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Interview with Constants

img  Tobias Fischer

The new album is still heavy, powerful and energetic. But it also sounds liberated in a way, as though a weight had been lifted from your shoulders. Were the demons exercised by fictional character Damian on „The Foundation“ your own in a way?
Absolutely. During the last record, we lost a founding member and a guitar player - two of my closest friends - which brought us back to a three piece more than half way through the writing process. So there was a lot of doubt and self consciousness when we were working out the final details and when it came to record. There were at least a couple of conversations where we talked about just throwing in the towel and dissolving the band. To his credit, being the newest member Rob really helped keep us focused and positive throughout.

After the monolithic "The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension", the first thing one notices about „If tomorrow the War“ is how more concise it is - both on the level of individual tracks and the album as a whole.

When we finished the last record it had totally drained us emotionally. We were banging our heads against the wall working and working and working that material for almost three years, rewriting and reshaping until we felt 100% about every single idea. For this record, we knew from the outset that we wanted to focus on better songwriting and apply our formulas to tighter, faster, and heavier songs and rather than painstakingly examining every element, we wanted to keep the energy and emotion more intense. This band has been writing long winded, odd metered, conceptual music for 6 years now, so trying to make such a different record had been the most challenging, exciting and rewarding experience I've ever had with the formation.

Some of the songs on „If Tomorrow the War“ were written during the touring for „The Foundation“. Is the precision and directness of the new album partly also a result of your live activities?
We've toured a lot, and I've always tried to pay attention to what is working live and what isn't. So in that respect, yes. When you are playing 30 minute sets and can only play 3 or 4 songs, you are immediately alienating a good part of the audience - whether playing a post rock show or a metal show. But the biggest reason really has been just to try something that was new and exciting for us as musicians.

What were these new and exciting challenges in terms of songwriting and sequencing this time?
For me, working out vocal parts was the biggest challenge. When we set out to focus on songwriting, the first thing Orion said was "if we are trying to write better songs, you really need to step it up and bring your A game to the vocals". And when it came to mixing, Justin Broadrick - who produced the album - was the first to say "I really like your voice, I'm going to place it louder in the mix than you probably want me to". To just let go and accept that was sort of tough - our music has never been about ego, so at this point for me to even say "no, they need to be buried" would just be out of insecurity or whatever. but in the end I know I worked harder on these songs vocally than on anything else I've ever done, so I've had to adjust my thought process.

Were you looking for a similar production as Broadrick's work with Jesu or rather for his insight as a producer for a lot of different projects?

Both really. Since I first heard Godflesh's Selfless when I was 15 I've been in awe of Justin's ability to create these sonic walls. I joked with him that I am still trying to make an album that sounds like the way I heard Selfless in my mind 15 years ago. But beyond the sound, he also has an incredible and truly unique sense of melody. And I've taken a lot of cues from him over the years - the minor, dissonant, descending patterns and melodies. We went into writing the album knowing Justin would produce, and that we didn't want to come out with what could have been a Jesu knock off type album. So we sped things up a bit and I tried to push my vocal register up higher. I was really curious to see how he'd react to the material, and he really understands what we are all about in a way very few people do.

So his contribution was pretty incisive.
It was incredibly important. Just knowing that we were working with him instilled a certain work ethic, like "these songs have to be good because Justin Broadrick will be tearing them apart". It really helped keep me motivated throughout the process. I think melodically he brought a lot to the table, and we couldn't be happier with his mixes.

Were you also looking to expand your horizon as instrumentalists?

I actually tried to play less guitar. I usually layer different guitar harmonies and counter melodies over anywhere from 6-10 tracks when I record. This time I only allowed one guitar part to be played at a time. I really focused on chord structure and tone in a way that I've never done before. I still stacked up about 5 guitar tracks per song, but it is always a singular melody just different use of delay, reverb and gain structure.

Looking back, how well did the decision to record the basics first and the rest of the album later work out in practise?

This is the only record we've ever done that I like 90% of it after finishing. I think the immediacy and raw energy that we were able to capture makes the album much more exciting - to me and hopefully to anyone who hears it. I'm all about the beard scratching, well thought out adventure album, but I really enjoyed the way this one came together for us. We still did a lot of editing afterwords and went back and forth with Justin re-working ideas, so to be fair, this was still pretty thought out, we just didn't allow ourselves to over analyze and discuss what was and wasn't working about a part for hours on end.

The title of the album suggests there may be a concept involved. What kind of thoughts were going through your mind while writing the lyrics to the pieces?
I really tried to keep it personal this time, rather than filter my emotions through some fictionalized character or concept. I would just sit down and write or just keep notes of ideas. There really isn't a concept, it's just been a pretty manic year of my life so putting it down on paper and being able to belt it out of my throat seemed to be the most reasonable way to handle all of it.

In which way do you see a novel like „The Three Stigmata of Eldritch Palmer“, which the final track references, as a metaphor for what is happening in the world today?
The book works on several levels I think. The element of religious experience being substituted or replaced by substances, and the sort of collective consciousness that these people find to escape their physical surroundings - the modern equivalent being something like Facebook, then there is the idea that the book takes place in a world where machines control so much (the Internet) and people can't go outside because the planet has been scorched by the sun. Which is what is happening now with global warming.

After the death of Peter Steele, you recorded a cover version of one of his songs. What did his music mean to you?
I think Type O Negative gets a bad wrap. They are one of the earliest metal bands to really embrace 'shoegaze' and have created some really massive 'wall of sound' type records. Obviously the lyrical content is over the top and dramatic, but it is all done so tongue-in-cheek, and I feel like a lot of people misunderstand the irony that Pete was trying to employ. When I was younger, "October Rust" was a record I could put on and it would just take me somewhere completely new and different. It was like staring into a wall of static, with this beast of a man belting out melodies over it. I've always preferred unique music to the type of 2nd or 3rd generation knock off bands who may have perfected their niche. To me Type O was one of those bands that wasn't afraid to take it a step too far, and I've always admired that in them.

By Tobias Fischer

Constants Discography:

Nostalgia For The Future (Radar Recordings)    2004
The Murder Of Tom Fitzgerril (Vega Vinyl) 2008
The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension (The Mylene Sheath, Make My Day) 2009
If Tomorrow the War (Radar, Make My Day) 2010

Constants at MySpace

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