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Interview with: Mark Kelson
Conducted by: T.V.
The Eternal are one of the biggest names in the field of goth or dark music hailing from Australia. Soon we will have the opportunity to listen to their new masterpiece When The Circle of Light Begins To Fade. In this occasion we made this interview with bands leader, vocalist, guitarist, producer and much more Mark Kelson. This interview was done at the end of last year (by e-mail), so it's a little bit outdated, but anyway it offers an interesting insight into what is going on with the band and other interesting things that Mark revealed to us.
T.R.: Your album Under A New Sun is out since February 2011. What were the reactions from fans and how are you satisfied with it, as it represents quite a different accession to music regarding your previous works?
Mark: Yes, although it has been out since february it was completed may last year, we spent some time trying to shop for a new European label but it didn't quite come together, so we settled for a Japanese and Australian release, over all the album was well received but I think although it may have bought us some new fans may have left some of the old ones confused, personally for us it was an album we needed to make, we have been on tour alot as a three piece internationally and it was very natural for us to make a more rocking raw type album, I thinks its one of our most complete and flowing albums from start to finish. But at this point looking at our back catalogue I am most fond of Sleep of Reason and Under A New Sun as complete albums, so the new album we are working on will tend to take influence from both, returning to a slightly darker sound, but still with the rocking edge I guess. As I mentioned earlier New Sun came out quite a long time after it was completed, so we are intending to commence a new album soon, which I will engineer and produce by myself.
T.R.: The confused fans must be those who loved your metalic side, because with Under A New Sun you've taken more good old rocking direction...
Mark: Yes correct, not everyone embraces experimentation with ones sound, but we have always liked to try new things and not repeat our selves and yes I have always been a classic rock fan, I very much like the production style , there was an energy to music of the era, heavy music today is so over produced and so clean that it lacks a lot o character to me. With pro tools now a band can make an amazing record and then not be able to play it live, so i guess the idea of doing Under A New Sun in a more live 70's way was to capture the energy of us playing live, which is what we have done, not loads of editing and drop ins complete takes of musicians playing.
T.R.: Yes, the production plays an important role on this album... How it was working with Jeff Martin (The Tea Party) and what do you think about his work?
Mark: Well yes, we did want to indulge some of our 70's influences and also take the eastern elements of our music a bit further, this is why we felt Jeff Martin could be the man for the job. Working with Jeff is an interesting experience, he is very intense and rather set in his ways but knows what he wants and how to get it. In retrospect I think he could have lend his influence on us a little heavy handedly but I don't regret the experience, we learnt a lot, learnt how to be a bit rawer and also picked up some nice production tips. I think the experience also gave me the confidence to finally realise its time for me to take the production duties on myself self for the next album, as I feel no one knows the sound of this band better than me.
T.R.: So, althought in my opinion the production on this album is very good, it seems that it's still not 100% as you would like The Eternal to sound. Can you give me a hint of what you're thinking to do for the next album?
Mark: I like the production of new sun very much, but im always looking to move forward and get to the next stage sonically. The next album at this stage looks to continue on from new sun in a way with the eastern influenced vibes, but also head back to some of our darker moments, it's at early stages right now, we are aiming to track drums late november before I go on tour with Duncan Pattersons band Alternative 4 and then chip away at the album for the first half of the year. T.R.: Can you tell me more about this colaboration with Duncan?
Mark: I have known Duncan for years since I did the artwork for the first Antimatter album back around 1999/2000. I believe, we had been mates and at some point I contributed some backing vocals & guitar to his ÍON project (on both albums), so when he had the idea for this Alternative 4 project initially I was just to be the guitarist, but one thing led to another and I'm the singer also now. Vocally quite a different style to The Eternal so that was quite challenging for me. We have our first album The Brink out on Avantgarde music on November 15th 2011 and there will be a short European tour in December.
T.R.: I am really looking forward for The Brink and for what I heard from the album preview it seems like a mix of ambient and some rock music...
Mark: Its a very dark album, lyrically I think its some of Duncans finest work, truly thought provoking and yes musically it's very sparse and when the heavier bits kick in it really takes you somewhere, being a fan of Duncans song writing from when I was quite young and getting into Anathema. It's pretty cool to be part of this project. I feel quite lucky to be given a chance to contribute. I hope it grows into something more and we get to make some more albums along the way.
T.R.: You seem to be really busy with many projects right now, but when can we expect something new from your doom metal project InSomnius Dei?
