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To mark the publication of Aleks Evdokimov's comprehensive 'Doom Metal Lexicanum', we asked him to tell us a bit more about this unique project...

Interview with Aleksey Evdokimov (Author).
"Well, here's a strange thing - our often-featured interviewer Aleksey Evdokimov on the wrong end of the questions, for once! With good reason, though: after two years of hard work, his encyclopaedic Trad-based 'Doom Metal Lexicanum' - drawing on more than a decade of Doom reviews and interviews - is now available from Cult Never Dies. Aside from Garry Sharpe-Young's now outdated 2003 'Rockdetector: A To Z Of Doom, Goth & Stoner Metal', this may well be the only Doom volume in print anywhere in the world. Having been involved with it since the beginning myself, it seemed entirely natural to mark this noteworthy achievement by asking Aleks to give us the back-story in his own words ..."

In the hot seat today: Comrade Aleks (official 'Lexicanum' author's portrait).

(1) Hails, Aleks! How are things over in St Petersburg?

Hi Mike! Thanks for the time you found to ask me these questions, much appreciated. As for the weather, it's grey and dark here, the lack of snow and cold makes December in Saint Petersburg almost unbearable. It makes me want to turn on some doom death with violins.

(2) You've been contributing to all sorts of Doom, Rock and Metal media - including this site - for a long time now, so most of the people likely to read this will probably know your name already. But maybe we should have a formal introduction anyway, just in case?

Russian. Was born in 1983, started to listen metal in general during my school years… I don't know... And I'm not a journalist, I'm an electrical engineer.

(3) We're here to talk about the imminent unveiling of the Doom Metal Lexicanum, and what makes it a rather special form of musical encyclopaedia, but first let's put it in a bit of context. When did you discover Rock, Metal and particularly Doom? Which bands first got you into those genres?

So it was started in school - standard set of bands like Iron Maiden, King Diamond, Metallica and so on. In late '90s I learnt more about death doom scene in its early forms: Paradise Lost, first records of Tiamat, Cemetery Of Scream, Substance For God, Saturnus and Celestial Season. I loved this depressive sort of music. And I slowly started turning to more traditional forms of doom after Reverend Bizarre, though I'd learnt about Cathedral much earlier. Oh, I almost forgot about Jack Frost - "Gloom Rock Asylum" is awesome.

(4) I've never actually asked - but do you play any instruments yourself? Ever been in a band?

Nope, only tried to sing in the band of my school mate, but after a few rehearsals it was over. Actually we did collaborate more successfully when we were going to drink…

(5) So when did you decide you wanted to begin writing about music, and how did you get started?

I started to write regularly for different e-zines (Russian at first) since 2006 or so, since 2010 I switched to "English" sites starting with doommantia.com and continuing nowadays with doom-metal.com, nocleansinging.com and outlawsofthesun blog.

Back then I read all metal magazines I could find here, and there were about 4 medias which kept the spirit of underground metal really well; it was the end of the '90s - the few first years of the '00s. Then some magazines were closed, another one turned to mainstream music, and it was difficult to find information about the bands I like. My first interview happened in 2004, it was The Equinox Ov The Gods. I'm grateful to metallibrary.ru who accepted all the stuff I sent them for years.

'Doom Metal Lexicanum' - back cover (click to expand).

(6) You started submitting interviews to doom-metal.com in 2014, just before I took on the editorship. How did you get involved with us, and who else have you worked with over the years?

I left doommantia.com for some reasons, then switched to templeofperdition, it stopped functioning in… 2013? And after a few months long break or so I joined doom-metal.com. It was a natural choice, I love this kind of music, and doom-metal.com is something that was here for years. Probably one of the first doom-focused media, right?

(7) Has it generally been fun? What are the most important things you've learned or been taught about reviewing and interviewing?

Not too often. I constantly listened to doom with rare breaks to switch my brains, and it's not fun.

As for learning from interviews… Probably I've learnt that it doesn't matter how sophisticated your questions are: if a band has something to say, they say it, and if their message is empty or they rather rely on copying someone's sound then even most clever questions won't work. I know for sure that such gents as Sami Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre, Opium Warlords), Greg Chandler (Esoteric), Kostas Panagiotou (Pantheist), Regen Graves (Abysmal Grief) or Simon (Arkham Witch) always provide some food for thought. This list is much longer of course, but I already mentioned some of its bands in other interviews, I don't want to make people think that Barabbas and Eternal Elysium pay me for promotion…

(8) So, towards the end of 2015, you'd already built up quite a body of work - and that led you to start thinking about the Lexicanum. What really started that off, and when did it go from being an idea to an actual project?

