Dark Entries is an independent Belgian music webzine with a focus on dark sounds. The webzine itself is completely in Dutch and can be found at www.darkentries.be. This blog was created with the intention to have an additional online place where our editors can post their English articles.
maandag 21 december 2015
Ahráyeph: I had known for a while that I was on the verge of burning out, but you always try to ignore it and keep going until it just stops one day.
With ‘AnimAElegy’ Ahráyeph delivered an excellent CD and perhaps thé
Belgian gothic rock album. In the past there were often compared to The
Fields of the Nephilim, but all the same elements of prog rock - Raf
Ahráyeph likes to call it ‘prog goth’ - and black metal seep into the
music. 'AnimAElegy' was a tough delivery, so we asked Raf for more
explanation about this genesis.
Hello Raf. First and foremost,
congratulations with your new album ‘AnimAElegy’. It's excellent. You've
been working on it for a total of seven years, a biblical number. Are
you satisfied with the result?
Hello Xavier. Thanks for the kind
words. Yes, I'm definitely happy with the result. However, I have to put a
nuance on those seven years : the songs were finished much earlier, but
because there wasn't a recording budget available, and I didn't get
offered a decent recording contract it has taken until now to release
it. I've rejected three contracts because there were just pure extortion
: in total, I would have had to pay up to three times more to have
'AnimAElegy' released on a label than I've invested on my own now,
without even having one additional benefit.
We know you're very perfectionistic. Do you sometimes feel that your perfectionism slows down the creative process?
It certainly does. Perfectionism has its pros and cons. An advantage is
that you'll work on something until the result is exactly what you have
in mind and won't give up until that goal is achieved. One of the many
disadvantages is that this way, you'll often burn yourself out and when
you're working with others, you'll drive them into desperation. And when
you lose yourself in all the possibilities that the writing and
recording process offers, it strangely enough has a stifling effect
because you don't know where to start first. It just short circuits my
brain. Those are all factors I'm aware of by now, but channeling them
into working more efficiently, is not something I've succeeded at yet.
With others, I try to communicate as clear and as detailed as possible,
but even that isn't always experienced as such, or even appreciated.
A lot of songs on ‘AnimAElegy’ have been out there for a few years.
‘Maiden By The Sea’ and ‘Resolve (A Dirge)’ were already released in
2009. Even of other songs - ‘Love / No Love’ - relatively older versions
exist. Was it hard to marry songs together that were written over such a
long time frame? How many songs on ‘AnimAElegy’ are really new?
Simply put : there are no really new songs on 'AnimAelegy', but that
only applies to myself, because I've been living with these demos for so
long before they were released on CD. A couple of songs didn't have
lyrics yet, or different ones; others were only partially completed.
That certainly applied to the extra songs, of which I felt they should
be heard, even if they weren't part of the 'AnimAElegy' story. And since
it has indeed been seven years since 'Marooned On Samsara', I felt it
opportune to add those four: this way, you've got an entire listening
session of one hour with the regular songs, and a nice EP added to the
back of that. It was possible to put all of that on one disc, so why add
a second one? That's just wasteful and bad for the environment.
You once said that the songs on ‘AnimAElegy’ are telling a story. Was
this accomplished? And if it was, could we get the lowdown on the story
behind 'AnimAElegy'? The album title - can we translate it as 'elegy of
the psyche' - sounds rather intriguing.
For obvious reasons, I
don't want to give away too much about the story being told in those
first ten songs. It's up to the listeners to experience that for
themselves. Let's just say that it is a reflection on a time in my life
that wasn't exactly the most fun and of which the recovery process is
still ongoing. A couple of years ago, the day after the Pukkelpop
disaster, as it happened, I spoke with Sophia's Robin Proper-Sheppard,
who has become a good acquaintance of mine. He had just released his
last album 'There Are No Goodbyes' and told me that in spite of the
praise he received from fans and press, he really didn't want to go so
deep anymore as he did because, like 'AnimAElegy', the album refers to a
dark time in his life and in spite of all the artistic accolades this
honest musical retelling of so much pain being heaped upon you, you just
don't want to suffer too much for your art's sake either. I could and
can understand him all too well.
Let's go back to 2008's
‘Marooned on Samsara’ for a second. You were regarded as a Belgian
Fields of the Nephilim back then. In what way do you feel ‘AnimAElegy’
differs from its predecessor?
