Thursday 7 February 2013

20 Questions w/ Abraham


Is it just my imagination or are we spoiling you with  interesting and informative interviews from some of our favourite bands at the moment.  Seems like 2013 has started off pretty damn well in terms of presenting cool interviews.  I must say, that is only my opinion. :)

So why stop now?  When we are on a roll. Pelagic Records have a dirth of talented bands on their roster at the moment and Sludgelord has recently covered a number of them.  In 2012 we reviewed superb albums by Earthship, Family and also the superb new release by Abraham.   More recently we reviewed the stellar new release by Coilguns too.

Anyway you get the picture?  We are fans of Pelagic.  Abraham's latest record The Serpent, The Prophet & The Whore was so good in fact, that our very own Teabag featured their album in her year end list.   So given the amount of praise we lavished on the band, I thought it would cool to get the guys from Abraham to talk to us.  Thankfully, Abraham agreed, So here is what Dave, Matt and Jacques had to say, when I fired 20 Questions at them.  Enjoy and see you next time! 

Hey Guys, How are you?  Thanks for talking to us and congratulations, on the release of your superb new record, The Serpent, The Prophet & The Whore.  We described as your career defining record, it is outstanding.

Dave: Thank you for your interest and for taking pleasure in our depressive mood!

Mat : Thanks a lot man, hope you're right about the career defining stuff !
Q) After the celebrations of Christmas and the New Year,  where are you guys at the moment and what are you doing in terms of the band?  I recently saw an announcement for a show in May 2o13, a kinda pelagic records showcase, with Cult of Luna, The Ocean, Kruger.  You must be psyched for that show? Shame it is not in England, haha

Dave: We just keep it going as if nothing would have happened: stuck in the rehearsal room to prepare all the crazy shit coming nearer at a very fast pace. First, we will play at Lozane's Burning, which is a show happening once a year in our hometown Lausanne and where the (biggest) local bands play a twelve minutes set of covers chosen following a certain theme. This year's theme is “nightlife” and we will play Fade to Night by Visage and Dunkelnight by Burzum. Entertainment at its best!

Jacques : Then we'll be supporting Cult of Luna in Germany, Luxembourg and France in january and february. We've also got a few other shows coming this spring, namely the Pelagic Fest which is gonna take place in Berlin. We'll probably get drunk way too soon on the road to Berlin with the Kruger guys and lose our way. We're definitely psyched to do this show last time we were in Berlin, the response was amazing !

Mat: We also got very recently confirmed on the Inferno Metal Fest, a pretty big fest in Lausanne, along with Dark Funeral, My Dying Bride, Samael and many others, so we're pretty stoked about that too. And obvious touring with Cult of Luna is our biggest opportunity so far, this could as well be career defining !

I read your bio on the Pelagic website , which indicate ABRAHAM was formed under the name "Le Baron Vampire" in Lausanne, Switzerland  by KRUGER guitar player Jacques Viredaz and a few mates from uni. The band later changing their name to ABRAHAM.

Q) For the benefit of our readers who may be new to your band, could you tell us a little about the history of the band, Where you’re from? Current band members?

Dave: We are all from the suburbs of Sodom near Lausanne where we jobbed as shepherds during quite a while. That's where we know each other from and where we became accustomed to live more or less together. Since this job was badly remunerated we decided to upgrade our career and became musicians. We always acted like one entity and thus band members have always been the same: Matoslav Axwielder and Jakkob C. Wierdmann on guitars, Valentino DiCabillo on bass, Renzo T. Especial on vocals and moog, Dave Schlagmeister on vocals and drums.

Jacques : Our bio on the Pelagic website doesn't lie about this particular point, neither does it about the “Le Baron Vampire” bit. But I didn't recruit the other guys : to dig deeper into Abraham's bearded history, the band stemmed from Dave and I recruiting our long time friend Mat to form a rock band in september 2007. Val and Renzo followed a few weeks later. Basically we've known each others for about ten to twenty years, so we're really childhood friends. It's funny all the bands we've been in along the years pretty much always involved the same people, just not in this very lineup. Furthermore, pretty much everybody else involved in our previous band is still hanging out with us, mostly going on tour with us as roadies, drivers, etc.

