Conspiritus is the compelling new album from Ewigkeit, the progressive rock band masterminded my multi-instrumentalist James Fogarty. Filled with plenty of atmospheric and ethereal keyboards, heavy guitars, and a variety of vocal styles, Conspiritus could be one of the sleeper albums of the year. Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz discussed the new album with Fogarty recently-read on for the complete interview!
SoT: Hello James, could you tell the Sea of Tranquility readers a bit about your musical background and how you decided to form Ewigkeit?
James: I started Ewigkeit in about 95 when I realised that it's quicker and more productive to work alone in the studio, rather than with a group of people whose main interest is to get wasted. I was really inspired by the use of atmosphere of Black Metal, and it was bands like Emperor who really captured my imagination and made me want to incorporate some keyboards (an instrument which I had never played before, and didn't own!) When I found out that the project Burzum was a one-man-band, I thought "hey - I can do that to!". Obviously I didn't really have any aspirations to be a church-burning neo-nazi murderer, so the comparisons stop there!
SoT: So are all instruments on the new CD performed by yourself or do you get guest artists to play some instruments? What are the difficulties of being an entirely one-man band?
James: No other instruments are played by anyone else. There are some samples (harmonica, folk stuff) but all guitars, keyboards, programming, arrangements and vocals are by me. It may sound egotistical, but that couldn't be further from the truth. I just like to get things done rather than to talk about getting things done! The only difficulties are not being able to play live, but this allows my energies to be spent on creating more, rather than rehearsing (which I find a real bore, especially when you are playing with musicians who don't even "get" what you are doing). It's a lonely fucking road sometimes, but then so is life.
SoT: Yeah I see. Did you have any formal musical education or are you self-taught?
James: I had some electric guitar lessons when I was 13-14, but am a self-taught drummer (though have never recorded "real" drums for Ewigkeit), and self-taught keyboardist/programmer. I think the real heart of recorded music lies in writing, arrangement and production - not in the proficiency on any particular instrument.
SoT: You mentioned that you like Emperor and Burzum. What were some of your earlier influences and what do you think of the genre today?
James: I think Black Metal in the early 90's was really exciting and sounded totally fresh and dynamic. Some bands progressed and turned into real creative bands, but the majority of that scene is really a rotting pile of turds, obsessed with image and a perceived "evil" image rather than creativity.
SoT: What other forms of music do you like besides electronics?
James: I like some ambient stuff (though nothing to name) and I generally just try to listen to stuff I have never heard before, on the radio and internet - a favourite radio station of mine is RNE3 - a national radio station in Spain, and also an absurdly eclectic French radio station that we can pick up here in the south of England where I live (I still don't have a clue what it is called, even though I am always telling people about it).
SoT: Never heard your earlier discs, but Conspiritus, to me, is a perfect blend of electronic music, 70's space rock and some progressive stylings. How did the idea to combine all these elements come to you?
James: I don't know - I guess it is just a culmination of things that I like from over the years (from experimenting with other music styles). I don't sit there and cynically plan how it will sound, I just write some parts and keep adding things that I think sound good. It's mostly accidental - but I find that way you get the best results.
SoT: Have the reactions to your new disc been satisfying so far? And how would you compare Conspiritus to your back catalog?
James: The reviews of Conspiritus have been overwhelmingly positive! Some people really like the concept of the album (a fascistic global state controlled by murdering bastards who control everything), and some people just really like the music, as they find it a genuine contemporary electronic metal album (unlike a lot of electronic metal which sounds terribly dated - a fate which will inevitably befall anything that sounds "now", but I think quality transcends the ages). The only really negative reviews I have got have been in my own country - but then English people in the main are generally small-minded and miserable. The way I see it is that it is 10 times harder to impress someone than to piss them off - taking that into account, the reaction to Conspiritus has been excellent.
SoT: Are you a fan of Pink Floyd or Roger Waters perhaps? Songs like "The Thought Police" and "How to Conquer the World" reminded me of The Wall or even Amused to Death. Were you inspired by either of these albums during the writing process?
James: The Wall is not an album I have ever been able to listen to all the way through. It is actually one of my least favourite Floyd albums (although it has some great tracks) - Wish You Were Here and Animals are my favourites (the keyboards especially). If I am honest, I never checked out any of Roger Walter's solo stuff although I once saw a VHS copy of Radio Chaos at a record fair, which inspired the title of the last album Radio Ixtlan - I never bought it though and its content is still a mystery.
SoT: How did you capture that immensely chaotic feel on "How to Conquer the World"? The song feels like a live track, with great contribution from the 'audience'. Did you sample those effects?
James: That track is supposed to be a huge outdoor "nuremburg" style rally of the global elite, at the infamous "Bohemian Grove" (google it). In the world of Conspiritus, the "elite" have gotten so powerful that instead of their clandestine ritual amidst the tall redwood forests of California, they now have huge gatherings only comparable to Rock concerts! They even have an in-house rock band who play their hymn - "How To Conquer the World - (in 3 easy steps)" which details a step-by-step instruction of how (if you wanted to) you could conquer the world! It's not supposed to be 100% serious though.
SoT: Are you familiar with other solo artists like Scott Mosher and Hubi Meiself? I think Mosher is also one of those artists who has a knack for blending electronics with progressive and ambiance. I also detect some Devin Townsend, particularly his Ocean Machine album.
James: I had never heard of Scott Mosher or Hubi Meiself before you mentioned them. I only know the album City by SYL - that is pretty full-on and cool (although perhaps a world away from current-day Ewigkeit).
SoT: You had John Fryer of Depeche Mode fame do the mixing of your album. Was it more his or your idea to go for the multi-layered approach? The heavy guitar and soft synth contrasts provide very dynamic results on the CD.
James: The multi-layering was all done by me in my studio. John Fryer's role was to balance out the levels of volume. FX & EQ of the whole thing so that you can actually distinguish between the parts (my mixes start to get a "white-noise" after 20 or so tracks/layers, and most of Conspiritus had about 25 tracks for each song. I asked Earache to get someone in to clean up the sound, and they suggested John Fryer who did a great job.
SoT: Do you ever tour under the Ewigkeit project? If yes, what kind of bands do you like playing with?
James: No - not toured ever. I played some gigs with 3 different failed "live" line-ups, but nothing to speak of. Every now and then I have to form a "live" band to remind myself why I hate doing "bands" in the first place.
SoT: What is the best place to find more info about Ewigkeit and get a hold of a copy of your music?
James: You can check out some music from the past 3 albums at www.myspace.com/ewigkeit23 and you can find out more information at the website www.deathtomusic.com - which although is quite basic, is updated whenever I have time & reason to update it. You can buy the album (including a d/l version for $10) from www.earache.com - you can also find there a short video in which I briefly explain the story behind each song.
SoT: Thank you for the interview James!
James: Than you for the interest and support.
(Click here to read our review of Conspiritus)