Hails to Ankou Awaits! Give me, if you will, a brief but brutal history of the band. How, when, where and why did you decide to create music under this name?
Greetings! I created the project on a whim in August 2011. I was doing experimental heavily symphonic music under a different project name at the time and wanted a “breath of fresh air”. Ironically, that came from raw and cryptic black metal under the Ankou Awaits name. The consensus between myself and others was “good, but nothing new” with the raw black style, so I decided to add different elements for the sophomore release, and different elements yet again for Wyllt.
I’ve jumped from several small labels as well, Black Metal Underground for the debut, The Road Less Traveled Records for the sophomore release, and Black Plague Records for Wyllt. Since this is a solo project, I figured working with someone to help me with the post-release stuff would only be an asset.
‘Wyllt’ is the title of your new full length album, tell me about this powerhouse of a release!
This is actually a split concept album. Literally the first 3 tracks are about Gwyn Ap Nudd, a Welsh warrior and king of the Otherworld, and the last 3 are about Cyledr Wyllt (Wyllt, rhymes with the German word “licht”, being the welsh word for “Wild”) who went insane after he was forced to eat his father’s heart by the warrior from earlier in the album.
The music is faster than the previous releases, and also (for lack of better words) “chunkier”. I wanted loads of blast beats, but also some elements of doom. Parts with beautiful melodies and other parts with neck breaking chops. I wanted it to be both light and dark, unique and the same.
I’m satisfied with Wyllt and how it turned out. It’s not the perfect album – I don’t think I’m capable of making one… but I think it’s very good.
What elements of ‘Wyllt’ are new to what you are doing. This marks your third full length, yes? What things set this release apart from your previous titles, from either your perspective or that of a fan?
I never thought I would add symphonic elements to Ankou Awaits, but I did. I think it really adds to the music when it’s there in small doses, but really dulls the music if there’s too much of it. I have some fans that are unhappy with the new material and want me to keep to the music formula I used for the debut. (100% tremolo, raw production black metal) I’d like to keep that formula, but only use it every once in a while throughout a song and add other formulas as well! Other fans like the direction the music is going. I can’t make everyone happy so I’ll do what I want to do, which is going the direction I’m going.
I would say it’s grown in lyrical consistency. It started out just songs about Celtic mythology with each track having their own theme, then it matured into concept albums where each track was part of the album’s story. Musically, It started out with more abstract and bizarre melodies, now I have that and long sensible melodies and rhythm to add to it. The debut album was predictable, with riffs changing on time. Now, I deliberately decapitate my riffs mid stride to throw myself and listeners off.How has Ankou Awaits grown since the beginning?
I would say that I’ve gotten more diverse in my songwriting and have gone more from trying to make an album happen, to letting an album happen. I know it sounds bad to say, but everything sounds better when I really don’t care and just have fun. When I get stressed and try hard and make a big deal out of the music, it doesn’t sound right. When I essentially don’t care and just slap tracks together and just like it for what it is, it sounds better and more natural. I have no idea why that is, but it’s obvious with the debut being a huge deal, Wyllt, not so much.
What sets Ankou Awaits apart from the hordes of one man bands out there?
Let me start by saying, there’s a lot of solo projects I haven’t heard. The ones I have listened to though drum like their in an alternative band (slow) or have a horrible monotonous drum machine that sounds like a dance floor 10x speed. I provide QUALITY drum tracks for a solo project, I think. I’m sure there are one man bands out there that have excellent drumming; at least I hope there are.
What is the meaning behind the name ‘Ankou Awaits’? How does it reflect your art?
“Ankou” is the personification of death in Welsh/Celtic mythology. He’s a rather “Grim Reaper-ish” character. Essentially the name is a cultural way of saying “Death Awaits”. I went for the name because it stood out. So many bands now, you try to Google their name, you can’t even find them. Google Ankou Awaits, you’ll find Ankou Awaits and I’m not well known at all!
Ankou Awaits is a one man cult, yes? Why do you choose to work alone? Do you envision Ankou Awaits to always operate in this manner? Why or why not?
No, I’m positive this will always be a studio project. I’m really not a team player when it comes to metal. I was in a band for one year as a drummer. It was fun. More drinking and drugs than playing, but if I don’t like the guitars as the drummer, there’s nothing I can do about it. If someone wants me drum a certain way and I disagree, I can either tolerate it or quit. I’m very particular with my metal. My wife calls me a “metal snob”, and not only is that very true, I take it as a compliment! HAHA!
