Dead Raven Choir Interview

D. Smolken.For a lucky few thousand underground fans,the name says it all.Screeching blackness and howling mania from a man who has destroyed souls for years with his main entity Dead Raven Choir (and with equally destructive project Wolfmangler),a folk-drenched nightmare from Poland,by way of Texas,and Poland again.It was a true honor to speak to one of the few left,a true individual who follows the beat of his own drummer (but NOT guitarist).Read on...

Hammer Smashed Jazz:First off,you have an amazing knack for coming up with band names.I'm guessing that you probably have a hard time deciding amongst many ideas.Any great band names you've never used??

DSmolken:Anaal Asstral.

HSJ:You were incredibly prolific up until recently.Did you get burnt out?Trying to focus more on each release?

DS:Two things happened. One, labels started wanting to release my stuff on vinyl and CDs instead of CD-Rs. You can release a lot of CD-Rs every year and be fine, but if you do several CD or vinyl releases, fans start complaining. I've seen it happen to Krieg, Drudkh etc. Two, I moved to a larger city where plenty of people need a bassist, so I'm putting quite a bit of time into other bands.

Currently I play with a children's choir and an acoustic rock-pop covers band. I played "normal" music regularly in Texas, too, but here there are more opportunities and it keeps me much busier. Then I also took up weightlifting which may not take up all that much time but eating 8-10 meals a day does.

HSJ:You were fully entrenched in Dead Raven Choir when you started Garlic Yarg,which morphed into Wolfmangler,correct?.What was it you couldn't accomplish with DRC that necessitated the creation of another group?And where does Goatbomb fit into all this?

DS:I've been talking for a few years about playing some music with a very busy guy I knew. I figured the only way it was ever going to happen is if we did something that required him to put in very little time. In other words, no rehearsals or other preparation time, just show up and record. Hence the improv approach.

Wolfmangler basically added themes around which to improvise.Goatbomb... well, I threw out the name on some Internet forum, and a guy said he was going to use it. Then he asked me if I want to be part of it, too. So I recorded some tracks for him as did Wolfmangler's violinist, but then he dropped off the face of the planet, apparently with marital problems. I did manage to produce a batch of homebrew named Goatbomb, though.

HSJ:You've obviously decided that black metal works well with jazz and country.Any other genre mashups you are dying to try,or think would work well?

DS:I'd like to put together a convincing hybrid of gangsta rap and Texas country. I've had the idea at the back of my mind for years but I still have little idea how it could be pulled off. I wouldn't be surprised if somebody's already done it, though. Maybe a rap version of Kevin Fowler's "Long Line Of Losers"? The lyrics would definitely work.

HSJ:One of my favorite releases of yours is Sturmfuckinglieder,which got rereleased as part of Cask Strength Black Metal.But a ton of your music is still not available.Any chances of releasing some sort of collection in the future for the non-black metal recordings?Do you ever listen to/revisit any of your earlier work?

DS:I do plan to reissue all the non-black-metal stuff as a huge box of CD-Rs. I'm waiting for the two non-black-metal CDs to go out of print first, though, so the box can be complete. I also want to finally give the three Taint Meat albums a proper release - the first two reached single-digit sales as CD-Rs and the label that was going to release the third just gave up the ghost. I never listen to my earlier stuff, though. Hell, I can't even remember what outtakes from "Schmerzensgewalt" I ended up with.

HSJ:You moved from Poland to Texas and back.I'm interested to know what your friends in Poland were most curious about when it comes to America.Also,why the move back,and are you happy with that decision?

DS:They were most curious about why I moved back. Everyone knows someone who's in America these days, so they're not really curious about that the way they were in the era of the peoples' democracy. I moved back because I figured I could accomplish more here in many areas. It's worked out very well so far.If you're gonna clean toilets, it's good to clean toilets in a rich country. If you've got a bit of savings and some useful skills, though, it's better to put those to use in a poor country where they'll mean more.

HSJ:Your music really has a cinematic feel to it for me personally.Exactly what kind of world are you envisioning when you create your music?Is there a certain mindset that you get into?

DS:I don't envision anything except for what it should sound like. Though when it comes to getting albums made quickly with a tiny budget and no detailed script, I guess I work similarly to the way Roger Corman made movies.8.It seems that even diehard black-metal fans have a real love/hate relationship with the genre nowadays.Do you consider yourself a fan of black metal,or are you just taking what you like from it to create your own sound?I pillage what I want.

HSJ:You found a young female vocalist for some of your recent recordings.Tell us about how that came about.This obviously really opens up your sound.

DS:Her main band was looking for a bassist so I auditioned. That didn't work out, mostly due to miscommunication - they thought I wasn't interested - but later I called up the guitarist and asked if I can borrow the vocalist for some recordings. We got in touch, set a time for her to come over, and then she told me that her mother wants her to bring a friend along to be on the safe side because she's only 16 and barely knows me.

To be honest I hadn't realized she was quite that young, probably because most of the guys in the band were in their late 20s. She's very conscientious, a couple of times times she recorded a song, I sent her a rough mix and then asked me a few days later if she can redo it because she mispronounced one word or she's not happy about something.

I also had a couple of 14-year-olds show up for auditions. One did quite well but decided afterwards she wasn't really interested. I guess since I regularly play with a children's choir where there are a few 14-year-old girls, this doesn't really seem all that weird to me. I'm also nicer to younger girls - I'm pretty much a total asshole to anyone over 20 - which in a way makes them easier to work with.

On the other hand, Wolfmangler's flautist was old enough to be my mother. She worked in the same research lab as me. One day I was scanning some sheet music to send to the other band members, and she asked what they're for. I briefly explained and she asked if she can play with us. Sure!

HSJ:I ask everyone this one...favorite Sabbath song?(and if you had to,how would you go about "covering" a Sabbath song?).

DS:Hmmm... "Black Sabbath".

I go about covering everything pretty much the same way: start with the vocal melody, see if I can just play that as a riff, and if not then I start looking at the instrumental parts. So I'd start working ona cover of "Black Sabbath" by learning to play all the vocal melodies on bass.

HSJ:Tell us about future plans/releases...will we be seeing Lonesome Drinking Metal any time soon?

DS:Sure, it's scheduled for the summer - the label hit the usual set of delays. "Schmerzensgewalt" should be released first, though. I've also started work on a new Wolfmangler album for 2010. This one will include an older woman on vocals, she's all of 23. I'm also putting together a metal tribute to Army Of Lovers.

No comments: