Interview with Drummer/Lyricist Rhett Davis
Interview conducted by Sargon the Terrible
Date online: June 3, 2004
Morgion have been a byword for Doom now for a long time, even if they had all but dropped off the radar after their lauded "Solinari" album. Now the masters have finally reappeared on the scene with a powerful, epic masterpiece of Doom Metal that both builds on their previous releases, and breaks new ground. "Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth" was recently released on Dark Symphonies, and carries the band to new heights. I was glad to catch up with Drummer/Lyricist Rhett Davis to get some info on how the band came through their five-year hiatus and released a monster album.
Sargon: It was quite a long haul to get this album out; can you tell us what obstacles kept Morgion quiet for so long?
Rhett: Some may argue that we are the factor to our own obstacles, what can happen does happen to us time and again. Not that I'm making excuses but between our summer tour plans and Schneebe's (Matthias Schneeberger) touring and recording schedule. Our album just kept getting pushed back, until December then it was a fulltime job until completion. I think If we didn't plan any tours in the summer and kept working on the album it probably would have been done by October at the latest, but hindsight is 20-20 right? As far as our 5-year absence, what can I say? After the 99' Contamination Tour we had our fill of each other. I made my departure and then returned a year and a half later. The band continued but couldn't find a suitable replacement for me so Gary invited me back to the fold. Once I returned Dwayne decided to quit for a spell then returned 4 months later, again brought back to the fold by Gary. Once we began writing songs we discovered that all of the indifference and strain from the past was alive and well in Jeremy Peto (Bass/Vocals). We also discovered that he couldn't play the songs and he had no interest in doing vocals. After many discussions we decided to fire Jeremy.
Sargon: How much time did you take to write the album? Did you find that the enforced hiatus forced you to concentrate on songwriting?
Rhett: From writing and rehearsing the songs it took a total of 8 months to write and ready for a live forum, most of 2002' was when it was written. The hiatus did play a factor but adding Justin Christian (Bass) helped mold the songs and his input was refreshing. We also had the help of Adrian Leroux (Vocals/Mindrot) to form the vocal harmonies and patterns for each song. His help was a bonus also!
Sargon: How did the deal with Dark Symphonies come about?
Rhett: When we returned from Europe we took the 2002' demo we recorded with Schneebe and finished it adding Gary and Dwayne on vocals after Adrian's departure. After which we sent it out to labels and Dark Symphonies got a hold of us and it snow balled from there. Actually so far this has been the easiest time we've had with a label (not that Relapse were a pain in the ass.) but so far we have been on a one on one basis without feeling like another band (or multitude of bands) have a higher priority.
Sargon: What kind of tour plans do you have for this album? Will there be another Doomination tour?
Rhett: We haven't made any tour plans at this time, we are playing the Northern Lights Fest in Toronto June 26th. We hope to keep all avenues open for touring ideas but at the moment we are reviewing all possibilities. The Prophecy has opened a Doomination of Europe II with The Eternal this September. So with or without Morgion the Doomination Tour moniker will probably out live us all! We wish them both a successful tour!
Sargon: How did the concept for "Cloaked By Ages…" come about? Its more still life than story, was that the idea from the beginning or did it evolve?
Rhett: During the early stages of "Solinari" I began an idea for a concept record, but after the long writing process and settling my ideas for one reason or another, it never came to be. Once we began discussing album ideas for this record I came up with the idea of writing a Conan like Epic. I had the majority of the concept and lyrics before the music was written. Gary wanted to have words to write music too and thus "Cloaked By Ages, Crowned in Earth" was born. To make the whole concept mysterious we only printed what I call the "Narration" within the album sleeve. The rest of the lyrics can be found on the www.morgion.com web page.
Sargon: This album is more melodic than heavy; do you see that as a natural progression? Was there a deliberate effort to write a moodier album?
Rhett: The album just came out that way. We didn't have any real plan for the music other than a guitar & vocal oriented record. I think the only notion we had in mind was not to write "Solinari #2". I would argue that this record is a natural progression but I think we write what we feel. "Solinari" was considered mellow or aloof when we wrote it, I find it funny how people speak of the heavy element of "Solinari" so reverently but it wasn't considered so during its release. For those who question our heaviness on record maybe you should catch us live, I guarantee you will be pummeled!
