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Suldusk - Interview

Interview with: Emily Highfield
Conducted by: T.V.

Those of you who follow Terra Relicta webmagazine should have come across the name Suldusk. It's for sure one of the most interesting one-woman bands that emerged recently. Suldusk is Emily Highfield’s one-woman band coming from Melbourne (Australia) and on 12th April via Northern Silence Productions she released her debut album titled Lunar Falls (read the review over HERE). The album offers one hell of a mytical and magical yet very emotional and atmospheric mix of dark neo-folk, post-rock/metal and blackgaze. She creates a powerful panorama of shimmering guitars, haunting melodies and atmospheric density. The album was produced by Mark Kelson of the gothic/prog/doom metal band The Eternal. Kelson ran with Highfield’s vision of blending dark and light frequencies anchored in acoustic progressions, otherworldly vocals and blackgaze flourishes. Lunar Falls is an album with some kind of an evocative and cathartic inwardness. It's an album inspired by nature which gives a shelter on a quest for identity. Read the interview that I did with Emily and discover more about Suldusk.

T.V.: Suldusk is a rather new name in the scene. Can you present it in few sentences to our readers?
: Suldusk is neo folk based one woman project with elements of atmospheric black metal and post metal.

T.V.: Your debut album, Lunar Falls, really surprised me with its diversity and magic that it holds. How are you satisfied with it in general?
Emily: Thank you so much. That means a lot. I am very happy with the way it turned out. As a first album it is a good representation of what part of the musical forest I inhabit. I'm definitely happy to build on from these tracks in future compositions.

T.V.: Lunar Falls has also a fantastic production. No wonder if Mark Kelson of The Eternal did it... Tell me how this collaboration started and how are you satisfied with his work?
Emily: When I was looking for a producer I came across Mark and realised he was the guy from The Eternal. I knew he would understand the vision. We were diligent about ensuring the guitar tones were uniquely done and he is definitely a perfectionist and a hard worker. So yes, very happy with result.

T.V.: I find it very interesting how you combine acoustic lines with lush atmospheres, melodic lines, versatile vocals and harsh post black metal background when most needed. Tell me, are you the one and only person who's behind those compositions or you got some help?
Emily: The vision and concepts were definitely something I was set on. I laid down some demo ideas and apart from two compositions ("The Elm" and "Drogue"), the melodies, arrangements and atmospheres were mine. The session musicians were given a brief to elevate the ideas on the demo and they did so perfectly I believe! I loved the idea of playing with  the intimate and the epic in the sound and I was very lucky to work with a producer who totally understood how to execute that in tracking and post production.

T.V.: And Mark also played bass, additional guitars and synths on the album. It's not really his kind of style but still, how much of an impact has he had on songwritting and compositions?
Emily: I think the project really pushed him creatively and technically as he was wearing a production and session musician role. The compositions were already finished and it was just a matter of adding the required instrumentation, but doing it in a cohesive way.

T.V.: Beside Mark you've gathered also some other notable guest musicians, like Marty O’Shea, Glenn James, Nicky Blackmore, Bryan Murphy and Francesca Mountford. How it was working with them?
Emily: It was an absolute dream working with all of these players. They know their instruments and elevated the ideas that I gave them. Watching Francesca add the cello lines for example was an incredibly beautiful experience. Nothing beats real instruments played by accomplished musicians who know their craft.

T.V.: The album is dedicated to memory of the amazing singer Aleah Starbridge. It seems that you were like me amazed by the Trees Of Eternity album... so, why did you decide to dedicate it to her?
Emily: I stumbled across the track "Sinking Ships" off the Hour Of The Nightingale album and the lyrics and vocals moved me. When I delved into who Trees Of Eternity were and discovered she had just passed away, I was deeply saddened. She has left a significant musical legacy and in some small way I hoped that by dedicating the album to her, her legacy and memory would be honoured and continue to flourish.

T.V.: Tell me where do you get most of ideas for your compositions and how much time have you worked on this album?
Emily: Most of the tracks on Lunar Falls emerged from a guitar progression. It was about elaborating on the feeling the progression has and going fluidly along with that feeling. The album took almost a year - from pre production demos to master. Hopefully the next one takes only six months!

T.V.: So, which song on the album is your favorite or it means the most you, and why?
Emily: Probably "Sovran Shrines". It is a journey song for me. The meander, the stillness and then the rising up. Also, I think it is indicator of things to come for the next album.

T.V.: Yes, a very good song! Tell me what are your lyrics mostly about and where comes the inspiration from?
Emily: Most of the lyrics are about the quest for self identity and the struggle and sacrifice to see who we are. We are all born with certain cards that we are dealt with. It is about what we do when we understand and accept these circumstances. It is challenging. Nature is a place of replenishment in this quest. It is a place where as humans we can take our place as part of the transience of existence, and it helps us put things in perspective. It is also a place of replenishment. So this is essentially where the themes and lyrics come from.

