DATE OF INTERVIEW:
29th July 2012
When it was announced Ephel Duath would be returning to the scene with a new lineup and EP, it was an occasion to celebrate for fans of sonically challenging and genuinely progressive music. Perpetually pushing the boundaries of metal, and music in general, guitarist Davide Tiso's unique fretboard and compositional proclivities have been unleashed once again under the moniker with which he started his career on the recently released 'On Death and Cosmos', accompanied by vocalist Karyn Crisis and the uber talented ryhthm pairing of bassist Steve DiGiorgio and sticksman Marco Minnemann, the latter already performing drums for Ephel Duath, of course, on their last studio album, 'Through My Dog's Eyes'. Metal Discovery's Jason Guest posed a series of questions to Davide about Ephel Duath's return and their new music...
METAL DISCOVERY: Hi Davide, this is Jason from Metal Discovery. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. I first encountered Epehl Duath in London in May 2006 when you toured with the Fantomas-Melvins BigBand where I was blown away by your music and subsequently sought out your albums. After 'Through My Dog's Eyes' it appeared that it was over for Ephel Duath so when I discovered that a new EP was in the pipeline, I was glad to hear that the band hadn't been completely lost to us.
DAVIDE: Thank you for the support Jason! I remember that show, probably one of the most important of our career so far. I'm very glad too that ED is back, trust me. Creating ‘On Death and Cosmos’ I got to know once again how important this band is for me. During the last three years I somehow fought back Ephel Duath, wanting to prove to myself that I, as a composer, can be fulfilled also doing other projects and different kinds of music. I was wrong, and that was a very good learning experience. This band, for better or for worse, is the only one that gives me the chance and the freedom to be 100% myself as an artist, and such a gift can't be pushed aside just to get into other experiences. This is something that I should cherish and be grateful for, something I should protect instead of turning my shoulders to.
(Davide Tiso on the return of Ephel Duath)
"This band, for better or for worse, is the only one that gives me the chance and the freedom to be 100% myself as an artist, and such a gift can't be pushed aside just to get into other experiences. This is something that I should cherish and be grateful for..."
Ephel Duath - promo shot
Interview by Jason Guest
Photograph copyright © 2012 Bonnie Rae Mills Photography
MD: What was it that made you decide to create more music under the Ephel Duath moniker? Do you prefer writing under the Ephel Duath name? How does writing for Ephel Duath differ from Manuscripts Don't Burn?
DAVIDE: Ephel Duath has always been and will keep being my primary creative outlet. I think that almost everything I have to say musically fits in this band. Manuscript Don't Burn was a very important project for me, it didn't reach almost any public but it opened up a new world for me: the joy and the burden of taking care of every aspect of the music by myself. Now that I'm back in a band I feel so lucky in having other people following my lead and I feel I can push my limits even further.
MD: What was it that you wanted to achieve with 'On Death & Cosmos'?
DAVIDE: I wanted to bring ED to a more adventurous place to that achieved with 2009 album ‘Through My Dog's Eyes’, starting from the non-structured songs approach we developed in 2005 with ‘Pain Necessary to Know’. This time I wanted to work with longer and slower songs, trying to give them as much intensity as possible. I wanted to release a very rich EP that needs various listening to be fully appreciated, something that grows with time but still imposes itself at the first spin. I wanted these three songs also to reveal the direction we will take in the future and I'm thrilled by the fact this new challange is being so artistically rewarding: I feel more inspired than ever these days.
MD: How do you see it in relation to your previous Ephel Duath works? Does it mark a significant step in your musical evolution?
DAVIDE: This new EP finds me in one of the most creative moments ever and I believe it underlines pretty heavily how much I want to keep experimenting with this band. I wanted an EP to do a statement, "the band is still here, alive and more ambitious than ever; here, take three songs to start with before we unleash our strongest album to date". In terms of evolution, we have been a lot of different things: Ephel Duath is a band in constant motion. With each album I try to show a different aspect of the vast influences that I suck in as a musician. At the beginning of our career we were a duo and we had affinities with experimental, drum machine based, black metal. We then became a five piece live band and we started adding jazz and blues influences. The band reshaped as a quartet and we started working with open song structures, asymmetric and atonal music. We finished becoming a power trio and developing a more straightforward rock and post rock attitude. Now we are back as a quartet, dealing with longer prog structured songs, heavier than that proposed by the band so far and with a strong death metal flavour.
