Tell me about the new album, ‘An Examination of Being’…Would you say it is a natural progression from your self titled debut?
The rest of the guys seem to like this album a little more than the first one. I like both and to me its very similar to the first one. The writing style is the same and we appoached the arrangements in the same way. It comes across a little heavier, but thats just the nature of the riffs. More palm muting makes it sound heavier. I do like the way the vocals came out on this one. More layers and its more of what my vocals sound like live.
Did you have a definite goal in mind when you set out to write this album? How was it written? Piece by piece, all at once, etc.? As a group or individually?
I’m always writing songs. Some of them I’ve had around for years and some developed over the last year. That’s why I laugh when I read things like, this one is written better or more mature. I’d be fine putting any of these songs on the first album and any on the first one on this album. It’s similar to the Lord Of The Rings movies to me. Meaning, its all from the same place and part of the same story. I don’t think the writing gets better or worse, its people’s perception because its our second album so it should be more mature or whatever term would be used.
The way both albums have been written is this: I’ll write a bunch of songs over a period of time. When its time to start putting an album together I’ll give Steve a cd with a dozen or so songs on it. He’ll choose which song he wants to work on. I’ll go over and we’ll start jamming on the riffs. He’ll have an idea of what he wanted to do on the parts already. Sometimes we’ll change the arrangement a litle bit. Maybe extend a part or shorten one. Then we’ll make a recording of the song with drums and I’ll go home and put the guitars to it. Sometimes I have lyrics already started and sometimes I’ll write from scratch to the demo. After we have 9 songs, the number of the ennead, I’ll get John Li over to my house to lay down some leads. Another time I’ll have Scott come over to do bass or I’ll do it myself. All the songs get demoed out and sometimes twice if we changed anything major in the song.
‘An Examination of Being’ seems to have a more ‘approachable’ or even ‘commercial’ atmosphere to it but I can’t explain why…no offense, the album still kills, blasts and brutalizes…maybe you can elaborate on those terms???
I have no idea. Maybe its because the vocals came out a little better, but I really don’t know. Like I said before songs from both albums are interchangeable to me. This is very interesting though. Maybe we’ll get more tours and get the name out there more then, hahaha. That would be great. Nothing was changed in the song writing so I really don’t know why it would sound more commercial. Solos are still shredding, but catchy, structures are the same, still blasting, still screaming vocals. Its like the Amon Amarth thing to me. I’ve loved them from the beginning. Saw them years ago in Florida and no one was there, now they are headlining all of the big fests. Still putting out the same type of songs. Nothings changed. Its the fans that came around.
Tell me about working with producer Mark Lewis. The release was recorded at Audio Hammer Studios? How much would you say the production enviroment / team influenced the actual creative foundation of the album?
Recording was awesome. The first album Mark, Steve (drummer) and Scott (bassist) were in the studio the entire time. Everything was fine with tracking until it came to vocals. Everyone had their opinion on things. All I’ll say is they were bugging me. This time it was just Mark and myself for a week tracking bass, guitars and vocals. I’d already tracked the guitars to the demo and I even tracked all the guitars to a click at home to get the tempos correct. When it came to vocals I’d told Mark “let me just do it the way I have it and see what happens”. It turned out great. Mark is great with spicing up some sections that need it, but mainly everything is worked out ahead of time. He helped come up with some cool bass lines and layering of the vocals.
What is the one thing that makes Order of Ennead unique? Lyrics? Musical style? Philosophy as a band? I don’t think that OOE is a stereotypical extreme metal band at all…
I guess lyrics come to mind and I know mixing death and black metal isn’t unchartered territory, but I’ve never heard anyone do it the same way as us. I don’t know why more bands don’t do it. They mix very well and easily if you just let it happen, but some guys that listen to one genre don’t listen to the other. Can you imagine mixing Immortal’s Sons Of Norther Darkness with Malevolent Creation’s Retribution? Wow that would be killer. I listen to some black metal bands and I can hear a death metal groove kicking in that never comes. Then some death metal bands could use a nice atmostpheric interlude or slowr section. Just my opinion everyone’s got one.
