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White Empress - Interview

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Interview with: Paul Allender
Conducted by: T.V.

Who doesn't know the name Paul Allender? We are talking about one of the most influential guitarists in extreme metal fields! In UK born, now living in USA, Paul is best known as being a guitarist of British notorious band Cradle Of Filth from their beginnings in 1991 until 1994, when he left the band to join The Blood Divine, another great, now almost forgotten band with ex-Anathema singer Darren "Daz" White. Paul rejoined Cradle Of Filth in 2000 after receiving a call from Dani Filth, along with drummer Adrian Erlandsson and keyboardist Martin Powell on the band's album, Midian, and then stayed with the band until 2014, when he formed the band White Empress. In 2014 the band released a self-titled EP and soon after the debut album Rise Of The Empress, with female singer Mary Zimmer (Luna Mortis), who soon after because of some internal problems left the band. The line-up of White Empress today features beside Paul Allender also Chela Rhea Harper, known as a bass player for Coal Chamber, then guitarist Jeremy Kohnmann, keys are handled by Will Graney, known from Damnation Angels. Their drummer Adam Sagan who played in Into Eternity or Circle II Circle passed away just a couple of days ago after battling with cancer for over a year, he was 36 years old (R.I.P.). Paul spent a year experimenting and trying to find something that hasn't been done before. He decided to take all the singing out of White Empress and replaced it all with narration. The band now has the style of a horror audiobook with cinematic film. Paul is also busy with horror film company Era Horrificus Films, which is strongly connected with the band and recently shoot a short film for the new stunningly haunting track "Revenant" that shows a new direction for White Empress which will next year release the second full-lenght album. I had an opportunity to talk with legendary guitarist Paul Allender about this new direction, future plans, about past and present, about some private things and yet much more.

T.V.: Hi Paul! Must tell you that I'm amazed by the new track "Revenant". It certainly shows White Empress in a different light than the tracks on debut album Rise Of The Empress. Before we proceed can you tell me some words about this new composition of yours?
: Hey, thank you, I’m much more into this and the way the band is progressing, it’s much better than ever before. The first album was the band just finding its feet and after a while I just didn’t enjoy playing that kind of music, because of this I decided to change everything up. Jeremy (guitar) and I spoke about making it heavier and a lot faster, to which everyone in the band agreed. I wanted to go back to my roots, write music with an aggressive cinematic feel and "Revenant" is the introduction to the bands new direction. Going down this direction I had to make sure it was something different, nothing that anyone is doing now, so removing the vocals completely and replacing them with just narration was the way to go, it fits us perfectly. Shooting a cinematic horror film to enhance the feel and the atmosphere was something that just had to happen. Now everything blends seamlessly and tells the story very well indeed.
T.V.: In a way the atmosphere of the song reminds me to early days of Cradle Of Filth, to some stuff from Dusk… And Her Embrace to be concrete…
Paul: I think I know what you mean, although I guess the atmosphere is going to sound a bit like that because it’s my writing style, I wrote pretty much most of Cradle at the time.
T.V.: The track got also a stunning video clip, a proper short horror film created by your company Era Horrificus Films. But not only, there is quite a story behind it...
Paul: I started Era Horrificus Films with my friend Keith Allen and his son Jared Allen, two extremely talented individuals who are invaluable to Era Horrificus. I met Keith after he contacted me about various guitar techniques and, after chatting for some time, he showed interest in teaming up to shoot the horror short 'Revenant', from here Era Horrificus Films was born. The story behind "Revenant" is pretty twisted, I’ll try to explain... The story starts in a very small village with minimal residents, it’s in a time where people believed in witches and demons, rampaging, terrorizing and devouring any soul they could feast upon. Within this village there are two families, one a father and two sons who steal, cheat and murder for a price. The other, a god loving family, a priest and his daughter who stop at nothing to spread the lords word and preach every Sunday, without fail, in their beautiful church. One night the priest had to venture out to attend to the sick in the village, leaving his daughter behind to take care of the house. The two sons see the priest leave the house and on a drunken rampage they decide to pay the priests house a visit knowing full well his daughter is alone. They break in and commit disgusting, despicable, unimaginable sexual acts on the daughter and leave her for dead, laughing as they make their way home. Upon the priests return, after seeing to the sick in the village he discovers his daughter, bleeding and broken with only an ounce of life left in her body. Outraged with this and hurt beyond belief, he falls to his knees and cradles his beloved in his arms as he questions “why would such a thing happen? did we not serve you, our lord and savior enough? We gave you everything!!!!”. He noticed a small dagger on the floor, broken bladed with a ragged handle, he knew where this came from. With vengeance in his heart and a loss of faith, the priest denied his lord and savior and looked towards the darker side for the revenge of his broken, frail, beautiful daughter. Just one day’s punishment would not suffice for such a diabolical act towards his family. The priest summons a curse that would last an eternity, leaving one solitary member, a male of the cursed family, history less and forever alone. For future generations to come, when a boy is born and comes of age, having a son of his own and his son comes of age the curse takes effect and kills everyone who is attached to the infant boy child, leaving the infant to mature and have children of his own. The curse repeats without an end. In the film Revenant, the narration is from the priest’s point of view and after reading this you should be able to make sense of what is going on. The film is split into two parts, one is the passing of the curse, this is symbolized by the box in the film. The other part is after the fire sequence when the colour grade changes to blue, this part represents how the curse takes over the man and the chain of events leading up to his death. Think about how paranoid you would be of having a boy and knowing the outcome of your own demise, knowing your soul will be ripped to shreds, over and over again. Could you handle it? Or would you sever your entire blood line by ending your own life before the curse would destroy you?
T.V.: Pretty impressive horror story which offers also something to think about, thank you for explaining it. Now I wonder if Era Horrificus Films is meant also to shoot real movies or just video clips?
Paul: Thanks, the story has been worked on for some time and refined for "Revenant". Era Horrificus will be shooting a full length horror for the next White Empress full album, the film will be the entire length of the album, each track is looking to be about 8 minutes long, if not longer. I’m very excited to start this, myself and my team have some great ideas for this film, it’s going to be pretty screwed up.

