Tuesday, May 14, 2019

an interview with ZAUM

The trance-like repetition of doom/drone - as well as its resonating low-end frequencies - make it a perfect, if unlikely, vessel for meditation. Perhaps there's no better example of this than Canada's Zaum, who have crafted their own unique style of middle-eastern inflected doom. Their latest album, aptly titled Divination, is out now through Listenable Records. Vocalist/bassist Kyle Alexander McDonald was kind enough to answer my questions about the band's history and how they approach making heavy music.

Dreams of Consciousness: Please introduce Zaum - who are you, where are you from, and how would you describe the music you make?

I’m Kyle Alexander McDonald - long time audio engineer based in Moncton, NB, Canada. ZAUM is my meditative musical expansive universe. I’ve been joined from day one by my one of my best and closest brothers in life, Christopher Lewis, who is an absolute sludge monster on the kit and top shelf man. I’d describe our music most accurately as Old World Mantra Doom. We recently added visual artist Nawal Doucette to the band's live ritual-esque experience.

DoC: For those who aren't familiar with you, please give a brief history of your band - when did you form, and what were your intentions at the time?

Band formed in 2013 officially. I’d been tired of compromising my individual vision by collaborating in writing or just contributing - and knew the time had come to focus on my own endeavor, and so here we are. The intentions were to be as self indulgent as possible and not give an absolute shit what anyone else thought, and if people liked it well then that would be a bonus, but [we want] to simply please ourselves.

DoC: Your music is described as "mantra doom". How did you arrive at this sound? What do you want your audience to experience while listening to your music? Would you describe Zaum as religious/spiritual?

I think it’s a natural combination of my favorite avenues of music and sound. I love experimenting with sound, but I also love all things very heavy, deep, melodic, transient, ambient, and traditional world sounding. When you put all of those factors into play through my creative lens - ZAUM is truly what you get.

DoC: Your third album Divination has just come out. What can you tell me about the writing and recording of the album? How wold you compare it to your previous album Eidolon?

"Pantheon" [the second song on the album] was initially recorded during Eidolon but half of the recordings were lost (long story). " Relic" and "Procession" were both written in the fall of 2018. I think there are a lot of similarities with Eidolon but the songs maybe are a little more patient, focused and less “progressive”, for lack of a better term.

DoC: Divination uses a lot of instruments and percussion not typically heard in Western music. What led to you including these elements? How difficult is it to integrate these into your live performances?

It’s quite easy to integrate due to the approach as I consider we will only be two performers on stage, so I keep any of those additions very transient and drone based - which changes our sound from how we would allow the material be approached if we had others joining us live musically...would/could/perhaps be possible moving forward.

DoC: Dancer Nawal Doucette is part of your live line-up. How did you meet her, and why did you decide to add her to your performances?

She saw us and expressed interest to perform live with us in 2014, though it only came to fruition in Dec 2017. The result worked out so well, we decided for 2019 we would include her ritual-esque element for people to see.

DoC: In addition to Doucette, your live shows incorporate a video backdrop and costumes. How important is the visual element to the experience of playing/performing to you?

We don't have costumes actually, we just wear what we wear that day. The projections and Nawal’s ritual enactments are the visual aspect of our show coupled with our low candlelit environment. I think it’s important for us to have something there to help further the live experience of hearing our deep patient vibes.

DoC: Given the nature of your music, what kind of bands do you prefer to tour with? How would you describe the reaction you get from more "traditional" doom/metal fans? What bands would you like to tour with that you haven't had a chance to yet?

I think we do best with crowds who have open minds, so there’s a wide array there for sure. My dream band to tour with would probably be The Melvins. But realistically, I’d love to tour with a band like Helm’s Alee or Big Business, but then alternatively I’d be incredibly intrigued to tour with a band like Drab Majesty or SURVIVE. I like bills with totally different sounding bands that can somehow work well together to a shared audience.

DoC: For those of us outside of Canada, what is Music/Musique New Brunswick, and how have they supported Zaum?

Music NB is a fantastic organization run by our province of New Brunswick in Canada, which supports hard working original artists who have a focused goal of exporting their music and expanding their audience - in effect putting the province of NB (Canada) on the world's radar and spectrum. They have provided us with financial contributions in the past, to aid us in the creation and touring of our albums. It’s my personal belief that we are very fortunate in New Brunswick and in Canada that our government supports the arts; from what I hear, this is a very rare thing in much of the world and we are certainly privileged to benefit from their incredibly crucial assistance.

DoC: What's next for Zaum?

North American album release May 10! Order a copy here.


Zaum on Facebook

Zaum on Bandcamp

Zaum on Instagram

Zaum on Twitter

Divination through Listenable Records Bandcamp

Doom Mantia:

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Dead To A Dying World
an interview
with Völur