Mark: For a while I was planning another album with a different singer, but to be honest my heart is not quite there right now. I find The Eternal and Alternative 4 quite forfilling and I'm working as an engineer and producer these days. I'm working with some cool bands, from rock to doom and death. I'm doing a cool young Aussie band called Okera at the moment and we should have their debut album in the bag by January I think.
T.R.: What do you think about Anathema album We Are Here ... and their evolution nowadays?
Mark: I think its a great album, one of their best for a while, probably my fav since Alternative 4, although of course there are some moments on the other albums, I think, Silent Enigma, Eternity & Alternative 4 had the biggest impact on me when I was younger. I think it's great that Anathema continue to do what they want without repeating them selves too much, still one of my favorite acts.
T.R.: And what about other two important bands from UK who "created" a gothic doom metal in the early 90's as we know it today: Paradise Lost and My Dying Bride? I believe that The Eternal were influenced also by them...
Mark: When I was young (late teens early 20's) these bands did have an impact on me, not so much these days, but I remember when I discovered these great albums like Gothic, As The Flower Withers and Serenades it was like a new world was opening up to me, so I think they had an impact in the early days, but as years pased so did my misery haha. I went back to alot of the 70's stuff, I think the darker stuff will always be with me though.
T.R.: Why Chris Stevenson (keyboards) left the band in 2009?
Mark: Chris has been my best mate since High School. We started this band together and of course I was quite sad when he had had enough. I guess for Chris it was a lifestyle thing, he is a very easy going low pressure kind of a dude and I think the stress of being on the road and some of the harder things the band had to go to were a bit much for him. So, he decided to no longer tour but still contributed keys to Kartika but at that point he took a leave from music for a while. Meanwhile he has been working on his own stuff at his own pace. Chris and myself are still best mates, he lives in the next street to me and we usually catch up for dinner each week and hang out, so no hard feeling for his departure.
T.R.: Before Under A New Sun the keyboards played an important role in The Eternals music. How it will be with this on your forthcoming album?
Mark: Even on Under A New Sun there were many keyboards just in a different way, less symphonic I guess. We were working with a Finnish Keyboard player Maria Ilmoniemi and we were recording a lot of odd analogue stuff like hammonds and mellotrons, vintage keys are a passion of mine and when we were touring the USA with Tarja we met Maria who was her keyboard player at the time, wonderful musician. I think that keyboards will always play a huge part. I'm working on those parts for the new album now, some nice string stuff as well as hammonds and all that. Should sound good!
T.R.: You played live all around the world. Where have you had the greatest time and biggest support from your fans?
Mark: We have been lucky enough to play in so many places, Japan, China, USA, Mexico, Canada & many parts of Europe. There have been some really nice moments, our second show in Tokyo will always stay with me, walking on stage in Montreal Canada in 2009 was also great & we always have a great time when we tour in Hungary. It's hard to pick one moment, there have been so many ups and downs over the years in this band, I think in the end we stick at it for each other because we have been through alot together and enjoy each others company. I do hope we have the chance to see more of the world together!
T.R.: Do you prefer to play live on a big festival before thousands of people or in a small club?
Mark: I enjoy the buzz of a large crowd,... but some of my favorite shows have been small packed clubs. One show that always comes to mind is our second show in Tokyo, amazing energy just great! So I'd say both have their merits, as long as the crowd enjoy the show I'm pretty happy!
T.R.: When can we expect The Eternal to play in Europe again?
Mark: This is hard to say, we currently don't have a label in Europe, so we are trying to get hooked up again and we can consider touring Europe for our next album. Unfortunately for Under A New Sun we couldn't make it over, our drummer Marty is about to have his first child, so he will track his drums for the new album. Until then expect to see me in Europe fronting Alternative 4 over the next year.
T.R.: Which songs from your discography do you prefer to play live?
Mark: I enjoy playing the rocker ones I guess. I like playing "Everlasting" and songs like "Blood" & "Means For An Ending" always seem to go down well live. From Under A New Sun I dig playing "A Thousand Shades Of You", "Collapse" & "Cast In Stone". We have at least 50 songs to pick from, so we have choices!
T.R.: You said it before that you had troubles with a label. Can you explain me more about this matter and what happened with your deal with previous label (if I'm correct) Firebox?
Mark: I think it had to do with few things. Our last two albums with them go heavily leaked before release and I think this made it hard for firebox to justify giving their bands recording budgets anymore or only a selected few anyway. And also as we progressed stylistically they understood what we were trying to achive. So we were not a priority to them anymore, what is frustrating when an artist trying to get his music out there. So, Under A New Sun was our first album to not receive an European release. I'm shopping around for the one, so let's see how we go I guess. At the end of the day we just keep making albums because we enjoy it!