T.V.: Recently your former singer Mary left the band and I'm interested who did the vocals for "Revenant"?
Paul: We are using voice actors for all the narrative from now on, singers are too much of a pain in the ass. The 2017 album and film will have various voice actors playing the parts of different characters from the story. Actually I had the idea for the narration on "Revenant" to see how it would sound, but Chela suggested that it would be cool to do the entire album like this if everything sounded great.
T.V.: What was the cause that Mary left the band and will you be searching now for a new singer or will somebody of remaining band members took over the vocal duties?
Paul: There was a lot of internal stuff going on and the vision of the band at that time was way too small to stand out and be different, I don’t follow anything that’s already been done a million times before so things had to change. As I said above were using only voice actors now and never using a singer again, it’s too normal and boring.
T.V.: But still, how will you perform this kind of a vocal approach on stage?
Paul: This will be made public at a later date. What I want to do is very different so I can’t say anything just yet.
T.V.: The new album is already in the making and I wonder if you can already reveal some details to our readers?
Paul: Well, the new album will be 10 tracks, all with the same intensity as "Revenant" and Era Horrificus will be shooting a full length horror film for the album. I can’t give anything away but it will be a prequel to "Revenant" so expect to be blown away!
T.V.: So, are you telling me that this will be a proper horror film with actors and stuff. Who is the one writing the screenplay and who’ll be directing it?
Paul: The full film we are planning to release next year will have actors and dialogue. The screen play will be a collective decision and I will be directing the film but I am open for ideas from my crew in Era Horrificus.
T.V.: And when do you plan to release it? Will it be also, like Rise Of The Empress, published by Peaceville Records?
Paul: The album will come out like a normal album but with it the film will also be released, I want to chat with Peaceville nearer the time to release everything together, I’ll let you know if that happens. If not the film will come out separately, I have some very cool ideas for this new full length horror.
T.V.: If not Peaceville Records than I believe that labels will be fighting between each other to release it. I’m wondering what are the things that are the most important for you when signing a deal with a label?
Paul: Peaceville will release the album, I just need to talk with them about what format to do it in because the film has to be released with the audio otherwise it won’t make sense. Honestly labels have kind of lost their way since digital has taken over. A good distribution is a must, but if you’re looking for those advances that they use to give out you’re going to be waiting a very long time.
T.V.: Can you, at least approximately, tell me when the new album could be expected to hit the streets?
Paul: As I said, the album and film will be released next year together, I’m looking at Halloween again and haven’t decided what the format will be.
T.V.: And I’m interested how will you pack together the music and horror film. Any ideas already?
Paul: I’m afraid that will be a trade secret for now. There will be a few production meetings before we decide on how the film will be shot etc., the music will be created the same way, it has always been.
T.V.: Ok, you are pretty secretive about it, but I guess that you know when it'll be the best time to reveal some further details about the upcoming album. You gathered quite some impressive names around you in White Empress. Chela is from Coal Chamber, Adam played in some great bands like Into Eternity or Circle II Circle, Will plays in Damnation Angels, the only mystery remains Jeremy. How do you guys and girl get along and is this a stable line up now?
Paul: We all get along fine, and it’s very stable. When a band starts there is always teething problems and when it happens you have to erase the problem for a band to grow. The first album was just us getting use to each other seeing how we all gel. The band now is very stable and changing the direction is getting a very positive response, it’s almost night and day compared to what it was before when we were just a normal band.
T.V.: I believe that a lot of Cradle Of Filth fans wonder why did you left the band in 2014?
