ZT INTERROGATION: IMMOLATED MOTH REFUSE TO LET THE FLAME GO OUT
To say Thom Bleasdale‘s death metal solo venture Immolated moTh is the result of blood, sweat and tears barely begins to scrape the surface of the immense human effort required to produce this debut EP. Here, in a frank and moving interview, Thom tells ZT’s Paul Castles about the almost superhuman effort required to write, record and produce the This Broken Mind EP when battling against a debilitating illness that makes every day a battleground.
ZT: Hi Thom, many thanks for talking with Zero Tolerance – congratulations on the EP This Broken Mind – how satisfied are you with it?
TB: Thank you for this opportunity, I really appreciate it. Great question! I am mostly satisfied with it, but listening back now I would like to re-do a couple of small parts. I have actually recorded a different solo for ‘Overwhelm’, which I may release at some point. Ideally I would have liked to have had a metal producer to work with, as although I’m an experienced audio engineer, this was my first attempt at death metal. When you play and record everything yourself it can be tricky to maintain objectivity, and also your ears get ‘worn out’ and it may sound great, but then a week later it sounds terrible. So yes, there are a few things I would like to improve but on the whole I am very proud of these three tracks.
ZT: Were these all new songs?
TB: Yes I wrote these over the course of nine months, and another 11 tracks, nine of which I am putting on the album.
ZT: For readers who are unfamiliar with Immolated moTh I must explain that this is a solo project and you have the condition severe fibromyalgia – just tell us how this impacts on your day to day life?
TB: Ah, the self-indulgent whining begins, hahaha! For those that don’t know, it’s like having the flu, but without the coughing and sneezing. Then imagine you have all those symptoms that go with the flu, and then you get dropped on a concrete floor from around five feet up, several times. That sense of shock in the body, the fluctuating temperature, the pain throughout the muscles, the utter exhaustion, the inability to sleep properly, pulling and tearing muscles just by doing normal things, it’s brutal. It stops me being able to get out as most of the time I’m in too much pain to drive, let alone sit in an unfamiliar or uncomfortable place. I can’t stay out for too long because I get so exhausted, and then pain increases and have no choice but to take loads of painkillers and curl up in bed. It’s very frustrating as I spend most of my day dealing with my symptoms when I would rather be doing something useful. Also, when you get really ill, for a long time, you find out who your friends are. I have very few real friends, and sadly many of them live in other parts of the country or world now, so isolation is one of the worst aspects of this. I can go a whole week seeing no-one but my physical therapist and my mum, that’s pretty miserable to be honest. Being this ill for so many years does change you, and it has affected me psychologically as well. As it is getting worse, my future is pretty bleak also.
ZT: To what extent does the darkness around your health shape your music?
TB: Entirely. Death metal is where I am taking all my anger and frustration, loneliness and fear. It’s the perfect medium for me to express all I am going through. I can shout, scream, and make a noise like Satan is puking his guts out of my speakers and it feels good to let that out.
ZT: How cathartic is the process of making music to you?
TB: I suppose it is in a way, especially while I’m actually recording it, but it also isn’t as my situation doesn’t change for the better, and my anger is still there. I don’t really know to be honest, and when I come to record the next set of tracks I think I will find out then.
ZT: Do you feel you’re making music for yourself or for others?
TB: When I write and record I am trying, ideally, to make music that I like, but for other people to listen to. I want to connect with other people on some level, especially those in a similar situation to me. Those in pain, permanently ill to the point of disability, those scorned by society for reasons they have no control over, I really want to connect with those people, I want them to know they aren’t alone, as it really can feel like you are, when you have to live like this. Most metal is very defiant, and strong and fearless, and that’s great and I love it, but I also want to hear something I can relate to. I want to hear about anxiety, fear, panic, pain and loneliness on a really honest level from someone who knows it. I lost a career as an audio engineer at Abbey Road studios, I lost my girlfriends and most of the people I thought were friends, I was a total shut-in for six years, in constant agony, only getting through on a diet of painkillers and deathmatch wrestling videos. I have nearly died nine times over the course of my life with severe asthma as a child that nearly killed me six times, I nearly choked to death twice, and the illness that preceded the fibromyalgia technically should have killed me, according to medical science I should not have survived. There isn’t a lot out there like that, but I’m living it so I feel there is a place for it. There are many people going through similar stuff to me and also far worse, and as much as it’s for me, it’s for them.
ZT: On the EP you play all the instruments yourself – was that a conscious decision you took. Would it have helped to have recruited some friends to share the workload?
TB: I’d love to have other people do some of the work for me, especially the drumming, sadly I have no friends near me that are into this kind of music, so I didn’t have any choice. Ideally I would be in a band playing bass or guitar, but with this illness I can’t be relied on for anything so it just won’t work. Also if I arranged for someone to come round to record with me I really can’t be sure that I would be well enough until the hour before. The illness is very unpredictable. But yes, I’d love to work with other people, doing it alone is pretty overwhelming and nowhere near as much fun.
ZT: How hard physically were you pushed to make the EP with your condition?
