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The AmentaA few weeks ago I shot over some questions to the guys in the Industrial Death Metal group, The Amenta. I got them back recently, answered by the their Sampler/Programmer, Timothy Pope. We discuss the new album, his stance on being labeled Avant-Garde, and more.

So, how’s everything going on your end? Doing well?

Everything is going well. The album, “Flesh is Heir”, has just been released in North America so we are looking forward to seeing how it’s received. So far, from Europe and Australia, the response has been phenomenal so we hope that North America gets it too. It’s a pretty different album, both different for The Amenta and different when compared to other extreme metal releases. As always we run the risk of alienating people as we follow our own whims exclusively. Often people can’t keep up or they don’t understand what we are doing so in the past the reaction has been confused. So far, though, “Flesh is Heir” seems to be connecting with people so we are very excited to hear what people think.

First of all, I see David Haley is back on drums for you guys. What prompted his return?

There were many reasons behind the return of David to the band. As always most of them are no-one’s business but our own. We don’t feel the need to discuss the inner workings of our band. All that matters is the music. Of course, we have to give something away as we have seen, in the past, how rumour can spread. We have had many, many line-up changes with this band over the years. There are quite a few ex-members of The Amenta that we still feel are part of the collective, even if they are no longer playing or recording with us. David was always one of those people. Even when he wasn’t “in” the band he was still part of The Amenta and it is a natural fit to get him back in. Robin Stone is our out-going drummer and he is the same, he will always be a part of The Amenta. He was unable to continue with the band for reasons of his own. I just found out today that he and his wife have just given birth to another boy so we send out heart-felt congratulations to Robin, his wife and two sons.

It is always sad to see someone leave and we had been touring with Robin for the last 5-6 years so he has become a very important part of what we do. On the other hand, David is another phenomenal drummer (as anyone who has heard him on our first two albums, “Occasus” and “n0n” as well as with his other bands PSYCROPTIC and RUINS can attest) and he is definitely a great fit in terms of ethos. When we first met David, after approaching him to do session drums for “Occasus”, it immediately felt like we had met one of our own. Apparently he felt the same way as he joined the band almost immediately. We are looking forward to our future collaborations as I think they will yield something pretty special.

Since your debut, The Amenta has been signed with Listenable Records. How have you managed to stay with them for so long? Do you have a multi-album contract?

There is no secret to staying with a record label. It’s actually really easy. You just have to keep giving them incredible albums. Listenable have always been very supportive of the band and, while I don’t think we are their highest selling band by any means, we are releasing truly innovative and extreme music and I think they are excited by the idea as we are. We signed a three album contract with them, which has now come to an end. We have enjoyed working with Listenable very much. They are very professional and supportive and Laurent [label head] has an excellent sense of humour. We have yet to discuss a further working relationship with them but we are definitely open to continue to work with them.

If you’re nearing the end of your contract, have you been eyeing up any other labels, or are you looking to get a new contract with Listenable?

We always keep our ears to the ground and there have been a few interested parties that have contacted our management to find out the situation. We are after the best long term deal that we can get for the band. All we really want to do is to create music so we are looking for a deal that will allow us to continue to push our art into new and interesting areas. As I mentioned, we have yet to speak to Listenable about the future but we are definitely open to working with them again. But we are also open to hearing from anyone. We are looking for great distribution and artistic support/freedom.

In the last few years we have experimented with self-releasing music and it has been remarkably fruitful. We’ve enjoyed having 100% control over the product and the marketing of the product. We’ve learnt a lot about how we believe we should be marketed. So there is also a possibility that we will embrace a more DIY option and form our own label. We are in a very interesting, and strong, position so we want to make sure we take advantage of all the possibilities.

I found Flesh is Heir to be a little more on the Avant-Garde side here and there, moreso than previous albums. Is this sort of a goal for the band, or did you guys just want to create a very dark and chaotic release without that style in mind?

