Interview with Okoi Jones (vocals/guitars)
Interview conducted by Cluedo
Date online: August 1, 2005
Very rarely is the New Zealand scene brought up in metal-related conversations. Few are aware that a New Zealand metal scene does indeed exist and even fewer have actually probed deeper in an effort to find out just what makes this isolated arena tick. Lurking in the background is APHELON, one of the most promising bands in the country. Okoi Jones, co-founder of APHELON, provides valuable insight into his band and country in this interview.
What prompted you to start the band? What is the significance of choosing APHELON as your band name?
Cam (ed: Drummer/co-founder of APHELON) and myself had already pursued a number of failed musical couplings with other friends/musicians before we began Aphelon, I guess we felt the need to bring our own energies to full fruition rather than wasting them on ill motivated individuals! APHELON as a name (and derivation of the word "aphelion", in brevity meaning the point in the orbital course of a planet or star farthest from the sun) was at the time of choice a very apt name given our intentions of creating a dark atmosphere musically. In saying that I believe the sometimes "immature" nature of a name later in a bands career is a very important part of their identity, illuminating well their growth in all aspects.
From a four piece band, APHELON now only has three members. Has the transition been smooth? How long do you see APHELON remaining a three piece band?
The decision to subtract a guitarist from our ranks was of course well thought over, ultimately we felt that in addition to the reasons pending, a three piece was more comfortable for us both as individuals and as a band. Given this I don't see us reverting back to four in the near future.
Do you see APHELON more as a Black Metal band or a Death Metal band?
I think that is an interesting question but feel that I personally cannot comfortably brand ourselves as either! From a writing perspective I can say that I draw from a wide base of influence. Anything that stimulates my ears probably eventually finds its own little niche in my style so seeing that I love the music of many a black and death band amongst other genres, one can only state, "I am what I eat!"
When I listen to APHELON, I hear an amalgam of influences that ultimately shape your own sound. What are your influences and how do you work them into APHELON's sound?
In addition to the content of aboves answer, I will tell you that I do not have a methodology of integrating my influences into what I create. I know there are plenty of players who will openly endeavour to recreate or emulate the sound of those they admire when they write and I strongly believe this to be wrong! One must first and foremost visualise individual goals in order to create something unique or at least interesting! I think you will agree that not many an accomplished musician throughout history ever got very far by just riding bandwagons!
The themes and concepts you present through your music on "THE ETHOS ELITE" and "DEATHDRONE" are refreshingly different from those exhibited by the current crop of Black/Death metal bands. Would you care to elaborate on these themes/concepts?
Well thank you! I guess I have always tried to approach lyrics in the same way that I write my music. I write what I think, be it topically or on an independent idea. Aside from being a fervent pagan and admiring many ancient cultures and beliefs, I have always been moved by the actions and words of the countless individuals in history who were not afraid to say what they thought, giving their very essence to the art of rebellion. A fistful of ideas and concepts in the face of what one considers inadequate! The words of Nietzsche for one have been very important to me ever since late adolescence and continue to amaze me every time I read of his work. It would be boring listing figures I admire so we'll leave it at that yeah?
Do you expect these themes/concepts to change or evolve as you record more albums?
From time to time, and I guess this is the reason you keep doing it because it gives you pleasure!
The general consensus is that the production of "THE ETHOS ELITE" was detrimental to the overall 'viciousness' of the album. What are your thoughts on this issue?
I had better vote with the majority on that one then! Yes the production of "Ethos" was shit. In fact I prefer the sound we achieved at home for the "Deathdrone" demo! This is mainly due to the fact that we payed a rather incompetent engineer an average sum to record us. Then again our appreciation of sound would also have improved since then so I guess we have to grin and bear it whilst being intent on a better product next time.
What are your thoughts on the current explosion of 'bedroom Black Metal bands'
I'd better reinstate my prior word on 'riding the bandwagon' for that. There is always a surplus of pretentious shit for every quality band. Those who are in themselves unable to achieve anything of individual value will always resort to emulating what they can relate to, which is usually mediocre. Most able minded musicians/metallers can distinguish between good talent and a mere waste of frequencies. But I have to admit there are some awesome black metal acts that hail from bedroom studios!
