Darkness Enclosing
CoC interviews Keith Powers of Aphotic
by: Pedro Azevedo
The USA may be more renowned for their death metal than any other extreme metal genre, but as of late a few bands have been emerging within a doom metal style akin to what is more plentifully found upon European soil. Aphotic, whilst showing their death metal roots, have given a more atmospheric, solemn and sombre twist to their sound, and both of their demo CDs [the first of which was reviewed in CoC #51 and the second in this issue] showcased a talented band waiting to be given proper conditions to record an album and fulfill their potential. Judging by the quality of their demo CDs, they clearly deserve such an opportunity by now, and hopefully the next time they are featured in Chronicles of Chaos will see them in Album Asylum instead of New Noise, or Deadly Dialogues instead of Independent Interrogations. I advise you to get in touch with the band, as their demo CDs are well worth owning. Hopefully one of these days a deserving label will open their eyes, see the -light- and sign Aphotic. The following is an e-mail interview with guitarist Keith Powers.

CoC: Aphotic is a somewhat unusual name for a band, in the sense that it may not be part of everyone's vocabulary -- whilst nevertheless carrying considerable meaning and feeling closely related to your music. Can you tell us more about this name and how you decided to use it?

Keith Powers: I came up with it. It seemed to be perfect for what we were doing musically. Aphotic is a term referring to the absence of light, more specifically the part in the ocean that never receives any sunlight simply because of the depth. Sunlight can only penetrate so far... The name seems to set the mood to our music, and more importantly, it is one word and is easy to remember.

CoC: Your second demo, _Under Veil of Dark_, comes in a simple yet rather smart package. Similarly, I'd say the music inside might not be mind-blowingly complex or incredibly technical, but it is very effective and shows plenty of dedication and talent from such a young band. What is your general approach to songwriting?

KP: We wanted a packaging that was simple, since it is a demo, but yet something that catches the eye. It is also easier to send out in the mail than bulky jewel cases. If we ever get the chance to record a full-length album, we want to have it released in digipak form. As for our music, it isn't incredibly complex, but there is a lot to it; the recording was somewhat substandard. A lot of things got lost in the mix because we didn't get a good enough guitar tone. The frequency of the guitar too closely matched that of a lot of the keyboard parts. We only had two days to complete the recording, and that included mixing it. We felt very rushed, not to mention that the air conditioner was not working, and with all the equipment running in the room, it was hell-hot. We let some things slide. We know how to improve our guitar sound. Our guitars are fine, Steve and I both use Custom Shop Jackson guitars, good 4x12 cabinets, but our heads are old and we need new ones with more tone. Aphotic is trying to get farther and farther away from that typical death metal sound. More time in the studio would be needed too, of course. Then people would be able to hear the complexity of the guitars working through the multi-layered keyboards. When Aphotic writes a song, it almost always follows the same pattern. Steve and I come up with some guitar parts that create a certain mood or atmosphere. The rest of the song flows out rapidly after that. Steve then programs the drums, we both arrange it -- I usually do most of the keyboards, but Steve does help, just like how I add ideas for the drums. Chad then does the bass lines and writes the lyrics.

CoC: I think _Under Veil of Dark_ might be better appreciated by fans of the doom metal genre rather than death metal (I mean doom metal in the more European sense). Who would you name as the main influences behind the shaping of your musical direction?

KP: I listen mostly to Opeth, Katatonia, October Tide and Rapture. I also listen to Anathema's first CD, old Paradise Lost, old My Dying Bride, and some others along those lines. I like to draw influences outside of metal too. The Deftone's _Around the Fur_ album is listened to quite frequently, as well as early Fugazi, and again, other bands of this style. Once in a while I'll listen to Hypocrisy, In Flames, or Nile too. Steve and Chad have a lot of other bands that they listen to as well, of course. We don't all listen to the same stuff, but that helps us get more diversity in our music. The most important thing, though, is to be unique and not try at all to sound like anyone else. Aphotic has many influences, but ultimately we want to have our own place musically. I think that we are well on the way to doing this. We do have a lot more songs than what we have recorded.

CoC: What is your opinion of the American metal scene in general these days? And the more underground scene?

