Saturday, April 9, 2016

Urban Desolation Collective Interview

In 2003 TAOP started Urban Desolation Collective. Tell us more about it: as far as I know, despite the name, bands in UDC aren’t united by their love to the urban culture.

I can’t really remember what was going through our heads when we came up with the idea for UDC; I suppose in the absence of any sort of musical scene at the time - regionally or nationally – that we felt we could relate to, we decided to construct our own, creating an umbrella term for projects that we were involved in, including some of our friends. There wasn’t really a concrete way of stating who was part of the UDC and who wasn’t, the whole structure never really crystallised. Nowadays our situation has changed; the whole idea of the UDC isn’t relevant to us in the same way, it’s just a convenient way of being able to discuss a number of different projects in one space, like this interview!

You’re correct that the name UDC isn’t a matter of shared aesthetic or vision; the idea was to unite the different projects based on where the members came from, i.e. the weathered urban landscapes of Teesside and the North East of England. How that location related to each project is a matter for conjecture, though most it must be said we about offering a psychological escape or relief from the place.

What was the purpose of creating UDC?

Creating a little scene for ourselves because we felt a bit isolated, I guess. By creating a contrived sense of community we hoped to attract like-minded people to work with, ideally drawing people out of the woodwork in Middlesbrough who we wouldn’t have otherwise gotten to know. It didn’t really work, there isn’t a UDC project which me or Brooke aren’t involved in, in at least some way.

What bands are in UDC at the moment? Is it still active?

I suppose we don’t really think of the UDC at all unless we’re in a situation like this, when it’s useful. Insofar as the UDC primarily consists of any project we’re involved in that our origins in Teesside has, or had, an impact on, it’s actually easier to say which bands aren’t part of it, which is basically just Wodensthrone, in that I only joined when they were already an established band with quite a separate identity and no particular relation to Teesside apart from my involvement.

The primal working force of TAOP (as well as of many other projects in UDC) is the Brooke Johnson and Michael Blenkarn duo. Pulsefear seems to be your first collaboration. Tell about its formation, please.

Pulsefear was actually our second collaboration, after the original incarnation of Minethorn. Its history is very much intertwined with the gestation of TAOP, growing ultimately out of the same roots in the tabletop RPG “Call of Cthulhu”. At one of our first games, Brooke asked me to provide some atmospheric background music, and I chose a tape of guitar-based ambient/drone that I had recently received in a trade (I was lucky enough to catch the tail-end of tape-trading culture that still existed in the late-90s), Maeror Tri’s classic “Emotional Engramm”, which is still one of my favourite albums. The selection went down very well and we ended up using it a lot, gradually instilling the idea in us to create atmospheric guitar-FX based ambience of our own. In Summer 2001, we quite spontaneously spent a week of intensively recording improvised guitar ambient jams using FX pedals, keyboards, household objects, samples, etc., which we recorded on my four track. Each jam would take up a full side of a tape. In between, we watched inspirational films and played a lot of “Silent Hill”, basically living continuously in this sound-world until we could edit together approximately two hours of music. It was a very inspiring and fulfilling week. As the sounds developed, we listened back to them for hours at a time and discussed the psychedelic nightmare world that we felt the tracks depicted; this was the beginning of TAOP, though we didn’t know it at the time.

The first Pulsefear release was a part of a split with TAOP issued in 2002. Was it all the material you had at that moment, or some part of it remained unreleased?

The “Notes from the Lighthouse” tracks were snippets from the two hours worth of material we assembled in Summer 2001. We just picked out a few little bits we thought would be a nice taster of the band, though in retrospect I think it was a grave error of judgement to introduce the band to the world with a track based on a lengthy sample from “Silent Hill”, it was a real creative - or more correctly pseudo-creative – misstep.

"Perichoresis", the first and the last Pulsefear full-length, saw the light of day in 2007 with the help of Profound Lore. Why this label was chosen? What are your impressions of working with them?

In 2006, Brooke discovered tape copies of our original jam sessions during a house move (we had considered them lost at that point) and we listened back to the material and reminisced. We still had a great fondness for it despite its flaws. Brooke decided to extensively re-edit and restructure the tapes, cherry-picking the most successful material and bulking it out with further layers of synth and percussion. I wasn’t really involved in this process except for the odd comment here and there. We were both very pleased with the results and to have finally turned that material into a proper release, “Perichoresis”. We made a Myspace and Profound Lore contacted us about releasing the album. They’re a brilliant label; I met Chris Bruni in Texas when Wodensthrone played at the warm-up show for Rites of Darkness 3 and he seems like a great guy.