It certainly is a more mature
album; not just song wise, but also technologically. The album's
production is better and this improves the songs' qualities as such as
well. On the other hand, it's hard to quantify that. You do what you
do and try to surpass yourself and when you think you've succeeded in
doing that, you hope fans and press will pick up on it. I of course
wanted to rid myself of that 'Belgian Fields of the Nephilim' tag. Yes,
they were an influence; suggesting otherwise would be quite dumb. But
I've never consciously imitated them and even if such a tag makes it
easier for people to typify my music, it also creates unrealistic
expectations. Carl McCoy, I am not; I don't write about Nephilim or
Sumerian gods, and the magical and mythical allusions, if at all
present, are being used in an allegorical and metaphorical manner. When
writing these songs, I've cast all the 'Rules To Writing Gothic Rock
Songs' aside for the most part and concentrated on what I wanted them to
become. The story I wanted to tell was much more important than singing
with a voice from the grave or adhering to the trad goth cliché sound
which seems to work for other bands. That's not why I do this :
Ahrayeph is my personal outlet, not a heap of genre clichés.
The release of ‘AnimAElegy’ was also slowed down by you having gone
through a severe burn-out in the interim. How did this happen and how
did you overcome that burn out?
One day, you wake up and find you
are incapable of doing anything. And I mean nothing at all, not even
communicating with others. You get out of bed to sit yourself down on
the couch and stay there, completely burnt out, for the rest of the day
until you can go to bed again. And so it goes, for years on end. I had
known for a while that I was on the verge of burning out, but you always
try to ignore it and keep going until, as I said, it just stops one
day. Therapy has helped me to put myself in a better perspective, but
the healing process isn't over yet. There are just too many issues that
caused this burn out, and they all need to be put in their place and
worked through before I can move on. But I've already been more active
for a while now; I'm writing songs again - not for Ahrayeph, mind you,
but for my metal project Trans World Tribe; I'm working as a vocal coach
and I try to exercise regularly, because the cliché of a healthy mind
in a healthy body isn't a cliché for nothing : it's true. But I still
have ways to go.
You're still sitting on several songs you've
never released. You once intended to release a cover album, you still
have a lot of demos and you've admitted that only a few of the recorded
songs were released on AnimAElegy... A few songs have been released via
your Bandcamp page. What else are your plans with those songs?
I've recently decided to record and release two of those demos. They
will also appear on the Bandcamp page between now and early next year.
And that will be the last thing I'll do with Ahrayeph for a while.
Concerning those covers : I've released a new, final version of my
reworking of The Cure's 'A Forest'. It's not a remix; everything was
re-recorded and got a new production. The rest of those covers are what
they are and can also be found on Bandcamp. I have no intention of doing
anything more with them. There's just one cover I'll be recording,
which is, ironically, a Fields of the Nephilim song for a tribute album
by the Finnish Gothic Rock Magazine. I'm not yet going to divulge which
song I've chosen, but it won't be 'Blue Water', which we played at our
first concert ever, and which was meant as a tip of the hat to Tony
Pettitt, who headlined with NFD that night.
I understand that you've got a new metal project. Can you tell us more about it?
Trans World Tribe came to be through the mysterious ways of the
Internet and social media. Through these channels I became friends with
Brian and Staci Heaton, an American couple. Brian's a journalist and
Staci works for the state of California. Hence, she has worked for
Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was governor. But Staci also has a
phenomenal voice. When I got out from under the worst of my burn out, I
discovered that each time I picked up my guitar, metal riffs came
pouring out. I still don't have to put in any concerted effort into
doing that; they just flow out of me so spontaneously that I sometimes
have too many ideas at once to record them all. And because it all came
together so spontaneously and I didn't feel like singing or even playing
everything myself, I initially asked Staci to sing. If I would be
singing on those songs, it would again become too much of a genre
cliché. Aside of Staci, other musicians will also take part in this
project. Alex Martin, who also wrote a few drum parts for certain
'AnimAElegy' songs will be part of it, as well as several guitar and
bass players. Staci's husband Brian would like to contribute some
lyrics. But the core of Trans World Tribe is Staci and me. We already
recorded a cover of Heart's song 'Alone', but it's not representative
for the kind of metal I write, which is heavier, tighter and thrasier
and contains more progressive elements. We only recorded that cover to
see if we clicked. And we certainly do, because we tend to bring out new
song ideas in each other constantly. We're currently writing demos,
which we will record for a debut album sometime next year.
And what are Ahráyeph's future plans?
Nothing. I'm all 'goth'ed out' at the moment and am shelving Ahrayeph
in favour of Trans World Tribe. I can't, at this time, say how long that
will last. Perhaps I might start on new songs this time next year,
maybe I'll never get around to it again, who's to say? I just can't say
anything meaningful about that right now. I would have loved to promote
'AnimAElegy' live, but it's difficult to get the right personnel for
that, or so I've experienced unfortunately. Maybe it'll happen
eventually, but as long as it isn't, aside of those two finals songs and
that Fields of the Nephilim cover, Ahrayeph will be on indefinite
hiatus and my priority for at least the next two years will be Trans