, messiness and energy that we feed off like a multi-headed monster – the music is designed to be absorbed and channelled and we try to reflect that live. It is not about recreating the songs exactly as they are on record (you could just stay at home for that) and luckily, people who come to see us seem to understand and be into that – allowing us to indulge ourselves in various debauched ways. Actually that’s not the whole truth. People don’t seem to *object* to us doing that – I haven’t taken a poll on that particular subject!
Curse: Each performance is different, and I revel in that – as The Gentleman says, we set out intentionally to perform something different to that which people have (or have not!) heard on record – I for one believe that it keeps things interesting and fresh.
Will there be any more dates coming up?
The Gentleman: All we have officially lined up to announce is the next Roadburn, which we’re super excited about. There are plenty of dates and countries in the pipeline, but nothing I can announce just yet, I’m afraid. I believe the cliché “watch this space” applies here, somewhat tragically.
Do you think that A Forest Of Stars brings something a little different to the UK, or indeed the global music scene? Obviously the Victorian concept is inherently British!
The Gentleman: I would never, ever presume something so lofty and fundamental. We are simply a very small fish in a very big musical pond, minding our own business; we would never presume to think anything more of what we do than that! We are (sadly) not original in any way, shape or form. We’ll keep trying, though.
Curse: As long as we get to keep doing what we are doing, I am happy with that. I certainly couldn’t expect anyone to listen, or to even care – but doing this is good for me, so I shall do it!
Lastly, what would it take for us to become part of your Gentleman’s Club ?
The Gentleman: You either have to be born into it (I’ve never worked that rule out, actually, it doesn’t make sense…) or be a creative element that contributes to the Club, be it musically, artistically or whatever. There is a third option, but it requires an awful lot of money and the permanent loss of a great deal of dignity (witness the current members!) But even then, we only have so much room and we all like to put our feet up at the end of the working day…
Curse: I just happened to know a particularly embarrassing secret about the combined activities of the other band members, so they had no choice whatever but to allow me to pretend to be their singer… As they say, it’s not what you know, but who you know!
The Gentleman: The pleasure was all ours; thank you!
Curse: Thank you.
Don’t go back to everyday life just yet, check out my review of A Forest Of Star’s A Shadowplay For Yesterdays to channel some delightfully unusual black metal