The album is partly composed of the split tracks. Why you've decided to return to them?

Both the split and “Perichoresis” are culled from the same recording session; the latter is simply a lot fuller and enriched with extra parts and more concise structuring. We didn’t really put a lot of thought into editing the tracks effectively for the split, so it was nice to do that material justice by reincorporating it into its original context and enhancing it.

For the artwork Melanie Rhys works were used. Have you collaborated with this photographer somewhere else? Do you have the same vision of the urban culture, or you like only some of her works?

That’s the only time we worked with Melanie Rhys. I found her work on the internet while looking for Urbex photography; it attracted me that she was clearly a first-rate photographer who’d also done a lot of work in the North East of England, so we could incorporate locations that meant something to us personally. The majority of those pictures are from Cherry Knowle Hospital in Ryhope, which was one of the major psychiatric hospitals in the area. Once the album was finished and we had our copies back from the label, I tried to get in touch to give her some free copies by way of thanks, but she never responded. If by some chance you read this, Melanie, get in touch and I’ll send you some copies!

There was some news in 2010 about new Pulsefear material. Is this still an abstraction or we'll soon hear something particular?

We had a go at doing some more long improvised jam sessions, resulting in a number of lengthy tracks which we planned at some point to edit down; we just hadn’t gotten round to it. I know Brooke still has those recordings so it’s certainly possible. I honestly haven’t thought about them for a long time though. Like my own ambient/electronica project Ophiel ( HYPERLINK "" ), it’s something that I’m satisfied with and still intend to release properly someday, but I haven’t felt a particular need to pursue it just at the moment.

Brooke: the sessions are sat on my hard drive waiting to be worked and finished. Late last year vital parts of my recording set up died and I have not had the time or money to replace them. As well as working full time I am also studying a Geology degree so don’t really have much spare time to dedicate to music  any more.I start my final major study project in the autumn so I am hoping that in the summer break this year I will be able to get a lot of things finished and out of the way.

MINE[THORN]. Judging by the available information, the band started with some black metal theme variations, but later moved on to more industrialized sound. Was this intentional or happened naturally?

The first incarnation of Minethorn was me and Brooke’s first band together. Brooke had been playing in another band that he’d become very artistically frustrated with due to the other members insisting on pursuing a nu metal direction; he wanted to play something heavier. Meanwhile I was just playing guitar in my bedroom, writing riffs and imagining projects that never really came to fruition. The band could be best described as “demo metal”; we vacillated between elements of black metal, death metal, thrash, melo-death, doom, bits of American-style 90s metal, all sorts really, and we mistook our lack of focus for diversity and dynamics. The lyrics were all over the place too, often a weird mix of sci-fi, horror, and standard BM style misanthropic braggadocio, all fairly awful. As we developed, we went much more in a black/death direction, narrowing down our field a lot but still failing to settle on a particular character or gelling much as musicians. We were still at that stage as writers where we had little ability or ideas of how to achieve the sounds we had in our heads. TAOP was the first project we did where we really started to work together effectively towards a shared goal. Minethorn lasted until early 2002; at the same time that we recorded the “Corridors” demo, we also recorded guitars for the third Minethorn demo, but eventually gave it up to concentrate on TAOP. Quite a bit of that material, however, ended up featuring on “The Ichneumon Method” without much change (the upcoming tape reissue of “The Ichneumon Method” on Exitium Productions will probably feature the unfinished Minethorn demo as bonus tracks, so people will be able to see what I mean!).

In 2003, Brooke started working on a new industrial metal band inspired by Godflesh, Pitchshifter, Strapping Young Lad, Red Harvest, etc., and decided he wanted to reuse the Minethorn name, adding the square brackets (Mine[thorn]) to help distinguish it from the original band. Apart from the name, it’s a totally separate entity.

Brooke: I grew up in a quite an industrialised area and have always been fascinated by the industrial landscapes. I wanted to make a musical response to that, I imagined them as part of some vast mechanical organism devouring the Earth and wanted to tell that story with music.

