There will always be bands, that pay tribute to other bands that paved the way for a certain sound or a certain completed style of music. You could call them copycats or just a group of people that are having fun at what they´re doing and are not attempting anything else. Then there´s bands whose influences are inescapable and yet they manage to have just enough of fresh ideas in their songwriting, as to remodel an already catalogued style. Atten Ash falls under this second category of approaches to music, we´re talking expertly written Doom/Death Metal with a strong acknowledgement to the sound of the nineties but with enough of the band´s own identity. Seeing as the group´s debut album “The Hourglass” had already been released back in 2012 and now again through Hypnotic Dirge Records, plus the fact that I really enjoyed the album, I felt the need to inquire about some things regarding the band. Band architect James Greene and lead guitarist Barre Gambling served the answers.
Gentlemen, congrats on a fine release, I´ve been listening to it extensively! How are you doing?
Barre: Hello, thanks for the kind words about the album. We’ve been ok, just rolling forward through the winter like a tank.
Alright, let´s get started with “The Hourglass”. It is by no means a fresh album, since it was already released back in 2012. Can you perhaps explain a bit about why this album has two apparent releases. Furthermore, how did the second release come about?
Barre: The first ‘release’ was basically when we put the album on Tunecore, which distributed it digitally to iTunes and many other music sites. We told people about it online but didn’t do much else to support the album. I was involved in a handful of other projects at the time, and Daylight Dies “A Frail Becoming” also was released in 2012, so needless to say I had my hands full. Fast forward to 2014 – I was contacted by Megan from Lycanthia – excellent Australian doom/goth band – who asked me about contributing an unreleased Daylight Dies track to a split 7” single. Atten Ash had a full album of basically unknown material so I suggested our song “City in the Sea”. It was received well and Megan sent it to Lycanthia’s label Hypnotic Dirge Records. Nick from HDR got in touch and we began discussing an official physical release of the album.
How are you experiencing the feedback this time around? Is it any different? I guess there´d be more media and fan output this time around right?
Barre: The response has been as different as night and day – it’s amazing how much bigger promotion can result from teaming up with a label. Our songs have been shared online within the doom community, I feel word is finally getting out about Atten Ash. We’ve had many excellent reviews and interviews to help continue the push for months to come.
The album encompasses everything I´ve come to love about the nineties death/doom style with the obvious namedropping. I think the album´s strongest asses is the fact that the strong influences don´t play too much into the actual songwriting if you know what I mean.
Barre: I think I do know what you mean, the sound is familiar yet not boxed in. We are just guys playing music we love, and we all love the classic doom/death sound with our own twists and modernizations.
On paper the band is portrayed as a trio. How did this all come about in forming the band and the goals you then set to achieve? What does the band name itself mean btw?
Barre: The group was created around the music of James Greene. He plays drums, bass, rhythm, clean, and melody guitars on the album as well as doing the clean vocals. He wrote, recorded, and produced the album at his home studio by himself – minus harsh vocals and guitar solos. Archie (vocals) and I instantly recognized the recordings he was making as doom/death gold, and James was happy to let us take a shot at adding our vocal and guitar creativity. He was pleased with our contributions and thus the 3 piece version of Atten Ash was born. The 3 members of the band, Archie Hunt, James and myself have known each other for many years. James and Archie played together for years in the black metal band Legion of the Fallen. I played bass in their band one summer while on break from Daylight Dies. The name means ‘near ash’ basically, as well as giving respect to the family name of James: ‘Nash’.
Yeah the songwriting bit came as a surprise, because I could´ve sworn that Mr. Gambling was behind the songwriting, since it has some shades of Daylight Dies in it. James, you´re credited for all the writing. Can you talk maybe about your influences and how you approach songs?
James: Well, Daylight Dies and other bands of the genre have inﬂuenced me greatly. It’s a genre and style that I feel comfortable writing and playing in. I believe that we’ve joked before that we’re just good enough at our instruments to play doom metal, nothing faster. I’m serious when I say that, but I know Barre can do more. Anyways, I listen to all types of metal and rock, for that matter, but when I write, it sounds like Atten Ash. Barre helped tremendously with arrangement, vocals, and solos.
I guess then Barre´s role comes more into playing in arranging and adding the leads?
