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22nd June 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: Congratulations on ‘I’, a seriously great album. I gather material was initially composed as an alternative writing outlet away from Jess and the Ancient Ones, and the idea to form a band to perform and record the material came later. What led to you making the decision to get a band together to bring these new compositions to life?
THOMAS: I just felt that they needed to be performed with a different kind of approach. The Ancient Ones know where they are heading, and The Exploding Eyes Orchestra kinda wants to roam around without a plan.
(Thomas Corpse on differentiating between Jess and the Ancient Ones and The Exploding Eyes Orchestra)
"The Ancient Ones know where they are heading, and The Exploding Eyes Orchestra kinda wants to roam around without a plan."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official The Exploding Eyes Orchestra Website:
I (2015)
The genesis of The Exploding Eyes Orchestra is rooted within Jess and the Ancient Ones' guitarist Thomas Corpse's songwriting affluence, whereby he found himself with a number of compositions that were surplus to JATAO's requirements through artistic distinction. And the debut album under this new moniker, which features five out of JATAO's seven members, was recently released to glowing critical praise, lauded for its intriguing blend of regressive, psychadelic/classic rock influences and a more progressive impetus. Metal Discovery quizzed Thomas about the aesthetic differentiation between these two bands, as well as a mutual admiration of Roddy McDowall's rather awesome diction...
The Exploding Eyes Orchestra - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Jarkko Pietarinen
Thanks to Nathan T. Birk for offering and arranging the interview.
MD: There are some stylistic similarities between The Exploding Eyes Orchestra and JATAO, particularly with the psychedelic feeling to some of the tracks, but ‘I’ also stands up as its own discrete entity. Was it immediately obvious to you that this material needed to be kept separate from JATAO?
THOMAS: Yes it was, from the first chord to the last. There are bound to be some similarities, but better to accept them, than to fight them, you know? The Ancient Ones are soon entering the studio, and I bet when you hear the new album, you’ll understand why there are two separate groups.
MD: It’s such an effective band name, definitely one many people will remember immediately, but are we talking random band naming here, or is there any significance and profound meaning behind the name?
THOMAS: It came after reading some Castaneda, and I liked the sound of immediately. Sometimes I suffer from this symptom called “The Exploding Head Syndrome”, and I think my subconscious baffled that into the mess too. A group that performs music which exploded into being through the psychic eye of the writer...anyone?
MD: The Exploding Eyes Orchestra features five out of JATAO’s seven members, but did you consider the idea of inviting any other musicians into the band, or did you always want the project to be realised alongside your JATAO brethren?
THOMAS: There are some guest musicians playing cello, harmonica, trombones, saxophone etc. So if we ever need any additional instruments to jam along, we’ll just make a couple of calls and everything's good to go. No limitations on that field. Hell, maybe on the next album we will have three members? Or ten? Who knows...but I’m anxious to find out.
MD: Was the participation of all seven JATAO members not required, or were the other two guys not interested in being a part of The Exploding Eyes Orchestra?
THOMAS: It was not required, and they also have other projects to pursue on different fields of work. I’m happy with this group, could not ask for more.
MD: It states in press materials that you like “to consider the band as a loose collective unit which doesn't necessarily follow the traditional route of rock bands” – what exactly do you mean by this?
THOMAS: Roughly put, if somebody is unable to be a part of the group when the time comes to do a record, then we’ll change the lineup. Simple as that. I just want everybody to feel free in this band, and don’t have to stress about anything. It’s kinda like an open family...you can come and go as you please, hahah. Of course, I hope that this lineup would stay solid until the end.
MD: There’s a retro vibe to a lot of the material, even in the production and execution of the compositions, although it never feels merely like mimicry of past bands; it simultaneously has a unique, fresh sound all of its own. Do you regard the music in that way yourself, as a good balance between the old and the new? Kind of like progressive and regressive, I guess.
THOMAS: I guess I do. I love all good music. No matter when it’s made, or who made it. So the influences can vary from Captain Beefheart to Ventures to Morbid Angel to Beatles to Joe Meek stuff to Procol Harum to Hungarian Gypsy music etc. I do like the good old sounds a bit more! Twangy guitars, Neil Young crunch...I just love those classic sounds, but I tune my guitar lower than usually in rock. That brings some weight and dark colour to the sound.
MD: I understand the album’s coming out on vinyl – is it important for you to have your music released on this format too, so that those who choose to can fully appreciate the warm, analogue sound of the recordings?
