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TALANAS: TONIGHT MATTHEW, I'M GOING TO BE..................INTERVIEW BY ANDY BARNES

 
After the demise of cult industrial metal outfit Interlock, vocalist Hal Sinden and drummer Joe Butterworth decided to follow more personal influences, forming Progressive Death Metal band Talanas. Incorporating Ewan Parry on lead guitar and bassist Mark “Duff” Duffy into the band, they released EP, “Reason & Abstract” in Summer2010 followed by debut album “The Waspkeeper” at the end of April this year to universal acclaim. While Talanas draw their influence from luminaries such as Akercocke, (Sinden, is a guitar student of Jason Mendonca) and Opeth, they take prog metal to another, more brutal level.  “The Waspkeeper” is surely destined to become a classic of it’s genre and Mudkiss met with the band prior to the opening gig of their mini tour with Spires, in the beer garden of The Witchwood,  Ashton-Under-Lyne. 

ANDY: Three months after the release of “The Waspkeeper” and outstanding reviews continue to appear. Have you been surprised at the response to the album or did you feel you were producing something exceptional during recording?

HAL: It’s always extremely, for me surprising in a very pleasant way to find that people like something.... because you spend in the creation of an album and any artistic entity, an album, an EP, a single or anything like that ....you spend so long being very critical of it and making sure you develop a critical eye for song writing and all the performances within it, you do get to a point where all you can see is the seams and the puzzle piecing itself together rather than how a consumer or an audience member might necessarily see it......by no means to suggest negatively like, why are these people buying it.......but you do end up going “You do hear the same things as us right”.....I think Ewan had said recently......our guitarist Ewan has said he’s only just starting to reach a point where he’s able to listen to the album from an objective point of view, rather than necessarily as an existing band member who co-produced it sort of thing....so from my side it’s when someone comes round and says I love it or this is my favourite song it’s always met with surprise and just going like......really......why...... what do see in it.... and the most fascinating thing for me is if people are good enough to say,  “yeah I feel this about it” or “this is my favourite song” or even “what this song is about for me” is stunning... I love it........because you hear people say stuff which is sort of like ...... wow.....you’ve heard things in this I didn’t even think when I wrote it........it’s brilliant.....so I’m always hugely welcome of it but I must admit the reaction to it overall has been overwhelmingly surprising in a positive sense.....I don’t think Joe and I really would have......given the releases we did in Interlock and stuff like that which were always met with a kind of cult following but some mainstream derision......this one’s been met really well.  Without blowing trumpets, our press sheet is the best I’ve ever stumbled across.......you know...... that I’ve worked on in management.......so yes I’m incredibly pleased with it, but still it’s that starry eyed surprise of going........ seriously you like it.....wow....how much do we need to pay you or something.

ANDY: Just comparing the EP Reason & Abstract to The Waspkeeper, the album has a much bigger sound, especially around the drums which I feel really pull everything together.  I assume that’s something in particular you were aiming for within the production?

EWAN: It was definitely something where we were going to sound different, the way it was recorded was different......we were using a different kind of desk..... it was an analogue desk this time which was a bit nicer and like an organic sound.  When we were in the studio and we had this new set up, as soon as we heard it being recorded we kind of knew it was going to sound a lot bigger than it did on the EP.

JOE: The tuning for the album.....we picked a much deeper tuning so it sounds a lot more wooarrgggghh.......I’ve got these roto toms above my other snare drums and they add like a kind of treble to the mix...... I’ve got my extra bass drums and extra floor toms which add extra bass, so it kind of widens the whole perspective of the drums.

HAL: I think from the technical point of view, one of the big differences.... it’s funny that you say it sounds a lot bigger....... in a kind of almost funny way the drum kit was bigger........really.......the availability of sounds was more...... we had more to play with.....but from a technical point as well we went through a lot of hell with the EP’s recording in that a lot of stuff screwed up. Whereas with the album we used one producer, who was our producer /engineer throughout whereas the EP was more of a hotch potch and a patchwork of different people, which really affected how the whole thing was created and the overall sound. What happened with the EP is that  Jaime Gomez Arellano  who was our producer for both of the things, he was actually technically producing pre-recorded tracks that he had been recorded with someone else.....whereas with the album you’re hearing him, absolutely him giving his treatment on our sound.  Not that we dislike the sound on the EP but the true sound of Talanas so far is The Waspkeeper. But also I think that we had much better equipment available to us, a much bigger kit.

