Monday 16 July 2012

20 Questions w/ Akem Manah

Hey guys, It's Aaron again for another thrilling instalment of 20 Questions with...  So, we're all big fans of Doom right?!  Well, this year we have been extremely fortunate to have reviewed some high quality records and bring them to your attention.  We're good to you, but I'm sure you already know that. 
In terms of Doom metal, perhaps one album that we felt particularly impressed by, was the second record by Akem Manah from Oregon, USA.  Not to be confused with the Belgian band with the same name.  Akem Manah have released arguably one of the best Doom metal albums I have heard in a very long time.   Night of the Black Moon is a monumental record and if I had to use one word to describe it, it would be 'Epic.! 
Steve reviewed the album a few weeks back and he was glowing in his praise for this fantastic record here.  What makes this band so unique is that for all intents and purposes, Akem Manah is one man and that is Aaron Nedry.  It is his dedication and DIY ethic which has brought this master class of Doom to the masses and that is an achievement in itself. 
So, because Akem Manah released such a monstrous record, I thought it'd cool to talk to  Akem Manah e.g. Aaron Nedry himself.  So here is my 20 Questions with...Akem Manah. Enjoy and spread the word about this brilliant band. Thanks for reading. 

Hey Aaron or do you prefer Nedry?

I choose Nedry or Dead Nedry for the sake of privacy or mystery...

I’m stoked that you agreed to talk me; it’s a real pleasure to talk you because you’ve released one of the best albums I’ve heard over recent months.  Where are you at the moment and what you up to in terms of the band? 

Currently living on the Oregon (USA) coast. Since our original drummer Brian and long time bassist Robert left the band to focus on going to college. I have been running the band by myself. Working on a new EP with Ivan de Prume, the original Grammy nominated White Zombie drummer (85-92). Also Chris Lollis, former bassist for the death metal band Nile.

We had the pleasure of reviewing your 2nd record, Night of the Black Moon recently, however for those people who missed that review and who are unfamiliar with your band, could you tell me a little bit about the history of the band? Where you're from, current band members, when you formed?

The band originally formed in Seattle, Washington in 2009. We started with 4 guys, me included. But shortly after forming, in 2010 our first bass player Kyle left the band. Our original second guitarist Mike also left due to some creative differences. Although he came back briefly in 2011, mainly just a few jam sessions. We found Robert to take over on bass in January 2010 and he, Brian and myself are featured on all the Akem Manah releases to date. Our music is a mix of doom metal, sludge metal, death metal and psychedelic rock. I prefer using the term psychedelic over stoner as I am not weed smoker or use any drugs or alcohol for that matter.

Has it always been an ambition to start a metal band?

I have always enjoyed doing music. Metal mainly, although I have branched into other forms of rock music. But since I was at least 16 I have wanted to start a band. Had many false starts, many never went anywhere. Metal is definitely the musical style I wanted to do.

Is Akem Manah your only full time project at the moment?

I also have a solo project under the 'Dead Nedry' name. Actually as of right now, I am putting my finishing touches on a new solo EP called "The Twisted Skin" out in August. But Akem Manah is the only other project that gets main focus. Any other projects I do are just side, whenever I get a chance sort of projects. Like Cataclysm is a solo doom / heavy metal project that i will be working on a 2nd album very soon. There is one full length out called "Death Becomes Us".

When do you find time for the band if you have to work?  You work too right?

Yeah, unfortunately I still have to work. I work as a cook to a medium end restaurant here in Oregon. Luckily I have some recording & mixing equipment so I can record at my home. Ivan & Chris live elsewhere, so they are doing their parts for the new EP where they are. But I always find time for Akem Manah, promotions and hitting Facebook / forums and writing music.

How would you describe your sound?

Kind of dirty doom sludge metal with death metal attributes. Electric Wizard, Black Sabbath, Sunn O))), Ramesses, High On Fire, Skepticism, Amon Amarth, Type O Negative, My Dying Bride all found their way on influencing the Akem Manah sound.

Why did you decide upon the name Akem Manah, what are the roots behind it? 

I used to make list of names that I thought would suit a band. I would go online and research names of things like demons, evil places or ideas and Akem Manah was always the one that stuck out. It is a name of a demon in the Zoroastrian religion meaning "Evil Mind" or "Evil Purpose". And I thought that suited the ideas of the music we were creating.

Are you aware of another band with the same name?  Has that caused you any problems?  Did you consider changing the name?

We discovered them a little while after we released our debut album "The Devil Is In All Of You" when they released their debut album. Our paths had never crossed until late May of this year when the website Metal Underground, Listed "Night Of The Black Moon" as their new album. They contacted us thinking we just formed and we were using their name. Which isn’t the case. It was just pure accident. But after the release of the debut album and the 2011 EP "Horror In The Eyes" We were too invested in the name, we were getting reviews and mentions and thought that we couldn't change our name now.

You have had your fair share of misfortune when it comes to line up changes since the inception of the band, did you ever think about calling it a day?  Did the loss of members affect your confidence as a musician?

