Timothy Pope: Hello. Thank you very much for the interview. “Flesh is Heir” is a very unique album. Not only unique to us (and it definitely is that) but also unique when compared with the thousands of other metal albums that you will hear this year. Those of you who are familiar with The Amenta will certainly recognize familiar traits but I think that “Flesh is Heir” is a much more organic and human album which should hopefully fuck off those “industrial” tags once and for all. All of our albums are very different from each other as we become bored very quickly when we are repeating ourselves. Subsequently, through a Darwinian process of evolution, only the ideas that are new and interesting to us get used as the basis for songs. So it is not possible for us to repeat ourselves. This album should hopefully show a new facet of The Amenta, or at least make hidden facets clearer. In the past we have been accused of avoiding melody, which is obviously absolute bullshit, but I think this album strips away a lot of the density so people will probably begin to hear the melodies that have been there all along.
The album is also unique when compared to all the other albums released this year because it is an honest album. I think most bands are guilty of the greatest sin that an Artist can commit. The sin of being redundant. Most new albums I hear are just pointless rehashes of someone else’s ideas. They don’t reflect the artists making the album, they are just almost a run through of their record collection. We don’t work like that. “Flesh is Heir” is written in a language that is exclusive to The Amenta and expresses US as artists. We are not using anyone else’s words or ideas. Every sound, idea or method is The Amenta, whether it fails or succeeds. WE are making original music and that sets us apart from the pack.
‘Flesh is Heir’ immediately assaults the senses with its clear production and powerful aggression. What goals did you have in mind when writing the material for the album?
Our goals are always to keep ourselves entertained. We don’t make extreme music for money or for prestige. We know that the chances of extreme music generating any money of note is remote at best. So all we want to do is make sure that we believe in the music and that it is interesting and entertaining for us as artists and listeners. If you are going to lose thousands of dollars, strain relationships and go without sleep for months on end then you better believe 100% in the music. As I briefly mentioned above, we are only motivated to create music that is interesting to us. Any ideas that sound like something we have written before is rejected because we don’t find it interesting at all. The ideas that make us grin and get us excited are the ones that are pursued to the end.
In the past we have been pigeonholed, incorrectly in my mind, as a cold and clinical band. With this album it was the organic and immediate ideas that really inspired us. The process was more about capturing a moment. In the past we have focused and refining our ideas. Here we just tried to capture the magic and move on. Subsequently our ways of working changed. In terms of samples and effects, rather than meticulously programming them I played samples live into the recording and manipulated them in real-time. I even used instruments that I can’t actually play, like violin, to create a kind of organic noise. I think this helped the album become the dirty, rotting beast that it is.
What was the recording process like for ‘Flesh is Heir’? Was it long and laborious or quickly executed and finished? Why?
All of our recordings tend to be laborious for a variety of different reasons. This time we recorded some parts reasonably quickly. The samples, which on our second album , “n0n”, took about 18 months, took only a few weeks as we were working with more immediate and “live” ways of sample creation. The biggest delays and struggles for us was time. We’ve always been a very geographically spread out band but with this album, all but two of us live in different cities and Cain [Cressall, vocals] lives over the other side of the country. So we spent a lot of time sending files back and forth and refining the parts before we recorded them. In the end it was a pretty long process but I think, in some ways, we are getting much quicker and we have definitely worked out a lot of issues which should speed us up in the future.
The other delay was that we mixed this album completely by ourselves. Erik [Miehs, guitars] mixed the album (and did a killer job) but he is a perfectionist so we had to send each version around to get everyone’s feedback and then he would go back and refine. The mix that we ended up with is the best mix we have ever had but it took a while to get right as we didn’t want to compromise as we have in the past.
‘Teeth’ was an EP released earlier this year, was it like meant to be a prelude to ‘Flesh is Heir? Tell us about how this recent release relates to the full album…
We know that we can take a very long time in between albums. Between our first and second album there was a four year gap. With this album there was a five year gap. We know that we can disappear of people’s radar during those times so in some ways the ep’s are released to keep us top of mind with the audience. The other side of it is that our writing process is entirely about experimentation. We throw ideas around and wait for the ones that really resonate with us. We’ll then base an album around the ideas that we find. In the past these experiments have happened behind closed doors but this time we made a decision to release some. So in 2011 we released the free download “V01D” (which is still available from our bandcamp page) which showed a more melodic and epic form of what we do. The “Choke Hold” ep followed in 2012 which was an experiment in immediacy and simplicity and definitely inspired a lot of the direction for “Flesh is Heir”. In 2013, just before the release of “Flesh is Heir” we release the “Teeth” ep. This served as a prelude to the album, as you mentioned, as it has one track taken from the full length but it was also an experiment in atmospheric instrumentation as heard in the song “The Arc”.
