Monday, July 25, 2016

An Interview with DreamLongDead

As someone weirdly obsessed with the idea of R'lyehan death metal, Athens' DreamLongDead were quite a find. As evidenced by their last album AriseHowlingDarkness: Of Cyclopean Masonry & Non-Euclidean Geometry, the band has both a unique vision and some top notch songwriting; a study in creepy atmospherics as curated by HP Lovecraft and Autopsy. Vocalist/guitarist Tassos was kind enough to answer my questions and indulge my increasing Lovecraft fixation. Cthulhu Ftagn!

Dreams of Consciousness: What is DreamLongDead?

“Dreamlongdead” is a song from Streetcleaner by Godflesh, one of my (ours? I know for sure it is for our guitar player Panho) favourite records, and bands, in general. I had this idea lying around since the late 90s, that when, or if, I’d form a metal band, I would call it that. Then I made the connection that DreamLongDead could not only have political, or social, connotations, as it does in the Godflesh context, but also Lovecraft-ian ones. You see Cthulhu is “Dead but Dreaming” (here’s a Deicide reference for you) in the underwater ruins of R’lyeh. So in this dual context it is a perfect name for this band. Or else DreamLongDead is a bunch of middle aged, into their late 30's and early, or not so early depending on whom of us five you pick, 40's, balding, beer bellied, miserable and grumpy bastards playing, or at least trying to play, the music that they feel like.

photo by Unkle Jerry

DoC: Please give us a brief history of the band - how did you end up forming, and what were your intentions? 

Well, 5 years ago my life was coming to a standpoint, or a crossroads phase if you’d like: Musically, professionally, emotionally/relationship-wife, family life-wise, everything was beginning to fall apart, as it would eventually do. Most importantly I was in my mid 30s and I was stuck in a creative rut, because for the last few years before that, I was playing with bands that I didn’t have any creative input, so the need to form a band that I would play my own stuff was almost irrepressible. As to what that stuff would be, around that time I was listening to bands like Hooded Menace, Coffins and Disma, and I was enjoying the fact that death metal was becoming again focused, not on technicality, but rather on atmosphere, and was thinking that, that stuff was reminding me my tape trading days back in the late 80s/early 90s. As I hadn’t played in any metal band since 1992/93, it was only natural for me to go back to my glory teen/post-teen dayz/daze. And when I mean my own stuff, I don’t only mean my own riffs, or ‘songs’, but the general vision/idea behind the band.

And then people that I knew, and they knew each other more or less through our involvement with music for all those years, would come in, they would bring their own songs, riffs, lyrics and ideas, but most importantly their own idiosyncrasies and eccentricities, and this vision would get enhanced and furthered. We started as a two piece, just me and drummer Tolis; very soon after that George came in on bass, during the recordings of our first album John came in on vocals, and right after that recording Panho came in on guitar.

DoC: DreamLongDead combines a lot of different styles, including doom, death metal, and psychedelia. What led to this approach? If you could sum up your music with one word, what would it be? 

Well I think that our ‘approach’ is not something pre-determined and pre-calculated. We are just like that as people. We listen to all kinds of stuff, and even though we have no illusions as to just what kind of band we are, these different things that we listen to, tend to creep in. When it comes to death and doom metal, we like their earliest, more primitive, primal and menacing manifestations. I especially like the ‘psychedelia’ bit that you mentioned. We like spaces in our music. And when you are doing this ‘horror’ thing you ought to utilize empty spaces (Pink Floyd reference here for you) to enhance the atmosphere and built a sense of suspense. We got this ‘spaces’ thing from quite a few sources: From several of the rock stuff like Pink Floyd, Blue Oyster Cult or Led Zeppelin that we are listening to, from John Carpenter soundtracks, from godly fuckin’ Autopsy’s Mental Funeral, from Neurosis and many more…

As far a summing up our music with just one word, we’ve found ourselves using the word “shitty” quite often. We like to think that when someone is putting on one of our albums to listen, or when people are coming to one of our gigs, and then the first chords, drum cymbals and growls crash down on them, it’s like a huge bag full of shitloads of, well, shit, crashes and splashes onto their heads.

DoC: Your last album is pretty unique, and it combines a lot of familiar death and doom metal elements in a way that I haven't heard before. In addition, the songs tend to be quite long without getting repetitive or boring. What were the writing sessions like? Why is it that DreamLongDead tends to gravitate towards long songs? 

Thank you for the uniqueness remark. It isn’t the first time we come across the exact same remark about “familiar in a non-familiar way”, and it makes feel us really good because it seems that we are doing something right, and that’s getting across to people that take the time to enjoy what we do. You know, we are old. And as old fuckers we don’t culture illusions as to what we can, or we cannot do, and in addition to that, and just because we are old, we don’t have the self-righteous zest and ambition younger bands have. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have our [own] vision. And part of that vision is that we like to play our own shit without fretting too much if something sounds familiar or not, and most times if it does it is a purposeful tribute or easter egg kinda thing to the band/artist we have lifted it off. And again just because we are old, our influences are by now embedded into us, so we are not forcing things. That answers the writing sessions part of your question. Let’s say that it is not as laborious as one would think. We are not looking for the most original, or the most out there, riff. If it sounds good and it is arranged in a good way it works for us.