JOE: More support.......

HAL: A lot more support........ We’ve been working with Mapex, who really pushed the boat out with a lot of their stuff.

JOE: Yeah, they really have........I gave them kind of my dream list, my Christmas list of a drum kit I could ever want and they said “that’s fine, we can do all that for you” and it all turned up......I thought, OK.....let’s do it......let’s do this.

ANDY: Isn’t it the biggest kit that Mapex have ever commissioned?

JOE: Yes.....the biggest kit for a one person they’ve ever made.

ANDY: I must admit from the Antiphon video, it does like we’re back to the Carl Palmer days (Laughing.)  So do you feel from the EP to The Waspkeeper, you’ve moved on more technically with the equipment than as a band playing or as songwriters.

HAL: I think there’s a vision as far as instruments and gear is concerned....there’s a vision of what we are and what we do which was established before we did the EP. We do have an absolutely massive drum kit no matter what, between the EP and the album it’s big.....the one on the EP was a big drum kit.....we had a number of years to solidify that and create it and establish it but I think that the general view of what we wanted to present sound wise has been there for quite a while.  I think it’s inevitable that any band each album they release, should sound better than the last, no matter what unless they are going back to garage days, which is unlikely we’ll ever do as we never came from a garage......it’d be a bloody big garage if we were, you’d have to get a Kwik Fit or two and hollow it out (laughing.) But I think there’s a progression but not necessarily in us discovering this new set of instruments......we knew we wanted to work with seven strings.......Duff has been using a seven string bass and has been for a long while and Joe’s been using a huge drum kit and I’ve being doing as much as I can for vocals and everything like that so I think there’s always been that.

ANDY: The album has been self released through Eulogy Media, is that something you would look to continue or would you look to a record label in the future?

HAL: Do you know it’s a funny thing with that....the reason I in particular set up Eulogy Media in.........well the company was set up in 2005 and it was incorporated in 2007.... was to self manage, but the secondary principle which became the primary principle once we did Talanas is to present to members of the industry.......there’s a lot of stigma still for being an unsigned band it’s utterly bizarre and it’s misplaced stigma. So we decided to release as Eulogy Media so we could say to people we are signed, which we actually are...... people forget, Eulogy Media rather than being just self release, it is a fully fledged record label, it’s incorporated as such and it’s registered for tax and everything like that...... all the relevant bodies it’s all registered for, so we are technically signed despite the fact we’re still being taken on for unsigned stages etc. But I understand that self release is self release and it’s still seen as such. From a practical level, from a day to day task level, I’m not confident we could do exactly the same level of self release again for the next album as we want to do more and bigger and better and being completely blunt about it this last album damn near ruined a lot of us health wise......no, seriously I mean my stomach ulcer came back, quite badly...... debilitatingly so.......most of us were extremely sleep deprived because we all hold down day jobs.....and I hold down a day job as well as holding down the label and it’s just the organisation of it is completely mental.......and I would never advise it to anyone.  I think with the next album what I’d prefer to do is not dilute the creative aspects by overly concerning ones self with the administrative aspects..... I would rather all four active members of the band aren’t concerned about as many practicalities as possible, I’d rather just turn up, write the art, create the art, perform it, record it and get it done...... whereas in my period of recording personally I was recording vocals and the next minute concerned about “oh by the way I’ve got to just make this quick call and do this” which means you’re not concentrating. I don’t think it suffered too much as a result but I suffered personally on a health basis. We have been entertaining some offers.... in fact we received an offer from a major metal label....a U.K metal label......before the album was released which we turned down......it wasn’t right.....because the thing is in having our own label we know absolutely what we are capable of and what would we expect as an absolute minimum.  There are sadly a lot of labels around across the world who are still convinced that bands will be starry eyed enough to think if you offer £2,000.00 for seven albums they’ll somehow think “Ohhh....really”...... No!  But we are now in talks with a few other U.S labels who seem interested and it’s a case of choosing which one we’ll go for..... as to which one we’re prepared to surrender a lot of our control to rather than just rights. Not creative control, but administrative control as well because a larger proportion of the business we do is because we self control and we absolutely categorically, will not be forced into a situation that will be negative or taxing to the band to the sense it won’t be positive to our careers.

