Texan Doom Ready To Take On The World – Interview With Jonathan From Elliotts Keep   1 comment

Elliott’s Keep released one of the best Doom crossover discs in 2008 with “In Medias Res”, their blend of Doom, Death and Epic Metal still sounds as fresh today as it did when first released. They started out as “Marauder” but with the unexpected passing in November of 2004 of
vocalist/rthym guitar player, Glenn Riley Elliott they decided to forged ahead under the name of Elliott’s Keep as a tribute to their fallen comrade and friend. After the release of “In Media Res”, they went from strength to strength with killer live performances including appearances at the Dallas Doom Daze Festival. Now they have completed the recording of our sophomore release, entitled Sine Qua Non. Recorded at Nomad Studio’s, a studio famous for recordings by Solitude Aeturnus, Concept of God, Absu, Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. Its not often when you can say, a killer album is guantuneed but with Elliott’s Keep is a no-brainer, this album will be huge in the underground and should be a stepping stone to bring the band till its next level of worldwide recognition. The album has the added bonus of John Perez (Solitude Aeturnus) making a special guest appearance with a guitar solo on the track “Shades of Disgrace”. I interviewed them a long time ago but now its Aleks Evdokimov’s turn to keep us up to date on whats happening with Elliott’s Keep on the eve of the release of the new album. Enjoy this great interview with guitarist Jonathan.

Q: Salute Jonathan! How are you? What does Elliott’s Keep do now?

A: Doomed Greetings, Aleks!  I am well, thank you – and thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.
We have completed the recording of our new album, Sine Qua Non, which will again be released on Brainticket Records.  We recorded again at Nomad Studios in Carrollton, Texas, with J.T. Longoria.  Nomad is a first-rate studio and they have previously recorded with Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Concept of God, Absu, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond and Dimebag Darrell.  J.T. is extremely talented, both musically and technically, and he is a great person to work with.  His resume includes Solitude Aeturnus, Robert Lowe (Candlemass “King of the Grey Islands” vocals), Concept of God, Absu, King Diamond and Izzy Stradlin.  We are anticipating a late-September 2010 release date. 
The title Sine Qua Non is Latin for “without this nothing,” meaning “without this part of my life the rest is meaningless.”  It describes our feelings about our band, our music and this record.

Q: Ha-ha! After such revelations there’s nothing left to ask 🙂 But let us try: does the fact that that you record new songs in such epic studio mean that “Sine Qua Non” will be even better than your previous work? I understand that it’s your second coming in Nomad Studios but you must be stronger and more skilled than before, right?

A: We learned a great deal from the experience of writing and recording “In Medias Res.”  We applied what we learned to the new record and we are very pleased with it.

Q:Jonathan, but first of all I wanted to ask you about Elliott’s Keep main conception – how was this band’s image formed? You know that when you see any metal band you can quite quickly understand that you’ll get from there: you see the dragons and it will be surely power metal, you see barbarian with axe and it could be pagan or heavy metal, though we have few “universal” symbols – such as skull or cross or even dark castle…

A: Our name dictates some of our visual direction.  By deciding to name our band to honor our fallen brother, Glenn Elliott, the term “keep” sent us down that certain path visually.  To us, the term “keep” refers to both the innermost part of a castle and “keeping” the memory of Glenn alive.  Our image is a blending of diverse elements that interest us – including history, fantasy and fiction.  Visually and lyrically, we incorporate aspects not commonly found in doom music.  Of course, Dio blazed that trail long ago, fusing fantasy elements with early doom metal.   
   
Q: Jonathan, every new band has problems with self-determination in music scene at the dawn of their musical career but Elliott’s Keep has chosen some strange twisted road of development with your very first album. There is a mix of components from many different genres but it sounds  monolith – not as some helter-skelter. Is it hard to keep such balance? The balance, the balance and harmony are necessary things when we speak about music.

A: When we started Elliott’s Keep, we set out to write songs that we would want to listen to if created by another band.  That remains our standard.  We were not certain how it would all play out – and some elements now differ from our initial discussions — but our sound is “us.”  Because of that, the balance is not difficult. 
Our writing is a group effort and we each work to improve upon the ideas supplied by the others.   We are not a band that gets together in a jam session and writes a song in an afternoon.  We write our songs over an extended period of time and that composing and arrangement process works well for us.  

