Interview with Proscriptor McGovern from Absu
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
The mythological occult metal masters, Absu, gained status amongst extreme metal fans and obtained an ultimate cult following. The mastermind, Proscriptor McGovern, with his drumming, and above all, unique lyrics have created the cult of Absu. The band paid visit to Finland for the second time and we sat down talk to Proscritor about his long career including albums, hiatus, and several other topics.
EUROPE IN NINE DAYS
The last time you played in Finland, it was your first time here. You played at the Hammer Open Air festival as a headliner. What kind of feelings and memories do you have about it?
Playing in Finland for the first time at Hammer Open Air in 2011 was a grandiose experience and actually being the headliner for that festival was very prosperous as well. We were well received, I think, and it was great to be a part of the small tour that we’ve done with KRK. And, I think the response was very well received this evening. Hope to land on the Finnish planes once again in the future.
As for this nine date tour, where did you play? Germany and/or?
No, it was, basically what we did was in 2012, we excursed on a 9 day tour in Europe. And the object of this tour was to hit the territories that we didn’t play last year. So, we played London which we did play in 2012, Romania, 3 shows in the Netherlands, Denmark, Italy, Sweden, and Helsinki being the last.
What kind of response did you get in Sweden and Romania?
Yeah, that was the first time that we’d played those particular countries. Romania and Sweden was very good. And, Italy was absolutely insane. The crowd was immensely barbaric. It was very good. So, overall this tour has been very well.
What do you expect from the audience at your shows – going utter crazy or just standing and watching the band playing ?
Every country has a different aesthetic approach to how we project our exhibition of mythological occult metal, and you know, some crowds are standing there with arms folded, and some are going maniacally crazy. It’s been a mix match of those attitudes in the crowds. But, what I can say is playing in Europe, in this day and age versus the 90’s has been much different, because I think the scene back 90’s was more explosive. It was a fresher scene, a newer scene. And, there’s an overpopulation of bands that are all across the world. I mean I just can’t pinpoint Europe, but it also goes for North America, Europe, South America, Australia. Those are 4 continents alone that have seen Absu played. I’ve noticed that the first time that we play a territory that we have not played before, it’s always been rather explosive. But, Absu has performed in Europe a numerous amount of times and I think that once we play territories that we haven’t hit before, it’s a new experience for the fans, so. It’s like that all across the world.
How does the European and American audience differ from each other – Is there some kind of culture difference from your point of view?
Well, back in the 90’s, I mean definitely the European experience with the audiences was more explosive versus the US because they weren’t used to extreme black occult metal, or whatnot. But, in this day and age, I’ve noticed that the North American crowds are pretty much equivalent to the European. I couldn’t say that in 1995 or 1997 because it was definitely less populated in North America. But, it’s pretty weighed itself out.
The latest album is called ABZU and came out 2011.
Well, when the old line-up of Absu, we all dwelled in the same community of Dallas, Texas, but now the band is scattered all across the continental United States. So, I am in Dallas. Ezezu is based out of Lubbock which is about a 5 hour drive west of Dallas, and Vis Crom is in Philadelphia which is fairly close to New York. So, basically what we do is file sharing what we write, and then before festivals and tours, we congregate a few days in advance before we head out on a tour or a festival to rehearse. You would think it would be more challenging, but at the same time, we’re rehearsing on our own. So, it works out fairly well.
So you are the main guy, writing the riff and the lyrics?
Not the riffs. Just the lyrics and the drum patterns and all the keyboard passages. But, Ezezu and Vis Crom, bass and guitar player, they’re responsible for writing all of the riffs.
When hearing a new riff from Ezezu, do you immediately know these kinds of lyrics fit to that riff ?
Fifty percent of the time I have the lyrical drafts already constructed. So, once those are constructed, then I listen to riffs from both players, and then manipulate and edit the verses, bridges, and choruses around those parts, or vice versa. If they come up with the compositions and arrangements of the music, then I actually architect the lyrical conceptions around the music. So, it goes both ways.
You recorded the album at the Nomad Studio in Texas in the same studio where for example King Diamond has recorded most of his latest albums. Is it a logical option for you to go to the Nomad Studio?
