Interview with December Aeternalis
Interview conducted by Barbara Williams (Crowley)
Date online: March 8, 2003
Hails!!! How are you doing up in New Jersey?
I'm great. We're all finally doing great here in New Jersey, We just got back from a short tour out in the mid west and as beautiful as some parts were out there, I'm glad to be living on the east coast, particularly New Jersey. It just has so much character.
You changed your name from December to December Aeternalis, which has a somewhat Nordic flair and really sounds a lot better. The legal trouble you were trying to avoid I would assume had to do with copyright. Who pressured you to change the name?
Thank you. I actually like the new name a lot better now as well. As you guessed it, the legal troubles did have to do with copyright. We started the band as December in Ď96. As luck would have it, another band also named December formed in the Nevada regions. We co-existed for quite some time without any problems, but they were then signed to Earache Records and were told by the company to "search us out" and "change our name before legal actions were taken." To avoid this, we sought them out before they could and came to a compromise. We still wanted to keep some form of December in the name because it is something that has become a part of us and meant a lot to us as well. Aeternalis means "eternal," so we thought it would be quite fitting because throughout all the troubles we have faced, we have triumphed.
Your album covers are really cool. Who designs them for you?
Embrace the Angel was originally done by Mike Bukowski, which is the artwork design featured on the website. The re-release of that record has different artwork and is on a different label, Red Dawn Records, who is responsible for the artwork on I Slept with Glass in my Mouth. Darrell Whitelaw(RDR) and I usually discuss what the artwork should look like, the feel of the music, and what we want to get across through the art. He knows the band well and usually has a good vision with the art direction. He has also designed some of our T-shirts.
You now have one demo and two albums to your name and changed labels from your 2- song CD and the full-length CD. Had you been given a better offer? Now that you're with Red Dawn Records, are you happy?
It's actually interesting, but Red Dawn was originally supposed to release Embrace the Angel. They had even paid for the recording, but Darrell and I had some disagreements and we butted heads a few times, so I decided it would be in our best interest to pull the record and release it elsewhere. Our long time friend, Dan Murray, has always helped us with shows and however else he could; put it out on his label with help from On the Rise Records. Soon after, 1134 folded and we become part of the "On the Rise family." The problem with that is they really didn't know what to do with the record. The label at the time was mostly made of hardcore bands, and they wanted to head into more of a marketable radio friendly sound. We simply did not fit in. We were on the lookout for a new label and we decided to record two songs for self release - we entitled that self release I Slept with Glass in my Mouth. We paid for it ourselves and released it ourselves on CD-R's with different art. Darrell has heard the new songs and immediately offered to release it. We were a little weary about working with him again because things ended on a sour note the last time we did. So he offered a "no contract" deal, where he would release this record. We would still own it and we were not obligated to anything. It was his make-good on the mistakes he has made in the past. We had nothing to lose, so we went for it. Luckily, he came through with his part of the deal and then some, and we have decided to stick with Red Dawn for at least one more full length album. We feel it is now our turn to show him we appreciate what he has done for us.
Your self-released demo is now out of print. Are you considering having it re-mastered or can we find all the material on Embrace the Angel and I Slept with Glass in my Mouth?
You can find two of the songs elsewhere. "The End is Coming" is also on Embrace the Angel, although itís a different recording and is much better, and "Beneath the Grey Sky" is also on I Slept with Glass in my Mouth; in this case the song has been altered drastically.
I find the album and song titles ("Death of an Angel," for example) of your work rather interesting. Itís not the usual kind of stuff one might find on black metal albums. Would you please tell a little bit about the meaning behind the titles and the lyrical concept of the albums?
A lot of the songs on Embrace the Angel are really not what they seem. A lot of the lyrics have double meaning and masquerade the true meaning behind the song while others, like "On Free Choice of the Will", are exactly what they seem to be. At the time I wrote the lyrics for Embrace the Angel, I was young and inexperienced as a lyricist. I was having trouble with expressing emotion and dealing with relationships, so a lot of the lyrics reflect that. Embrace the Angel, as a whole, deals with relationships although a few songs stray from that while our next LP, Life Without Oxygen, has become a record about being suffocated by life and being crushed under the pressures of change and failures.
You mention that you have had many hardships and member changes, which always puts a strain on a band. Would you go into a little bit of detail on this? Are you pretty stable now and is the band, as whole, better at this point of your career?
