Monday, September 1, 2014

Avitas Interview

I reviewed Avitas' latest record, Northern Ghosts a few weeks back and was presently surprised.  I have heard of the project before but never listened to them, but I am very glad I finally did!  I was given the chance to interview the man behind Avitas and it turned out to be the lengthiest interview I have ever given!  Check out what he has to say below, there is certainly a lot of detail you wouldn't find anywhere else!

Where does the name Avitas come from?

The name Avitas has two meanings in relation to the band name, one being sativa spelled backwards, and the other being related to aviation and the cosmos.  There is not much more really to say on that one, I just felt it would make a good black metal name that reflected my inspiration from space and the the vast cosmos as well as having an ancient sound to it.

Why did you choose that name for your project?

Being from northern British Columbia there were very dark nights and the stars and space were clearly visible, along with many frozen nights with skies full of aurora borealis to enhance certain states of mind. These aspects all tied in to the inspiration for the name that was adopted in 1997 out of the ashes of the doom/stoner metal band Alien Tab.  The new song "Boreal Nebulae" was inspired by the Northern Lights as well.

Avitas has been around for quite a few years now, tell me about the journey you have come on with Avitas?

I can't really believe how long it has been going, I guess I am getting old!  Avitas has been labelled as black metal, death metal, war metal, psychedelic metal, black/thrash metal and probably a few more I don't remember, but the sound and guitar style has always remained Avitas.  Avitas was formed in the first year after high school in 1997 and the first E.P. entitled "Piece of Mind" (I didn't realize Iron Maiden had that title already, didn't really listen to them at the time) came out in the winter of 1997.  It was recorded at the community college on an 8-track reel-to-reel recorder and was pretty heavy and experimentally psychedelic.  I was in a music production program and we didn't have digital recording until the second year of my program. The 1999 album which was really more of a collection of demo tracks entitled "july" which was all recorded during the program and contains some wildly experimental forms of metal, but was really more for school purposes and not a commercially "released" album.  I moved to Vancouver, British Columbia in 1999 and attempted forming a black metal band there but in the end I couldn't afford living in the crazy expensive Vancity so we relocated to Kelowna, BC and I formed a live version of Avitas from 2000 to 2005 or so, releasing the Trends in Terrorism (2001, in March well before the events of 9/11) full-length and the Smoke E.P. (2002)  during those years, and the Politics of Nordic Terror live album captures some of those performances from 2003.  A couple years later the Politics of Global Mind Control album came out and it was one of the most political and musically technical albums Avitas ever released, but I was unhappy with my vocal performance as it was not very practiced or rehearsed.  Conrad Cormier handled the vocals for the previous few years before returning to his home province of Quebec to form the band Tomahawk Carriers, he also differed with the war metal views of the lyrical content, but remains a true comrade to this day.  I went deep into researching the Nationalist Socialist philosophies and the Third Reich, a subject I have been studying for many years now, and recorded the Saga of the Nationalist album in 2009. I employed a very old-school approach to the riffs (early Speed Metal and Black Metal were on the record player quite a bit in those days).  For various legal and health reasons, Avitas' former drummer was unavailable for the album recordings so a drum machine was used up until Northern Ghosts.  I vowed after the Saga of the Nationalist album never to record another album with drum machine again, and I kept my word until I finally acquired drums and practiced enough (barely!) to perform the drums on the release Northern Ghosts in 2014.

What first inspired you to start your own project?

In high school I was in a very raw stoner/doom/thrash metal band named Alien Tab with my cousin on bass and a friend on drums that lasted until sometime in 1997 and I simultaneously started Avitas, mainly because I wanted to play a heavier, darker style of metal than was being played in the scene at the time.  I have always been very vocal with my anti-religious, anti-Abrahamic views, and no one in the scene seemed to keen on using my lyrics or Scandinavian style guitar compositions (the political/misanthropic views of Avitas would also alienate a few members over the years).  My cousin understood the black metal ideals before he converted to Christianity, he was into black metal in late '97 along a couple other guys, but that was about it for black metallers.   There was a pretty good speed/thrash metal scene in Northern BC and Alberta at the time (the Smalls come to mind) so that influenced the early years of Avitas in the riff style and the lyrical content has always had a political slant, but the core message and production have always been in the black metal ethic.  