After the first album I moved back to Oregon from Seattle, I thought that would be the end. Had almost 500 miles between us. Myself working full-time and those guys working and going to college. The EP "Horror In The Eyes" was going to be the final release. It was just music that we held back from the first album to save for a new album. But we thought that day wouldn't come. But it did later in 2011 when we started shooting ideas back and forth for the "Black Moon" album. But overtime someone leaves it can shake things up. When Kyle and Mike both left in January 2010, we thought we would end it then, but decided to keep on. It doesn't affect me as a musician since I always have other projects to work on. And I have always felt very good about Akem Manah, that I couldn't end it.

Is there a rock/metal scene in your hometown?

Very tiny, I mean like a few people. Bandon is the town I live in and it is only like 3000 people. But I have people I know and jam with. A new musical project may be under way soon with local friends.

What's it like being in an underground rock/ metal band? Is it a struggle?

It can be. It is hard to bring doom metal out to an audience when everyone wants straight death metal and just the fast pace in your face metal. Which I like but I love doom metal too. I think it just takes persistence. I go on to forums and put money out of own pocket for ads online to help build on the fan base.

It states on your facebook page your focus is mostly on being a studio band, rather than touring a lot, is that true and what is reasoning behind that?

Touring right now is definitely hard, with myself being the only official member. I want to build up a larger fan base before going out on the road. I want to know there are fans out there so we’re not playing to 10 people in some dive bar. But Chris gave me advice about trying to hit up the European summer festival circuit. Which is something I am shooting for in 2013. I know Europe is huge on doom metal and other forms of metal that aren't as big here in America.

What are your influences musically and artistically?

Myself personally ranges from bands like Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Metallica, White Zombie, Pantera, Soilwork, Xasthur, Sunn o))), Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Electric Wizard, Thergothon, Skepticism. Just a wide range of music in the rock and metal genres. I don't limit myself to ideas. I brought many ideas into the "Night Of The Black Moon" album including a little thrashy parts.

Were you in any bands before Akem Manah?  If so, what were they like and how has your style changed since then?

I had some projects and ideas that never went anywhere mainly groove / thrash metal. Done a lot of solo recording. But Akem Manah is the real first band I have been a part of. But I can tell since I have started playing I am 1000 time better than I was, but I also know I can improve and grow as a musician. I am only 25.

Night of the black moon is your 2nd full length, do you feel it is your best work and why?

I think it is so far. The new Akem Manah EP and my new solo EP are very excellent. But on "Night Of The Black Moon" we seemed more focused. We had an idea of what we wanted the sound to be. The first album was almost like an experiment for us. I felt the riffs had more substance and power behind them on this album than before or any other project I have done to date. A song like 'Into The Darkness" being 20 + minutes and bring the depth of super slow riffs and almost thrashy riffs and trying different arrangements just helped the album. I felt my vocals were better than before. Everything just seemed so smooth and came together so well while recording we knew we had something special.

Given that Night of the black moon has only been out a short while, you’re already in the process of recording another E.P. what was the thinking behind that?

I have always done that. Just whenever I have an idea for riffs or whatever I start recording. This time it just went a little faster. Just had an idea, a concept that I didn't want to hold off on and lose the idea or spark.

For those people who don’t know, former White Zombie/Prong drummer Ivan de Prume is playing on the new EP as well as former Nile bassist, Chris Lollis, how did that come about?

I remember years ago. I think 2006 or maybe 2007 I was recording some solo demos while living in Los Angeles and I came across Ivan's Myspace (when people were still using myspace) and saw he would do music recording for projects he liked. I contacted him when Brian & Robert left the band and gave him a copy of "Black Moon". He came back to me with tons of ideas and people who he thought would be great on this project. And Chris was the main guy he wanted. After talking to Chris I knew he was the guy for this project. Ivan enjoys doing stuff like this, especially because I gave free range for ideas. Allow him to do what he does best. Did the same for Chris, told him he could do what he felt comfortable with. So it seems to be working well.

Upcoming EP scheduled Oct'12

I was and still am a massive White Zombie fan, that must be an honour for him to play on the record?

White Zombie is one of the reasons i started music. And I was always partial to the early stuff. "La Sexorcisto" is still my favorite Zombie album next to the 1989 album "Make The Die Slowly". So it is great to have him on board. And just crazy to think that he will be playing drums to riffs I created.

Are Chris and Ivan full time members? Will they tour with you?

They are just session members now. That’s all I am doing for now. But it would be great to tour with them and even if things go well bring them on board officially. Just playing it slow right now. Although i have brought up the idea of shows with Chris for next year. But we will see. I definitely know I want them to be on the next EP in 2013.

What sets your music apart from other heavy music, in terms of getting people to listen or buy your music?

I can't really say. I just do what I can to get people interested. I go on to forums, have songs on internet radio, have a page that I send fans messages, runs tons of ads, and submit music everywhere to get reviews. Planning on releasing a free EP of 1 or 2 songs from all 3 current releases. Possibly in August. Just do whatever I can. But I can't really say anything sets us apart. We all do what we need to do, to be heard.