My friend brought me Bible of the Devil, self-released rock encyclopedia of Italian enthusiast Alberto Bia, I just knew that I should do it. Actually we even tried to start it with Alberto himself, but different methods of work and language barriers prevented this collaboration. He was ready to publish it DIY and I was sure that it's damn easy to find a publisher for such a brilliant tome… I had no doubts. You know, it's like vinyl editions, old good physical format for old school thinking metalheads. It just should work.

(9) And when were you finally certain you really could deliver your side of the book? I don't mean the publication itself, but when did you know you could get it all completely written to your satisfaction?

I wouldn't like to talk about satisfaction… Even now I would like to add there few more bands, to update few more articles and so on. The book is already out, but it's difficult for me.

Certainty appeared when I found the first editor for my texts (for readers - it was Mike) and then Tana Haugo Kawahara joined. I didn't doubt that I can fulfill my part, it was obvious thing for me, but I needed someone who watches my back.

'Doom Metal Lexicanum' - sample pages 1 (click to expand).

(10) I suppose I should declare an interest here, having been on the 'editorial team' since 2015, so some of these are slightly leading questions! But the Lexicanum is based around firsthand communication with all of the bands, not just information taken from the internet. How much work did you have to put into getting that, and how hard was it to do?

It was a time-consuming task. I did want to have interviews with every band included in the book. I had interviews for one half of the bands included in the book and I was going to interview the second half… But it wasn't just constant success as I did face a few problems. I guess that some of my letters did get in spam box and missed there unnoticed, so I didn't reach these few bands. Another few bands promised to answer my questions, and didn't answer, maybe they have some motivation - I don't know. On final stages of the project I just asked a few bands only a few core questions as I had no time for proper interviews or they didn't have new albums at the moment. Some interviews were done long ago, so I translated them back from Russian.

Also nowadays big bands have managers and labels behind them. In a few cases I tried to organize Skype interviews with some big artists and it didn't happen even when managers promised to help with that. In some situations… I don't know… For example I easily did interview one famous guitarist from one famous US band about six years ago when he had his new band's debut album. Now he's always playing gigs with his former big band, and he didn't reply to my letters. I guess that he doesn't reply to a lot of letters. In another case the label helped me to organize interview with the ex-member of the same big band.

Some musicians - as I know - could easily answer when you catch them at a gig but have problems with answering emails. I didn't have time to chase them at festivals. So there are a number of variants of how it doesn't work, and I wouldn't like to tell names. But for example it was really easy to get in contact with Geof O'Keefe of Bedemon (pre-Pentagram), Ron Holzner of Trouble, Mark Greening (ex-Electric Wizard) and many more. There are many amazing persons I met writing the book.

(11) And what were the best and the worst things about working that way?

When you have answers of one or - in a few cases - even a few band's members, it's easy to build an objective description, so interviews were a crucial point. And the worst thing was to send dozens of emails to any ex-member of some band or to search them in Facebook and in the end it was wasting of time. Really, I spent a lot of time to get in contact with musicians through internet, and it didn't work. I couldn't spend more time on trying to reach them.

(12) What drove the selection of bands to be included - or excluded?

Pf… Originally I had a long list, 550 - 600 names, so I just started with the bands I know better. And it turned out to be a problem, 'cause actually these first articles (for some of my favourite bands) were shorter and I rewrote some of them later but not everything did get in the book. That saddens me indeed…

Walking through the list I got rid of a few names who didn't fit the book's concept as these bands weren't fitting music-wise. I did exclude a few bands because I just didn't get answers from them, and that means that I couldn't offer readers anything exclusive or just objective. But saying this I must admit that in the same time I left in the book few bands who didn't answer me but were included in the first stages - the texts were done, I didn't want to remove them.

But there are a few controversial names still. One traditional doom band with harsh vocals, two bands which started with more extreme doom metal music but then switched to more traditional sound, some bands which have prevailing elements of proto doom, probably they're too close to its rock-side. And I didn't include Paul Chain in the book. For me he's too big a name which deserves his own book, and besides that he doesn't do interviews nowadays - these two factors stopped me.

(13) How did you manage your time, and keep track of everything that was going on - the writing, sending things out for proofing and editing, collecting up all the pictures...?

Hah, thanks for the question. I just type the texts and each time when I reached 10 pages I send it to one of my two contributors. As Mike was editing one file, I already work over another one for Tana. The work was constant, it didn't even need to be organized. Because it was really easy to work with both of you.

