Ne Obliviscaris certainly know what hard work and perseverance means. After welcoming back French-born guitarist Benjamin Baret following lengthy and ongoing Visa issues, the Melbourne group’s debut studio album ‘Portal of I’ finally saw release earlier this year. Killyourstereo.com recently caught up with Tim Charles ahead of this weekend’s Sonic Forge Festival to discuss all things band related.
This year has been the defining year for the band. You’ve had the album come out, Benji back in Australia. How has the year been?
Fantastic. I guess for several years in a row, I’d often say to the boys on New Years day, “this is our year” and it never happened (laughs)…until this year. This year things have started to finally to come together. And just getting Benji back, which happened just before Christmas last year, was really the moment where we really new things could get back on track. Just finally getting the album out internationally and getting such a positive response and the support we’ve been getting at shows and all these sort of things have just been fantastic and everything we’ve been working towards all these years.
Was there a temptation, I know obviously through all the perseverance and that stuff, was there a point where you thought it was just getting too hard?
Yes. A lot of times. Realistically, last year, in 2011 our drummer Dan left the band and re-joined again this year. But, to be realistic there was a couple of members last year who were thinking “Bejni’s stuck in France, he has been there over a year. Everyone keeps telling us it’s very likely we’ll lose this appeal to get him back. If we don’t get Benji back, how are we going to move forward?” All these questions were being asked within the band and really we were all just crossing our fingers that we could get Benji back because we felt we needed that positive boost of excitement of getting him back to be able to get the band going again. Because last year we were just finishing off the album, but we weren’t rehearsing or writing music or anything like that. We were just waiting to see what would happen with Benji and if we could keep the band going. It was definitely pretty tough.
The album itself ‘Portal Of I’, the songs themselves had been floating around for a while before this year when it actually came out. When you’re so familiar with the songs, and recorded them, and played them not to go back and be like “we’re going to alter that.” And just completely change it.
I think for us, we spent so long writing them [the songs] and getting as happy with them, there really wasn’t much of a desire to change a lot. Plus, we had sort of moved on. The only changes we really made for the three songs that were on ‘The Aurora Veil’ demo, which came out in 2007, were a couple of bits Benji changed, because he didn’t play on that demo, so we had a new lead guitarist. Most of the solos are exactly the same or very similar. There are one or two little parts that we changed or added an extra part. But really, 97% of those songs are exactly the same because we loved them exactly the way they were. So we really didn’t think to invest time to change them because we spent so much time back in the day doing that. And also, before recording, we only finished ‘Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise’ in the month or two before we started recording. I only wrote violins for some of that in the studio (laughs).
That’s where a lot of our time was going to finishing off that and just doing little bits and pieces for some of the newer songs, which were ‘Xenofulx’ and ‘And Plague Flowers the Kaleidoscope’.
I know, having Dan as you mentioned before come back, it feels like it is complete now. It is ready to push forward. You’ve got the line-up and the album is out.
For sure. I mean we were so, so thankful for Nelson [Barnes] coming on board earlier in the year to help us out and do the album tour, which was fantastic because we were in a bit of a tough position. And he did a really great job. But in the end, when we realised we had the opportunity to get Dan back, we never really wanted him to leave and it really was a product of the extremely difficult circumstances we had been in. Dan is such a phenomenal player and obviously he wrote all the drum parts and was involved in the song writing process, so it is great to have him part of the band again.
2013. What are the plans? I read you’ve been writing.
The plan is we’re playing Bloodline Festival in Brisbane on March 17, which is being headline by Psycroptic. But aside from that we don’t have any live shows planned for the first half of the year. We’ve done a couple big Australian tours this year and we feel we can give ‘Portal of I’ a good push. So we want to take time to start writing. Like you said, a lot of the songs on the album are quite old to us. The newest song is ‘Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise’ and we finished that in 2009 and it’s December 2012 (laughs).
So, we are dying to write new stuff. We had a lot of stuff in the works. We’ve actually had a lot of stuff in the works for a couple of years; we had a couple of new songs we were working on before Benji got deported. And so we had planed to have a song or two finished before the album came out, which didn’t happen because of what happened with Benji. But at the moment we have three songs that are significantly underway in that when we have ten minutes of music written we are just trying to finish it. And another couple we have five minutes plus of music and we are working heavily on them. And there are also heaps of other ideas, more than enough to get songs started for the second album. So we’re just excited to be getting into that. Aside from that, we are really trying to look to get overseas in 2013. We’re not sure where that is? We really want to get to Europe and North America, and we’ve had some interest for touring in Asia as well. But basically, we’re just going to have to look through it all and see what we can afford to do. That will be the plan for 2013 and hopefully 2014 we’ll have that next album out.