ANDY: Is that the reason for the small number of gigs since the release of the album. Normally with a label, you tour around an album release undertaking numerous gigs here, there and everywhere. In your case, there has been one gig since the album came out, this mini tour of four dates and then Bloodstock.  Is that just you as a band doing things at your own pace?

HAL: Well not so much pace, more choice. It’s hardly lifting much of a lid but I’ll be completely honest with this. I don’t think a lot of people understand, punters, industry, you know, press alike......some people don’t really fully understand the costs associated with doing a gig. For us to come out and do this tour we’re talking a few hundred pounds per night in the associated costs.......so if we’re going to go and do a gig which is career building which is the code word for saying you’re not getting paid, then you have to choose it bloody well. Now thankfully this time around we’ve decided to go out on the road with a band that are absolutely excellent, playing some dates and towns that we want to play with some bands in support that are genuinely fantastic.....but it’s not to say that we’re taking a paced approach to it because we haven’t had offers, we’ve had plenty of offers without being big headed about it.... it’s more the case of,  that’s very nice of you, but I’m very sorry but would you be able to afford £200.00 each per person to go out and do that.....the old ethos of book it and they will play doesn’t apply anymore. The music industry is crashing, absolutely it’s a sinking ship........ that’s it........ it’s a vocational industry first and foremost though so people will still be performing despite the fact it’s going down and under......not to Australia I mean.........although I’m happy to go to Australia if it’s paid for (Laughing.)  Everyone now has to hold down a day job and I think it’s unreasonable for anyone to expect that.... you know......the rest of us, we’re taking this as paid leave  when we could be spending time with our families or girlfriends or fiancées or wives or anything like that. It’s a big decision to make so we don’t take that lightly, so we’ve got to make sure if we do make that decision it’s worthwhile and it will lead to something better....... which this decidedly will.

ANDY: I think from becoming involved in the writing side and talking to bands, I’ve been amazed at how little people actually earn from music and touring.   

HAL: Do you know the most I’ve ever earned from one gig.... personally speaking, I don’t mean the band....... is £5.00. That’s the most in my entire career in music I’ve ever earned... to walk away with profit. I think it needs to be understood this is an expensive art, but then it’s a vocational art and obviously we’ll do it no matter what, but......the other thing that needs to be understood is that we don’t accept lower states of gigs, not because we’re just grandiose and saying (adopting condescending accent) “oh well, screw you unless you can provide my five pounds and a copy of country life magazine” but more saying if we perform in a shit venue then the people who come and watch us will be convinced that we’re shit......You go and see a band, it’s not the sound man you blame if the drums sound bad, it’s a bad drummer......if the singer can’t hear himself and is singing out of tune he’s a bad singer.....so if they’re playing in a substandard venue, it’s the band that come across badly, so we pick and choose to that extent.      

ANDY:  You have the Bloodstock Festival appearance lined up next month,  is there anything else is planned for the rest of the year?

HAL: Yes......... we need to be careful what we’re saying (Laughing) It’s always embarrassing to just say yeah......We’ve got Norway which is wonderful, we’re playing Norway in October, but the big one is the U.S push...... I won’t say too much but it’s likely that we’ll be playing a few gigs in America in the New Year.  There are a few people that are interested still from when Joe and I went out there with Interlock but then there’s a greater amount of people that are interested in Talanas alone.  From an industry perspective as well, it’s been made very clear to us we need to get out there and there’s some interested parties....... but they need to back it up with collateral and there it is.

ANDY: Those are big metal markets, the U.S and Scandinavia, but what about Canada? That’s another major metal country.