These smaller satellite releases are signposts to potential directions for The Amenta. Our albums could go anywhere and we like to discover new paths each time. Anyone of those eps could have been the aesthetic springboard that launched the album. We will probably continue to release smaller collections around the “masterwork” of the albums. To me it is interesting as an artist and as a listener. I love it when bands have huge, unwieldy discographies. It gives you something to explore.
What is the best way to experience The Amenta, on stage or on the stereo? Why?
I think that each shows a different aspect of the band. Live we are quite chaotic and feral. We are not particularly interested in a 100% “correct” performance; we’d rather put on a show and project aggression. So there is definitely a “punk” energy that our live shows transmit which is perhaps not as obvious in our recorded material. But still I would say that the recordings are the best way to experience The Amenta. And I would even go further and say that the stereo is not the best way, headphones is the key. Our music is not social. It is not meant to be listened to with other people. It is for the individual to parse in their own way, without distraction.
The reason that the recordings are the best way is that I think we are a studio band by design and a live band by necessity. If we didn’t have to play live to get the word out then we probably wouldn’t. The creation of the songs is the most important aspect, to me at least. I enjoy playing live but it is definitely not my reason for making music. I enjoy the hard work for creation and destruction. I think that is the honest representation of The Amenta and it is certainly the aspect that we focus on.
The Amenta is a word is supposedly meanly ‘underground’ in an Egyptian tongue. Is this correct? Why did you choose this name for your music and band?
Amenta actually means “the hidden earth”. It was the doorway to the temple of judgment in Egyptian mythology. The name chosen for a few reasons one of which is that, lyrically, we often deal with the issue of the human/divine versus the animal in man. A name for the small percentage of people that have the ability to think independently, and are therefore worthy of the term human, is the hidden earth. Another reason for the name is that, like most intelligent people, we are not only active participants in the world but also observers and judges. Most of our lyrics are about modern live and what we see to be problems and issues. So the reference to the temple of judgment is apt.
This is your first full length in almost 5 years, with a handful of EPs since 2008. Why the wait for a full length album? How has the band evolved in this time?
While it seems like a long time to outsiders we haven’t been fucking around since 2008. As you mentioned we have released 2 eps and a multimedia release. We’ve toured North America once, Europe three times, Australia about five times and found time to get over to New Zealand. We are not the kind of band that can write our music in the back of a tour bus. Our music requires concentration and isolation. If we tried to write in the middle of a tour bus then we wouldn’t have the focus and our hands would go to familiar places rather than searching our new shapes. We would end up churning out the same generic garbage as everyone else. Fuck that. So we don’t write until we have made a decision to suspend performing. That way we can concentrate on the album and do it justice.
We’ve definitely evolved, not least because the line-up has changed pretty dramatically since the last album but the biggest evolution is solely because we are 5 years older. We are different people than the people who write “n0n” so our music sounds completely different. We aim to document our subconscious through music, which I believe is the only honest way for an artist to work. Our subconscious has changed as we’ve grown, our lives have changed and we have added to our experience. Subsequently our music has changed.
I had received a handful of postcards promoting ‘Flesh is Heir’ from Listenable Records, complete with the cover art of the man struggling with the chains about his neck. How does this artwork reflect the music? Was the imagery conceptualized by the band, an artist, etc.?
The image was taken by a frequent collaborator of ours, Jess Mathews, with assistance from our vocalist Cain (who was also the model for the shots). We gave the concept of the album to Jess and asked her to interpret the themes with a striking image. Jess and Cain brainstormed the idea and shot the session on a freezing night in Perth. I am not sure the cover art reflects the music but more the lyrical themes. As one of the composers it is hard for me to attribute reflection after the fact of the composition. If we had the image first, as we were writing, then I might be able to give you that answer but my memories of the music and the creation are linked to much more mundane and practical imagery because I was immersed in the creation. I think the great think about imagery for album covers is that it gives the audience a context to appreciate the music. But I am not the audience so I can’t say. The cover image was inspired by the lyrics and themes more so than music. I am not even sure that Jess had heard the album before she took the shot.
Of course, in some ways I am just being difficult. I hope the image does colour the perception of the music somewhat. I hope people who see the image understand the concept of struggle which is intrinsic to the lyrics and I hope the darkness and humanity of the image will do away with those terrible industrial tags.
I see the word ‘industrial’ being used to describe your sound. I also think of bands like Skinny Puppy when I hear the term industrial, very rarely ‘metal’ bands. How do you describe it?