Absu has actually been recording there ever since the genesis, the birth of the band. I’m actually not the original drummer of Absu, even though I was in previous bands before they came up with the Absu moniker, but the first demo, 7 inch Ep THE TEMPLES OF OFFAL on Gothic Records, was recorded at Nomad in ’91, and it’s always been like a third home to Absu, and probably one of the better studios in the Dallas region. So, that’s why we’ve recorded there. It’s not because of King Diamond- I mean, King Diamond, Mercyful Fate recorded there starting in the latter 90’s. But, the owner of the studio is a good friend of mine.
Yes. Their last album was recorded there. And Usurper actually recorded there as well.
In my opinion, the first 2 albums sounded more like the epic black/thrash metal. THE THIRD STORM OF CYTHRAUL had more straightforward thrash metal stuff. After the break you have returned back to the epic songs again. But how do you see the evolution of Absu and the music?
The main objective in goal within the Absu’s discography is not to release the same album. When I say that, we want to go for a little bit different approach towards the compositions and arrangement of the music, even though the lyrical conceptions stay the same. But we don’t want to be like an AC/DC of our genre. When I say that, we don’t want to create the same album over and over again. I think the most epic album from Absu’s discography would be TARA, because it’s a full blown conceptual album about that particular Celtic mythology aspect. And each album has a different approach.
As for your lyrics, I have been fascinated about your lyrics because you put a lot of your effort and attention to them, how they are as you draw influences from the Scottish roots…
Scottish and Irish.
What are your main influences, because you draw influence from other aspects – Do you study books, or do you go back to historical things, or how do you find all these things to write about?
Well, the main aestheticism behind Absu during the early days was telemic magic, OTL “Orto Temple Orientus”, The Order of the Golden Dawn, Mesopotamian, and Sumerian, and Assyrian mythology. When the second album, THE SUN OF TIPHARETH, was released we started delving into our ancestral attributions of our Scottish, Irish, and Germanic traits, bringing the Celtic aestheticism into the music. So that album, THE THIRD STORM OF CYTHRAUL, IN THE EYES OF IOLDANACH and TARA were heavily concentrated more on our ancestral attributions and the Celtic aspects of magic and mythology. But, after TARA, I felt like that we had exhausted those particular lyrical aspects within the music. When the band went on hiatus for 4 years, and when I resurrected it back in 2007, I wanted to go back to the roots of what Absu really meant, coming from Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology being the allied force of Tiamatu, and the benthos, and the aspect of the netherworld ocean, the abyss, and really wanted to get back to the roots of the blackened earth, Mesopotamian, Sumerian mythology and other forms of occult sciences such as telemic magic and occian magical, the golden dawn and so forth.
But you never use your imagination when writing the lyrics, or just the real history things, or real things from the books, or what you have studied?
Oh they are, but I do use my imagination. I have my own twists on all of the lyrics and I picture myself inside of the lyrics. I mean if it’s a battle, I’m inside of it. If it’s a magical force where I’m casting a spell or an incantation, or a hex and so forth, I’m actually aesthetically putting myself inside of the lyrics. So, I take fiction and nonfiction with magical elements and I give it my own formula to create the lyrical conceptions of Absu’s music. My lyrics are more based on barbarism and fantasy. I’m heavily influenced by psychedelic music, progressive rock. Jazz even.
From the 70’s.
Yes. And, I incorporate those influences into extreme metal music, because I’m not very influenced by today’s music at all, even though I enjoy some of it. But it doesn’t give me inspiration, and why should it? When I was creating something 20 plus years ago, so I still thrive on old influences from when the first Absu album was written and recorded. I still have that same mindset and mental plateau to this day. I follow my own path.
The last 2 albums are called ABSU and ABZU…
And, I guess the next album’s going to be titled APSU.
What’s the point of having almost the same name – They have some kind of meaning anyway?
