Interview with multi-instrumentalist Calum Lewis
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 31, 2020
Born Of Ire is the brainchild of a British guy named Calum Lewis who teamed up with a Brazilian guy, Duda Adler P. Duarte, to record a debut album. Prior to that, the guys had a cover band for many years that played songs from bands like Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, Black Sabbath, etc., all kinds of classic and heavy stuff. After playing and performing cover songs for so long, Cal's hunger to create his own songs began to grow.
The result of all his creativity and ambitiousness can be heard on his self-titled 10-track album, which was released in March 2018. The album received many rave reviews and many people were amazed by Cal's superb musicianship.
The Metal Crypt decided to find out what Born Of Ire is made of and if the project will continue in the (near) future. Cal was kind enough to open the gates into the realm of Born Of Ire...
Luxi: So, how's life in London these days?
Cal: London's fine, the dystopian heart of this Orwellian nightmare is... Fine.
Luxi: I just heard that you've been working with some new material for quite some time...
Cal: I am indeed. The songs are currently going through some final refinements. Then there will be lots of practice and rehearsal and we'll start to think about entering the studio.
HOW IT ALL STARTED FOR BORN OF IRE
Luxi: Before we jump into specific details of your new material, can you tell us what sparked you to form this project named Born Of Ire?
Cal: Well... There was never a single moment of inspiration or clarity of purpose. I got into music fairly young and my brain is wired a certain way where it picks away at things to try and understand how they are put together.
I think it never occurred to me not to write music. Once some music was written, it was never really an option not to record it. Once it was recorded, it didn't make sense not to release it.
It's been a strong motivation to simply want to hear these songs polished and complete. It's a huge sense of relief to get this music out of my head and into a physical format. The first album spent years rattling around my head and it honestly becomes kind of exhausting.
Luxi: How did you meet up with Duda from Brazil, who plays drums in the project? Was he a like-minded fellow who understood right away what you wanted Born Of Ire to be all about, especially musically?
Cal: Duda and I played together in a cover band in the U.K. ten years ago now. I was on vocals and guitar, he was on drums and two dudes played bass and guitarist. We covered things like Megadeth, Slayer, Sepultura, Metallica, Misfits, Black Sabbath, classic stuff. We never had any ambition to do more within that group, but I did give Duda a CD of poorly recorded demos of music I had pulled together over several years on a Boss "8-track" recorder that allowed me to layer things up. It's incredible now when I think about that. What was recorded was a rough blueprint of this first album and certainly a lot of the core themes and set pieces were there.
By the time I'd refined the songs, wrote proper lyrics and got into a studio, Duda had moved back to Brazil. He managed to make a trip back over to the UK for about two weeks, sleeping on my sofa. All we did was drink, practice, record and argue about tempos, pacing and all that healthy stuff.
Luxi: Was he the only guy that you auditioned for the drummer's position or did you consider doing the drums yourself using a drum machine?
Cal: I'm old-fashioned. I like tube amps and real drummers. Duda nailed it. 'nuff said.
MAKING METAL MUSIC GREAT AGAIN: BORN OF IRE
Luxi: Now let's jump on your debut album, titled simply Born Of Ire, and let's have a few words about it. Having listened to the album 3-4 times in a row now, I must say it's one hell of an album.
Cal: Great, I never get tired of hearing people say they are enjoying it.
Luxi: You are truly firing on all cylinders there, sometimes harder and sometimes more sophisticated. I guess this points to a love of many types of music, especially within the Rock and Metal genres, right?
Cal: I was brought up on Dire Straits, Blue Oyster Cult, Led Zeppelin, etc. I really admire bands that focus on writing songs and not just music with lyrics. Hell, I'll take Ozzy singing about a time-travelling tin giant any day.
I like to think each Born Of Ire track has its own theme and personality and the clear vocals are an important part of allowing us to achieve songs.
Luxi: While I was spinning the album through, there were two band names that seemed to pop up every now and then, those being Paradox and Metallica, of course! I wondered if those German thrashers had originally done the ...And Justice album, would it have sounded like Born Of Ire's debut?!
Cal: Haha, interesting thought... Maybe!
Luxi: Obviously, these are pretty weird thoughts and strange comparisons for sure, but it's certain you have heard Metallica's name quite a few times. Did hearing Metallica for the very first time in 1982-83 blow your mind and make you want to become a musician yourself or did it happen earlier, with the help of some other band(-s) maybe?
Cal: Anyone who hears this record will hear the clear influence of Metallica, Kreator, Heathen, Megadeth, Slayer etc., but rather than rip off any of our influencers we are simply true to the style of music they exemplified. "Marionette" ain't a 'Tallica track, "InFiction" ain't a Slayer track. If you want to listen to those bands then you have to go and listen to them; if you want to hear something different, with some modern influence, but of a similar vein, then try Born Of Ire.