I would like to think that the reason why our songs don’t get boring despite their lengths, is that they are actual songs, not just a riff jammed out to death, or a random assortment and pilling up of riffs for an indefinite amount of time. Or songs have structures: verses, choruses, hooks and arrangements, they are ‘normal’ songs, but they are stretched out in time. We appreciate good songwritting skills, and we like good songs, and we like to bring that to our own stuff. And this is probably why we gravitate towards long songs: We play so slow, so in order for a song to make its cycle and feel completed it might take some time, ha ha ha…

DoC: The title of your last album invokes the work of HP Lovecraft - specifically, his description of the lost city of R’lyeh. Would you say the music reflects Lovecraft's style? If R'lyeh had a death metal scene, what would it sound like? 

You are totally right. The album title is just that. If our music reflects Lovecraft’s style? Well that’s an enjoyable thought. For once, it’s what you said in your previous question, the familiar elements combined in a non-familiar fashion. I’d say that’s a Lovecraft-ian trait. He describes more than once how familiar geometrical and architectural elements are combined in non-euclidean ways to create a disconcerting effect. Then Lovecraft’s writing used to drag out quite a bit and get a tad over-pompous, to say the least. That is definitely something we can connect with ha ha ha…

… And needless to say if there ever was a death metal scene in R’lyeh it’d better sound like us. As a matter of fact these years that DreamLongDead are active, we’re concentrating our dream waves towards the Big Guy to get us as the house band. We’ll get our answer in about a millennium or so, just when the stars align again!!!

DoC: You were recently included on a 4 way split with Abyssus, Slaughtered Priest and Death Courier. How did the split come about? What does the song you contributed say about the future direction of DreamLongDead?

Costas from Abyssus was putting this together, and he was kind enough to ask us, and it was great idea for quite some reasons. First of we’d got to share side with Death Courier, one my favourite, if not my favourite, Greek death metal bands from back from the very early 90s. Second, we always wanted to do a 7” but we are too slow, lazy, whatever, to get it done ourselves. And finally it serves perfectly to gap the period between our second and our third, which looks like it might take a while, record, and give a hint as to where our future direction might be heading.

And yes the song says quite a bit about our future direction. First of all, it was a challenge for us just to even write a song that would fit to a whole 7”, let alone half its side, ha ha ha… Listen. With our second record we both established and furthered our style. But I also think that we brought it to its ultimate end. I like the fact that there are some elements, the long-songs, the Lovecraft-ian supernatural horror atmosphere, that people [associate] with us, but at the same time I’m beginning to feel a resentment and a feeling that we are being painted in the corner as this really rotten, slimy, Lovecraft-ian band with the very long songs. Our new material is kinda like a paradigm shift for us, a “let’s see if we can do this” kinda thing. It’s like we are distilling and condensing our essence into smaller, maybe faster songs… and maybe we’ re getting away from this supernatural horror thing lyrically as well. We’ll see…

DoC: Along with DreamLongDead there are a growing number of exciting metal bands coming out of Greece. How would you describe the Greek metal scene? Do you have recommendations of bands that people should check out? 

Yes there are. It seems there is something for every taste nowadays in the Greek metal scene, but believe me that was NOT the case way back then, in the late 80s/early 90s. Some stuff I like, some I don’t, but not because they are not good at what they are doing, it’s just not my thing.
When it comes to recommendations, I’ll skip that part because I am biased, as the bands I would recommend would be either personal friends, or bands we’d played with and turned out to be really nice guys. If you are reading this, then you surely have an internet connection, do some research on the Greek extreme metal scene and it will be laid out before you. Cheers. [I personally have a soft spot for Awe, Nadiwrath, and Dodsferd - όνειρα της συνείδησης]

DoC: What's next for DreamLongDead?

Working on the new record man. Some of the riffs for that one I had even before we started recording our previous record so I’m itching…We got the previous record out early 2015, did some gigs, then in the summer of 2015 we recorded the song for the split 7”, and ever since then we’ve been trying to put the new songs together. The material is there. Everybody has brought his stuff on the table, but it took us quite some time for all us to get in the same wavelength, to get used to and accept the paradigm shift I told you about before. Then we did only a couple of gigs in 2016, because 2016 was a peculiar year for all of us, but we managed to get the band going and keep our practice schedule…

And now it’s summer of 2016 and seems that we are finally getting somewhere with the new songs, we even did some pre-production demos of some of them, so I think that for the rest of 2016 and for the first part of 2017, we won’t focus on gigs, because rehearsing for gigs always pulls back rehearsing for new stuff, unless something good turns up, and I hope that by this time next year, this means summer of 2017, we will be in the studio recording our third album. Shit we’ve even began exchanging ideas for the fourth one. We always do that. We haven’t even finished with an album and we are already on the next one. The Ancient Ones keeps us inspired. We are their instruments. Ia, ia…

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