Yeah. The objective was to create 3 albums that are self-titled, but I wanted to differentiate them with the different spellings. So, the first album that came out in 2009, ABSU, the band moniker, that’s the English translation of the band. The latest album, which was released in 2011, ABZU, is the Mesopotamian spelling to differentiate it. The next one will be APSU, which is the Sumerian spelling. And, this is a goal that I have created many, many years ago, after the release of TARA. And I can honestly say that this was influenced by Peter Gabriel, because Peter Gabriel’s first 3 albums were just called PETER GABRIEL. But with different covers. But I wanted to make it a bit less confusing to Absu’s mass audience by changing the album title by a different spelling. Yeah, so there’s “Absu – Absu”, “Absu – Abzu”, and “Absu – Apsu”.
Yeah, we’ve composed roughly half of the album, 5 to 7 songs. The next album, which will be released in 2014, will feature somewhere between 13 to 17 songs, and our objective is to create less epic type songs, more straightforward, very technical, intricate song writing with songs that are no longer than 2 1/2 to 3 minutes long in duration. That’s something that Absu has never done before because usually our albums have 6 songs, or seven songs or 11 or 13. But we’re cutting out the longer like instrumental tracks, for example. And, want to go straight forward with just 2 1/2, 3 minute length of songs. Like I mentioned previously, this is an approach that Absu’s never done before, releasing an album with many songs on it, but short songs at the same time. It’s like S.O.D.’s SPEAK ENGLISH OF DIE or Terrorizer’s WORLD DOWNFALL, a lot of short songs. We’re kind of going for that approach, in a way. Not in a lyrical, or conceptual factor, but those albums have a lot of songs, and they’re to the point, and straightforward.
And it’s more of a grind-core thing..
Yeah, but musically no. It’s just the aestheticism of creating an album with a lot of songs without a lot of intros. And, instrumental pieces are in there as well.
What’s the point of having these instrumental songs on the albums?
It’s a conceptual factor that ties in with the lyrical aspects. I feel like that if there’s one song that is immaculate brutality. I like to create the next song that has a very meditated, peaceful feeling to it in a magical sense. The next song that follows after that to be completely explosive and maniacal, and barbaric. So, I like to make one extreme to the other. So, that’s always, that’s been a very familiar pattern with Absu albums since the beginning discography from BARATHRUM V.I.T.R.I.O.L. all the way to the latest album. There’s always some kind of instrumental piece that has a smooth, floating, cascading aspect to it. But I think with this next album, we’re going to go straightforward, full throttle, barbaric, nihilistic, chaos. And, with that being said, I’m starting to delve into a lot of scientific matters like ontology and metaphysical nihilism. So, I’m starting to delve more into deeper roots of numerology and astronomical aspects, trying to tie in telemic magic that directs itself into the scientific mathematics of how the solar system works. I’m starting to branch out into a new phase of Absu on a lyrical conception.
REBIRTH OF ABSU WITH NEW LINE-UP
Speaking of those guys, as for Ezuzu having started singing in Absu since he joined. Do you think it’s a more relief for you that the other guys are taking more responsibility in singing live and on albums and you don’t need to torture your voice all the time?
Yes. It’s somewhat of a challenging task to be able to sing and execute the particular drawing patterns from start to finish in the live aspect. That’s why I need the assistance of Ezezu to assist me with those patterns.
When Absu went on hold in 2003, the other guys, Shaftiel and Equitant, pulled out of the band. How did you get this current line up – did you go through similar guys, finding the right pieces, these right guys, fitting to the world of Absu?
I actually went through 3 other members before landing on this particular line up. It all started in 2007. There was Aethyris MacKay on guitar, Zawicizuz on guitar, Vastator Terrarum on guitar. So, there’re 3 guitarists that I’ve filtered through that were prosperous yet challenging at the same time. But this particular has been the best.
When you started playing with the new members, was it difficult for you to play without the old line up, or was it a more logical thing to continue after all with the new guys?
At the beginning, it was difficult because I had to painstakingly scrutinize their playing to make sure that it matched up to the old line up, because it’s very difficult when you play with the same band for 13 years, and then you bring in new members, and try to have them emulate the same approach and attack of the material back in the day. It was very difficult, but this particular line up, they understood it on an aesthetic, and magical, and occult scientific level in which I told them. And, with Vis Crom being a guitar instructor, it helps tremendously. So, all I can say is the current line up is astoundingly prosperous, and very well received.