James: I would say that’s accurate on “The Hourglass”. A lot of these songs were recorded and loosely arranged. It’s great to have someone like Barre, who understands the music, to use as a springboard for ideas. We’d listen to them and go from there. I’d re-record parts and move things etc…
Edgar Allan Poe has been adapted for a couple of tracks, and on a track like “Song for the Dead” the lyrics are listed as a collective cooperation. It feels like there´s a strong urge to convey a profound message through Atten Ash. Any truth to that?
Barre: There are a variety of subjects touched upon throughout the lyrics. Some messages found within “The Hourglass” are centered on an impending countdown to destruction – societal or personal. “City in the Sea” can be interpreted as a warning about global rising sea levels, the song “The Hourglass” can be read as being about the futility of man’s aspirations, be it from fate or freewill, the end result seems to be the same: a race toward self-destruction.
Since it doesn´t say anywhere in the album booklet I was wondering if you could talk a bit about the album recording session, where it was recording, mixed and so on?
James: Honestly, I thought this album would never see the light of day, that’s why it’s been re-released. It was available online through multiple avenues, but never gained much traction. Without Barre’s connections, if you will, it would still be just another unsigned and obscure album. Recording the album was pretty simple with my limited means and budget. I plugged away at it, starting with guitars for about 3 weeks. My small recording room was set up to record on the ﬂy, so I was able to knock it out by myself. I managed a few solos, if you will, and had Barre send me some killer solo tracks. I re-amped the raw tracks and threw them into the mix. At that time, Archie was tracking demo vocals and sending me raw ﬁles. It pretty much worked like that for several months… Back and forth mixing, layering, etc. Daylight Dies was in the midst of their recording and I was super jealous after hearing about how they recorded drums – in a real studio! It sounds like it too. I’m certain the next Atten Ash release will be far better in terms of production.
I´m gonna throw some more personal questions if you don´t mind, still music related. Firstly, what´s your view on the music industry today, and by that I mean things like downloading, social media insanity, endless amounts of bands competing for the concert audiences… what do you make of all this?
Barre: The industry is evolving before our eyes. The rise of watchdog groups rewarding bands for heavy Youtube and Spotify exposure is a good step, but the compensation is laughable compared to the hits/views. In my experience most underground band money is made from selling merchandise at shows or online, so downloads and record sales (or lack of) don’t have to ruin a band. On the concert front – there are always bands willing and able to do things for free, so it’s imperative for the band to offer value – by better music, a better entertaining experience, etc. In many US cities, ‘pay to play’ is standard for opening acts and is horrific in my point of view – clubs require the opening bands to buy a certain amount of tickets – like $500 worth – and it’s up to the band to resell these or take a loss. All to open for a touring band!!!
What´s your take on the Metal scene today? Does it still have a lot to offer, are you discovering new bands on a regular basis?
Barre: There are good new bands, but nothing compares to the absolute explosion of rad metal that happened in the 1990s from the Scandinavian scene. Today’s scene is huge and varied, there is truly something for everyone, and that’s a good thing.
And lastly… and I´m going out on a limb but I´m guessing answers are in sight. Your favorite Katatonia, Diabolical Masquerade and October Tide albums?
Katatonia – Brave Murder Day and Sounds of Decay era
Diabolical Masquerade – Nightwork
October Tide – Grey Dawn
Since this album was a home run for me personally, I feel compelled to ask if there´s already new songs in the works? Considering that the material on “The Hourglass” is several years old.
Barre: There are several new demos already recorded of new material. James is building a studio/practice room as a separate building at his new house. I have a feeling the ideas will really begin to fly when that space is complete. James: Yeah, life’s been crazy and I’m trying to get this studio thing done soon. Once that’s complete, life will hopefully allow some time for writing again. Several songs are pretty much complete. It’s just a slow process right now with so many things going on.
And Barre, since I have you here, can you give a brief update on how things are in the Daylight Dies camp?
Barre: This will be a brief update as I’ve nothing new to report on the DD front.
Haha ok. And are there plans on playing Atten Ash shows in the future, or is this strictly a studio/creative playground?
Barre: Yes, shows will be happening to support “The Hourglass’”. We are currently jamming with a talented doom guitarist to complete a four piece live band.
Alright, I´m going to wrap it up for this time. Thank you so much Barre and James for taking the time to answer my questions. Any last words?
Barre: Thank you for the interview and the support! James: Yeah, and thanks for your interest.