JW: It’s been a few years since your debut on Shadow Kingdom back in 2010 I believe(?) and now here you are again with, in my honest opinion, a more solid sound and sense of artistic development. Aside from the obvious differences between the more traditional doom path of Visions of the Haunted with the new, heavy prog/proto-metal direction taken with A Vortex of Earthly Chimes, what do you see as major difference between the two from your perspective as the creator of both? How did your frame of mind and creative direction carve out a more 70’s vibe than pure DOOM this time around?
Kevin: Indeed, it has been a few years between album releases. I had written most of the music for ‘Visions of the Haunted’ back in 2009 and that record came out in 2010. When I was writing the songs for Visions… I was writing in a very specific traditional doom style, which I was enjoying at the time. This collection of songs had a very dark feel to them and it’s almost like a diary of my life during that period.
I began writing music for what would become A Vortex of Earthly Chimes at the end of 2010 and early 2011. I wanted to explore more of my musical palette on this album rather than just playing the straight up Doom that I’d been traditionally known for creating. I really didn’t see the point in making another record like ‘Visions..’ again. I want to grow as a musician and song writer/composer and it would have been too easy to turn out another straight up heavy doom record without too much thought. I think this is the main reason why the two records sound so very different; I wrote songs inspired by all my musical influences not just Doom related ones. Several people have commented to me that A Vortex… sounds so much more vibrant and energetic in comparison to the debut record and I believe that’s definitely down to the pure enjoyment of making a totally different sounding record.
JW: I agree with your personal artistic motivation to grow, it’ll happen eventually anyway because you will get bored with doing the same thing over and over again, as will listeners, and then the following pitfalls occur:
1) You don’t change and people bitch about it, so you change direction and they bitch
again because it’s not really CIE anymore at this place in the game.
2) You do change and are met with the latter part of pitfall one, or you do the smart
thing and create the “evolved” CIE under a fresh name, which in itself could also
backfire but usually doesn’t seem to.
At least you did it early on thus avoiding most of the shit splatter criticism plus this record, to my ears, completely demolishes the debut, thus putting you in a stronger artistic position. You also mentioned to me recently that some things have happened in your life that have dramatically changed your life, so do you foresee writing about those tragedies or have you already?
Kevin: (laughs) The pitfalls you mention there are very true. Anathema are a good example of a band who have evolved so well over their career. Weather Systems was almost heavenly to listen to!
I did for a short time think of changing the band name but decided against it. At the end of the day, I am Crowned In Earth so what I naturally come up with is the sound of the band.
Thank you! I think the praise A Vortex of Earthly Chimes received from Prog, Doom and a wider audience has set up nicely for the next record. I am so very excited about the new material! I hope it will be another pleasing surprise for people. Everything that happens in my life affects the mind-set of how I write and what I create. A new song’s working title is “Ghost In The Mirror’” and lyrically it’s incredibly haunting.
JW: Now I have to ask something that may seem to be a very lame question, but getting on the mighty Black Widow label is one Hell of an achievement and with that label being a long running favorite of mine I have to ask this: so how did you land on the legendary Black Widow Records roster?
That’s huge for anyone let alone a practically solo artist only on his sophomore release, plus I’ve seen the LP sell out already from Shadow Kingdom and that can generally indicate a good response to it. But upon hearing the new album myself now I can safely say that fit that labels roster quite well.
Kevin: I was putting together Promo packs and emailed Black Widow some details about the album. Massimo (BWR Manager) emailed me back within about 15 minutes requesting to hear the record and was incredibly excited about it.
I’d had contact with a few other labels but it was Black Widow’s enthusiasm for A Vortex of Earthly Chimes that led to us eventually working together. In addition, they are a very well respected label in both the Metal and Prog Rock worlds and have worked with bands that I have a lot of respect for. Likewise, I think Crowned In Earth fits in well with their roster, which is something that I believe Massimo saw instantly.
JW: That’s a pretty cool little story, if only it was that easy every time (laughs).
Since we last spoke about getting this interview rolling you also dropped the news that you are already prepared material-wise for a third album. What can you say so far about the next phase of Crowned in Earth? Will it take another worthy detour in musical direction or do you feel that you’ve found your artistic niche with A Vortex… and are now just building and expanding on that foundation?
