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Interview

Subversion's Kai Giritli Talks Bad Hair, Musical Diversity, And New Album "Animi"

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Band Photo: Subversion (?)

Melodic / technical outfit Subversion is on the cusp of a major metallic takeover, preparing to drop the "Animi" full-length album this coming March 2nd in the U.K. and March 3rd in the United States.

After releasing lyric clips and official videos (available below) to tease the album, and sharing a mosh pit story with us earlier this month, Subversion's Kai Giritli has checked in with an in-depth interview chronicling the history of the band and creation of this new album.

See what Kai had to say below about learning the ropes of recording and producing in a home environment while still getting a stellar sound, how he ended up in Subversion through some major hair disasters, and find out how piss-his-pants excited he is to hear new music from Muse!

If you dig what you hear below, be sure to also support Subversion by pre-ordering the new album over here.

xFiruath: What other bands were you involved with before Subversion and how did those experiences shape you as the musician you are today and lead you towards Subversion?

Kai: I think I can say we have had a colourful background when it comes to our history as a band. Back when I was a spotty teen with awful hair (think Darth Vader with the face of his helmet removed), I was a part of a band called Silent Descent. These guys were the first band I was ever a part of, really, and the last before creating Subversion. When I was with them, it was just death metal… standard, unadulterated death metal. It was a lot of fun though, it is also how I met Rich our current bass player, he hated me back then though…. probably the hair ha.

Needless to say it didn’t work out for me with those guys, probably for the best too as they went on to make some seriously sick trance metal, and I got to squeeze this band out my head. I wouldn’t have it any other way right now, but I was a little gutted at the time, as they finally turned in to more my style a year or so after my departure. It was a brief stint but I enjoyed it as I got to get on a stage for the first time in my life and strut my stuff, Darth Vader helmet and all!

After all that, it was just me on my own for a while, bedroom recording became my new obsession and I started making crappy tracks I would shove on MySpace and share with my friends. This is where I got pressured by some random guy to start a band with him. He loved the tracks I uploaded and he showed me some of his guitar work too. Boom! Subversion was born and it was all really thanks to him pushing me over the edge and out of the comfort of my bedroom. Thanks Jae!

Ben used to be in a few seriously mental bands, Mechanizm being the one that I always tend to remember the name of. This was basically mental blast drums and big hair times for Ben. Not even kidding, you should have seen his hair…POOF 80s throw back! When Ben auditioned for us, I think he was in two other bands at the time, more of the thrash/Pantera style…no he didn’t have his hair either. He was really digging the new wave of metal that seemed to be coming out of nowhere and wanted to be a part of it. Great timing for us as we were actively trying out drummers left right and center to try get back on our feet.

xFiruath: Tell me a bit about the new album “Animi” - how would you describe the sound and how is this release different from anything else Subversion has done in the past?

Kai: I think I tend to sum it up as bigger, heavier, more melodic, more tech… more everything we were before and minus the dog shit production we had on the first album. Don’t get me wrong, we love that album, we poured so much time in to it, trying to perfect it. We were seriously proud of it at the time, but double seriously, we were kind of trying to polish a turd as no one could look past the production on it before. Those that did, said it was a great album though, and well, I like how it really shows how far we have come from “Lest We Forget” to now.

Four years is a long time right? In that time I think we grew up a bit. Our ideas got bigger and I put in some serious time in the studio trying to figure out how to escape the trap of poor production. I think I have nailed it this time around, whilst still keeping it 100% in house too. Fingers crossed people dig it, and if not then fuck it, there is always room for more improvement!

In terms of the songs themselves? I think we tried a lot harder this time to not over complicate or over egg the pudding. We went for natural flow… if the song felt it needed a certain direction, we just let it ooze out in that direction rather than trying to conform to a strict set of rules.

Our overall style has changed quite a bit, obviously it is apparent we have gotten a huge influence from tech stuff, but at the same time, when writing, I felt myself running away from constant tech; in favor of a little less prog music for musicians and a lot more hooks and melody. I for one love me some pop-punk or rock, Ben is in to his thrash, Sean loves everything with a pulse and a guitar in its hand and Jay….well I don’t think I have met anyone with a bigger library of musical tastes….even rivalling mine and I love me some Ed Sheeran, Nickelback and Paramore….hate me if you will ha.

xFiruath: You mentioned how this was an all in-house recording, but you still managed to get a great sound. Tell me a bit about how your home recording process goes.

Kai: I am always either feeling a bit of dread on this question or a bit proud. I don’t know if that is a good thing or not but it is all 100% in house. Home studio recording is so common place now days I guess I shouldn’t feel embarrassed or anything; but we are indeed a band on a budget… so whenever we are faced with a need to do something, the first thing I do is look in to how it is done.

I like the idea of a long term solution to a problem rather than just throwing the very little money we have at someone else to do it. Doing that feels a little like a cop out when there is so much out there to learn? It’s part of the fun and part of the art right? The only drawback is time; with full time jobs being a part of every member’s life, it seems that your spare time really takes a hit. A full time job waiting for you when you get back from work isn’t always a great feeling, even if it is fun and being creative.

Don’t get me wrong; despite keeping it totally in house, we sent samples and tests to everyone we know with a good ear for some feedback. Once we were happy that others thought the mixes and subsequently the masters sounded BUFF, we green lit the process and polished the album off.

xFiruath: Fill me in on what's happening as far as lyrics and themes on the album.

Kai: The Animi album is kind of its own lore and mythology, loosely based on the same sort of ideas you would find in various cultures; respect the world we live in, do not take things for granted, do not assume we are the most powerful creatures in existence, we will get what we deserve. The album is about human incompatibility with the earth in which it “infects,” hence the human brain just visible between the pieces of blown planet crust in our artwork and also the name of the album “Animi,” which means “minds.”