We seem to have unknowingly joined a movement; the "New Wave of Old School Thrash Metal". I'm a devout believer.
ABOUT THE RIGHT AND WRONG WAY OF DOING MUSIC
Luxi: To me, it sounds like you have been working for many months, even years, to get the sound "right" on your debut album. The song structures are so detailed, very carefully thought-out and polished, etc., so this clearly tells something about your attitude and determination, right? It's obvious you didn't want to put out half-assed stuff vs. Making a high-quality album from start to finish. Did I miss anything here?
Cal: Regarding individual song writing, for me, there's a right way and a wrong way.
For every riff I write, there is somewhere in the ether of my brain a perfect preceding and proceeding piece of music which has the potential to elevate the whole. Symbiotic, like.
Sometimes it takes a lot of time and patience and discipline to find out what that is, but when you stumble on it, you know that it's right. Sometimes smashing it out in a room with a full band and loud amps is the method; sometimes it's playing it over and over again on your own and trying every alternative you can conceive of works. Sometimes it just comes to you whilst exercising, sleeping, showering... You get the idea.
I've always wanted to put out albums that work as a complete experience, not just a collection of songs. The intro and outro tracks of the debut album capture this intent well. They are purposefully designed "bookends" that mirror each other. Even look at the names of the songs; "No Evil" and "Live On". Get it?!
A lot time went into sequencing and balancing the album before we entered the studio, and we continued to make tweaks and changes long into recording.
The next album is a real piece of art. Every song stands up on its own but the album as a whole should flow and the entire thing should become something more. We'll have to wait and see whether the critical reception views that ambition as having been met. I'm horribly delusional.
Luxi: What kinds of things do you pay attention to in the production?
Cal: I'm obsessed with guitar tone and anyone who has tried to record "heavy" and "distorted" guitar knows that it is a science and art all of its own, and nothing is more complex in this regard than thrash metal style guitaring.
You need a tight and disciplined rhythm player, a knowledgeable and talented sound guy. You need the right leader monitoring the production, the right guitars with the right pickups, the right combination of amps, cabs, EQs etc. It's a minefield of potential problems, and the only weapon you have is the experience of those involved.
On this next album at least, we're focusing on guitars first, and then we'll dial them back and begin to slot everything else in the mix around them and start from there.
AVOID TUNNEL VISION AND STAY OPEN-MINDED
Luxi: How much did your partner in crime, Duda, help you to get the songs sounding right when you perhaps got lost a little bit on your path regarding song structures, i.e., melodies, riffs, rhythm changes, etc.?
Cal: Always try it live. Running through songs with your drummer and listening to the natural pacing of riffs and transitions is time well spent. Otherwise you risk ending up with something that sounds forced or less organic.
Personalities count for a lot in this game. Duda is pretty chill whereas I'm less so. I normally have a strong vision in my head of the end result I'm gunning for. However, that's not always a positive thing and you risk being inflexible. Sometimes you need to remind yourself to stay open-minded. Avoid tunnel vision at all cost and remember that the perspective of a fresh pair of ears is invaluable.
SIMPLE MATHEMATICS: 99% < 5-STARS
Luxi: People overall seem to be very impressed by your debut, which is good motivation to keep the songwriting bar high in the future. Can you kindly share a few words about all the new stuff that you have for your follow-up release? Would you say the news songs sound pretty much where you left off on your debut, but with a few twists and turns thrown in for good measure?
Cal: To be honest, writing for the second album was well underway before the debut album was even completed, so the reception of the first record probably won't have influenced this one a whole lot, although good to know we started on the right track!
The major difference for this next album will be taking all those lessons we learned from the many millions of mistakes made during the first recording process and implementing that hard-won knowledge. It should be kind of cathartic.
Again, we've only just started preparing for recording so there's a long road ahead. Mark my words though, it's a beaut. It feels more... Born Of Ire. It leaves our original influences behind and does its own thing.
You hold me accountable on this; if it isn't a 5-star, >99%, album of the year candidate, then I've failed.
Luxi: Are you going to release this next album on your own or are you trying to shop it around to the labels to see if any want to work with you for this release?
Cal: We had some offers for signing, but they didn't think or understand what our individual needs were.
We had a lot of offers from labels/studios who would finance the studio time for the follow-up record in exchange for a large chunk of any money made. "Fuck off," I say.
We work hard and we did this first record with no help, paid for it with blood and sweat. What we got in exchange is a lot of experience and that enables us to be more self-sufficient.
