Alchemist - Interview
Aahhh... they've done it again - Aussies from Alchemist, once more, have graced us with their time - and what a treat it is. Since we've spoken to them before - let's skip the introductions - go ahead and look in on what's happening with them. Questions by Kubiccy.
Before we pass on to talk about your brand new album, let me ask you this: do you think that Embryonics have any influence on growth of Alchemist's popularity?
Well that's hard for us to gauge. The first time we came to Europe in 2004 it seemed that Spiritech was very hard to get and was heavily traded amongst European fans. We are happy to have all that old material available now. I'm not sure on the sales of that one, I know it sold quite well at our shows this year and it is a good value release as it has a lot of material for the price of a standard CD. I guess its just another piece of the puzzle.
What about your plans concerning DVD release? You were talking about it three years ago but still nothing has happened. Why?
I'm still waiting for it. We did put something together but we thought it was not quite up to the standard so it was put on hold. Our drummer Rodney did it and it is the documentary that's mentioned in your next question. We liked it but just wanted to change a few things and have a little more content. It kind of got left behind as our focus changed to the new records and overseas touring. Hopefully we'll get one out one day.
On YouTube.com there is a 50-minutes documentary titled "Unreleased History of Alchemist". Who is the author of it? Are you planning to put this material on your future DVD?
As I mentioned, this was put together by Rodney as content for our DVD, we were happy with most of it but still had ideas to make it better, I think Rod got a bit frustrated with this and just uploaded it to YouTube. We may release this as a bonus one day, it is quite entertaining.
There are few fragments of concerts of Alchemist's early stage of scene activity or even the video of "Eve of the War". As far as I know, this video wasn't particularly widespread before. How many old materials do you still hold back from us? I guess that I'm not the only one who would like to see them all on your Official DVD.
Ha ha, if it's shit-we'll hold it back! This was Rod's first attempt at a video clip, it's OK but has some content from old sci-fi movies that is copyright-protected. It was really a learning experience. We have another video for "Road to Ubar" that is also being held back - perhaps one day we will release it, it is quite funny. Seriously, we are more interested in future material than the stuff we did in the past.
In 2005 we were also talking about the biggest Australian metal festival called Metal for the Brain. You used to organize it. Last edition was made in 2006. Why is that?
The last Metal for the Brain was in 2006 - we made a conscious decision to end the festival as the time demands on the band were huge and the expenses of the event were getting out of control. Australia does not get the huge numbers at festivals like Europe does. The costs of the show were rising faster than the numbers of people attending. While everyone loved the show, it left Alchemist with an annual large financial risk and also kept us here towards the end of the year. It is still recognized as the largest local metal show in Australia but there are now a few popping up around the country.
Next, your drummer Rod Holder sets up Abducted Metal Horror Festival which was held last year in Brisbane. This event was something more than just music festival, is that right? I've heard about movie shows and some other additional kind of sights. Could you tell something more about this interesting undertaking?
Rodney really enjoys film making and horror films so he put on a show with both bands and short films for this genre. It was a pretty good night, but again - proved too expensive to run on an annual basis. He had a lot of heavy bands and movies playing in a side room. This could've perhaps grown into something really good but I don't think he plans to run it again.
OK, let's move on to "Tripsis". Almost every band points their brand new album as favorite one. Does it concern you too?
As a new album has been the focus of so much work for so long, it is natural that it may become a favorite for some time. This is usually how it is for me, you write it, record it and listen to it for a while, after some time you move on to the next record. "Tripsis" was my favorite for a while but I'm looking forward to starting work on the next record. It is like a life cycle or something. I do very much enjoy the process, after a year or so you start to notice the things that could have been improved or changed.
Last time you said that the follower of "Austral Alien" would be a darker, heavier and more driving record than "Austral". What you said has become the truth. If you had a vision of this material already at that time, why did you need over three years to finish the album?
Yes, we really achieved what we set out to do. The reason it took three years is that even though you have a vision it takes a lot of work and consideration to turn it into a finished record. We are very critical of our music and have high standards. It was solid constant work to write those songs and then you have to record them. We did a lot of the recording ourselves which also has a learning curve.