Lyrically, a story is told from start to finish, detailing the rise of the human race in to existence, its ultimate corruption and disrespect of the world it resides in, and then nature itself finally fighting back and claiming its freedom from us. There is a little more to it in terms of humanity not really being in control of itself but instead being haunted by demons that tempt us in to corruption the entire damn time…you know, those lil voices in your head that sometimes tell you to do things you know you shouldn’t? Ha! Basically, it is not black and white, everything is in shades of grey…so of course there are a few moments where we touch on the good in people...and also the bad in nature.

xFiruath: On a similar note, who created that lyric video you guys just released for “Imperfect” and what sort of ideas does that song put forward?

Kai: Ahh yes, this is a beaut of a video from David Minall from Cloud Music Typography. The very same guy who did that awesome lyric video for Monuments fairly recently. I must say, he really knows what he is doing. I sent him the art files and he just KNEW what we wanted without us even having to open our mouths. “Imperfect” is a track that is fairly early on in the album, so leading on from the earlier lore of “Animi,” it is so titled “Imperfect” as it is about the moment nature (or we say “the gods”) realizes that its own creation is flawed and destructive. The song swaps point of view from human kind to nature itself, culminating in our disbelief that we as a species have now been flagged for extermination by our own home at the end of the track.

xFiruath: Tell me a bit more about the album artwork – who created it and what sort of medium was used?

Kai: Snovonne Drake! What an absolutely amazing artist she is. More people need to know about her, she is one of those rare artists that you can explain things to in the dumbest of ways but she will still be able to pluck those ideas out of your head and lay it down on paper in a way that is better than what you had in your imagination. Couldn’t thank her enough for her work on our art for this album.

I believe Sno used a combination of hand drawings and digital painting on Photoshop to get the design we have now. There are so many little drawings and illustrations in the booklet too that look seriously cool, all hand drawn. Everything relates to the themes in the lore of “Animi,” the front cover obviously being the overall concept mentioned earlier, and the illustrations within the booklet relating to the various topics covered within each track, slowly getting more and more chaotic as you get near the end of the album.

xFiruath: How long have you been with Rogue Records and how did you get connected with the label?

Kai: I think Rogue Records had an interest in us a long while back and we had this brought to our attention during the latter part of 2013. We were still going through pretty turbulent times back then, but with the onset of the EP “Transcend” and a full line up, they approached us and we got in to talks. Mid way through 2014 we inked a deal with them and the rest they say is history. It’s exactly what we needed for the new album and it couldn’t have been timed any better!

xFiruath: Does Subversion have any tour dates or festival appearances lined up, and where have you been performing live lately?

Kai: As of right now, we have a U.K. tour we are yet to announce for April. It is our first one ever come to think of it….gosh, cannot wait! We are hoping to confirm a load of dates for a European tour further in to this year, as well as a set of festival dates. Currently we can confirm we are playing MammothFest 2015 which will be a blast.

xFiruath: What's going on in your local metal scene, and are there any particular venues or bands really championing metal in your area that metal heads should know about?

Kai: I think we are seriously lucky to be in amongst some of the greatest musicians right here. People have to keep an eye out for bands like No Sin Evades His Gaze, Silent Descent, Acoda, No Consequence, Exist Immortal, the list is seriously endless and they all need as much attention from people as possible. Granted, they are not all local, but hey, credit where it’s due. Special mention of course goes out to that machine of a band Designs Of Chaos of which Jay is also the front man of. These guys are seriously tight.

In terms of venues, I would like to give a shout out to the Scream Lounge in Croydon and the Unicorn in Camden. Both of these venues are doing a huge service to the local scene; putting on some really good underground shows with some hench line-ups.

xFiruath: Outside of music, is anything interesting of note going on in the lives of the Subversion crew right now?

Kai: Well, I would definitely like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to our drummer Ben, who recently got engaged to his lovely bride to be Jemma. They are currently in the process of setting a date in stone for their wedding sometime next year; bless their cotton socks Hopefully they can have some awesome kids that will play drums too. He can train them up to be masters of the skins….there is definitely a big shortage of drummers out there ha.

xFiruath: Other than your own album, what's been in your personal rotation lately and what's happening in the near future you are looking forward to?

Kai: Seriously loving the latest Volumes album “No Sleep.” It is my go to album right now and has clocked some serious hours in my car stereo. I have dabbled in that golden oldie debut from Threat Signal, “Under Reprisal”..That is a flawless album! Hands down my favourite release right now has to be the new Periphery double album “Alpha” and “Omega”. It is very rare that a band release a double album that is consistently amazing throughout its entire repertoire of tracks. Speaking of double albums, I keep spinning up Biffy Clyro’s “Opposites” and also Muse’s “Absolution” album, I am a huge fan of these guys. That brings me nicely to my most anticipated album of the year which has to be Muse’s “Drones.” They keep saying it will be a step back to heavier times, so if it is anything like “Absolution” I will piss my pants with happiness.

xFiruath: When done preparing for pant-pissing, is there anything else you'd like to add?

Kai: Just a thank you to everyone who has helped us out over the years leading up to the launch of this album. It means a lot to me and the guys that so many people believed in our work and stuck by us when it all got a bit tough…. and now it is finished. We are seriously proud of “Animi,” and cannot wait for you all to hear it.

xFiruath's avatar

Ty Arthur splits his time between writing dark fiction, spreading the word about underground metal bands, and bringing you the latest gaming news. His sci-fi, grimdark fantasy, and horror novels can be found at Amazon.

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