What sort of feedback have you received for Night of the black moon? What are your thoughts? Are you pleased with it? Do People get what you’re trying to do?

This album has had the best feedback yet. I haven't seen any negative at all. Hell, I saw a term that just posted on "A Metal State Of Mind" website that said "The epitome of doom metal, Akem Manah defines the genre.". As well as the mass praise from Sludgelord.  Still working on getting more reviews. But it is fantastic. I think everyone understands the ideas behind the music. I love the thought of people comparing the riff ideas to Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath. He is definitely a huge influence on me. So that is really great. Overall I couldn't ask for any better.

Given that essentially you’re the only member of the band, have you written all the music and lyrics?  What inspires you as you seem to be pretty prolific?

All songs are mainly by me as far as riffs go. I never really pushed any ideas for bass or drums. Let those guys do what they feel. Just an occasional idea here and there. But they do mainly build their playing around my riffs. All lyrics are by me. Lyrics are always weird for me. I never know what to write. But I want to push myself to have something great. I have always told people, if I can't sit and listen to my own songs and enjoy them, then I shouldn't release them. I can't write just plain lyrics. When telling a story, I really want to tell a story. And I work hard to get it. One thing I also feel for Akem Manah lyrics is that its entertainment. I may write stuff about God or Satan but that reflects nothing on myself or others I know. To me they are just figureheads to be written about.

Is Freak Metal Records your own label, if so how do finance the records and release them? 

It is. It is all out of my pocket. I have always been good with money. So whenever a CD needs to be printed I had my portion of the money. I do all deals though CD Baby who then submit to all digital partners like Amazon & Itunes and to any physical locations.

I saw that you were asking  people to sign an on line petition to get signed to Roadrunner Records, if they or another label approached you, what would you want from them and how could they help you? 

I doubt the Roadrunner thing will work as they never sign anyone off of that. But if we were approached, I would want the band to have all creative control over the music. That’s the reason we were approached. If someone else is trying to tell me how to run my band and write music it would take all the fun out of it. I would love to have the use of connections they have and the better promotion, better recording facilities and distribution that is harder to get from being underground. Plus the money so I could quit my cooking job and be a full-time musician.

What do think of services such as Pledge Music, where fans donate money to their favourite artists to help get them get their music recorded?

Never heard of this before. Always funded everything out of pocket. That is one of the reasons I didn't call it quits back in April when Brain & Robert left the band.

What are your ambitions for the band?

I want to be able to make a living off of touring and the music. No job. Just music. I would love to see us hit the billboard top 20 just for the hell of it. Headline some doom metal festivals. Just make it big with the band.

Do you get to tour much? If so, where have you toured? Who are your favourite bands to tour with?

Haven't toured yet. Have done a few shows early on in the Seattle area. Last show was really just a party where we jammed a few old songs and 2 new songs the night before we entered the studio to record "Night Of The Black moon" in January. So, not really any experience yet. I hope that can change as there are a ton of band I would love to tour with like Electric Wizard, Ramesses, High on Fire, Novembers Doom, Moss, Evoken, Skepticism and so many others.

What are your immediate plans for the future, any plans for new material after the upcoming EP, another full length perhaps?

"Demons Of The Sabbath - Part 1" in October. Part 2 is planned for early 2013 release. Ideas are floating around as far as riffs but nothing has been recorded.  Hopefully some festivals and touring in the spring / summer of 2013. Outside of Akem Manah there are plenty of things. Like my new solo EP and the full length Cataclysm album I mentioned earlier. Also some singles from other projects all within the next 6-8 months.

What do you think to people downloading music for free? Would you consider releasing your album for free to get more people listening to your music?

I don't think I would release a main album or EP for free. I have done singles and I am planning a free EP / sampler of songs off the previous releases that will be free to get people interested. But I feel that bands put time into their work, pay for studios, printing CD's, getting the CD released & promotion. So there should be something coming back. Especially if you are underground or a studio only band.

Any plans for shows in the UK?

Would love too. 2013 is when it will happen. Either with a band put together here or  a special line-up just for European shows. I would love to hit the festival circuit, especially Download Festival. That and some of the clubs and such. Just have to work out ideas and get promoters and all that business stuff lined up first. But it will happen.

Last question, you got anything you like to say to your fans?

Thanks for the support. Many people out there that help keep the band alive by just sharing post on Facebook, and on forums. It helps build it up. I need you to keep helping spread the word of Akem Manah. Without you Akem Manah would not be. You are all great. Don't stop on us and we won't stop for you. Long live doom metal.

It goes without saying, that I need to say a massive thank you to Nedry for taking the time to talk to us, here at The Sludgelord.  If you haven't heard this band before, please check them out, they are amazing.  You can read Steve's review here. Please show your support by checking out the links below for info on where you can buy Akem Manah's music, as well checking them on the usual social networks.  Thanks for reading guys.  More from 20 Questions very soon.

CD Baby