The Australian extreme metal band The Amenta has recently released the bands third album “Flesh Is Heir” through Listenable Records. We asked the groups lyricist, keyboardist and sampler Timothy Pope a few questions about the new album
Revolution-Music:Hallo. First of I would like to congratulate you on your new album. Could you start out by introducing yourself and tell us what part in the band you have?
Answer: My name is Timothy Pope. I am the primary lyricist of The Amenta. I create the samples and effects as well as perform keyboards in The Amenta. On the most recent album, “Flesh is Heir”, I also play more obscure instruments like noise violin, circuit bent delay pedal and sheet metal. My aim has always been to find new ways of creating interesting sounds. As a keyboard player I feel it is my duty to point out that most keyboard players are useless. I hate the common understanding of what keyboards and effects can do. Other bands try to create fake orchestras to give their music some gravitas. It just sounds plastic and cheesy. We don’t write like that. I manipulate and warp sounds to give our music an eeriness that is unmatched by any other metal band that I am aware of. I am 100% certain that no other band uses the same sounds as The Amenta. Not many other bands can say the same about their own music. Most keyboard players use patches. I create sounds from scratch.
Revolution-Music: Why did you choose this title for the record, does it have any special meaning?
Answer: The title comes from a song on the album that most clearly illustrates the themes behind the album. The album is about the war between two sides of the human psyche. There is the Obliterate (which is the part that desires to be annihilated of self through liberal use of drugs, booze, sex, violence or music) and the Realist (which is the part of the psyche which desires to self-actualize. It was constantly trying to redefine the self and improve, despite the struggle to do so). This war is examined in the album from both sides, as I believe both aspects are very important parts of every single person. The form of the argument reflected the famous speech from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” which begins “To be or not to be…” In that speech there is a line lamenting the problems of mind and body to which the flesh is heir. I felt that this phrase perfectly encapsulated the idea that I was trying to represent. So I stole it.
Revolution-Music: When you started working on this album, how long did the process take from the first step to the final product? Was it hard to write new material for this record or did it come naturally for you?
Answer: We always take a long time to write albums. We are always working to find ways to minimize the time but one of the main reasons for the delay is that new music never comes easy to us. We are blessed, and in some ways cursed, with the inability to write a song if we believe it is generic or unoriginal. If an idea sounds like something we have written before then, through a process of natural selection, it gets weeded out. We don’t find that idea interesting because we have already said it so we are not interested in pursuing it to write a song. So one of the main delays is trying to find the new ideas which will light the spark of ideas that will eventually form the album. I think we put the first notes down of what would be “Flesh is Heir” in mid-2010. We pretty much worked constantly on the album until Mid-2012 when it was absolutely completed. Two years is pretty standard for us at this point though I think we will be much quicker next time. For the first time ever I have lyrical ideas for the next album and have even started writing down lines. So hopefully the process will be much quicker.
The other delay is that this is the first album that we have completely recorded by ourselves. We recorded everything and Erik [Miehs, guitars] mixed the album. So with that there were the usual perfectionist delays. We had multiple mixes and voted on the best ones. Erik would constantly be reworking the album until we got the result that he and we were happy with.
Revolution-Music: Where did you record the album, and who produced it? How was it to work with?
Answer: We recorded the album in our own studios. Drums were the only thing recorded in a professional studio but we recorded them ourselves. Most of the instrumental tracks were recorded at our own NON Studios. We’ve spent years and thousands of dollars building the studio. We have excellent gear and we’ve consistently worked on our technical skills so that we could record our music correctly. Vocals were recorded by Cain [Cressall, vocals] in his Violent Voice studios in his home town of Perth.
We produced our album ourselves. We always have produced our own work and I think, with extreme metal, you should be producing your music yourself. We aren’t trying to write pop music. At the extremes of artistic expression there aren’t any “right” answers. Often the strange edges and angles that a producer would sand off the production are the “point” of the music. So we avoid a producer as we know what our music should sound like and we have no interest in incorporating an outsider’s view point. Music is a compromise as it is, without adding another irrelevant opinion. Working with yourselves as producers is obviously a double edge sword. On one hand you don’t have to worry about compromise as much. You also don’t need to spend precious time trying to explain the point of certain parts to an outsider who might not speak the same musical “language”, as language is a very personal thing and no two original bands have the same musical language. The other side is that, as the artists and producers, it is very hard to draw a line and say “This is complete.” We spend months and months trying new ideas and refining, where a producer might have said “That will do, move on.” So it’s a constant wrestle with deadlines and perfectionism but I think that the result speaks for itself. We know what we are fucking doing.
