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Started as a one-man project, ESTRANGEMENT has since then evolved into a real multi-member band; the basic concept holding the entire project is however still the expression of a one-man vision and ambition. JS is that man; he tells us more about the mysterious goals he's trying to achieve through music.

Interview with Estrangement.
Following on from the unusual and quirky demo 'Belong Beneath', JS of ESTRANGEMENT contacted us at Doom-metal.com. We took the opportunity to explore in some detail the philosophy, perspective and enthusiasm that lay behind such a singular release.

JS

(1) Hello JS, and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start by asking you to introduce yourself to our readers: who are you and where are you from?
I am a musician from Australia and the principal songwriter for ESTRANGEMENT, a band drawing from an array of influences but identifying primarily as Funeral Doom. Our demo, 'Belong Beneath', was released this year through Aurora Australis Records and is the only recording the band has put out so far.

(2) The trigger for this interview is the recent release of the ESTRANGEMENT demo, 'Belong Beneath'. Before we talk in detail about that, I understand this is your first venture in the Doom genre. Broadly, what do you see as the key elements of Doom, and what drew you towards them?
Actually, that's not entirely correct. I've played in several Australian bands over the years, one of which began when I was a teenager and featured a generous amount of Doom. Regrettably, nothing became of that particular band, but its history remains a constant source of inspiration.
The key element of Doom for me would certainly be the dirge-like hypnosis that comes over you when a band gets their sound just right. Itís a slow, lumbering force, constantly approaching, trying to dig something out of you that has been buried deep below the surface. The dream enemy that never arrives but whose presence is magnified through its absence.
I was first drawn to Doom when I was around thirteen or fourteen years old. I guess through my naivety I felt that Doom offered a more sincere form of expression when compared to other genres of music. Being of such an impressionable and awkward age, I felt naturally compelled towards themes of lust, misery, uncertainty and despondency; phenomena adolescents (believe they) experience in abundance. The music began to house the array of new feelings that were introduced to me at that stage in my life and formed the foundation of who I would become. You could say Doom Metal had a revolutionising force on my being. Years later, I would undergo a similar revolution upon discovering philosophy.

(3) Do you feel there are other genres where these particular aesthetics could also hold true, or could be successfully included? Or is it the case that ESTRANGEMENT could only have started from a Doom-based identity?
I honestly believe that all genres of music are equally capable of conveying any mood, feeling, atmosphere or message. The limits are only the composer's capacity to create and the listener's ability to appreciate.
I share a history with Doom that spans nearly 2 decades and it is important to me that ESTRANGEMENT reflect that. Doom introduced to me a new way of experiencing music and after years of playing in death and black metal bands, where the focus is on furious, unrelenting energy, I now feel it is time to try and pass on what Doom gave to me all those years ago.

(4) Doom-metal's Bertrand reviewed 'Belong Beneath' in a generally positive light (here). Do you consider that a fair assessment? Are there comments you would take issue with, or wish elaborated on?
I enjoy reading informed reviews, especially those that display insight and passion. I was most pleased with Bertrandís comments and have already thanked him profusely for taking the time to listen to and review 'Belong Beneath'.

(5) Although it's under the band name, the demo is actually a solo project. I'm aware you put a great deal of work into it: would you like to describe the background to, and process of, making the release? And is it correct that all of the instruments are played rather than programmed?
Sure. I played all of the instruments (8 and 6 string electric guitars, nylon string classical guitar, steel string acoustic guitar, cello, keyboards, piano, drums, vocals and bass) and engineered the recording myself in a small studio that I was building in my home at the time. I had no prior experience in home recording and was completely overwhelmed by the newly-purchased, strange-looking equipment that filled the spare room. The process was very much trial and error with hours of frustration at a time some days. I also injured my back quite badly during the process.
I began learning the cello specifically for 'Belong Beneath' and had been playing for approximately 6 months at the time of recording. I became obsessed with the idea of capturing the innocence that accompanies a burgeoning passion on tape. Typically when people think of the cello they visualise something that is very powerful, beautiful and flawless. I really wanted to invert this conception and evoke an aura from the instrument that was tentative or fragile, even fearful. I decided being a total novice at the instrument would be a good way to capture these emotions. Interestingly, the more confident I become with my playing, the less capable I will be of generating that particular atmosphere.
There is no programming of any kind on the recording.

(6) Moving forward, however, ESTRANGEMENT has already acquired new band members. Was it partly the purpose of the demo to get other musicians interested in the project? How well has it worked, in that sense?
Yes, definitely. When I first started recording I had no idea how the end product would end up sounding. I wasnít even sure if it would be fit for release. I had recently gone from playing in three different bands to none and I had so much music frothing inside me that I honestly felt I would collapse if I waited one more day to get it out. There was simply no time to consult others. 'Belong Beneath' is a product of absolute spiritual necessity.
Once the demo was completed, the first thing I did was approach a few musicians who I thought may be interested in becoming involved. The music was well received by those I shared it with and so I decided that an official release was appropriate. I am absolutely honoured and overwhelmed by the attention 'Belong Beneath' has attracted from both musicians and fans so far.

