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The Crawling - Interview

Interview with: Andy Clarke
Conducted by: T.V.

The doom metal scene seems to getting stronger and stronger every day and that dark old school doom/death metal is discovered again and is in a huge growth. One of the most interesting newcomers to the scene must be the Northern Ireland based trio The Crawling, who a couple of months ago came out with their astonishing debut album named Anatomy Of Loss. The Crawling were formed in 2014, in a big way influenced by the early sounds of Paradise Lost, Katatonia and Bolt Thrower, The Crawling use a guttural vocal to combine melancholy with weight, churning out a heavy, doom/death ensemble. All of the three members, Andy Clarke (guitar, vocals), Stuart Rainey (bass, vocals) and Gary Beattie (drums), are experienced musicians who played since early 90s in many different bands. In January 2015 they released their debut single "Choking On Concrete", which already put the band on the scene, followed in October 2015 by the critically acclaimed In Light Of Dark Days, the three track EP, and already on the stretcher of this release they were invited to play at Inferno Metal Festival in Norway, and Bloodstock Open Air in England, UK. In April this year Grindscene Records finally released their debut album Anatomy Of Loss, seven tracks expressing desperation and defeat and with it The Crawling strive to spread their brand of misery across the European festival scene, alongside UK and Ireland shows. We talked with the mastermind behind the band, Andy Clarke, who revealed many interesting things about the band, their recent live shows, about the album, influences and yet much more. Read this very interesting interview with one of the bands who just have everything to soon become one of the most important acts in the doom metal scene!

T.V.: It seems that The Crawling had a busy summer this year, playing quite some shows and festivals. MetalDays, Bloodstock,... Tell me how it was for you?
: It's been a really busy year for us in general to be honest. Bloodstock was last year actually, but we attended this year to watch some metal - great festival! The album was only released in April, so we've been working on getting it out there via any mean necessary. It's involved a lot of hard work through playing shows, getting videos done, social media thing, plus getting our live show nailed. Ultimately, it's been amazing fun, but hard work. MetalDays was an amazing highlight for the year - such a fantastic festival! I'm ready to go back already!
T.V.: So, all in all you think it was worth to travel all the way from Northern Ireland to Slovenia, just to play a live set that lasts less than one hour?
Andy: Absolutely. It's a dream festival for us. I've looked at photos of MetalDays for years and thought - I HAVE to play that festival!! It was just so cool. The exposure alone was fantastic - it's very well attended, and we got a pretty decent crowd, sold some merch and made some new friends. Ultimately we do this to play music we like, to people who want to see us and to have a good fucking time. I'm pretty sure we achieved all those things; so I'd say it was a good result! It's always worthwhile if your heart is in it. I'd go back tomorrow.
T.V.: That's great to hear! And just wondering, because I'm from Slovenia, if you had any spare time to get around and visit some places? What do you think about people and country. I guess you felt pretty comfortable here...
Andy: It's the most amazing place. We were a little tight with schedule wise as we had another fest in Ireland to play shortly after, so alas didn't have a great deal of time to explore. That said, we did drive across Slovenia to get to the fest, and we just had to stop on a few occasions to take in the breath taking scenery. It's a simply astounding view at times. The mountains are mind blowing! I admit I felt instantly happy in Slovenia. Sometimes, when travelling, it can take a while to relax in a place, but Slovenia is very chilled out place; I just arrived, had a beer and chilled out. I like it a lot. And, despite the hassles of poor weather - the thunderstorms are class!
T.V.: I'm happy that you felt this way! Now, tell me about the debut album of yours, Anatomy Of Loss, which was released in April. How are you satisfied with it and what does this collection of songs represent to you?
Andy: Yeah, only out! I'm still really happy with it. It has the perfect collection of songs on it, it's a good length and I'm very pleased with the mood it creates. It has captured everything I've wanted in our debut. I'm already feeling the pressure as to how we're going to follow it. The songs on the album represent loss, despondency, fear and regret. The album is centred around personal loss, and how we as humans deal with it. Everyone has their own coping mechanisms, and the album explores said things, and which are better than others. Or more often than not, all strategies fail and everyone ends up in the same place of complete disarray and misunderstanding. It seems in this day and age, no one is 'allowed' to experience grief - it has to be 'treated'. It's a natural process and one that cannot be avoided.
T.V.: Are the lyrics inspired and written by personal things. How much introversive is the whole thing?