The band has quite a lot of demos, its compilations, re-releases, and an album entitled like one of the compilations. Can you please somewhat arrange the information: what and when issued, what demos in what compilations…

The original Minethorn recorded two demos (three if you include the one we never finished), and one compilation:

“Apocalyptic Renaissance” – 2000
“The Ichneumon Method” – 2001
“2000 Aeons” (a compilation of our favourite tracks from the first two demos) – 2001
Unfinished third demo - 2002

Mine[thorn]’s full discography, as far as I know, is:

“Junkhivenoir” - 2003
“Oracle” – 2005
“Density” – 2005

“Junk Hive Noir” - 2009

As far as I know, he has been writing material steadily since and has a lot of tracks to pick from for the next album, as and when he gets round to finishing it.

Also heard that "Junk Hive Noir" was to be issued in 2006, but was released only in 2009. What was the reason for such a delay?

“Junk Hive Noir” went through a number of incarnations, due to multiple full recordings, loss of data from hard drives, different members coming and going; at one point, the label also turned down an older version of the album and asked for it to be revised, prior to recording the final version which was eventually released. As far as I know Brooke is at peace with the version of the album that finally got released but feels the earlier demos captured the essence of the band better.

At the beginning of 2011 you told about some new material. Are there any plans?

I know it’s on his “Things To Do” list and he has an abundance of material recorded, it’s just a question of time!

Brooke: being massively overambitious I had decided to do another two albums and interconnecting EP’s. Since the release of JunkHiveNoir I have amassed a ton of great material and wanted to release it all. Recently I have realised that it would be a bit of a nightmare logistically speaking to finish that much material with all my other commitments. Also more and more I am coming to the conclusion that Mine[thorn] has had its time and that ending things with a great album like JHN is a good way to leave things. There may be one more EP with a couple of new tracks and an unreleased demo or two but otherwise I think that project is getting laid to rest.

As Mike says for me the opitome of the Mine[thorn] aesthetic was reached on the JHN demo. That’s one of the reasons I struggled so much with the album, it could never live up to the demo, in my mind at least. So for me this is another reason to put it to rest and move on.

What is Phaleg? What's its line-up? At the moment all the download links for the project releases are broken. What was issued by Phaleg?

Phaleg has a long and knotted history, which like Pulsefear is intertwined with TAOP to an extent. I went to university in Stirling in Scotland, and while I was in my second year there (2001-02) I got involved in a band called Kaleb with some friends I met there who were also into black and death metal. The idea was to write something nasty and dirty, inspired by bands like Autopsy, Darkthrone, old Mayhem, Celtic Frost etc. The usual suspects. One of the vocalists, my friend Greg, was very much in charge, dictating his vision, and I tried to write material to match his ideas. I had written three rough, sketchy songs for the band when Greg had some personal problems and wasn’t around or able to participate. Kaleb became inactive; I ended up using those three songs as the basis for creating the “Corridors” demo and therefore TAOP as well. 

The next academic year, Greg was back, and we started the process over (TAOP having recorded 95% of “The Ichneumon Method” during that Summer). I had written a number of songs that got closer to achieving Greg’s goals, when the same situation happened again and I wealth of material on my hands, at a loose end. I ended up recording a full album using this material, with Brooke on bass, which we named Sardaukar. This album was never completed as we couldn’t get the lyrics or vocals right, and aside from a one-off track that we released on Soundclick in Summer 2003 with Patrick from Warbastard on guest vocals, the project was shelved. Some of this material was later harvested and integrated into Phaleg songs. 

The next academic year – my last at Stirling – Greg was back and we had a third go at Kaleb. During the recording sessions for “Physical Illucinations” over the Summer, I had recorded a number of ideas in a very stripped down, “dungeon” black/death style inspired primarily by Demoncy’s “Joined in Darkness”, the first two Craft albums, and classic Mayhem. Greg, and the other vocalist, a laidback Greek guy called Vasilis who had a fantastic voice for this kind of BM, recorded vocals and the demo was uploaded to Soundclick under the name of “Blood Wire Rust”; I don’t think I have those recordings anymore but one of the other guys might.   

