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It almost sounded human

Interview with Mourning Beloveth.
Mourning Beloveth Irish doomsters Mourning Beloveth just re-released their demo-CD 'Dust' on Sentinel Records and have recently recorded their next effort, a full CD called 'The Sullen Sulcus'. When doom-metal.com member Heiko travelled to Ireland in the summer of 2002, Darren (vocals) and Adrian (bass) were immediately willing to answer a few questions, along with offering a sneak listening to the new album…

Before talking about the new album, I hope you don't mind that I ask you a few questions about the demo-CD first. It was released last year, and now recently re-released through a label. Why was it re-released?

Darren: "Well, there's a simple enough reason in that we printed out a thousand copies first. And they sold out. And we have no money to reprint another thousand copies so then Brian and Adrian from Sentinel records stepped in and helped us out. They said instead of just re-releasing the CD, why not put an extra track on it and a demo track? Basically, they just founded it together and chose to work together with Mourning Beloveth."

How did you get in contact with Sentinel Records?

Darren: "It was Adrian's idea (laughs)."

Yes, he works for the label, right?

Darren: "Yes, and fortunately we have known Brian for a while as well, so… But Adrian could pick up the story here."
Adrian: "I saw the potential, you know, in myself (laughs)."

So the first thousand copies disappeared quite rapidly?

Darren: "Well, 700 only really, because we sent out 300 promos between magazines, labels and radio stations, which is a lot of promos to send out. But we've been around for a long time now and we were still trying to push the name, so we've written to as many magazines as possible. So 700 went within the last year. That's not too bad."

How was the feedback?

Darren: "We didn't get that many bad reviews, or no bad reviews at all. All the reviews were good. We've got orders from countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Strange countries we didn't expect to get these from. And we got a good distribution as well in a few different countries."

Well then, I'll give you a quote of a friend of mine. He said about the Mourning Beloveth CD that it has very interesting ideas, but they are stretched too long.

Darren: "That's the point. Basically, from the demo days, we were in practice and were writing riffs and just keep playing them till we got sick of them. And then maybe when you listen back later, you just think "Oh, we played that too long or played this too long". But so be it."

So did you play many live shows?

Darren: "Coming up to the recording of the new album, we didn't play any for a year. We did a gig in England last year and then we played in England again this year. But in between those we haven't played any gigs. But before we released 'Dust', we did a couple of them. We played Cork, Dublin, the usual spots in Ireland. There are not many places in Ireland to play live. We played so often that no one was coming to the gigs anymore, because it's a small scene, so we played on rare occasions. But a lot more than in our early days, when we never played live because we didn't like it. But now it's more the opposite way, we absolutely love it. Now it's just a different form of rehearsing our songs."

How is the reaction of the crowd when you play live?

Darren: "At first when we played live, people didn't know how to take us at all. But now they just sit back and nod their heads, close their eyes and get into the whole atmosphere of the thing. Same as us. We're on stage and we're the same."

Have you got any special preparations in the room where you play, to set up the right atmosphere for the gig?

Darren: "Unfortunately not, we're just lazy fuckers (laughs). We had plans years ago bringing on stage a sort of actor for the lyrics, but money, stage sizes, small venues, etc…"
Adrian: "It depends on the kind of venue you play at. Sometimes you have no control over the light or whatever. You might not have prepared the right thing."
Darren: "The problem as well is that we just lately started playing near the top of the bill. We've always been a band at the start of the gig or whatever. It was only since last year that we're coming to the top and we're headlining some of these shows now. But if you're a support band, you can't really take over the stage, you know."

So we just listened to the new album, which will contain six tracks by the names of:

1. The Words that Crawled
2. It Almost Looked Human
3. The Insolent Caul
4. Narcissistic Funeral
5. My Sullen Sulcus
6. Anger's Steaming Arrows

Generally speaking I'd say that we hear a very familiar sound, but more full, more majestic. Did you do anything special to change the sound, in comparison with 'Dust'?

Adrian: "It was just a lot more work. Compared to the CD before, we had a lot more time. We spent a whole year of practicing and didn't do any gigs, so we could concentrate on each riff, one by one, and then each melody on top of that and every melody after that. By the time we got to the studio, we had 90% ready. It's always that little bit that just comes out of it in the studio, you just spit it out. We had everything ready for it and we knew that we were going to have more time in the studio this time, but we didn't have much more time really than the last time. And then you can work on a fuller sound and fill out the small gaps here and there."

How much time did you spend in the studio?

Darren: "We had 10 days."

A few small additions and new things I heard were the lower clean singing, the semi-acoustic guitar intro, and the distorted screams in the back during 'My Sullen Sulcus'.

Darren: "Actually, we had some semi-acoustic guitars on 'In Mourning my Days', but glad you noticed the screams."

That part reminds me of more experimental doom like Esoteric and Void of Silence.

Darren: "Excellent (smiles). That actual song is about a bad drug experience. I won't tell much more about this but that's why there's so many distorted shit in there and mixed up vocals and vocals overlapping. We're trying to bring chaos into our sound, you know, without bringing the guitars on. That was the idea."

So when writing the new songs during the last year, who were the main writers of the music?

Adrian: "All of us. Frank would be the main, then Brian, then myself. But everybody knows what we're on with. And if everybody's not happy, everybody's still arguing the whole lot until it's right. Because in the end, everybody agrees and that's the great part of it."

The line-up is the same as on 'Dust' and as on the second demo, so it seems to be pretty stable now?

Darren: "We know each other for years and years and years and we all hate each other, so… (laughs). We know each other so well that, if there's an argument, it's just forgotten about. In other bands, when there's such an argument, it carries on."
Adrian: "We're five different personalities but we all know each other well."

I read in a previous interview that you feel that if someone left the band, it would be very difficult to find a replacement and carry on.

Darren: "Brian left for a year after the recording of the second demo. We tried out different guitar players and none of them worked. We have a certain defined sound, and when a new guitarist came in, it didn't fit. So Brian left for a year and we couldn't replace him. And then he came back and everything was just right in the end."

The title of the new album is 'The Sullen Sulcus'. What does it mean?

Darren: "That's up to you to guess. If you look at the brain, there are indents and grooves. Sulcus is the kind of form of your brain. It's about emotions eating your brain out. Obviously they're all negative emotions, because of the 'sullen' sulcus."

Is there a sort of story behind the entire album?

Darren: "All the music was written by the other boys within a year. And they don't tell me what the riffs mean. I wrote all the lyrics in a period of two to three months. Most of them are based around one or two episodes in my life. It was just causing me a lot of pain and hatred. Actually all the songs were that. It's not a concept album, there's no real link between the songs, except the lyrics are based around the same thing."
Adrian: "Musically, all the riffs are just things we came up with. There are a few riffs on the new one, two actually, that we had when we've written 'Dust' and just kept them over and expanded them and then remembered a few more."

Darren, your favourite song of the new album is 'Narcisistic Funeral'?

Darren: "Yeah, it just to me has the heaviness and melodies of the first album but it also has some new influences brought into it, which are very strange and very off-time and on first listen, you can't get it. It's just the more and more times you listen to it, the better it gets. It just has everything and it has something new as well. Yours is 'My Sullen Sulcus', right?"

That's what grabbed my attention totally on first listen, but I'll need to spin the CD a few more times to really pick my fave. What is your favourite track on the new album, Adrian?

Adrian: "At the moment, it's 'It Almost Looked Human'. For me it has everything that we are about. It has the growling, the clear singing, starts and stops, heavy bits and slow bits. It's the same for me as with "All Hope is Pleading" on the "Dust" album. That's my favourite one on that album."
Darren: "Mine as well."
Adrian: "And as well because that was showing the direction we were going in. That was the last new song that we wrote before we went to the studio. And that carried on then. That was the frame of mind we were in in the writing stage as we carried on and started writing the new stuff. Because we knew we were going into a new direction so we concentrated on that and see what we came up with."

I actually have a hard time picking a preferred song of the first album too. All songs are equally strong, without really outstanding songs. Every track has its own highlights.

Adrian: "There's a few years between the songs on 'Dust'. So every song shows the age we were in then. If you have to write an album in one week, the songs are going to be very similar in style. But if there are years in between, you can hear the different versions."
Darren: "But we write songs in shorter times now. We have Adrian, the janitor of the band, who's pushing us. Cause if we're just there at the time and just play, he says: right, we're going into the studio at that time, so we have to complete the writing till then."

