Inteview by Ambra Chilenwa
Interview with The Watcher (Keyboards and Vocals)
Hello and welcome, thank you taking the time to speak to me about your new release, which is ready for launching. Would you like to discuss what the concept behind the release?
The Watcher: Our new album ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays the Wreckage of our Lore’ has an overall concept based on folk tales from the shores of the UK. Most of the songs on this album focus on folklore from Northumbria near our home town. Although it was not intended as a concept album, when we began writing we found a number of stories that fit with the music and they all happened to share a common theme of water lore. We had not previously focused on legends from the shores of the UK, and we were surprised by the number of different stories which we were not familiar with despite knowing the area. The North East of England is steeped in history and legends, especially places such as Dunstanburgh Castle and Lindisfarne so it was fantastic to still be able to focus on tales from our region. The painting Flight of the Wyld Swan by Northumbrian artist Kate Van Suddese perfectly captured our vision for the album and further tied it to an area of the UK that is special to the band.
How would you describe your style of music to someone who is unfamiliar?
The Watcher: I’d best describe Old Corpse Road as folk black metal. We take our main inspirations musically from early UK black metal bands. Lyrically we take inspiration from the myths and folklore from across the UK and our songs are based upon these stories.
Who are your current favourite artists?
The Watcher: There are a number of bands that within the current scene in the UK that are worth a mention, in particular Abduction, Ninkharsarg, Burial, Aklash, Shadow Flag, Deadwood Lake and Necronautical. There are countless other great bands worth checking out.
How do you see yourself as a band?
The UK has a strong tradition of folk music that has retold various cautionary tales and stories. We see ourselves as storytellers continuing that tradition. Whilst our music is rooted more in black metal than folk, we recognize the value of retelling these forgotten tales. We believe dark and grim nature of the UK’s folklore is a natural fit for black metal and allows us to retell them in our own unique way. Our music is largely influenced by nineties black metal and so we feel that we are continuing that classic sound. Although we do enjoy more contemporary bands most of us got into black metal from bands at that time and so we naturally write music in a similar style whilst putting our own unique take on it.
How was the procedure of producing ‘On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore’? Do you have a set way of doing things?
The Watcher: In terms of writing, we do continually write as a band. Often these begin as small ideas, riffs and melodies and then we will record these individual parts, this enables us to have a collection of ideas which we can listen back and piece together. The final arrangements always come from repeated playing together and ensuring that the atmosphere for the song is right.
This is often done once we have lyrics written as the subject matter will influence the feel of the music. As more of the songs came together there was a collective sense that the songs felt more ethereal and atmospheric which felt a natural match with the water based folk tales which we were reading at that time. Once we had an idea of the overall album concept we had a better sense of what we wanted the album to sound like.
Historically we have recorded with The Seer, who remains to be a “sixth” member and collaborator, but this was our first time recording the album ourselves. This meant we were able to demo the songs as we were arranging them live. Whilst the discipline of having the songs finalised prior to recording is important, the ability to experiment over a longer period of time was invaluable. Our vision for the album was perfectly understood by The Seer who mastered it to create the grim and murky sound influenced by the underground scene of the late nineties.
Do you think image is important when being in a band?
The Watcher: There is no denying that image is important, especially when performing. Black metal is very grim and atmospheric; and it is important that you visually want to compliment the music when playing live. As we have progressed as a band our image has developed organically, we have not always used corpse paint, but as the music changed it felt right that this was also reflected in our image. The aesthetic of black metal is important to us, you lose a vital part of the atmosphere if it is just a group of people in their normal clothes. Bands such as Cradle of Filth, Behemoth etc would be a very different live experience without their image.
How do you think the recent struggles of COVID-19 have affected your activities as a band?
The Watcher: There is no denying that the current circumstances have been challenging for the music scene. For us personally the current situation means we are unable to practice together as a band. It all needs to be put in perspective however as we all have loved ones who are possibly at risk of this indiscriminate virus. We have been a band for over 10 years, but we been friends for much longer. Aside from the impact on playing live, the social aspect of seeing each other and keeping in touch is important to us. It is frustrating to not be able to be rehearsing and playing live, especially at a time when we are releasing a new album. We have had some gigs already reschedule, but the continuing uncertainty is having a significant impact on the scene more broadly. The important thing is for fans to support bands through this time by buying music and merch, as well as supporting the venues and promoters by coming to gigs once bands can play live again.
What do you like to do outside of music? Any hobbies?
The Watcher: Outside of the band we all have a various hobbies and activities that keep us busy. Three of the band have families which understandably takes up a significant amount of time however we all do enjoy a mixed set of activities and hobbies. The Bearer is very active with his Blackwood Productions label and his numerous other musical projects. The Dreamer is involved with Martial Arts and cycles regularly as well as web designing. I’m an avid film fan and sometime writer. The Wanderer enjoys fixing up music electronics and often has a number of projects on the go, as does The Revenant although his mainly tend to be woodwork and graphic design.
You’re a well-established band, what keeps you going so long in the music industry and how do you think it’s changed?
The Watcher: We have had the same line up pretty much from inception, so I think as a band our own longevity is due to knowing each other for over 20 years. When the band formed we all had an understanding about what we wanted Old Corpse Road to be. Having the friendships established prior to the band, and with us playing together in various forms historically, it meant that no one had any ego or a need to prove something to everyone else. Thirteen years later this still continues to be the case. We have seen significant changes in the music scene. The internet means that it is so much easier to discover new music and bands and support them directly in a way that it wasn’t possible previously. Playing live is still invaluable and the UK black metal scene has grown significantly since we’ve started. The relatively small size of the UK also means that we are regularly crossing paths with bands and fans in the wider scene. Whilst there are undoubtedly issues with venues closing, and current climate poses its own challenges; the black metal scene continues to adapt and grow and is at its strongest it has ever been.
What has been the best performance of your music career so far?
The Watcher: We have been fortunate to share the stage with so many great bands over the years and play to some amazing audiences. Playing the Sophie Lancaster stage at Bloodstock was an incredible experience, as were the times we played HRH Vikings festival. The Blackwood Gathering festival in the Lake District which is ran by The Bearer is of special significance for the band. It is held near where the band was first conceived and took its name, but also is situated in the woods and overlooks a lake which inspired one of our songs; it is a unique and perfect venue for us.
Thank you again for taking the time to conduct this interview, is there anything else you like to say to our viewers?
The Watcher: We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far. We really hope everyone likes the new album. If you do please support us and other bands where you can as its invaluable in these strange times. We hope to see you at a show soon.
The Bearer – Guitars and Vocals
The Revenant – Guitars and Vocals
The Wanderer – Bass and Spoken Word
The Dreamer – Percussion and Ambience
The Watcher – Keyboards and Vocals
Old Corpse Road will release their third full-length album “On Ghastly Shores Lays The Wreckage Of Our Lore” on the 15th of May 2020. This act is known for binding multiple elements of folk black metal, epic singing and vast vocal ranges.