It is amazing when you are part of a journey of something that is so nascent. Steve and I have been chatting back and forth now for some time, and I have been able to share in the unraveling of the Unravelling. I had the opportunity to listen to some of their developing music and share it with you (link, check it out). It is not often that I am especially anxious for the release of a new album (for example, when Fat Bob is about to release, then I chew my nails to non-existence), but I have become anxious to finally hear the final product, “13 Arcane Hymns,” later this year and hopefully getting to see/hear this perspicacious music live – imagine the power! Though they are busy finishing this process before their release, I would like to genuinely thank both Gus and Steve for taking the time to Answer 5.
Gus De Beauville and Steve Moore of The Unravelling
Picture from The Unravelling homepage
1. Who are your musical and nonmusical influences?
Gus: My musical origins took root from growing up as a child and looking through my father's records. I would always pick out the most bizarre looking ones with the craziest, psychedelic artwork and study them in great detail. Naturally when I learnt how to work the LP player I started popping them in for a listen. Out of that I discovered Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Rush and similar pioneers. Of course he listened to other 'renegades' of the day that I thought were total shit even at the age of nine - so the entire collection wasn't flawless, but it did serve to lead me to where I am now.
Steve: My influences have evolved and grown over the years but there have been some staples that have shaped my leanings as a person. I read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Alex Haley at quite a young age and this changed me completely. It inspired a keen interest in human rights that has stayed with me and grown throughout my life. Other individuals like Taslima Nasrin, Simon Wiesenthal, Che Guevara, Hunter S Thompson, Ward Churchill, and Noam Chomsky are people I get inspiration from - certain aspects of their characteristics, that is. I don't agree with everything they have said or done, but many things, including the attitude of no compromise on the most important things, I believe in. It's important to look with a discerning eye and choose what is relevant to you rather than to blindly follow a group of ideas. I also am inspired by the Zapatista's, as I've stated elsewhere.
Musically, I'm inspired by music that strikes me as intensely honest, or that lights a sort of match for me. Some of my favorite artists include The Dillinger Escape Plan, Tool, Dead Can Dance, Public Enemy, Skinny Puppy, The Doors, Refused, Jeff Buckley, and Tom Waits. All for different reasons really. Dillinger, I love for their pure aggression and uncompromising musical nature. Dead Can Dance is an unearthly band really - Lisa Gerrard's voice sounds more than human. Public Enemy for their intelligence and activism. Now The Doors' Jim Morrison was quite the train wreck, but I like that he was completely self-destructive and threw himself into the ringer. I like a bit of insanity and danger. I definitely listen to more hardcore and varied stuff than Gus, so you can tell which tracks were driven by each of our personalities. Pretty varied influences though, lately I've been listening to early Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, for example.
2. Hailing from Canada, you are part of slightly different music and cultural scenes than the US or UK. How do you guys feel that this is an advantage in terms of what you have been exposed to and why?
Steve: I seek out music so I feel I expose myself to virtually the same music as say someone in the US or the UK. I definitely have had more CD sales, downloads, and general interest in my musical projects from outside Canada in the past and I hope that changes. Canada is still going through an indie pop revival that has gone on for 8 years or so, and the scenes tend to be very genre specific, meaning most of the bands do not offer much as far as dynamics. The response to The Unravelling so far has been unusually good, so I'm excited about a turning of the tides potentially. Maybe there are people out there looking for something other than emo, hardcore, or straight ahead metal. If so, we will find them.
Gus: I'm not originally from Canada so I can't really admit to growing up in the metal scene here - if that were the case, who knows maybe our album might have sounded more like Nickelback or The Arcade Fire. Hahahaha, just kidding, I've been quite a hermit here in terms of integrating into the music scene. Where I came from we only heard of new bands years after they came out. I caught wind of the "Teen Spirit" video three years after it was released just to give you an idea of how things were back in the day growing up in Barbados. This made us ravenous collectors of anything cool we could find. From absorbing the grunge scene (Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains) from the nineties, then moving on to heavier type stuff (Pantera, Sepultura, Machine Head, Tool, NIN etc.), and then branching out into the vast European metal scene (Opeth, Samael, Rotting Christ, Amon Amarth, Anorexia Nervosa etc.)
