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Whispers In The Shadow / The Devil & The Universe - Interview

Interview with: Ashley Dayour
Conducted by: T.V.

Everybody who follows gothic rock must know Ashley Dayour. He's a founder of legendary Austrian gothsters Whispers In The Shadow, who are active since 1996 and have produced seven full lenght albums that could be counted as something most profound ever done in the genre, not only from musical side, but as well from conceptual side. The line-up of Whispers In The Shadow consists beside Ashley Dayour who's behind vocals and guitars, also of bassist Fork, keyboardist Martin Acid, drummer Reinhard Schwarzinger and second guitarist Lazy Schulz. Ashley took also part of legends L'Ame Immortelle for several years and he's a guitarist in Sonja's Kraushofer new band Coma Divine. This year we witnessed to another monster created by Ashley and his friend David Pfister named The Devil & The Universe, which dwells in darker ambiental waters. Everything that's surrounding him has certain mystical, magical and occultistic scent. We talked with friendly Ashley about many things that concern his musical activity, about magic, future projects, plans and much more. This in-depth interview is a must read for every devoted fan of dark music!

T.R.: It seems that you are pretty busy with three bands right now, Whispers In The Shadow, The Devil & The Universe and Coma Divine. Which is your most important obligation?
: They are all important for different reasons. Currently I'm working with and for The Devil & The Universe. We just finished the mastering for our debut full length album and booking shows for a tour in September/October. Beside that I'm working on new material for the next Whispers In The Shadow album as well. Coma Divine is on pause at the moment. But will be reactivated later this year, I guess.
T.R.: With The Devil & The Universe you just released your first EP, how are you satisfied with it?
Ashley: Very. Actually we were surprised how many people dig our sound. The EP was sold out in a day! You know, this is not some kind of "everyday" music; it's not even close to rock music. But there seems to be an audience for it. I love to work with that project because it is so fresh and new, and something I always wanted to do. I just had to find the right partner for it which I finally found in Mr. David Pfister.
T.R.: What was actually the reason which pushed you into those more "dark ambiental" waters?
Ashley: Well I always liked film scores. 80's horror film scores in particular. You can hear it... John Carpenter is all over the place. Also I'm a big fan of the classic dark ambient sound of the 90's and I always wanted to write instrumental music in which the sounds and the actual songs tell the story not the lyrics.
T.R.: Everything you create has kind of occultistic smell. Are you into the occult and magic?
Ashley: It certainly seems like "the occult" or "magic" is an ongoing fountain of inspiration, yes.
T.R.: Do you practice things like that?
Ashley: It would be really weird to sing and write songs about these subjects without experiencing it. Well at least for me it would be, I can't really write about something I haven't experienced.
T.R.: Ok, let's return to music. The Devil & The Universe music must be inspired also by some 80's pop. It's quite an unusual combination of ambient and pop, at least the track "It's Our Will" is?
Ashley: Well, this is the mentioned John Carpenter Soundtrack influence and yeah, we always wanted to do more than just creating another dark ambient project. There is a wide range of styles within The Devil & The Universe. There are going to be some tracks on the forthcoming album that will surprise people even more. It is a mixture of early 80's industrial, horror scores, dark ambient, and minimal wave, some tunes are pretty dancy and there is one with a black metal feel..., it's chaotic ghost wave..., very “discordian” actually.
T.R.: But, you forgot to mention the eastern influences, those are evident everywhere, as well in Whispers In The Shadow...
Ashley: True! They are! This must have something to do with my fascination for the Middle East.
T.R.: What's the reason that your EP wasn't released on a CD edition and was just on tape or digital?
Ashley: Because everybody releases CD’s, a tape is something very different. Different like we are. With our label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe we found a partner who really understands that. Besides it was released as digital download as well, everybody who bought the tape got the download as well and most people will probably never really listen to the tape just to the digital version. It is more like a collector’s item. Btw..., the full album will be released only as a vinyl-package that also includes the CD and Download.
T.R.: What a pity! I cannot put it in my collection. So, tell me about the meaning of the title Evoking Eternity?
Ashley: Well, as I said it was gone in a day. The vinyl will be a limited release as well, not as limited as the tape, but everyone who wants one shouldn't wait too long to take their orders when it is out in September. There couldn't be a better title for our debut release. The music indeed is very evocative. That's what our main intention is, to evoke pictures in the head of the listener and give him a sense of eternity so to speak
T.R.: Can you already reveal some more things about your debut album?
Ashley: The best way to describe it is with the opening line of the album: "Flesh is a trap and Magick sets us free", and I should mention its release date: 21.09.2013 Autumnal Equinox Day. We only release our records on "special days"!
T.R.: I see that! Yet it has somehow more mysterious title Imprint Daath, what about that?
Ashley: Indeed it is. The term “Daath” comes from the teachings of the cabbalistic tree of life. It is the "door" to enter its "back" or "shadow" side, the tree of death, the so called Qliphoth sphere, the “Sitra Ahra”, the other side. It's pretty obscure if someone is not too familiar with all that stuff. In short and described as fast as I can: "Daath" is the gate to ones "shadow self".
T.R.: Interesting! What about the label Aufnahme + Wiedergabe, this is the first time that I hear about them?
Ashley: They are a pretty young Berlin based label. They released other great stuff such as the highly recommended In Death It Ends or Die Selektion, the final album of goth rockers Passion Play, or Italian minimal wave act Xiu, just to name a few.