Yeah, he's the man from the label (winks)

Darren: "(laughs) I never thought of it like that actually."

On what label will the album be released?

(short silence)
Darren: "That's not sure yet. It's 99% sure, we're getting contracts in the post next week, but we can't tell anything yet. But in November it will be released by a label in Europe. That is sure. But nothing is signed yet."

How difficult is it for you to get signed, being a doom band?

Darren: "Very, very difficult, as you must know. We've been around since '92 or '94, depending on the vision of people, when it really started. We've had two demos, a debut CD that we released ourselves and just pushed as much as we could, sending promos around without a label. Mostly they're afraid of signing a doom band because doom bands don't sell. And that's what labels are for, to sell and make money."
Adrian: "A label now sees it like this. A band can sell a thousand CDs or a thousand demos, on their own, with their own work. That's a lot of work saved for a label, what they won't have to do. So the label will know that this one will sell at least a thousand, and then with a little promotion and money behind it, sell a couple more of thousands. So we saved the label a lot of work and we made it more beneficent for the label that sings us. And then it's better off for us as well."

So the new one will be widely available?

Adrian: "The deal we were talking about was Europe and America. And then maybe a license here and there. Australia and Japan anyway."
Darren: "It will be more available than it is now. And also, when people see a band signed by a label, they're going to be more inclined to buy it than with a self-released. There are so many bands out now that people are very, very choosy in what they buy. And everything helps. I mean, even the name of Mags, producing the album and the Academy Studios, where it was recorded, that helps as well. Now we didn't actually think about that when we went in, we just wanted that sound and Mags as the engineer of our sound. But it helps when people see familiar names."

What ways of promotion do you use? You talked about about 300 promo copies sent out for 'Dust'. What else do you do?

Adrian: "Just plenty of letters and thousands of flyers that have been sent out. We've got letters and orders for demos back from just odd countries, two years after you start spreading flyers. They got it from that and that person, they were passed on. It takes ages, but it's the best and only way in the underground. During the last years, the internet got big too."

How important is that? Adrian: "More important than anything. Because everybody has access to it. Everybody who has got something to do in the music business, who has a label or a band, has got an e-mail. You still got people who fancy to write letters because it's the only way they have. But there's always less of them. That's what it used to be, and now it's easier."
Darren: "The old underground is gone where people write letters every week and send flyers and all. With the internet now, in a matter of minutes you can find out about a band. I'll give you an example. Thorns of the Carrion from America, I got a demo from that band years ago. I thought it was great and that they disappeared. And I did a search for them and found a site and I learned that they recently released a new album. I was just amazed. In five minutes you have all the information you need from a band, instead of writing a letter and after two months getting a letter back."

So you have a webmaster too?

Darren: "Yeah, we got a guy doing a website for us."
Adrian: "It's actually one of the guitarists that we tried when Brian left. And now he's doing the website."
Darren: "He's doing the website for free in his spare time. We have no complaints or whatsoever. Everything we ask him to do, and in a matter of minutes, it's up on the web. We'd like to do it ourselves, but we can't. Not yet. Hopefully some day I will."

You are Irish, and there seems to be a metal scene with many bands. One thing that I hear back in almost every Irish metal band, no matter what the genre is, is a kind of intrinsic melancholy. Would you say that is typically Irish?

Darren: "When you listen to for instance and then to us, different bands, there's always an underlying feeling of darkness and melancholy. The Irish have a spirit of fight and you can feel that in almost any Irish metal release. And that melancholy I speak of, sure is in most doom bands and even in some black metal bands, there's a feeling of melancholy as well and that's very strange. It's not about to try and be miserable, it just comes out that way. From the very start, we never saw a vision of what is being a doom band. We just wrote songs and that's the way it came out. That's the same with most of the other Irish bands. They just write and that's the way it comes out."

You just started making doom back then. What are your musical influences? What are the other bands and genres you listen to?