We never set out to create an “Avant-Garde” album and, in fact, I find that method of creation distasteful. Bands that try to create “Avant-Garde” music tend to just add wacky sounds and crazy time signatures just to be different. To me it sounds farcical. The music that I find most interesting as a listener and as a composer is music that is written in a new musical language which is unique to the creator and is unique because it is a representation of them as people. When people shoe-horn in a saxophone solo over their blast beats it often sounds contrived and forced, at least to my ears. But then, on the other hand, you have the Norwegian Shining who does just that but, to me, it sounds honest and I buy into it. I think that is a unique expression of Shining as artists not a conscious decision to be weird and avant-garde. Of course, this honesty is hard to quantify but I think we all know it when we hear it and we all know it when the music is a lie.

So we never set out to be “Avant-Garde”. We are just making music that is representative of us as artists and as people. We like playing with sound and experimenting with ideas. None of the parts of our album were thrown in to create an experimental vibe. That is just our honest attempts to portray the sounds we hear in our heads.

I hate the term “Avant-Garde” because I think it is misused. It’s originally a military term which refers to the pointsmen who travelled before the main column scouting out the way forward. Most “Avant-Garde” bands are not moving forward but endlessly churning in a cul-de-sac of back clapping masturbation. They aren’t moving forward at all. Just constantly turning in the same circles. We are always trying to push ourselves forward but I refuse to classify what we do as “Avant-Garde”. We aren’t that pretentious.

I loved the production on Flesh is Heir. Who did you work with on that, and was this sound the ultimate goal you wanted for the album?

“Flesh is Heir’ was recorded completely by the band. We’ve often worked with other engineers in the past but, since the “V01D” multimedia release (still available for free from our bandcamp page) we have been recording and mixing everything ourselves. “Flesh is Heir” was mixed by Erik Miehs, our guitar player. He has spent years getting to the point where he was happy to take on the production of our music. He experimented with mixing other bands and built up his skills until he was happy with applying them to what we do. “Flesh is Heir” is the first full length that he has mixed and I think the results speak for themselves.

Previous albums have sounded pretty good, even great for the time, but this is the first album that really captures the sounds that we have always heard. We have always been pigeon-holed as a cold, clinical and industrial band which I think is false and driven mainly by the palette of frequencies that previous albums have presented. “n0n” especially had a much stronger focus on the high end frequencies which buried the guitars and bass somewhat and foregrounded the effects, this also sounded very brittle and aggressive which was cool at the time but not really the sound we were originally after. That sound was a compromise that we worked out with our engineer at the time. The demos that we recorded for “n0n” sounded much warmer and more organic. It was this sound that we tried to capture with “Flesh is Heir”.

I think we were successful. The album sounds more human and more organic. It’s fitting that this album has a much more human and personal focus for the lyrics as the mix is much more open and dirty. We are very happy with the production and I am glad you dig it too. We hope to explore the organic side of our sound more and more in future releases.

The drums really sounded the loudest most of the time. Why were there such a focus on that instrument, especially the bass kicks?

This wasn’t a conscious decision. With any mixing work, everything is a compromise and it is a matter of finding a way to present the most power and aggression in the music without learning detail. There were many different versions of the mix for the album that we shared around. The mix that ended up on the album was the one that we though had the most impact and provided the most depth. I am a firm believer in the power of percussion. Often metal mixes are too guitar heavy but we have always been followers of rhythm before melody. We are interested in the interplay between traditional percussive elements, percussive effects and vocals and guitars as percussion instruments. We see it as reducing our music to the most basic building blocks and building it back up again.

I see The Amenta did a few shows recently. How did they go for you? Did you have a decent turn out, or have any interesting stories to tell?