T.R.: The voices heard in some songs I suppose that are samples. From where are they taken?
Ashley: Not all of them are samples. My Partner David travels a lot and always takes his mp3 recorder with him. For example: Each created piece of self-recorded- "Field Recordings"- music is built upon and contains an element of the spiritual. For example, the foundation of the track "Kruzifix", that will be on the forthcoming album, reflects, for instance, the daily processions of light in Lourdes. "Parvati’s Lament" is based on the field recordings of a ceremony involving the Hindu Mother – Goddess Parvati, recorded in the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal. The temple is one of the most significant also for Parvati’s husband Shiva and it is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu which is also where recordings were made during the open-air cremation ceremony of a lower–caste person. This moment was captured and then also developed with a methodical approach, motivated by an attempt to celebrate and emphasise the final stage of an anonymous person’s life.
T.R.: Do you suppose to continue with this project when the album is released?
Ashley: Yes! We already have plans for the future. There will be another release after the album, still this year and we will do some live shows, and there is more to come. One project I can't talk about now, but this is going to be something I wanted to do for a long time.
T.R.: Do you plan to prepare some special atmosphere for live shows. I believe that is difficult to play ambiental stuff live without that?
Ashley: It certainly won’t be a live show with two men and two laptops. We will play different instruments and will also have a third member with us who takes care about percussions and drums. So that alone will set us apart from many dark ambient bands. I for my part will play bass, keys, percussions, and David will operate several keys, chaos elaters and other weird stuff... We will also have a special visual show with us which will fit to the music and themes, but believe me; it will not be as ambient as you might think but still far away from a rock concert of course.
T.R.: This already sounds interesting! You mentioned another project that's in the making. Will it be black metal or what this time?
Ashley: No, it will be something under the banner of The Devil & The Universe..., but something special... that’s all I can say about it.
T.R.: I see. Kirst Mort did some amazing photos for The Devil & The Universe. Were those hers or your ideas?
Ashley: They were all her ideas. I just sent her all the songs and she created the whole thing. Just recently we did another photo shooting for the album cover. I think no other visual artist could fit better to our music. When I first discovered her I was blown away by her work. Absolutely my favourite photographer! So therefore we are very happy that she is working with us.
T.R.: Who is the main composer in The Devil & The Universe, you or David? Or better said who does what?
Ashley: David is the initiator. He brings along these mentioned field recordings and then I begin to shape songs around them or from them, but the song writing is a very different agenda compared to other projects. This is how we approach it: First I have to tell you how our name was created, then the rest makes sense:
Two cards selected from the 78-piece tarot card-set as utilised by the most famous occultist of the 20th century Aleister Crowley, were behind the first step. "The Devil" and "The Universe" were the cards pulled that would prophesize a name for a musical-magical-transcendental composition and transformation project: The Devil & The Universe. Imagine allotting certain chords or rhythmic sequencing to certain cards. The pulling of the cards then becomes an exercise reminiscent of automatic writing. A beloved methodology of Surrealism, this exercise permits emotion and expression to emerge without the influence of the "critical self".
T.R.: Thanks for this explanation! I wanted to ask you about the meaning of the name..., so there's no need anymore. Ok, I still believe that Whispers In The Shadow are your main band and of course most popular one. You just released a live album with quite fascinating recordings from your live set on Wave Gothic Treffen 2013. Why have you decided to release it and why is available only for one month?
Ashley: Well, we released it simply because we think is good enough to be released. This years Wave Gothic Treffen show turned out to be something very special. One of those gigs where everything felt into place. We wanted to give people the chance to re-experience it. We also want to keep it as something special and that’s why it will only be available for a month, officially. But face it... you will be able to download it somewhere else. You probably already can. I also have to mention the thing is very rough, no overdubs or edits. Presumably the most honest thing we ever released... and people seem to like that... it is really a live record!
T.R.: Yep, I was quite impressed with the sound! Hm, everything around you has a deeper meaning than it seems, so obviously also the name Whispers In The Shadow?
Ashley: It was inspired by a story from H.P. Lovecraft: "The Whisperer In Darkness". Lovecraft was and still is one of my main influences. I consider Whispers as a very “lovecraftian” band. And yeah, I always try to do something more than "just" music. Picking up a guitar and write a song about a love once lost has been done so many times... above all I guess I'm a conceptualist.
T.R.: Seven albums in your discography must mean a lot! But, which one is the one that you think is the main and most important Whispers In The Shadow album?
Ashley: Certainly the last three albums are our best in every sense. The most important one though is the 2008 release Into The Arms Of Chaos (the first one of a four album cycle that will be finished with the next one). This album changed everything. There is Whispers In The Shadow before and after that album. We changed a lot with that record and I still love it. It turned out exactly like I wanted it to be. We had a few very difficult years before it. But my personal favourite is the last one The Rites Of Passage because I consider it as our most coherent. From the older ones I still like our first one Laudanum. We still play songs from that one from time to time. It started it all, so it must be important in a way.