In my final semester at Stirling – this would be Spring 2004 – we worked on a second demo, which never got finished. All this material would be harvested for Phaleg songs though. Greg encountered personal difficulties again and Kaleb was put on ice. I was still working on material on my own, though. 

In 2007 I decided to try and get the guys back together to do something new, and assembled a number of new songs and reworkings of old material into an 8 track album called “Abjection and Denial”. Sometime in between 2004 and 2007 I had heard that there was already a Scottish metal band called Kaleb who were well established, so as I was the only active member at the time I made the decision to rechristen the band Phaleg, on the grounds that it was very similar but also had a lot of auspicious meanings to me. Phaleg is a biblical name, meaning “division” (in the military sense); it was also the name of the architect of the Tower of Babel, who went into self-imposed exile in disgust at how the Tower had been ruined by its human inhabitants, which struck me as an appropriately misanthropic gesture. Of course, it’s also the Olympian Spirit of Mars, erstwhile Bringer of War, in the book “Arbatel De Magia Veterum” (referenced in a puzzle in the first “Silent Hill” game).  

In the end, the two original vocalists weren’t available, so surprise, surprise, I got Brooke involved to provide the vocals. We weren’t 100% happy with the resulting album and decided to break it up into smaller EPs. The first of these, “Your Pretty Flesh Is Going To Hell”, was released in 2009. It was available for free download for a time, though the link is now broken; we plan to make it available again in future when a good opportunity presents itself. The next Phaleg release will be a split release on CDr with the UKBM bands Vostok, Diversis and Denizens, due later this year. We also have another split planned and more material in the works; we made the decision some time ago that Phaleg will only do splits and EPs, not albums. 

Our concept of what Phaleg is all about is rooted in the fact that early Kaleb songs ended up inadvertently creating TAOP; we see Phaleg as picking up from “Corridors” but going in an opposite evolutionary direction; more metal, more song-orientated, less ambient. We see it as TAOP’s angry, belligerent, old-school older brother that refuses to get involved in TAOP’s psychedelic nature, focusing on hard-hitting songs and riffs, riffs, riffs. 

General Contact Unit stands apart from the rest of UDC bands: everything is built on breakbeat here. Are there any recordings? What inspired the creation of such music?

Yes, a full-length album called “The Net Is Vast” is available here for free: 

From what Brooke’s told me, I’d say that GCU isn’t so much inspired by existing breakbeat-type artists so much as his longstanding love of science fiction, especially Iain M. Banks, and Anime; he describes it as “music for giant robots to dance to”. It takes its cue from the mood of films like “Ghost In The Shell”, all hi-tech alienation and music as reimagined by artificial intelligence.

Brooke: I have nothing to add to Mikes comments; GCU is influenced more by literature, film and soundtracks than by other artists in the field. I actually listen to very little break beat or drum and bass though I am partial to some Front Line Assembly it must be said. As with everything I am involved with it had to take a back seat to my studies when I started my Geology degree last year but there is new material slowly accumulating.

The Kult of Eihort is described as a spontaneous collaboration which is hardly to be repeated later. What stops you from resurrecting it?

The Kult of Eihort actually reformed several years ago and have been working on a new album, “The Ignoble Radiance” for several years, at a glacial pace. It’s very different from “Rust Goes On Forever” while still retaining the majority of its elements; the band have taken on board a lot of non-traditional BM influences like Tom Waits, Bowie’s most experimental moments, Krautrock bands etc., and developed quite a unique sound that still contains the signature feeling of contemptuous despair. 

Brooke: Rust cannot be repeated for the same reason our other early works cannot be repeated. They were a product of a specific time and circumstances and most of those circumstances are situation I would not wish to repeat. People grow and change over time and the proclivity of metal fans to fixate on one particular era of a musicians career has always annoyed and perplexed me to some degree. 

Track "Beneath the Red Brick Cascade" wasn't included in the original demo The Kult of Eihort. As far as I know, this was the first track of the band, and was added to the split with Halo of the Sun. Why you've decided to exclude it from the initial version? Are there any other tracks left unreleased?

I think the feeling was that the main three tracks of the demo offered a complete experience without “Beneath a Red Brick Cascade”, so it was left off. Its presence on the download version is strictly as a bonus. The only other unreleased material is the new album.