Q: So, Elliott’s Keep is some kind of family for you all, isn’t it? Truly to say I understood it somehow when I listened to your songs and read your previous interview. It’s a good sign as I think because band’s music born not only some emotions in listeners’ hearts but even the feeling of brotherhood, it’s precious thing nowadays – even if it exists through the music.

A: That is very well said, Aleks.  There is certainly a feeling of brotherhood within our band (also, Joel is my biological brother) and that is indeed a great thing.  It was the same way with Glenn and we have very deep feelings about him. 

Q: Correct me if I’m wrong but is the Texas metal scene is filled with predominate Thrash Metal clan, is it true? Thrash elements appears in your songs sometimes, did someone in Elliott’s Keep play in thrash band?

A: Texas is a large state and there are many bands of varying styles.  Historically, there have been many excellent thrash bands in this region, but it is not dominated by the thrash style.   For example, we have many excellent doom, stoner and death metal bands.  There are also many bands that play musical styles that are not of particular interest to us. 
As to our band, we like the thrash style and it is a primary ingredient in our sound.  Musically, we create our own sound by combining elements from a variety of metal subgenres – thrash, power, epic, symphonic, black – and from other non-metal interests.  We are not a “traditional” doom band, but we consider doom to be our core.

Q: Oh, and in which environment did you grow? I suppose that you did listen to Black Sabbath, Candlemass and Dio 🙂 Which gigs did you visit when you became a metal-follower?

A: Our first such musical exposure was bands of the late 1980’s, such as Scorpions, Van Halen, Rush and Guns N’ Roses.  As far as early concerts, there used to be an annual festival in Dallas called the “Texxas Jam,” and we saw many bands there, including Metallica, Aerosmith and Boston.  Over the years, our musical tastes expanded through various personal “renaissance” periods — such as when we discovered thrash and death metal and power metal and so forth.  We stumbled inadvertently into the world of doom when we went to see Savatage play around 1992 and a local band named Solitude Aeturnus was opening the show.    

Q: There was a 3 day Dallas Doom Daze festival this April, did DDD become some kind of doom communion in Texas? It’s interesting to watch such communities’ and fests’ developments, we have 2 or 3 annual doom-fests in Russia and such tradition is great, these special gigs become some kind of celebrations for people. What do you think about such phenomenon?

A: Festivals are great things and I wish the U.S. had more festivals.  I look jealously at the lineups in Europe each year.  I am pleased to hear about the Russian festivals, as well.   
The Dallas Doom Daze festival is always an excellent celebration of various doom styles.  The festival is a labor of love of Justin Delord (Jotun of Kin of Ettins), who was the visionary for the festival and produces it each year.  He has labored without sufficient recognition, in my opinion, and we have been honored to participate the past two years.  We look forward to playing Dallas Doom Daze in perpetuity. 
I also was encouraged to follow the success of the inaugural Seattle Doom Festival, produced by ED of Doom Metal Alliance and Earthdog Promotions.  ED is a tireless supporter of the doom community and all of us in that community owe him a debt of gratitude.

Q: I’ve read your interview for Hellride Music zine and you told us about the new generation on the famous Brainticket label. What is this generation?

A: I was referring to Kin of Ettins and Wo Fat, both very talented Dallas bands and our friends.  Kin of Ettins plays excellent doom riffs and infuse other aspects, including folk music.  Wo Fat is hard for me to effectively categorize – they are riff masters, for sure.  Both put on great live shows and I am a regular for both bands.  Their discs are available on the Brainticket Records webpage.  One other Dallas band that I would like for people to check out is Orthodox Fuzz.  They are an excellent band and I am anxiously awaiting their upcoming full-length release.   
John has put out many great bands on Brainticket, including Last Chapter, Las Cruces, Blood of the Sun and Well of Souls.  We are honored to be on Brainticket.

Q: Elliott’s Keep were mentioned as the band which stand next in line after Solitude Aeturnus in Texas and now John Perez appears with you at Nomad Studio to record a guitar solo for one of the new songs. Do you aim to take place of Solitude Aeturnus in American doom scene?