Darren: "I listen to almost anything, except for power metal. I just can't understand power metal. This is beyond me. Singing about fairies…"
Adrian: "It's like there has to be a concept all the time in power metal.
(both laughing)
Darren: "I started off listening to trash, death, and then Anathema-'Serenades', My Dying Bride-'Turn Loose the Swans' and Paradise Lost-'Gothic' just hit me, and that was it. No turning back. And those three albums, that's my main appetite at the moment. Just dark, slow music. Just last week at Wacken I bought these two Saturnus CDs. It's a band I always wanted to hear and just didn't bother to pick up. Adrian: "I listen to a lot of metal and a lot of music in general. I just don't listen to the commercial crap. I have a very open mind about music. I listen to metal, blues, electronic (Darren: Frank Sinatra), anything that is good anyway and that is obscure especially. (Darren: Frank Sinatra is not obscure)"

Are there any members of Mourning Beloveth in other bands?

Darren: "I used to do vocals in a kind of black-death metal band, called Karnayna and when 'Dust' came out, that was one of the few reasons why I had to give it up because it was too much. I had no more time for that. Frank actually now does the vocals for that band. They changed style, sort of. A new member here and there, you know."
Adrian: "I was in band called Hemlock in the early nineties, a heavy metal/grind band, and that was one of the bands of Frank as well. We did about thirty or forty gigs over three years, then it broke up. Then the lads started Mourning Beloveth by then and I joined that a few years later. I played bass in a black metal band as well, called Kingdom. I just left them last year."

How much of your time does Mourning Beloveth take?

Adrian: "A lot! Every Sunday I practice with the lads anyway. Sometimes when I have time during the week, I write and try to have riffs ready for the practice of the full band, just to save time on Sunday. We're just trying to get everything together in the rehearsal and time is limited you know. Every band hasn't the same way of working, but that's how we do it."
Darren: "We use to spend 2 hours every night on the internet trying to promote and answer interviews. That's a lot of time, but that's just what you have to do."
Adrian: "Because we have the re-release now, we just have a lot more interviews. With the new release then again, it will probably start all over again."
Darren: "Because we do our own promotion, and with the re-release and the new album, and with the split 7" on Sentinel, the mails are just flying in to answer."

Apart from world "doomination", what are the other future plans of Mourning Beloveth?

Adrian: "We want to go on a tour early next year, maybe February. Trying to be two weeks in Europe anyway. Just to promote the new album."

Hint: Maybe with Morgion, when they are in Europe next year?

Darren: "That would be excellent. Before February, the re-release should be out. And then in two months time, we have a split 7", on Sentinel again, with an Irish band … . They have doom songs, black songs, everything, very strange band.
Adrian: "A banjo, saxophone…"
Darren: "The guy lives up in the mountains by himself… So a split 7" with them and around the same time with that, the label which we will sign to will hopefully release the new album. So a very busy time ahead. And then the tour next year, trying to promote the album."
Adrian: "We'd do a tour here in the area, and then get on a tour as someone else's support. And then later on again, because we have basically two releases to promote. And then Wacken (laughs)."
Darren: "Wacken as support of Candlemass, so we can see them (laughs)."
(Note: the Mourning Beloveth members were at Wacken and wanted to see Candlemass, but because of the swapping on the running order, Darren missed them. Something which he was very pissed about).

Make your choice… Whisky or beer?

Darren: "Beer"
Adrian: "Whisky!"
Darren: "Aaack! Whisky is dangerous. Very dangerous."

The doom of My Dying Bride or the groove of Novembers Doom?

Darren: "The doom of MDB"
Adrian: "The doom of MDB"

Sunny or rainy?

Darren: "Rainy."
Adrian: "Rainy, of course."

You live here quite well then…

D & A: (laughing) Yeah, it fits the mood for our music too.

CD or vinyl?

Darren: "Vinyl!"
Adrian: "Vinyl"
Darren: "Vinyl just has something extra. It has a sort of a cult following almost. It has a certain sound that you cannot have on a cd. A: You can nearly see the music on it, just when looking at it. It's a visual thing."

Will we see a Mourning Beloveth CD on vinyl some time?

Adrian: "The 7" to start with. And then we'll think about releasing 'Dust' on vinyl later on."

Good luck with the re-release of 'Dust', the release of the new album and the tour next year. Thank you for this interview and hopefully the "World Doomination" will happen soon!

D & A: "Thanks!"

Visit the Mourning Beloveth bandpage.

Interviewed on 2002-09-10 by Heiko.
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