Interview with Derwydd (Fen)

Baldo, Cultartes: Hello! I follow your activity since “The Malediction Fields”, released in 2009, but I think you managed to attract attention with “Epoch”, a well-structured material with a special atmosphere. What does “Carrion Skies” mean for you? I see it as a jump to another level, a transcending of black metal sphere.

Derwydd, Fen: This is an interesting view, quite opposite to how we have conceived “Carrion Skies”. The idea for this album was to get back to black metal roots, indeed I’d say “Epoch” and “Dustwalker” had gone beyond black metal conventions in terms of the melodic form and post-rock dynamics, they were the ‘transcending’ ones so to speak, consciously taking directions away from extreme metal. However, a couple of albums going down that road was enough for us, and here is “Carrion Skies” which has more of the black metal attribute to it again, delivering more of the energy associated with extreme metal, and we would like to think is very much within the black metal sphere!

On “Carrion Skies” it feels influences from various genres that are not necessary taken from metal area. It seems to me that shoegaze, lately, has made a habit to infiltrate into black metal field, as it feels, sometimes, to you, too. What are the genres that influence you in your creative process?

Yes, the shoegaze/post-punk influence is a trait the band is associated with, but I think we are dealing with it differently to other bands. There is a big movement in post-black metal to basically reinvent yourself as an indie band, all grown up and having shed the puerility of metal – well we saw ourselves setting on the first foot down that path and turned right around! The direction the scene is going in is definitely not for us. The general musical standard of post-black metal, if you can even call it metal, is becoming weaker in a vain attempt to prove a point. And for some there’s undeniably a musical career of sorts in playing drippy music to hipsters that will clap their hands and get excited about the whole concept of whether it’s metal or not. So anyway we thought screw chasing that idea, we’ll prove a point of our own in return and make the album that people weren’t expecting us to – loud, dramatic, big production etc. Get people to remember that there is some black metal life left in this genre.

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I said, at one point, in a review for “Carrion Skies”, the path you have followed so far, at your maturity as musicians; it was one with many attempts of styles. Is this the right moment where you were planned to arrive the whole time?

People will always have their opinions about the best Fen album, but I think we’ve got the right balance now with “Carrion Skies”. Certainly we’ve improved as musicians and songwriters, but also as listeners and self-critics, and that should definitely come across in the material. I think the band’s stance and outlook is a lot more assertive and defined too, and we’re very keen to push on with the next album which we are going to start writing very soon indeed.

Romanian metal scene represents a real increase; I do not know how familiar you are with this, but do you think there are any bands that may have any impact on you or on any other artists? In other words, is there any band that attracted a particular attention and with whom you want to perform?

I don’t know the Romanian scene or its characteristics very well I’m afraid. To be perfectly honest I find it hard to keep up with what any scene is doing these days, and I much prefer older music and the attitude of past times where the good musicians and innovators were nurtured and enjoyed deserved recognition and longevity. Now it’s all heading towards using the internet as a marketing strategy to form a sort of disposable web music culture of homegrown but half-baked music with “like”-able visuals to be flavour of the week. There is a rapidly “here today gone tomorrow” characteristic about today’s culture that I don’t like at all, and it’s regretful to say that I don’t read any blogs or magazines about today’s music. I don’t think much of it comes from the heart. If there is anything genuinely good around now that will withstand the test of time, I’m certain someone can filter it out and mention it to me sooner or later.
In terms of who I would like to share a stage with, it would be nice to collaborate somehow with artists that would be complementary and perhaps throw open some new doors and make a real experience. The cavernous atmospheres of Lustmord perhaps? Or the mysteriously enchanting Japanese world music troupe Geinoh Yamashirogumi.

Would you like to perform or even compose with any other artists, but metal? Can you give us some examples?

I’m proud to say that I already do. Check out one of my other projects Landskap, which takes a lot of influence from 70s rock music styles. We’ve done a couple of releases, and I think on the second one we’ve really hit our own sound now, a bit like a modern Doors I suppose. I also play dulcimer and harmonium in a folk band Admirals Hard that plays traditional sea shanties with a few twists, this has been around on and off for over ten years now. We’ll finally have an album out soon. I have also dabbled occasionally with electronic music at home going back 20 years now, mainly influenced by 80s-90s underground dance music, but also a lot of conceptual stuff too. I really want to focus on the old-school dance stuff a lot more in future actually, it’s a bit of an unrealised passion and I’ve been telling myself for years that I need to make projects such as this my number one priority, but it simply won’t happen unless I get away from all the commitments that pervade my life in London.

Your band name is closely related to the fields of your childhood, “The Fens” is the name of the region where you grew up, as far as I know. Is there a correlation between these places, their atmospheres and the moods your music evokes?

Yes there very consciously is a correlation. I’m the odd one out in the band in having not grown up in that area, but now I have paid a few visits to the area now I can verify that the essence of that landscape is captured perfectly in the Fen sound. Endless flat landscapes, a chilling stillness to the air, a sense of isolation of the spirit and a feeling of rural melancholia that is seldom transferred across to art, but which for me has a lot of appeal.

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Winter holidays have just passed and we all treat them in a special way. How were these for the members of a black metal band, after all?

Nothing out of the ordinary compared to most folks I guess. I am lucky enough to have a bit of time off work during that period, so saw a bit of family and just enjoyed a few days doing very little before back to the grind.

If we consider your musical style, we could easily place you on the Scandinavian side of the old continent. If there were no United Kingdom at all, where would you see yourself living?