TB: It was tough, and very challenging. Some days I couldn’t even press the strings on my guitar it hurt so much, other days I could press the strings but couldn’t play fast enough, some days my brain wouldn’t work properly and I would make stupid recording mistakes wasting time and effort, and the drumming was just a nightmare. So much pain from that, and I won’t lie, I could not play the double bass drums for even half a track. I would record them on their own, just four or eight bars, then loop it, so it was still me playing. Then I would have to take extra painkillers (a minor overdose) and feel like hell the next day or two, even worse than normal. It was tough, but I felt good about doing it, even though I’m only a passable drummer. The vocals came surprisingly easily though, I warmed up my vocal chords before each track and didn’t have any ill effects as a result besides feeling sick after each track, but I get sick easily anyway. I didn’t need any effects on the vocals besides reverb. So as tough as it was, it was also rewarding. I felt like I was really achieving something.
ZT: To what extent do family and friends support your musical aspirations?
TB: My friends support my ambitions, although they don’t like death metal themselves. It’s the same with my mum and sister, they think what I’m doing is great, but they aren’t into it, hahaha! I’m not surprised.
ZT: You were an active musician before your diagnosis. Did you ever feel that it may be best just to leave the music on the shelf so you could put all your energies into your health?
TB: For a long time I was waiting to get well, but I have had to accept it’s not going to happen, this illness is only getting worse. If I didn’t do this music thing all I would do is read, watch TV and listen to music and that gets very boring very quickly. I need to create, it’s just a part of me, and it always has been. I don’t want to look back before I die and say, “oh shit, I didn’t really do much of anything did I…” so I’m writing and recording all the ideas I get. That is why I have (currently) five music projects, including this one (the others are Heavy moTh, LunamoTh, Sunlit moTh and Dr.Suburban and the truth eagles). I like so many different kinds of music, so I am recording in all the styles I want to. And if I stop, I definitely won’t create something amazing that will change the world. So I’ll keep trying, and maybe I will.
ZT: It must be difficult and frustrating to accept that your musicianship skills are perhaps not quite what they once were?
TB: It’s very frustrating, I had to use a pick on the bass for two tracks, back when I was healthy I could keep up with Steve Harris! And my drumming stamina is out the window, but as long as I can still play I will focus on the enjoyment of it, not on what I can’t manage anymore. If I worried about that, I would not be able to enjoy it and I like to try and stay focused on the positive. My technical ability is actually better now though. When my hands are feeling ok, I’m a better shredder on the guitar now than I ever was!
ZT: This Broken Mind is your debut release – what plans and hopes do you have about your next project, possibly an album?
TB: I have nine tracks chosen for the album, I Devour Pain and I have just finished the overdubs and mixes for them. I am very pleased with what I have achieved, and I just hope some people like it. I have had some really positive feedback from complete strangers about my EP, so I’m hoping the album will be well received. Given the extra time I have had to work on the mixes I do think it sounds better than the EP, although of course I’d love to have the support of a label, and a producer to go through the mixes with me, but I don’t really know how to make that happen from my position. I get totally overwhelmed when it comes to that kind of thing. I have Aspergers (form of autism) as well, so I don’t find interacting with people or dealing with companies at all easy.
ZT: Although death metal is your hook, your style is certainly different from more conventional DM bands….
TB: Yes, I would imagine my love of Primus comes through in the sound somewhat, and Living Colour, particularly with my guitar solo style. I listen to a lot of Nile and Cattle Decapitation and Cannibal Corpse, so I would have thought some of that may come through as well. Some have told me it is more of a mix of Death, black, and grindcore, with hints of grunge and jazz. But you can’t really market yourself as that, it’s not a genre. So I narrowed it down to death metal. Out of my large music collection, that is the style it resembles the most, so I went with it,. There’s no clean singing, and it’s really heavy, it’s not thrash, it has blastbeats… That’s death metal isn’t it? Hahaha!
ZT: Is playing live an option or is that simply something you are unable to contemplate at this point in your life?
TB: Oh I wish. I miss playing live so much it really hurts. It breaks my heart, but I very much doubt I will ever be able to play live again. I’m too ill to even go to a gig and enjoy it now which is horrible and depressing enough, I have missed out on seeing all my musical heroes because of this illness. I’d love to play live again, to meet people (especially women, god I miss women…), to be a part of something, but I’ve had to accept that I am far too ill now. The last band I was in actually kicked me out because I was ill, and they didn’t like being around me when I wasn’t able to fake being well. It was just a shitty covers band though, so I don’t mind too much, but the reason, that’s pretty brutal, especially as I thought they were friends.
ZT: Many thanks for sharing your thoughts with us Thom. We wish you positivity and strength with your music and your health. On a personal level what hopes have you for the future?
TB: Aside from hoping for a miracle cure, I hope to still be here in five years’ time, with a second album under my belt. I’d love to work with a label on a release. I’d love a manager or agent to deal with people for me. I would like to have an audience for my work. I don’t expect to make any money out of it, I just want some people to hear it and like it. But we shall see. Whatever happens, I’ll keep going, playing the hand I have been dealt as sneakily as possible, and hopefully win in some small way. Thank you so very much for the well wishes, and for this opportunity to tell some of my story. I am very grateful for this, thank you.