středa 23. září 2020

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Interview - ULTHAR - Labels are definitely not important for us.

Interview with death/black metal band from USA - ULTHAR.

Answered Shelby Lermo, thank you!

Translated Duzl, thank you!

Questions prepared Jakub Asphyx.

Recenze/review - ULTHAR - Providence (2020):

Ave ULTHAR! I have both of your albums in front of me and the thought still creeps into my head that I haven't heard such mysterious music in a long time. You play death metal, black metal, but you also have something special, interesting, original in it. It's hard to describe, but I think it's because of the mutual chemistry between the musicians. How did ULTHAR get together and how did the idea to play such interesting music come about? 

Thank you so much. Our story, unfortunately, isn’t an extremely interesting one: Justin (Ennis, our drummer) moved to the Bay Area from Brooklyn in 2014, where I knew him from booking shows and whatnot. We started playing music together, and decided we wanted Steve (Peacock, bass and vocals) to be a part of it as well. There was no initial “idea” about the type of music we wanted to play, I don’t think—if there was, it was quickly abandoned when we realized we could do something much more original and interesting by ignoring genre conventions and just pursuing our own odd ideas.

It may sound weird, but when I listen to your records, I feel like I'm in an abstract art gallery. You always have such a strange sound. On the one hand, it is old and dark, but at the same time also modern. You managed to find your sound. You are recognizable. You're recording with Greg Wilkinson. Does that mean he understands you the most? How did you get together and why did you choose him? 

All 3 of us in the band have worked with Greg on several albums with our separate projects. We did the math during the Providence recording sessions, I think it was something like 15 albums between the 3 of us in Ulthar? Greg is the go-to guy for recording metal in Oakland, and also someone I’ve known and trusted for almost 20 years. I would definitely say that Greg “gets it”, we can tell him what we want, sound-wise, and he can always make it happen. He always has great ideas but respects the ideas of the musicians he works with as well. He’s great.

The right extreme metal must have a vibration. The listener must not remain relaxed for a moment. I admit that I always look at Ian Miller's covers and your music plays. I don't understand painting at all, I don't know nothing about it, but his work literally attracts me. As if it were from another dimension, there is passion inside. How did you and Ian get together and why did you choose him? Did he hear your music for inspiration? Or have you already chosen from the finished works? 

Ian is also wonderful to work with. I initially contacted him through his website, after seeing his work on Lovecraft paperbacks from the 70s. I knew he occasionally worked with metal bands (I’d seen his art attached to both Bolt Thrower and the Bay Area band Scolex), so I decided to reach out. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy he is to work with, and we’ve stayed in touch since, even regarding other subjects outside of album art. The art pieces from both albums are pre-existing works that we licensed from him. So no, the art wasn’t influenced by the music, but I can’t imagine art that would fit it better.

You are inspired by Howard Phillips Lovecraft. It’s a strange and dark world. What is your favorite work of him? I ask because today there are a lot of bands that are under the auspices of this author, but they haven't studied him much. Why Master Lovecraft? 

I’ve been a Lovecraft fan since my early 20s, so probably 20 years now I’ve been reading his stories. It’s a deep well to draw inspiration from, but I have to admit I’m more a fan of his weird fantasy then his horror stories. Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath is probably my personal favorite, although I seem to have lost my paperback copy. He built an entire alien Universe and mythology during his brief time here in our dimension, but I like to think of his work more as a “jumping off” point for Ulthar—we enjoy the aesthetic and language, but it’s merely an outer layer for what we are really saying as musicians. 

Describing your music in words is not very easy. You play death metal, but also black, thrash, someone would say progress. Labels probably aren't important, but I'd rather wonder where you get your inspiration for composing? And how do you actually create your music? 

Labels are definitely not important for us. Of course, we are aware of the death and black metal elements in our music, but there is no “formula“ that we use when composing—in fact, we try to stay away from that as much as possible, and get as weird and off-balance as possible when writing. Our process has changed over the years. We used to do more writing together in our practice space, but Steve and I have been writing more and more separately, at home. Providence was composed mostly in this manner, and Steve is now living in a different state most of the time, so this will probably be the case in the future as well.

You play in threes. Have you ever considered a second guitar? Not that you miss it, but it would be another instrument in the band and another way to move your music. 

We did briefly, at the beginning of the band, but quickly realized it wasn’t necessary. Our sound doesn’t need it. There are a few subtle harmonies here and there on our albums, but they don’t need to be present live. We don’t see any need for guitar solos, and Steve’s bass playing is almost like a second guitar anyways. I feel pretty confident that we’ll remain a three-piece for the duration of our time as “Ulthar“.

Your music is quite complicated. Do you have to "edit" it a lot for live performance? How are you doing with concerts? Do you perform a lot? Do you even go on tour? You probably know where I'm going. Would you be willing to play in Europe as well? And how do listeners under the stage perceive your music? Do you like to play live? 

We enjoy playing live very much. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic (especially in the United States), touring is not a possibility at present. We cancelled 2 full US tours in 2020, but were lucky enough to tour a bit after the release of Cosmovore (both a full US headlining tour and a shorter run with Nails, Misery Index, and Outer Heaven, as well as some shorter trips up an down the West Coast). Our presentation is pretty straight-forward in a live setting—what you hear on the album is what you hear live. I guess the only small “edit“ we’ve made was cutting about 2-3 minutes from the song “Dunwich Whore“ when we play it live. It’s 13 and a half minutes on the album, so we made the choice to cut a couple redundant parts when we play it live, just to keep the momentum of the set. Hopefully we will have some good news about Europe soon.

What is it like to be an underground musician in California? Can you play music for a living? I don't like to talk about politics, because it's crap, but when I look at the news time to time, it looks like the apocalypse should start in your country in the USA. Do these things affect you as a musician? For example, sometimes I feel like I'm in a dystopian novel. 

Yes, things are definitely fucked, and no, there doesn’t seem to be a good way to play music for a living, at least not at present. Playing live music is not an option, so the other option is recorded music, and there’s not much money to be made there. It definitely feels like an apocalyptic time, especially this week with the massive fires in our area and dark skies in the middle of the day. I’ve been making music and art at home, just keeping busy through all of it. 

Shelby Lermo, we did an interview for EXTREMITY together. There is „split-up“ status on Metal Archives. But you know, internet sometimes suck. Tell us something about EXTREMITY and current status please? I'll tell it straight, I wish a new record. Is there chance? 

I remember the interview! I appreciate your kind words, but Extremity is definitely finished. Thank you for asking. 

Thank you so much for the interview. Do you know what I'm going to do now? I'll sit down, get a good book, and play your records. I'm looking forward. I wish your music will reach as many people as possible. Good luck in your personal life! 

Thank you so much for the thoughtful interview Jakub.

Recenze/review - ULTHAR - Cosmovore (2018)

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