Interview with Cairns
Interview by Demitri Levantis
Interview with Chris Taylor (Guitar, Vocals, Synth)
With their debut EP “Keening” out now on Clobber Records, I went to see the new British post-black metal group, Cairns to see what the album is about, what the band brings to the black metal table and what they have planned for the years to come.
Hi and thanks for joining us. Let’s start with the band itself, what inspired the name Cairns?
Hi Demitri, it’s a pleasure, thanks for the interview. The name ‘Cairns’ is derived from the stacked rocks you might see while walking through the hills and mountains of our isles. These often serve as waypoints, to aid wanderers in finding their way. Historically, they have been used to mark burial sites.
Would you say the band serves a specific kind of purpose, like a retelling of old folklores or myths/legends?
The purpose of Cairns is to explore themes of nature, existentialism and humanity, specifically our relationships with life and death. Of course, these themes have been tackled by folklore and legend since the dawn of time, so there is no doubt that I am influenced by the stories that have long been around, attempting to understand our existence and the reason, if any, behind it.
How is Cairns different from the other bands you have been in and did you ever picture yourself being in a band like this when you started out?
Cairns is different, in that the songwriting came from a very individual and isolated place. I was in a rather dark period of my life, and creating this music provided me with a means to explore my thoughts and ultimately provide some catharsis. Following the initial writing, however, I then began working on the initial demos with Steve Kilpatrick and it was invaluable to have his input and contribution to the record. I never really expected it to go much further than those original demos, but the project started snowballing and culminated in the recording at NØ Studio and subsequent signing to Clobber Records.
How long has Cairns been in existence and is this the first release ever made?
I think it was 2018 when I began the writing process, by the time we were thinking of recording though we obviously had the slight set back of a global pandemic! ‘Keening’ is our first release.
What inspired the EP title, Keening? Any cultural or mythological significance there?
‘Keening’ is an ancient Irish mourning ritual, consisting of intense, emotional wailing. Grief is a theme that is prevalent throughout this record, and I suppose my own interpretation of the Keening ritual is the use of screamed vocals and heavy, intense instrumental backing.
What is your favourite song to play from Keening?
Keening has not yet been performed live in a public setting, however, prior to recording, I had several rehearsal sessions with David Buchan and Steve Kilpatrick to make sure we were all on the same page, and to iron out any final details. Each song is quite different to play, although I think ‘Haunted’ may have been the most challenging, and we had a lot of fun putting it all together.
You say that your band covers the “untouched extremities of our land,” could you elaborate by what you mean by these extremities?
This is in relation to the lesser-explored, wild parts of Ireland, Britain and beyond such as coastlines, mountains and forests. Places where you may not see another soul for miles. I find these places inspirational, and being outside the modern urban world is certainly deeply therapeutic.
What bands would you liken Cairns to when describing yourself to new fans?
I always find it extremely difficult to classify my music and compare it to existing bands. However, we have been compared to bands like Alcest, Wolves in the Throne Room, Fen and Winterfylleth, which I take as high praise indeed.
What was it like to work with Joe Clayton, who recorded and mixed Keening at NO Studio?
Joe is an incredibly talented producer and also super chilled out and easy to work with. My day job is running a recording studio, but I was determined not to be too hands-on with the production of the EP, I wanted to focus on being a songwriter and musician. I definitely made the correct decision. Through his creative input, engineering skill and keen ear for heavy music, Joe was pivotal in developing our sound into something we can be immensely proud of.
What’s it been like working with Clobber Records, how would you describe them compared to other labels you’ve worked with?
I am truly grateful to Clobber for taking a chance on what was, essentially, an unknown entity. When it comes to extreme music, Jaff and Rebecca are among the most passionate and enthusiastic people I’ve had the privilege of meeting. The work they have put into this release, behind the scenes, is incredible.
Are any of you involved in any other bands or projects and how are they different to Cairns?
I have a couple of other projects; Lester Verde is a stoner/psych-rock band I started a while back with some of my best friends. Also I do vocals with Reptilian Humanoid, who blend prog, psych and hard rock. Both bands are certainly different to Cairns. I love having different outlets for varying influences and ideas.
Dave is perhaps best known for his drumming in Manchester black metal stalwarts ‘Burial’ and their crusty, distant relative ‘Wolfbastard’ who are also on Clobber.
What is it that makes Cairns stand out from other UK black metal bands at the moment, in your opinion?
There are a lot of original and interesting bands in the UK black metal scene at the moment, as well as some that adhere to the more ‘old-school’ traditional aesthetic and attitude of the genre. I think Cairns differs in quite a few ways. While there are plenty of sections and riffs that were clearly black metal influenced, I felt completely free to explore other styles and ideas during the writing process. I think this attitude has benefited our sound and has set us apart from the rest of the pack. I’m sure there will be some elitists who hate it, but so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Has Cairns played any live shows and if not, do you have any planned for the future?
What started as a personal project, progressed into a more collaborative studio project. We’re currently exploring how to create a live experience, so definitely watch this space.
Did the problems faced in recent years affect the band in any way, like having to cancel anything big?
It certainly delayed the recording and release of Keening, although it was an opportunity to further refine the songs and develop my intentions with the band.
Does Cairns follow any particular cultural or spiritual path like paganism or pre-Christian English traditions?
I enjoy reading and learning about theology, religion, paganism and the occult. I don’t personally follow any particular path or code. I just try not to be an asshole.
What do you guys get up to outside of music, do you have day jobs or other big pastimes?
I run Noiseboy Studios in Manchester, so I’m constantly working with other bands. It’s a dream job, but sometimes I get a bit ‘musically burnt-out’, so I listen to a lot of podcasts when I’m not at work. In my downtime, I usually try to get out of the city, preferably to the coast or the mountains.
What inspired you to become a musician in the first place, can you recall any moments where you had a big urge of inspiration from a band or artist?
Growing up there was always music of some kind playing. My mother sang beautifully, and always encouraged me to pursue music, even if she wasn’t that keen on the extreme metal stuff I was into! I remember them showing me how to play an LP when I was really little. I pulled out Meatloaf’s ‘Bat out of Hell’ record when I was about six or seven years old. The album cover with the motorbike flying over a graveyard, with a demonic bat in the background was the most metal fucking thing I’d ever seen in my life. I guess that was a key moment. A couple of years later, my older cousin came to live with us, and brought a bunch of CDs by the likes of Maiden, Anthrax and the Offspring and my corruption was complete!
Finally, do you have anything you would like to say to our readers?
Thanks for reading! I hope you check out our debut EP ‘Keening’, look out for future gigs and keep supporting heavy music.
Thank you so much for joining us and I wish you all the best for the future.