Tuesday 17 February 2015

Circus of Freaks comes to town! - Interview with Without God

Few years ago Moscow-based band Without God has shown us how it could be if you try to mix angry Crowbar-like doom with sound of Paradise Lost and few bottles of vodka for their debut record "Lambs to the Slaughter" was something astonishing. Band gathered strength for about three years and last autumn they've returned to listeners with their new grand work "Circus of Freaks" demonstrating to us their improved skills through strong, catchy and uncompromising heavy stoner doom. They've became stronger. They've became angrier. Yet they remain ingenious and satirical. Do you feel the smell of filings? Do you hear that insane laugh? Only tonight! On this arena! Without any insurance! Circus of Freaks is unleashed with Anton (vocals, guitars) and Fyodor (bass).

Salute, men! My congratulations – with groaning and teeth gritting Without God finally brought into the world their second LongPlay “Circus of Freaks”. What kind of surprises do you have for listeners this time?

Anton: Hello! First, I'd like to introduce our new bass-player Fyodor, with whom I will answer questions.

Thank you for congratulations. “Circus of Freaks” took a really lot of time. There was plenty of reasons for this: family, work, etc. But finally we’ve done it. Folks, who liked "Lambs to the Slaughter" will find out some kind of evolution of our music ideas on new record “Circus of Freaks” - maybe corrected a bit. We have tried to put as much memorable melodies and riffs as we can. That’s the evolution is. Was it worth all efforts – it is for listeners to judge. As for me, second album is a logical continuation and development of the first one, and we're still that good old “Without God”.

Fyodor: There is also a change in sound considering composing and style. I am, for example, not a fan of true-black-metal on audio-cassette, so I think Without God evolved in a way of “sound”. All instruments are sound clearly in a mix, nothing interrupts with vocals, and yet it all sounds very solid.

Circus Of Freaks cover art

Perhaps, I agree on that. “Circus of Freaks” sounds not only clearer and sharper than “Lambs to the Slaughter”, I'd say songs are somehow more elaborate and mature. Do you feel development of your composing skills?

Anton: Yes and no. It became harder to write new songs, definitely. There are almost twenty incomplete and even fully-done tracks, that were about to appear on second LP, are forever buried on my laptop. And that's for good.

Fyodor: And it's sad to admit how much drone-stuff goes to waste every rehearsal session...

Album cover and title, first song of your new LP shares the same idea. What's so attractive in this crazy “circus” surrounding us every day, given the fact that so many people closed their eyes on it?

Anton: Semantic load of it came from the world around. We used to take ideas for our songs from a real world, and, as you can see, it is a damned circus. And this circus seems to be never-ending. Take a look into the history – there were so many ugly clowns, so many fanatics, and how they were poisoning others lives. Take a look around in our days – you'll see nearly the same shit despite technological progress, rise of civilization and postindustrial society. I doubt it will change in foreseeable future, and it's very sad.

Without God “Circus of Freaks”

Two strongest tracks from this album (“Mushroom Man” and “Good Evil”) were released as digital single in January 2013. Why the hell you have thrown this ace in a hole? How it could help to the band? Was it such a good promo?

Anton: Very easy. We had only a half of material for album done in January 2013, and these two things were already recorded in good quality. So we decided to make some kind of a new year present for our fans, especially for those, who are far from Moscow region, to which we were bound at that moment. Yes, it was not the smartest move, but still some new folks came to listen to our music, were interested in our first LP, and someone even came to gig to hear just "Mushroom Man".

Fyodor: Objection! My favorite track is “Flood”. Otherwise, album is very versatile, so I can't mark any track as a “hit” or something. People who love old Without God and Paradise Lost will definitely love “Seven Sins”. It's kind of oldie, something from early 90-s. And guys, who love stoner-doom, of course, will appreciate “Mushroom Man”. I even heard crowd singing along this song during gig.

Mushroom Man” (which is dedicated to the leader of the Russian revolution of 1917 V.I. Lenin) with no doubt, is a strong song, but why have you turned to such a twisted interpretation, Lenin’s image? Don't you think that this symbol of a long-gone era can spoil your reputation?

Anton: Actually I loved words "I am the mushroom man", which sends us not to Russian musician and experimentalist Koorekheen, but to American band called Kettle Cadaver and their song "Pumpkin Man". Video on that song made an imprint on my mind a long time ago. Koorekheen’s hypothesis of lenin-mushroom dualism came a some later with next lines in clouds of smoke, and then it was embodied in lyrics. I can't say if it had spoiled my reputation, but at least it was funny.

And about symbols... I will not say names, but I saw personally, that on some forum you commended one Russian band (that I think is just middling) for having metaphysical fat and drive as they play really mediocre stuff with a lot of cliches. What do you, a man with creative approach on composing, think about imitating worn out doom rock-cliches? Witch, bong, satan, witch, swamp...

Anton: Don't know what band you're talking about, I commended many Russian bands on many forums, and many of them align with western bands (and we are too, to be honest). Perhaps I liked their music despite of, as you said, middling. For example the band Goya sounds like Electric Wizard, they are just nearly the same, but their first LP is far better than last Electric Wizard work. Electric Wizard turned from wizards to pity charlatans, who exploit their own 10-year old ideas.