I get the “working with someone feeling” with a label though. There’s no way I can get into the major label limelight, but it’s nice to be able to know someone has my back on this journey. I have a very simple agreement with Black Plague Records and I’m satisfied.
I enjoyed the solid blend of death metal aggression and black metal atmosphere on ‘Wyllt’; was there a certain idea, vision or goal you had in mind when you began writing the material for the album? Why or why not?
I simply wanted to have my cake and eat it too! I think ever since I heard modern Belphegor albums, I really loved the alternating death to black style that they did, and wanted to use the same formula after I already did straight black metal. The writing process in general for me might be unique? I have no idea how other people write music really. Let me preface by saying that I don’t practice or play instruments – I only play when I record. I would consider it a bad habit, but I have my reasons.
I lay down the entire album drum tracks having no idea what the guitars will do or what the lyrics will be. I lay down the guitars on top of the drums having no idea what and where the lyrics/vocals will be. I’m basically looking at all these small details, building and editing, piece by piece, and I don’t get to see the big picture until the album is completely done. THEN I stand back and actually have an idea of what I created.
Sounds insane, but that’s how I work! I have no album goals when I start writing. It’s basically small little short term goals, like making 7 minutes of drums, or one more guitar riff to a track for diversity, which in turn creates the album in the long run.
I was pleased to find the lyrics included in the liner notes for ‘Wyllt’ and you also have them posted online for your entire discography, something I find few bands take the time to do. Why do you make your lyrics so accessible when others do not?
On the first two albums “Lebor Gabala Erenn” and “Crog Buide”, my wife wrote the lyrics and named the songs. I’m really proud to have her involved with my music in at least some way and I like to show off her ability! I wrote the lyrics for Wyllt because she had too much going on with work and life at the time I wanted them written. Her and I are both hoping she’ll be able the write the lyrics for the 4th album.
Also, the lyrics are available because I want people to know what they’re getting. For some people, what’s said in the music is very important! Besides, they’re good stories and that would be a waste if people didn’t know what they were. Not only that, but the lyrics can really add to the music.
I know this is one of those love or hate bands, but Cradle of Filth always impacted me with their art more so than a lot of other bands. Why? Because I got to fully process the emotions of the story with the emotions of the music. Most other bands, just had the music to sway me.
As for why people don’t include lyrics on their websites/inserts, I can only assume it’s either laziness, lack of budget in time or money, they’re ashamed of the lyrics, or they’re just nonsense filler and not worth being seen. I can’t think of any other reason why a band/project wouldn’t include their lyrics.
Tell us what the lyrical nature of your material is? What themes will listeners find themselves presented with?
One thing about the lyrics is that I want them to be for everyone interested in these genres of music and devoid of propaganda and obscenities. People in NSBM bands, if you get someone that doesn’t like the lyrics or imagery, they’re not going to want to listen to the band. There goes part of your audience. Christian metal, satanic metal, political metal, same thing – if you get someone that doesn’t like the lyrics or imagery, they’re not going to want to listen to the band, regardless of the music. I personally don’t understand NOT listening to something just because the lyrics aren’t what I think, believe or feel, but I run into people every day like that, and I respect their opinions.The lyrics are, like the project name, based on Celtic/Welsh mythology. Usually the dark “scary story” themes or even the morbid rhymes and songs the culture has. It’s all very intriguing I think. I originally looked into these themes in the first place because of my wife’s Irish heritage.
In Ankou Awaits, what I tell is a story, no strings attached. I want to be able to hand my music to the most conservative religious metalhead and the most liberal anti-religious metalhead and receive the same praise from them both and not have “message” or propaganda or imagery get in the way of the METAL!!!!
What influences you to write and be creative? Other music and film, art and science, religion and politics? Why?
I think music in me is genetic. From when I was young, I remember starting to write and it came naturally. I had a pretty major awakening a few years back in my life. I already mentioned being in a band before and lots of drugs and booze. That got VERY out of control with me and totally consumed my life and had no room for anything else in my life, not even a job, music or family. I literally became something I thought I’d never be; a piece of trash on the street, unwashed, chugging a bottle of Listerine propped up against the local library, in and out of jail. I was very sick. I was insane.
5 times through treatment, I finally “woke up”, got a new lease on life and started getting back what I lost. Family came back first, then a job… After 2 years sober, all the music I’d been chemically repressing came roaring back in my mind and between this project and another one, this is my 7th full length release since 2009.