Kevin: I have most of the material written for the third album now. I have four tracks (which are more or less arranged) and then I have three more song ideas I’m playing with. I would imagine only two of these three will make it onto the album. I’m not someone who looks to fill a whole 70 mins of a cd with music. I look for a collection of songs that complement each other well and I think will make the best listening experience. I have always said that CIE will be a band whose sound evolves. As I touched on this earlier, I really don’t want to write the same album twice, I’m always looking to build and expand musically with CIE. The new songs are even more progressive in comparison to the songs on A Vortex of Earthly Chimes. The guitars aren’t tuned as low either and I’m using a totally different guitar tone on these recordings. The guitars are more clean and ‘classic’ sounding. This means that your guitar playing has to be even tighter as heaps of distortion can often hide small errors…in all honesty, I feel free of the doom tag or any genre now and in a position to be able to write and play whatever I like. This headspace that I’m in means I can be even more creative than I’ve ever been and makes writing music so much more enjoyable…anything goes now!
JW: Even more progressive works for me (laughs), I’m always open for anything with prog and psychedelic nuances, even when they grow from nuances into full-fledged adulteration, and as said earlier on, I’m really glad you took this direction and abandoned the old.
As for “cleaner” playing, I wholly agree about distortion hiding mistakes, but at the same time some of the best stuff is un-technical and loaded with effect, but much essential stuff also isn’t. Just look at old heavy psychedelic folk rock gems like Axe (UK), early psyche like the 13th Floor Elevators, and much of the Turkish psyche, where they relied on little sound muddying but somehow created their own unique sounds and effects through playing.
As of right now as we’re discussing this I’m currently blasting Heavy Balloon 32,000 Pound, 16 ton and it has that nice garagy acid buzz of mild distortion to the guitar, probably due more to the amps and tuning than drenching it in effects, but it has that killer tinny sound that’s perfect to my ears and with the weird druggy folk crossed with old timey blues and even hints of early country the elements tend to stand out a lot more because they aren’t fighting for the spotlight.
Okay, so putting my rambling ADD aside, what aside from your enjoyment of the style lead you to grow more into prog vein? And will you possibly be adding in more unusual instruments even for percussion and background in the future?
Kevin: I think my music grew in a more progressive direction from the fact that I have a lot of ideas musically and I get bored of playing basic song structures. When I listen to an album, say for example the first time I listened to Close To The Edge, that record takes you on a journey where you don’t know what is going to happen next and I want to try and do the same thing with future Crowned In Earth releases. I want the albums to be a real experience for people when they listen to them, a sonic journey of light and shade, dramatic shifts in feel and tempo.
Adding more unusual instruments?
Well, there’s a Glockenspiel on one section of a new song only for about 30 seconds but it just adds a slightly creepy feel to that specific section that worked.
JW: Right on, I’ll be looking forward to hearing that. I recently decided to pick up playing again now that I have the time and have been wanting to run a steel lap guitar through a reverb pedal. Maybe it’s too much Deep Purple inspiration, but I love the idea of using things in a non-traditional way, that’s how amazing new sounds come about. Granted I have never been a country fan, but I can’t deny the love I have for the sound of the steel guitar, especially with a good slide and a bluesy gritty swagger, but now with reverb!!!! That would be some trippy stuff. I’d love to score one of those sometime myself.
Kevin: Oh yes, I know what you mean! It is a superb sound! The nearest I’ve ever got into country music is some of Johhny Cash’s ‘American Recordings’ albums he did with Rick Ruin before he died. Some of those tracks are incredibly dark!
JW: Agreed, much of songs really strike a nerve with me because they are easily relatable to and he had a genuine way of delivering them, something I don’t hear much of these days. I think music today, especially popular music, relies too much on pretty image and this fake happiness…we need to bring the ugly truth and passion of struggles back into songs again.
As a prog rock/psychedelic/kraut rock fanatic I always love to ask about other like-minded people about their record tastes and with what you’ve created now I’m feeling a hint of Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, and Gentle Giant might be subconsciously playing a role here, so what were some of your main albums, bands/artists, and overall influential factors during the creation of this album versus your debut?
Kevin: I remember talking to you about this actually as I knew early on that CIE would eventually become more progressive. To be honest, it’s difficult to remember exactly what I was listening to when I was writing A Vortex of Earthly Chimes as it was a few years back now! I remember listening to a lot of Camel! You would be correct in listing Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull. I also really like Gentle Giant!
My guitar playing has been evolving a lot of the last year or so and I would rate my biggest influences as Tony Iommi, Gaz Jennings, Andrew Latimer, David Gilmour and Robert Fripp. These are a broad range of styles which have been creeping into my playing which has added a very fresh feel to the new songs!
JW: Ahhhh!!!!! I should’ve mentioned Camel!!! I love Mirage and need to score some of their others fairly soon too.
It’s always interesting how what we listen to affects our minds, especially artistically. Lee Dorian started out in Napalm Death and the early grind/crust world and then he went in the opposite direction with Cathedral and now he releases old 60’s and 70’s rarities on a sub-label of Rise Above. Something from our environment always seeps into our minds and affects us in ways we don’t always notice.