HAL: Canada is a fascinating one but it’s still a very expensive thing to go and do.....I’d love to go and do it, there’s a lot of people who’ve actually said they want to see us in Ontario and everything like that although France is one of the big ones I’d like to do.

JOE: We went down very well in France with Interlock.

HAL: We played Hell Fest in 2007 in the old band and that was received incredibly well. French metal heads are nutcases (Laughing) brilliant, they’re really good. There’s a lot of people who’ve said they’d like to see us out there so we’ve had conversations with a few people for the New Year again so that might happen.

ANDY: Where does the metal influence come from for each of you. Hal, your background is very theatrical, your family are theatrical, so where and when does metal enter into your lives?

EWAN: It sounds a little clichéd to say but I think the first bands I got really excited about were probably metal bands, or hard rock bands at least. I mean it’s probably partly just by listening to albums of my brothers....two older brothers, albums that they bought. I might listen to them and listen to them again a few years later.....I actually got into that when I was quite young and then funnily enough in my teenage years I kind of strayed away a little bit and listened to loads of different stuff.....I think later on coming back to metal I had all these different kind of perspectives on it, I’d listened to lots of indie music or just like experimental music so when I came back to metal bands I looked for something else in them which is how I got into more sort of melodic sounding stuff.......stuff that wasn’t Skid Row or thrash....... so the dramatic kind of elements in bands like Godspeed Your Black Emperor or things like that, I kind of heard elements of that in bands like Opeth or Neurosis and that kind of put me back into it......So, yeah,  I sort of came at it from a slightly different angle I guess although I still like the pure energy and aggression in it.

ANDY: Is it more about the music and theatrical side than the lyrical content and perhaps any anti Christian beliefs which can be apparent particularly in Death and Black metal?

HAL: I was very much dragged into the anti Christian thing in my early teens but I think that’s almost inevitable you’ll be doing something regrettable in your early teens no matter what..... even if it’s playing chess upside down whilst pursued by sharks on a golf course, which would be a stupid idea, but I did the stupid thing of...... anti religion should I say.  I’m not really interested in doing that anymore but lyrics have been the most important thing for me as a singer certainly.  I’ve been put off bands that have bad lyrics despite having good music  and I find I’m horrendously put off by a metal band that sound great like Korn for instance.... they had their ultimate time, but Jonathan Davies is quite possibly one of the worst lyric writers in metal..... you know I think it’s just appalling....the cardinal sin for me in lyric writing is to  write a song about not being able to come up with lyrics, which he’s done on several occasions. (Laughter)

EWAN: When you tell people you’re trying to write something and you can’t come up with anything, that’s the first thing that people say to you... “Why don’t you write a song about not being able to write a song.”  (Laughing)     

HAL: Which is just like... why would you do that.... why would you do that to your audience. For me I think it’s quite offensive to a paying audience member.....”oh I couldn’t come up with anything, so I thought I’d come up with an idea about not being able to come up with anything”...... I mean, come on man (Laughter) You know like however many pounds....damn well come up with something, go somewhere, be influenced.  I think maybe a while ago metal predominated it’s own lyrical content because it was a smaller scene. In the late seventies and early eighties I think it was important to be writing quite rebellious tunes about war atrocities and stuff like that because it was hard and heavy......”Ok,  what’s hard and heavy.....war.....and..... rebelling.......OK.”  Whereas now the music can sound completely brutal and for instance most of our songs are lyrically at the moment are turning out about sex and love and sexuality and sort of oddness and perversity.

ANDY: That’s just life isn’t it?  (Laughter)       

HAL: Well this is it.... exactly....doing something brutal whilst being perverse,  exactly.... (Laughter again) but no I’m not necessarily interested in writing about how I’m going to brutally knife someone to death and take out their guts and everything like that because I’ve been fourteen and you know it was fascinating..... but I’ll leave it at that..... things mature and I think metal audiences mature.

EWAN: The thing about metal is that it often taps into either emotions or aspects of things that mainstream kind of pop and rock either just shies away from or doesn’t acknowledge,  if you see what I mean. You can be more honest....you know you might write about a subject where a pop singer might write a ballad about something but sometimes you know you feel angry about things but you wouldn’t acknowledge that in a pop band but you can do that in metal and I don’t know of many other genres where you can do that so explicitly.