THOMAS: Most definitely, as I’m a vinyl listener myself. One of the best things in life is when you come home from work, make some fresh coffee and put on your day's vinyl. Then you roll a fat one, and kick back for a while. Charge your psyche with nice vibes.
MD: A fairly surreal, animated video for the track ‘Two-Zero 13’ was released a few days ago. What are the themes being represented here?
THOMAS: Costin did a fantastic job with the video, and his graphic interpretation of the song could not be better. The theme is of depression, cultural miscommunications, violence and death.
MD: Roddy McDowall’s voice is immediately recognisable in ‘Black Hound’, as are the words he narrates, from H.P. Lovecraft, of course. After some online digging, I discovered that ‘Roddy McDowall Reads the Horror Stories of H.P. Lovecraft’ was released on vinyl in the 1960s, so I’m guessing that’s where these voice samples have been taken from… is this a record you already own, as I gather it’s extremely rare now?
THOMAS: Unfortunately I don’t have it in my collection, but been looking for it from the internet. Someday it will be mine. A friend helped me to gather the audio samples I needed. Roddy’s voice is just immaculate when searching the ultimate voice for Lovecraftian terror!
MD: Roddy’s voice fits your music so well… or, rather, you’ve composed the perfect accompaniment to his voice. It was a joy to listen to – you’ve made him sound even more cool than he already does! Are you a fan of the late, great Roddy McDowall?
THOMAS: Oh, thank you so much. 'Black Hound' came out fine, and we are all happy about it. Truly I am a fan returning to the roots, as I have been enjoying his voice since I was young. Our library had these audio horror tapes, and I used to listen to them before going to sleep. Instantly the voice of McDowall captured me into its dark mouth, and many nights I spent awake, cos I was spooked by the chilly atmosphere.
MD: You recorded the album in the winter of 2013/14 and it’s only being released in June this year – why such a delay between the recording and release?
THOMAS: There were all these problems with technical stuff etc. Hard drives went apeshit and all that nonsense, but nothing so special that would make interesting reading, hahah! Maybe if I tell an interesting lie about the reasons behind the delay? It could be something like: “Well, you know man, just wanted to really feel out the material before releasing it, you know? Therefore, we decided to build a temple out of ebony trees, that were cut down during the new moon ritual. Then we spent one year forging it in those shady temple rooms and, behold, the gods smiled their grace upon us in a form of hundred black crows shrieking from the skies. Then, and only then, we knew that the time has come to release the Eye(I)!” Ehh..sorry about that.
MD: I gather you have another album’s worth of material that was also recorded during the same sessions as ‘I’, slated for release in spring 2016. Is this material of a similar nature to that on ‘I’?
THOMAS: Brother and a sister kind of thing going on, so there are differences, but also similarities. The second album has more eerie ballads on it, I guess. Or I don’t know...check it out and you tell me :)
MD: As it’s now three years since JATAO’s debut album, were you worried about disappointing JATAO fans by temporarily focussing your efforts on The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, instead of concentrating on JATAO’s sophomore full-length release? Or were you excited to be able to offer existing JATAO fans something related, but different?
THOMAS: Nah, I don’t think about those kind of things too much. Music is my grand teacher. I just want to learn to know myself, and so I do when creating music. If other people like the result, that’s just sweet. The Ancient Ones needed some time to grow, and that time has now given us the second sonic volume. JATAO is now a thousand times stronger than before.
MD: What will come first, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra’s sophomore album, or JATAO’s?
THOMAS: Jess and the Ancient Ones are going to studio in three weeks, so prepare yourselves. Radio Aquarius will soon start the broadcast! The Exploding Eyes Orchestra has material for the 'III' album as well, but we will see when the studio calls.
MD: You performed your first ever gig as The Exploding Eyes Orchestra on 30th May last year, so do you have plans for further live shows?
THOMAS: We have a couple of shows coming up here in Finland, but that’s all unfortunately. There are no plans to do any major tours etc, maybe a show every now and then. Feel free to contact us through Facebook or something, if you need some rocking music to your parties.
MD: Finally, if you ever double-shifted at a show with both bands playing, do you think it should be billed as something like One Eye Jess and the Exploding Ancient Orchestra?
THOMAS: Hahahahahahaahah! Yeah, that would be a blast. Maybe “Two shitty bands for a price of one!”, hahah!