Greg Chandler: “With the immediacy of the digital age, perhaps attention spans are shorter and everything is more instant, with distractions from phones and gadgets, shuffling tracks on streaming sites, etc, maybe taking preference to sitting down and listening to almost one hundred minutes of music from one band.”
Esoteric is een band die al zo’n 27 jaar garant staat voor kwaliteitsrelease op kwaliteitsrelease, en dat is an ook meestal een plaat die rond de honderd minuten duurt. Vaak zat er maar een paar jaar tussen platen in, echter pas zo’n acht jaar na ‘Paragon Of Dissonance’ komt men nu pas met opvolger ‘A Pyrehis Existence’. Vanwaar deze lange periode? Laten we de grote man achter Esoteric, Greg Chandler, maar eens aan de tand te voelen.
Marcel Hubregtse Ι 2 december 2019
Welcome back, even though Esoteric hasn’t gone away, eight years after the release of ‘Paragon Of Dissonance’. What’s the reason it took so long for ‘A Pyrrhic Existence’ to be released?
Hi Marcel, thank you. Well, when we first started the band, the aim was to make music that we would enjoy, something that we wanted to hear and express that was personal to us. We had a lot more time on our hands back then to make music and rehearse two or three times a week, so albums were being written and recorded more frequently. We were only between seventeen and nineteen when we formed the band. Either way, we’ve never been of the opinion that we need to release albums too regularly. We all have full-time jobs, some of us work way more hours than a standard working week and we have partners, families, and a life to lead. It has been a lot longer this time of course, much longer than we wanted to and we were fed up with it ourselves as well. But sometimes periods of stagnation occur when a band has existed for so long. The sense of urgency sometimes becomes lost because life passes much quicker than you realise. These periods can happen and they have before, between the third and fourth albums. We didn’t stop rehearsing, playing live or being active with the band in the period between the last two albums, things just became slow because we weren’t able to dedicate as much time to the band or get together as often. Sometimes life just gets in the way, especially with five or six members involved.
What’s the reason for titling the album ‘A Pyrrhic Existence’? I know of a pyrrhic victory, but what should I envision when it comes to a pyrrhic existence?
The title is a reference as to how existence can be perceived as something that inflicts so much devastation on the survivor, that it becomes tantamount to defeat. Yes, it is taken from the phrase a pyrrhic victory, which originated with the story of Pyrrhus as far as I am aware. The title is a reference to how the longer we live the more tragedy, loss and suffering we experience. Sometimes existence itself is a battle that although we may survive, is accompanied by great loss. So this is the meaning behind the title.
How did you go about writing and recording for this latest grand offering? Once again it turned into a double CD clocking in at a hefty ninety minutes.
We write in different ways really. Sometimes we write music together, like myself and Gordon (Bicknell, guitar. Ed.) did with ‘Culmination’, which was born really from getting together and jamming and then building the song slowly from what we were recording. We then took the song into rehearsal and had the rest of the band add additional parts, embellishments, experiment with the arrangement and music, write the bass and drum parts, synths, and worked on the song together in this way. Sometimes one individual writes the music for a song and then the rest of us add our own parts, sounds, etc, and sometimes like with ‘Ignotum per Ignotius’ on ‘The Maniacal Vale’, we created the whole song from bass lines that Mark (Bodossian, bass, ed.) had written by each person writing their own parts to accompany it. There is no set way to do things. We always have at least two or three main song writers on each album, which brings variety to each album. Either way, songs are always worked on together, experimented with, developed, have all the sounds created, etc, during rehearsal together and individually. So when they feel mature enough and finished we record the album. Maybe it is an old school way of doing things, but we prefer to rehearse new music for a long time before recording, so that everything is tight and fine-tuned. There is always a little further experimentation in the studio for some parts, but most important is to get good performances recorded both from the instruments and effects. When we were ready we simply block booked the studio in advance and got on with the recording, then the mixing and mastering.
Only ‘Metamorphonegenesis’ and ‘Subconscious Dissolution Into The Continuum’ clock in at under eighty minutes and are single CDs. Will you ever be going back to a short duration like that?
I wouldn’t rule it out, so it is possible in the future. The main reason we record such long albums is because we don’t release albums too often and also due to the often slow tempo of the music and the ambient nature, the songs are long. We’d rather include a few songs on each album because we have at least two or three band members writing on each album, so it brings a little more diversity overall. Maybe we will do a single CD album again in future, who knows. It would make sense in terms of production costs to just release shorter albums more often, but where we can we will probably release double albums as our preference and luckily Season Of Mist support this.
