The War of Art
CoC chats with Timothy Pope of The Amenta
by: Jackie Smit
While some may decry the Internet as a hulking technological bogeyman that has destroyed music, it can be argued that without tools like MySpace a great many quality acts outside of the cross-Atlantic touring belt would likely never have received the recognition they deserved. As it is, there are a number of countries who can currently boast heaving goldmines of quality musical brutality just waiting to be unearthed. Australia is a prime example. Best known for gifting the world with the likes of AC/DC and Nick Cave, the metal scene down under is awash with talent –- and it seems as though the world is finally starting to take notice, what with Psycroptic just signing with Nuclear Blast.

Still, it isn't easy for an Antipodean band to get noticed, and having just released one of the year's highlights in the form of _n0n_, The Amenta are one act who aren't strangers to the challenges. Keyboardist and lyricist Timothy Pope can't help but agree. "It's definitely a challenge and it's something that we've always noticed. I don't think that people always appreciate that it's very hard as an Australian band to get anywhere. I mean, it's not like you can just jump on a plane and go somewhere in Europe. Its thirteen hours to the nearest country!"

Nevertheless you can sense that Pope remains optimistic, and he has every right to be. With a major tour just confirmed where they will be supporting none other than Deicide in Europe, 2009 could be the year that the rest of the world realises why The Amenta has maintained a perfect rating record on the hallowed pages of CoC. But first and foremost, it's taken four years to release a follow-up to 2004's stunning _Occasus_. Why the delay?

Timothy Pope: I think mainly the reason was that before _Occasus_ we had never played live before. We basically did that album with three members and when it was done, we focused on getting the full band together and playing it live. So we spent about two and a half years, just touring around Australia and developing our live show, and it was only after that when we actually started to put some thought into writing _n0n_. We also got really burnt out after _Occasus_, and it was very hard personally for each of us to get to the point where we wanted to start writing again and where we could actually decide on a direction that we wanted to take the band in. That was probably the hardest part of all. We didn't want to do something that was exactly the same as _Occasus_, but we didn't know what we wanted to do, so figuring it all out proved to be really difficult.

CoC: From memory, didn't _Occasus_ take almost four years to put together anyway?

TP: Yeah, it did. In fact there were riffs on that album that Eric [Miehs, guitars] had written when he was fifteen years old. When we actually started writing it, it was a very different record -- much more black metal and far more melodic. The music gradually became more raw and the electronic and industrial influences gradually came in as we were reworking the songs.

CoC: With _n0n_, did you go through the same degree of reworking and revision of the songs before actually recording them?

TP: There was a lot of change, for sure. But with this record what we did was to put together the skeleton of songs really quickly and then when we came back to them in the studio we would flesh each one out and start adding certain elements. I think the basic outline of the record took about nine months, which for us is really fast. From there though, we spent about a year and a half recording, and that was the hard part, because that was where things really started changing and evolving.

CoC: That's the luxury of being able to record in your own studio though, isn't it?

TP: Totally. That's the best way for us to work. We're real perfectionists when it comes to things like sound quality, and we've spent a lot of time and money in our studio so that we're able to do that. I think that if we were in a paid-for studio where we were on a clock, we'd be a very different band. We need to be able to take our time with songs and polish and add to and take away bits.

CoC: Given that it all came after the release of your debut, how did all the touring and the live shows influence The Amenta as a band?

TP: I think it helped us find a more chaotic element to our band. _Occasus_ is almost clinical in a way, and when we play live we're a far more chaotic band. I mean, we had a show with Akercocke in Perth when they were touring Australia that I think was one of the best shows we have ever done. Over the course of that gig, our vocalist got tackled off stage, I broke my hand on my keyboard -- there was just a lot of chaos at that show. But it was amazing, and as cliché as it may sound, I think that playing together helped us find our violent side when it came to writing new music. That's why with _n0n_ you can hear that the music is less structured and not quite as straightforward as _Occasus_.

CoC: Given the single word titles and some of the samples you've used on the new songs, there seems to be an overriding theme that holds it all together. Could you comment on that?

TP: It's somewhat similar to the themes that are present on _Occasus_, although with that record we were gussying it up in a lot of metaphors. So that caused us to get picked out as a Nile kind of band who were talking about ancient cultures and myths, which we definitely didn't want. Our focus has always been on modern day issues and things that affect us all. With _n0n_, the theme centres around the way people think. In our day and age, people have started to think in a really primitive way, and people who think like that tend to do all their reasoning in binary manner. So when they approach a situation, it can only be yes or no, right or wrong, black or white. There's no grey area and there's no contemplating the possibilities that lie between the various options. The reason why this is happening is because of the messages we keep getting from politicians, the media, but also because of social pressures, and so this album is also a lot more personal to everyone in the band. _Occasus_, I think, came across as a bit aloof at times, but the themes we're talking about on _n0n_ are something that I am personally very passionate about. With _Occasus_ there were a lot of metaphors and I don't think that some of these thoughts and opinions came across as strongly as I would have wanted them to.

CoC: And of course you write all those lyrics?

TP: Yes, that's right.

CoC: So in that sense, which song would be the one that sticks out as being the most personal and captures the essence of the album in the most poignant way?

TP: For me, the most personal lyrics are definitely on "Dirt". It's basically about the point that some people reach in their lives where they realise that although the world is shit, there's nothing you can do about it. So there are three options that you have at that point. One is to give up and go with the flow and just get swept up with the rest of society. The second is to kill yourself. The other way is to keep fighting. Even though it seems ridiculous and futile, you keep fighting. So that's what that song is about. We know the world will never change, but regardless of that, we feel like we should still try our best to do something about that.

CoC: One of the changes on this record was the introduction of Remington as the new vocalist. How did his joining The Amenta come about, and how has he slotted into the band so far?

TP: Well, he came in very late in the recording process for this album, so it was really important to us at that point that we get stuff done very, very quickly. He was really good at coming up with ideas, ways to structure the lyrics that we hadn't thought of and so on, and in the recording studio that's very useful. I mean, as a musician, you always want to use whatever you think will add something to what you're doing, and he was definitely able to add a lot. He brought a lot of different elements to the band too in the sense that he can do death metal, he can do black metal and he can do clean singing, so it meant that we had a much larger palette than we had with our previous vocalist. Live, he's a lot more in your face than we used to be and he engages the audience a lot more, which is ideal. I mean, our first gig with him we did in New Zealand and all the feedback we had on him there was really good.

CoC: You've got your European tour with Deicide coming up in January. What else does The Amenta have planned for the next twelve months?

TP: Well, we're very excited about this tour as you can imagine, so that's our priority right now. Then we'll be back and I think we may start writing the next album right away. We're not sure what direction we're going to take it in yet, but I find that really exciting.

CoC: Will the next album show the same level of progression and change that _n0n_ did over _Occasus_?

TP: It's definitely not going to be another _Occasus_ or another _n0n_, and I would hope that it is quite different. I mean, that's what excites me as a musician. There are a lot of ideas I have for our next album and I definitely want it to be something that stretches everyone in the band.

(article submitted 3/12/2008)

11/19/2004 J Smit The Amenta: The Thunder Down Under
11/11/2008 J Smit 10 The Amenta - n0n
10/19/2004 J Smit 10 The Amenta - Occasus
5/28/2003 D Rocher 5 The Amenta - Mictlan
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