As far as members go, we are on our 15th drummer and maybe our 8th bassist. We seem to put a lot of pressure on our drummers and sometimes our vision of what the band should be does not coincide with the other members. A lot of times, members left to pursue other things in their life, family, education, etc. Every record we have done has different members; for example, Embrace the Angel had Pete on drums while our EP, which is our latest release, features Jesse on drums, and aprox. 7 months after that, he and I had a bit of a tussle at a show, and he and the second guitarist left the band. Right now the band is as stable as it can get: our new drummer, Luis, has been a long time friend and we finally have a band that is not divided into cliques. We all play music together, spend time together outside of band related things, and we have a really good relationship, which I really think is important at this point of our career. We all seem to be on the same page now, and itís really helping with the music writing and the touring.
Broken bones and arrests? May I ask what happened? It sounds like you guys have been to hell and back.
We usually end up running into some sort of trouble wherever we go. We got in a big fight in Pennsylvania back in '99, and it ended in a car chase. We got into a fight in a rest area once, which ended in police activity. One of our old bassists broke his thumb when one of the guitarists whaled him by accident; he quit soon after. The list goes on and on, but the funny part is that we normally don't go looking for trouble; it just comes around and about all of the time.
You have six members in your band. Thatís a good number. What do you think holds your band together? Are you all friends or is keeping things strictly professional your key to success?
Well, we don't really have six steady members in the band anymore. However, we do have a tight-knit core in the band that consists of about four guys; the others seem to come and go. We were friends before the band, and we are friends outside of the band. The band comes second in between all of us together, so it only helps to get through the shows and practices like that. When we go on tour, it's less like work and more like hanging out and playing, doing whatever.
How do you distribute your participation within the band? In other words, who plays what and who is the lead vocalist?
Mario is the lead on vocals; Mark's on bass; Luis is on the drums; Jerry is on the guitar, and Sam really doesn't play anything, but just ask him: he's in the band.
You formed December Aeternalis (formerly December) in 1996 and have done well in getting your music out there. Do you solemnly concentrate on your band or do any of you have outside employment?
We all work outside of the band, we always have. It's probably why we have only gotten our music out there by fading in rather than jumping into a ready spot in the "scene." We put a lot of energy into the band without really letting it get in the way of our regular lives.
Listening to your album, I couldnít help but hear a strong death metal influence. You also have some killer symphonic passages. What or who would you say has been the greatest influence on your style of music?
Every member is certainly deeply rooted in the metal scene. We all grew up listening to Judas Priest, Slayer, Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate, Suicidal Tendencies, Anthrax, and all that other good stuff. As far as death metal goes, major influences probably go as far as Suffocation, Carcass, At The Gates, Dissection, and local stuff from when we were growing up.
How do you get the inspiration for your writing?
We just take everything in our lives, good or bad, and then we just let it all out during the week at practice and at shows. We get some good leads or influences across the way, but we just usually go by our day to day lives with whatever comes out.
Which bands are on your list of favorites? If I were to look through your CD collection, what would I find?
Well, on tour we had a limited number of tapes, so we are kind of stuck on Suicidal Tendencies, Nas, Life of Agony, Big L, and the Wage of Sin are up there for us right now.
You have played at the Monster fest in Vermont. Any plans to go on tour any time soon again? If so, where and when and with whom?
We are going out for another week in March with The Wage of Sin and another band or two, and we are going to make our way down south this time.
Which songs do you like most playing Live?
There is this one song on our first album, "On Free Choice of the Will," and no matter how bad the show is going, we always get a little crazy for this one. The best part is that we wrote it in the recording studio.
What has been one of the greatest experiences going on tour and playing with other bands?
When we first were getting started, we were asked to play in Pennsylvania with Immolation and few other bigger bands. It wasn't the best show ever, but it was the first time we got to play out of state and out of the area. We got a great reaction and it kind of got the ball rolling for some of us.
How is the music and being December Aeternalis connected with the person you are? Is your band image a reflection of you or completely separate?
None of us take any scene credits or popularity we might have as a result of the band seriously. Most of us have been doing this too long to be caught up in some scene popularity contest. We respect our peers and they respect us, but our personalities do not reflect the band in most ways. It's just a representation of what we feel inside.
On a more personal note, any good books, movies or anything else you may recommend?
December Aeternalis LOVES THE LORD OF THE RINGS movies.
What do you hope the future holds for December Aeternalis?
When the band plays and records and practices, all we are looking to do is have fun and have some great experiences. If we could get some more exposure, weíll be looking see new things, play new places, and write new songs for some new people.
Any last message you would like to send to fans?
Start new bands, set up shows, play fast and keep our music going. Don't forget where you came from.
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