When I came up here in 2006 to study recording engineering I was living in a one-bedroom dorm. In this solitude I discovered a great many ambient artists that got me through the cold lonely years. Bands like Arcana, Dead Can Dance, Nox Arcana, Sophia, Sopor Aeternus and Summoning became my mantras in the evenings.
3. In my opinion, some of the greatest collaborations in music have been duos. Besides the obvious of who writes what, how do both of you feed off of each others' energy and inspire each other to be productive and creative?
Gus: That’s a deep question man; when I compose I mainly let it flow as naturally as possible while trying to guide the music in a way so as to create an appealing tapestry. An interesting landscape for a vocalist to want to sing on it. I also think of what an audience may feel as they experience the music. Almost as if they're taken on a journey or experience aided by the music. After the material is ready I separate myself from it and allow Steve to mold it into its final incarnation. Clearly there's a level of trust, understanding and respect that has to exist for this to work but so far the results have been encouraging to say the least.
Steve: There's a good amount of room for me to use my voice as an instrument rather than just sing a line or two in this project. Gus puts a lot of intensive emotionally charged atmosphere into his music and it lends itself well to harmonies and poetry. Some tracks like "Last Rights Protest" and "Fire Breather" were ones I encouraged Gus to use - they are not his typical playing style. These songs enabled me to expand what I do as well. I've always felt that the best albums are the rare ones that take you all over the spectrum. Some songs I'm expressing myself very calmly, whereas some are anarchy in the purest sense of the word (“Fire Breather”). It's all just part of being honest. As much as possible, it all has to come out.
Beyond that, as we've gotten to know each other better, we seem to gel well and the writing will get more intricate and involved between the two of us in the future. The trust is there.
4. You describe your upcoming album as being "pscyho-analytical" in theme. Could you elaborate on that?
Steve: That's just an honest assessment of what I figure it is. There are themes running throughout the album that were not intentional but yet so obvious once you read the lyrics through song by song. One very persistent theme is the concept of being buried alive, then digging your way out and coming back from the "precieved dead,’ the phoenix rising from the ashes, Arjuna laying down his doubts and going into battle. This is an idea close to my heart.
I have gone through an intensive time personally over the past year in the writing of this album, and these ideas have come out naturally in my writing. I think it's easy to feel in this day and age like you are dead, like you have no genuine communication method to get through to others, no legitimate options to live an authentic life - beyond television and corporate servitude. I want to feel alive and inspired beyond the mundane. I work hard to express myself honestly in hopes that this communication will inspire others, even if that puts me in a vulnerable position. The digging yourself out part takes intense focus and continual reiteration of your intentions. So the album is not a negative exploration of any kind - in fact it's about reclaiming personal power, it's about victory.
By Gus De Beauville
5. I really like the artwork that Gus comes up with. Is there a direct connection between the artwork and the music?
Gus: Thanks for the kind words - it's quite intimidating to put oneself out there for others to scrutinize. The art pieces started off as a completely separate outlet for me, it's only through wanting to craft out a more encompassing mythology that I started using the art to enhance the music. I think it was Keith Richards that said songs are all around us swirling around in the air - it just depends on who can reach out and grasp one. That's the way I paint, I splash some lines on the paper and then stare at it until faces and visions start to emerge from the page. Then I start to paint them out and give the symbols relevance to the time in my life that I'm experiencing. I hope it gives people a chance to experience dark, entrancing visions along with the music if they wanted. I can't wait until we get to the point in our journey where we're allowed to make videos. That's when the true nightmares will begin. Thanks so much for having us.
Steve: I'm a big fan of it as well. I'm pretty fussy with artwork to represent music I get involved with, and I love his interpretations of what looks to me like chaos and mystery meeting. Thanks Slowdive Music! We appreciate it very much.
Keep up with The Unravelling at their homepage (join the mailing list), MySpace, and Facebook.