T.V.: I believe, due to such professionalism as it is shown on Lunar Falls, that Suldusk is not your first musical actualisation. Were you playing before starting Suldusk in any other bands or projects?
Emily: Yes, I have always written music on and off. I was in a melodic thrash metal band for a few years, but then took a break from music after that project broke up. But my guitar was always on stand by!

T.V.: Before the album was out you made a very cool video for "Aphasia". How did you enjoy making it and can we expect some other videos for any of the songs?
Emily: Thank you I am so glad you like it. The imagery concepts came very easily to me. These are visuals that I had experienced, dreamt about or seen somewhere. Also, nature was very dominant in the clip. We had a bonfire at the ocean, some running through the mountain and trekking by the Yarra river. These are significant places for me and also for the theme of the album, being the seeking of respite through nature. In terms of more clips - probably not something similar at this stage. However, a live studio recording of "Three Rivers" with my stripped back acoustic ensemble will be soon uploaded to the Suldusk YouTube channel.

T.V..: The album is released in collaboration with Northern Silence Productions. Any comments? I believe that now offers will be raining to your address, also from bigger labels. Are you open to sign for any of big players on the scene?
Emily: I was so grateful to have an offer from Northern Silence Productions. Torsten is very well respected, an incredibly hard worker, and he understood and valued the album. We are on a similar wavelength so it has been a joy to work with him. As for a bigger label. I’m not sure, as I have enjoyed the Northern Silence Productions experience. Time will tell what unfolds.

T.V.: I perfectly understand! I guess that almost every one-woman band owes a little bit to Myrkur, as she really pushed this kind of acts forward. How much has her music influenced your work?
Emily: I think Myrkur has definitely raised the profile of one person projects. To be honest, it really was the underground one man projects like Scathanna Wept, Tahazu, and Skyggefigurrer that influenced me more in terms of a one person project. I was conceptualising and working alone for a few years, so really it is more of a description. In terms of being influenced by her work - not really. Although I have great respect for what she does and also that she has definitely opened a new path, I think my sound is different.

T.V.: Are there any plans to play live? Maybe some dates already planned?
Emily: Yes, I’ve played a few shows live supporting Anaal Nathrakh, Zeal And Ardor, Lindsay Schoolcraft (Cradle Of Filth keyboardist) and local bands. The next one is Eluveitie support on 18 May. These have all been as an acoustic ensemble but by September the live show will be a fully electric and bigger sound to reflect the album. My hope is to tour overseas next year for selected festival dates. Fingers crossed!

T.V.: I guess that you must have a live band members behind you, who are they? Or do you play solo?
Emily: I have a tribal drummer Glenn James, acoustic guitarist Josh Taylor, and Rachelle Harvey on cello with me on stage.

T.V.: That would be amazing if you can make it to Europe! I know that the album was just released, but still... what are the next steps for Suldusk? Maybe already working on new songs?
Emily: Yes, definitely. The album has had a very positive response but I have so much more to do and improve on. The next album will be less polished and definitely will have more extremes. I already have a concept and some rough tracks. I’ve started working with Shamus. He is an incredibly gifted composer/guitarist from New Zealand who will be working with Suldusk from now on. We have just leased a permanent rehearsal space and are about to start working on the new live sound as well as tracks for the new album.

T.V.: So, is from now on Suldusk a duo officially?
Emily: Haha, no Shamus knows he has to defer to my opinion! To be honest I’m not sure how composing will progress having another strong minded musical person involved but my hopes are high and we will see what happens. Two lone wolves could either build a pack or destroy each other hahaha!

T.V.: As we are slowly approaching the end of this interview, I must ask you what actually Suldusk means and how did you came up with this name?
Emily: Suldusk is a conjured name. Dusk is that time of day between dark and light. Also in dungeons and dragons, I’ve been told, the Suldusk are a tribe of wild elves. That seems very appropriate!

T.V.: Indeed it is! So, tell me who is Emily outside the music world? What are the things that enthuse you in your private life?
Emily: I’m quite an introvert in my private life and very much enjoy getting out into nature. We have some amazing surf here in Australia, so I enjoy doing that, mountain biking and losing myself in a good book. But to be honest, nothing makes me happier than creating music.

T.V.: It seems that you musicians in Australia are pretty much collaborative and connected. So, tell me how's the musical scene (metal, rock, alternative,...) working on your continent right now?
Emily: All is pretty good overall. I have had support by the black metal community in particular - bands like Hybrid Nightmares, Deadspace, Greytomb, who have incredible musicians and open minds. However, I have sensed a more insidious element of misogyny in the scene. There is still violence against women at shows, and prejudice against female musicians  - you have to prove yourself extra hard because there is a thread of elitism in the more successful levels of the heavy music realm here that is extremely judgemental and sexist. This element is unfortunate but as I said, overall it is pretty good.

T.V.: I guess that we must finish this interview somehow. Thank you for your time and your insightful answers. Is there anything that you would like to add at the end?
Emily: Thank you so much for taking time to ask interesting questions and for supporting underground artists.

Suldusk links: Facebook, Bandcamp, Instagram, YouTube