Searching for some information about The Kult of Eihort, I've found myself on Halo of the Sun myspace page. Where's the line between the two projects? Is Halo of the Sun a new incarnation of The Kult of Eihort or a parallel project?

There is confusion, and I’ve no idea why as it seems fairly clear to me; Halo of the Sun is simply the solo band of Ein. The confusion arose, I assume, because the KOE demo was present on the HOTS Myspace for a while so people assumed it was a continuation rather than a spin off. It was clearly stated on the site where the demo had come from, and the distinction between the projects. 

In January 2012 the information about two Halo of the Sun albums at once was posted. As it's stated, they're to be issued this year. At what stage is the material now? What can we await from these releases?

I haven’t heard much of the material yet but as far as I know both these albums are still being developed. They are called “The Porcelain Betrayal” and “Cryogenian” and both explore different aspects of the HOTS sound. “Cryogenian” in particular is fascinating; it’s a concept album about the Cryogenian period of the earth’s history, when even the equator froze over and only the hardiest forms of life could survive. The album is cold, desolate, windswept black metal in extremis, very evocative and harrowing. Hopefully at least one of them will be finished in the near future. 

Brooke: “The Porcelain Betrayal” is very dark and dischordant, it moulders and has the texture of rotten wood and fungus. It gives me mental imigeary akin to something Beksinski would paint. It is an unhappy, unpleasant album that wallows in its own moist corpulence. “Cryogenian” on the other hand feels clean, light airy and curiously uplifting. I guess that’s a bit odd given that it is about a catastrophy that almost obliterated life on earth before it had chance to truly take hold. But it does feel very epic, life affirming by dint of the awesome power of the natural world. You think your frosten bitten northern forests of winter are cold and grim? Here, have 100 million years of total glaciation! HA!

But albums have a tentative physical release through a small label pending their completion but that has been stalled due to peoples various non music commitments and by my recording gear dying late last year. Again, hopefully in the next year one or both of them maybe completed and released. 

Halo of the Sun is the name of one of the Silent Hill universe symbols. Is this the main theme for the project basis as well as with TAOP?

Well, I know we already covered in the TAOP interview where we stand on the Silent Hill influence; for HOTS, I think the project simply needed a name and it was chosen spontaneously. Nothing the project does, as far as I know, is in any way Silent Hill related. 

Brooke: As Mike states there is no SH influence or relation in HOTS. The name was taken from an astronomical/atmospheric phenomena observed during total solar eclipse. Like all UDC projects HOTS exists in its own mythology and universe though in HOTS there are several different universe that the project flits between. 

Hiraedd (or Alasthor (Kult of Eihort)) has a project Undying – black metal inspired by the English literature and folklore. The information about it isn't easy to find either, and what I know is there's a 2006 demo, nothing else. Is there any news from this project?

One recording, “A Haunt Within The Mist”, was made public in 2006; this is available from HYPERLINK "" for free download. A tape version will be released shortly on Exitium Productions. Everything except for the vocals was actually recorded in Summer 2004 while TAOP was recording “Deleted Scenes”; Undying would record when TAOP wasn’t, which is why the two recordings share the same guitar sound. 

While Undying is defunct, Hiraedd (now using the spelling Hiraeth, which is simply a more phonetically representative way of spelling the name, and for aesthetic reasons) is involved in two other BM-based projects, which will hopefully be going public and releasing full length recordings later this year. 

The least comprehensible project for me is Dark between the Stars – nicknames, no information, the only demo isn't possible to download because the links are long time broken, the website doesn't exist. Describe this project and its status at the moment.

Dark Between The Stars was a short lived project me and Brooke did during 2001. I had just discovered midi and was creating ridiculously overblown keyboard-orientated songs inspired by combining the sounds of Bal Sagoth and Limbonic Art. Brooke did vocals. It was a fun, over-the-top project and we recorded a full-length demo, but the results didn’t come out very well so we’ve never had any plans to release it. 

Brooke: we recently relistened to the demo and it was not as bad we remembered but our ambitions certainly far outstretched our abilities. It’s something that would be fun to revisit and redo properly but it’s at the end of a very long list of things that need doing first. 

Vortex Syndrome, another UDC project, is as vague as many others. A 2003 demo is the only release, though a full-length through Ammonite Records was planned in 2006. Why this never happened? And what's about this project now?