T.R.: Can you already reveal some things about your upcoming album?
Ashley: As I said it will be the end of the four album cycle that started in 2008. The demos are almost finished now. It sounds very different from what we did with the previous three albums. It's a very cold, distant, impersonal monster, very dystopian. A child of its time... A few critics described the last album with starring at an empty landscape. This new one does sound more like empty cities, empty halls, empty cathedrals,...
T.R.: I believe, at least regarding to the album titles and song names that this cycle has also a lot to do with Tarot?
Ashley: Mostly it is about the four phases of the alchemistical process of transformation. Each album stands for one phase. Plus each album has its own "main themes" that correspond with that phases. The last one was influenced by the tarot card "The Moon" in particular and the so called "Babalon current" a magical system created by a certain Aleister Crowley. There is a lot of occult stuff going on within these records. As you see... indeed (almost) everything within the Whispers universe has some sort of meaning. But I'm not always clear about them. Some things should be discovered by the listener and he should be able to create his own "story". It is very important that the music works on its own. If one does understand the whole meaning and back-story, that's a bonus, an important one, but a bonus anyway.
T.R.: Yeah, but not so many know Crowley other than he was an occultist. Do you already have a title for new album?
Ashley: He is the most known one. But as I said, these things are only important to understand the whole picture. But the music can and always should stand for itself. Yes, Beyond The Cycles Of Time will be the title and it will be released in early 2014, again via Solar Lodge Records.
T.R.: What do you think is the receipt to keep listeners interested in your music in today’s oversaturated scene with thousands of albums being released every year?
Ashley: Now I should say things like believing in one self, being honest, and stuff like that... but honestly I don't know. We just do our thing. But yes I do believe that there is too much music and there are too much (mediocre or worse) bands out there. But having said that... there is a lot of great new music going on, only just not in that particular scene..
T.R.: As you already pointed out Solar Lodge Records... I find this label very interesting, with only few bands signed. How's your experience with them?
Ashley: In just a few words: very good. I also think labels shouldn't sign a lot of different bands, rather concentrate on a selected few which they really like and really want to bring to the people.
T.R.: If I'm not mistaken Solar Lodge is run by guys from Merciful Nuns/Garden Of Delight?
Ashley: Yes it is run by Merciful Nuns/Garden Of Delight mastermind Artaud Seth. We know each other for a long time, even toured with Garden Of Delight. And we share a similar musical and conceptual taste.
T.R.: I believe that Garden Of Delight must be one of your influences; still can you name some bands that influenced your music in any way?
Ashley: Their name is legion. The Cure played an important role in the beginning. We sounded a lot like them on our first two records. David Bowie is a very big influence but more the way he approaches things than he's actual music (which I also love of course), Dead Can Dance, Pink Floyd, Soundtrack stuff, some post rock like early Mogwai,... I think all the music that I'm listening to influenced me in one way or another... So do books I read or movies I like.
T.R.: I found it interesting that you haven't mentioned as your influence Fields Of The Nephilim. I think that your image is quite similar to the one of Carl?
Ashley: Actually I don't think it is that similar. I mean I wear a hat, and that's about it. In my opinion the rest of my stage style is a bit different. But I do like the Nephs of course. I like the whole classic Goth brigade of the 80's, Siouxsie, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Mission, The Sisters Of Mercy,... or lesser known bands such as Play Dead, you name them...
T.R.: So, Ashley, how would you describe a live performance of Whispers In The Shadow?
Ashley: Intense, loud, evocative and different each time. No show is like the other.
T.R.: And which song is the most requested by fans on your live sets?
Ashley: There isn't one single song, but there are a few. "Neither : Neither", "Back To The Wound", "The Arrival", "The Lost Souls", "If Uriel Falls",... are all fan favourites and with the exception of one they are all my faves too.
T.R.: And how it came to your collaboration with Coma Divine?
Ashley: I knew Sonja the singer of Coma Divine from the band L'Ame Immortelle. I was their guitarist for several years. Sonja had the idea to form a new project. And so we did...
T.R.: I couldn't find this information anywhere... in which period did you play with L'Ame Immortelle?
Ashley: From 2002 until 2009.
T.R.: And why this collaboration ended?
Ashley: Because L'Ame Immortelle don't do live shows anymore. It's just a studio based project now.
T.R.: I see, so Sonja formed Coma Divine because of this, I guess. Besides playing guitar do you take also a part in song composing within Coma Divine?
Ashley: Yes I do. Most songs are written as a band together. But Martin (the cello player) is the "musical director". I'm only responsible for the guitar parts.
T.R.: Let's go back to Whispers... Do you consider Whispers In The Shadow as a typical gothic rock band?
Ashley: It depends what "a typical goth rock band" stands for. Gothic rock nowadays is not something I would agree on. Simply because there isn't much going on under that label I like. But if you mean a typical gothic rock band in the classic tradition of the 80's and early 90's combined with modern sound and interesting song writing, I have to say yes. Even though we stretched the boarders of typical gothic rock quite a bit if you listen to stuff like "The Tempest" for example.
T.R.: Do you intend to shoot any new official video clip sometime soon?
Ashley: We did shoot two promo videos so far: "Blood, Sweat & Tears" from The Eternal Arcane, and the title track from the last album, "The Rites Of Passage". I'm still very fond of the later. And yes, there is going to be one promo video for the next album as well.