A: Oh, no.  We do not see ourselves that way at all.  We are extremely appreciative of all the support that John has given to us over the years.  I cannot adequately describe how cool it is for us to have him appear on our new record.  John and Robert are great guys and doom royalty.  We are fortunate that our paths have crossed over the years and I can’t wait for the next Solitude Aeturnus show and album. 

Q: Jonathan, I was surprised when I read that the lyrics come first when you compose new songs, it’s a bit unusual amidst modern bands. Therefore I have to ask about main ideas which you keep in your songs’ texts…

A: For us, lyrics set the tone and direction of our songs.  We tell stories.  In addition to advancing the story narrative, we often include lyric lines concerning life experiences facing our protagonist.  Hopefully, those lines resonate beyond the story itself.  We continue that tradition with the new songs on Sine Qua Non.

Q: By the way don’t you think that old bands paid more attention to their lyrics than modern ones? We have an interesting question indeed: every album of every band is a complex artwork – it starts with band’s logo, cover-art and CD’s booklet because in a ideal condition its the first time that  a listener can speak about music and lyrics. Each of these components is necessary, presence of them all is natural and as you know when some fragment is missed then impressions could be fainter. (I remember how I bought audio tapes when I was studying in the school and it was cool when there were songs’ lyrics in their booklets :-)) Jonathan, how do you  view this now?

A: With respect, I would prefer not to speak for other bands.  I think it would be presumptuous for me to so.
On the subject of lyrics, I will say that there are some bands in whose lyrics I am invested deeply.  As to those bands, the lyric lines and content really add to the overall work.  For other bands, however, I do not care much about the lyrics and they do not add much to the musical experience for me.  An example would be many death metal and black metal bands, about which I care only about the vocal tones, cadence and mood, and not the lyrical content.
As to our lyrics, they are very important to us.  They add an extra layer of depth for those who are interested in investing in a song that way.  For example, as to the Latin lines in our songs, if the listener has an interest in reading the liner notes to see what those lines mean, they will gain an increased understanding of the song’s meaning.  However, if they do not care about that, and only want to focus on the melody and vocal performance of those lines, I understand that as well.
I will say that I am always rewarded to hear comments back about the lyrics of our songs.  I am very proud of all of them.
Joel is the artist who does our artwork and we are very proud of it.  The artwork for the new record is again excellent, in my opinion.  Joel’s wife, Cathy, is a graphic artist, and we appreciate her help and talents.

Q: What inspires you most – lyrics of some grand bands (you mentioned Dio for example) or maybe some literary heritage of classic or modern authors?

A: We haven’t drawn direct lyric influences from specific literary works, so I would have to say that our lyrics are more influenced by prior musicians.  However, that influence is general in nature and not a direct influence from any particular individuals.

Q: Now when your new album is quite ready, can you say that you have nothing to add to it?

A: It is complete.  We have been waiting a very long time to share these songs.

Q: And how soon doom-chasers will be able to catch its tunes?

A: We are hoping for a late-September 2010 release, so it won’t be long.  The mixing should be completed before the end of August and after that comes the mastering and duplication.  Upon its release, “Sine Qua Non” will be immediately available at http://brainticket.com/shopbt/.  Over time, it will be available through a variety of sources around the world.  It will also be available for digital download purchase. 

Q: What were most difficult parts of this record session?

A: Overall, the recording sessions were very smooth.  It was interesting to see that there were a few sections that we anticipated being problematic which were not.  Conversely, there were occasionally riffs, fills or vocal lines that took longer than we envisioned.  As a whole, the recording time came in well under the time that we had expected it to take.  We again had a very good experience working with J.T. Longoria.

Q: How many songs did you prepare for new release?

A: There are eight tracks on the new record:

Fate                                
Fearless                                  
Shades of Disgrace         
Witchburning                  
Damned  
Beloved   
Maleficar Validus            
Darkest Corner

Q: There were two different songs on “In Medias Res” – aggressive and sinister “Black Wings” and ballad “Kindred”, does the new album have such different stuff too?

