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29th October 2015
METAL DISCOVERY: What’s the genesis of Vly? Where did the idea first come from, and was it always the intention to experiment with creating music by gathering a collective of ‘strangers’ with eclectic tastes?
KARL: Actually I am not sure when the idea first came about. It probably was something that slowly developed through the years. I constantly write and record short music ideas that I revisit at some point and I have been doing this for years, often without a specific project in mind.
(Karl Demata on the exciting unpredictability of Vly's creativity)
"At the beginning, I felt a little anxious about how music ideas might move in different, unexpected directions... But then I actually I started to embrace the process... I love hearing musicians I admire and respect messing up with my ideas and throwing amazing stuff back at me."
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official Vly Website:
I / (Time) (2015)
Featuring the combined multinational talents of current and past members from the likes of Crippled Black Phoenix; Diet Kong; Typical Reptiles; Il Tempio Delle Clessidre; Shark Island; White Willow and Necromonkey, an exciting new collective by the name of Vly released their full-length debut offering, 'I / (Time)', via The Laser's Edge, at the end of September this year. With guitarist and producer Karl Demata at the helm of the project, he oversaw and coordinated each of the musicians' input from his UK-based home studio. The results are, quite simply, stunning, which I've already described elsewhere on Metal Discovery as "a flawlessly crafted masterpiece that embraces music as a medium for capturing and conveying pure, artistic beauty in the most captivating and inspiring ways." Karl answered a series of questions for Metal Discovery on the genesis of the project; the pros and cons of creating music remotely, across different continents; and just what "Vly" might mean... as it transpires, it's something of an ambiguous, semantically evolving moniker... an appositely progressive name for a progressive new entity.
Vly - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2015 Uncredited
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Official Vly Facebook:
I had met Elisa few years ago and always thought it would have been a great idea to try to do something together. But distance and other commitments were often in the way. I suppose all came into focus when a common friend, musician and music business executive got me in touch with Keith (Gladysz) a NY based singer and conceptual artist. At that point I had to go back into my archive of ideas, develop few things and start sending over. All was done via cloud storage, social media, Skype and remote recording. I think it all slowly came into focus from very vague ideas. I never sat down and planned this out.
MD: Apart from bassist Chris Heilmann, your old buddy from Crippled Black Phoenix, how did you hook up with the other musicians?
KARL: Well, after I start getting ideas back from Keith I got back in touch with Elisa. She came over a few times to work on those songs. After that, we just had to close the circle. Chris was never far away and Mattias started working in his studio in Stockholm.
MD: Obviously, you would have known what each of the musicians were capable of before inviting them to be a part of Vly, but were they recruited because they fit into your creative vision of the band, or did you want them to be involved because you thought they’d be able to push your vision in directions that you hadn’t anticipated, and weren’t able to anticipate, until you started making music with them?
KARL: I think it's a bit of both really. Looking back, I realise that a lot of these decisions were based more on instincts than calculations. I knew that I wanted to play with the contrast between classic-rock/prog-rock sounds with a more alternative, indie or art-rock feel which I knew Keith would bring to the table. I also knew I have always been very interested in a more introspective attitude towards sound, moods and music production attitude in general. Something that maybe translates into a quasi-psychedelic sound... or at least so people tell me. And looking at the potential this band has, I feel there's so much we can achieve musically.
MD: Did you already have some song ideas and music written before starting to work with the other members?
KARL: Yes, some ideas were still in a simple sketch form, some were already in a more advanced song format. But I was eager to hear how everybody would react and contribute, and the results always amazed me.
MD: Did everyone share ideas with everyone else, or did you act as the creative hub, orchestrating Vly’s creativity into some kind of coherency?
KARL: I suppose you can say that I acted as a hub. Mainly for logistical reasons, but also, as you say, to maintain a coherent approach. That's also the reason why I was keen on producing the album all the way here in my studio. Even if that was a huge effort. Luckily, I asked my friend Steve Watkins to come and help in the mixing stage.
MD: As some of the musicians involved with Vly had never met each other at the point of making the album, did that add an extra dimension of excitement and unpredictability in terms of surprising each other with who might come up with what?