As a full band, do you feel APHELON gains more than said "bedroom bands" by performing live?
I think it all comes down to the sound you aim to create. We seek to create a form of metal which has an energy best suited to live performance. I think metal in essence was created for that purpose, to be expressed as a raw form of energy for a wanting audience to absorb and return to the players. I think it can be best described as a kind of mutual interaction between band and audience.
What do you feel are the other advantages of being a full band?
Well I would definitely have to say the comradeship is unsurpassed. You get to know your brothers in arms through a musical relationship as well. The process of creating and sharing music can offer something I would find very difficult to give up.
What was it like opening for the mighty INCANTATION?
It was of course a privilege for us to open for a band such as Incantation given their revered status, awesome sound and general friendliness. We have been quite fortunate to have opened for groups such as Pungent Stench and Incantation, the rather compact NZ metal scene no doubt playing a big part in us being given these opportunities.
How far away is the day where a band will proudly proclaim that they opened for "the mighty APHELON"?
Well I could not say but if a few more metallers within our scene got more bands live and kicking it might be sooner rather than never!
You are currently signed to LYCANTHROPIC FERVOUR RECORDS, a local label. Do you actively seek to be signed by a 'bigger' European label?
This is of course something we have considered a lot and I think it safe to say, that whatever path Aphelon does take we want to maintain our close ties with our comrade at LFR as this relationship has been very important to us and will not be compromised! If Aphelon did branch out to international dealings I think we would be very conscious of upholding a certain 'underground' status, as our intended future sound would not really belong in the clinical mainstream.
Are you currently involved in any other projects besides APHELON?
Other than Aphelon my only other musical pursuits are my personal solo and black metal projects.
How closely knit is the NZ metal scene?
Generally we are well acquainted with one another and obviously the two Islands have their respective networks as well. But overall there seems to be good support and comradery amongst the bands. Personally I do find we too have our share of elitism within certain centres and circles but I think that is something omnipresent within all genres and scenes.
Inevitably, comparisons between the NZ and the Australian metal scenes will be drawn. How do you feel the NZ scene measures up to the Australian scene?
I think they differ vastly not only in size(!) but in sound. Australia is home to many a professional and well known metal act whereas NZ tends to have a more isolated, clandestine group of bands who are very talented and unique but at the same time have not achieved or chosen to seek recognition to the level of many Australian bands. As of late Dawn of Azazel and 8 Foot Sativa have been the only bands to really push themselves beyond our shores. I could think of a few other NZ acts with the talent to walk the international stage but I am not sure if that is their desire.
One thing noticeable about the NZ metal scene is that it seems to lack an identifiable homogeneous 'sound' that seems to have infected other regions in the metal world (e.g. the Canadian 'War Metal' scene). What do you think are the possible reasons for this?
That is interesting and I would have to agree. I'm not too sure what is at cause. I guess our smaller size and geographic division are a component in this! But I do believe there is a fashionable element to a few of the circles within our scene not so much for black metal but more grind and hardcore influences. I guess trends will always affect scenes but optimistically this often creates a perfect background for the bands of contrast to stand out no?
From what I gather, some members of the NZ metal underground scene are involved in the nationalist group 'New Zealand National Front'. What are your thoughts on this issue and the 'NSBM' movement in general?
I could argue myself into the grave on the topic of National Socialism and its increasing presence within the metal scene. I am politically adverse to it and see it as something irrelevant to music in general. There is a plethora of lost individuals who feel the need to be part of an organisation or carry ideological armbands in order to be something. Many of the people sporting pseudo-Nazi identities or claiming to harbour innocent right-wing or NS beliefs are utter hypocrites with very little comprehension of what these ideologies actually pertain to and advocate. In saying that I have no time for anyone involved in the NF or angst ridden populist politics.
What goals has APHELON set in the short-term and the long-term?
We only seek to improve musically and in the final analysis continue enjoying what we do!
That's about it. Thanks for the interview. Feel free to add any closing statements.
I would just like to offer a mighty Hails to THE METAL CRYPT and offer my commendations on the awesome questions! Thank you!
|Other information about Aphelon on this site|
|Review: The Ethos Elite|
|Review: Scorn Shall Prevail|
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