The shows were great. We’ve played only a couple so far but later this week we go out for a short Australian tour with CRADLE OF FILTH. Our shows are always chaotic and unpredictable affairs. There is a lot of technology that is just waiting to malfunction and our performances are almost designed to test our equipment to the limit. We’ve got a long term lighting/audio visual producer who has worked with us since our first shows in 2005 and he has just bought a whole bunch of shit for our shows which elevates our shows well above the mundane. So far it’s too early for any stories that are too crazy but I am sure they will come. The strangest we’ve had in recent times was the Hammersonic Festival in Indonesia. It’s not often you are at a metal festival that is interrupted so that the festival-goers and crew to pray. That was pretty wild.

You tweeted “This is our first…” when talking about being part of the Hammersonic Festival in Jakarta late April. Was this your first festival appearance, or first time at that specifical festival? Also, how did it go? Was it everything you expected, or was it more of a headache than a pleasure?

It was our first time in Asia as a band. We’ve played festivals before throughout Europe and we really enjoy them but we had never even played a stand-alone gig in Asia, let alone a massive festival like Hammersonic. The festival was excellent. There were a lot of Australian bands there so we saw some old friends. It was very well organised so there were no problems. We played well and too one of the biggest crowds we’ve ever been in front of. It was definitely a pleasure to perform there and we hope to go back soon. It took us a little while to adjust to the different culture though. In Australia, people go to gigs and they DRINK. As a result you get rowdy people who scream and cheer after every song. Indonesia, being a Muslim majority, doesn’t really drink at all so they were much more restrained and polite after each song. It took us a second to get used to that but it added to the eeriness of the show. Suffice to say, we drank enough for Indonesia and Australia combined.

Did you play anything off Flesh is Heir there or on any previous shows? If so, which ones, and what has the reaction been like from the fans in attendance?

We are playing a few songs from “Flesh is Heir” in the current set. We’re playing “Teeth”, “Ego Ergo Sum” and “Flesh is Heir”. We’ll introduce more over the next few months but it is a long an arduous process to re-arrange these very detailed and intricate songs for a five piece live band. But we’ll get there.

The reaction, so far, has been incredible. People are really into the album and many consider it to be our best work yet so they are pretty excited to hear the songs live. There are always requests for other songs from the album which we will have to add into the set very soon. Hopefully we can drop off some of the older ones which, while still killer songs, have been played at every show we have ever played. I understand why NIRVANA refused to play “Smells like Teen Spirit”.

When Flesh is Heir drops, will your set list change up at all? If so, mind revealing what you guys intend to play, or at least what songs from the new album fans should learn prior to any upcoming gigs?

Learn them all. We don’t know what is possible and what is not. As far as we, and most of the world, is concerned “Flesh is Heir” dropped in March so people are pretty familiar with the album. Just you poor suckers in North America had to wait for the release. So we have introduced songs to the set list already. We try to change up the set list as much as possible and we will try to play as many songs from “Flesh is Heir” as possible. The ones that stay in the set list will depend on how they feel to play, how they are received and how they fit into the overall flow of the set. We won’t just shove a song in and interrupt the flow of the show just to get it played. We’d rather play a set list that makes sense in terms of push and pull, light and shade and peaks and valleys. So seriously, lean them all. Listen to the full album. Don’t fuck around with songs. We write albums. Not individual tracks. It is meant to be listened to as a work. You don’t put a bit of lettuce on one plate, a bread roll on another and a meat patties on a third and call that a fucking hamburger do you?

Speaking of upcoming gigs, I only see one more in late May at this point. Will you be announcing more any time soon? Also, any indication if there will be some dates in North America?

There is definitely more gigs coming up this year but we aren’t ready to announce yet. Have to sort out supports etc but we are looking at headlining around Australia in July. We haven’t got anything concrete in North America yet. It all comes down to the offer, the timing and the cost. We had a killer time in North America a few years ago with VADER, DECREPIT BIRTH, WARBRIGNER, AUGUARY and SWASHBUCKLE so we’d love to get over there again but, once again, we have to get the right offer and we have to have spare money to get there.

The Amenta: Flesh is Heir
The Amenta
Interview conducted thanks to Listenable Records via Clawhammer PR.