What’s the reason for recording such long albums? Aren’t you afraid you might scare people away due to the length?
To be honest we don’t really pay much attention to what people want. I think with a band, since we don’t have to rely on it for income due to our jobs we don’t have to be conscious of a market and what people want. So it is better to just do what is best and right for ourselves. That has always been our approach and if others like it then it is a bonus, not the primary aim. We had zero preconceptions that Esoteric would ever become a popular, high selling band, even when we were very young. We were not naïve regarding the extremity of the music and it’s limited appeal. It is so hard to try and judge what people want anyway and people are different, so you can never please most. So why bother? We just do what we do and try to make it personal to ourselves, something we can enjoy doing and something different to others. That is more important to us.
With the immediacy of the digital age, perhaps attention spans are shorter and everything is more instant, with distractions from phones and gadgets, shuffling tracks on streaming sites, etc, maybe taking preference to sitting down and listening to almost one hundred minutes of music from one band. There are hundreds of thousands of bands at a lot of people’s fingertips, and our music takes time to listen to. But these people have what they want readily available, there are still at least some who prefer to listen to albums and listen to a band as the band intended. There is a flow behind how an album is structured and on this one each song is sewn together by another piece of music or theme that maintains the flow of the album, so it makes sense to at least listen to each disc in order. It isn’t essential to listen to the whole album either. You choose what you want depending on how much time you have.
Could you tell us anything about the concept (I am guessing there is one) behind the new album?
There is not a concept as such. But there are themes in the lyrics that the artwork relates to. On the front cover there are five characters. The four smaller characters represent the common themes within the lyrics for the songs. Death, suffering, tragedy and lies. The main character represents the breakdown of the psyche.
Esoteric is not known for its incessant touring and performing live. Is there a specific reason that you don’t perform live that often?
Well, we perform live reasonably often I would say for a band of our style, at least during some years. We didn’t play live much in the last couple of years because we wanted to focus on the album, so we did only five or six shows per year. But regardless of how many offers we receive and how much we’d like to play live more often, it has to be realistic. We can manage only an absolute maximum of four weeks of touring a year, and that also requires sacrificing any personal time off or holiday, because we all have jobs. We toured Europe in 2012 and 2014 and the US in 2013 following the previous album release. And we’ve always done festivals and one off shows or weekends or small clusters of shows on top of that.
Is there anywhere you haven’t played (festival or city) and would really love to play?
Yes, it is always nice to visit a new country and play in new cities and festivals. We would like to play Roadburn, House of the Holy, Maryland Deathfest, a lot of festivals are really good. I’d love to play at the Balver Hohle cave in Germany, maybe some unique shows somewhere in an abandoned mental asylum or any unusual location would be interesting too. We’re interested to play anywhere new really, and hopefully someday we will get the opportunity to go to South America, and the middle east and other continents. It may not happen, but if there is an opportunity we would try to take it.
Okay, it took eight years between the new album and its predecessor. You think it will take that long for the following album to be released? Or will it be just a mere four years between releases or even shorter?
No, I doubt it will be such a long time until the next album is recorded. It is not usual for us to leave it so long like that. We actually ended up with more songs than we could use on the album, so we decided just to record six from the eight we had written in order to keep the production costs from escalating too much and the other two we will develop further and use on the next album, since they are quite different from the songs on ‘A Pyrrhic Existence’. They were written later than the others. We already transitioned out of that slow phase of progression and things have been more active on the band front and it should continue. We have three new songs already, but they need time and rehearsal of course. I would expect it to be about three years this time round, but you never know for sure.
What are Esoteric’s plans for after the release of ‘A Pyrrhic Existence’?
We will be mainly gigging and working on bringing more variety back into the live show sets, including more songs from older albums, as well as the new album of course. We have shows coming up in Madrid in December and then next year we will head to Rome and Milan in March and Moscow and St Petersburg in April. We plan also to tour in June, but details will not be announced until everything is confirmed. And I am sure we will do some weekend shows and maybe some festivals too. The plan is to tour further afield first and then maybe do a European tour the following year. We had a lot of offers already.
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you would like to add?
Thank you for this interview Marcel. Your continued support is much appreciated!
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