Vortex Syndrome was a band Brooke was involved in as guitarist/songwriter. There was a plan to do a split release with a UKBM project called Xenolith in 2006, but as far as I know Xenolith dropped out of contact and the release never happened; I think the project spent a period of time in limbo because of that, and never really recovered as Brooke became busy with other things which took precedence. 

Brooke: Xenolith disappeared and so did various people involved in Vortex so the project quietly evaporated many years ago. I think there is a myspace and some free downloads knocking about but that’s about it. 

Hesper Payne project of Brooke Johnson and Ian Fenwick duo is based on Lovecraft universe. How much this theme is interesting for the band at the moment? Don't feel somewhat commonplace with all the bands inspired by the works of this writer?

Hesper Payne is primarily inspired by the local coastal areas of the North East, the folklore of the old fishing communities and the unique atmosphere of the small, isolated seaside villages in the area, which we’ve all gotten to know from childhood. The Lovecraftian themes that Hesper Payne incorporates have their essence rooted in that personal history, so it’s a unique spin on the idea. Also, despite the abundance of Lovecraft inspired metal projects out there, very few actually come close to addressing the inspiration properly or approaching the distinct Lovecraft “feeling” so I think Brooke also set out to achieve that where most bands have failed. 

Brooke: most ‘Lovecraftian’ metal bands fall well short of truly representing the ideas dealt with in the mans work. Most of the time various entities and themes are just used as substitutes for standard metal tropes; e.g. satan becomes Cthulhu and gore gets replaced with ancient madness. The true horror in his work comes from the realization that despite humanities great achievements we in habit an insignificant world in a vast and indifferent universe and like the many species before us we will inevitiably become extince and leave little trace but our fossils. 

Hesper are not strictly Lovecraftian per se. The band inhabits its own universe based on Northeast English folk tales and mythologies. The connection comes from these folk tales being retold in a certain Lovectraftian style and using his aesthetics and descriptive language. There are a few, mainly early, Hesper songs that are direct nods to his and other mythos writers work. But in these cases we are much more ‘weird tales’ that ‘cosmic horror’, I always think of our work as being fun rather than frightening. 
The other thing being  that I find it more enjoyable and satisfying to create my own original narrative world than to mine someone elses verbatim. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, it’s just something we have both moved away from over the years. 

The artwork, very uncharacteristic of doom-death releases, is a very important trait of the project. Who creates these insane paintings?

Brooke creates all the artwork for Hesper. They are simply a visual continuation of the music. The exception to this is the cover for “Unclean Rituals”, which was by another artist; Korintic HYPERLINK "" Brooke had it commissioned specifically for the release after seeing some of his lovecraftian work and deciding it fitted both the Lovecraftian ethos and the aesthetic of Hesper. 

Ideally time permitting I would do full sets of illustrations and each release would come with a comic strip for each story and there would be maps and character portraits and histories of the locations and folktales ect. Sadly I can just about manage to get the music finished most of the time!

Does the band follow what is called conception in a separate release? For example, such title as "The Strange Tale of Samuel Gonzalez" makes one think so.

All of the releases me and Brooke work on tend to become quite conceptual in nature whether we plan them that way or not. “The Strange Tale Of Samuel Gonzalez” was actually written specifically for a fan of the band. Like TAOP, though, all of the releases are conceptually unified clusters that exist within a very specific and evocative mythology that the band has created for the music to exist in. 

Brooke: whilst Hesper exists within a set universe the releases don’t really have an overall concept the way a traditional concept album would. Hesper is more of a concept band in that way. Having said that there are a number of songs that are related for example “Lord of the Green Abyss” and “Ospreys Jar” go together. There will be more of these in future such as a fourth part of “Ghosts of the Hesper Payne” and a follow up to the song “Hesper Payne”.

Dreaming the Doom of Man - Split with Halo Of The Sun, just like in case with Vortex Syndrome, was to be issued through Ammonite Records. Was this material used later or still waits to be released?

I think it was purely a lack of money. Brooke spent on a lot on Republik of Desire’s “REALpolitik” which despite being a very good album, sold very poorly, and the label never really recovered from that. As tends to be the case with the two of us, the pace of our creative output had soon taken a different direction by the time the release may have been financially viable, and each of those projects was doing its own thing, so the idea of the split wasn’t picked up again. Ammonite Industries was eventually replaced by Brooke’s all-digital label Works of Ein.  