Revolution-Music: Are you trying to express something through your music?
Answer: Always. We are trying to express ourselves. That’s it. All artists should. Art is a process of documenting the unique psyches of those involved. This is why only original music is worth anything. If you sound exactly like another band, as so many do, then you are not expressing yourself, in your own musical language, but expressing someone else. And that’s just useless and redundant. Why waste your time as an artist? I certainly wouldn’t waste my time as a listener.
We are constantly trying to document the ever shifting changes of our own minds. We try to make honest music, which reflects what we believe about sound and construction. The bands that really inspire me are the ones that do the same. The themes behind the albums, and there are always themes, are almost secondary to the actual act of self-analysis. As it is they are always arguments between opposing ideas. I am trying, in real time, to refine and define my own beliefs. I hope that this intersects with other people’s struggle and somehow shines a light or inspires them in some way but, if not, I am content to merely document my own struggles. In art that is the only thing that matters. And extreme music is art. Fuck you if you are a Neanderthal who can’t see that.
Revolution-Music: How has the album been received by the press, the critics and the fans so far?
Answer: So far the reaction has been incredible. Coming from our last album which was very divisive we were ready for another backlash but, so far, it has been incredibly positive. People are telling us that “Flesh is Heir” is the best thing that we have released. What I really dig are the people that have now gone back through our discography and noticed the constant evolution and search for new sounds that has informed our music since the first note.
We’ve not really had a terrible review. They are mainly 8 or 9 out of 10 reviews which is great. While we make our music solely for ourselves, and we would still believe in its quality if no one else understood or cared, it is still very pleasant when something you create also inspires others and fires the chemicals in their brain. We’ve been very happy with the reaction, its early days yet, so we hope, that it continues and opens some doors for us.
Revolution-Music: Who did the artwork and what is the idea behind it?
Answer: The photos for the artwork were taken by a long-time collaborator with The Amenta, Jess Mathews. Jess has worked with us a lot over the last few years. She conceived, shot, directed and edited the film clips for the songs “Vermin” from the “V01D” release and the most recent clip, “Teeth” from “Flesh is Heir”. She had also taken the photo on the cover of the “Choke Hold” EP so we knew she would get the ideas and represent the band well. We gave her an understanding of the themes of the album and asked her to interpret it. She took the photo of Cain strangling himself in chains to represent the internal struggle between the two sides of the psyche.
The layout and other aspects of the artwork were created by Matt Vickers of Darkwave Design. We had worked with him years ago when he designed The Amenta symbol and he now works on a lot of Listenable Records releases. He tied it all together and gave us an amazing final product. We really dig this album artwork. I think it is the most striking and relevant that we have had so far. I am very, very glad that it avoids the cartoon dragon and skull shit that every other fucking band uses. Those covers are the reasons why outsiders laugh at metal. It looks like it was scrawled by a dungeons and dragons obsessed kid in his mother’s basement. Fucking childish.
Revolution-Music: How would you compare the material on this release to your previous material?
Answer: All of our music is a reaction to the music that we have previously recorded. We find the idea of repetition extremely boring. If you stand still you become stagnant and therefore irrelevant. So, for us, it is a process of constant experimentation. Our last album, “n0n”, was a very cold and clinical album with a lot of very intricate programming and effects. We were not only uninterested in repeating that sound but I think it would have been impossible for us to write like that again. So in reaction to that “Flesh is Heir” is a much more immediate and organic album. We experimented a lot with riffs, sounds and vocals. As soon as we found a sound that triggered that excitement in our brains we moved on, trying to find the next bit, whereas in the past we would have kept adding more and more elements. I think the result is a perfect balance of the sonic excess that we have been known for and a more stripped back and restrained menace.