Q)  Is Abraham a full time commitment, given Jacques commitments to Kruger, is it difficult to divide time between the two?  Do you work on Abraham during the downtime for Kruger for example? 

Jacques : It's kinda funny you should ask that : actually I had to give up playing in Kruger (for good, this time) as Abraham had become a priority. Writing music we're truly satisfied with takes a lot of time, especially since we have to have “regular” jobs and I found myself unable to keep up with both bands. Abraham has always been the important band for me. As I said I've known the other guys for quite a long time. Kruger however played a really big part in my life I learned a lot of stuff playing with them.

Dave: I might add that there is hardly any downtime in Abraham, given that this is what saves us from our boring everyday lives and jobs.

Q) With all the changes in the music industry, it genuinely does appear harder to make a commitment to a band, what with the potential for constant touring, promotion and bands perhaps supporting themselves financially, what motivates Abraham?

Dave: It is probably quite impossible to make a living out of playing underground music. We involve most of our free time and spend most of our earnings on this band. So motivations must be music and passion.

Jacques : We have to make a living from something. Dave is in the publishing industry, Renzo is a librarian, Val still studies at the University, Mat is in psychology and I am a teacher. We're geeks, really. Bearded geeks.

Mat: Basically the more we tour, the happier we are. Well as long as we can afford to pay our bills and have a more or less decent life.. which is impossible for us by only playing music. But it might change one day, who knows...

Q) Given that Jacques was already a member of Kruger, why the need to start another band and was it difficult to forge your own identity?

Jacques : It was never a need to start another band. Up until six months ago I've always been involved in several projects because I had time to do so. Now I just wish I could win the lottery to go back doing several bands at the same time. It wasn't difficult to forge our own identity, I think. We're really not interested in the same things than the Kruger guys ; think of it as booze + mustache on the Kruger side, books + beards on the Abra side. We're storytellers, and we also drink. Some of us need stronger stuff and more volatile should I say to get their visions. I think Kruger really addresses a more metal, and somewhat older audience. Abraham is into Queen, black metal, cats the fresh stuff.

Mat: I think it has never been difficult for us to forge our own identity, mainly because we write songs just the way we know how, and the way we want them to be. I mean we all have a pretty clear and homogeneous vision of the band and one of the main point for us is to sound as unique as possible. We don't want to sound like Converge, Neurosis, Cult of Luna or whatsoever… we just want to sound like Abraham. Obviously you can find our influences pretty easily, but I hope you cannot find any band that sounds exactly like us. We want to create our own sound, a mix between Sludge, North American Black Metal, Poison the Well and Further Seems Forever. And by the way, we smoke way more weed than the Kruger dudes and I think that's the real difference.

Q) Since your inception, what has your modus operandi been in terms of the band? 

Dave: Have fun, work hard.

Mat: Work hard, play hard !

Q) How easy is it for bands such as yourselves to get gigs?  From talking to other bands, some venues/promoters just won’t book them,  Is it a struggle?

Dave: We leave the booking to people who are dedicated to that. Doing this by ourselves was as useless as time-consuming. Talk to Charly Lurat at Hibooking and Christoph Noth at Fireantmusic.

Mat: Yeah I have to say those guys are doing a pretty amazing job for us lately. Since we have been working with them, I have to say things have gotten way easier...

Q) It might sound like stupid question, but is playing live important to Abraham because touring can depend upon work commitments etc?  Often touring is the main source of promoting your band.                    

Dave: Playing live is the end goal of absolutely everything we do for/in the band.
Jacques: I think this might come from our punk rock years.

Q) You are part of a great roster of bands on the excellent Pelagic Label, it must be pleasing to be associated with them?  Do you think there is the same significance attached to being signed to label as their once was, with bands releasing music on bandcamp etc? 

Dave: Yeah Pelagic Records are building up a very good roster with bands like Khoma, Ef, Lo!, Coilguns, The Ocean! It is great to be associated with bands we appreciate and with whom we share vision of and approach to music. This is one great side of being on a label. I think being on a label is nowadays even more interesting as it brings probably more exposition, more attention to your band. It is also very interesting in terms of connections, exchange, opportunities you can find by this mean. Labels do more than just producing records. A large part of their work is dedicated to promotion, build connections between people, bands, promoters, etc. Doing this by yourself is possibly consuming so much time that you have none left to basically play music.