HAL: But similarly my father gave a very odd comment when he listened to The Waspkeeper, which I found quite funny.  Obviously he knows me, he’s my father of course he knows me..... but there’s aspects he may not know all of as is inevitable.... but he listened to The Waspkeeper and read the lyrics and said,  “ It’s good....but where’s the lovely part of your personality and character that we all know so well...the friendly nice part.... that I go out on walks with and everything like that” (Laughing) I said.....”Dad... if I were to put everything of my personality into every single song it would sound schizophrenic......” and that’s a dreadful idea.  The irony being is that he likes Leonard Cohen....... Leonard Cohen hasn’t really, essentially written a happy song in his life but I’m sure if you met him he wouldn’t hit you.... he’d probably be quite a nice chap and maybe even buy you a drink but I don’t think he’d write a song about it.  I think that it’s important to reflect the many facets of life but I’m only interested in this stream of music reflecting certain things. I find that metal songs about liking birds... not women......liking chirpy birds and how much you love your pillow because it’s comfortable doesn’t, unless your being ironic, doesn’t really have that much gravitas to it.

ANDY: Yeah, I have written something recently that if you’re playing metal it’s difficult to write a song like “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” or “Walking on Sunshine” it doesn’t really fit.

HAL: Unless they’re particularly morbid tulips (Laughter) and you’re tiptoeing because (Adopting a sinister tone) there are needles on the floor...arrrgghhhh. (More laughter) 

ANDY: Your influences as a band have been mentioned, people like Opeth Neurosis and Akercocke, but I’m always intrigued to which individuals have influenced you personally. Who did you aspire to be as a kid?

HAL:  Duff, go for it.

DUFF:  Randomly my first jaunts into music were kind of along the Michael Jackson “Bad” route....a bit of that..... but my favourite tune off that album is “Dirty Diana” so Steve Stevens when he’s fretting away at the end, I was like “Wow, that’s amazing, I’ve got to get me some of that.”  I didn’t know if that was possible, but let me have a go and obviously I failed miserably, but you then aspire to that.  I slipped from there down into the, quite quickly and rapidly actually somehow into the Deicide route and then basically sort of fell from there via Burzum.  Once you’ve got a bit of that going then you’re just like... I need to recreate this sound, I need to do this or I like what they’ve done there and yeah, you just pick it up.  That’s what’s so great about music, you get four guys together and everyone......although we do listen to similar things...... everyone will bring a tiny bit of something that the other persons never ever heard and just go “You know what’s really cool in this song.” Go on then.... yeah, here we go..... love that..... that’s what’s nice. So I wasn’t naming names much there.... but you get my gist.

ANDY: Yeah, I get your gist.

HAL: Michael Jackson and Glenn Benton (Laughing)

DUFF: Oh, what an album that would have been (Laughter.)

ANDY: And Joe, as a drummer.....apart from Carl Palmer? (Laughing)

JOE: My Dad started me off listening to things like Mitch Mitchell and Cozy Powell and stuff and then I went to school with this gob shite (laughing, indicating Ewan.)  He introduced me to Vinnie Paul...... and Lars Ulrich.....Need to be careful about Lars Ulrich.

DUFF: What did you learn from him..... not much?

JOE: Yeah, how to go “ting”......... Then I went from Vinnie Paul down to more heavily Texas based metal like Lamb of God....then at the same time I went down to weird dance music.......Roni Size and Goldie....and then came back up again to where we are now.....so I’ve got my metal and dancy bit.  That’s the thing that put me into Interlock...... to mix like two such polar options together.

ANDY: Is there a connection technically between drum & bass and metal drummers?

JOE: Both disciplines are very much kind of based around speed, once you’ve got one, it transfers to the other.......I’ve always thought well if I can do one I can do the other or I could just do the both together.........dance-samba (laughing) ska-funk music.....do them both (more laughter) Yeah, you’ve got to try and take all your influences and pack them all into one and make that your sound.

ANDY: And as a guitarist?

