During their show in September 2015 in the Netherlands at the Incubate festival (see review), we spoke to Ar, the guitar player of Secrets of the Moon and live guitar player for Ruins of Beverast. Read all about the new Secrets album Sun, Lucifer, loss and why metal is only a mirror of mainstream.
By Wouter B.
ME: During the show and also on Party San, you played a couple of new songs. I thought them a bit less fast and dark, especially sG’s vocals. How would you describe the upcoming album Sun?
Ar: How to describe it? I think it’s the essence of our band. It probably is just different, mostly different in arrangement. We wanted to make something really atmospheric, psychedelic of some sort. We came up with very rough ideas of songs. We used two rooms in the studio, one for drum recording, one for rehearsal. So we actually started to jam on ideas. When we thought something was of use, we would go to the recording room and track it and see how it would develop. It went back and forth and actually very naturally. Something very different came out. Before, we actually had all the songs composed before we went to the studio, but this time we just let things happen.
ME: How is the audiences’ response to the new songs thusfar?
Ar: Surprisingly good, I realize that people could actually get into it, but it’s still a hit or miss. Some of the ‘extreme black metal’ fans would be disappointed because it doesn’t sound like Carved in Stigmata Wounds or something like that anymore.
ME: If I look at the evolution from Antithesis to Privilgium to Seven Bells, there is a natural transition to going a bit more atmospheric, some psychedelic elements. Well, not the Pink Floyd type of psychedelics, but more experimental stuff?
Ar: I think on Seven Bells we do already a lot of atmospheric guitar layering, we wanted to make it very big and very dense. So I think it was a natural transition. Actually to where we are with that album now.
ME: Normally, you have the song created upfront, is that done by sG or you?
Ar: sG and me.
ME: So you sit together and make and compose it?
Ar: Yeah, basically we pre produce it at home, sG records some ideas and I record some ideas. Normally we have extensive rehearsal sessions where we arrange the songs to a point where we are at least 80% done. This time there were I think two songs already arranged and the rest were just ideas that we played with. That way the songs developed and grew a consciousness by themselves, I don’t know how to describe it really.
ME: For the songs of Sun that we haven’t heard live yet, do we still get the more aggressive songs like we heard on Privligium and some of the riffing on Seven Bells?
Ar: Yes, to a certain extent I think there are two songs that are a little more aggressive and contain blastbeats, heavy riffing and harsh vocals. But still it’s different – I think we arranged it different. Less straightforward, it’s more elaborate.
ME: You took more elaborate routes? I like what I heard so far.
Ar: I cannot tell too much about the lyrics, because sG writes them., but more rich in contrast, I’d say bipolar even. Like twists, very bright moments but also very dark moments.
ME: Lyrically of musically?
Ar: Vice versa, lyrically speaking, but musically speaking as well.
ME: So, how do you pick the title, Sun?
Ar: It came to us. The working title was Hole, also a title of one of the songs, we also played live. As we worked on the record, actually, it appeared more that this title was not the right one. We just came up with that title because we think that the title reflects pretty well what we think. I mean the Sun is the source of life; we wouldn’t be there without the Sun, bringer of Light. On the other hand the sun is going to swallow all of us at some point. Not even kill everyone but make everything made in human history as if it never happened.
ME: Complete obliteration?
Ar: Yes, it’s probably kind of ironic that we write an album that is just for that purpose.
ME: Because it will be obliterated as well?
Ar: In the end, it will be made undone by the sun. That is probably done on purpose.
ME: A bit about the lyrics. On the Seven bells LP there is a piece of text that says: “there is a hole in the world. a hole that cannot be repaired, that cannot be fixed. there is a hole.” Was this the pre-cursor for Hole?
Ar: Yeah you could say so, probably that Hole just became bigger, more voluptuous, swallowing us. Maybe the hole is the Sun.
ME: In 2013, you lost bass player L.S.K due to her suicide. How did you pick up after the death of LSK? It must have been a very big blow.
Ar: Yes, she was a very, very close person, like a sister. We still miss her, she was a very big part of the band. And of course we thought about: should it go on? We still feel her presence in our music. She is present on the new album and it’s basically all for her.
ME: Is it a kind of dedication or gift? On your page, she is mentioned a member in spirit?