Q) Are you big fans of rock/metal, if so what are you listening too at the moment?
Jacques: We like to listen to different styles. As far as I'm concerned it's mostly guitar-oriented, heavy music — Opeth, Baroness, Katatonia, Wolves in the Throne Room, nineties rock bands such as Pearl Jam or Alice in Chains during the last two months; but I'm also a big fan of Nick Drake, José Gonzales, Feist. Dave got a package from Hydra Head lately and some of these records have been spinning in our van's stereo (Xasthur, Harvey Milk, old Cave In stuff…).

Mat: Flat Bush Zombies / Wolves in the Throne Room / Michael Jackson / Black Sheep Wall / Pink Floyd / Burzum / Antoine Dufour / Mae / Jimmy Eat World / Wiz Khalifa / A$AP Rocky / Cult of Luna / Death Cab for Cutie / Neurosis / My Bloody Valentine / Smashing Pumpkins / Pearl Jam / Converge / Opeth / Xasthur / Mastodon / Queen / Andy Mc Kee

Q)  Who would you say are your influences/heroes both musically and artistically in terms of the bands sound and subject matter for your lyrics? 

Dave: When we formed the band major influences were probably Cult of Luna and Neurosis. We tried however to find our own and personal way to write songs (trying not to copy what has already been done) and for doing so we listened to tons of black metal. Bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Xasthur, do have their importance. In terms of lyrics, our influences come from the literary domain (american literature, french and czech surrealism, science-fiction) and from esoterism (alchemical writings, heretic christianism).


Q) I’m assuming all musician like to talk about gear, so with that in mind what gear do you use in terms of guitars, amps and why? Also what tuning do you use?

Jacques: I have a small collection of gear. Lately I've been using a Mesa Boogie dual rectifier together with a Laney Klipp 100, on a cab I built myself with Weber speakers in it. My usual guitars are a Gibson Firebird studio and two Wild Customs (french luthiers, check them our if you don't know them: I had made specially for me: a Vulture and a Charger baritone. I've been playing on this gear lately because I was looking for something rock sounding, close to the tone we had on the last record. Currently we're using three different tunings live: BF#BEG#C# for the songs from the first album; BF#BDG#B for most songs of the second record and F#F#BDG#B for “The Chymical Fiancé”.

Mat: I am actually no a big gear fan, mostly because i don't have the money for it.. I mean it is so expensive to get new gear when you consider you have to keep your current gear up do date.. Consequently I try to find something that fits me and then I stick to it. I am currently using a Marshall Vintage Modern Amp on an Orange cab, and regarding guitars I play mostly my Epiphone Sherraton and Gibson Les Paul.

Q) What is the scene like in your hometown?  What are your thoughts?  Where do you think Abraham fits within that?  Any bands we should be keeping an eye out for?
Dave: Western Switzerland has a long tradition of heavy bands playing metal, sludge, doom. Older bands like Unfold or Knut have had very active and violent years, and Knut made their way onto Hydrahead Records and their best records remain perfectly relevant (check out Knut's Challenger). Younger bands in this scene are Kruger and Rorcal (you definitely need their Heliogabalus). If you like post-rock check out When Icarus Falls. If you like triple-violence check out Coilguns and their upcoming Commuters.


Q) How you feel your band has generally been received and does it surprise you when people buy your music and merch?
Jacques: It's always good when we realize our music sometimes affects people: a couple weeks ago we got a message from someone in America who had the cover art of An Eye on the Universe tattooed on his arm. We like when people buy our merch: it's the only way for us not to lose money.
Mat: I think we are really underrated. We should definitely be richer, play only stadiums and have more bitches and bottles !

Q) Taking a more general view of the changes in the music industry as a whole, what with illegal download and perhaps more pressure on mags to feature ‘scene’ bands or bigger artists.  How valuable are blogs such as the Sludgelord to bands and artists covering your music? Does all forms of media coverage translate to people buying merch, downloading music etc, coming to shows?