Before this line up was sealed, were you somehow desperate to find the right guys? Did you have a desperate situation?
Yeah, I mean I didn’t feel any desperation at the beginning of basically 2007 when the band was resurrecting. But we weren’t concentrating on those particular members rehearsing and learning the past discography. We were more concentrated on writing material for the first album on Candlelight. But after that, it was mandatory that we tour in support of that album. So with that being said, those members had to learn the previous material. And that was like, it was a big challenge. But, the current line up – They easily learned it very successfully.
What kind of background do they have before joining Absu?
Ezezu was in a band called Panzram, based out of Lubbock, Texas. He’s Canadian actually. Vis Crom is currently in a band called Rumplestiltskin Grinder which was on Relapse. They’re currently on Candlelight right now. And, he’s played with Monstrosity, and a few other bands, Whoa and Black Candle, also on Relapse. So, he’s currently still involved with Rumplestiltskin Grinder on Candlelight.
How is he able to set the priority between bands, which comes first, if there are schedule conflicts like going to studio etc?
Well, I set the priority because Absu is more of a priority in my eyes than Rumplestiltskin Grinder.
BEING ON HOLD
I was trying to break the barriers with other musical projects beside Absu during that 4 year period, from 2003 to 2007. There was my Proscriptor solo side project. I played with Melechesh on 2 albums,Equimanthorn on 2 more albums. I did some session work for other numerous bands that shouldn’t be named. They don’t have to be named. I mean it’s irrelevant. But, knowing that resurrecting Absu was my calling, and definitely the most important aspect to my musical endeavour. Basically, what I’m trying to say is I’ve experimented with ambient music, electronic, folk, hard rock, traditional metal, all other forms of music. But, nothing has been as fruitful as resurrecting Absu, and I guess I gave myself a name for what I’ve done back in the 90’s.
How much did your accident effect you that you had put yourself on hold for a while?
It was only 3 months.
It’s not that long.
No. I broke my wrist, I shattered it. It was a couple of months after I auditioned for Slayer. Once my wrist was healed, then I went to Holland to rehearse for Melechesh. And then, went to Yeltsburg to record the third Melechesh album SPHYNX. Then after that, I was planning on composing a ration of the songs for the self-titled album, but the band fell apart completely.
Was the idea of bringing Absu back to life in your head all the time during the break time?
The first half, from 2003 to 2005, No, because it was a mental vacation to break away from it because it was 13 years of constant hardship, and workmanship, and dedication, and diligence. But, it was around 2006 that I realized that I needed to resurrect the band. And so, I contacted Shaftiel and Equitant. In early 2007 I said “I’m going to bring Absu back together, and I really want you to be participants in the band. Think about it. I’ll give you some time. Let me know”. And, both of them declined. And, I said I’m going to bring in new members. They were both fine with it, because I’m still very good comrades with the old line up to this day. We’re actually better friends now than we were back in the band. So, it’s very, very positive.
TALK ABOUT LABELS
Up to the TARA album, you were on Osmose Productions and nowadays on Candlelight. What made you switch the label from Osmose to Candlelight?
The main reason was US distribution. Osmose Productions has always had extreme difficulty with licensing and distribution ties with all of North America, and the promotion was not very well done. If Absu was based in Europe, then Osmose would be more prosperous. But, I think we needed a switch for promotion reasons. So, I contacted Relapse, Seasons of Mista and Osmose in early 2007. Candlelight said “We will sign you”. The other labels were wanting pre-production material of our new compositions and arrangements and I didn’t have anything planned. Candlelight just instantly signed the band without listening to any of the material and granted us a very good negotiation agreement. So, that’s the reason why we went with Candlelight. I just wanted to switch gears with the business proposal of the band. Absu is still the Osmose Productions band to this day. I mean they’re still licensing and printing our titles.
Do you however have the rights to all the Absu albums?
I own the publishing to all of the songs that are on the Osmose catalogue, but not the Candlelight catalogue.
Do you ever miss the old days with Osmose; because at that time the internet wasn’t that big thing like nowadays, you got the chance to play Europe for the first time, had crazy tours?