The gathering of photos was a hard thing. When I started to ask bands to send me photos, it was a time when Cult Never Dies planned to publish Lexicanum in A5, so we didn't discuss photos' quality. But when it became obvious that we wouldn't fit all these 360 bands in A5 and Cult had to release the book in A4, then I started to ask bands again for photos in high resolution, and it turned out to be a natural disaster. Some bands just don't have good photos, some bands sent me photos taken on phones from the crowd at their gig, some bands had photos in good quality but occasionally sent me bad pics, some bands didn't answer and I asked labels who did help or didn't… A few bands had photos made by big photographers, that was a problem too. But in the end I had a good collection of photos, with a minimum of credits or low quality. We had to change some of them for artwork instead and it was sometimes the same problem. For example we needed the artwork of Dreaming's album "II". The band is active despite everything, but they answer always very slowly, they just rarely check the mailbox. I wrote to the label owner who released the album, but he was on vacations in another continent and couldn't help. So I just posted my cry for help in my Facebook timeline and a mate from one South American band scanned and sent me the artwork in few hours!

(14) And what about finding a publisher to take on the finished article? How difficult was that? And how important was it to find the right one in the end?

There were two labels with which we discussed this question in the period December 2016 - January 2017. Actually I was so intoxicated with the whole process, I was thinking that it's an easier task. But labels were really bad variants, now I understand that I only could waste time and money in both variants. Publishing houses who're focused on metal (I had only two in my mind) were busy with their own projects, but I worked through the most of it with one proper rock-related publishing house. They were glad to release the book, but the problem was that they wanted from me to find distributors for 200 copies minimum. They didn't know the metal market, so they wanted me to find customers for 200 copies without naming the price. Should I tell you that it didn't work?

My good comrade of one UK-based band advised me of Cult Never Dies. We exchanged few letters with Dayal Patterson, the head of Cult, and as we're both fanatics, it was really easy. He did final proofs of the text after you and Tana, and here we lost about 15% of original size of the book… Actually his changes were reasonable, so we almost didn't argue about it. He understood my vision of the book, he had accepted it and he improved the final result. Cult Never Dies wasn't just the best choice… I say it without any flattery - Dayal helped to turn Lexicanum from underground DIY project into something much bigger.

'Doom Metal Lexicanum' - sample pages 2 (click to expand).

(15) So, the Lexicanum will be seeing the light of day very shortly. Who do you think should actually buy it - do you think there is a particular target audience? And how would you sum up its purpose?

Lexicanum left the printing house yesterday, but as the pre-orders period was finished few days ago I can say that a lot of bands bought the book. The bands were my main target, but - again - without Cult Never Dies it couldn't be the same, because a lot of Cult's regular customers were interested in it too. Relying on the bands wasn't a mistake, but as I understand some bands just do not care about books, for some shipping is very expensive. But well… as far as I know there's Atlantic Ocean between UK and States, the book is massive and heavy (it's about doom metal, right?) so it couldn't be different. I'm very thankful for those who ordered Lexicanum. I know that despite everything a few people from USA, Canada and South America ordered it - much appreciated.

The target audience are people who love this music, love vinyls or tapes, who do it in an old school way. I think that there're people who still value the paper over internet publications. It's for them. But first of all it's my homage for the bands I respect.

(16) It's certainly been an interesting project - one that reached out to all sorts of people worldwide, and, of course, closer to home. A shame we can't finish it by all getting together for a launch party, but how do you feel about that side of things: the teamwork, the community, the family support?

First of all, it was great to work with you and Tana. I knew that I could rely on both of you, and I'm very thankful for your honest, qualitative and fast work. The collaboration with Dayal was cool, especially the last hardcore stages of our work over proofing layout. It reminds me the way we work on my regular job when the deadline is in hand, so I knew how to keep focused on the main task.

Some bands ignored my emails, it was a bit disappointing but the majority of the bands were damn enthusiastic and it did support me a lot, I hope that they'll like the book.

Of my entire family only my wife and my brother knew about this "tiny harmless hobby". I told that my wife could kill me, and she's right, but I'm thankful for her immense patience though she lost it from time to time when I was lost for her in all of this.

And yes, for sure we all deserve a few good drinks!

(17) Fair to say that, having edited a load of your interviews as well as the Lexicanum, you're often very interested in the artwork that people use or produce and the concepts behind bands and albums. Are those key parts of the music you enjoy most?