T.R.: I saw them; the video for "The Rights Of Passage" is amazing. How do you enjoy in the process of video making?
Ashley: Not really... video shootings are a pain in the arse, it is very exhausting. But if it ends up as good as "The Rites Of Passage" than it is all worth it.
T.R.: Your fifth album Into The Arms Of Chaos was produced by legendary John A. Rivers, who also worked with Dead Can Dance, Clan Of Xymox, Love & Rockets,.... How it was working with him?
Ashley: Fantastic. He sees the studio as another instrument, like I do. Besides he is a very friendly and nice guy, I enjoyed every minute of it and it was great working in the UK again. I love it there.
T.R.: One personal question. Who is Ashley outside the music world, what do you like to do?
Ashley: Reading, being lazy, sleeping, like the occasional walk, travelling, magic, watching movies (I'm a bit of movie junkie really), drinking with friends,... that’s about it. Not that glamorous I guess.
T.R.: I think that it would be interesting to know your personal opinion about the things that are going on in the world today, social, economical, political and all other crisis?
Ashley: Well, I think this would be an interview for itself. Just one thing: I believe that we are living in a world of "Crossroads", a world in-between... major changes are indeed happening. If for better or worse I'm not the one to judge, what is good for the one is bad for the other. Every tower must fall before a change, towers did fall. Each crisis is the catalyst for something new, and an opportunity to change things.
T.R.: But it seems that the things are changing only for those in the bottom, from bad to worse. On the other hand the things haven't changed a lot for lots of corrupted bastards and those who are living in wealth, they gained even more?
Ashley: Like I said... for some it’s good for some bad... and we are just at the beginning of something bigger. The World is getting more and more unstable. Communism failed, Democracy failed, Capitalism failed, every social system that exists today failed and nothing really new is in sight. I believe that we are at the end of the so called Kali Yuga, the iron age of war. Two songs on The Rites Of Passage are about that ("Wormwood Star" and "Call To Arms").
T.R.: We could really do another interview about this matter. Ok Ashley, thank you very much, but is there anything else that you would like to add at the end of this interview?
Ashley: I think this one goes pretty deep. Nothing more to add from my side. Thank you!

(Photo credits: Ashley Dayour single photos by Ingrid Pluhar, Whispers In The Shadow band photos by Matthias Lueger, The Devil & The Universe photos by Krist Mort, Coma Divine photo by Tim Tronckoe) Click on the photos to enlarge.

Whispers In The Shadow links: Official website, Facebook, Bandcamp

The Devil & The Universe links: Facebook, Bandcamp

Coma Divine links: Official website, Facebook


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