KARL: Yes. You are touching on a very important element here. At the beginning, I felt a little anxious about how music ideas might move in different, unexpected directions once I started to hear all the contributions. But then I actually I started to embrace the process. Just few times I felt the need to talk things through, maybe by spending time listening to music together and to sort of bond on a specific music level. But I love it. I love hearing musicians I admire and respect messing up with my ideas and throwing amazing stuff back at me.
MD: Did you have any apprehensions about making music through your chosen approach? Obviously, the results are stunning, but I guess it could’ve easily fallen flat on its face.
KARL: Yes, of course. I have invested a lot of time and effort in this but we worked on a close-to-zero budget all the way through. So, the risk was somehow limited. But then, regardless of the outcome, I always thought it would have been a great learning and enriching experience. And that's after all my main interest.
MD: What would you say are the pros and cons of creating music with others remotely, across the internet? And what surprised you most about the entire process?
KARL: The pros are that you can work on very tight budgets if you know what to do in a small home studio. Also, you have time and ease to explore and experiment. You can take the time to live with each other's styles and we all “hear” things and get to know each other musically. I think it's a way of working that suits me very well. Of course, there's the risk of losing some elements of spontaneous creativity. But that depends a lot on the style of music and kind of productions you are aiming for. Surely it will be hard to work remotely if you are planning a jazz or jam-rock album.
MD: The production and mix are fantastic, particularly when considering it’s a home studio effort. Was producing the album all plain sailing, or did this throw up any challenges along the way?
KARL: Thank you. That was definitely not a plain sailing effort. I had produced records before, both as artistic or executive producer. But this was something else. I wanted this to be a personal challenge and learning experience but, also, I wanted to keep a lot of options open until the final stages of mixing and this was the only way of achieving this.
Of course, I got myself into few detours and dead-ends. But I was then lucky to work with Keith and Mattias, who both know their recording procedures and then Steve Watkins helping with mixing. And just at the end, we had Bob Katz on mastering. I don't need to tell you he wrote the book on mastering. Quite literally!
MD: The video for ‘Circles’ has very distinct visuals, which perfectly match the atmosphere already inherent in the music. Where was the video shot, was it good fun, and who came up with the actual concept and aesthetic for the visuals?
KARL: The video was made by made by director and visual artist Felix Brassier. He is an amazing artist. And I can say he is an integral part of Vly now. I had seen his work and was struck by the way he infuses any image with a sort of lyricism and poetry. I am not much of a visual person myself but I can tell what I like, even if maybe I cannot tell you why. Not only that, his way of working really fits in our vision and way of doing things. Now that was a lucky shot.
MD: Was it surreal in any way to have everyone convene for the video shoot but not the actual recording process?
KARL: Yes indeed. But I know we needed to meet to shot videos and taking few pictures. We had a great time.
MD: People seem to have profoundly clicked with the music and you’ve received a whole load of positive reviews, so have you been surprised by the extent to which people have embraced the album?
KARL: Absolutely. I never really stopped to think too much about what kind of reactions would we get while working on the album. I suppose I was too busy. So, it is a constant surprise. Each day, I am amazed by reactions, reviews, people getting in touch etc..
MD: Looking at some of the bands Vly members have previously played with, or are still current members of – Diet Kong; Typical Reptiles; Crippled Black Phoenix; Shark Island; Necromonkey – apart from some wonderfully bizarre band naming there, there seems to be a recurrent animal theme. Although I presume it’s safe to presume Vly isn’t supposed to represent an animal in any way?
KARL: Oh, that's funny, never even noticed it. No, Vly is not an animal. In fact, it is not supposed to mean anything too specific. And that's the way we want it. I have some ideas on what it means, but that's my idea. I like to see how the name is developing semantically. And I will try not to interfere.
MD: There’s been mention of some European tour dates, so do you already have a booking agent looking into securing some shows? When are you hoping to tour?
KARL: We are talking with some people. And I hope we can start announcing something soon. Of course, it is not easy for us. But we'll get there soon.
MD: Finally, have you talked about making a second Vly album, and would you want to embark on exactly the same creative process as before, or actually try and get everyone together in the studio next time?
KARL: Yes. As I said at the beginning, I always write material. And there are some ideas bouncing around already. The second album will be produced in a very similar way. But, for some other upcoming projects, we will need to be in the studio together. Now that would be very interesting!