I try not to abuse these artwork-related questions because for me it's something like filler. But there are artworks which really make me ask the questions about their origins. I always see the musical album as a complex piece of art built of music, lyrics and artwork. If some part is weak in this combination, I just can't understand why a band neglects it. It's impossible! So if I ask question about the artwork, that means I'm really interested.

The concept and lyrics related questions are important for me. I want to understand the band, I want to really know what do they put in their message if they have any. I don't know… these ideas were absorbed in school years. Yes, sometimes I don't care that vocalist growls or sings, usually it happens in a cases when the song just works. But I don't want to sing along things which I find unacceptable from my personal point of view. For example… Oh, dash it!

I like non-trivial stories behind some albums of Altar Of Oblivion, Count Raven, Eternal Elysium, Hangman's Chair, Kings Destroy or Taak. I love how bands like Caronte, Ethereal Riffian, Reino Ermitano and Seremonia deal with "occult" topics. I love to discover new horror movies, so thanks to Arcana 13 and Bretus. I like strong images which were used by Reverend Bizarre and… well, Lord Vicar comes into my mind too. It's cool to meet those rare bands who sing into their mother tongue like Barabbas, El Hijo De La Aurora, L'Impero Delle Ombre, Ningen-Isu, Stangala, The Black, Taak or, well, Arkham Witch!

Saying that I must admit that old good clichés work well in the arms of those who know how to deal with them. Check out Mountain Of Judgement "The Witch".

(18) And what else makes an album really stand out for you? Has that changed over the years?

For years I've preferred the albums with music which resonates with my mood, and lyrics which do the same or just make me think. Artworks are important too, we virtually fought with Dayal editing the layout when I didn't like some artworks he put there because the bands have nothing in a better quality.

The artwork always strikes first! Take a look at Lexicanum. David Thierree did amazing work! It draws your attention for sure. We had a simpler cover done by Moscow artist Mila Kiselev (thank you Mila!), but David reflected all ideas I told him much more precisely, and it's obvious - he's professional! He began contributing visually to the underground metal scene in the early '90s and created early artwork for such legends as Gorgoroth, Strid and Behemoth. In the intervening two decades he has evolved to become one of the finest folk/fantasy artists alive while also returning to the extreme metal scene to create cover art for a large number of contemporary artists, as well as veterans such as Mortiis and, of course, Behemoth. The 2017 book 'Owls, Trolls & Dead King's Skulls' collects his impressive portfolio of work from the last 25 years and demonstrates just how much detail and life he can breathe into nature and the northern European folk archetypes he draws inspiration from. This art-book was released by Cult Never Dies a few months before Lexicanum, so you may want to check it out as well.

'Doom Metal Lexicanum' - front cover (click to expand).

(19) Just as an aside, how do you think the Russian Doom scene is doing now? And how does it compare to when you first started taking an interest in the genre?

Honestly, I don't know. Some of Russian bands I put in the book are good but disbanded, two of them play sludge now. For years there were only Scald, proto-doom band Novyi Zavet (New Testament) and a big death doom scene. The situation has changed, but for some reasons I haven't watch the scene for awhile. If I tell you that only very few Russian doom fans were interested in buying this book, that illustrates the situation pretty clearly.

So there're good death doom bands in Russia, and you know their names. As for stoner doom or traditional doom scene, I can't tell you more than I already told in Lexicanum. Maybe a few cool bands appeared while I wrote it, but I don't know.

(20) So, what's next? In general, and in the world of underground journalism?

After finishing Lexicanum I supposed to return to my amateur sport and yoga trainings, to win the award "best father 2018", to sleep more, to read more… But in the end I can't rid of the feeling that I need to do the second part related to the extreme doom scene. I have a plan, I know how to make it faster and more effective, but there are a few uncertain factors for which I should find solution first. The main problem is time management, but I have an idea… I guess that I'll be able to tell it clearer in month or two.

(21) Hopefully, that's managed to explain the Lexicanum in some detail! If there's anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours...

Lexicanum is honest work. It's as big as paper format allowed us to make it. Support the bands. Don't pray to Satan at home. Eat vegetables.

(-) Thanks again, Aleks! It's been a real pleasure, my friend!

Thank you Mike! Yes, indeed it was an interesting story. I believe that we did everything right!

Editor's Note: To purchase a copy of the 'Doom Metal Lexicanum', visit the Cult Never Dies Webstore.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Aleksey Evdokimov (Author) bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-12-09 by Mike Liassides.
Rotten Copper
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