Andy: The whole thing is completely personal. Every time I sit down to write lyrics about a particular topic, I end up referring to something I've experienced personally, or someone close to me has been through. I think most lyricists tend to have their own style and formula - personal stuff is mine. Not only that, but I'm inspired by those sort of bands; Anathema, The Rotted to an extent and PJ Harvey. For me, it's all about me! I guess it's a bit narcissistic, but it's all I got!

T.V.: And another thing that I find pretty intriguing is the front cover artwor. The man standing above some sort of a precipice... Can you explain a bit more about it, and how does it connect with album thematics?
Andy: I love the cover. It was designed by Travis Smith. I've admired his work for years, and I genuinely couldn't believe he agreed to work with us - I was ecstatic! In short, it was all down to Travis. I contacted him, gave him the album title and a rough outline of the album content and some streaming tracks and let him do his thing. He came back pretty quickly with two designs and we selected the man standing over the cliff. For me it just reflects that there are always things ahead that are difficult, but ultimately need dealt with. You can either stare into the abyss, jump, or turn back and face what needs to be done. That's how I see it, but I'm sure everyone has their own interpretations.
T.V.: I'm sure of that as well, really original stuff so to say. On the other hand the music you play is based on "old-school" doom/death. I don't think it's that hard to find out which bands are your main influences, but still... can I hear it from you?
Andy: Well, I suppose it all perforates through into the music, but I certainly have influences. My Dying Bride, Anathema and Katatonia would be my greatest influence. It's more a tonal and mood thing with those bands. I grew up in awe of Peaceville bands - it was always my dream to get signed to Peaceville! I also take influence from Gojira, Marduk, Darkthrone, Hypocrisy,... Just depends what I've been listening to, but those would be my main bands.
T.V.: It's interesting to see that this kind of music grows in popularity in the last time. Also some well established bands, for example Paradise Lost, are returning to their roots. What do you think is the cause for that?
Andy: I'm not great at keeping up with what's happening in the metal world, but I have noticed an increase in the deathy stuff in the media mags etc. Not to mention the festival circuit. I'm not sure about the Paradise Lost thing; I guess they've maybe come full circle? I mean, Anathema deviated a long time ago from the Peaceville years, but kept going, and going, and going, and I think they finally found the sound they were going for and are doing extremely well. I think it's simply fantastic. Paradise Lost started to deviate around the Host era, which was one of my fav albums of theirs, then they kinda started to move back towards their home territory. I guess they either didn't enjoy the change in direction, decided they weren't good enough at it, or simply wanted to rock out with the death metal stuff they loved the most. I suppose only they know? My Dying Bride did something similar with 34.788%...Complete, which again I thought was fantastic, but opted to head back to the death metal default. Both those bands have produced really good albums since, but a small part of me wishes they'd explored the other avenues ... just to see.
T.V.: I'm thinking quite the same in this regard! If I go back to the album of yours. There are seven quite different songs on it. If I had to choose my personal favorite would be either "An Immaculate Deception" or "The Right To Crawl". Tell me which is your favorite one and why?
Andy: You have good taste, ha ha! They are both very popular tracks. Currently, my favourite track is "Poison Orange". I like the mood it creates, and it's my best from a lyrical point of view. I spent longer than the other tracks on the words and it took me fucking ages to get a chorus riff to work. Ultimately we had binned the song, then I fixed the chorus and all was well. It just resonates well with me, I can't quite put my finger on it. I'm pretty sure it's the lyrics I like the most that makes it my fav.
T.V.: I find it also pretty interesting that many new bands are discovering that primal crust/death/doom sound from the mid/late 80s once played by bands such as Bolt Thrower or Axegrinder, and The Crawling are not an exception. You must be also a fan of that kind of sound or am I wrong?
Andy: Yeah, as I said earlier I have noted more bands of that era are infiltrating modern bands; which is great to my ears! You're absolutely correct - I'm a huge Bolt Thrower fan too! I'm so pleased the guys got Memorium started, after Bolt Thrower called it quits. I remember discovering those sort of bands back in the 90s and being totally blown away! It had such a dark edge, incredibly heavy, but without the blasting snare beat that put me off with a lot of death metal bands back then. I'm a big Entombed fan as well, and those guys practically created their own sound within a genre via the infamous BOSS HM-2 pedal. When we started to jamming I originally used an HM-2, but in the end came back to my trusty Peavey 5150 for the heavy guitars; but part of me still wants to use it!
