My Silent Wake
Interview with: My Silent Wake's Ian Arkley
Hey Ian, as I wrote in my review of your new album – The Anatomy Of Melancholy, I view it as one of doom metal's best releases for some time, so my first question is, what do you think makes this album work as well as it does?
Having recently listened to My Silent Wake
's new album – The Anatomy Of Melancholy
, I was immediately struck at the quality and depth of the release, the band's third. I've researched their history, which revolves around the career of the band's guitarist/vocalist Ian Arkley, a veteran of the UK's metal scene since the late 80's. Yet it was Arkley himself who was kind enough to tell me more about himself and his bands:
I think that a lot of thought, energy, and emotion went into the release. We had more studio time that our first album (which was recorded and mixed in 4 and a half days). Just after recording Shadow of Sorrow, we started work on this album, so it was about a year in the making, from conception to mastered copy.
What's the meaning of the album's title?
It is actually the name of a 17th
century book by Robert Burton
. The book is fascinating and I loved the title. as soon as I saw the book for the first time I thought that the name was perfect for us.
Why is it divided into two parts, and why are they different?
Necessity required us to work on some acoustic songs because Jasen (our drummer) had damaged his wrist. Even before this I had the idea of releasing a double album with two completely different sides. I liked the idea of an album that could be listened to in many different ways. The two albums that make up TAOM can be listened to individually or as a whole.
The album's lyrics seem to convey more than just melancholy, what are the ideas behind such songs as The Dying Things We're Living For, and Dying From The Fear Of Death?
The songs are asking questions and exploring many things that were on our minds at the time. Andi and Kate wrote "Dying From The Fear Of Death" so I won't comment on that myself. When I wrote "The Dying Things..." I was asking about the afterlife. What do we hope for? It is a fairly universal question and unfortunately, it is one that we cannot have a solid answer to.
Does the making of such an album demand a depressive state of mind when writing and recording it?
The lyrics I have written come directly from my own feelings and thoughts...they are not contrived. I do not have to get myself into a depressive state of mind, neither am I depressed most of the time. I do, however know how it feels to despair and to have to deal with awful emotional pain and for me the songs are a type of therapy which work out my feelings and help to clarify things for myself. When you actually record the songs, you are generally working really hard and concentrating on the music. When it comes to singing, I do try to think about the songs I am singing and to put that emotion into the songs at the time of recording.
Did you intentionally go for that old-school British doom metal sound and style when making the album?
We have been influenced by lots of music including bands from that genre and time, but we do not try to sound like anything...it just comes naturally. Some people do not fully understand the background of the band, and that I was around in the early 90s playing doom/death myself in the band that eventually contained members of MSW, so we are a continuation of that whole thing, but with much farther reaching influences.
What's idea behind the album's cover artwork?
The cover was a photograph I took many years ago at a ruined mansion house called Witley Court. I always thought that the photo would make a great cover and when Andi manipulated the image on his computer, we knew it was the perfect image for this album. It is quite an unsettling photograph as it is so dark and foreboding. You do not know what lies behind that door.
I didn't get a chance to listen to your first full length release – Shadow Of Sorrow, how similar or different is it than the new one?
Far more raw and contains more older songs written when I was still in Ashen Mortality. There is still some diversity of sounds, but not as much as on the new one. I am still extremely pleased with this album and I think it captures a certain enthusiasm and energy.
Now back in time, how did you start out playing with Seventh Angel?
The beginnings of that band were Scott and I playing our guitars together in the late 80s. We were both really young. (I think Scott was only 14 at the time.) We soon got together with other musicians and very quickly recorded some demos and got signed.
What do you recall from your time in the band, during the heydays of thrash metal in the UK?
We had some great times. Really enjoyed both album recording sessions and playing in various places in the UK and abroad. Mostly I have really happy memories from that time.
The band's lyrics already had a doom feel to them, unlike most of the thrash bands at the time, what brought on those lyrical ideas at that time?
Simon Bibby and I wrote most of the lyrics and we were both doom fans.
The band was one of several "White" or Christian metal bands active at that time, how was that reflected in the band's lyrics, or image?
I think when we started we were young and immature and I hate the early lyrics. Even by the second album, things had matured a great deal. I think on the second album "Lament For The Weary" that the lyrics had started to take a far more personal approach. I have great difficulty listening to "The Torment"
How did Paramaecium take form? What did its name mean?