That was actually going to be my next question, about the overseas interest. Because your style and Be’lakor’s style just seems fitted for a European audience.
We’ve always thought that. Funnily enough, right now, we are more well known in the U.S. That has been based on feedback we see through our Facebook page and our forum, there is definitely a high percentage of people in the U.S that know we exist now. But we do feel in the long run, Europe is the place to be for the music we’re doing, so we’re really excited to get over there and build the fan base there, the same way we have built it in Australia of the past few years.
Sonic Forge Festival is coming up this weekend, what can you tell us about that?
We are very excited to be playing. It is always a really fantastic day. I’m privileged to be involved in all aspects of the festival and just to be able to have something like this in Melbourne where we have 30 metal bands from all across the country with three stages and normally we’ll get up to 1,000 people there and that’s always a lot of fun to be apart of. Not just for our own set and performing, but also to be able to catch up with friends of ours in bands from interstate and be able to watch some of those bands we really love and just have a great time.
In terms of the way you interact with bands and the way fans get behind it, I went to Progfest when it was on a few months ago and to see the support of it, how important is festivals like this to the success of local metal?
I think it is really important and that was really my aim when I started this up in 2010 was to really try and create something that could showcase Australian metal bands because there really wasn’t anything like that, which was doing that in Melbourne. There used to be Metal for the Brain, which ended 4 or 5 years ago, since that left, there was a couple of little festivals or one off things here and there across the country. But at that time, especially in Melbourne, there was nothing that brought everything together and so I just felt there was a bit of a void there. And, if we could get a fantastic group of bands each year, the scene would really come out and support it and thankfully that has been the case.
I know with Sonic Forge you are donating to some charity. Can you tell us how that came about? And what that’s all about?
Sonic Forge is a charity event based around an orphanage based in Hinche, Haiti called the ‘Centre for Hope’. I originally thought of doing something for Haiti when I first had the idea for Sonic Forge in early 2010. Because in January 2010 there was the massive earthquake in Haiti and there was hundreds of thousands of people dead and homeless and it was just an absolutely catastrophic event. And it took me a long time to get the event approved and so I decided to stick with that idea, I sort of felt all the big, major charities, everyone had already given so much them earlier in the year and they are usually pretty well looked after. So, I was looking for something a bit small where we could really make a difference. And I discovered this orphanage, which was new and was just opening and had been progressing over a period of a few years and made that the centre of the first one in 2010. And I had been toying with the idea of maybe doing a different charity each year, but I decided to stick with this one after in January 2011, I got the privilege of catching up and going out to dinner with James Lipscomb, who is one of the people who oversees and runs the orphanage, who is New York based himself. And him and his wife just happened to be out in Australia on holiday just by coincidence about a month after that first Sonic Forge. After meeting him and talking to him about everything they were doing there and really understanding what a fantastic person he was, it really made me believe in that and I think a lot of the time with charities people give money and they feel like they click a button and the money disappears and they go, I hope that did some good? Whereas with this orphanage I have a personal relationship with them and I’ll send them an email and see how things are going and likewise with me, so I can find out and follow up where that money is going.
What have been some of your favourite albums this?
I actually did a list of albums from this year that I need to check out. And I had about 20 albums on there that I hadn’t even listened to yet from some bands I absolutely love. I keep hearing fantastic things about the new albums from the Deftones and I still haven’t heard the new Between the Buried and Me [album], I love those guys as well. I really love the new Periphery album and the new album by The Faceless, which was one of those albums where I turned it on and thought I had downloaded the wrong album or something like that because it was so different, but that really grew on me a lot. And, anything that Devin Townsend does is normally genius. And then, I really love the new Be’lakor album and the new A Million Dead Birds Laughing as well as some really great Australian stuff this year as well.
And this is a bit of a cheeky one I must admit. What was a more satisfying feeling? The album coming out or the Giants winning the World Series?
The album coming out of course because it is something of for me and of my control, but I am a pretty big baseball fan so I was pretty excited when the Giants won the World Series (laughs).
Anything to do with the band is just incredible. Being in a band is very difficult and very trying at times. Especially in an underground metal band because nobody gets paid, nobody gets any money from this. Even now, any dollar we get goes back into the band to try and help finance tours and buy new merch. Just being on stage and doing anything with this band is really, as far as my musical career, the absolute favourite thing that I can do with my life.
Is there any final words you want to pass onto readers?
Thanks everyone for all the support this year, it has been really fantastic to hear how everyone has been enjoying the album so much. Follow us in Melbourne and hope to see you at Sonic Forge this Saturday.
Excellent, thanks Tim.