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Interview

Vangough Announces New Album Name And Release Date; Vocalist Clay Withrow Elaborates On What's "Between The Madness"

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Band Photo: Vangough (?)

Oklahoma-based progressive metallers Vangough have announced that their forthcoming third album will be entitled, "Between The Madness," and will be released November 5th. Their fifth release overall, the album will come in a "badass 6-panel Digipak with booklet," according to vocalist Clay Withrow, who was able to take time out for an interview with Metal Underground's Frank Serafine. Withrow elaborates on the back-story of the album as well as their acoustic EP, and also talks about his time playing guitar for Pain of Salvation on their summer tour, as well as goofing off in the studio.

Withrow positively notes, "We didn't hold anything back for this release because we had no one holding us back."

Frank Serafine: In 2012, you released "Acoustic Scars" (reviewed here) with the added point that sales of that album would go to a charity. Could you briefly describe that charity and how the donation-via-album-sales experiment has been coming along?

Clay Withrow: I had always wanted to raise awareness for our local animal shelter here in Oklahoma. And I thought this more low-key collection of songs would be appropriate for that. I wouldn't say it was a smashing success and that is mostly my fault since we were smack in the middle of finishing our third studio album, which was a monster of a project. But the acoustic stuff was actually a lot of fun. We even entertained the idea of just throwing our electric instruments away in favor of becoming a band of travel gypsies.

Frank: How were the arrangements of the songs on "Acoustic Scars" settled on and how did the connecting of previous songs together change the message of the individual songs, if any?

Clay: I remember wanting to focus more and more on string arrangements at the time. It's something I've wanted to do for a while and I also thought it would be good to try recording real strings in preparation for the next album. As for what songs we picked, I remember picking the ones that had the best potential for transitioning to bare bones acoustic guitar. We even had worked up an acoustic variation for “Drained and Estranger”, but never got around to recording them. Oh, and there was one original piece we played live that also missed the deadline. If we had the time it would have been a full album of seven or eight tracks!

Frank: "Between The Madness" is the name of the upcoming record. Could you elaborate on how this title was chosen and how it ties in to the songs?

Clay: Without getting into too much detail, it was about our experience since the release of Kingdom of Ruin (reviewed here), as well as my personal experience with management, labels and certain people that really influenced my attitude going forward. I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I say that this industry is really schizophrenic. Holy shit, we must be crazy getting into this. We often joke about leaving it all behind and joining a biker gang. But you know, the album is really about a variety of themes. I would love for your readers to listen to it for themselves and see what they can find.

Frank: Could you elaborate on the lyrical content, to add on to the last question?

Clay: Tempestuous anger- I think that's the best way to sum it up. And not the faux anger we often get from other metal bands, which is something of a sticking point for me. I always feel like the bands trying to sound the heaviest and the most brutal come off as exactly the opposite- often times at the expense of emotion and feeling. On our album, yes, the lyrics are dark but more importantly, insightful and very emotional. There are some ballad-elements to be sure, which adds a bit of variety to the pace and feel. It breaks up the anger and the viciousness.

Frank: In your words, how do you think that the music has changed from "Kingdom of Ruin" to "Between The Madness"? What was the reason for this progression?

Clay: I always felt like "Kingdom of Ruin" was going to be a difficult album to explain. I was in a different state of mind then. But now that Vangough has really matured with a stable line-up of musicians, Between the Madness is really the first time we've come together as a band and found our unique sound that sets us apart from all the others. It's an entirely different album than Kingdom of Ruin.

For starters, the songs lend themselves much better to a live environment. We stripped away a lot of keyboard elements, which we're finding less and less appealing. But beyond that it's honest and revealing. We're not hiding behind pretense or a manufactured image. We're pretty much an open book, for better or for worse.

Frank: How long did the studio process take? Where did you record at, and with which engineers/producers?

Clay: We recorded drums back in the summer of 2012 but we didn't really enter a studio per se to finish it off. Everything was finished by March but mixing took a bit of time due to scheduling conflicts but eventually it all came together. And thanks to Sterling Winfield, it once again sounds amazing. That guy is very good at what he does. And I think the best part of mixing this album down was spending time with his awesome family. Playing Mario Kart Wii, eating pastries and playing with his cats. I really love that dude. He's such an important part of our team. By the way, I'm really proud of Kyle [Haws] unlocking Dry Bowser in Mario Kart. Shit ain't easy.

Frank: What sort of studio antics did you get into this time while recording?

Clay: What's funny is we probably goof off too much. We spend most of our time around the coffee maker talking about movies, etc. And then we finally get down to jamming for just a fraction of the time. One thing is we put little hidden messages for Sterling to find in the mix. Really low volume raunchy stuff that Sterling would hear in his studio. And when I say raunchy, I mean raunchy. We constantly try to outdo each other in that way.

We'd also just get into these long sessions of Conker's Bad Fur Day or Mario Kart 64 that resulted in controllers flying and uncontrollable laughter. If you add a little sweet berry wine into the mix, you have what I call a New Year's Eve party in a hotel room.

Frank: You recently played guitar with Pain of Salvation on their last tour, as well as spent time with them in Sweden. How were those experiences?

Clay: Oh man, what an experience. First of all, Pain of Salvation is one of my favorite bands out there so it was something else to share the stage with them! Actually, it was a blur. I mean, the singer Daniel was horribly sick the entire tour and we had so many mishaps with the bus that I could probably write a killer Rolling Stone article about it. But really, the best part of the tour were the many friendships that blossomed (insert sitcom "awe" audience reaction here). And not just with the guys in PoS but the other bands on tour as well. Daniel, Leo, Gustaf and D2 will always be good friends, and I'm very honored to know them.

Frank: Will there be any collaborations with Gildenlow and his bunch? Or just rumors to make Vangough fans drool in anticipation?

Clay: I've often thought about that but I think Daniel is constantly busy with his band. It's a full-time gig keeping the PoS machine (that acronym goes so well with everything) going so I can't imagine he'd have much time to get away from that.

Frank: What's your favorite song off of "Between The Madness" and why?

Clay: "Infestation." The lyrics bring out a strong passion from within. It's definitely a song I'd encourage everyone to check out. It's actually on this year's ProgPower CD Sampler, which is free. So there's almost no excuse to miss it. You'd be getting it over two months before the album release!

Frank: When will the album be released?

Clay: Are you guys the first to announce this? This may be the first time! It's coming out November 5th. No label, no strings. It comes in a badass 6-panel Digipak with booklet. We didn't hold anything back for this release because we had no one holding us back.

Frank: Were any small animals harmed during the making of this record? (With the exception of Kyle Haws)

Clay: Are you saying Kyle is a small animal? No animals were harmed but quite a few computers were. Sorry Sterling.

Progressivity_In_All's avatar

Frank Serafine is an avid writer, music producer, and musician, with five albums to his name. While completely enamored with metal, he appreciates a wide range of music. He also works full-time at the American-based performing rights organization, SESAC.

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