These Are They started as a project, but quickly became a band with a huge fan base around the world. With their second album "Disposing of Betrayers", they had proven to be 100% operational machine of Death/Doom destruction, that brings their art to full-ahead-beast-on mode. Wiley Wells (bass) gives us some insides on how the gears are turning. Read on.
Hey, Wiley! Congrats on an awesome album. We should've done this a long time ago. How are things with you? How is These Are They doing these days?
Yeah, definitely should have done those a long time ago, but no time better than the present he he. I am doing pretty good, presently working with These Are They in preproduction for the next album.
Pre-production meaning new songs for new album are already in the works? How much material are we talking about here?
Well currently, a little less than half the album is written. The real excitement is the last month or so before we enter the studio, that's when all the idea's become really solid and we push everything just a bit further.
"Disposing Of Betrayers" is still on the shelf next to my stereo and I go back very often. How was the response you got after the release?
Everyone that I have heard from has had very positive things to say. It's always a very flattering incidence when you work on something so hard and you get people that really love and feel what they hear. I am always appreciative when I am out and about and some random person just comes up and gives props to the band. After enjoying the hell out of our own creations, it completely humbles me that someone feels an album so greatly that they come up to me and thank me for being a part of it.
I have to say that the whole idea of DOB (booklet, theme, music) simply kills. Who came up with the idea? Can you tell us who is responsible for what in TAT?
That's awesome you enjoyed that. These Are They has a unified perspective on how the album should be - those albums we grew up with were total experiences. From the moment you saw the cover art, you could get the presence or direction right off of that. I remember picking up old Death Metal with the Seagrave covers it simply enhanced the feeling of the album. When we all agreed that this was the concept for the DOB album, it sparked a lot of brainstorming. Paul is the graphics guru, so he came up with this cover concept of the newspaper articles and ads with that whole early 1900's vibe to them. We decided for the album cover we needed something a little darker so Sasha got abused. To add to the vibe, we actually did the band shots at a bar Capone used to frequent. The themes are also very important, as we have to all be on board. Chicago has such a rich history that even as transplants like myself, you can't deny it. The mix of political corruption, mafia uprising, and the cultural and historical impact are part of Chicago. To create an album that embodied that was an endeavor of research and tasteful artistry, as well as respect. Couple that with Old School Death Metal and there ya go...
How much time do you spend (if any) in rehearsal room? Tell us how ideas become music. Can you describe the whole writing process? Was everyone involved?
We rehearse once a week, half a day, maybe more. The ideas begin with the riff; we compile riffs and then reevaluate what we have created, sometimes tearing apart an entire song and rewriting it from the ground up. We all have a hand in the creation, it's really a matter of the first riff or selection has to come from somewhere, then it's These Are They who makes the song all it can be.
Tell us a little bit about the recording itself - was everything smooth, what was your reaction when you found out who's going to mix and master? Were you satisfied?
Preproduction is a lot of rehearsal and reevaluation so we know the songs in and out before we even break down to head to the studio. We usually demo the hell out of the stuff during the last days of preproduction, making tweaks as needed. Once in the studio things are generally pretty smooth, Chris (Wisco @ Belle City Sound) is simply a great engineer. We knew prior to recording that we wanted a different ear to mix but it was a matter of figuring out who we could work with. When we got Swano on board I was so excited. I have been a fan of so many things he has put out over the years, and having heard his most recent productions coupled with the fact he is undoubtedly a big influence for me from when I was young, I had a sort of innate faith in his talents. From what I understand, he enjoyed working on it quite a bit himself. I believe the chemistry from top to bottom brought out an absolutely excellent album.
Which song is your favorite, and which one do you consider hardest - and do you guys ever play it live?
This is a tough question, because I feel quite strongly about each and every song on the album. It's hard for me to be rehearsing just one track or the other when I am just practicing at home. At rehearsal we will warm up with Sins of My Brothers, By Phaeton?s Design, No Angels To Catch You, Massacre, but these are all about the same in complexity and technical ability. We play what we think are the best favorable live songs, I don't think it's ever a question of how hard something is. It?s more a matter of what we truly feel would be the most exciting and fun live.
How about touring and concerts, where were you, where are you gonna go? What's on the agenda?
