April Ethereal - Interview
April Ethereal have most certainly had their heads down and bums up, as the old adage goes. After some difficulties in lapses of communication I finally got this bloody interview out to Jerzy, who was very kind enough to provide some in-depth answers to my questions. April Ethereal made quite a name for themselves with the endless string of Opeth-related questions, however the real talking point of April Ethereal (as with any band) is the music...
NB. This interview was prepared sometime in 2001. Due to that fact, some of the questions may be slightly outdated, but nevertheless it makes for an interesting read.
One thing I noticed from "Advent" is the special attention the keyboards were given in creating a unique atmosphere. For me it was almost as if the whole album came together as one whole song and instead of 8 songs there were 8 different parts that represented vastly different moods within a big concept. Perhaps I read too much into it, but this sort of music certainly provokes an interesting response wouldn’t you say?
Hello Jack! Yes, this was in fact our goal to record a concept-album, even technically conceptual (at the beginning we wanted to record one song called Advent, like Edge of Sanity did with the "Crimson" album) – we wanted to tell a story, we divided this story into 8 parts to simplify a little bit in the use of the CD – it would be hard to find a part on the CD located near 15 minutes and 32 seconds without having the possibility to switch between songs. As for the response, I can say now, 3 years after releasing this album that very few people understood what we wanted to do with this concept, people were mostly disappointed that there is no silence between songs.
"Advent" is essentially one long song. This is no 'break' time between songs and none of the tracks wind down or phase out the ending chord or riff, or whatever. Have many folks commented on this as a positive element for "Advent"?
As I said before, there were a lot of people that commented on it as a bad element of the album, because the music is so intense that they wanted some silence between songs to rest. But, as a band, we're completely satisfied with what we made on "Advent," this was exactly what we wanted to express, and we're happy that we made it. "Advent" needs more than one listening, and it's better to listen to it from the beginning to the end.
I asked this question of Mess Age (label mates of you guys) as well; does having an essentially Polish label make the whole recording and promotional thing a lot easier than being part of a label where your native language wasn't spoken? I mean could you guys handle being on an English label?
Well, first of all we're not cooperating with Conquer Records anymore, we had a deal for one album with them, it was "Advent," and then we didn't extend this deal for a second album. Conquer Records is a polish label, but is based essentially in UK, so it was like cooperating with a British label, where some folks spoke Polish, [laughs]. In some situations it was a difficult cooperation, because of the distance. As for the recording and promotional aspect, it was quite simple, because we recorded our album without any help from Conquer, and all the promotional work was made by Conquer exclusively, we had no influence on what they were doing, it was their job. Thomas sent us some interviews, etc, and we answered them, it worked like this. All the work related to ads was made by Conquer. I think we could handle very well being on an English label, because we know what we want.
Conquer Records did a fantastic job as far as promoting your work in webzines and magazines. In seems in almost every issue of 'Terrorizer' I read there is always an advertisement to "Advent" or special reference to one of the Conquer Record's bands, for example...
Yes, Conquer did a good job with promoting our first album, we did a lot of interviews and they helped us organizing a lot of gigs, we played on tour with Nile and Behemoth thanks to Conquer. But the weak side of Conquer was its distribution – our albums were in some catalogues around the world, but that's all. Outside UK and Poland Conquer Records is not a well-known label. All the problems with the distribution caused that we didn't wanted to release our second album on Conquer Records, because what is worth doing a tour with such a band as Nile, if after the gigs people that have seen us on stage can't go to a store and buy our album?
Opeth, Opeth, Opeth. The amount of criticism and comments relating to Opeth in regards to April Ethereal is pretty astounding. You would think people would get over the fact that sure your name is taken from a song off "My Arms, Your Hearse" and the title of your debut album is also a song of "Morningrise." Does it annoy you the amount of comments April Ethereal receives in relation to Opeth, even though the musical content is vastly different?