What are some of your musical influences?  (Artists/bands)

Musically, there have been a couple albums in particular that have had a lasting impression on me, the first being "Shout at the Devil" by Motley Crue, my first true taste of the Devil's Music and followed with Metallica's "Justice," Sepultura's "Arise," and Megadeth's "Countdown" albums.  I still remember the cold winter night in 1997 when I first heard Mayhem's "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas" on my CD player.  I was blown away and at the same time emboldened because I knew I had finally heard some kindred spirits and I had even more pride in my Norwegian heritage for producing such righteously true music as evidenced with the second wave black metal bands.  The first Burzum album and it's remote frozen atmosphere tripped me out to an equal level as my personal desert/space metal favourites Monster Magnet and Kyuss, and I have always drawn a connection between isolationist Stoner Metal and individualist Black Metal (even the guitar tone is eerily similar, just compare early Darkthrone with early Kyuss).  I remember Gorgoroth's "Pentagram" album really had the riff styles I enjoyed to hear and play and I listened to that album countless times.  Lately I have been almost exclusively listening to underground black metal such as Torgeist, Mystifier, Blasphemy, the Pagan War Rex artists like Iron Woods and Warforged, and classic war metal from Archgoat and Beherit, all of whom have probably influenced the recent sound of Northern Ghosts and will influence the Avitas sound going into the future.  In the end I just write the music I want to hear and that I feel in myself, and I don't really try to be orthodox in the writing style for any specific genre, it is just the Avitas sound, but subconsciously everyone is influenced by the previous musical output of other artists they listen to.

Has your region influenced your music at all?

Immensely, British Columbia is the most visually inspiring place I know, and being in the presence of so many mountain ranges is quite humbling.  The wildlife and untouched nature has inspired the environmentalist ideals of Avitas lyrics and concepts, and hiking through the northern wild (unarmed besides a knife) under the influence of certain fungal edibles will put your life in perspective in the grand scheme of nature like nothing else. You listen for the cougars and bears, they are a legitimate threat when you are tenting in the woods, especially in Canada's wonderful National Parks!   I think the term "Cascadian Black Metal" actually encompasses the entire Northwest region of North America, from northern California to Alaska, the feeling seems to be the same, don't fuck with our forests, our freedom, or our water!   Avitas also promotes the many "agricultural benefits" of British Columbia, Oregon, Alaska, California and Washington state including the sacred cannabis herb.  I would guess a fairly high percentage of so-called Cascadian Black Metal musicians are familiar with the herb and the psilocybin mushroom.  I think it is also a very powerful feeling to be raised in such a grand natural environment, city-dwellers who never leave the city limits will never really have that connection to the vast wilderness, and for the black metal scene protecting nature and the forests this has always been a foremost subject. Just look at Hate Forest/Drudkh, Negura Bunget, Burzum and the rest of the Nationalistic "forest" black metal bands who have a firm "Blood and Soil" connection with their homelands and a real sense of duty to protect the raw wilderness of their countries, this has been a recurring theme for black metal and definitely a result of the influence of the land on the artists. 

Your latest album, Northern Ghosts, just came out.  Tell me about the writing and recording process?

For the new album I made a conscious decision to reincorporate the psychedelic elements of Avitas that I had abandoned for the last few years and albums, and at the same time put forward a more stripped down recording process. The album was recorded in Dec 2013 through Jan 2014 so it was a relatively quick recording process.  I love analog stompboxes and every effect you hear is generated from the arsenal of pedals in the pedalboards.  Many experimental sessions were undertaken to find the tone on the "Intro to the Heathen," and I love the Rush inspired results. The songwriting just kind of starts with a riff, and I build a song around it, then I let the ideas settle for a while before committing them to posterity as most times I scrap half of the songs before the final edit.  For every Avitas album, the performances are all played complete from start to finish, no editing or looping or studio magic.  If I screw up a riff on a 13 minute song, I stop and begin playing at the start again, it is just the way I feel comfortable with the artistic results.  Most of the time there is only one guitar track per speaker (both different takes instead of just doubling the riff on the other channel) to get a more raw sound and maintain the two guitar effect.  Cutting, looping and pasting the vocal, drum or guitar parts is not part of my production morals, and it shows in the unkempt time signatures on Northern Ghosts, so you be the judge!  Some people did not appreciate the lo-fi black metal production values, but it is the sound I was looking for.  Anyways, I used my vintage '70s M&M mixing board made in Winnepeg for the recording of the album,  with one SM57 mic and a cheap knock-off for a bass-drum mic, resulting in the desired murky effect.  My original studio computer and ancient recording program self-destructed after the final mixes of the Northern Ghosts album (I attempted a remix before the album was released and the program and all of the audio files had disappeared from the corrupted hard drive, luckily I had the final mixes saved on the other computer), so I am currently putting together the new studio for the next E.P., hopefully out next year.  I plan on cleaning up the drum sound a touch on the next album, but no major shifts in recording philosophy on the horizon.

Was it recorded at a home studio?

Yes, all of the Avitas albums with the exception of the "Piece of Mind" E.P. and the "july" album were recorded in the home studio (aka Odin's Den) in Kelowna, BC.  Having a home studio just allows for the recording process to be without time or money constraints so I can focus on the music, sure it might not be the top of the line equipment but that is not the point of black metal.  The best black metal in my view sounds best on vinyl or cassette, but I have yet to release a cassette of Avitas, perhaps the next EP will appear on plastic and magnetic tape.

How do you feel about this material compared to your older material?  

