Posts Tagged ‘Joel Violette’
Thrawsunblat are folk/black metal band from Canada. They released their 2nd album, Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings last month. Find out more about the album, its recording process and also plans for their 3rd album in my interview with vocalist/guitarist Joel Violette
Hi Joel, congrats on the release of your new album. How does it feel now that the album has been released?
Thank you, Peter! It feels very, very good. It’s been a long haul, and it’s just so satisfying to have the finished product. It’s a thing where you just want it to be done, immediately, and give everyone the album! But there are so many intermediary steps and so many people working on the project that it just takes time. I want to thank all the people involved for their hard work and dedication, and the fans for their patience and understanding.
Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings is a concept album. Can you tell us about it?
Sure. It draws greatly from Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology, his concept of the “Hero’s Journey” or “monomyth”, the storyline the he found to underlie most of the world’s myths. Myths, and even today’s books and movies, all have a common set of archetypes and major plot points that we, as humans, universally connect with. It’s a sort of subconscious set of entities, from which all myth and otherwise satistfying stories draw. Wanderer… also draws from Campbell’s concept that we all, individually, can view our lives as some form of monomyth or another. So the album is the journey of a Wanderer, a character symbolic of most anyone in North America today, and this Wanderer’s challenges dealing with our modern versions of age-old problems, including finding purpose, substance, meaning, and in dealing with death. Every culture in every era has had these problems, and each has had their own unique set of solutions for them. This album explores all of that stuff.
How different is the album compared to Thrawsunblat I: Canada 2010?
The first album was really a collection of demos, all written independently, and with independent thematic scopes, yet all within the same musical “environment within which” the listener experiences them. They were songs I’d written between 2004 (the first song I ever wrote was a (terribly rough) version of Misted Shores) and 2009.
For the second album, there was time to plan, so all the songs are really part of an overarching concept. Every song has its place, and every word in the lyrics really has a purpose, even in conjunction with other songs.
There’s a bit of a difference, instrumentally as well. Thrawsunblat II has a lot more clean singing, has fiddles, has tin whistle, and even some backup vocals from Rae. The production is also fantastic, with Siegfried Meier at the helm. I think it’s a perfect blend of polish, yet with certain rawness to it.
What was the songwriting and recording process like with Rae Amitay and Brendan Hayter based in Boston, USA and you based in Fredericton, Canada?
It was great. Brendan and Rae are fantastic musicians and equally fantastic people, so to work with them is great. The way it worked was this: I would write a demo, send it to Rae and Brendan, each of them would record a video of themselves playing their part, and I would watch that video and usually say “Done! That part is it.” and that would be the end of it!
The recording worked a bit differently. Rae recorded her drum parts in Boston, sent the files to Siegfried Meier at Beach Road Studios in Goderich, Ontario, who mixed them. As the base of the song, the drums really have to go first, so once they were done, I recorded rhythm guitars in New Brunswick, and sent those mixes to Brendan, who recorded the bass. Once Siegfried put these together as rough mixes I was able to add the solos, leads, keys, tin whistles, and vocals, as well as record Jeff Mott’s fiddles. Then it all got shipped back to Sig who worked his magic.
The album was produced by Siegfried Meier in the Beach Road Studios. How was it working with Siegfried again?
It was fantastic. I feel very lucky to have been able to work with him not only once, but twice! Sig is very, very talented, and really fun to work with. He also has a knack for adding cool, edgy, and tasteful little bits to songs that really improve a track. Anything you hear on the album that’s cool, effects-wise, that was Sig. He also helped a huge amount when I was recording my parts, even though he was in Ontario and I was in New Brunswick. He always had a tip for mic placement, or technical stuff, or whatever. If I had a question, Sig had an answer.
Thrawsunblat II was funded through Thrawsunfundraising. Were you surprised by the response that you received?
We really were surprised, and terribly humbled. The amount of support was unreal. We 100% could not have done this album without the support of these generous people. What I’m deeply pleased about is that these supporters seem to really love the album, which is so very important. We created a lot of hype and expectation with the fundraiser, and above all we wanted the donors to feel like they’ve made a good investment. Granted, they got lots of unique swag as fundraiser incentives, but it’s also important that they like the album! I got an email from our biggest donor the other day saying he’d had very high expectations of the album and that the album had somehow surpassed them. That really makes it worth it.
What are your plans for 2013? Any tours planned?
I’m afraid not, yet! Plans for 2013 are to promote the album and perhaps search for a label for T3. And then writing of T3. There are two albums I’ve got brewing. It’s just a matter of figuring out which one to do first. One is an all acoustic album–yet still Thrawsunblat through and through– with fiddles, drums, tin whistles, and more vocals from Rae. The second is another folk/black metal album, similar to Canada 2010, yet where Canada 2010 was green, for trees, this album will be red, for fire.
Any final words?
Thank you for the great questions, Peter! I really enjoyed this! Cheers!
Listen/Download Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings here.
As I mentioned in my Tribute to David Gold, I would try and get in contact with Joel Violette for an interview regarding the latest Woods of Ypres album, “Grey Skies and Electric Light”. Well I did manage to and he was gracious to reply to all my questions.
