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ENOCHIAN THEORY: Music as a landscape

The metallic Art Rock band Enochian Theory from the UK squeezes now their first full length album into our ears, and this release is so complex and exciting that it’s absolutely worth to be recommended. Ben Hayes tells STALKER the story behind it all.

Welcome to Enochian Theory! You are so friendly to answer some questions, thank you very much. First of all, could you introduce yourself – who is the band, where are you from and how would you describe your kind of music?
Greetings Andreas, thanks for giving us this chance to talk to you. The band consists of Shaun (bass), Sam (drums) and myself, Ben (guitar/attempted singing) and we are based in Portsmouth in the UK. I guess you could call our music...70´s and 80´s rock mixed with 90´s grunge/metal topped off with a complete disregard for ´normal´ music and a smidge of arrogance! ...or ´Prog Metal/Rock´ for people who cannot be bothered to recite that everytime they try to explain what we sound like to people...haha

The band’s name is not light and meaningless and already introduces that you’re not going to offer fast music food, right? With these names – your new album’s name is “Evolution. Creatio Ex Nihilio” - you build on history and on the genesis. Why did you choose such a background for the band and the music?
Fast food music? Like this appalling ´mallcore´ nonsense that is going on right now? Haha! Nah, we´re a bunch pseudo-philosophers, who maybe think a little bit too much sometimes. I believe the title of the new record stems from many ideas right across the board. It´s a title that reflects, at least to us anyway, an idea working on multiple levels. It´s a rather contradictory and sarcastic title in a way, as well as being rather on a ´deep´ and ´meaningful´ level to it if you read into it a little. Adding to all this that we wanted a title that reflected our interests but more importantly for it to have personal meaning to us as a band. We´ve come a long way as a band and as people and we created a record from nothing when we needed to do it. It works on a few levels. As for the band name, it is what it is and we are what we are.

You once said you like to create a kind of music, which is meaningful to you. What is the meaning of your music to you? What makes it special, different than other music?
I believe that creating something yourself over just listening to someone elses creation gives us a deeper attachment to it. It´s something you have created and you can be proud of it. It´s what you want to hear and then you can say “We did this for us and now you can listen, we don´t really mind what you think, but it´s nice to know if you like it and we can relate. Maybe we can get on as people. First contact has been made, let´s talk...” The thing is we enjoy creating music and it´s very dear to us, but we do very much appreciate other music. When you create and release something into the world, you are open to attack/praise/etc..., and this makes me personally feel quite vulnerable. Odd I know, but it´s that feeling that makes creating music good. Being proud of something and showing this dead world what you are about. It´s got to represent you. It feels ´wrong´ to fake anything when being creative. I can´t quite explain it, but I get that sense of “Oh this is just going through the motions” when I write anything I´m not really into. For the band...Lyrically, I can say what I need to say and musically we can create something that sounds good to us.

From where do you get your inspirations to write such music? What inspired you to write particularly such an album like “Evolution: Creatio Ex Nihilio”?
Life...and all it entails.That´s our biggest influence and inspiration. Just living day to day and having all this crazy s**t happen to you and see all this crazy s**t...the highs, the lows...the tears...the smiles...the loved...the lost. Being human...

If you would describe yourself as characters, as human beings – what are the main things for you in life? What from your personal interests flows into your music?
There is SO much that I could say here, but I´d simply go on for days on end...but in summation, I honestly think it´s all about what you feel that means the most to us. It´s such a vast subject and has such scope that it covers a lot of things that I cannot possibly write down here. Each of the 3 participants in this ´jolly little project´ have their own personal interests that they bring to the the table. Our personal interests are just that...personal. We only want this to be about the music, not what we are or do as people.

The music looks to me like a landscape, in which a narration is leading through. Do you tell us a story, may be, about the journey and the evolution of the band itself or of the members?
I guess you could look at it as a collection of short stories within a giant story with ´existing/existence´ as it´s central theme. Each song tells a different ´story´ and deals with different things...some are just a burst of thought...reveling in its own sudden creation, while other songs are more calculated and stew on dark thoughts. I won´t tell people how to listen to the record, but I believe it is intended to be listened to from one end to the other, almost like you are turning slowly 360 degrees on the spot and viewing the horizon as your turn. So the landscape idea is a good observation.