Back to the lyrics and philosophy. The philosophy is similar to the other metal bands really. We believe that religon has caused more problems then fixed and that dogma is a lie. One way I differ is, I don’t care what others are doing that much. The best is if people would come to the same conclusion on their own. I’m not going to preach or try to get people to change their ways. No church burning from me because I just don’t care what others are doing. The lyrics are a bit different. My point of view is more agnostic and I tend to write more about improving the self and not dwelling on negativity. My everyday life involves taking care of my girlfriend and our dog. I’m not a drinker or go out causing problems. Its not what I do so the lryics are going to be about the person I am or the person I want to be.
Is it difficult for you to write the lyrics that you do? Some people find difficulty sharing personal lyrics where others are eager to unload a burden in a creative manner…
It does take some time coming up with lyrics that aren’t chessy sounding. I don’t know how others write lyrics, but I have to be in a certain frame of mind which is totally different then when I’m writing riffs. Sometimes it will take just as long to come up with the lyrics. I try to approach them like I’m writing a poem and as something that could stand on its own without music. The lyrics might seem personal, but who hasn’t wondered about why we exist? They are my thoughts, but they tap into a collective quest for understanding. I do get the same enjoyment from finishing the music to a song as I do coming up with a song title that I like.
I wanted to ask about the track, ‘Lies Upon the Lips of Judas’…is a track with a definite religious voice or is it more metaphorical?
This track takes the idea of Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, and calls the church Judas. The role of Jesus is played by the church. So…The church and I mean all religions, lie to their followers by saying, Jesus is the son of god, the virgin birth, this guy is a prophet, god spoke to me and told me to write this, etc. No one knows why we are here. No one has spoken to our creator. There are no angels and no prophets. Its all lies and I wish people would admit this to themselves. I know its hard to leave a religion when your parents are involved heavily or you’ve been taught something since childhood, but if its wrong its wrong. Just sit there and meditate or think inside your head or whatever you want to call it and think about it.
Which is more difficult in writing…the lyrics to match your emotion, the music to match the lyrics or just what? Does it come easily or do you really have to look deep inside for the perfect material?
Well it is metal so there has to be something going own with the music. Sometimes its a heavy riff and sometimes its something more atmospheric. Its just wherever the music takes itself. When you’ve heard a riff for too long then you change it. If there are too many blast sections you make it go to a slow section. I’ll listen to the songs hundreds of times making sure I don’t get bored with them. I never have a certain mood in mind really. Its either a heavy riff like at the beginning of “This Mortal Journey” or screaming over the blasts of “The Concept Of Our Extinction”. The lyrics are more emotional when reading them without the music because when I’m doing the vocals I’m just screaming as brutal as possible. I wouldn’t say its hard to write the lyrics or music it just takes time and patience. If its hard to write then its being forced and thats why I write material way in advance so its never rushed and the songs can mold themselves over time. For example, Steve and myself have already started demoing the third album. I don’t if I answered your question. I have a tendency to babble.
Order of Ennead features the talented lead guitarist John Li whose style is one not often found in extreme metal, the Shredder! Why do you think that shred guitar is not very common in extreme death/black metal?
Well the short answer is most guitarist can’t shred and be interesting. I can’t. If we didn’t have John there would either be no solos or a lot simplier ones. Most of the time you hear these “Slayer” solos which I’ve been listening to metal for a long time and those get very boring after awhile. Then there’s the chaos solo which is just whammy bar wanking. I’d rather go without then do something like that. Others think you can’t be “BRUTAL” with melodic solos. BooWhoo. I can guarantee that most extreme players don’t play the way John does because they can’t. If you’ve spent a lot of time practicing and learning a skill why wouldn’t you do it? I don’t play that way because I can’t. If I could I would. I spent all my time playing guitar learning rythyms and learning how to compose songs. One point of view I’ve had is this, a virtuoso shredder usually can’t write a good song. A good song writer usually can’t shred. Steve Vai great shredder, writes weird ridiculous songs. Kerry King great song writing, rather not have him try to shred. Please stop.
Have you gotten any negative criticism for being so different, for doing what you want? Often, the more pioneering, free-thinking and successful the arist, the more criticism they receive…
Nothing really negative. Had some people comment that the lyrics are pretentious. I laugh at that one pretty good because the lyrics are more about destroying the ego and never intended to be forced upon anyone. I think that says more about the person reading the lyric then the one who wrote them. Hahaha. Heard something about ambitious. I don’t even know what that means. Its just a riff then another riff with vocals on top of it. So whatever that is. Heard epic which isn’t negative, but I guess its because we’ve had some slower sections. I call them atmospheric, but if someone calls them epic then fine with me. I wish we were more successful!! Its still hard for us to get a booking agent, to book shows, to get press. If I wasn’t jamming with Deicide I’d have a regular job and the band would be doing evenless then we’ve done already.
Was Order of Ennead ever viewed as simply a Deicide side-project? The two are obviously different beasts but was it difficult to escape the comparisons or critics trying to compare OOE with Deicide?
Musically its pretty obvious its a different beast entirely. Lyrically its pretty obvious also. Most will say Deicide drummer and the comparisons end there. Still hear Deicide side-project, but its like what do you mean? We toured for 9 weeks on the first album, we’re doing a video for this album. What more do you want to not be a side-project? Its just a phrase people like to say without thinking. Its more like an alternate Deicide band. Similar to a parallel universe for all you Fringe and Lost fans. All hail geekdom.
I missed hearing the amazing piano skills of drummer Steve Asheim on this album…any reason why the new release doesn’t have any passages like on the debut? All killer no filler?
We were going to do one, but when it came time to record Steve said its not up to par with the one on the first album. If we recorded it it would have been forced. There was also a short instrumental that we dropped. There was no intent in not having them on the album. It just happened. Like I said earlier you let music take its course. Don’t force it, let it happen. We never considered those piano pieces filler either. They were the theme of “Dismantling An Empire” and it worked very well with that song. Just because we did it on the first one doesn’t mean we have to do it on the next.
The Order of Ennead myspace is full of videos, behind the scenes, interviews, etc. You even did a blog or something…a studio update, right? Many extreme bands are not so approachable, accessible, communicable to their fans…why did you choose to document everything? Or maybe the question should be, why doesn’t everyone else do it?
I do that just to try and get the word out there about the band. It seems that the people who hear the band like it. The trick is to get people to hear it so I try and do press releases and videos to try and get interest going. It still doesn’t feel like a major buzz in going for us. It seems like certain bands get attention because of the labels they are on. There are some bands, not mentioning any, that aren’t good at all, but get pushed by their labels and sell a lot more albums then we do. I know we don’t play the style that’s popular these days, but I’m not drop tuning to A and writing the same song ten times and releasing an album. If you flood the market with crap then thats what the kids are going to listen too.
What is one thing you want Order of Ennead to be know for?
Good songs. I know people love Steve’s drumming and love John’s leads, but look at the entire package. I’m a writer so of course I have that point of view. I don’t watch movies and say, “that movie sucked, but that one scene was great”. I do like when people comment about the lyrics because thats when you know people really listened to the album. Mainly because metalheads don’t really care about lyrics if they even read them. So if someone comments on lyrics then they really tried.
Tell me about your tour plans…do you have anything confirmed yet? Are there any places you want to play that you didn’t get to recently? I know you toured alot supporting the debut…
Nothing planned yet. Steve and I will be touring with Deicide this summer so it will be tough to fit an OOE tour in. I am working with Kult Of Azazel to try and book about two weeks in June of the Southeast in the US. Hope to start more extensive touring in August. Its hard out there though man. We want to tour everywhere we did on the first album and everywhere we didn’t. I’d love to just tour, but the bills have to be getting paid at home. Need to be selling a certain amount of albums to get on some tours and that means label support and it just its complicated and risky. Some booking agents won’t even reply to my e-mails.
Tell me what I left out…your last words! Thanks for talking again, Kevin!
No problem. I think I’ve babbled on enough. Thanks for the interview and help with spreading the word. Hope to see everyone on the road.