It’s a question I’ve been seriously considering as I’ve been living in London for a very long time now and I always told myself that once I’ve felt my usefulness in the capital has expired then it will be time to move on. Perhaps the time to turn to the next chapter is slowly arriving. Thinking of a rural lifestyle in a different country, I’ve been thinking a lot about a few undiscovered places that of course I’m not going to tell anyone about just yet. Some things are for sure – I’m bored with cities, capitalist serfdom, and certainly bored of being “English”. I’m starting to make preparations.

I have seen that you are already confirmed for North of the Wall Festival in Glasgow on March 28. Are there other established concerts where we can track you this year?

There have been a scattering of offers here and there, but Glasgow is the only confirmed one so far. We were expecting a bit more interest from live promoters this time around, as we got a lot of live opportunities around the time “Dustwalker” came out, and “Carrion Skies” is more conducive to live performance. But post-black isn’t really on promoter’s radars at the moment, and I can’t say I’m surprised when I can’t tell it apart from indie anymore and metal fans (especially youngsters with street cred issues) are very cautious about the hipster connotations. The live scene is very much about the ritualistic extreme metal aka. “X city black mass” and “Y city spikes and reverb celebration” – I’m not surprised as it is, when done well, compelling live performance that gets people to venues. I once considered earning some money selling incense to these bands. Anyway if there’s no live work no problem, we’ve done enough releases and shows for people to know who we are and what we’re about, and we’ll just forge on with making an even better new album.
At least the one thing we are liking about the offers we are getting is that we are starting to be segregated less from orthodox black metal bands, and being asked to play on bills with them. That was a conscious effort we made concerning “Carrion Skies” – to try and return to the black metal scene rather than the progression away from it. Recent shows we’ve done with post-black bands were strange affairs, our sound was considered very aggressive and direct in comparison, and people liked it for that, but are we playing the right shows with this sound anymore when we’re all going our separate ways? We did an otherwise fairly orthodox festival a few months ago, and whilst aesthetically in our jeans and casual shoes we were way offmark, musically there was a closer fit than anybody could have thought.

In 2011 you have been in Romania to OST Mountain Fest. Do you remember anything from back then, about our country? Whatever this means, a type of food or a drink or some women…

I remember the festival was, to our disappointment, not up a mountain but next to one on a campsite. It was funny as the organisers hadn’t exclusively hired out the site, so there were normal families trying to have their holidays there pretending to ignore the constant ear-bleeding extreme metal. Other highlights – Silva Dark beer (we never found Ursus Black) and some aggressive games of backgammon.

Everyone is talking about certain albums as some real icons, in this heavy music sphere. Which are the most representative albums for you?

Pretty much anything released by Voivod to begin with, one band that steered heavy metal guitar playing away from blues oriented tonality into experimenting with stranger chords and more interesting song structures, which definitely has later echoes in black metal. Plus they did the whole post-metal thing of making straight lighter songs already in the early 90s, and did it a lot better than bands in their post-metal crises do today. Nocturnus “The Key”, great music and atmosphere without compromises. And just because it’s a personal favourite of mine, Confessor’s “Condemned”, amazing melancholic metal with some sensational drumming.

Does nature represents, for instance, a source of inspiration for metal artists, when we know that things nowadays evolve towards other directions and priorities?

Yes, I consciously moved slightly outside of the city last year just to be in a slightly more natural environment. OK, I still live on a street with houses, but only a stone’s throw from fields and forests, and there is something in nature that chills people out and makes them more civil with each other. I’ve become a lot more productive in my life too, less distraction because of being close to pubs and gigs etc., more working on new projects to improve my life.

We know about United Kingdom, among others that gave two of the greatest chefs, Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver. Did you ever have experimental intentions in the kitchen? If so, what came out?

I’m not that great a cook, but I am a big eater and love to try new things. My appetite had always been a bit of a problem in terms of gaining weight, but since I switched to eating mainly low-carb about a year ago that’s made a big difference, as has a bit of weights every day. So my culinary prowess is really only cooking piles of meat and green vegetables; I always prefer to do the washing up (no experimental intentions there). My girlfriend does a much better job of cooking and trying new things out – roast chicken stuffed with purreed worms made for a tasty variant to the typical Sunday roast – and even as I write there are dried and pickled foods being busily prepared and fermenting buckets bubbling away.

Since we exceed the music area, it is known that England is the motherland of football. Do you have affinities for this sport? Do you practice it? Or, perhaps, support any local team?

I enjoyed it when I was young, but I found the statistics were probably just as interesting as the game itself. I think rugby is a much more exciting game. Even then, I don’t really find time to watch even that, a match swallows up the best part of an afternoon. It amazes me that during the world competitions for any sport, people will stop what they are doing several times a week to watch a game. Don’t understand it.
Football is huge business anyway in the UK, the big football clubs are just a bunch of suits sitting on bundles of cash, a bit like banks really. It’s the corporate business that it’s OK to like. I ask why commit yourself to underground music and alternative lifestyle then go and do something like support Liverpool for example? One thing is for sure, they know their merchandising and PR. But given the choice I’m more of a non-league man, if I wanted to enjoy the game for its own sake.

Do you want to say something for your Romanian fans?

Great to meet you guys back in 2011, hope you enjoy “Carrion Skies” and we’ll back one day!

Thank you very much for this interview and I wish all the best. Cheers!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANq26oorR80&spfreload=10

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