T.V.: The Crawling were formed in 2014, but I believe that you guys must have some kind of a musical background. Can you tell me what kind of a musical activity or in which bands the members played before?
Andy: None of us are "musical" per se, but we've all been in bands for a long, long time. Stuart hasn't played in a lot of years, but was very active in the 90s in a death metal band called Severance. They were an amazing band, and that was how I first got to know Stuart, as I hung out with a lot of those guys as a kid. When Severance quit, Stu played guitar for a while, roadied and stuff, then moved away from music up until The Crawling got started. Gary has always played drums and does some proper snare drumming too. He originally started in Overoth, then moved on to Zombified, who he stills drums for. I met him through Zombified, as my brother was their singer at the time, so he ended up joining The Crawling under duress! I've played in bands since about 1994. I jammed with a few mates for years, but it wasn't until 1998 when I started Honey For Christ that I actively started touring and releasing music. Honey For Christ was maintained for over a decade. After our original drummer suffered some ill health we got a good friend Willy Taylor on drums. Things started to happen, but unfortunately Willy died in 2013 and the band stopped with him. I left music up until Stuart convinced me to join him in a "death metal venture" - that became The Crawling. Good times!
T.V.: And I suppose that from there on the things started to move on pretty quickly. You also got, at least I think so, a pretty good patner in Grindscene Records, who do some very good promotion for you, and The Crawling were very soon recognized as a strong player on the doom metal scene. Is there any special secret behind all this?
Andy: Yeah, we've been very fortunate having Grindscene Records and Future PR involved with the band; it's a great combination. No secret to anything we do to be honest, it really only comes down to hard work. Alas I have a day job, but when i'm not working at that I am working on The Crawling. In average about 30 hours a week are dedicated to the band, whether it be writing new material, practicing guitar, writing lyrics, editing video, creating blogs, vlogs, updating social media, designing new merch, creating new imagery, replying to emails, pm's, instagram,... the list goes on! It's never ending, but I find now that I've been doing this for a couple of years the band has finally got a little bit of traction and made an impact of some description in the scene. It's really great, but it takes a lot of work and time; but I figured it out that I may as well do what I can while I still enjoy it.
T.V.: So, are you the main man when it comes to compositions and lyrics, or is more like a team work?
Andy: I write all the music and lyrics, but being the guitarist/singer, I find that happens by default. I mean, I write the tracks at home, demo them, send them to the guys and they give a yes or no as to if it's something we want to work with. It then goes to the rehearsal space and we jam it out and fix the rough edges and make it into a song. It's all team work at that stage. I certainly couldn't do it all by myself!
T.V.: Yes, absolutely. The album opens with the next phrase: "My only wish is to burn the world. Then no one would know what I've done." Is this reflecting some kind of a disappointment you have towards the modern society and things that are happening in the world today?
Andy: It's a combination of personal and a wider view. I wrote those lyrics about very personal things, then modified them slightly to apply to a greater problem, as they were a little too up close! The song is reflective of modern society in that everyone wears a different face when going about their day to day business, but behind closed doors they are completely different. It's the same on social media - the constant "mask" people wear to impress, or gain attention, when that's not really how they are at all. The song kind of reflects when people get to see the "real you" when the mask slips and realise you're not the person you profess to be; but something ultimately less. When this happens people scramble to apologise and undo what happened, when in fact they should embrace the release and just be the person they are.
T.V.: That's exactly what I think that it's the main problem with most of todays society. Tell me, are you already working on a follow up to Anatomy Of Loss?
Andy: Yes we are. We have one track almost completed - the demo sounds good, and we have rehearsed as a band and it sounds great! I've got another demo just completed, which we are taking to the rehearsal room tonight to bash out and see how it sounds. I don't want to rush it, but we need the second album out sooner rather than later to keep the momentum going. We have some more videos to be released from Anatomy Of Loss to keep you miserable in the mean time!
T.V.: Are you about to follow the same direction as on the first album, or will be there some surprises?
Andy: There is definitely been a shift in the song writing. I focused a lot on repetition on Anatomy Of Loss to create the feeling of life just continually plodding along, and not really getting anywhere, besides closer to death. The tracks I'm writing at the moment are more acute, and the riffs reflect that. They're not progressive or anything too taxing (I'm not capable!), but there are a few more riffs and the changes aren't as predictable. It'll still sound like The Crawling of course, and I've another five songs to go yet. I do predict a very slowwwwww one though!