(7) What do you see as being the advantages and disadvantages of having a band, rather than an individual, to manage? Is it likely to extend into a collective for compositional purposes, or for performance of material you would principally or exclusively write?
The definite advantage to working by yourself is that you know it will get done. There are no scheduling conflicts or egos to bruise and there is no uncertainty as to who will react well in the recording environment or who wonít. The downside is that you are completely by yourself without anyone to bounce ideas off, talk to, or to even hit the record button when youíre sitting at the drum kit on the opposite side of the room.
The writing process will certainly evolve. The new members play instruments that I do not, so they are already bringing to the creative process approaches and methods that are alien to me. I will probably still write the bulk of the material, because I write music constantly, but it is not my plan to behave as a dictator or to hog creative control.

(8) The artwork for 'Belong Beneath', Ilya Repin's 'Sadko in the Underwater Kingdom' (inspired by the medieval Russian epic) has a strong sense of mystical otherworldliness about it. How does the painting capture or inspire the atmosphere you want to create?
Beautifully! When I first saw the painting I was entranced. Your choice of words is perfect, too - the mystical otherworldliness is what I find so compelling about the piece and itís that sense of otherworldliness that Iím trying to capture with ESTRANGEMENT. Despite the atmosphere of the music, however, the lyrical themes of the band have nothing to do with fantasy or supernaturalism.

Cover


(9) And does the underlying story of Sadko influence your music to a similar degree, either in the original narrative, or in its operatic treatment by Rimsky-Korsakov?
Both "estrangement" and "belong beneath" are words/concepts that come to my mind when viewing the artwork and contemplating the myth of Sadko. While the band was named prior to learning of the Sadko myth, I named the demo after deciding on Repin's painting as the cover art. The unusual beauty of the story certainly inspires me personally, very much so, but I wouldnít say it inspires the music of ESTRANGEMENT directly, despite the similarities in atmosphere.
I was entirely unfamiliar with Rimsky-Korsakovís opera at the time of recording the demo and only learned of its existence through the cover art. Discovering such a masterpiece in this way was an absolute delight.

(10) If not operatic, there are certainly classical touches brought to 'Belong Beneath' - not simply through the presence of strings - along with a good deal of restlessness and thematic change. How do you set about uniting these influences, and the core Doom elements, into a coherent structure? And is it the intention that the whole demo should be viewed as one piece, separated into movements?
One of my intentions with ESTRANGEMENT is to directly challenge traditional conceptions of music. When structuring the songs for 'Belong Beneath', I tried to focus on jolting, forceful changes and deliberately avoided any intuitive progressions. Through the consistent abruptness of the musical direction, it is hoped a sense of confusion will be generated - like flinching into bewildered consciousness after a dream of impact.
Iíd like the listener to view 'Belong Beneath' in any way they see fit. I really donít think of myself as owning the songs and I donít see it as my responsibility to ensure they are interpreted in any specific way. While the demo is to be viewed as a whole, how that whole is to be divided is a matter for the listener.

(11) There is a certain and deliberate wilfulness about the dramatic contrasts involved, variously hinted at inducing bewilderment and the sense of losing time in the listener. How important is that sense of dislocation and wonder to understanding your work?
Itís one of the key themes for the band, really, so Iíd say itís fundamental to understanding the ethos of ESTRANGEMENT. Itís also something that will inevitably prevent many people from enjoying our music. But I can live with that.
People are consumed with associating music with something that is easy or comfortable Ė ďthe music flows nicelyĒ - you hear it all the time, irrespective of the genre. It's as though they desire to recognise in music what they want their mental lives to be - something reliable, organised, predictable; a logically flowing phenomenon. Even those who listen to the most gruesome and pornographic sub-genres of heavy metal, and seek messages from music that are confronting or threatening in nature, often look out for new bands solely for the purpose of reinforcing their preconception of what constitutes (good) music. While claiming they are people of a non-conformist nature, they insist that music conform to their inherited understanding of its parameters. I have tried to disconnect myself from this way of thinking and this disconnection or ďdislocationĒ, as you put it, is essential to the otherness of ESTRANGEMENT.

