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22nd February 2016
METAL DISCOVERY: You recorded the album at In Flames’ IF Studio in Gothenburg - I gather you ended up there because Jesper Strömblad wanted to work with you? You got a call from him?
NICK: Yeah, that’s right. I think our managers met at some point, somewhere along the line, and they passed the new album across, and it ended up in Jesper’s hands, and he was like, “yeah, I wouldn’t mind writing some songs with these guys.” That was the initial thing.
(Nick Magee on creating art from rotting sheep remains)
"...I had just three things in my car - a hammer, a chisel and a bag! Then I returned to the thing and just hacked it off, put it in a bag, took it back, and boiled it for about three days! Then I started carving it."
Sanguine - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2013 Uncredited
TARIN: We were looking to find someone else to record with and we were also open to considerations of co-writing. Having this wrapped up together was a real opportunity for us, really. So, yeah, Jesper really engaged with us and said that he loved the stuff and wanted to meet and see whether or not it worked. You never know how these things are gonna go.
NICK: You have to approach these things really sensitively, really, because…
TARIN: What if he hated it?
NICK: Songwriting’s very personal, so just doing it with a stranger off the back could be really weird, but…
TARIN: ...we hit it off straight away.
NICK: Yeah, it was lucky that we connected instantly. We were really in the same sort of world; it’s just that he was in that country and we were in this country. But there were a lot of similarities and familiarities sort of thing.
MD: You gelled from the off when you started sharing ideas?
NICK: Yeah.
TARIN: We met at the train station and walked straight back to his little studio place and, basically, started showing each other idea catalogues. And he picked out ‘Breathe Out’, what became ‘Breathe Out’, and we picked out ‘Empty’ from his catalogue. So, you know, that exchange of ideas, it was just so instant. I think that kind of outlines the scope of the album, those two songs, and they’re the co-writes on the album so we knew what we had to do in order to bring that album together, so it was really important.
MD: So, ‘Breathe Out’, did that used to be called ‘Breathe In’ at any point, out of interest? On the press sheet that came through with the CD, it’s actually called ‘Breathe In’!
MD: Just a mistake then...
TARIN: Definitely ‘Out’! [Laughs]
NICK: I’ll get ‘em to change that! [Laughs]
MD: Breathe in… breathe out… those two things kind of go together, so I thought they’re interchangeable, really, aren’t they!
TARIN: You can do both!
MD: The most random story in press blurb related to the new album has to be when, Nick, you discovered the carcass of a sheep, nicked its head and carved it up, to put your bone carving skills to good use that were taught to you by an ex-Maori tribesman. That’s so incredibly random!
TARIN: It isn’t made up!
NICK: Yeah, yeah, that genuinely happened! When you write it down, it really is fucking odd but, when you’re living it, it’s surprisingly not that odd!
NICK: I’m gonna struggle to convince anyone of this, I think! Basically, I was helping this guy out who moved over here because he brought his children over to get a proper education. He was a bit of a fish out of water… he didn’t have any idea of how the structure here worked, so I was helping him out by filling in forms, getting him to understand what the red letters were and all that kind of stuff. He really wanted to pay me but he didn’t have any money, so it would’ve been really savage to take money off him. But he was really good with his hands, like he was always carving and whittling wood. His whole place was covered in stuff he’d made by hand. So, I said, “just show me how to make those little bone necklaces, that’d be awesome.” We started on that and it was quite a simple process, actually; it’s not very complicated. It’s more a kind of therapeutic thing. So, I made a few little pendants and stuff and thought to myself that it’d be cool to do a skull or something like that. I’ve always liked skulls; the architecture of a skull. I’ve always been fascinated by it, really. And, yeah, trying to find a skull is quite hard, isn’t it?!
TARIN: [Laughs]
MD: It’s not something you come across every day, walking out and about!
TARIN: It’s kind of odd because he was going around asking everyone, “how do I get hold of a skull?” And it’s strange because some friends turned up and they said they went for a walk on Dartmoor and said they saw a dead sheep. Nick got very excited, basically, and decided that he was going to go and find that dead sheep and take its skull!
NICK: I get hyped fairly easily so I don’t think about the details of things, I just charge at them, and I’m like, “yeah, we’ve got a skull, let’s drive to Dartmoor to get the skull!” I didn’t think about what state of decay it would be in; how I was going to pick it up; whether it’d still be attached to a sheep! [Laughs] All of those details! I traipsed my four long suffering friends and Tarin around the moors… I don’t know why they’re friends, to be honest!
NICK: After about four or five hours, we found this repulsive, decayed carcass with the horns about a good twenty metres from the head. It’d been savaged by something… a fox or a rabbit or something much more gnarly! I went back to the car, because this thing was still attached to the sheep, and got a hammer and chisel. That’s all I had in my car… I had just three things in my car - a hammer, a chisel and a bag! Then I returned to the thing and just hacked it off, put it in a bag, took it back, and boiled it for about three days! Then I started carving it.
TARIN: Nick does these kind of crazy things, just unprompted. I mean, there was no design to it; it wasn’t ever supposed to be the album cover. It was just it turned out so well, everyone was like, “we need some album artwork”, and then, “what’s the album called?”, and, “it’s called ‘Black Sheep’”… so it made perfect sense to use it.
MD: Definitely. Did you make a nice stock out of the head, when you boiled the head?!
TARIN: Uggghhhh!
NICK: It was riddled with maggots… I had to pull maggots out of the head… it was just the worst thing ever!
TARIN: Uggghhhh!
NICK: Yeah, it was grim!
MD: There’s no video evidence of this on YouTube is there?
NICK: You don’t think to film that. That would be weird! I’d be like, “why the hell am I filming this?!”
MD: So, doing it is not weird, but filming it is the weird part?!
MD: Will the skull become a kind of mascot for the band? It could be your Eddie.
NICK: No, it’s just for this one; it’s where we’re at now.
TARIN: I think it sums up the whole ethic of the band…
NICK: I’m looking at it now, actually.
TARIN: It’s very DIY, this band, so we’re gonna do everything we can to bring some artistic angles to it.
NICK: It’s symbolic for us because, yeah, like Tarin said, everything for the band, from every set you see in the videos, we hand build practically everything. It represents that, really. ‘Black Sheep’ - all the songs are made by us, every bit of art is either made by Tarin, myself… it’s all just the band.
TARIN: It’s all about creating art, isn’t it.
MD: Yeah, combining all aspects, not just the music.
TARIN: Exactly.
MD: Will you be looking for a different dead animal for the next album?!
TARIN: [Laughs] Maybe!
NICK: Yeah!
MD: You might get that urge again, to use your bone carving skills!
NICK: It’ll have to be saucepan-sized!
TARIN: We could create a new animal!
MD: Interestingly, the cover art almost has occult overtones which is, of course, not really what you’re about at all. So, do you like to maintain that level of mystery with Sanguine; kind of, expect the unexpected, and the album’s cover is a reflection of that?
NICK: I think that’s very much it. We never want to be a predictable band. It’s something of a copout when you get an album and it sounds like one giant song. You can stop it at any given point, patch the songs together, and they fit perfectly because they’re so similar. I think that’s a crime, man. An album should be a journey from start to finish; it should take you on a ride. It doesn’t really matter what that ride is, it just has to be a ride.
TARIN: Overall, I think the album is quite dark, as well. There’s a darkness to each song, even on the lighter stuff. So, yeah, we definitely wanted to imprint that on the album cover.
MD: With that album cover, I guess you’ll get even more black metal support slot offers now!
MD: You’ll have to look more occultish and evil!
NICK: Yeah, I’ll wear my studded dog collar!