I’d say my spirituality and new sober perspective gives me my musical drive now. Ironically, Wyllt was completed very close to my 6th year sober, another reason why the album is special to me.
My musical influences are of bands like Carach Angren, Belphegor, Devourment, Dark Funeral, Cradle of Filth – most of the heavy hitters of the extreme metal scene, even if they’re genres are not quite like mine. I challenge myself to be able to do all their parts myself. I like a lot of underground bands, but I see them more as siblings to me, the major successful bands, like role models.
How does your environment influence your music?
This might sound strange or it might make perfect sense, but I couldn’t pull myself to start recording Wyllt until there was snow on the ground. It’s probably that black metal aura that I think musicians and listeners alike have, to where they feel more attuned musically to certain climates and seasons.
Other than that, I work in customer service as a supervisor and spend about 50 hours a week at work. I go to the gym quite a bit. I work around my house doing various chores. My office has the only remnants of “music” in my life and I’m not even in my office every day. What I’m saying is, nothing in my life contributes or takes away from my music because so much of my life isn’t about music.
After three albums, I believe you have done all on your own, how do you stay creative and fresh?
Remember what I said about only playing my instruments when I record? That’s how I stay fresh. I stay AWAY from it the rest of the time. I don’t record again until my head is overflowing with music and I’m DYING to start recording. Anytime sooner, what I make sounds rushed and my heart just isn’t in it. Being that it takes so long to create an album, I have to pace myself, and then not get too hyped when I finally finish the album.
When I was younger, more immature, I used to finish an album and get ticked off when “no one cared”. Then I looked at my own habits with what I listen to – the bands I like have no idea I like them. It’s not like I tell them they’re awesome when I give them a digital download sale.
If one person tells me they think my music is great, which has already happened, that’s totally above and beyond what I could expect for what I do. Everything else is just adding to that bonus.
What is a typical songwriting session like for Ankou Awaits?
It’s all whim and very impulsive. I think to myself, well, I haven’t started a song out this way before. I think I’ll have a blast beat this long. I believe I’ll have a melodic guitar part here. I’ll have a heavy part here. I think I’ll use this riff several times. I believe I’ll only use this riff once to TEASE the listener and deliberately take it away so they’ll never see it again. I’ll do the vocals in this pattern. You get the idea.
Wyllt is all about 1st thoughts. I absolutely did not second guess myself. I just went with what showed up in my mind, made it tangible through recording, and MADE it work.
What about recording? How do you like to work in the studio? I was pleased to hear the well-programmed drums on ‘Wyllt’, have you always used a drum machine? Why or why not?
Recording wasn’t bad, but it never is. It’s always in the comfort of my own office and I did half the album in sweat pants. HAHA!! I’ve got dated software and hardware, but I’m finding more and more ways to maximize what I have to get the best sound. Dakr Gremmil Studio is the moniker for my own setup. I’ve also done some discount mastering on the side as well with some decent success. (I think I’ve mastered about 20-30 albums?)
You know, to this day I have no idea what a “drum machine” is. I’ve never used one! I “sequence” the drums by hand in my recording software. This is one of the main reasons why it takes two months to finish an album. One month of that is me tediously and painstakingly putting in each custom drum fill in, brushing in all the beats, individually placing each cymbal. I do this for precision, and also for production purposes. (it sounds better and its half the effort of checking and placing mics)
For the record, I sequence drums like I play drums. Just go to YouTube and type in “Phelicia’s Entrails”. This is another past grindcore solo project of mine where I recorded actual drums. It’s sad to say, but I can make drums sound better and more professional with a mouse click than with drum sticks, at least with my level of skill in music production.
What does the future hold for Ankou Awaits? More releases, etc.?
Yes, I would like to do another release, one every year. Assuming everything goes to plan in my life though, my wife and I might have our first kid in 2014. We’ll just have to see then, but as of now, it’s planned for then – about this time next year, maybe a little sooner. When snow is on the ground…
The last words are yours!
Thank you for your time and interest in this project! I’d say my main motive in giving to the extreme metal scene is the people. If I was the only one here, I wouldn’t be making this music for myself. I like to be able to connect to bands, labels, zines, people for our common bond. It’s almost like my extended family! Other than that, I just look to break even in sales. I give so much music away. HAHA!!!