Brooke: pretty much as mike states above. Ammonite was meant to have funding from a local council arts collective but it got pulled so I had to shelve the releases. Both bands have since done other things with their material. HOTS have used theirs in their upcoming albums and on the ‘In Hoc Signo Vito’ split they also contributed a track to an upcoming split with an Australian band called Spires who are excellent. Hesper used some of the material on the “Titans…” E.P. and on “Unclean Rituals” with a few other tracks remaining unused or waiting to be rerecorded for future releases

A debut and so far an only album "Unclean Rituals" has become the first release of Works of Ein label. As far as I understand it's lead by the people from UDC? Why it was started and what are the plans concerning it for the nearest future? Also, why a Contaigeon album wasn't issued?

Works of Ein is basically Brooke’s digital label for anything he fancies doing, basically. At the moment I think the website’s down but I presume it’s still active in principle. Brooke thought the Contaigeon album wouldn’t suit the Pro-CDr treatment, he sees the band as requiring an analogue sound for the best experience; to that end, Exitium Productions will be doing a tape issue of “Death At The Gates Of Delirium”, hopefully later this year.

Brooke; I’m no longer hung on the idea of the physical format being the sole primary embodiment for a musical work. I now view it as a separate vessel so to speak and would prefer to do limited boutique runs of physical formats as unique and interesting artifacts. This is currently being addressed with the tapes being issued by Exitium Prods. I also strongly belive in the correct format for the media so whilst digital is not perfectly ideal it is a good compromise and does not rule out other formats later.  Contaigeon was never meant to be a cd release and I had planned to do a limited tape run myself. Ideally it would have been vinyl but funds and time precluded that or the tape release for the forseable future. As stated it will be available in the next year as a special limited cassette by Exitium and the band are working on new material. 

Besides the UDC bands you have a number of side projects. Such as, for example, Irradiant – to my mind, it combines industrial mood and doom/black elements. Any information about this project is really hard to find but for the official forum. How this project appeared?

Irradiant is another solo project of Brooke’s. It was a spontaneous, experimental album; there are no regular guitars, just layers of bass. Brooke was experimenting to see what that technique would sound like and the album simply popped out unexpectedly. It follows in the lineage of things like early Swans and Godflesh, just euphorically dirty, minimalistic pounding. It may be getting a physical release in future and in the meantime I think Brooke is gradually accumulating new ideas. 

There’s no promotion for "A Gift from the Heart", the debut Irradiant release – just a Bandcamp link. Was it a deliberate decision or a reluctance to promote the project was caused by laziness or other factors?

More than ever, me and Brooke are content to just record music, put it on Bandcamp, make a note on the UDC forum and then move on to the next project. I wouldn’t call it laziness, just indifference to the whole process of competing with the endless slough of releases that is modern music. The satisfaction for us is in making the music, once it’s done we tend to be looking towards the next thing. 

Brooke: Irradiant was an experiment that exploded into an album overnight and was a complete surprise so there was no plan other than to get it finished and out before the momentum faded. Mike hits the nail on the head. We create things we enjoy because the creation is the enjoyment, we share those things after because we know there are people who enjoy what we do. There really does not seem any point to doing things the traditional way. We have no interest in garnering popularity and the people who are or would be into our work always manage to find their way to us. 

It's difficult to give a definite interpretation of the release artwork – a wide variety of symbols may be supposed: from solar cult to shamanism, a person cut off from the world, etc. What meaning was implied initially?

I honestly have no idea. I’d have to ask him.

Brooke: Those are all interesting but incorrect interpretations. The truth is quite personal and I am not inclined to share it. I will say that Irradiant is a project routed in the urban environment that I grew up in. It is very much of the streets and tenements of central Middlesbrough and the things I experienced growing up so that should give you a taste of the inspiriation I drew from. 

Judging by the track titles the lyrics deal with personal problems, but one of them – "Mirrorflesh" – stands out. The word "Flesh" is often met in projects connected with TAOP this or that way. Is there any special significance in this fact?