We always talk about options for playing live, but touring is not what we are interested in. I know some fans are a bit upset with this, but this is the way we feel we can maximize our impact when we do play out. I, personally, would rather play a few really kickass shows where a lot of fans get a really great experience than kill the experience for them and us by gambling on touring (which is always tricky for any underground band). Luckily, These Are They has this luxury. We have played Texas at South By Southwest as well as Holiday of Horrors here in Chicago, but for now we are concentrating on giving people the best music we can give them. As for the future, I don't want to promise anything, but I also don't want to exclude possibility.
In your opinion, what makes a show memorable? Which show do you remember the most playing and what was the best one you've witnessed so far?
A memorable show for me is a packed house with all the fans anxious to hear what they came for, and the band delivering their all. I love going to shows where the band never lets up and I am so incensed by the execution I want to be right up front enjoying every last note and scream. Where I am from, the scene was so small, but tight knit. Very few bands would come through, so sometimes we would travel out of state for shows; but when one of those bands came through, it was an encompassing event just going, and the atmosphere of hearing the band dictated your appreciation all the more. I live by that as a fan and a musician, even though I live in a city where I can pick and choose which shows I want to see on any given day - that small town experience stays with me. I will go to shows and if I am really feeling what's going on, I am going to show my appreciation - regardless of the band's genre or whatever. With These Are They, my fave would have to be the Chicago Holiday of Horror fest we played. We had a blast?
Hmmm Best show I have witnessed - I'll just give you some that spring to mind immediately and a few of my favorite locals to see since I can't very well give you a flat out favorite? The Cynic show where they played Focus in its entirety was amazing!!! They performed the album just how I had always hoped it would be done live, even more so, honestly. Coroner and Inquisition did amazing at MDF 2011, along with nearly every band on the lineup. I really enjoyed the Carcass reunion a few years ago, Candlemass was sick too? More recently I have been trying to catch more Chicago acts as the industry is sucking horrible for live work, and it's winter so touring bands seem a little less excited to make it into the Midwest hehe. Of those, I always enjoy seeing Maggot Twat (each and every time), Reign Inferno, and Bones have been really playing some good sets, of course you can't ever really go wrong going to see Macabre or Novembers Doom either.
I know you're a dad. How is your daughter looking at your musical metalhead journey? Has she "converted" yet?
She is very proud I think, though as my own kid, she won't admit that to me. There was that time she came to my day job and says "this isn't a stadium??? I thought dad would be rehearsing there" hahaha. The parent teacher conferences are a blast too. When I had to go speak with the teachers at her school the first thing they asked was "So, according to your daughter, you are a heavy metal musician???" But ya know because I am a single dad, she joins me on a lot of things I have to do as a musician - so she really gets more contact and culture with it than most regular adult's kids. It's a positive thing I think. She has been to photo shoots, rehearsals, projects, hell; I have used her opinion on some of the things I work on. She'll wander in the project studio and say "dad, I want that sound you're doing on my iPod" or something else to that effect and there is something really amazing about the feeling I get hearing it. I dunno if she will ever come over to the metal side. If she's like me, all the stuff her dad listens to and does will kinda be lost in that "parents music" bin in her brain till she's older and can revisit it behind my back. For now she really likes Skinny Puppy, Bauhaus, and Devin Townsend. When I give her piano lessons, I use metal and other things to teach her time signatures and things like that so it's like a game - but time will tell if it turns into her thing or not.
Recently you've become a member of another metal group, Chicago's Centaurus - how is that collaboration going? Are you a full time member or is it a side project? Is TAT treated as a side project by Paul, Sasha and Justin? How is that situation handled by all of you in the group?
Centaurus is a bit of an exercise in self indulgence. There are no concrete rules or anything to bind us to genre or style. The Centaurus guys are truly amazing musicians, and we exploit the hell out of it. If I had to put them on the same planet - musically, These Are They and Centaurus are on completely different continents.
Any project I take on, I tend to throw myself into like another fulltime job. I guess it's the old southern thinking: why do something if you aren't going to do it to the best of your ability. This can be a detriment, so I have to be really mindful of how much I can a lot myself as for projects. I don't think anyone in any of the projects I am involved with views the projects as side projects either. Paul in Novembers Doom, Justin in Hurtlocker, me in Centaurus, it's just part of us musically. You can't deny the need to get it out, whatever the venture. It's always a bit strange when you begin a new project and you already have a band. You have to hope that the faith is there by the other collaborators that you can continue with full focus. But it works out for us I think as all the projects we do are wholly different. So the listeners of those projects will never wonder if this piece or that piece would have been better in this or that band. That being said, I also have faith in my collaborators that these projects are of the same devotion to them.
