From tour release: For the past eleven years, the institution known as The Amenta has steadfastly refused to do anything by the book. With a strong desire for experimentation and the avant-garde, and a sadistic pre-occupation with all things ugly, decayed and rotten, the band have consistently released challenging and ground breaking material beginning with Occasus, through to nOn, the multimedia landmark that was Vo1D and the digital EP Chokehold finally arriving with this years, Flesh Is Heir. Flesh, isn’t merely a record, it’s an experience. Huge sculptures of sound built up from decayed choir loops, percussion and the dissonant rearrangement of traditional rock instruments (drums, bass, guitars) lead to an overall more organic but also terrifying journey into a realm of consciousness that is a ‘constant war in the human psyche between the faction that desires obliteration and the faction that struggles in the mud.’
We chatted to Tim from The Amenta about the band’s new album ‘Flesh Is Heir’ as well as touring and just how the sound of the band is ever changing…
For someone who has never heard of The Amenta before, give us your best explanation of The Amenta sound…
I guess simplified we’re an extreme metal band, there’s elements of death metal and black metal and industrial and all that sort of stuff, but it’s all mixed together with a creepier and more ambient edge. Like all bands we don’t like to pigeon hole ourselves but we probably take the more ugly and extreme aspects of those genres of music and cram them together.
Was the experimenting something that took some time to get right to blend all the musical elements together and create the end result?
Well I kind of see it as a continuum, a constant process of change, so we aren’t the band that we were when we formed, we formed in 2000 and we’ve been writing music since then, and it’s always to the best of our abilities at the time or at least to the level of our expectation as to what we release, and each new album is where we take it a bit further down the path and find new ways of expressing ourselves. So it’s not sort of, we’re not getting closer to an end goal we’re just continuing on a path looking for new things.
Your new album ‘Flesh Is Heir’ is out now, being your third, how have you seen this album come together compared to your first two?
It’s been a really different process, one thing we try to do or we’re forced to do when we write albums is to scrap what we’ve done before. I think like a like a lot of people, we’re uninspired by things that we’ve done before, and I think extreme metal more than any other genre is so thankless and there’s very little in terms of commercial success. You really have to believe in it to do it, so for us we need to find a direction for us in order to be interested to write a new album. If anything sounds like our previous albums, it’s boring and not inspiring enough for us to continue writing, so we try and find ways that we can challenge ourselves or make it different so we can continue to write the album. This album, our album before that was really electronic and micro programmed album, this time what inspired us was being much more organic and much more immediate and trying to embrace the human side of the band, so it was definitely a very different process, with the fact that everyone in the band lives in different cities and things like that so we did a lot of it online and over emails and things, so it was a very different process for us.
What were you able to do this time around that you hadn’t done previously?
Personally I look after the samples and effect and keyboards in the band and in the past well certainly on the second album I spent months, I literally spent around eighteen months or so working on my parts for the second album and it was a really meticulous, detailed kind of programming and my circumstances have changed and I can’t really do that anymore so the technique I found was that I made a massive bank of samples. I walked around with a microphone and just recorded a heap of stuff, like bashing of pots and pans together, children’s toys, short wave radios and made this big bank of samples that I made into patches and played it pretty much live through my live gear where you can pretty much control effects and basically mangle the sounds in real time, so I was basically mangling the sounds as it was going into our recorder, so anything you hear is me destroying sounds and turning knobs as it goes in, so it’s a lot more of chance and those happy accidents happening. That was from my side, but then the riffs and guitar based stuff, in the past we’d write and keep adding to it and polish it and keep it and over orchestrate to a certain extent, but this time rather than do that if we had magic we’d move on it really quickly and just try and preserve what magic we had and move onto the next part, so I think it’s a little more streamlined which is kind of cool.
Are you constantly writing even though you release new material or do you wait until the cycle finishes and start again?
Historically we’ve always waited unfortunately, we’re kind of notorious for a very long time between albums and in the past we work really, really hard on an album, our first album took five years to write and record, our second one there was a four year gap but it probably took about three years of solid recording, and then this new one came together a lot quicker but there was a five year gap, but that was because we’d gotten really burnt out after recording the album and the idea of actually sitting down to write again is pretty uninspiring, but also anything we do write is too caught up in the old method of thinking so it’s not really interesting for us, so we each kind of go away and recharge for a bit and instead of writing we go and play live. We’ve never been the kind of band that can write in the back of a tour bus, I think a lot of our best ideas come from a certain environment where we’re allowed to experiment and where there’s no pressure and I think if we were to write in the back of a tour bus we’d write really generic and easy stuff. I think Tom Waits once said “Your hands are like dogs and they’ll just got to what’s familiar and familiar places if you let them” and that’s what happens when you start writing in places like tour busses, is that you start writing riffs that you kind of already know, so you’re not pushing boundaries, so we’re never really been able to continue and just jump back into writing, but from this album we’re hoping that we’ll get into it a bit quicker, we’re going to record a few more EP’s and stuff like that. We had our first band meeting this week just discussing what we wanted to do and we’ve got some ideas of some interesting little projects so that should be pretty cool and hopefully we can get something out quicker this time.