EWAN:  I think the first metal guitarist.... probably the guitarist that made me want to pick up a guitar was Dimebag Darrell.

ANDY: Right... Pantera.

Ewan : Yeah, yeah, yeah...Pantera. That’s pretty much what I remember, basically wanting to play the riffs and shred and so on. I’d had guitar lessons from quite a young age and my teacher introduced me to lots of like Pantera and Metallica and things like that, also lots of Satriani, Steve Vai, John  Squire....stuff that no one would normally actually listen to because I don’t think it’s the kind of music many people listen to for fun (Laughter) unless you’re a guitarist.

ANDY : Steve Vai might disagree with that (more laughter)

EWAN: But it’s really fun to play and you learn more from picking it up and so on....so for a while I was learning all this stuff..... It didn’t necessarily have a lot to do with what I was actually listening to outside of guitar practise but then when I sort of came back round to metal a bit more later on..... in my mid to late teens.... then I would come across these other bands that were a bit  more intricate and used technical guitar playing in a way I found much more interesting........ I guess again Opeth and Mikael Akerfeldt and stuff like that.

ANDY: And Hal?

HAL: David Sylvian......the earliest emotional reaction I ever had to music that I can remember is to “Forbidden Colours” by David Sylvian so I think I would class as my earliest influence and it’s stuck with me throughout even to the present day when he’s doing the most wonderfully obscure, completely brilliant music that I’m really into. I’d say David Bowie probably is another one for me....Dave Gahan of Depeche Mode......A huge, huge personal influence on me vocally is Colin Vearncombe who used to be in..... his act was called Black and vocally I would go as far as to say I emulate him, I just think he’s absolutely  fantastic. Sadly he’s crucially underrated and un-listened to by a huge amount of people other than his earlier pop stuff.  Then Scott Walker.... a huge, huge fan of Scott Walker......then I’d say branching out to stuff like Tears for Fears.......and then Fields of the Nephilim.... those sort of goth singers like Carl McCoy, Andrew Eldritch, Pete Murphy people like that.....There’s a certain timbre of voice that I like and I think a lot of those have a concurrent theme through them, a kind of almost plummy element to it, certainly very characterful.  I’m not really one for thin, jaggedy voices you know.  Very much into Bryan Ferry as well, that kind of thing.  I’m always trying to work out who would I be on Stars in their Eyes if I had a chance to go on it and I think it’s one of those......I know I can do Dave Gahan......whether he’d be happy about that I’m not sure.

ANDY: And just to finish up, you’ve just had your stag night Hal, so congratulations on the forthcoming wedding.

HAL: Yes.....Thank you (Laughing slightly nervously)  

ANDY : And as a self confessed control freak, how are you dealing with the wedding arrangements. Are you totally in control, or are the family taking over?

HAL: (Laughing) Errmm....... you know it’s me and Beth.... she and I are sharing duties but she’s taken the lions share recently because of having to organise the tour..... the irony being she’s out on tour with us as the merch girl.....so yeah..... it’s mad....you only do it once.

ANDY: Well..... not all of us only do it once. (Laughter)

HAL: I’m not sure I could deal with that sort of stress (laughing).......No,  it’s great organising something that you’re condensing into the point of saying you desperately love someone despite having to be really stressed about it ......No it’s wonderful, it’s a great feeling.....One of the greatest things about being a control freak is you tend to organise things you can let yourself go in, which is exactly what’s happening......especially with gigs.

ANDY: Excellent, thank you very much guys, it was a pleasure to meet you.

HAL: Well thank you very much... nice one.

DUFF: Cheers man, thanks a lot.

And on that note, four of the most polite, modest men you could ever wish to meet, who just happen to be incredibly talented musicians, head back into The Witchwood and transform themselves into metal warriors for another short period in time. 

Talanas are a British metal band to watch out for.... forthright and candid with a vision of exactly how it should work which is all well and good, although without the material, this means nothing.  Fortunately, these four chaps have brilliant material by the bucketload........they’ll go far.

http://talanas.org

Interview by Andy Barnes 21/07/11
Photos by Katie Dervin