MD: You write the lyrics as well as the music. Where does inspiration come from for the lyrics on the EP?
DAVIDE: The main concept of ‘On Death and Cosmos’ rotates around the idea of feeling rootless. The creative process this time started from a personal loss: that event marked me so deep, not just because I've lost a person I felt very close to but because together with his disappearance I feel I broke the bond with the place I'm coming from. At this point in my life I think I could live pretty much everywhere without feeling home sick. I have a "cosmos" of opportunity opening up in front of my eyes, and while this can be considered a positive thing for a human being, the lyrics in the EP dig in the painful process of detachment from what for 30 and more years I felt were my roots.
‘On Death and Cosmos’ holds together some of the lyrics I'm most attached to. These words erupted from me, and all three songs are lyrically tied together by the theme of Death and mourning, and the escape represented by the Cosmos. After that loss I mentioned before, I felt in a terrible depression and returning to compose for Ephel Duath was the way out from that paralyzing state. Some days I was feeling so bad that I felt my mind getting taken over by the spirit of my dead beloved, who was not accepting his death and wanted to keep living through me:
The opening song, ‘Black Prism’, pictures the hopeless search of oneself in the splitting process of spirit attachment.
"I lie between layers of perception
I'm neither here or there
Twice but still nothing
My image multiplies
While my sight plays dead and regress"
The song ‘Raqia’, the ancient Hebrew word for the English "firmament", marks the pain caused by abandonment and the excruciating consequences of letting go.
"You may be as lonely as I feel
But the emptiness around you is cosmic
Mine tastes just like flesh"
Composing the lyrics of ‘On Death and Cosmos’ I spent a great deal of time out at night, listening to music, smoking cigarettes and looking at the sky. Considering the turmoil my life was in at that moment, writing new lyrics I was literally pushing my sight and my mind as distant as possible from that mess I was in. I wrote this way every time I got the chance and I started to feel a pretty strong comforting sensation while immersing my head and thoughts into the sky/firmament/Raqia entity. I read that warming feeling like the confirmation that my healing process was supposed to pass through that stage to get to the core of my pain and I kept going.
"I am the black coat
Where stars hide in
I protect each of them
One by one
They keep shining to live
I let them burning to live
To my slow death I aim to"
The closing track, ‘Stardust Rain’, is an ode to self-purification through inner death of senses.
This is probably the song I feel closer to. Everything in life has a positive and a negative power. I think that bad situations are the ones that teach us the most: loss gives us the chance to readjust or even reshape ourselves during and after the mourning process. This positive chance offered by such traumatic experience is blurred out by the big dose of pain involved but I'm confident that each of us while suffering, on the long run, has the chance to know how much they are changing and self-transforming day after day. I changed for better while mourning: I was an unfocused and worse person before my grandfather died. His death brought some good to me; I had the chance to find myself again, and as I wrote inside the booklet of ‘On Death and Cosmos’: "It took one's death to give life back to another".
MD: Is your approach different to writing lyrics than it is to writing music?
DAVIDE: Writing lyrics is a very deep and demanding process for me, I love to do that, but it is consuming me at the same time: like puking for minutes straight. I put in poetic images very personal thoughts, I try to put my fears out: I get as naked as possible with my words. When I write music I use as much of my head as I'm using my heart. I need to calculate things; I need to make the music rich and interesting and to do so I am forced to use a completely different approach than just take my heart in my hands and squeeze it out on paper like I do for lyrics. I love both processes, they both take a lot from me and they both give me back some good reason to wake up in the morning.
MD: Do you work to fit the music and lyrics together? Does one influence the decisions you make about the other?
DAVIDE: Yes, I work very hard to fit music and lyrics together and I found my own way to do so. I try to enter in the "writing lyrics" mood at least once every week or two and when I do that, the day is gone: I usually finish drunk and crying by myself on a park bench while joggers swing by. To write lyrics I usually put a song on loop, or I listen to a part of a song on loop. I need heavy, sorrowful music, but I never compose lyrics listening to the song I'm writing the lyrics for. Lately I have been writing listening to Monumentum, Agalloch, Cult of Luna, Cattle Decapitation, Neurosis. One of the moment I cherish the most is to return home, put that same song in the stereo, and announce the lyrics to Karyn with my alcohol reeking breath. It is like a ritual to us, something that is getting us closer and closer as band members and as a couple.