The great cover design is obviously a landscape. It reflects very well the music, I think. Can you tell us something about this artwork and the artist?
The person responsible for the amazing artwork is “The Man, The Myth, The Legend” Robin Portnoff. We cannot thank him enough for all his hard work on getting the project done...it´s a massive testament to his skills as an artist and for us, a fantastic thing to know that there is someone out there that ´understands´ what we are about. We want this album to reach as many people as possible, not just for our own gain (if any), but so we can say “Hey, look at this amazing artwork. Now go contact Robin and pay him lots of money to do you something!”
As for the meaning of it...It´s multiple meanings and multiple answers to multiple questions given by mutliple things. I think that is the general theme of the artwork as it reflects the songs and the lyrics. We gave Robin an idea of what the the record was about, some patches of lyrics and some rough demos at the time and said “There you go, create your visual interpretation of our music”...and the guy hit it on the head. Plans are afoot to bring a storyboard that Robin did for ´The Fire Around The Lotus´ alive in stop/start animation video. We are very much hoping this can happen at some point because the concept is spectacular.

Who wrote the songs, who produced and who mixed the record?
I wrote about 95% of the music in about 4 months and did a lot of the arranging, but the final songs are always the 3 of us saying that we are happy with it. Without the 3 of us being on the same page, this ´collectively schizophrenic´ record would never have been born. We ´feed´ off each other when we create and it´s a good thing. The band oversaw production duties with the help of some friends at 2 different studios in our local area, as well as my own litle home set-up.
It was recorded in a rather odd manner and I think in a way it helped shape the record, the urgency we felt in needing to get this record done is apparent in the music yet the recording process was fragmented and disorganised.
The final sessions were sent to Sweden to be mixed by the wonderful David Castello at his new Ghostward Studio. David´s a great guy and helped give the record not only the best production we´ve had to date, but also kept our theme of giving each record its own indentity. There is NO other record out there that sounds as sonically odd as our record!

You once called Devin Townsend somebody, who has a huge influence on your work. Devin likes to tell that he does his music just for himself and for nobody else. Is this your point of view, too, or would you stop making music, if nobody would listen to it? Do musicians need an audience?
Let’s just say that we write what we want to write. It´s our own choice that we play this anomalous fusion of genres instead of something that would make us tons of money, so I guess you could say that we too play for ourselves. However, much like our Canadian chum, we put our records out there for people to enjoy...and make money out of...hopefully!
My personal view is that I´ve been making music in different forms since I was 8 and very few people have ever heard any of it. So it´s no worry of mine if no one listens to it, we do this for us...but we are offering it out there to people, should they want to spend the time to listen.
It´s totally up to them. As for needing an audience...I´d say no and yes. There is the creative aspect where you do it for yourself and do not need anybody to say anything or even notice it, yet there is also the business aspect for this project. And yes, we need an audience to attend shows, buy our crap and generally allow us to eat each week. There is something that needs to be done for sure and we don´t have a problem with that. If we want to do this as a living, then we have to ensure our financial affairs are in order. So yes, in a way, an audience is needed as well as not. Depends how you look at it.

Music became – even through the internet, downloads and a worldwide network – to an international language, which overcomes borders and cultural differences. Which borders would you like to overcome – physical or mental?
I sometimes feel that simply facing the new days is a mental border to overcome...but as with anything that tries to stop us as people and as a band. We look at it logically and overcome it with clear resolution. I´d simply like to have people from every background relating, and music, as you quite rightly said, does that. So here´s to hoping it happens ay? Someone once said that music can save the world. It´s not likely, but hey...it´s a nice thought...

Could you tell generally something about the character of the lyrics? Do they contain a message to the listeners? Do they add a meaning to the music itself? Or are they just a sound inside of it all, a tune of the voice with words, which the listener could understand, but not necessarily must?
I don´t talk about the subject matter in the lyrics as I do not wish to share it. However, should anyone actually be bothered to work out what I´m saying, then they are free to interpret it as they see fit. It is of no concern of mine as I know what I meant by the lyrics. Yet I kind of hope that someone can get something from them maybe, if they so wish? Find a way to relate them to something they can truly grasp. I think it´s my need for connection, to be able to relate. So basically I´m saying “Yes, this lyrics are personal to me, but if you get something from them...then maybe we can relate?” Yet I´m rather guarded about it all...a rather odd paradox don´t you think? We all have favourite songs that contain a lyric that you relate to and make your own in a way. So to have that would be nice but in answer to the main point of your question. It´s all open to interpretation my friends. Do with it what you will.