I did not form this band, but did the third album with them. The name is a single cell organism.
Why did you make the move from thrash metal to Doom metal?
As soon as I heard Trouble and later Paradise Lost, I knew that doom was perfect for me. I love doom and Goth and this was what I wanted to play. I do not like that much straight death metal, though I love some DM bands, but doom/death was such a wonderful thing....both heavy and emotional.
That time the doom scene in the UK had a few very original acts, such as Anathema and My Dying Bride, how much if an influence did they have on the band?
I discovered Paradise Lost
's Gothic first and then My Dying Bride
shortly afterwards. I saw Anathema when they still had Darren White many years ago. These artists did influence Ashen Mortality, but some of the music had already been written even before I had heard these bands, so the whole thing was already in place really. Mainly it meant a switch from thrash vocals to death growls and a general slowing down of the music.
Why did you leave Paramaecium and How did Ashen Mortality take form?
was already going when I played with Paramaecium
. We formed early 1993. I was invited by Andrew from Paramaecium to take part on the album, and being a fan of the band I agreed!
Why did that group split up?
The band actually lasted until 2005 and split because I could not carry on going with that band for personal reasons. It was time for something new, so I formed MSW along with Andi and Jasen, who were playing in AM at the time of the split.
How did you connection with James Allin and the formation of Century Sleeper take form?
We were emailing each other as we both enjoy each other's music and we thought it would be good to work together on an album.
Is that just a studio project, because of the distance between you two?
Yes, it is a project made in James's spare bedroom! We still think of it as a band though, and we do hope to record again one day. Playing live would be difficult.
How did My Silent Wake start out?
After I came back from America to record CS, I decided with Melanie that it was time to end. About a month later, Jasen, Andi and I were ready to record our first EP as My Silent Wake. Alan joined just prior to this and Kate joined just after the EP.
Why is it called that?
Decide for yourself. What does the name mean to you. I do not like explaining names as they can have a very wide meaning and mean different things to different people.
To what extent are your Christian beliefs a part of your music and lyrical ideas these days?
My beliefs have changed a lot over the years as I have experienced more and more in my life. I write from my own experiences and feelings and not from anything contrived. There are members of many different beliefs in MSW and this is not a Christian band, but a band made up of friends who love good music and who want to put out something real and creative. We have no religious agenda.
Usually metal is regarded as the furthest thing from Christian ideas, how do you view the combination of the two, and why do you think most Christians still view metal as they do?
I do not view our band as a combination of the two. We are a normal band expressing ourselves honestly and openly. We are not on any mission and we are not using music as some "tool" to convey a message, which is something I hate. I do not really worry about how Christians view metal. I know that some people have some really extreme views which stop them enjoying a lot of great art, whether they are Christians or Satanists or whatever. A lot of the Christians I am friends with these days are very open minded people and listen to whatever they like.
Do your beliefs get in the way of you listening to non-Christian, satanic or anti-Christian metal bands?
My own beliefs are very personal and not something I discuss too deeply in interviews but I will say that I am not some fundamentalist and I hate intolerance and judgementalism. I know that I do not have the answers and I have a lot of doubt and confusion about religion, but I know that it can be a good thing if it is not taken to extremes. I listen to any good music whatever the beliefs of the person writing it.
Being a British citizen, what are your views towards the recent situation in the UK with its Muslim population and the current wave of terrorism?
Like religious issues, I will not discuss political matters as this is not my place. I am an artist and I will not use my position in this way. Basically I do not like war and injustice and I think all people are equal. At heart I am a pacifist, but I do not pretend to understand the complexities that go into political decisions. I just wish that people could live in peace and we could stop all the bloodshed. I recommend that you listen to the song "Hunting Season" on our first album.
With the current rain flooding the UK, how much has the south-west suffered from this extreme weather?
In my area, not too badly as a whole, but other areas have been hit very badly quite near to here, like Gloucestershire.
Back to the band, what kind of gigging are you doing these days?
Pretty well anything we are offered! We love playing in pubs and bigger stages, it is all great.
Any last message to the readers here in Israel reading this?
Thanks for your support! We really appreciate our fans and we do communicate via our MySpace site