Interview with Leon Macey (Guitars, drums)
Interview conducted by Nahsil
Date online: December 18, 2010
First off, thanks for the interview. I'm a long-time fan and it's been a pleasure coming up with these questions. One of the things I find so attractive about Mithras is how the music pulls its listener into a highly vivid, atmospheric world with ambient synth pieces and whatnot. Simpler forms of death metal have their place, and I don't mean to undersell some really creative artists in the field, but would you say you have different musical goals than a lot of these bands?
Hi there Nahsil! Thanks for letting me do this interview.
Yeah to answer your first question, I suppose we always did have different goals; rather than simply conforming to the common garden death metal aesthetic, however you'd characterise that. We always incorporated a highly imaginative element to songwriting and concept and as far as musical goals go, I always wanted to try harder and more progressive stuff. This didn't mean more prog rock oriented, just material we found challenging and exciting to play. I always liked bands who incorporated soundscapes into their records, and often wanted to make my guitars sound like a keyboard, hence a lot of the ambient pieces on the records. I guess what I always tried to do was produce something with almost obsessive attention to detail which was almost a part of myself. For example, I think the feelings I'm trying to create when I play a lead are totally different to most extreme metal bands.
Are there any bands you admire for doing similarly experimental things?
Well, there aren't that many bands I'm aware of doing really experimental stuff in the field of extreme metal; but Bal-Sagoth have been a big inspiration to Mithras mainly as they're so bloody crazy and imaginative, and I suppose they broadened our horizons regarding how far you could go. Other more avant-garde bands I appreciate include Aborym and Portal, it's quite hard to think of any others off the top of my head.
What inspires the spacy, abstract guitar-playing that's been, in my mind, a central aspect of all Mithras albums so far?
All my lead playing (and a lot of the rhythm work) is based on dreams, visions, and the desire to achieve an elusive feeling of oneness... it's quite hard to put into words beyond that unfortunately / fortunately! I have a specific state or emotion I'm trying to achieve with most of them which I work on until they are right.
I've heard people compare Mithras to Morbid Angel, even going so far as to call Forever Advancing...Legions "a Morbid Angel clone" of an album. I couldn't disagree more, but what is your response to something like that?
I don't think our debut 'Forever Advancing...... Legions' is that much like Morbid Angel, if we wanted to copy Morbid Angel we'd have got a lot closer, hehe. For a start 'Legions...' is much, much faster than Morbid Angel and my drumming, although clearly inspired by Pete Sandoval was mainly about pure speed and brutality back then, more akin to Cryptopsy and Angel Corpse. I guess you could say 'Wrath of God' is possibly similar to 'Where the Slime Live' due to the sludgy vibe and double kick work, but it reminds me more of Bal-Sagoth to be honest. But then, as ex-vocalist/bassist Rayner used to say, "oh no we're being compared to the best death metal band ever, what a shame", which sums it up really.
What prompted the fairly drastic change in production values from the first album to the following ones?
All three records have different sounding productions. The reason they all sound different; on our debut '...Legions' we only had 16 track recording facilities available and 10 days to record and mix the entire record, so a more straight forward brutal sound was what we went for, and it suited the material. On 'Worlds Beyond The Veil' we had a lot of time to demo up the material before even entering the studio, and we just let the album become what it naturally wanted to be, and this led to a pretty unique sound. We tracked the kit in the same studio as the previous record but then recorded almost everything else elsewhere. It's funny, some stupid reviewers thought recording the record across two studios led to the unusual sound and used that as a criticism, but this has been common studio practice for bands for years, hehe.
The most recent album 'Behind the Shadows Lie Madness' was recorded totally in my home studio which meant I had 100% control over it. We wanted a more upfront and metallic tone on that record, and for it to sound monolithic without it becoming boring sounding or impersonal like a lot of over produced modern extreme metal can get. Lee du-Caine who helped record and mix 'Worlds' dialled in a great mix for 'Shadows' and probably did more mixing than I did on the record, and we're still really happy with the sound of it.
Do the music or lyrics of Mithras have any particular message?
Yeah, there's an overarcing sci-fi esque story which kinda starts at the end of '...Legions' then really picks up on 'Worlds...'. The songs deal with themes and questions such as; is there life beyond mankind? Is there a spiritual realm? What do dreams mean? What is the meaning of life? etc. I guess we generally write about quite esoteric themes and sometimes use historical contexts.
Mithraism refers to an esoteric religious group active around the dawn of the Christian age, but if I understand correctly, many of the lyrics deal with a science-fiction story you've constructed. Does the story have any overarching themes?
Yeah you're correct. The songs on 'Legions...' deal with a lot of historical stuff and then pick up the sci-fi story which continues across the next two records. The story is basically a huge arc across all the songs and even the instrumentals have passages to be read alongside them to set the mood and add to the story. The themes are as aforementioned, and the story generally follows the story of the apparent destruction of our world by a being from another dimension, and it then pursuing a man across an alien world.
The Night Land - William H Hodgson / Blindness - Jose Saramago
What's next for Mithras?
I'm currently demoing up new material for the (currently untitled) 4th record which is really good fun, but quite a slow process. Mithras is just me playing everything now, and doing vocals and bass too. This has actually taken the pressure off, but I'm having a bit of a break from band duties at the moment as we spent the last two years rehearsing a lot for live shows and training up live drummers. There's still the possibility of doing some live shows but we'll see how things go. It takes such a huge amount of work to do a small number of shows I'm not sure my heart is in it anymore. For the diehards, I recently released a CD called "Sands Of Time" which is most of the Mithras rarities crammed into one 78 minute CD. You can still grab copies from our webshop but the pressing is almost sold out now.
I was really excited when 'Behind the Shadows...' came out, when can Mithras fans expect new material?
I don't really want to give a date as I could end up disappointing people :S There's no schedule for the next record so whenever I get round to finishing the writing I'll train my drums up for a few months then hit the studio properly. There's a demo track called "Time Never Lasts" on Youtube, Myspace and Facebook now with me singing on it too, which gives people a hint of where the next record is headed, though it's not particularly experimental ;)
How's the extreme metal scene in England right now?
Over the last few years I've really not had my ear to the ground as much as I used to back in the day when I was aware of what almost every other UK extreme band was doing! I still check out a lot of demos that come into the magazine office, and as always there's great bands coming up. The live scene in the UK is relatively healthy too.
Any local up-and-coming acts the rest of the world might want to keep an eye on?
Sarpanitum are back together, and their 2nd album sounds like it'll be very interesting. Tom Hyde (Sarpanitum guitarist) has been playing live guitars for Mithras and he's a killer guitar player! Also worth a mention; I drummed on the 2nd The Senseless record "The Floating World" which I'm actually mixing right now. The Senseless is Sam Bean's brainchild (Mithras live bass and vocals) and we've spent a long time working on this record, it's absolutely mental.
Thanks again for your time and your contributions to the metal world, in Mithras and as one of the main people behind the UK's Zero Tolerance magazine. Keep the underground alive!
Cheers! :D Anyone interested check out the Mithras website at www.mithras.org.uk
|Other information about Mithras on this site|
|Review: Behind The Shadows Lie Madness|
|Review: On Strange Loops|
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