Ar: Yeah, we feel like she is roaming like a ghost through our music. Basically, that was what she always wanted. She already left the band already a week prior to her death. She always wanted to be, in her words, the shaman of the band, like the spirit or essence that would appear. What she also did on Seven Bells, there is some profoundly great material and appearance recorded for the album by her. On this new record, she was a very big source of inspiration for us, by her life and her death. We also feel her presence as a spritit is the music and sounds. In the end, her wish to be a shaman in the band was hopefully fulfilled.
ME: A Life Eternal?
Ar: She should live on and on.
ME: So, you found a new girl, more or less?
Ar: (Laughs) Yeah, we did.
ME: She also contributed to the album generation in the studio recording sessions?
Ar: Yeah, she did, and she had great ideas and she plays ridiculously well. I mean, technique wise, she is probably the best musician of us. Amazing, everyone from the line up now contributed to the material, it was all energy from us four. That developed and grew, we even kind of lost control and found it back the way the record developed.
ME: A bit more of a general question: What I am seeing around me that metal is getting really big, I mean around me, a lot of extra festivals. We used to have just PSOA and WOA, now have every weekend a festival in Germany or here even, in the Netherlands. Do you see this as well, and is it good or bad?
Ar: Well, I think metal got so big because it’s not subcultural or youth movement anymore. It’s kind of created a mainstream for itself. You have these superbig bands, like Iron Maiden, who have been there forever and some small bands, very experimental and very poppy mainstream bands, Sabaton. I don’t mind at all, we live in a great time for new music, I keep on discovering great bands. It just happens that the metal scene is small, is a mirror of the so-called mainstream. And if you look there, you also find ‘superpointless’ big acts, but also great big acts and edgy small acts. Like in minimal electro, that may still come to the actual mainstream, and they would have nothing to do with Robby Williams or Lady Gaga. So think the same thing is happening to metal. It’s like a second whole mainstream thing. Probably a slightly different approach, because for metal people, music plays a bigger role in life than for people in mainstream
ME: We have people that like metal that record CDs, people that like the music and market the stuff and people that like the music and actually make it. I’d like to see it as a big long-haired family.
Ar: Yeah, it is interesting as a social experiment, this whole autarchy. This big hippy community that is completely independent with respect to the musical mainstream.
ME: Yeah, basically we don’t need big labels, because we have our own labels?
Ar: Yes, and a lot of the promotion goes through the word of people. Even the marketing, labels or bookers don’t even play that big of a role. Because a lot is what people like and what people don’t like.
ME: Secrets of the Moon seems to be a band of selective touring. You don’t tour like Ruins of Beverast to 10-20 festivals, where Secrets has done only three or four in total?
Ar: We did sometimes more, sometimes less. I mean in 2009 we had really many shows, we played like a hundred shows. I mean now, I think we are at a point where, at least the last couple of years, that want to create something special. Something that is also special for us and we don’t want to grow numb to this whole thing, it must be something special.
ME: You want to put the energy into it, not become a run-of-the-mill performance performing everyday (I guess Behemoth for instance?)
I mean, what they do, they do it really well. For us, maybe one day we will tour more. At least for me, I wouldn’t be stressed out for a show is the day I stop.
ME: Than you don’t like what you’re doing?
Ar: Then it would mean not anything for me anymore, it would be just business as usual, going on stage, just a job or something like that. It is art, and If your own art is not touching you, what is the purpose?
ME: What songs do you prefer when playing: the older stuff or the newer songs?
Ar: At the moment, definitely the newer stuff, because I am excited about the record and I want know how it sounds when played as a four piece. I mean it’s still a very great energy to play Lucifer Speaks, very very powerful.
ME: Seems like you play it at every live performance?
Ar: I would say for us it’s somehow a sacred song, but that song developed to a point were it is the way how we play it live. What is very interesting, to see when you play it live songs that we didn’t play live or not too often, that that they progress too. We play things a bit different and kind of starts into a live version. It’s very fresh, there are many ways you can go, live arrangement, things may not work out, do things a bit differently.
ME: it becomes an entity in life?
Ar: And it feels very alive and very wild.
ME: Last question, have you ever had any ‘Spinal Tap’ moments?
Ar: I mean they are always there, but there are no moment that you haven’t heard before that are unique. Of course, its only rock and roll and things go wrong. I try to focus on the intensity of the music. Funny stories of drunk people…its not very important. People with normal jobs would also end up drunk at some point do the same stuff. Its just what everyone does.