Paul: I personally felt I needed a change, everything was getting stale for me and nothing was getting bigger, nor growing, plus getting older I wanted to stay rooted in one place. Setting up White Empress does just that, we're not going to do your “typical” shows, that’s boring as hell, instead they will be way more spectacular and only on two or three days a year. I will explain nearer the time.
T.V.: Ok, I see. And how are your relations with members of Cradle Of Filth now, do you guys meet and talk often?
Paul: Not very often if at all to be honest. I talk with the members who use to be in the band, mainly Dave from time to time but were all too damn busy getting on with life.
T.V.: Are you the one who writes all the music and lyrics for White Empress?
Paul: I do most of the writing, yes, but the others do contribute when they can, I'm mainly writing everything with Will and Adam. The narrative I left to the narrator with guidance from myself as to how it sounds.
T.V.: After all this years in music scene I wonder where do you find all of the inspiration for keeping it doing?
Paul: I took a break from everything after the first White Empress album to figure out what needed to happen and what needed to change, it all got very boring so change had to happen. I get a lot of inspiration from horror films and audio books, hence where I got the horror audio book idea for White Empress. Vocals are boring as hell so doing something different, like narration over a bands music with cinematic visuals was the way to go, no one has done this before.
T.V.: When I first heard the name White Empress I thought that you use it also because your singer was white haired, but since she’s no more in the band, I wonder what’s the real deeper meaning of bands name?
Paul: The White Empress, as explained in the "Revenant" story, is an entity, an effigy of all things dark and sinister. First off the image was of the woman in white but that soon got really stale for me, the vibe was totally wrong and the part just wasn’t played to its fullest at all. Now it’s an amazing concept, turning the Empress into an embodiment of evil opens up so many new doors for the whole thing.
T.V.: I believe that you must be fascinated by horror movies. Which ones are your favorite and which directors you adore the most?
Paul: Honestly I don’t have a favorite director, I’m just into the films. If it’s a horror film of haunting proportions then I’m in it. I recently watched 'Haxan' again and its damn awesome, what they created in 1922 was just incredible. 'Insidious' is a great film as well as 'The Conjuring', I watch films like these to get inspiration.
T.V.: As you are an experienced and professional guitar player for so many years now I wonder which guitar trademark is your favorite and why?
Paul: In all honestly I don’t have one, I just play the bloody thing and write and arrange music, it’s a tool I use to record my visions and ideas. I love just playing to beats and letting the creativity flow.
T.V.: Which guitarist influenced you mostly when you started your career as a musician?
Paul: My main influence was Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, I was a huge maiden fan when I was a kid and for some reason I just like how Adrian played. I never wanted to play like him, I just liked what he did.
T.V.: Beside music and film what else does interests you in life? Who is Paul in private life? I read somewhere that you are or were very much into martial arts?
Paul: Yes, I did martial arts for about 32 years, I haven’t trained much now because of moving to the states. I would like to get back into it eventually but I’m in no rush. I grow chili peppers, this year I had a good harvest of Habaneros, Thai Dragons, Ghost, Carolina Reapers, Naga and Banana Peppers. I usually make curries out of them or grind them down to make my own chili/curry powder.
T.V.: Ha, interesting... Thank you Paul for your time and great answers. It was an honor for me and I wish you a lot of luck with White Empress! The last words are all yours.
Paul: Hey thanks man, it’s all good brother, it was a pleasure. White Empress has taken a different path from anyone else, it’s totally new for a band to do what White Empress is doing now. The next full film will be for the whole entire new album, right now the ideas are awesome and its looking sinister as hell, you guys will love it!!!! Be safe my friends and thank you for following White Empress the realm of darkness.

White Empress links: Official website, Facebook
Era Horrificus Films links: Facebook