Jacques: Personally I find it a bit frustrating when people come up to us a the end of a show, telling us how much they liked the album and the show and then further in the discussion they tell you they downloaded the album and get away without even getting a physical copy — or a t-shirt.

Mat: On the other hand, social networks, illegal download and stuff like this are the easiest way for us to be heard / seen by a really large amount of people. So keep on downloading but be sure to spread the beard around you !


Q) Reviewing records within the genres of sludge/doom/stoner/post metal etc, you often listen to a lot of stuff which is quite similar. What sets you apart from your peers and what are your thoughts about being part of any scene?

Dave: You should know better than we do! We have a drunken drummer who shouts cool nonsense during several songs. That's probably not that usual…

Mat: I would say that if you take a closer look at the riffing and song structures, especially on the last album, you'll see that not much about it is really metal. We are actually way more influenced by Breach or Cult of Luna in terms of guitar/bass/drums dynamics, than by bands like Gojira or Converge for example.

Q) Getting back to your record ‘The Serpent, The Prophet & The Whore, it comes a year after you released your debut, ‘An Eye on the Universe.  Did you learn anything about the band from the recording and touring of your first record, that you wanted to change or incorporate in your new record?

Dave: We discovered that is was real shit to record a album when your studio gets flooded several times during that process. Touring and playing AEOTU brought us a deeper revelation: there should be much more serpents, prophets and whores on the new album!

Mat: We also wanted to do something darker, more mature.
Q) Did you have an agenda when you began writing the new record? I understand "The Serpent, The Prophet & The Whore" was inspired by a novel by J.G. Rawls entitled The Chronoception.  Is a concept record and what inspired you about this particular, novel?  What is the premise of the Chronception?

Dave: The writing process for SP&W began pretty early after the release of AEOTU. After we decided that the next album would be built on The Chronoception, there was a lot of work to be done. We had to chose an approach, decide how this would exactly happen. Some lyrics where written before we even composed a single note. This took us several month, but with this work done the composition itself was very quick as we knew where we were going.

Mat: We actually had a pretty strict plan about when we wanted to record / mix / release the album, but we would definitely have taken more time if it had been necessary… At first it was really difficult to come up with stuff that would satisfy us, being sufficiently original, brutal, atmospheric and as dynamic and dense as possible. We really had to throw away loads of songs that weren't actually that bad, but which just didn't fit either the album as a whole or our vision of how the songs themselves would sound. Basically, as soon as we realized a riff or song was not dark or oppressive enough, we decided not to keep it...

Q) What were your aims for ‘The Serpent, The Prophet & The Whore’ and how do you feel it compares to your first record?  What are your thoughts about it, now it is in the public domain?

Dave: We wanted to work on this novel because we like its mood  and its story. It helped us to come up with a record with great inner coherence. Our first record was basically a compilation of what we had written this far. It helped us to play live shows, gave us the opportunity to sign on Pelagic Records. The second is a record off which every song was intended to be there and in that particular place. That's where serious things begin...

Mat: Darker, more mature.

Q). Reflecting upon 2012 as a band, do you feel that 2012 was a good year for you and what can we expect from Abraham in 2013.  Forgive me for saying, but can we expect a new Kruger record?  Sorry I had to ask.

Dave: Yeah it was a very good year during which we did almost everything we could dream of: a record, a release, some touring, and of course big money!

2013 will start on the hats of the wheels as we will support Cult of Luna, play the Pelagic Fest and tour as much as we can. Besides that we may start working on some new material as well. We have not yet decided if we are going to write a new Kruger record or not.

Mat: Yea I'm kind of tired of selling my riffs to Kruger, even though I have to say they pay me really well !

Q) Thanks for answering my questions, but one final question, would you like to say anything to your fans?
Dave: Keep on coming to our shows, buy some merch to support us (it really helps!), grow a beard! That's it, you've soared everything out of me. Thanks!
As ever show your support to the band. Thanks to the guys from Abraham for taking part in the interview . Check the links for more info on the band. Record is available to buy via their Label, Van Records store. Cheers Aaron