And now that you have me on the subject of prog/psyche albums, again, I have to roll with this for a bit so bear with me if you can (laughs). If it’s possible to even attempt to do this, what would be 5 of your top desert island albums from these styles?
Kevin: In regards to Camel, I think everything they did up to Rain Dances was pure genius! In fact, it’s hard for me not to say those five albums! It’s hard to pick out my top 5 as there are so many to choose from and I’ll keep wanting to change my mind, but off the top of my head I would say: Camel Moonmadness; Genesis Selling England By The Pound – this record contains my favorite Genesis song “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight”; King Crimson Larks Tongue In Aspic; Van Der Graaf Generator The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other; and Day of Phoenix Wide Open N-Way…but then I forget Pink Floyd Animals, the first Earth and Fire and Egg albums, Tarkus by ELP and Yes Close To The Edge. It’s far too difficult Janet!!
JW: Tell me about it…mine change by the hour, sometime even the minute!!! I’m a huge Animals fan, it’s actually one of PF’s darker and heavier albums but somehow gets overlooked by classics such as The Wall and Dark Side of the Moon, and VDGG is orgasmic to my ears, I’ve even held off buying some of their albums just to see if I can score the old used vinyl version prior to buckling down and buying the CD version.
Recently though, I’ve been really excited about and concurrently enjoying Run After To. Although they are classified as Italian doom and did heavily influence Paul Chain (so he says), they don’t really fit entirely into the doom genre, or even metal. I hear prog influences and a bit more 80’s underground death rock and post punk in them, as a few times Christian Death similarities emerge. I love all of that Italian doom/prog stuff. I started with Paul Chain, Death SS, and The Black and then finally got my hands on some Requiem, which blew my mind. I must have had Requiem on continual playback for almost a month straight. Even now my list, starting with that small trickle bit, is going to flow over into a tidal wave so I’ll slam on the brakes and dam it before it floods us all.
JW: Anyhow, now speaking of doom, as one who’s somewhat still associated with doom, what do you think about doom as a style? As awesome as it sounds and feels to play, it’s also a style that can be more limiting than others to stay within.
Kevin: I love doom as a style! There are few things better than standing in front of your amp with a big sound, churning out fat sounding, slow and heavy riffs. I just have so much that I want to do and achieve musically that by keeping to one style for so long had left me feeling tired. There have been a few bands come out over the last few years who have done terrific things with what can be a limiting style. For me, I needed rejuvenating, so I’ve taken into account all my prog influences and have moved my music in a different direction whilst retaining the melancholy of what I used to do. That’s the one thing I can always say will remain with my music: a strong sense of melancholy!
JW: Now with your mindset, style, and resulting songs changing for the better maybe you could tell me why some of these recent songs mentioned are your favorite and what you did with them that, in retrospect, makes them surprising, strong, etc.?
Kevin: I really like “Ride The Storm” on the record. I do wonder now if I would have kept the really doomy intro to the song. At the time when I was writing “Ride The Storm” I knew it was going to be the first track and the intro was meant to be the ‘old’ CIE sound merging with the newer direction. There are some sections of “Watch The Waves” and “Given Time” which I’m particularly fond of, for example, the watery sounding vocals in the first two vocal sections of “Watch The Waves” with the mellotron playing behind them and the very proggy mid section and outro of “Given Time” were a lot of fun to play and record!
As always, when I listen back to the songs a few months afterward there are bits, which I think I could have been recorded differently. There are also a few instrumental sections that I think go on for too long and are maybe lacking some extra dynamics, which could have elevated the song. On the whole, I’m very happy with A Vortex of Earthly Chimes and it far superseded my expectations of what I thought I could create when I began working on it.
JW: It certainly exceeded any people’s expectations, including mine, as it totally blew everything else you’ve done into smithereens. So now that we’ve covered your recent achievement in detail and began to mention bits about the next CIE chapter, is there anything you can say regarding the upcoming CIE album that won’t give it away, but will give us your own view on what to expect with it?
Kevin: I would say to expect the unexpected. The material is beyond doubt the best music I’ve written. In addition, I have a fantastic team around me with Darin, Pug (from Beelzefuzz who is playing bass on the songs) and Brian again engineering the record to help realize my own high expectations and see each song reach it’s full potential!
The overall sound is very progressive and each song goes through a myriad of sections, which constantly evolve into different styles and themes. I’d describe the next record as being a progressive fuzz space jazzrock work out!!
JW: Wow…man that sounds like a massive teaser for spacey fuzz lovin’ prog heads like myself.
Okay…it’s now that I will finally set you free, but I’m really grateful for your time and insight with CIE and good music overall. Best wishes for you and CIE and thanks again for your patience with my time restraints, etc. to get this done and live.