Enochian Theory plays music, which sounds to me very British in the way of the orchestral, rich, on long instrumental parts based complexity with time changes and tempo shifts, moods and epic expressions. What does it mean to you to be British? Is there a typical British sound for you, different from Scandinavian, American or German sounds?
Hmmm...It´s a difficult question because you can get style of music that originally comes from a specific country but it´s being played by people from somewhere else. It´s this wonderful cauldron of influences that makes music such a wonderful thing. Our own take on things is, I guess, a natural reflection who are as British people. We have this quaint whistful melancholy that seems to come from our island...it´s an odd thing, but I´ve noticed it more and more as I´ve got older. This seeps into our sound for sure, it´s who we are. Or perhaps serious music being made by unserious people?

You decided to manage the whole thing by yourself; you founded even your own record label to stay completely independent. Did you made negative experiences with labels before? Or do you just try to raise your music and your own knowledge to a level, where a bigger label will offer a really tasty deal to you?
It´s primarily about control for us. Having the ability to dictate what we do and when we do it, that´s vital for us at the moment. We´re learning our craft and developing within a very risky business, where there is often high costs for little gain, but as long as your are having fun, then it´s fine, right? It´s all fun and games when you are unable to pay your rent right because you´ve just spent your money on something for the band? Some people would call that stupidity...we call it having a passion! Haha…We want to build the label to that of something where we take on other artists, work with them to build their careers and hopefully see some reward for doing it. The band just happens to be the first project we are working on. Before we mess anyone elses career up, we want to ruin our own! If a bigger label wanted to offer something that we couldn´t do for ourselves, then we´d be open to the idea...but we´ll see what happens if and when that situation arises. Right now we are focused on getting this new record out as wide reaching as possible.

Are you satisfied with your album? Or would you like to change something? Something, what you would like to try in the forthcoming music? Ideas, which resulted out of the experiences you made?
We are very pleased with the record because it accurately reflects where we are as a band and as people. The record serves as a testament to believing in yourself and doing what you feel is right. There isn´t anything we´d change because it is what it is. With each record, we have ´progressed´ musically and sonically...and simply to continue this journey is all we can ask for.
It´s rather exciting to think what we will sound like in 2 or 3 records time and as long as we´re still enjoying it and are not a parody of ourselves...it´ll keep going. We want to simply ensure that the production keeps getting better, but does not lose that ´organic´ sound that we seem to expel.

And, just now and from the actual status quo: what do you think, where the musical journey of Enochian Theory should lead to? What’s the next step: a new album or to concentrate on live concerts?
For the foreseeable future of the band, it´s about promoting the new record in whatever way we can. We´re doing our own PR campaigns and trying to get as much coverage for the record as possible, it´s a lot of hard work for 3 guys but hell; it´s a giggle isn´t it? We are hoping to tour fairly extensively around Europe and UK towards the end of the year, so we hope we will be able to play some shows in places where we´ve been received well by press and music fans. As for a new recording...we´ll deal with that when we need to, but it´s the last thing on our list at the moment, but having said that, I am always writing and demoing ideas to ´pool´ for later use.

How about that: to relax in one of those snow-white stretched limousines after the show with champagne and vodka - on the way back to the 5 star hotel, where already a choice of ecstatic groupies wait at your service? Or what are your dreams?
AH GROUPIES! Nah, that´s not our thing. It quite repulses me in fact. We´ve always maintained that we´d simply like to make enough from our venture to live well and be able to go about our music in peace. That would be excellent, but who knows... Our dreams are simply to remain creative, healthy and have fun doing what we love doing...and that is doing our music.

Would you like to conclude with any final, in future famous words at the end?
If you can´t be good...Be careful! Always be true to yourself and those you love ...and always think carefully before making any major decisions. Oh...and it all doesn´t really matter anyway because we´re all gonna die and return to the worms... Final enough for you!?

Author: Andreas Torneberg, Photos: Enochian Theory
Date: 2009-08-09

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