Yes, it's pretty annoying. The only thing I can say about it is: listen to our music before you start talk bullshit about April Ethereal! When we started, the band was called Leon, later on we changed the name to April Ethereal mostly because we wanted to express our gratitude to Opeth. We started making music seriously after hearing "Orchid," so it was natural for us to choose that name. And besides the tribute aspect of this name, April Ethereal reflects very well the atmosphere of our music. Nowadays it reflects this atmosphere even more than in the year 2000 when "Advent" was released. Today, when someone tells me "hey, why are you copying Opeth?" I don't care at all, because there's no similarity between Opeth and us. Just the name.
The bass on 'Hologram' is totally awesome and really sets up a unique atmosphere towards the end of the track. You guys happy with how the bass featured on the whole album?
The bass guitar we used on "Advent" was an old German guitar, I don't remember the name, but this guitar was for sure older than me, [laughs]. It sounded pretty strange in comparison to most bass guitars nowadays, so we thought it would be cool to include this kind of sound on the album. The bass on the whole album has a specific sound, and it was exactly what we wanted to do. As for the 'Hologram' track, towards the end of the song the bass plays in unison with the bass drum, we wanted to include at the end of this song a simple bass/drum pattern which would sound as a hypnotic trance, or something like this. On the whole "Advent" album I recorded all the bass parts and I'm happy with how it features – I could do anything I wanted, as I composed the guitar parts and the bass parts at the same time – I could make a bass part that would complete the guitar tracks and create harmonies for 3 instruments, for example.
Has vocalist, guitarist and drummer, Jan, done much drumming in any other bands? He is very precise with his drumming, "Advent" is certainly aided by his remarkable skill with the sticks.
Well no, Jan played drums only with April Ethereal, but you're right – he is really good! Since the year 2000, he focused on guitars in April Ethereal, because our line-up between 2000 and 2003 has extended to six people! In fact, after doing the tour with Nile in November 2001 we felt that it would be great to enlarge the line-up, because the gigs with the drum tracks played from tape weren't what we can call a 'live experience.' Our new album "Al Azif" was recorded in July 2002 with session drummer and session bass player, and after the recording session, we found Jarek (drums) and Artur (bass) who joined April Ethereal. In November 2000 (3 years ago!) Jan abandoned the vocals as we found a great singer Adrian, who sings with us until today. Two months ago Ira (female vocals) joined April Ethereal, and we're now a six-piece. So April Ethereal AD 2003 is: Ira Paszyk (female vocals), Adrian Pelka (vocals), Jarek Stanczyk (drums), Artur Rydczak (bass), Jan Rajkow-Krzywicki (acoustic and electric guitars), Jerzy Rajkow-Krzywicki (acoustic and electric guitars).
Being quite a heavily keyboard endorsed band; does it translate well up on stage playing the material from "Advent"?
At the time we promoted live "Advent," the drum tracks and the keyboard tracks were played from a sampler/sequencer, so those tracks were exactly the same as on the album. Nowadays, when we play some old stuff live, we rearrange the songs, because nowadays we don't use keyboards, we prefer experimenting with guitar sounds, guitar synths etc... But there's a chance that on the album number 3 there will be more keyboard parts...
I'm just listening to your cover of 'Countess Bathory' by Venom; pretty cool listening. What inspired this cover? Does Venom, and indeed other legendary acts provide a lot of inspiration for April Ethereal?
When we finished recording the drum tracks for "Al Azif," we had about an hour left in the studio, so Adrian, our singer (and a total maniac of legendary acts such as Bathory, Venom, Celtic Frost) got the idea – let's do a cover song! The choice was pretty simple, as we played 'Countess Bathory' a few times live. I don't really think that Venom, Bathory or other legendary acts inspire April Ethereal as a band, but I'm sure that those bands inspire a lot Adrian.