(12) The ideas of empowerment, spirituality and positivity are quite atypical of much of the Doom canon, which often focuses on the negative - even where strengths are invoked, they are often bitter and resentful. Is that contradiction between choice of musical vehicle and underlying philosophy a part of the message? Should it be taken as a challenge to preconceptions, a form of Absurdist-like acceptance of paradox, or some other reconciliation of the conflicting ideas?
The schizophrenic tension between vehicle and underlying philosophy, and the aporia that arises from having such an unstable musical foundation, is definitely part of the message. ESTRANGEMENT is a product of who I am and what I believe personally. Iím in my early 30ís, an active man with responsibilities, beliefs, fears, strengths, weaknesses, flaws, etc. I have absolutely no interest in writing songs about depression, unrequited love, eternal misery or anything like that. Such a typical focus is simply not relevant to me. It is crucial that my music is honest and real, concerned with actual issues that matter in my life. It would be completely against my principles to present ESTRANGEMENT in any other way.
ESTRANGEMENT is for people who have become obsessed with finding a sense of spirituality or at home-ness outside of the drudgery and emptiness of everyday life. It is for those who stare, transfixed, into the abyss of meaninglessness and feel a sense of empowerment prevail over their fears and uncertainties. ESTRANGEMENT is the clangour generated by an array of contradictory and incompatible spheres colliding with each other without resolution or order. It is the victory of (un)known chaos over the desire to formulate and synthesise.

(13) Would you say, taken as a whole, that ESTRANGEMENT's ideas therefore offer something largely unexplored? Are there any other bands you consider as inspiration, or of similar inclination?
Whether or not we truly offer something unexplored, I canít really say. I wouldn't even know how to substantiate a claim like that. I will say that we are certainly not writing music/lyrics to underline the most potent points already articulated in heavy metal's history Ė we are here to introduce to those who may be receptive, a different way of looking at and thinking about knowledge, art and the world.
I am greatly inspired by the unthinking of other bands. When drawing from my influences, my aim is often to expose what they have neglected to develop in their music rather than imitate their most fertile compositions. Doing this means ESTRANGEMENT is still largely built around its influences, but negatively. Working in this manner has created a new way of listening to music for me, and has allowed me to go back to albums I have become all too familiar with and find something new each time I put them on.
There are many, many bands/artists I would consider as inspiration, but having never met any of them, I wouldnít know how to determine whether or not they would be of a similar inclination.

(14) What other forms of inspiration do you find - do they come from artistic, spiritual, physical or intellectual sources and contexts?
In my home I have dozens of manila folders stuffed with articles and scribbles and photocopies of things I have gleaned from books, papers, the internet, magazines, etc. Inspiration can just explode into my mind at any stage and when it does I usually try to retain a physical representation of it. I read a lot about art, music, philosophy and politics, but I am drawn to any ideas that resonate with me, irrespective of the form they occupy.

(15) Moving forward, presumably these core philosophies will continue to inform ESTRANGEMENT's musical direction? Have you any plans or ideas for exploring this in place yet, or any material written?
We are hoping to release a split lp as soon as possible and once that's out we will begin plotting the course for the debut album. The album is going to be an enormous project which is why we've decided to get one more release out there before embarking on it.

(16) Do you think the spiritual nature of the band would translate well into live performances, where you can connect directly with an audience? If so, given the practical difficulties involved with touring, is that something you would consider doing?
Yes, I would love for ESTRANGEMENT to play live and itís something we plan to look into a little further down the track. For the time being however, our focus is the completion of our next release.

(17) Part of the point of this interview was to reveal the ethos of ESTRANGEMENT, without drawing the veil too far aside and rendering it altogether prosaic. As a final question, how do you see that sense of both mystery and understanding enhancing the listener's experience? Is it akin to enjoying a magic show without knowing how the tricks are performed, or more of a simple dissociation from any personality or outside concern beyond the music itself?
Each listener will hear the music in their own way. They will bring to the listening experience who they are, where they've been, etc. and they alone will dwell in their understanding of the music. In many respects the actual messages I attempt to communicate through ESTRANGEMENT are irrelevant. But when you saturate your music with information you effectively take away the amount of room in which the listener can move when formulating their relationship with it. Conversely, by limiting the amount of information that accompanies a release, you encourage the listener to contribute more of themselves to the listening process. I want people to be as involved in the music as possible when they listen to ESTRANGEMENT.

(18) On that note, is there anything else that you would like to add?
I welcome anyone reading this to get in touch should they wish to know more about ESTRANGEMENT, what we believe and what we stand for. Please visit Bandcamp or write to us at estrangementdoom@gmail.com for more information.

(19) It only remains, then, for me to thank you again for your time and the opportunity to talk with you, and to wish you success with the band. It's been a great pleasure, and I certainly hope to hear more from ESTRANGEMENT in the near future.
Thank you so much for such an in-depth and thoughtful interview.


Visit the Estrangement bandpage.

Interviewed on 2013-09-30 by Mike Liassides.
Rotten Copper
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