Hello Nick, thanks for taking the time to do an interview for Temple of Darkness about Ashbringer! First of all, for all the fans who might not be familiar with your work, introduce yourself!
My pleasure! I'm Nick Stanger and I write and perform all of the music for Ashbringer. I've been playing music since I was about 8 years old and I'm very excited to have finally launched this new project.
Ashbringer is an atmospheric black metal project you have started a few years back. What pushed you to start such a project?
I've been playing in bands with other musicians for quite a while, and I've enjoyed it a lot, but I felt like I had ideas that I could only express by myself. I needed a project where I had complete creative control over everything. Obviously, I've never been able to find a musician that has the exact same mindset as I do, so once I realized this I figured it would be best to just have a project that is 100% my creative ideas. I love making music with other people, but some ideas I just had to carry out alone.
Definitely understandable! Being in control of every aspect can help your creativity shine through, making everything your own. Where did you come up with the name Ashbringer? Does the meaning play into the lyrical themes of your music at all?
I came up with it a long time ago, but it's also a song title from the band Fen which inspired the band name. I like to leave most of my aesthetics's up to interpretation, but I really like the way my friend Chase from Deafest put it! "Ashbringer is a very apt name for this project. They bring forth bleak atmospheres and spew vocals like ash from a volcano."
That is a very interesting way to put it! Ashbringers music is very atmospheric and ethereal in a sense. What themes did you have in mind when writing your songs?
It really depends. I need to be in the right mindset to write for this properly, which makes finishing things in a timely manner a bit difficult, but it makes the end result much more emotional. I think of most of my songs in a cinematic sense, each one of them is supposed to tell a story, even if th elyrics weren't there. The lyrics and vocals are usually the very last things that happen in the writing process, and I usually know exactly what the song is about before I write the first word. The lyrics often come out very vague, which isn't necessarily intentional, but I like the fact that they do. I'd like to think that the listener imagines their own scenario when listening to my music.
I feel like that is a very popular thought throughout the atmospheric black metal scene. Letting listeners follow their own thoughts and scenarios in their minds while listening to your music can be meditative and relaxing. Your debut album, Vacant, was released on April 8th via your own label, Primal Relics Records. Can you describe the writing and recording process of Vacant?
I started writing these songs towards the beginning of 2013. I didn't put too much time into it at the time because I was busy playing shows and recording with my old band. That band broke up during the summer of 2014 and we re-formed into a band I'm in now called No Heroes (though, I am the only member left of the previous band!) We decided to do a new band at our own pace, instead of a constant schedule of shows. This gave me a lot more time to focus on writing music for this project, so I went back to all the ideas I had recorded already and started turning them into full songs. The first song I fully completed and released was called "As Ravens Black the Sky" (the album bersion is now known as 'Lucid') and put it out on two compilation albums. I kept going from there.
I had lots of half completed songs, most of them I started over with and used riffs and ideas from their original versions into a full song. Once I get started on writing a song, finishing the structure of the song usually doesn't take very long because I tend to stay focused in this phase. Anywhere from a few hours to a week. But I spend lots of time on the details, big and small. It usually sounds like a brand new song when you compare the first version to the detailed version.
I finished writing and recording the album towards the end of 2014, where I spend the next few months mixing and mastering the album. It took a lot of effort because I had never worked with something with so many layers before, but I'm very glad I took the time, I personally think it turned out almost exactly how I had hoped. And yes the Primal Relics version was released on April 8th, which was also my 18th birthday! I felt like that would be the most perfect release date for my first full length with this project.
That is awesome, happy birthday! I am sure that was one busy day for you! Speaking of your other band, No Heroes, you guys play a form of crust punk with metal influences. That is a far stretch from anything Ashbringer has done! What are some of your musical influences?
Thank you, it definitely was! Oh boy, I have lots of influences that stretch very far from one another. I think that pretty much anything that I am exposed to influences my music in one way or another, so I will just throw out the names of a few of my favorite artists. Such as Agalloch, Wolves in the Throne Room, Godspeed You Black Emperor, Bon Iver, James Blake, Cynic, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Asgeir, Bjork, Deafheaven, Sol Invictus, Empyrium and way too many more to list!
I can definitely hear the WIITR and Agalloch influences in your music for sure! What non-musical influences impact your musical or lyrical themes?
This one should be obvious, but definitely nature, everything about it. Along with that I take influences from personal things that have taken place in my life, abstract art, and really whatever else interests me. Although when I'm writing lyrics I don't always consciously think about these things, like I mentioned before the lyrics are very reactive to the vibe of the music.
That is an excellent way to write lyrics. Just let them flow naturally! Do you ever plan on adding other members to the band, even if they are live musicians, to play shows?
I'm glad you asked that, because I'm working on a big collaborative project with a few other musicians and an author. I can't give away very many details right now, but it will be very cool. I have a live drummer for it and a bassist, and there will be intermittent other guest musicians. The music will be entirely composed by myself, but performed with the stylistic interpretation of the other musicians on it as well. They will be considered session players, I don't know if I'll ever have any other official 'band members'. Unfortunately, that's all I would like to give away at the moment for that project! As far as playing live goes, it's definitely not on my agenda at the moment, but I could picture it happening eventually.
That sounds like a very exciting project to be working on! I would love to see Ashbringer material performed in a live setting, possibly with incense burning and lit by candlelight to set the atmosphere, I think that would be quite a sight! What are your future plans for Ashbringer? What is your ultimate goal with the project?
It would be indeed! The future consists of much more music and releases. I just accepted an offer from the Italian record label Avantgarde Music. So I will be working between them and my own label. They will be releasing a digipack version of Vacant with an 8 panel booklet art insert, which I am very excited about! As far as an ultimate goal. for me it would be simply to get my art out there and satisfy my musical endeavors!
That is awesome, Avantgarde is a massive name in the underground scene and will definitely do Ashbringer a lot of good. Now, to wrap up this interview, I always like to have a little fun! If oyu could pick 5 albums, those albums being the only music you could listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?
Oh my, this question is torture! Here we go off the top of my head:
Agolloch - either Marrow of the Spirit or The Mantle
Bon Iver - S/T
Led Zeppelin - Houses of the Holy
Godspeed You Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas to Heaven
Converge - Jane Doe
Since I only get 5 albums for the rest of my life, they have to be contrasting styles!
Thank you very much for the interview, your support is greatly appreciated!
That is a good way to look at it! Thank you so much for doing your first ever interview with us! If there is anything else you'd like to say, feel free!
I would like to thank everyone who has been so supportive in the past few weeks. So far in my eyes the album has been very successful and I am very appreciative of all the people who placed a pre order, sent me a message, shared it, listened or anything. The support is overwhelming like nothing I've ever experienced before, so thank you all!