We've also built a strong network of dudes and studios who we trust and can call on to support recording. It also means that Born Of Ire maintains complete creative control and manages the recording schedule in the studio, not some timekeeper.
If we are approached by a label with decent reach and the right audience then that is of interest and we'd consider them for sure.
So, current plan is another indy release, which I am comfortable with. My focus is getting the music captured in the best possible format.
Luxi: As far as the album's production is concerned, do you believe you are going to produce the album yourself, without any outsider's help?
Cal: Yeah, I think I'm going to sit in that particular chair, alongside my buddy Tim from CodeTalker Studio, who I highly recommend if you want above and beyond commitment to a musical project.
The plan is to do as much in analogue as possible, using real instruments rather than electronic plug-ins. There's a lot of interesting ideas for unusual instrumentation in this album, so we're going to enjoy recording gongs, piano, organ, xylophone and shit.
It's all ambitious, but whatever comes out the other side will be something special.
Luxi: Promotional videos are an important and vital part of getting the word out about a band, so I assume you have some plans ready to get one or two done to support your next album, right?
Cal: It's been hard to pick a single song as each is so different. Listening through the new album demo tracks, I think every song is the one to show people. Then I listen to the next track and think, "oh, this song is sick. Let's release this with a video instead!".
Regardless, we have one vid already underway for this huge stadium-Rock Heavy Metal song. Then we have a super-aggressive, complex, thrashy song that is nuts and then we have this cinematic and truly unique prog epic and then we have something that's almost a noir ballad... "Help".
FROM A 2-PIECE ACT TO A FULL BAND?
Luxi: Playing live is, of course, very important in regard to its promotional value and all that. As your recording line-up contains just two people, do you have some plans to hire session musicians at some point for playing live?
Cal: Whilst I imagine I'll always sit at the creative heart of Born Of Ire, there are lots of others involved and what Born Of Ire needs is talented committed members who can make their own creative contributions and refine and elevate any songs that we collectively produce.
To that end, we haven't announced anything yet, but we do actually have a new lead guitarist named Marcin, who has only recently come into the fold but he's quick to learn and is a talented player. It's good to introduce some competition to the lead guitar duties but his job is basically to try and outclass what I do...
This album recording will be a bit of a baptism of fire for him.
We'll probably record each of our lead efforts live in the studio and then compare. Maybe even get someone else to blind pick their preferred option. Then we can all argue about is for a few days.
We're yet to find a bassist, though. I wanted my younger brother, who is a great player, but he fucked off to Australia. Any interested parties please apply within.
We plan on doing some live performances following the album release. We're going to film some of the songs from both albums and maybe even release that or at least sling it online streamable for free.
Luxi: What are your main goals with Born Of Ire, besides getting famous and becoming rich by your music, haha!
Cal: Fame isn't a goal in and of itself. I think we just want as many people as possible to have been exposed to Born Of Ire, so they can know if it's for them. It's frustrating when you know there's a lot of people who would really go for this music, and they haven't even heard of us. The saturated market is a challenge. How do you convince people that you are the band they want to listen to, when there's a hundred thousand options?
Luxi: True, that's a good point.
Cal: I'm actually asking.
Luxi: What about getting some butter on your bread, then?
Cal: Regarding money, I'm not that fussed about it really, but if the recordings and gear paid for themselves then that'd really fucking help. We're far from breaking even and haven't even balanced out the expenses on the first album yet.
We are selling records man, but we all know that the industry has shifted to streaming. You guys know who that model benefits, and it isn't us. Anyway, that's just the way it is. Suck it up, just so long as people are enjoying it and say, "Hey, that was fucking awesome. I want more".
Luxi: Is there anything else you'd like to add for all the curious parties about the band? If so, just feel free to do so because I have run out of questions for you...
Cal: If you like classic Heavy Metal, there's a damn good chance you will like us. Look, go check out "Marionette", if you like it check out the whole album, which is streamable for free. A thousand hours of pain, streamable for free. How can you resist?
Luxi: Well, one simply can't...
Cal: You'll find each song is different, but the album has received a lot of praise for consistent quality, something we're very proud of since we've put our souls into each track.
If you don't like it, then... Errr... Godspeed!
Luxi: I want to thank you, Cal, for taking your time with my interview questions and wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors with the band. The last commentary is left for you, so just be my guest...
Cal: Nae bother, pleasure. Catch you in a few months to talk a bit more when we are at the point of next album release!
|Other information about Born Of Ire on this site|
|Review: Born Of Ire|
Copyright © 1999-2020, Michel Renaud / The Metal Crypt. All Rights Reserved.