T.R.: What does a physical copy of your own musical product (a CD or LP) represent to a musician like you in this era of download?
Mark: I still think the physical copy is important, the booklet and the whole experience of getting to know the band, I used to love that feeling of listening to an album and sitting there, reading along with the booklet, that is kind of lost these days. I like vinyl, so I'm trying to build my collection up again, because I feel listening to a record takes commitment, getting it out, flipping it over half way, its just the complete experience I grew up on I guess.
T.R.: On your last two albums you had very specific album covers, which must represent something special for you, I guess? Do you intend to do something similar also on your next album?
Mark: We always take the art seriously, and try and get it to reflect the album, so I think that we'll continue this way. I'm not sure where we will head with it yet, but once the album is close to being done we will move from there.
T.R.: You already revealed a tentative name of your next studio album When The Circle Of Light Begins To Fade. What does this title represents?
Mark: The year after Under A New Sun came out was a hard one for us as a band and on a personal level. After the first show of the New Sun tour, our drummer broke his hand, then we had a string of badly promoted dates, label issues and our Japanese tour got cancelled a week before due to the tsunami over there, plus I have also just come out of an eight year relationship with someone who ment a great deal to me,... so the idea was pretty simple, Under A New Sun was like a new start and a ray of hope, but that faded pretty quickly with the year that followed, so the circle of light can represent that sun fading or ones inner light or hope fading... from the conceptual side this album will be darker, but all this negativity will come out in a positive way creatively, so this is the up side.
T.R.: Tell me, where do you get the inspiration for lyrical themes of your songs and what does a lyric represent to you?
Mark: We never really wrote about fantasy stuff, we try to keep it from personal experience and emotionally charged. So lyrics may take the longest because they don't usually come till I have something to write about that has affected me personally.
T.R.: So, your albums reflect your personal life as well. Regarding to all this it's obvious that the next album will be darker than Under A New Sun...
Mark: If music doesn't come from something real inside you then you are just going through the motions I think. I can only write songs when im affected by something, and I'm always related to music that comes from a personal approach, It just hits me more on a personal level. I dont really get into bands that sing about demons and wizards and satan and all that, I just want an honest lyric that comes from inside you and helps connect you to the artist in some way.
T.R.: I believe that you follow metal and rock scene for many years now. How do you think it has developed, in a good or bad way? And what do you think that the future will bring?
Mark: Well, I'm not sure to be honest, I think it was more innocent back in the day and artists had less outside influence when composing music, because with the internet now you have instant access to music trends, what is cool and how many hits a band gets on facebook etc. I think that has influenced people to make music they think will make them popular and not 100 percent from the heart, as a sound engineer I think pro tools is a great thing, but I also think it has made it to easy for people without great talent to make a great polished finished product. So many times I've heard a bands album and experienced a different band when I have seen them live, so I feel a bit apathetic to modern music and think it lacks the spirit of what music was once about, which was making songs with your mates for your self to enjoy. Digital music and illegal downloads have of course affected bands being able to make an income from their own music, so I don't know where I see the future right now. In some ways it's great that bands can do everything by themselves, but with the market being over saturated with bands, I think music is unfortunately become more disposable. I'm not sure where I see music in the future, all I know is that I'm going to keep making it for myself and what ever happens happens I guess. T.R.: I'm happy to hear the news of a second guitarist. Can you tell me something more about Brad Cook?
Mark: Contact with Brad began when he dropped me a facebook message saying he had bought Under A New Sun and loved it, he jokingly said he wanted to join, but as we had not had a second guitar player since 2009 I kind of brushed it off, but he was reasonably persistant and sent me some videos of him playing. After hearing him play it was pretty clear, if we were going to have a second guitar someone with Brads talent would be awesome! Brad is the same age as me and has a lot of the same influences. He has been playing in original and cover bands around Melbourne over the years, so I'm hoping we can give Brad his first international touring experience, really great player.
T.R.:Another subject. What is your point of view about todays economical and political crisis in the world?
Mark: Well, I cant say I'm much into politics. I read the newspaper and all that... and of course I heard about all these countries going through this situation and can feel empathy for them, for the most part I guess. I try and stay away from politics as it tends to get me angry to see the state of this word. I think as a race we are not in a fantastic place.
T.R.: I think that this is all for now. Do you want to add something at the end of this interview?
Mark: Just thank you for your time and for all those interested: stay tuned for our new album When The Circle of Light Begins To Fade in 2012! Cheers! - Mark