T.V.: In the meantime can we expect to see The Crawling playing live around Europe or abroad as well? Any tour dates scheduled?
Andy: We're working on it! A Polish promoter has been in touch and we are looking at a few dates; but have to see how it goes. Europe is amazing fun, and great crowds, so we're looking forward to heading out. Our next dates are in Sourthern Ireland. We play Cork and Galway 22/23 September alongside Ten Ton Slug; they should be really good shows! We have a Belfast show in November, then a Deathfest in January supporting Bloodshot Dawn - we're pretty excited about that one!
T.V.: Before you have already mentioned the videos you made and that there will be more. I must tell you that both that you made so far are pretty cool, and I wonder how much fun is for you the process of shoting videos? For which songs can we expect new videos, and do you think that videos are worth to be made? Do they offer enough positive promotion and recognition for the band?
Andy: I have to admit I really enjoy the videos. As I said, I've been playing in bands for decades, but I've only really started doing professional videos with The Crawling. It's new to me, so I'm really into it. I've always been a fan of music videos, but never had the access or understood how to get them done. I have a pretty good understanding now, and know what's achievable, and what's not. I really love the visual side, it can really help to set the mood for the song, and translate more to the listener. It's a great medium. Our next video is for "Acid On My Skin", which we just finished shooting last weekend. It was quite ambitious, and features more storyboard stuff, as well as instruments and the usual ideas. There will be more to follow as well. I do think videos are worth it. YouTube is pretty much the "go-to" for people to listen to music and you've more chance of getting listened to if you have a good video to go with it. I mean, my house on a Saturday night - we're all drinking beer with YouTube on the TV, and everyone putting on their fav tracks. It's the 80s ghetto blaster! haha! All that sorta stuff makes them a great promotional too. It also show dedication and vision, as the band is investing more and more in the music. Money where your mouth is type thing. Plus, in the social media people share everything - and videos are one of the most shared things you see. You've three seconds to catch attention, it's more easily achieved with video than audio only. Tough world out there, you have to keep up.
T.V.: I understand, yes. And while you mentioned that you are a fan of music videos, can you expose one or two music video clip that might be for you the best one released ever?
Andy: Ohhhh, that's a tricky one! It varies between an old video that I loved as a kid, which was Metallica's "One", but nowadays it's more difficult to choose. One of my fav's last few years has been Black Tongue - "In The Wake Ov The Wolf". It's just really my bag - I love it! Great track too. That and Behemoth - "Lucifer"; it think it's brilliant - the guy in the suit is cast perfectly.
T.V.: Nice and interesting choices! Before we go to the final questions, tell me who's Andy in his private life? What are the things outside the music world that enthuse you the most?
Andy: I like to travel, so my wife and I enjoy holidays as many as we can afford the money and time for. It can range from further afield like my first trip to USA last year, to a camping trip several hours down south of Ireland. I really enjoyed Poland this year - cracking place! I love my dogs, so spend a fair amount of time with the pups, and associated walking in parks. I like hiking, and we have some amazing mountain areas around home. I'm also a keen scuba diver. I'm technical trained, and have dived some amazing world war shipwrecks in Norway, Croatia, UK and around Ireland. I don't get to do as much as I used to, but it's merely down to time.
T.V.: A scuba diver, amazing! Ok, tell me now how it's with the metal music scene in Northern Ireland. Are there many bands, concerts, clubs,...? Do you get a lot of chances to play live?
Andy: Metal scene in Northern Ireland is very strong. Belfast, the capital, is the central hub for metal pretty much. The Distortion Project, ran by James Loveday, is the leading promoter in the North, and puts on everything from a bands first show, to W.A.S.P.. We have two main venues in Belfast that can support a crowd or 100 up to 800 people - just depends on how famous the band is. It's great having the smaller venues for local bands, as it creates a much better atmosphere than playing to a large hall with a small crowd. We play a decent amount, but we try to limit how many shows we play in our home town; it's easy to saturate your home town and then no one comes to see you. It's a fine balance.
T.V.: Ok, thank you very much for all the interesting answers and your time! I think that this would be everything from my side. I hope to see you soon playing again in our vicinity! Is there something that you would like to mention, that I maybe forgot to ask? And what would be your last words at the end of this interview?
Andy: We would love to in the vicinity; and hope to see you soon! Thank you for the interview, we really appreciate your support. Drop by the band Bandcamp to check out the tunes. Thanks again, and stay miserable...

The Crawling links: Official website, Facebook, Bandcamp