I think it is the most true to my beliefs, and I actually wrote a few personal lyrics on this album as opposed to all the previous albums, which shied away from personal thoughts in favour of broad political ideas.  Musically, the minimalistic style of the songs and the rock and roll attitude of the psychedelic elements of Northern Ghosts truly capture the feel and the message of living free from all Gods and emperors, representing the Satanic ideal of the God within each man.  I went through the shred/technical competition aspects of guitar playing in the past and quickly separated Avitas from that mindset (no solos on most songs) and simplified the songwriting to reach a more primal base.  I also have been moving away from the blatantly political messages and trying to convey more of an esoteric view of the world only to be understood by the knowledgeable, and less about trying to educate the sheeple.  Basically the earlier Avitas work still held some hope for society and humanity and was a bit preachy at times, but the misanthropy in my heart has taken over in light of the negative way society has evolved since the "terrorist" attacks of 9/11 and the technologization of human communications.  The NWO/Bildeberg group and the Military/Prison/Industrial Complex are alive and well and people are just going along with it, not even being outraged when they find out such things like the NSA spying/data farming situation.  But enough politics for now, in short I am comfortable with the current sound and direction of Avitas, as I have grown more steadfast in my views and lost most of the naive ideals of my youth shown on the early albums.

Do you like it better or worse?

I prefer the sound presented on the newer albums, I feel the Avitas sound has matured into what it should sound like with the addition of live drums, and I am truly satisfied with the new album and Saga of the Nationalist.  The gradual phasing out of the occasional thrash/ heavy metal riffs in favour of the pure black metal ethic has been an evolution for Avitas, and some people definitely prefer the earlier albums with the war/black/death mix as heard on "Politics of Nordic Hate" live album, but in the future I would expect the sound to continue on the path shown on the Northern Ghosts album, with a black/war/psychedelic sound.

How do you feel about the black metal scene as a whole right now?

I think black metal is where it belongs, thriving in the underground with hordes of great bands continuing to show the world that our movement is gaining strength and it didn't just stop with the second wave.  I personally listen and support all of the many subgenres of black metal, as long as the anti-Abrahamic message rings loud and clear!  This especially goes for the new Canadian wave of anti-Islamic black metal, truly a sub-section worth checking out (see Panzerfaust, Kafirun and Svolder, amongst others).  The old guard Norwegian bands have been releasing some great stuff lately as well, I really enjoyed the new Mayhem album and the last couple Immortal and post-prison Burzum releases before he quit metal.  I even liked the new Watain, a wild hunt which some of the kult hordes did not appreciate.  If black metal ever becomes popular, then our mission to destroy these feeble desert faiths has truly succeeded, so I welcome a Watain/Mayhem stadium tour of America!  Sadly I don't see it happening soon, however.

Are there any underground bands that you think are worth checking out?

I mentioned a couple of these bands earlier, but they are worth noting again.  I just saw the Ontario black metal band Panzerfaust in Vancouver, and they were quite good with evil atmosphere, highly recommended.  Iron Woods, Warforged, Kafirun, Holocaust Lord (from Victoria, BC), Sanguinary Misanthropia (black/war metal), Qassam (crazy anti-Islamic black metal), Satan's Satyrs, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have all been on heavy rotation on the stereo lately.  The new Uncle Acid album "Mind Control" is creepy and heavy, great album if you want a break from the black metal.

If you could only listen to 3 albums for the rest of your life and nothing else, which three albums would you choose and why?

Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger - atmosphere and riffs
Alice in Chains - Dirt - atmosphere and riffs
Mayhem - De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas - atmosphere and riffs

It really is all about the atmosphere for me, that is why I listen to music.  I don't care how many 32nd note triplets someone plays a second or any of that math metal technical wankery, music has to make you feel something.  I know Alice in Chains is not very "true" for black metal but the morose aura of that album is as eerie and sinister of a listen you can have, and they were local heroes for the Northwest metal scene (they were more metal than grunge in my opinion, especially the early stuff).  The other two picks are pretty self-explanatory classics and I can't possibly add anything to the existing praises of these masterpieces!

Finally, what is in store for the future of Avitas?

There will be an upcoming compilation highlighting the early Avitas recordings on Bud Metal Records, the music is more of a black/thrash/death mix in the early war metal vein as opposed to the more recent paganized black metal Saga of the Nationalist and the current Northern Ghosts album.  I have been throwing some ideas around in my head for the new songs so I plan to start writing in the winter and get an E.P. out later next year.  There is some talk of forming the live unit of Avitas again, so that is on the radar as well, but I will need to recruit a new drummer and that is sometimes difficult in this genre of metal.  Avitas and Bud Metal Records have recently teamed up with PHD in the UK for exclusive European physical and worldwide digital distribution, so the recent releases are available through Plastichead.  Avitas CDs/downloads are also available through or order from your local record store through (PHD) distribution, North and South American customers through Pagan War Distribution,  and on most digital music services.  There will be more new music and blasphemy coming from Avitas for the foreseeable future!

September 2014

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