Right at the start of 'Her Silent Cry At Dawn' ...the sort of somber introduction before the actual metal song kicks in, is identical to the start of the secret track at the end of 'Epilogue', right? The end of 'Epilogue' is quite a remarkable closing. Very, very atmospheric and a wonderful closing to "Advent". Why was this section added as a secret track? It certainly shows an interesting side to April Ethereal.
The idea was to make a concept, lyrically, technically (no silence between songs) and musically, too. The secret track from "Advent" was meant to be the intro to the whole album, but later on we decided that the beginning of the album must kick ass and this intro is too atmospheric. This secret track was so good, that we didn't wanted to exclude it completely from the album, so we used only the beginning of it as intro to 'Her Silent Cry At Dawn' and we included the full song as a secret track. This song was added as a secret track because it was meant to be a surprise for the listener – after a very brutal and intense album, a softer and more atmospheric side of April Ethereal.
The production was excellent for "Advent" and suited the record perfectly for the style of the music. I mean everything was completely audible, but the atmosphere that it provided was ultra-cool. If you had gone with something like the Abyss or Fredman studios, some of the instrument's sound would have lost their appeal and 'mystery,' I feel. Perhaps I am making light out of a bad situation, but I think the production suits "Advent" beautifully.
Thanks! I'm very happy that you like the atmosphere of this album. You'll be surprised, but we recorded "Advent" in my home studio, the equipment we had was not as good as the equipment in Abyss or Fredman, but we wanted to make all the instruments audible, and we wanted to include a unique atmosphere on the album... And I'm very happy that you hear all this on "Advent"! I'm sure that if "Advent" was recorded in a better studio it would sound completely different, but I think it's good that we recorded it in a home studio, because finally this album has its charm...
"Al Azif" is album number 2, and out pretty damn soon (already I am rubbing my hands in glee and anticipation for it). How close is it to be released?
[Laughs] ...not very soon. As I said it before, we parted our ways with Conquer Records. After the recording session of "Al Azif" we sent a promo to a lot of record labels all over the world and waited for some feedback. Finally one big European record label answered us, we negotiated some points, and we're still waiting for their final word. If it doesn't work, we'll probably release "Al Azif" ourselves, or on a polish record label. I can't say precisely when "Al Azif" will be out... sorry.
You produced "Advent" in Catacomb Studio in Poland. Where is "Al Azif" produced? Will the sound be remarkably different to "Advent" on this new album? I am hoping you don't depart too radically from the sound of "Advent".
I must disappoint you, the sound on "Al Azif" is completely different! We didn't wanted our second album to sound the same as the first album. You can hear it yourself, just download 'The Shadow of Nyarlathotep' from our official website at www.aprilethereal.net and you'll have an idea on the sound on our second album. We recorded, mixed and mastered "Al Azif" in Green Studio in Cracow (Poland) with Marcin Prusiewicz as sound engineer and producer. Our third album will also be recorded in Green Studio, but we'll try to obtain a different sound again. The sound on "Al Azif" is what we call the 'April Ethereal sound from the year 2004,' [laughs]. It's hard to say, it's better to listen to it.
What can fans of "Advent" expect from "Al Azif"? Is there going to be a more identifiable April Ethereal sound that comes from "Al Azif"? Songs more dynamic, more diverse? If you could drop out some information I would be most grateful.
"Al Azif" is more complex, more atmospheric and less heavy than "Advent." We used more acoustic guitars, the song structures are more complex and the songs duration goes from 7 to 14 minutes! It's what we call the development of the style from "Advent," with some Arabic influences and a lot of fresh ideas. I think we'll finally find our style on our third album, "Al Azif" being very close to what we could call an 'April Ethereal style.'
Many thanks for the interview, Jerzy. I hope to catch up with you pretty soon for "Al Azif"!
Thank you very much for the interview and cheers to all the MetalBite readers! As soon as the situation with our record label becomes clear, we'll drop a line about its release date on our official website, where you can find all the latest information about April Ethereal: www.aprilethereal.net
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