I fucking hate the term industrial to describe our music. I don’t think we are industrial and I don’t think that most people who use the term even understand what it means or where it comes from. I love the original idea of industrial. It was THROBBING GRISTLE’s record label originally and the tag line was “industrial music for industrial people” but the unspoken part was “you get what you deserve”. They wanted to churn our music like a production line as an art-prank. They thought people where used to consuming that they could make art with the same ethos. And it worked! Of course they soon moved away from that idea and signed other bands to the label. The releases had no unifying sound. There were spoken word recordings, punk recordings, homemade electronics etc. There was no “industrial genre”. That came later. The music was just people making interesting ideas happen. I would be happy to be considered part of that but now the term has become polluted. Any band with a keyboard player or a gas-mask in their band photo is considered industrial now. It doesn’t make any fucking sense.
So we are NOT industrial. Nor are we death metal or black metal. We have elements of those genres but we don’t fit into the guidelines of the genre. I don’t think it is my job to evaluate and categorize the band. That is the job of reviewers and listeners. We just make music that represents us as artists. If you think it sounds like death metal then that’s fine. Call it that. We call it The Amenta.
What are some of the themes that are being dealt with in your lyrics? Will the lyrics be in included in this release? Why or why not?
The album is about the war between the two sides of the human psyche. The first side, that we have called The Obliterate, desires to be subsumed by something greater than itself. It is the aspect of people that finds religion or drugs, sex or violence etc. Being human carries with it a lot of trouble, worry and problems. The obliterate aspect avoids these problems by annihilating the sense of self. When you are part of a mass you are no longer and individual and your own worries and desires become superseded by the desires of the mass. The other aspect of humanity is the one we call The Realist. The Realist is the aspect that embraces the problems and worries of humanity and tries to overcome them. It is the survival instinct as well as the aspect that tries to define itself in opposition to others. Everyone has these two aspects and the two opposing ideas are constantly struggling for control of the mind. Some people lean harder to one side than another. For example, junkies and shaman lean stronger towards The Obliterate. Philosophers and depressives lean towards The Realist. This struggle between the two is the energy that creates life. We wouldn’t exist without the struggle but it is a struggle nonetheless.
The lyrics will be included with the album as I believe people should have the opportunity to try to understand the greater ideas at work within our music. I am also well aware that most people don’t give a fuck about lyrics. We could be screaming lyrics from the back of a Corn Flakes box and they would be fine with it. It is not my job to tell people how to appreciate our music. They find their own way. But we will provide the lyrics in the hope that they will read and try to understand. Nothing nobler than pissing into the wind.
What formats will ‘Flesh is Heir’ be available in? CD, tape, vinyl, digital? Where and when?
The album is currently available everywhere on CD and Digitally through Listenable Records (internationally) and EVP Recordings (Australia). We have spoken about a vinyl release so hopefully that happens. I understand the vinyl fetish and would definitely like to see the artwork on a bigger canvas so I definitely hope that we can get that happening. Do people still buy tapes of albums? I’ve bought a few small noise things on tape and it’s cool but I don’t think there is the demand for the label to put it out in that format.
The Amenta is based in Sydney, Australia, yes? How does your environment affect your sound or writing?
I don’t think our environment has a direct influence on our sound. We don’t go for nature walks to get inspired. If anything it would be a subconscious influence but we deliberately try to block our immediate environment out when we are writing. There is always a closed door. I think we are inspired more by global events than the local environment. We, at least Erik and I, are news junkies. We read a lot about the world and often discuss it over beers after writing or recording. Our lyrics come out of that exposure and discussion in some ways. I can’t really see how Sydney has affected us at all.
Actually, I lie. It just occurred to me that the isolation of Australia from the rest of the world affects our music. As we are miles away from the metal “cultural” centres we have no reason to censor ourselves or homogenize our sound. We can make the ugliest and strangest music that we can because it isn’t going to make our break our career. We can operate under the radar until we choose to poke our heads up.
What does the future hold for The Amenta? Tours, releases, etc.?
We are just about to tour around Australia with CRADLE OF FILTH and then we’ll do another headline tour of Australia in July. We haven’t locked down any international tours yet but it is still early days. We hope to get started on another release ASAP. In fact, Erik and I met a couple of days ago to discuss another smaller satellite ep to blow the cobwebs away so hopefully there should be some news soon.
The last words are yours!
Thank you very much for the interview. To those reading: I recommend you get to “Flesh is Heir” asap. It is the greatest album you will hear this year. Beware: it ain’t for the close-minded or faint of heart. This isn’t the bullshit cookie-cutter nonsense that you are used to being spoon fed. This is ugly music by ugly people for ugly people.