Esoteric Interview with Greg Chandler,
Gordon Bicknell and Mark Bodossian
@ The Garage, London UK,10th November, 2013
Interview by Caitlin Smith
Photography by Graham Hilling
It’s been a rough few years for Esoteric, with only two original members remaining, and a number of line up changes over the past few years. The band have returned stronger than ever, releasing arguably the best album to date, Paragon of Dissonance in 2011. Catching them before they go on stage at the Garage, we have a quick chat about what the northern masters of depression have in store for the future.
For the readers that have never heard of you, tell us about Esoteric.
Greg: Were a dark heavy doom death band with a psychedelic experiment and we started in the early 90s, 1992.
Tell is about your influences, what inspires you to write such depressing and heavy music?
Greg: I think emotions are probably the biggest inspirations to write music, I think the best time to write music is when you are felling very intense about something or other that you want to express through music.
So you wait for the right time to write rather than sitting down…
Greg: Yeah, well you can sit down and try to write and then inspiration can come but I think the best time for writing where it flows best is when you’re feeling like getting something out of you. Expressing something.
So mix the music as well, do you ever worry about your music becoming too similar or introverted?
Greg: Not really because there is 6 of us in the band and I think all the albums sound very different to each other in many respects.
Is there any reason you decided to start mixing it yourself?
Greg: Because it’s cheaper! I run a studio anyway so I’m working everyday as a sound engineer. Also, when we started recording back in 1993, the style of music was something that most studios and engineers hadn’t even heard of, let alone had any experience with and it was after being frustrated with the results from the first 3 recordings that I decided to become a sound engineer myself. So I trained in 1996/7 and have been working full time in studios ever since. I took over Priory Recording Studios in 2006 and the reason I do all the recording, mixing and mastering myself, is because I have a really good setup here and we know exactly what we want. So there is little point in paying someone else to do something that we can do ourselves. Three of the other guys in the band also have experience with sound engineering/production, so working elsewhere or with another producer would really be a case of too many cooks. Most of the “production values” in our music (effects, sounds, dynamics, etc) are written into the music and well rehearsed before we even enter the studio. Hope that makes more sense! We’ve always had a strong vision of how the band should sound, but in the early days we didn’t have the experience or studios to work in where that could be achieved.
The extreme scene round here is really thriving band wise at the moment, do you ever listen to any other extreme bands around these days or do you mainly stick to outside influence?
Greg: I think all have very varied tastes really, we all listen to stuff that isn’t metal, we all listen to a range of different bands and styles of music so every kind of metal.
Mark: A lot of extreme metal for sure!
Greg: Yeah, definitely!
Mark: I mean personally not so much what the doom bands are doing, I cant say I know a lot of the newer bands, I know the old classics SKEPTICISM and EVOKEN and stuff like that when it comes to ESOTERIC but the newer stuff I don’t know that much about, but when it comes to extreme metal definitely a lot of death metal and black metal.
Greg: Industrial, dark ambient…
Mark: Electronica, progressive rock, 60s stuff, psycadelic…
Gordon: Pretty much across the board isn’t it
The last few album covers have been really intricate and very beautiful, would you say the art is part of the Esoteric package or just a nice cover?
Greg: It’s a bit more planned than that, what we do is find an artist we like anyway and then give them the album and the lyrics before the album is finished so they can basically try and draw something by taking inspiration from the music and the lyrics so they can create something that is representative.
Mark: We were lucky with that our album covers. Katti is really impressive, its something we all just immediately thought, that’s awesome!
You’ve had a lot of lineup changes over the past few years, are you settled now or are we going to see more movement in the next few years?
Greg: Settled at the moment. As settled as you can be with 6 people. It’s not always easy to co-ordinate and organize people when there’s so many. People move and move on.
I would say your sound has matured over the years, it’s much more polished these days
Greg: This is much more like we would have wanted to sound like earlier I think, with a bit more clarity if the expertise were around at the time. Back when we started recording, no one really knew about this style of music especially not finding a studio or sound engineer that was empathetic towards what we were looking for. It was quite tough.
Mark: We’ve got better at producing sounds as well
Greg: Yeah we’ve got better equipment
Mark: After 21 years…
Mark: We’ce developed some more as well… well we hope so!
Greg: We do it all ourselves, so we get the sounds we want more or less.
So this is the Esoteric sound that you’ve always wanted?
Greg: At this point, but it will change
Mark: And it was 15 years ago. I think at any point in time that’s all it can ever be
Greg: A recording is just a testimonial of where you are at at that particular moment in time.
Mark: Every song on the last album has developed quite a lot since we recorded it, things aren’t static, the arrangement doesn’t change but nothing else is set in stone. There’s developments and ideas we’ve had at other times.
What’s next for Esoteric?
Greg: We’re touring Europe next year, that’s going to be about a 2 week tour and were going to knuckle down and work a bit on writing now so we can start looking to get a new album finished.
Is there anything you would like to say to our readers?
Gordon: Come listen to it live. If you like the recordings come listen to it live, it’s a different experience.
Greg: It’s more intense.
Gordon: The sound we use won’t come out on CD really.
Greg: Especially not on a home system. The live experience of Esoteric is different to listening on CD. As with most loud bands, listening on a hi-fi is not comparable to listening live, where the contrast in dynamics, high volumes and atmosphere can totally engulf you.