KP: I hate it, to put it quite simply. I like to distance myself from that as far as possible. As far as the underground here, I don't really get into too many American bands, I guess. Not to say that they aren't good, but more so that they aren't in the vein of what I listen to.

CoC: You've stuck with the artificial rhythm section for this second demo, even though I do find it adequate, I'd be interested to hear your music with a human drummer. Are there any plans to add one to the band?

KP: Aphotic has a person lined up to play drums -if- we are to get a record deal. I really desperately want a real drummer. It would add so much to our music. He would play on top of the programmed ones, adding realness and a natural feel, yet keeping the steady pace of the machine, also allowing us to keep the keyboards in a live situation and keep our writing process the same. I want people to understand that our two recordings are just demos in every sense of the word. It seems that most people are regarding them as true and real recordings, or in other words, "all that we are capable of". They were basically thrown together with almost no budget, no time, etc. If we were signed and actually had time to spend in the studio, we would have better guitar sound, real drums, more keyboard sounds, and better-programmed drum sounds. The ones that we are using now are very old and out-dated. So the programmed drums should hold no label back from signing us, since we would have a drummer immediately upon such an offer.

CoC: Even though there are several other remarkable moments throughout _Under Veil of Dark_, to me the second track epitomizes what I like best about your music: your mixture of grim yet emotional music and dark atmospheric passages working at its best. Is there any particular track on the demo that you are especially satisfied with, one that might be the best indication of where Aphotic are headed?

KP: I'd have to agree with you on the second track. It does best show what Aphotic is. The first track, "Precipice", is my favorite song. The recording doesn't do it justice. There is an energy to that song that cannot be matched. Hopefully we will get the opportunity to play it sometime or to record it again under better circumstances. It's hard to completely describe Aphotic's direction, since only some things have been recorded. I hope to get the chance to record some of our other songs and the new ones that we are working on now. We are headed in a very satisfying direction musically, though.

CoC: Going into more detail, what would you ideally like the music of Aphotic to grow into in the near future?

KP: Aphotic's music has already grown and continues to do so every month. We seem limited by our programmed drums, our lack of keyboard sounds, etc. The music will continue to grow, but with label help, we would be more willing to spend more time and money on Aphotic. It's hard to justify spending every single extra penny on equipment if we aren't ever going to go anywhere.

CoC: Is there a specific characteristic you would like all of Aphotic's music to share in the future regardless of everything else?

KP: All of Aphotic's songs have an atmosphere or mood to them. That is the most important thing. They have to be brimming with ambience and darkness. I like the feeling of building up emotion in a song or in a part of a song, and then sucking it all out in the next. I guess it's kind of hard to explain, but I can hear it in my head and you can hear it in some of our songs that we have already recorded.

CoC: How have the label negotiations been going? Judging by the quality of _Under Veil of Dark_, I imagine it won't be long before you find a suitable home for your band...

KP: It seems like everyone has been saying that, but it has yet to happen. I guess it is kind of early yet. I have sent out to all of the labels, but I know it can take a while to actually listen to them. I hope that it happens not too far away, since we are ready now to record a full-length. Now is the perfect time. If we have to record another demo, it won't be for quite a while. I won't record a full-length without label support. I also can't see continuing if nothing happens after three independent releases. I want to play indefinitely, but I can take a hint.

CoC: The final words are yours...

KP: If anyone wants to get a hold of our MCDs, Relapse now carries both of them. Cursed Productions also has them for sale, and of course you can get them directly through me for $5 each with shipping in the US (add $2 per order outside the US). I'd also like to thank everyone that has been involved with helping us in the last year. We really do appreciate your support. Thank you for the interview and I thank those that have taken the time to read it.

Contact: Aphotic, c/o Keith Powers, PO Box 8236, Green Bay, WI 54308-8236, USA mailto:kpowers-aphotic@new.rr.com

(article submitted 14/1/2002)


ALBUMS
7/29/2004 P Azevedo 8 Aphotic - Stillness Grows
DEMOS
3/21/2003 P Azevedo 5 Aphotic - Stillness Grows
1/14/2002 D Rocher 5 Aphotic - Under Veil of Dark
1/10/2001 D Rocher 5 Aphotic - Aphotic
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