No. I mean, like I said earlier, the 90’s was a totally different explosive movement compared to this day and age. It’s totally different. It’s not as explosive. When we were touring with Impaled Nazarene, Sadistik Exekution, Enslaved and Inferno, and whatnot in Europe, it was huge.
Tell me a little bit about your company, Tarot Productions. What is it all about – you’re publishing stuff, and material?
I guess all that the label does not exist anymore.
So, that’s it then?
Yeah. I dissolved it in September of 2012. I had 10 releases. I did what I needed to do. I set my objective and my goals for the label, and released some unreleased material from underground bands that needed to be recognized, and some of my personal projects. And, just ran out of time to dedicate myself to the label. So, if Absu ever goes on a hiatus once again, I may be able to utilize the time to resurrect it, and give it attention.
A long time ago, I came across a flyer of the Gothic Recs. They released albums of Absu and Sadistic Intent from LA. What was that label?
Yeah, they released the first Absu 7 inch and they released Megus Ruminations of Debachery which is the band I was in before I officially joined Absu. And then, they released BARATHRUM V.I.T.R.I.O.L. in ’93. And then, that’s when Osmose Productions licensed the album.
THE CULT FOLLOWING
Even though Absu was on hold, there was a following for Absu during that era. Were you surprised that people still remembered Absu after the years when you were on hold?
Well, even when the band was on a hiatus, I released some posthumous releases, like some, we’ve been doing some box sets THROUGH THE CRYPT in the US, and split 7 inch with Temple of Darkness out of Spain, with Demonical from Sweden. Even though the band was on a hiatus, I’ve kept the spirit alive. I had to because there was attention for it.
Do you think that your lyrics fascinate people to follow you and lyrics are one of the reasons why that you have this following?
I believe so. I mean I’ve always wanted to be an originator yet innovator of this particular metal world that we live in. A lot of people are confused by it. I think like for example, the album TARA has a lexicon which is a glossary of all the foreign terms that are held within the lyrical content of the lyrics of the album. I contributed that to the CD booklet in TARA because I wanted the listeners who were following us so bad to be more educated with what I was speaking about within the music. And, I think they were a bit confused with the previous albums within the discography.So, yes I believe so.
You mentioned you are really a huge fan of the old rock stuff from the 70’s, and other stuff. All right, name 5 exteme albums that influenced you in the first place, which are still close to your heart and why?
Kreator PLEASURE TO KILL, Slayer REIGN IN BLOOD, Watchtower ENERGETIC DISASSEMBLY, Necrovore Demo ’87 …And lastly, I’m just throwing albums out there, I’m going to say PERSECUTION MANIA by Sodom. There are many, many more. But, for extreme metal that like gave Absu the fuel behind the fire, to do what we’re doing to this day, Kreator has a big influence. Plus there’s Morbid Scream from Plano, Texas where we’re from. There’s a huge influence as well.
And Necrovore as well.
And Necrovore as well, and Watchtower, they were also from Texas.
What about Rigor Mortis?
Oh yeah, of course, of course. I don’t know if they’re in the top 5, but it’s definitely in that album, the first album from ’88, was definitely in the top 15 or top 20 for sure.
Which progressive and psychedelic rock bands have influenced you as well?
King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jade Warrior, Styx, Captain Beyond, Kong, The James Gang, Head Hunters, Genesis, Yes, Weather Report. A lot of drum influence type of bands. That list is perpetual.
I remember that you emailed to my Myspace, and you asked me “What do you think about the COLD LAKE album”, I was like “Hold on”, but what do you think about the COLD LAKE?
I think it’s a great album. And, most people across the universe think I’m insane for liking it. Anyway, I’m a fan of COLD LAKE. The problem is if that album did not have any band photography, and if it had an H.R. gigger illustration, it would be more accepted. Hail “Cherry Orchards”, it’s a great song. I mean what’s everybody’s fucking problem? So what if Tom made a detour? I know he hates that aspect of his discography, but we all make mistakes. We’re all going to release that shitty album. But, I’m saying that to the public, not in my mind’s eye because I’m a COLD LAKE fan, and I’m proud of it. I am an immense COLD LAKE follower.
All right I thank you for the interview.