You are of course here to promote your shows coming up next month, so explain for us what a typical The Amenta show entails…
Well it’s a pretty extreme show, I think in the past we’ve used a lot of strobe and smoke machines and we’re also very aggressive on stage. Our vocalist Cain is, I sincerely think he’s the best front man in Australia and would certainly be up there in the world, he’s a very sort of odd gentleman at the best of times and on stage he’s a really creepy, creepy dude, so it’s quite a confronting experience. Plus this time we’ve got a whole bunch of other little tricks, we’ve got a long term audio visual / lighting crew member who’s bring a bunch of new toys, so it’ll be pretty full on. Our focus has always been in all senses of the word, obliterating someone’s mind; we want them to become taken aback by what they’re seeing, a theatre of cruelty where you almost abuse the people’s senses to try and sort of take them out of their body.
You’ve done a fair bit of international touring it seems, any plans to head back overseas with the new album?
Always, it’s one of those things where there’s always offers and irons in the fire, it’s just finding the right one at the right time and the right cost, but we’re always looking. We just got back from Indonesia, we played at the Hammersonic festival which was unbelievable, we played to 10,000 people or something like that, so we’d love to get back over to Asia as that was our first time, but there’s also Europe and the US that we’d like to return to. It’s definitely on the cards we’re always looking out for more opportunities.
What if anything did you notice about the metal crowds overseas in particular the European scene compared to the Australian metal scene?
It’s in some ways really similar and some ways really different, one way that people are different is there seems to be less of a culture of drinking while watching a show in Europe, here in Australia it’s rare that you don’t have a beer in your hand when you’re watching a band, but there it’s rare for it to actually happen. The crowds are a little more inhibited in a lot of ways, but on the other hand it kind of varies where you play. We’ve played in Slovakia and there were guys getting carried out by ambulances and bouncers were beating the shit out of people, it’s just pretty crazy. Then you play a place like Germany and have a band like us that’s very untraditional, they are not really into us at all and we play to a bunch of folded arms, so it’s really varied and that’s part of what makes it interesting as you don’t really know what you’re going to get when you turn into each new venue as its kind of a new experience each time.
How hard is it to be a metal band in Australia?
I guess it is hard but it depends what you want from it and what you expect from it, it’s nigh on impossible to make a living out of it, but if you’re here to create art and have a good time then it’s extremely possible. We’re lucky we’ve had a lot of opportunities to do a lot of things, but it is a lot of work to get tours happening, to record albums, certainly to a level we exist upon, but like anything if you throw enough money at it and enough time and enough love, you can get anything happening. We’re not the most talented band out there in terms of playing, we’re not the most prolific in terms of writing, but I think we probably work harder than ninety per cent of bands and I think that’s what makes the difference.
At thirteen years as a band now and eleven since your first album release, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned over the time as a band?
I guess it kind of stems from what I was talking about before which is the expectation. When I started doing this I was sixteen and you’re thinking you’ll take over the world and as soon as your album is out you’re going to be headlining over Slayer and making millions of dollars and finally buy that nice mansion I’ve always wanted. As you get older and maybe a bit more cynical, I think your goals change and get a little more pure, and realise that its isn’t about money, you realise why you actually do it is to keep yourself excited and entertained, what really gets me off is the idea of creating new sounds and then challenging myself, so I guess the thing I’ve learnt is to be really pure about your motivation and I think it then becomes a really rewarding experience otherwise it can become quite soul crushing.
What does the rest of 2013 have in store for The Amenta?
Well there’s the shows coming up in July obviously, other than that there’s nothing set in stone yet but we’d like to work on something whether it’s an EP or an album, there could be a movie or something like that, we’re not sure yet, but we’re going to play with some ideas, but at the moment it’s kind of open for us and interesting.
From: Sydney, Australia
Sounds like: Metal / Noise / Experimental
Band members: Cain Cressall – Vocals, Timothy Pope – Samples/Programming, Erik Miehs – Guitar, Dan Quinlan – Bass, David Haley – Drums
The Amenta with special guests Ruins: Tour Dates
Thursday 11 July: Crowbar, Brisbane (with Vyrion, Kyzer Soze) – Ticket info HERE
Friday 12 July: Bald Faced Stag, Sydney (with Ouroboros, Dead River Runs Dry, Host) Ticket info HERE
Sat, 13 July: Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne (with Ouroboros, Whoretopsy, Dead River Runs) Ticket info HERE
Sunday 14 July: The Brisbane Hotel, Hobart (with Departe, Dead River Runs Dry) Ticket info HERE