Some musicians say that the longer they work on some material the more they want to improve it and the harder for them it is to decide what is the upshot they want to attain. How is it in your case?
There is always room for improvement so yes, I think we do fit into this category. However, sometimes a riff or song will be awesome for the initial jam. It's a hard call but when we are all happy with a track we move on.
Did you fulfill your intention concerning "Tripsis" in 100%? Does it look the way you really wanted to?
If you are talking about the artwork then yes, I'm very happy with the results. The vinyl version looks excellent. I think the imagery developed for the record is unique and interesting and suites the music. It evolves as a gradual progression not unlike the music. I had the idea of using the hands, and the rest just kind of fell into place.
"Tripsis" means an action of a mortar and pestle, grinding massaging ingredients together. Is "Tripsis" a good analogy of Alchemist's music?
Yes, I think so, our music is very layered and at times quite dense. I thought "Tripsis" was a great sounding word with a meaning that suited the band. It was quite unusual so we were all very happy with it.
In Relapse Records' opinion "Tripsis" is a watershed moment in metal history. Do you agree with this or is it only a catchphrase?
It can be hard for artists to self promote their own work like that, so that's why we have a label - to try and sell records. I'm not sure if I agree with that statement but I understand why they said it. I hope for it to be the truth but who knows.
"Spiritech" and "Organasm" are one of the best records I've ever heard. Do you think that "Tripsis" may cause that those people who share my point of view will verify their opinions?
Well who knows, people have a broad range of opinions about our records and which one is best - often this can just be the time in their lives they discover the music. We always set out to make a better record but how people take it is up to them. It was "Spiritech" that used to get a lot of praise but now it seems to be "Organasm". As long as one of them appeals to people, I'm happy!
Without questions "Tripsis" is more aggressive than the previous "Austral Alien". Sometimes it reminds me the atmosphere of "Lunasphere" in some ways. Do you know why that is? Do you think, in retrospect, that the sound commutation on "Austral Alien" wasn't a good move?
At the time we were very happy with "Austral Alien" - we set out to do something different with that record and we did. It was not quite as heavy as the other records but musically it did explore some interesting ground. In the scheme of 6 records I think it has its place and fits in well. The rest is up to the fans I guess. What we don't want to do is repeat ourselves or copy the dynamics of a particular record.
At the same time, your last album is 100% Alchemist. Your sound is so characteristic that it's rather impossible to mix you up with any other band. Do you think that working out your own unfaked style is only the reason to be satisfied or concurrently is it something that defines your creativity as a band? I mean that many bands are afraid that if they record an album much different from their typical style, their fans' response may be rather negative than positive.
I think or fans expect us to keep changing and working the sound. So yes, I think it does define the band. In a way it all sounds like us in the end, so I think that experimental attitude is part of our sound. It is also a natural progression in a way and we are getting older with each record. I find the differences interesting.
"Tripsis" is one of the albums the more I listen to the more I like. This makes it similar to "Lunasphere". Next "Spiritech", "Organasm" and "Austral Alien" were easy to like and listen from the first sight. What do you think of it?
It did grow on me too. I'm not sure really - it is different for us in the band as we know these songs so well by the time they're recorded. You almost need to take a break from it and listen to it when you have forgotten it a little.
As always, you were responsible for the "Tripsis" artwork. Your style of making artwork is very characteristic and coherent with the band's concept. I gather that it didn't even cross your mind that you could hire somebody else to this job?
Graphic design is my trade and that's how I make a living outside of the band. I am very serious about my design and also about my perceived vision for the band. That's not to say I would not consider another artist's work, but for the time being I'm happy producing the artwork and layouts. I think it has a little more power when also created from the members of the group.
In October 2007, you were on the short European tour while you played on the Prog-Power Festival. How was it? What are your impressions?
We had a great time at Prog Power - and the whole tour. It was our second time at Prog Power and they really looked after us. We always have a good time in Holland. It was a quick tour but awesome fun.
Let's talk a bit about one of your gigs, let's say, in Poland. What are your impressions? I can tell that poor attendance was a bit disappointing and some people probably didn't know you material very well?