Find out more about his thoughts on the final album by Woods of Ypres in my interview below.
Your first album as a “signed band” has just released under some of the toughest circumstances. Your thoughts on the same?
It is indeed a tough time, for everyone David knew. But, you’re right, doubly so for his family and me because of the impending release of Woods 5. But Earache has been very understanding and respectful. David’s family is going through a very tough time, but they are nevertheless committed to making sure Woods 5 receives the press, attention, and reception it deserves. We are all working together with Earache to ensure this!
“Grey Skies and Electric Light” was your second release as full time member of the band. What was the song writing process like? Did being a signed band have any effect on it?
The song writing process for Woods 5 was a blast. For Woods 4.5: Home, David wrote all the songs, and I contributed solos and lead guitar on three of five songs we recorded. That was a good experience, and started off my writing relationship with David. Woods 5 was different in that I ended up writing half the songs the album, musically at least. David still wrote all the lyrics. But I sent him a few demos that he really liked, and told me to keep pounding them out, and that we would use the best 10-12 songs we came up with between the two of us. It happened to be six and six. There will only be 11 tracks on the final album because “Kiss My Ashes (Goodbye)” is one spliced into one massive song rather than two regular-length ones.
The “signed band” aspect of it did two things. First, it provided us with some money up front to cover recording costs, which takes a big stress off. And second, it provided a sort of “legitimacy” behind the decision to quit work and dedicate two months of one’s life to writing and recording an album. We treated it like a job. We got up each day to a pot of coffee, then worked away all day.
The album was recorded with producer Siegfried Meier at Beach Road Studios. How different was the recording process this time around?
We had excellent chemistry with Sig, and David, Sig and I were all on fire. Sig really knows his stuff, and can make magic happen. The biggest difference between Woods 5 and the other albums is something that David kept mentioning: we finished everything we wanted to finish, and did so with an entire day to spare. The other four (and a half) Woods albums were a case of recording to the last minute, and seeing how long the recording engineer would let them go! With Woods 5 we finished the bulk of it after 10-11 days, and the last few days were only spent touching things up. This was partly because we had 85-90% of the album written before the studio, were very well-rehearsed, and partly thanks to Siegfried’s skill and expertise.
(Left to Right) Joel Violette, Siegfried Meier, David Gold
It was produced by John Fryer (Depeche Mode, NIN, White Zombie, HIM). What was it like working with him?
We were in awe of John and his discography, and were honoured to work with him. But we never actually worked with him face-to-face. It was all after the recording process, and we only communicated with him via email, commenting on his mixes, which we really liked. He was impressed with Woods 5, and wanted to work with us on our next record, which would have been amazing. It’s sad it will never happen.
David did not chronicle the recording process through either blogs or photos as he did with the previously released albums. Was there any reason behind it?
It’s true that not much footage was released, but we did actually chronicle the recording process. We took loads of videos in studio, loads of videos during the writing process. The plan was for us to create a video chronicling each song on the album, from the beginning riffs in Sault Ste Marie to the finished product at Beach Road Studios. And we each wrote a studio diary, to be released as a sort of hype-up to the release of Woods 5, but we actually don’t have David’s diary. He never submitted it.
Woods of Ypres has recently transformed from an Ontario black metal band to a North American Black and Doom metal band. What were the reasons behind the change?
I think David was always pushing Woods of Ypres forward, and always changing the sound to suit. He reached many goals with his Ontario ‘trilogy’ of Woods 1-3, and from there the only logical way forward was beyond Ontario. Woods 4, the album that would break these boundaries, happened to be a doom album, and really cemented that tag for David and Woods. Woods 5, in turn, definitely pushes this boundary of “North American Black and Doom”. It certainly includes some black metal, and some doom, but its songs are by no means confined to these genres.
Where does the future lie for Woods of Ypres?
Sadly, David was Woods of Ypres. His voice and his lyrics are irreplaceable, as was his vision of what Woods was, and what Woods would become. Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Lights will indeed be released as planned, on February 27th, but after that, I’m afraid there won’t be any Woods 6.
You have another band, Thrawsunblat which featured David on Drums. What are you plans for the band?
I actually have all of “Thrawsunblat II” written and demoed. I’d sent it all to David, and he was rehearsing it on the drums. Plans were to record in 2012. David was an incredible drummer, both in skill and creativity, and is a massive loss to Thrawsunblat. He will be difficult to replace. Nevertheless, I’ll soldier on, and try to find someone suitable. The next album is raw folk and black metal, like the first, but it’s much more focused, more complex, and more coherent thematically. It deals much more with Atlantic Canada and North America, yet still in a very folk-ish way. And though I don’t have the personnel selected yet, the next Thrawsunblat album will still be recorded in 2012.
Thanks a lot Joel for answering all my questions during this tough time. Do you have any final words?
Thank you, Peter! It’s been a pleasure. Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light is available from Earache Records February 27th, 2012!
I have the promo copy of the album and I feel its best album by Woods of Ypres. Pick up a copy of “Grey Skies and Electric Light” from the Earache Web store.
Update: Woods of Ypres won the Juno award for best Metal/Hard Music album of the year. Joel Violette and Esther Gold (David’s mother) accepted the award, check out the video below