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Interview

Evoken's Nick Orlando Poetizes On Caressing The Void

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Band Photo: Evoken (?)

Obsidian droplets of rain trace a slow procession down the face of a midnight sky. The scent of moss and forgotten bouquets fill the air, spiraling in a Venetian waltz with the mist as it settles around the shroud of earth draping you.

You sink ever further into the oblivion of this landscape…only this is not your death, it is Evoken’s 11 minute masterpiece “The Last of Vitality”, from their late album Antithesis of Light, and one of the most provocative Doom compositions to reach our ears. With a new label and new album Caress of the Void soon to be unleashed, guitarist Nick Orlando let me into the scattered realm of his tortured mind to discuss his journey through the Metal Underground.

Vail: Last year put you guys through a lot of trial and tribulation resulting in some lineup changes, have you decided to add a keyboardist?

Nick: We have indeed been looking for a keyboard player for some time now. Unfortunately, competent musicians for this type of music aren't easily found...especially a keyboard player. Me, Craig and John all wound up writing and recording the keyboard parts for the new album. Hopefully this isn't something that takes a long time resolving though...we need to be a full band in order to play shows. Of course with our luck, it'll probably be a real pain in the ass!

Vail: Tell me more about I Hate! [Records, of Sweden] Is there something really special about this label that grabbed your interest compared to others?

Nick: Well, once our contract was up with Avantgarde, I decided to start moving right away on getting another label interested...as I know that we have had problems in the past with the lengthy amount of time between albums. I was told by a friend to try contacting I Hate Records as he knew for a fact that the people who ran the label had enjoyed the music of Evoken. That was a good enough head start for me. After initial contact, we spoke further through email, and I realized they were really into what they do. For a small label they seem to be well regarded in the underground and have some quality releases they really stand behind. That's really all we're looking for...a label that stands behind the release and gives it decent promotion. There were a few others that had some interest in signing us, but I went with my gut instinct on this one and decided that they were definitely our best option. Besides, I prefer Evoken on a smaller label with people who are on the same page. After being on a big label (Avantgarde) for 2 albums, we really felt what it was like getting lost in the shuffle of all the bigger bands. It was like, does anyone at this label give a flying fuck about us!?!? The answer was a harsh NO because we don't sell anywhere near what they expect us to, so in turn we basically got ignored.

Vail: Are there any plans yet for a tour to support the release? Who was your favorite band to play with in the past, and is there one you would like to go on the road with now?

Nick: Yes, we are definitely thinking about going back to Europe. We had a blast the first time around and were astounded by the crowd reactions. This time, we'd like to get about 10-12 gigs in and play more countries. We really enjoyed playing with Officium Triste. They were a great bunch of guys and really helped us out a lot. Desire was a great band too; although I am not 100% sure they are still together at this point in time. We would really be into playing with Esoteric...and I know the idea has been tossed around by both sides in the past so that would definitely be a band we'd gig with; possibly [with Officium Triste] again if they were up for it. There are a few other bands I've been in contact with recently as well, so hopefully there'll be a great line-up for every country we hit.

Vail: You guys have been pretty loyal to specific resources in the past...What kind of production and engineering help did you get with the new album? Can we expect some guest appearances or classical touches to return?

Nick: Well, unfortunately long time friend and engineer Ron Thal (aka Bumblefoot) could not commit to doing our new album. He's been the only one we've worked with now for almost a decade. Believe it or not, he was asked to join Guns and Roses!!!! Of all the wacky things I could make up, this is 100% true. I am not surprised, the guy is one of the best (but terribly underrated) guitarists I've ever heard...a total shredlord. So, we wound up going to a local studio that our bassist had previously worked with and recommended. The studio had analog capabilities, so we seized the opportunity. I'd say about 75% of this album was recorded totally analog, via old-school 2 inch reel to reel. It captured the warmth and thickness perfectly in my book. We had no guest appearances this time around. Everything was performed by one of us...keyboards, Rhodes piano, electric sitar, etc. We couldn't find a cello player in time, so cello was recreated via a very realistic keyboard simulation. I think this album is a great headphones album...everything is massive but there are also some really subtle sounds and atmospheres on the album that don't necessarily jump out at you. They require some focus and attentive listening.

Vail: Tell me more about your relationship with Craig Pillard and how you feel he has contributed to "A Caress of the Void" or helped Evoken's overall sound to evolve...

Nick: Craig is a great guy, and we're glad he's finally a part of Evoken. We've known him for quite some time now, and we're all fans of his current band, Methadrone. He is somebody who brings a lot of experience and knowledge in creating dark/experimental music to the table; so he was the perfect fit. Although most of the material was written before he joined, he was still a big part of the new album. He helped inspire us in achieving new sounds and ideas...some that we've never done in the past. I'm also very happy with the way his bass sounds...very aggressive and distinct. I'm sure once we start writing for the next album, he will become an important part of the writing process as well."

Vail: Evoken is not necessarily head banging party music, although I have heard it is possible to copulate to it. What do you envision your listeners doing or experiencing when they hear the new album?

Nick: Yes, I have heard quite a few times in the past that it is good fuck music. Hey, I don't mind! As long as people are still into what we're doing and are buying the album, I don't care if they polish their bowling balls to it. Whatever makes you happy is what I always say!!! I envision people sitting there with the headphones on really experiencing it...concentrating and letting the music take them beyond reality and into their own self-isolated world. That's what I usually do when I'm listening to a great album...forget everything else and let the music paint its picture. I have A.D.D. pretty bad so I can't do much else or my mind starts wandering and I lose focus very quickly. So, I usually sit there staring into space like a guy who's smoked a bit too much high-powered weed.

Vail: How to you feel the genre will progress with the current resurgence of metal in the media?

Nick: Hopefully it will provide some exposure to bands that really deserve it. I think it would be nice to see doom recognized as an important part of the UG scene, because it is and has been for a long time. Although to be honest, I think its better left out of the public eye. Doom (and I mean the more extreme forms, not that Lacuna Coil or The Gathering bullshit) is certainly not for everyone. Those who seek it out will find what they need but it certainly doesn't have buying power; so why force the issue? I like the fact that doom is a bit more obscure and less accessible. The mainstream media turns everything into shit. The wrong people get into it; worthless bands form; and eventually the whole thing turns into a joke because every wanna-be trendster is hopping on the bandwagon. Before you know it, they're selling your favorite doom band's shirts at Hot Topic right next to the Cradle Of Filth and Dimmu Borgir merchandise. Hell no, we've done fine as we are for a long time and don't need any spotlight ruining our dark corners.

Vail: Your sound is much more reminiscent of foreign bands like Esoteric and Shape of Despair rather than ISIS or Neurosis, do you draw upon a lot of foreign influence?

Nick: We've always been much more influenced by the European bands...except for the almighty Winter, of course. We've all played in death metal bands before Evoken existed and grew up listening to death metal, so it was natural that we were much more into bands like Thergothon, Winter, Disembowelment, Hellhammer/Frost, and the earliest MDB and Paradise Lost stuff than the Classic/Stoner styled doom or the post-hardcore, experimental type doom/sludge like Neurosis (I do however enjoy some of their stuff). Both of those styles seem to have been most prevalent in the U.S. for the last 10-15 years or so. Not to say we aren't influenced by any American bands other than Winter, though. There were some classic death metal bands from the U.S. that we all listened to early on...bands who shaped our way of thinking about extreme metal. Death, Possessed, Necrovore, Obituary and Morbid Angel come to mind right away. They were definitely a big inspiration in the beginning.

Vail: Who does the majority of the lyric writing for the band? Is there a particular interest or motivation that drives the lyrical content of Evoken or is it a more personal reflection?

Nick: It's gone through stages. Early on, I wrote most of them. Then, during "Embrace the Emptiness" and "Quietus" period, our drummer Vince took over the lyric-writing. Now I've taken over again with the last album "Antithesis of Light" and the new one. I can't answer for Vince and what inspires his lyrics, but my influences have always been the same...classic poetry and literature like Baudelaire, Poe, Lovecraft, Rilke, Kafka, P.Shelley, Mallarme, etc. Recently however, I've started writing quite a bit about my dreams. They usually start out as poems-then I hand them over to John our vocalist and if he likes any of them I usually go about changing them over from poems into a more lyrical format. I have really enjoyed writing in a more evocative, surreal style that goes hand in hand with my sometimes obscure dreams. I have always been a huge fan of surrealism in art and literature and I feel that dreams have a very strong, lingering power with me so I try to write as many down as I can possibly remember. Some of them wound up being used.

Vail: Is there a formula the band follows for collaboration or does someone just have a divine inspiration and bring it to everyone else to build off of?

Nick: Usually at rehearsal I will come up with a main riff, or occasionally John will come up with something. From there, everyone adds their own touches to it. John is excellent at coming up with the leads/melodies and secondary guitar lines that really add depth. Craig and Vince are really creative and come up with some memorable, untypical parts that keep the songs from getting overly boring and predictable. I think Vince is one of the best drummers in doom, period. Yeah, I'm in the same band with the guy but if you did the research you'd see... it's been said by many other people many times over. Being without a keyboard player was a new experience for us this last time around. In the past, most of the music was built around the keys...giving them a much larger presence in the songs. This album, however it was the guitar that was the main focus....and that's how I want to keep it.

Vail: Are you satisfied with where the band is at within the hourglass of your own existence, or have you felt frustration in its progress thus far?

Nick: I'd say I'm on both sides of the fence here. I'm very glad that we've come so far and have been recognized for what we do by many people all over the world. We've worked hard at becoming one of the longest running doom bands out there and we still haven't turned into a load of crap. I think after 15 grinding years I can honestly say that is quite an accomplishment. On the other hand however, I guess I do get frustrated with the way we blindly assumed labels would take care of everything and hold up their end of the bargain just like we held up ours. There's nothing more frustrating then seeing months of your hard work and effort get quickly forgotten or put on the ultra-low priority list. We've found out the hard way that being in a band with very little marketing capabilities can be a really rough time. If we had taken a more active and aggressive approach with self-marketing and promotion, who knows what might've happened or where we would be now.

Vail: Are there other independent bands out there that you think people need to notice?

Nick: I have enjoyed the recent works of Longing for Dawn, Pantheist, Methadrone, Ahab, Mournful Congregation, Esoteric, Catacombs and the new Officium Triste album was very solid; All great bands that do their own thing and have their own sound. I would urge anybody into doom to support them. There are some great death metal bands out there too...Eviscium, Keeper of Decay, Funebrarum (shameless self-promotion), Repugnant, Interment, Regurgitate, etc.

Vail: MySpace has been an invaluable platform for the popularity and success of a lot of bands, and gothic throwback is quickly being confused with Metal. Being a harbinger of truly portentous levels of sorrow, what is your take on the EMO fad?

Nick: I can't stand it. I have made several efforts to thwart off any emo [dudes] from becoming friends of the band. I think I've done a pretty good job! Although, I feel I must comb through our friends every week or so and make sure there aren't any hiding. Hey, it is a free country though so people have the right to listen to crappy music. All I know is I'm going to be 35 and I've seen many a lame trend come and go in music...but this one really has got to be thee gayest one of all. I remember thinking every fool with a plastic cape and bullet belt back in the mid 90's boasting about how Pagan, Viking, Vampiric, Gothic, Misanthropic and Satanic they were (sometimes all at once) was annoying. It puts it all in perspective now, doesn't it?

Caressing the Void will expand greatly upon the massive EVOKEN soundscape and blackened, utterly desolate ambience of their previous albums...but will also see the band exploring some new areas of atmosphere and sound in their quest to create their own brand of soul crushing doom. Selected tracks can be heard now at Evoken's website.

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