Sydney metallers The Amenta have become one of Australia’s premier metal exports in the past decade, boasting an impressive touring history with bands like Behemoth, The Berzerker and Deicide. With a new release entitled "VO1d" out now and an upcoming national headlining tour, we caught up with the band’s resident multi-tasker Timothy Pope to discuss everything The Amenta.
Hey mate, let’s start out by finding out your name, what you do in The Amenta and your favourite non-metal album of all time.
My name is Timothy Pope. I play samples, keyboards and effects in the live band. All sorts of other detritus on the recordings. My favourite non-metal album changes quite often. At the moment it would be “Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” by Spiritualized. If you haven’t heard that album then search it out. It will tear your fucking heart out. It’s like gospel-noise. Big choirs and horns, repetitive droning riffs and lyrics about drugs, death and love.
Which bands do you think have been the most influential to The Amenta? What inspires you most to create your music?
We don’t talk about influence. We actively try to ignore outside influence when making our music. I think if you are listening to outside influences then you are going to end up with some pretty generic music. There is enough of that shit out there. I am not adding to it. Now inspiration, that’s the ticket. We are inspired by a lot of different bands.
Inspiration is much better than influence. You can be inspired by anything, from Tom Waits to Mayhem to Vivaldi. It doesn’t matter what it sounds like as long as it lights that creative spark in you and makes you want to write your own music. Our inspirations change all the time. At the moment I am really inspired, or re-inspired I should say, by all the Australian metal I used to listen to as a kid. Cruciform, Abramelin, Lord Kaos, and Disembowelment all spring to mind. I don’t want to sound like them but listening to their albums inspires me to create my own music.
Personally I am inspired most by new sounds. I love hearing music that I have never heard before, something original and ground breaking. I remember the first time I heard Eisturzende Neubauten and it blew me away that you could make music with sheets of metal and power drills. And that inspired me to look at other ways to play instruments and create music.
The Amenta has had a bit of line-up reshuffling since your inception. How do you think this has impacted the band?
It doesn’t make a single fucking difference. Erik (Miehs, guitar) and I have always written all the music and lyrics. We get people into the band to perform our music and if they don’t sound the way we want them to then we whip them into shape. New people will always come and go with this band. As long as it’s the two of us then it is The Amenta. We have a very solid vision of what this band is. You will always have members who promise the world and deliver the doorstep. It’s just the way people are. A lot of people aren’t aware of their own weaknesses until they trip over them. We will keep churning through whoever we have to make our music.
That said though, I enjoy the company of all the people in the band and I hope they hang around for the long haul. We have some very good players and people at the moment. It’s actually fun to sit in a crowded van with them and smell their rank stage clothes across the venue.
It was obviously a while ago now, but about this time last year you guys had the privilege of supporting Behemoth on their Australia tour. What were the highlights of that particular tour?
It was good to tour again with Behemoth. They have been friends for a long time, we supported them on their first ever Australian tour and Nergal sung backing vocals on our second album. They are absolute professionals and it’s always amazing to see them destroy a stage. Obviously not long after that it was announce that Nergal had leukemia. He most likely knew it at the time of the Australian tour but you could never have guessed. He was the same upbeat, positive, energetic guy both on and offstage. It’s great to hear the he is on the road to recovery and we which him and the other guys the absolute best.
Personal highlights for the tour would be the Brisbane show. We played pretty well, it was the last show of the tour and we partied hard. I don’t remember getting to the airport the next morning so it was obviously a great one. Big thanks to Berzerker Todd for Car Bar.
Your new release “VO1d” has been put out exclusively as a free internet download, including both music and video content. What was the rationale behind putting your music out this way?
Pressing and distributing albums is a very expensive process. We knew we would be releasing “V01D” independently so we wanted to find a way to limit the cost to us. Now you would thing that the cost of pressing and distributing albums would be recouped from album sales. But who fucking buys albums now? We knew that as soon as the first copy was sold some fucking social retard with a broadband connection and mum’s casserole in its beard would upload the album into a blog to get the ultimate internet power up. We’d be left with a whole bunch of albums that we’d have to sell at gigs and cart around paying overweight for on Pirate Airways. By giving it away free we acknowledge that the industry has changed. We don’t care if people download our music. I download music because I love new sounds but can’t buy enough for my appetite. I am still a fan as are the people who illegally download our albums. The people who upload are scum because their motivation has nothing to do with admiring the band but is entirely to do with getting traffic.
We didn’t get into extreme music to make money. Extreme music is art and should be separate from commercial concerns. By releasing our music for free we allow ourselves 100% control. We don’t have to appease anyone else’s interests. Hopefully it will translate into more people at our gigs buying t-shirts so we can continue to give away music for free but if not I am happy just to have gotten our art into the hands of thousands of people all over the world.
How did the writing and recording process play out for this effort? Has this evolved over time since the band started out?
There wasn’t a whole lot of writing for this release. We re-recorded five tracks from our two albums so they didn’t need any composition, just new effects etc. The new song on the album was actually written for our first album back in 2004. It’s one of the earliest songs we wrote. We took it off the first album because we wanted “Occasus” to be a dark and ugly album and “V01D” was too melodic for our aims at the time. It sat on the back burner for ages and always came up in conversation because we loved the track.
