Monday, January 20, 2014

Interview - The Hanging Gardens of a Botanist.

After Justin C's review of the Botanist / Palace of Worms split The Hanging Gardens of Hell / Ode to Joy, we got a request to give the English version of the following interview a home. The original Italien interview was conducted before the split was released by Andrea Minucci for Begraven Mot Norr.

Photo by Milton Stille

The last time we spoke was in 2012, when we discussed Botanist’s first two releases. More than a year later you have four albums, some live performances (with Wreck and Reference, Grayceon and Pale Chalice among others), a planned tour around the West Coast (even with Agalloch) and a forthcoming split with Palace of Worms. Things seem to be going pretty well.

Hello and nice to speak with you again. Things are going very well, indeed. The split album will have been released by the time this interview posts. It’s great to have the opportunity to work with artist Robert Høyem for the cover image. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw the art for Fyrnask’s Bluostar.

What makes me really glad for you is that now you are running the stage, how is it going?

We couldn’t have asked for better touring mates for our first time out on the road than Behold... the Arctopus. They were professional and pleasant, and kept great attitudes and high performance values even when they all became quite ill on tour. Our trip was proof that Botanist is an effective live band with an already developed show, and that the music translates well to the stage.

One of the questions of the last interview was about your plans about hypothetical live shows, your answer was, ”by ‘plan,’ let’s say it’s being worked on. The demand is definitely there. What is needed are people to play dulcimer. Two are necessary (at least), as well as a bass player and someone to play harmonium, but the real key are the two dulcimers. I would play drums and do vocals. It would be welcome to have a live line-up for Botanist to tour with. The only thing that would help is to spread the word of this request. Maybe some day…” can you talk about the other members of the band and how you met them?

I’m glad to say that it was by broadcasting the will to make Botanist a live band that led it to coming true. One D. Neal read one such interview and contacted me. It seemed from the outset that he would be an excellent fit, but it wasn’t until he recruited his friend R. Chiang to fill the 2nd dulcimer’s part that the ball really started to roll.

I’ve known vocalist/harmonium player A. Lindo for years. Both he and touring bassist Bezaelith are on the Allies disk that comes with Botanist III. Bezaelith isn’t able to tour further, so we are lucky to have Balan from Palace of Worms playing bass for us.

Plants from Biodiversity Heritage Library

Did you find any particular difficulties bringing your music on stage?

The biggest difficulty was trying to figure out the technical issues to having the world’s first distorted hammered dulcimers on stage. Since no one makes electric hammered dulcimers, we had to have our own invented by having magnetic pickups adapted for the instruments. We’re still refining this sound and system.

Do the other members are just live-members, session members, or Botanist will play as a band even in your next albums?

I have a plan to gradually integrate the members of the live band into the recording studio, which began when I had D. Neal and R. Chiang write an intro for our live shows. Perhaps by album “VII,” we will have a credited line-up featuring an entire band. Anything prior to that is unfortunately impossible as all those records have already been completed.

I've read on The Flenser's website that is ready a Split album with Palace of Worms, how this collaboration was born?

The seed was planted in 2011 when I asked Balan if he wanted to do a split. It seemed like a nice way to promote the material of the latest wave of Bay Area black metal artists.

How will these songs be part of Botanist’s main concept?

There are two immutable aspects that will be featured in Botanist’s work forever: that the songs are about plants and feature dulcimers. “The Hanging Gardens of Hell” was the original intended title for the first Botanist full-length, which was then changed to “The Suicide Tree” based on the strength of the image of the Cerbera Odollam. The concept of this first EP is that all the plants presented are hanging plants. There are two more songs from the EP that were cut out so Botanist’s side could fit on one half of an LP. Those extra songs will be released at some point in the future.

Photo by Alvashredd

Somewhere I did read that you changed the number of albums you first planned for your project. I remember, but i might be wrong, that at first you planned to do only five albums.

Your memory is half right. I had once said, around the time when five albums were completed, that if there would be a foreseeable end, it would be at album ten, largely because I liked the idea of “X” being the final Botanist. But I also said that wasn’t set in stone and the amount of planned material could change. At this time, there are six recorded full-lengths, and something like five recorded EPs, and the concepts for albums “VII,” “VIII,” and “IX” are in place. Demo versions of the seventh album are currently being written and recorded. “VII” will be Botanist’s most conceptual album, perhaps of all of them.

Can you please tell us what are your plans for the following Botanist's albums? How are you going to develop the concept?

We’re thinking about skipping the release of “V” and going straight to “VI,” as everyone in the band thinks that “VI” has not only better songs, but is the best available progression from “IV.” I personally feel that the emotional space that “VI” is in is a better reflection of where Botanist is philosophically at this time... and those songs will come over better live, too. Both “V” and “VI” are not particularly remarkable conceptually as far as going along with any form of a story. It’s more the progression of the sound of “VI” that makes it an interesting successor. Again, it won’t be till “VII” that those looking for a deep thematic concept will come about again, and I can promise it will be the most philosophically developed one.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

Tagged with black metal, Botanist, experimental black metal, interview
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