Sargon: What bands have been most influential on you recently? Not the ones that first inspired you to play music, but the ones that may have become an influence since the last album.
Rhett: I like this question! Morgion has always had a wide array of influence but some of those age old influences I think are more acute on this release, The Fields of the Nephilim, Pink Floyd, and Candlemass primarily. But Gary is very fond of Porcupine Tree and Justin is the Prog-Rock king, I'm sure an impression was made?
Sargon: What is your take on the Doom scene, and the metal scene in general? How does the US underground compare to Europe?
Rhett: I think the farther East you travel the more Metal you will find. Southern California is probably the lamest area for metal, unless cookie cutter pop punk is your bag. Europe is by far more metal, no question!
Sargon: Do you have any other musical or artistic projects? What do you do besides music?
Rhett: I'm putting together another band along the lines of HellHammer, Thergothron, Venom, and Candlemass. Mixed with some early Death/Massacre, Order from Chaos, Nihilist type death metal. It's been something I've wanted to do for quite sometime but I finally found the right guitarist. I did a project in 2001 called "Gravehill" which was similar but it disbanded after my return to Morgion, I hope to enlist the same vocalist to this new project. Maybe I'll have something to record by the end of the year.
Sargon: That sounds extremely cool. Is it hard to recreate the atmosphere of the new songs live? Do you find yourselves playing them differently, or do you think you will?
Rhett: Actually our biggest problem live was playing certain songs from "Solinari" and "Among Majestic Ruin". When we began writing these songs we paid heed to performing them live. We can play each song live without worry of atmosphere.
Sargon: What is your writing process like? How do such long and varied songs come together?
Rhett: We began writing "Ebb Tide" first then "A Slow Succumbing" followed. Both of those songs were riff ideas that Gary had from the lyrics I wrote. "Trillium Rune" is all Dwayne, like the song "Solinari" its considered one of Dwayne's interlude moments that he wrote the book on. "The Mourner's Oak" was a riff that Dwayne and Gary had on rehearsal tape during the time I was absent. We structured the song and added a break down; it's a very "Fields" type tune in our opinion. "Cairn" began from a riff that Dwayne wrote in practice and I started playing the drum cadence that flowed with it. The middle of the song was jammed out in rehearsal we wanted it to be simple. The "Maiden" ending was all Justin along with Gary's rhythm/lead work. "She, The Master Covets" was a studio song Gary had ideas for that he and I fumbled through while recording. The drum take was only once. (My proud moment to gloat over!) Justin came up with the main harmony (quite on accident) and Gary worked out all solo's and vocal arrangement. (This was the only tune not first sung by Adrian) he also came up with the rhythm change at the end with the crashing cymbals. At the moment this song is the band favorite. Then again the new ones always are. Crowned in Earth is primarily Gary although the beginning was a tribute to VoiVod we came up with in rehearsal. It was my idea to end the song with that last riff; I think the subtle yet obviously harrowing dirge made for such an ominous ending. The sound wave hidden quite low-key in the end is one of Gary's pets, in my opinion it is not my favorite but it is a charmer.
Sargon: Do you plan to get another album recorded right away?
Rhett: We'd like to! We have talked about different ideas for the album lyrically and visually. I have no clue what turn it will make (if any) musically, we hope to make another record that stands on its own without being a re-make of previous efforts. There are only 2 factors that will always stay the same… Metal music with Dark Themes.
Sargon: The Thirteenth Question! The thirteenth question is: Is there anything else you want to say?
Rhett: Thanks for the interview Sargon and if anyone is in or near the Toronto area June 26th come on out to the "Northern Lights Fest" and see the show. It will be a good time had by all! www.unrestrainedmag.com/nlf/
|Other information about Morgion on this site|
|Review: Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth|
|Interview with Rhett Davis on July 23, 2003 (Interviewed by Barbara Williams (Crowley))|
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