For this release we re-arranged it and added lyrics and vocals as it was originally instrumental. The electronics and remix tracks were created by me almost exactly as I would have done for the first album. I make the noise and electronic tracks by thinking about what I can use to make an interesting sound and then play around until I have a loop or a motif that I can start building the track around.
Our writing process has changed very little. In the very, very early days of the band, say 2002, we used to try to write in the rehearsal room and arrange the tracks at home. As we got better equipment and we started shedding members it became just Erik and I in our studio with a few guitars, keyboards and a computer. That’s how we have written everything recorded as The Amenta. We have talked about the possibility of writing in the rehearsal room again but we will have to see how it is working for us now. We are very adept at recording and programming now so we would be letting go of the basis of our music to date. But sometimes that’s a good thing so we will see.
What can fans expect from the new material?
It’s a bit early to tell at this stage. We have about 3 or 4 skeletons of songs that we have quickly written but they have yet to have details added and a full arrangement. At the moment it is sounding a lot more guitar orientated than “n0n”, which was very programmed and noise based. But everything can and will change as we get into it.
I think the focus will be on writing very hooky material that we can then cover in all sorts of ugly sound. We want to move forward. Both of our albums have very different sounds and vibes and we want to keep that difference between albums. I am not sure where we will go as it never becomes clear until we get there but you can rest assured that the new album will not sound like our other albums but will still be ugly, dark and extreme.
The band’s got an upcoming Australian tour alongside your Tassie mates Ruins. What are you hoping those shows will be like? What can fans expect?
It’s great to be touring again with Ruins. Obviously we have a lot of shared history with them. Dave (Haley, drums) played on both our full length albums and Alex (Pope, vocals and guitar) sung on the song “Dirt” from “n0n”. The tour will be great just because we don’t get to see each other too often any more and it will be good to hang out and have a few beers with some good mates.
Obviously we are hoping for the shows to be crazy. We’ve played a couple of shows already and had some amazing crowds. Melbourne was the best crowd we have had in ages. They were really responsive. The Arthouse was packed. We had people telling us about their injuries from band members and other crowd members. It was pretty full on. We also got down to Hobart for the first time which was amazing. We’ve recorded down there, rehearsed there but never played and it was great to get such an amazing crowd at our first gig. After that we played Frankston in Victoria and we had no idea what to expect. It turned out amazing with a dedicated crowd of crazy people who took our abuse and gave it back ten fold. A very good leg of the tour.
People should expect a very aggressive show. And I mean truly aggressive. We are not a bunch of 98 pound weaklings who try to look tough with pretty skin pictures while they cup their microphone to sing about tough shit they found on NCIS. We are big, ugly dudes who mean everything we sing about. We are in the crowd’s faces and are happiest when they are pushing back. We have a massive light show and we are filming everything for future release.
In June you guys will return to Europe to support Deicide for a three week tour which will undoubtedly be fucking wild! What are you expecting from those dates?
Europe is always great fun. You get a nightliner bus which takes you from venue to venue so you can party pretty hard each night. We toured with Deicide when we went to Europe last time so we know the guys and it will be good to see them again. Hopefully we’ll have some fans who remember us from last time and it will be very interesting to see how effective the spread of “V01D” has been.
The band has attracted a lot of attention abroad in the past few years, namely in Europe. How does it feel to be able to arouse a large response from fans in different parts of the world, not just at home in Australia?
It’s always flattering to know that people in countries that I can’t even pronounce have heard the music that I make in a dark room in the suburbs of Sydney. While the internet has definitely destroyed aspects of the music industry it has also allowed bands to get an unprecedented amount of exposure. It’s amazing to travel overseas to speak to people who know the words to a song I wrote. It’s not even their first language! Crazy. Of course overseas is different to Australia. We can be medium sized fish in a tiny pond here and think we are king shit, and there are a lot of Australian bands who suffer from that, but when you go overseas you are a fucking speck of plankton in the pacific. It’s a humbling and awe inspiring experience.
The U.S. in particular for us was amazing. We had next to no distro for our albums so people who had heard us had downloaded the album. Most people had no idea about us. It’s amazing to have people come up after a show to tell you that they had never heard of you before but that they were blown away and wanted to buy all your merch. Overseas is hard. Harder than Australia at times but there is such an untapped market for bands of our size to get out there and get in people’s faces.
Other than heaps of upcoming shows at home and abroad, what does the rest of 2011 hold for The Amenta?
The aim after these shows is to complete the writing and recording of the third album which we hope to have out by early next year. We will most likely disappear of the live circuit for a while to concentrate on the studio recordings. You’ll hopefully get some stop gap releases in that time, live recordings and such which we will give away for free but we’ll be focusing on creating the best follow up to “n0n” as possible. Then we can start the whole cycle again.
Thanks for your time man. Any final thoughts or comments?
Thanks very much for the interview. Great questions which is always fun. Our last release “V01D” is available for free download from www.theamenta.com. It features 16 audio tracks and 5 videos. More will be added as we go. Get it now and come check us out on the “V01D” tour!
Cheers dude! See you sometime in April.