Fresh from releasing another inspired slice of UK death/doom via latest album Damnatio Memoriae, ZT caught up with My Silent Wake for all the details.
Started ten years ago by sole remaining original member Ian Arkley, My Silent Wake have been constantly creating their own brand of gothic tinged death/doom metal from down Somerset way. Rarely does a year go by when they don’t release any form of new music, to the point that latest album Damnation Memoriae is their eight full-length in just ten years of activity.
Despite their impressive output it’s not always been easy, but as Ian explains to ZT; the hard times often get his creative juices flowing the most.
ZT: Firstly, how did the writing and recording process for new album Damnatio Memoriae go?
Ian Arkley (Vocals/guitars/synths etc.): Very well thanks. We were able to spend a bit longer in the studio than with Silver Under Midnight. It is always a pleasure to work with Greg Chandler. He is fantastic at what he does and always great fun to work with. This is my third album at Priory Studios, as My Silent Wake have recorded two albums there and Seventh Angel’s (subtly released) comeback album was recorded there also. As for the writing, it came together fairly smoothly considering the band was going through some issues with members at the time. Adam (Westlake, bass) contributed some writing to this album and both him and Gary (Arlett, drums) have settled into the band very well.
Do you have a set routine for the basic writing and recording side of things or try new things every time?
No set routines. Sometimes the lyrics come first and sometimes the music. Some stuff comes from jamming and other songs are written alone. Our ambient album Eye of the Needle had a lot of improvisation and freedom to experiment which was a good experience and something very different to recording a metal album, which is fairly inflexible when you have very little time to get it done. There are a lot of different avenues we like to explore and so nothing is really strictly adhered to. Recording tends to vary a lot depending on the style of album, but our metal albums are normally recorded with bass, drums and one rhythm guitar recorded live and everything else overdubbed. For most of the ambient tracks we started with a bassline and worked from there. The folk songs tend to start with an acoustic/classical guitar and then get things added from there.
You’ve released a new album in each of the past three years now, how do you manage to draw fresh inspiration (both musically and lyrically) for each one?
Lyrically there has been plenty of turmoil lately to draw upon! Lots of interesting, soul crushing life experiences to get the creative juices flowing. Unfortunately, I tend to write mainly during those times or end up drawing inspiration from them. This is in no way contrived, it just happens to be the most creative times. Musically, I am inspired by so much, and by so many styles of music that it rarely seems a problem to come up with new ideas. I never worry about the dry periods of writing and just make the most of the creative ones.
Were there any specific themes you approached this time?
Yes, there were some things that I ended up wanting to write about. The recent high profile child abuse cases for one. Never an easy thing to write about but a constant reminder of how low people will actually sink. I wanted to write one about the mindless killing and destroying that seems to be the order of the day for a lot of people. That people’s lives are obliterated because of someone else’s beliefs or affiliations. The song on the ZT CD is called ‘Highwire’. This was a song I wrote during a time of confusion and difficulty choosing which path to take. It speaks of wanting to be yourself and somebody else. Something everyone has had to deal with at some time or another. There are songs about the damage relationships can do, about insecurity and lots of other fun things.
2015 marks the ten year anniversary of My Silent Wake. During that time you’ve managed to put out eight albums and a few EPs too. What has kept you going and made you so prolific over these years?
We enjoy writing and recording a lot. There are many times that the band could have folded but I don’t want to keep starting new bands from scratch – too old for that. We seem to have spurts of activity and then some quiet times, but I think the urge to record again always surfaces. It is also nice being able to choose to do different projects with different styles within MSW. Gigs can be great, but can also be horrible. Such a hit and miss experience as it always was. Maybe it is harder to deal with the shitty ones as you get older. If it goes well it is one of the best things you can do, if it goes badly you end up wanting to be anywhere else than on that stage.
And what do you feel have been the biggest changes, challenges and achievements for the band since forming ten years ago?
I think the albums have been something good we have achieved and often with hardly any budget/time at all. They are all very different to each other and have their own distinctive sound. This has always been an underground thing and it has been a struggle, but there have been some amazing times both during recording and gigging and also just hanging out with friends that have this band in common. The line-up changes have been pretty difficult at times. The other original MSW members had to leave to do other things in their lives and this is something you have to accept when you are part of a long term but obscure death/doom band. I often seem to get to a point in my bands where I am the only remaining member from the original line-up. Maybe I should use stronger deodorant.
Has your aim for My Silent Wake changed in any way over the years?
I think that I have got more realistic as the years have gone on. I never thought the band would be big, but you do hope to make some sort of impression. These days I value the people that support us more and more and if we keep going just for ourselves and them, then that is fine. I care less about critics and every time things get tough I have noticed that something good comes out of it. Being too ambitious can ruin things so we try to keep it fun.
You’ve got another crowdfunding project going on, to get ‘Damnation Memoriae’ released on vinyl. Was this inspired by the success of ‘Preservation Restoration Reconstruction’?
Yes very much; I think it showed us at a pretty low point in the band, that there was still support out there and that people did still care about MSW. The way I see the new project, is a way of us doing more for the people that really do still enjoy what we do and connecting with them. If it doesn’t reach the goal, it would be a shame but not the end of the world.
How important is it for you to release music on vinyl?
I never imagined that we would be working to get a fourth release out on vinyl. This is one of the things I have enjoyed most about doing this. I don’t see it as essential, but very much something to aim at. I personally prefer vinyl to other media and I think our music suits vinyl better than CD.
What’s next for My Silent Wake?
We have a double CD compilation on the cards, but unfortunately the label that were to release this have had to pull out. We will keep a look out for a label to do this and hopefully a live album as well. We have some decent gigs coming up with Hollowfest, Mammothfest and supporting Draconian, and we await the outcome of the Pledge Music campaign. If this is a success we will be producing a gatefold vinyl and some interesting items of merchandise. We hope to do some proper touring again at some point.