And yes, I have a prepossession to Russian doom-scene. I mean I like it.

Well, I did not dragged it out of you – name some bands, that you think are really good.

Anton: Two examples straight off. Pyre from Saint Petersburg – nothing new, but awesome. True unbridled sweden-style death-metal from the 80's Even their records sound like they were made in 1987. Their live performance is literally a hurricane. Continuing with death-metal I can not to mention honored Moscow band Grond. Their last creation is almost the best music for any old-school-death-metal fan. A while ago I listened to new Moscow band Illegal Ones. They have no recordings yet; they play canonical sludge-doom with very heavy and beefy sound. Hope we'll have a pleasure to see them release their music.

Fyodor: Lol. More than a half of music on my player is Russian underground music. Recently I began to listen to math-rock. In Russia we have many bands, which represent this genre. Kawry's Whisper in Saint Petersburg, Jaunt and Weary Eyes in Moscow, Four Vicious Walls and Daeva in Moscow region. It's just one genre. About “post-” music, to which I dedicated largest part of my quasi-musical life, I can talk for hours.

What can you say about modern Russian sludge/doom scene? What have changed since you presented “Lambs to the Slaughter”?

Anton: Something have changed and something do not. Sludge/doom and stoner/doom still aren't popular, and live performances are visited only by most dedicated listeners (usually you won't see more than one hundred people). Less trend-guys, who changed their truckers for beards and plaid shirts without delving into essence of it. Names slightly changed: some bands are now disbanded, some in vague state, new ones appeared. At least, scene exists; six years ago there was no sludge/doom scene in Russia at all.

First Without God album “Lambs to the Slaughter” was released on R.A.I.G. label, which is west-oriented. Were there any profits of it? Any feedback from western listeners, maybe?

Anton: Undoubtedly we have some feedback due to R.A.I.G. promo work. We have some likes on our Facebook page, LastFM stats tell us that our listeners are not only from Russia and Ukraine, people ask us for merch, CDs and tours. I guess our fame in foreign countries is the same as in Russia thanks to cooperation with RAIG.

Let's combine previous question with one about early release of “Mushroom Man” single. Did you ever thought about recording a split-album with some western band? Imagine, that you have composed and recorded couple of good songs, why not to cooperate with some stylistically related musicians? Promoting your band in other countries is always an advantage. With whom you would like to make such split-record?

Anton: I was thinking about it. But, to be honest, I don't really watch foreign scene, to name someone, with whom I'd like to record a split-album. It needs some preparations, if you know what I mean, to sit and to listen to new music.

Circus of Freaks” was released by famous Solitude Productions. What are your expectations of this cooperation and what your band bought on the fee, that you have received?

Anton: At first we wanted to release “Circus of Freaks” on R.A.I.G, but during negotiations we decided not to do it. R.A.I.G. audience is not actually “our” audience. Solitude Productions is a label, that specializes mostly on doom, and it's audience is our potential fans. And soon, I hope, they are going to be our real fans. Considering received fee, we bought wooden pan and inflatable bicycle for our live performances.

There's a song called “Helter Skelter” on the album. Is it about Charles Manson?

Anton: Yep, it's about him. To be correct, the song is a description of bloody events. Some kind of musical horror sending regards to Church Of Misery.

Okay, I can understand Church Of Misery – they haven’t ever had much imagination and songs about maniacs became their hallmark. But what made you to take this step? What's so attractive with Manson that he deserves to be mentioned in another song?

Anton: Song appeared by itself, after I had read a history of Manson's life. Words formed the ominous lines, ominous lines became a description of that night on Cielo Drive. And, finally, a call to bloody madness from Mr. Manson himself. A grim story without conclusion.

In the end I'd like to ask you a topical question: in spring 2014 live performances of Behemoth were prohibited in Russia, then the same shit happened to Cannibal Corpse. What do you think guided the authors of such initiatives? Maybe they were thinking, that these prohibitions will somehow aid economics, agriculture and morals in Russia?

Anton: You are provoking me. Okay, I will tell you what I think about all that shit. As for me it seems that final goal of these prohibitions is PR and, in the end, enrichment of some people, whether it is religious organization itself, or people “behind” them. It seems they cannot make a profit from protest against abortion, because no one actually cares, and from protest against gay-parades too, because it is already too many organizations fighting against it.

Fyodor: Oh, the question "qui prodest?" Indeed, things are becoming interesting when you're trying to find an answer. In Russia there are many musicians and bands inspired by satanism or occultism. Not the less bands, which demonstrates anticlerical attitude (no allusions, of course). And it's not that hard to find these musicians, yet above mentioned religious organizations are not interested in to brand some unknown bands. I think, that the reason for this is complete lack of PR-effect, to prohibit gig of famous metal band is better for self-PR.

Enough for today, I think. Thank you for your answers. I wish you good luck – take care. Godspeed on you!

Anton: God bless you all!

Without God “Mushroom Man”

Words by Aleks Evdokimov