Sunday, 23 March 2014

Interview with Ethereal Riffian

Today, Aaron is interviewing Progressive Doom/Stoner Metallers - Ethereal Riffian - who released their incredible new album - Aeonian - to some acclaim within the Doom/Stoner Metal scene.

We called the album - "Anatman conquers the beaten warpath by unlocking a majestic Pink Floydian introductory passage leading to a hammer down of perhaps the wickedest rhythm on the 4 song epic. High pitch guitar screams frantically echo through the boggy field of mire while the battle-axes palpitate the landscape into liquid sludge.

The album oozes seriously doomy bliss without surrendering its medicinal marijuana card. Only getting better with each listen as more and more buried treasures unearth themselves from beneath the belly of this epic beast.

If you claim to be a fan of the all mighty riff, the darkness of doom, or the tripped out jammy type, you will find it all on Aeonian. Be on the lookout."

Lets get straight down to business with these Psychedelic Visionary Doom/Stoner Rockers.

(SL) Welcome to the Sludgelord, pleased to talk to you guys and welcome. First of all, Congratulations! Your new record is something special. You must reflect upon it with a sense of a pride?

Val (aka Stonezilla): Hi Aaron! Thank you very much for the initiative about the interview. We appreciate it. Answering your question I should say that pride is not an appropriate word. We rejoice.

(SL) Let’s kick things off, who are you, state your name (s) and purpose?

Val (aka Stonezilla): I'm the frontman of the band. I make sure that we're reaching our goals and that our message finds a good physical embodiment. Sometimes I play guitar and sing.
Max (aka Southman): Lead guitar.

(SL) Summarise your musical journey (s) this point?

Val: In terms of being a listener I've always liked music, but I started listening to it consciously only at the age of 11 I think. I've listened to a lot of heavy stuff since that time, but now I prefer music that's able to touch you from within no matter the genre. I think music is a universal language that everyone is able to understand.

As a musician – Ethereal Riffian is my first band. I also play in Wolverine Blues.

Max: Well, to be honest, Ethereal Riffian is my first band as well. Prior to the latter Val and me have been already working together and composing music in different genres, there is actually a lot of material lying on the shelf, but God knows what the future of these tunes is. Perhaps, someday we’ll try to make them public.

(SL) What can fans look forward to from you in 2014? How is your schedule shaping up?

Val: This is a very appropriate question, as we're just started to implement the plan for 2014, which is a really ambitious one. We intend to tour Europe with Wolverine Blues in September, create some creative merchandise, work on the ideas for our live shows, find a new band member for ethnic instruments, start recording our next album and write a book for it. Wish us luck and determination, Aaron!

Max: We have new outstanding ideas for a new album, hope we succeed in recording it this year.

(SL) What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new/current record?

Max: Relief and satisfaction.

(SL) Who handles song writing duties?

Max: There are a lot of different algorithms, it depends on whether it is a brand new idea or a tune composed a long time ago. As far as the first one is concerned, Val and me develop the idea, make a rough arrangement and show it to other members of the band; thereafter we’re jamming and introducing alterations. In case of an old tune, we think of its matching the conception, and if everything is fine we either play together or adjust it to new criteria. But since recently we’ve started writing new music all together.

(SL) How long was the gestation of your new/current opus from conception to delivery?

Max: It took more than three years to complete it. All the songs were written and even recorded in different periods, so peculiarly it has been developing similar to the life path of our book’s hero – chapter by chapter.

Val: We started to work on "Aeonian" in the end of 2011, but we didn’t actually realize it then. The thing is that we recorded “March of Spiritu (Rise of Sheol)” for the outstanding Falling Down compilation. Then I had the idea of releasing the 10-inch record with two 11-minute songs. That’s how “Wakan Tanka” and “Anatman” came into being (though we were already been playing “Wakan Tanka” during our Spring Rites Tour in 2012). When these two songs were ready, we thought that we should include “March of Spiritu” on the record because we liked the song, and we thought that people should hear it. But how would a vinyl record look like if there were two tracks on one side and only one track on the other? That’s how the idea of “Thugdam” started to take shape, and that’s when the concept of the album came into being. It gave way to the birth of the story. As Max mentioned - all in all it took us almost three years to finish the album and half a year to finish the book.

Aeonian cover art

(SL) The artwork is really great, was it designed with a particular physical format in mind? Who designed it?

Val: Thanks for the compliment! To tell the truth some people suggest it to be a cover for Justin Bieber's new album or the cover for some unreleased album of Right Said Fred. We all had a really good laugh while reading opinions like that!

We've worked over 3 months on this artwork and are fully satisfied with the result. It was designed for a double-gatefold vinyl and 4-panel digipack. My friend from Russia, an excellent graphical designer Mila Hopeful is the author. She's creating new designs for our t-shirts right now. You can check her works here -

(SL) As a music fan yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how is it to a great package to your fans, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. What are your thoughts on the finished physical product? What format is/will be available?

Val: Packing is essential because it transfers the idea of your music to the listener. It can also differentiate you from thousands of other artists. You see – giving the listener something special is essential to build a certain kind of relationship with him/her and integrate the image of your band into his/her consciousness. We understand how important it is, that's why we always try to come up with something unconventional, while keeping the prices reasonable. I think if you try hard to create a great album – you should also try hard to give it a proper production. It takes much effort but the result is rewarding, believe me.