A: When you hear the new record, you will see that they are a diverse group of songs.  No two songs sound alike, but they all include aspects of our sound.  Knowing that we were going for sixty minutes on this record, we had time to explore some new musical corners with these songs.  Consequently, this record is diverse.
The song Witchburning is the track on this record which has no clean vocals, as was the case with Black Wings.  The music on Witchburning is “aggressive and sinister.”  Ken does some new things vocally, which are very cool.  I would rather not say too much about the songs and create a pre-conception.  I would rather hear back what you and others think about the songs.  I really look forward to hearing those comments.
There is not any acoustic guitar on this record, but I expect us to return to it on the next one.  We have some acoustic concepts in development, but decided to go with the eight tracks that fulfilled our vision for this album.  

Q: As I understand you refuse acoustic songs in a case of some certain conception that you keep for “Sine Qua Non” and they wouldn’t just fit in…

A: Yes.  For example, we plan to one day incorporate some acoustic guitar into a metal track.  However, that technique did not fit with any of these songs so we did not use it.  At some point, when we find the right song for that, I expect that we will use that technique.  Also, one of these days, I anticipate that we will do a longer acoustic song – longer than Kindred, anyway.  That is a long ways off, though, and we will see where the future takes us with that.

Q: New vocal lines… I wonder that are you preparing for us, Jonathan.

A: I think you will see that Ken has delivered an excellent vocal performance with both clean and “dirty” vocal styles.

Q: Jonathan, did you look back at “In Medias Res” composing and recording new songs? How did an analysis of your previous work help you in concrete situations?

A: In writing the new songs, we agreed on aspects of the prior record that we wanted to emphasize, develop, modify or whatever.  Our consistent goal was to “raise the bar” in all aspects.  However, in composing, we were more focused on writing great new songs, rather than spending significant time analyzing the earlier ones.
Before going into the recording studio, we did review the prior album and discussed aspects that we wanted to develop or change.  That effort served us well, as I hope you will see. 

Q: Do you care in that situation about reviews which you got for “In Medias Res” or did you listen only your own intuition?

A: We did enjoy reading the reviews but they did not really affect our writing of “Sine Qua Non.”

Q: What surprises did you prepare for your listeners with new CD?

A: The track Shades of Disgrace dates back to our days in our former band, Marauder, when our namesake, Glenn Elliott, sang that song.  We think that it is a great song and wanted to include it on the new record, with Ken singing as Glenn did.  I must tell you, it is uncanny how well he channels Glenn.  And then, of course, when John Perez agreed to honor us with a guest solo on the song, that took it to a new level. 

Q: Jonathan, sorry, but there’s just one more question to feed my curiosity: what is modern Texas like? You know that people mostly know about other lands mostly via TV, medias or films and such visions are full of stereotypes (like movies about honorable John Rambo and devilish Russian marauders). Therefore it’s always interesting to know about another land from its own native.

A: Texas is a large and diverse place, so it is difficult to sum it all up in a few sentences.  Some people live in large urban areas, like Dallas, and others live in small rural towns.  The politics and financial conditions vary between the people, but most of us are very proud to be Texans and are generally friendly.  As to the stereotypes, I don’t own a gun, horse, cow or an oil well.  I do love barbeque, Tex-Mex food, whiskey and the Dallas Cowboys.  There are many pickup trucks here, but many other vehicle types as well.  I don’t wear a cowboy hat or boots, but some people do.  Many people here like Country music, but the rockers who live here do rock very hard.  One thing for sure, it is very hot right now! 

Q: Jonathan, I would like to thank you for your answers and Elliott’s Keep in itself, keep with the doom comrade! And send my best wishes to Kenneth and Joel! I hope that your new CD will help you to pave the path to the world-wide scene. Good luck!

A: We thank you, Aleks, for your support and for this opportunity.  Your questions are always very thoughtful and I am honored to talk with you.  Once the new disc makes its way to Russia, please let me know your specific thoughts.  I look forward to talking with you again very soon.  Thank you for all your efforts on behalf of the doom community. 

www.myspace.com/elliottskeep
Elliott’s Keep Official
Brainticket Records, We are Metal. And heavy.

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Posted August 17, 2010 by doommantia in Elliotts Keep

One response to “Texan Doom Ready To Take On The World – Interview With Jonathan From Elliotts Keep

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  1. Awesome interview with this amazing band, cant wait for the new album.

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