All the reviews so far have pointed out that this album is more obviously melodic than our previous releases. I find this strange as, to me, our music has always had melody, just not traditional melody. The only think I can think is that people have finally caught up to how we construct melodic motifs. I guess we have bands like DEATHSPELL OMEGA and PORTAL to thank for that. People are getting more used to stranger melodies and thus our music is coming into focus for them.
Revolution-Music: What kind of stuff did you grow up listening to, and what kind new music do you listen to these days?
Answer: I grew up listening almost exclusively to black and death metal. As I got older my tastes changed considerably and now I listen to a lot of different music. I am addicted to finding new sounds and new methods of expression. I might hear something inspiring in power electronics, or hip hop, or drone, or blues. I don’t really care what genre as long as it’s new and exciting. I’ve recently been listening to a killer Australian band called THE DRONES who, if you were forced to categories, I guess you could call noise rock or punk. The lyricist is incredible and has been an indirect inspiration for some lyrics that I am working on now. I’ve also been on a big IMMOLATION kick. They’ve always been a very important band for us, me and Erik especially. Looking forward to their new album.
Revolution-Music: Have any of these bands been source of inspiration for the album?
Answer: This album was inspired by thousands of bands but none directly or exclusively. What I find inspiring in music is when people find their own language to express themselves. Those bands inspire me to create my own language and thus you get the sound of The Amenta. We don’t sound like any of the bands that inspire us; the only common feature is that we are all constantly searching for a new idea.
Revolution-Music: In your time as musicians, what is your biggest musical achievement so far?
Answer: For me, it’s all about the recordings. I like playing live but it doesn’t fire my brain like creating and recording does. So for me “Flesh is Heir” is the biggest achievement. Each album gets closer and closer to perfection. Obviously there are still flaws but the aim of honest art is to embrace those flaws and use them as the basis for your own language. I learnt a lot during the process of writing and recording this album and I am very excited about applying that knowledge to the next recording. I am sure that our next album will be my biggest musical achievement, and then the one after that will surpass it. That’s how you are supposed to work. I don’t really care about outside vindication. Obviously it’s great when people dig your work, but thumbs up from people doesn’t define my sense of music achievement. We are closer to the album that is a perfect encapsulation of us as artists and I would be insane if I didn’t think that this was our greatest achievement.
Revolution-Music: Could we expect any European tour and maybe see the band in action here in Denmark any time soon?
Answer: We’ll definitely get back over to Europe soon. We were just there with OBITUARY, MACABRE and PSYCROPTIC but we’ll definitely tour off the back of “Flesh is Heir”. There is nothing in concrete yet but there are always tour discussions. All we need is the right timing and we’ll be back over there as soon as we can. We love touring Europe. Bands are treated well, people are usually enthusiastic and excited about new music and the culture and architecture is incredible.
Revolution-Music: What would be the ultimate tour, festival or show for you to play at?
Answer: I’d love to tour with bands that are incredibly inspirational in that they are constantly evolving and creating. I’d love to play with SWANS who are in the best form they have ever been. If Peter Christopherson wasn’t dead then I would love to play with X-TG, whose recent release is even better than a lot of THROBBING GRISTLE. I would kill to play with IMMOLATION.
Revolution-Music: Do you have any breaking news with the bands?
Answer: Nothing too exclusive at the moment I’m afraid. We have just started playing the new songs from “Flesh is Heir” live and they are sounding incredible. I’d like to start writing and recording soon so we can get a bit of a head start on the next release but obviously that all depends on when the ideas begin to flow. I have lyrical ideas already which is great so I at least have a start there.
Revolution-Music: That’s all we’ve get this time, do you have anything that you'd like to add or say?
Answer: Thank you very much for the interview. To readers: I recommend you check out “Flesh is Heir”. I truly believe that this will be the best album released this year. It is original. It is honest. It is ugly and it is extreme. We love to hear from those with feedback on the album so let us know what you think, good or bad. I believe this album will soundtrack your 2013. If you are brave enough.
Revolution-Music: We would like to say thanks a lot for your time. And we wish all you guys all the luck in the future whatever it might bring.
THE AMENTA - Teeth (OFFICIAL VIDEO)
- Band/Kunstner: The Amenta
- Interview med: Timothy Pope (Samples/Programming)
- Interview dato: Fredag, 03 maj 2013
- Samarbejdspartner: Listenable Records