Aeonian” will be available on vinyl through Nasoni records soon, on tape through Tartarus records and it is available on CD through Mulliogre production. Limited editions, ER Bundles and hard cover books are available directly through the band.

(SL) Tell me more about the theme running through the record and the accompanying book which comes with the vinyl? What was the thinking behind it.

Max: Val, as one of the key authors of the conception, will answer this question more precisely. I would say it in a few words – “Personal growth”.

Val: Thanks for this question. However I can't answer to it fully as we want everyone to make their own conclusions, because only the insights which are achieved by a person him/herself are able to transform him/her. We provide certain keys to the doors which hold these insights.

What I can do is to explain you one background idea which refers to the title of the album. Aeonian refers to eternal search of human being of its true nature. Aeon is a long indefinite period, may be a billion years or more. So it doesn't matter when the urge for such search arises - today or 100,000 years ago, because the call for such search is timeless in relation to the human nature. A human being lives a very limited amount of time, and it's that small in the scope of the universe as an atom is small in relation to the size of the human body. Nevertheless, peculiarity of our kind is that we can achieve the right sensation and understanding of our true nature despite of the limited time we have.

The album consists of four songs; the book consists of four chapters of the same title. The book uncovers the interconnection between the concepts and allows the listener to feel the full "Aeonian" experience.

(SL). Speaking off, getting a record out there are you a) Indiegogo (crowdfunding) or b) career no no.

Val: Career no no.

(SL) The best and worst things about being in a band?

Val: Best thing – the ability to transform other people and grow as a band and individuals together. Worst thing...well that's a good question. Maybe it's the necessity to deal with your band-mate's demons. But that's kinda rewarding.

Max: The first one is a team spirit, the second one… well, for me in most cases it is a compromise.

(SL) Influences and heroes, what are turn offs and turn on’s?

Val: In terms of music, I'm influenced by Tonny Iommi, Freddy Mercury, Matt Pike, John Lenon, Mike Scheidt, Roger Waters, Albert Ammons to name a few. In terms of personalities my heroes are Buddha, Jesus, Gandhi, Laozi, Goenka, Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci, Einstein, Rumi, Dalai Lama XIV, Black Elk, Leo Tolstoi and all the wisdom spreaders and peacemakers. In general I'm impressed by the complexity and beauty of the universe. This is the greatest mystery.

Max: For me the influences consist mostly of guitar heroes/virtuosos such as Marty Friedman, Guthrie Govan etc, phenomenal pianists like Chopin and Brahms, as well as old monsters of rock/art-rock/progressive rock – Electric Light Orchestra, King Crimson, Queen. I have a weakness for Dream Theatre too.

SL) Any record from the past or present that springs to mind?

Val: Bang – Mother/Bow to the King

Max: Queen – Flick of the Wrist.

(SL) The last album that kicked your arse?

Max: Among old albums I’ve listened to recently – ELO “On the Third Day”, among new ones – I would say “Psicomagia” by Psicomagia

Val: Steve Hunter - Manhattan Blues Project.

(SL) What was your first instrument or musical experience and what do you use today?

Max: My first instrument was a cheap acoustic guitar produced in the last circle of Hell by Satan himself, and which caused enormous pain already after 5 minutes of playing. Fortunately, today I am using a Gibsonish custom guitar and I’m quite happy with it.

Val: My first instrument was my father's old guitar from St. Petersburg. Now I use an old Greco Les Paul guitar.

(SL) One item, gear or otherwise that characterises your band and one item from your set up you cannot live without?

Max: It’s difficult to answer what item characterises us. I would say fuzz, but it’s an obvious answer. The item from my set up I can’t live without is my “all-time favourite” Suhr distortion pedal.

Val: Fuzz War & Hardwire Supernatural Ambient Verb

(SL) Pro-tools versus old school?

Max: Pro-tools and all modern applications take the first place, for they enable the clearest and the most audible sound in comparison to old recordings. The only thing that I hate in today’s recording practice is the excessive compression.

Val: Everything depends on what you want to achieve. Pro Tools works perfect for ER because we put a lot of attention to details and it's very flexible when it comes to experiments.

SL) Has their been much opportunity for your band to do live shows and is playing live still as important today given the influences of the web and social media ?

Val: One good musician once said that if the band isn't touring and doing live shows – it's dead. I think he's right. Live shows are the most sincere act of communication with your fans.

For our band, it is difficult to organize live shows because we have high standards and we suggest that our music requires a proper visual presentation, which isn't always possible to create at a usual gig place. The good thing it that we have already started to work on the ideas for our shows, so hopefully things will change for the better for us in terms of live shows soon.

(SL) Who are some your favourite bands you have toured with and what have been your band highlight (s) thus far

Max: I liked touring with Stoned Jesus, awesome guys.

Val: I agree with Max.

(SL) What are your survival tips for the road?

Val: Don't fart. Meditate. And watch out for your driver. If he's sleeping and you're starting to fall off the steep – that's a bad sign!

Max: Use every WC on the road and try to not miss any.

(SL) Vinyl Junkie or Ipod flunky? Discuss

Max: Both. Everything has its pros and cons.

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

Val: Thank you very much for the interview and a good set of questions, Aaron. As for the final comments/words of wisdom let me tell you this: Life a short flash, don't spend it wasting your talent, because you will end up regretting. Be very attentive to everything – to the world around and the world inside. The key to understanding and happiness lies within. I sincerely wish everyone to fulfil the potential of every second which is given to us. May you all have peace. 

Written by Aaron Pickford

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