See above. In TAOP, the use of flesh is often about the idea of physical human contact as a threat, and the sense of your own physical form as repellent, and the ambiguous fetishizing or eroticizing of death. The Cauldhame song-title “I Fear Flesh” is about physical contact with another human being as an alienating experience, and being unable to relate the feeling of your own physical body to another’s.  

Brooke: In Irradiant flesh is a weak, mutable, corruptible substance in which people are trapped. It ultimately transfers whatever contaminent it contacts inwards idellibly tainting the individual. 

Since 2008 you (Michael) is a keyboard player in Wodensthrone. An unusual role? How much the work in Wodensthrone differs from the other projects? In this case you act as a co-author or just as a performer? And why you've decided to take part in the project: you're interested in Medieval England?

I joined Wodensthrone in 2009, a year or so after their previous keyboard player left the band. I’d already been working on a black metal project called Aureolis with Hreowsian and Raedwalh beforehand, and I think they based their invitation on that rather than my involvement in TAOP (there will finally be an Aureolis release sometime this year, incidentally). I don’t see it as especially unusual, though I’ve never focused on synth to this extent before; TAOP, after all, only reflects a narrow slice of my tastes and musical goals. In Wodensthrone, the creative process is fundamentally about collaboration; working together on a joint vision, with everybody contributing. On “Curse” I did all the synths, wrote a number of the riffs and also contributed one full song (“Wyrgthu”). For me, the experience is all about being part of a group creative dynamic and having fun writing, rather than being the cloistered megalomaniac, which is my usual modus operandi. I’m not particularly interested in the historical aspect that has played a part in Wodensthrone in the past, but then, that’s always been much less important to the band than other people seem to think anyway. I’m no Nationalist, and I was glad to confirm with them that the rumours about the band were/are complete rubbish. I’d recommend anyone who is genuinely interested about where Wodensthrone stand, rather than hopping on the bandwagon of baseless, rumour-mongering trash, to seek out some recent interviews with the band. 

In 2003 Brooke recorded the bass parts for Haeiresis, a band from Lithuania. Was this planned or the invitation was received spontaneously? Is his contribution to the material limited to performing of the given parts? The songs where Brooke participated seem to me to bear some trace of his TAOP activities. What was the general impression of the collaboration: a mere formality or the sincere unity for the result?

Saulius of Haeiresis has been a friend of me and Brooke for some years now, and participated with some ambient recordings on the “Tenements (Of The Anointed Flesh)” album. I think Saulius sent Brooke tablature of the bass parts, which Brooke added his personal touch to. It’s a great band and should be better known than it is. 

Brooke: I take no writing credit for H, its entirely the work of Saulius and I just played the parts he sent me. I will have undoubtedly given them a taint of my own playing style but the core of H is Saulius. 

At conclusion I'd like to ask about the earliest musical experiences: for Brooke, as far as I know, this was Monument, an industrial project influenced by Godflesh. Two never released ep's – is this all the material created? Is it possible to find these recordings anywhere now? What feelings and emotions inspired them?

I don’t think Monument is that old, to be honest – I remember Brooke working on it heavily while he was living on my sofa for a month or so in early 2008 and I don’t recall hearing about it before then. Those two demo recordings are available on Bandcamp at HYPERLINK ""  

Before we formed Minethorn – whose demos aren’t available publicly at the moment, but may be in future –  Brooke was in a metal band called Kikdrill which did one or maybe two demos which I’ve never heard. I guess I’ve covered the Minethorn demos already in previous answers. 

Brooke: I have been fooling around with acustic gutars since I was 8 years old though I only started playing properly at 14 or so. My first band was a garage covers band of things like Nirvana and Butt Hole surfers but I left that because I wanted to player heavier things. Then I was in a band called Kikdrill, after various other terrible names, but again left that because I wanted to play heavier things. That’s when I started making music with Mike and shortly after got into home recording and started producing a lot of my own music. 

As to you, Mike, what have you been doing before Pulsefear and TAOP? Were there any bands, and if so, what's left of them?

I was actually in an indie/Britpop band for about 18 months at school from late 95 to early 97, on keyboards, which I couldn’t really play at all – still not totally sure I can! Nothing available there either, thankfully! I had a number of projects that only really existed in my head and occasionally in rough demos on my four track, but otherwise Minethorn was my first “proper” band.

March 2013

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