We had a good night and the crowd did buy a lot of merchandise. There is a huge contrast between Poland and Australia, it looked a little run down and old. The people we met were really cool and we had fun at the show. I would like to see more of that country. I'm told that Lodz as a city was more run down than perhaps Warsaw, hopefully next time we will get to see some more.
You're direct and candid guys and that's really great. You didn't even try to separate from people. Everyone could talk with you. It was nice, wasn't it?
Oh yeah, the people make it fun and worthwhile, we are friendly guys and just want to have a good time and make friends mostly. We don't perceive ourselves as huge stars or have big egos. When you think about it, we drove 8 hours to get to Poland - we want to meet and talk to people, I really enjoy traveling and seeing other cultures, Australians and Europeans are very similar I think.
What do you think about that concert? The place was very small and rather simple so the selectivity got lost somewhere I think. And your gig was definitely too short! Are you satisfied with it in general?
It was OK, I had some trouble with the power there - I'm not sure my valves were getting their 240 volts. The venue was OK, basically we will try and play anywhere that gets booked for us - and make the most of it. I didn't think it was that short but perhaps it was.
Adam was responsible for the samples. Why Nick Wall didn't come with you on tour?
Nick has left to pursue his own band - John and Adam are doing samples. It works out better in the long run. Nick was good fun but he's concentrating on his own band.
This place in Lodz where you've played was a cinema previously. The screen behind the scene was perfect for the visualizations shown during the concert. I guess that these screenings were your job. These Australian pictures fit great to your specific music.
The projections were done by a Polish guy who I used to write to, his name escapes me. He came up and said: remember me, I said I would do your visuals when you get to Poland - well I'm here. He had collected all that material and artwork himself, we were very impressed (e-mail me dude!) and we will consider using him for other big shows in Europe if we get the chance - we really liked it and the venue was perfect for projection.
Could you tell us a few words about the rest of your European tour? What was your fans' reaction to your music? Has Relapse organized it properly?
We did some huge festivals, Hellfest, Graspop and Waldrock they were fantastic! We did some smaller shows as well, some were good, some were small but everyone had a good time. It's very competitive in Summer over here and we can't compete with the soccer! Ha ha
Are you planning to make any official videos for the "Tripsis" track?
Yes, we have started one but have just been so busy with touring that it has been put on hold. The track is "Wrapped in Guilt".
Finally, everyone (who was interested in) waits for the colored vinyls. "Tripsis" on red and blue LP looks excellent. What do you think about releasing albums on LP's in general?
We love vinyl, always have, but it has been hard to do. The label is not really interested in doing them but let us do our own limited edition version of "Tripsis". Our very good friend Eric the Viking put it out for us on his Viking Records label. We are very happy with the results.
Are there any chances of vinyl re-releases of your previous albums? Perhaps you should think about an anniversary edition box or something like that?
We really want to do "Spritech" as it is so popular - I would like to do "Austral" as it has the best art. We are flat out paying for all our travel and stuff so no plans just yet.
Last year you have celebrated 20 years of Alchemist activity. Was there huge rollicking party?
No, not really, we do party pretty hard when we are on the road, so it's all good. There is no solid anniversary date, we try not to think about it, makes you feel old! Ha ha!!!
How do you feel after all these years spent on playing metal music? Have you ever thought about dropping all this shit and taking up with something more useful?
No, we love it, it's fun and in Alchemist we get to explore a lot of musical ground, we are all quite content! We love metal and the scene! It has been good to us!
On wikipedia.com, under an entry "Alchemist" I found information that one of the remixes placed on Linkin Park album (titled "Reaimation") is of your authorship. I guess that this "news" concerns not you but the other (hip-hop) band called Alchemist. Were there any funny stories or problems as a result of this name convergence? Were you involved in any legal dispute in connection with this?
No, we have seen his stuff too and I don't think there is much confusion between to two acts. Full metal Alchemist cartoon also comes up a fair bit. I guess it is not the most original name. There was another metal band called Alchemist and that french band who spell it weird. Oh well! 20 years, we should have some rights to it! Ha ha
OK, it's high time to finish. I wish you next 20 successful years on the scene as much as next excellent albums!
Hey, thanks very much and sorry to keep you waiting so long for this interview. We hope to get back out on the roads of Europe soon! Rock on!
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