You play bass for TAT, played guitar for Earthen, and I've recently seen you abuse keyboards for Centaurus. What else do you play?
Haha Percussion and a little guitar. I do a whole lot of sound design too.
Elaborate on the last one please!
Sound design is like creating a little audio world for people to get sucked into. I did one of these for the intro to... Wo Linger, Most recently I did two for Cannabis Corpse's latest Beneath The Grow Lights, Thou Shalt Rise. I guess conceptually to really get a feel for what happens, someone will come to me with an idea, a plot, or a feeling they want to pull off to introduce an album, or a sound they have in their head that would just give an extra bit of atmosphere to their material. So I take what they give me and sit down in my project studio and make it happen. I use all sorts of things - field recordings, foley sound effects, synthesizers, effects processors, - it's almost like an added soundtrack, I put it together and mix it to taste. My favorite example of it working is on Obituary - Cause of Death and Killing Joke did quite a bit effectively on Night Time and the Extremities album as well as Pandemonium, Tiamat Wildhoney too. All those little segments of noise and unearthly sounds gave those albums an edge that I think alot of bands have abandoned. Maybe because it's too artsy, or maybe because they dont think it can be done for them - but I assure you, it can do amazing things for material.
How did you become such an omni-instrumental artist?
When I was a child I was kinda force-fed piano, and told I could not branch out until I was proficient. So I busted my ass so I could learn to play bass when I was in my teens, and on the way ended up doing percussion and drums for many years too. Every instrument had a certain textural element that I could use somewhere on this piece or that, but I was always searching for what felt right. Keyboards have always felt natural, probably cuz I have played them since a very young age. Percussion was definitely an off shoot of piano, the gateway drug if you will. Playing bass and being able to navigate the drums is integral, especially in metal; If you are trying to play and truly bring out the bottom end of a song, as well as contribute positively to the song at hand. The keys are the same in the grand scheme, to really place where a melody or harmony is going to be, or counter rhythm; you have to know where the other instruments sit and where you will sit within that framework to be able to create and use your skills intuitively. And it's always an experiment and learning situation. Sound is another world that I think people definitely take for granted, but for me and most musicians, it is the most wonderful of places to explore.
"DOB" is much more Death Metal sounding than its predecessor, was it deliberate? You guys seem to move and feel much better in those areas...
I like to think of "Who Linger" as the album where we kinda figured what works for us. "Disposing Of Betrayers" is the logical progression of that. It helps also that we have such a solid rhythm section. We didn't quite set out to play Death Metal, it kinda just settled that way after the EP. We enjoy metal, and for a long time there didn't exist all of the subgenres we have today, so we listened to a lot of everything under the metal banner. The bands that really stuck out and influenced the band when we sat down to write just happened to be Death Metal. When you are working with others in a true collaboration, you don't get to really pick and choose (without aggravation, of course) what is going to make that collaboration work, or what path is going to work the best. You have to see what works, then you get to refine that...
Some people say you play Doom, some say Death. How would you categorize your music - do you even categorize?
I think the choice to categorize us as Doom was more due to the fact that Paul, Steve, Sasha and I all had backgrounds in Doom, and specifically our relationship to Novembers Doom. Frankly, I think people should use their ears more than family trees to decide whether they like a project, or what they are going to characterize a project as this or that. These Are They is just what it is, metal with a heavy reference to the Death Metal of our youth. In the writing, it's not really a decision, it comes out how it does, we aren't gonna throw out a good song or riff because it sounds too Doom, or too Black Metal or whatever. Absolutely not? We do this for the music, and that's how it is going to be...
How often do you play shows? Your websites are nowhere up to date. Why?
We have been lacking with the website, and we took a little hiatus for awhile. We have joined the social networking world though, so you can check us out on Facebook for the time being. And like I said, we aren't a touring band; but keep your eyes peeled - cuz when we play it is truly an event.
That's all I have. Last word belongs to you.
Support your locals!!! There are so many bands out there that have good idea's and great things going on. Don't forget that the underground is where everything begins. And to anyone struggling with the rest of us, Keep it up!!!
Entered: 3/20/2012 6:35:37 PM