The original interview can be found here! Thank you again to String Buzz for the opportunity to take part in a great interview.
'Monday, February 13, 2017
We have another interview for you today, and this time around it's with Shadow Mantra. With a complex blend of ambience, progressive metal and technical heavy metal, Shadow Mantra provides incredibly elaborate yet aggressive tunes that suck you in, rough you up, and throw you back out again! Shall we dive straight into it?!
Foreword/Special Offer from Shadow Mantra: As a thank you to all String Buzz readers Shadow Mantra will be offering the debut album Light of the Diamond on a Pay What You Want basis. Head over to www.shadowmantra.com/music hit the download button and choose your price. The box cannot be left blank and at needs to at least have a value of '0' entered.
Q. Where did the name 'Shadow Mantra' come from? Was it spur of the moment or does it having some form of meaning?
SM: The name came after a long time trying to think of something that was original, not too long, not too difficult to remember, and most importantly not in use. There are so many bands and artists these days that it's becoming harder to think of original names. It was also important that the name created a sense of curiosity without inferring too much or defining how a listener may expect the music to sound. Currently there is no set meaning behind the name or what a Shadow Mantra is, but I expect over time it will gain meaning.
Q. How would you describe your musical approach? What would you class your music as?
SM: My musical approach is very much writing what sounds good to me and creating what is needed to sonically emulate the emotions I want the listener to feel. Quite often I like to incorporate some complex ideas but will then balance it out with a much simpler idea.
I think it's quite difficult to class it exactly as it incorporates lots of different elements, but it definitely falls under the Metal genre. Light of the Diamond has elements of progressive metal, death metal, melodic doom metal, and even a pinch of symphonic metal. I expect as time goes on the music will venture into other territories and explore new ideas.
Q. How would you describe the music scene in your local area?
SM: The music scene is diverse, mainly catering to the lighter genres of music. Unfortunately venues that play heavier music have been slowly disappearing, but there are still a handful supporting the alternative genres. One that sees a lot of local bands passing through is The Lady Luck in Canterbury, where Creeper play in 2015.
Q. Who are your influences and do you think they reflect in your sound? If so, how?
SM: During my time at The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) around 2010/12 I was exposed to a lot of music and discovered all kinds of bands and artists, however I was always drawn in by Metal musicians. It seemed that there are a set of common characteristics within the genre, but it can be fused with elements from all manner of other genres. The use of orchestral instrumentation fascinated me after hearing Devin Townsend's Deconstruction album. It was just an intense, deeply complex album, but made use of orchestration in such a way that worked so well. Ever since hearing Deconstruction, Devin Townsend has been a big influence musically and creatively, there are sprinklings of his influence throughout the album.
Other influences that can be heard on the album are the tapping sections of the track 'Worlds' which was inspired by the tapping sections in Gojira's music. The melodic doom feel of the track 'Butterfly' is heavily influenced by Swallow the Sun, and the last track, 'Curse' I affectionately call my Machine Head track as it reminds me of some of their long riff heavy tracks like 'Locust' or 'Halo'. The album really is one big amalgamation of everything I listen to, and I'm sure those listening to the album will be able to spot other influences. While there are these other influences I wouldn't say it treads the same path as other bands.
Q. Being a solo artist, what difficulties do you face when writing and performing music and how do you get over these obstacles?
SM: One of the main difficulties of writing and recording music by yourself is how reclusive you become. You lose whole days to writings songs, and many more recording and producing them. It can be very easy to get adsorbed into your own musical world, sweating over all the minute details. Another difficulty is learning to develop a critical ear for your own work. It's not always easy to admit that a song just isn't that good, and either needs reworking or to be removed altogether.
Sadly I've yet to perform any of the music live. Being primarily a guitarist, doing the vocals for this project without any prior experience was a big leap of faith as this was not only being marked for a Masters degree, but also was my first public release. The main challenge in bringing the music to the stage has been learning to play guitar and perform vocals at the same time. With some of the intricacies of the guitar parts it has proven quite the challenge.
As succeeding in having a career in the music industry is already very difficult I have been trying to make use of the time and learn new skills to increase my chances. I've spent a fair amount of time developing my production skills since the release of the album as I would like to get more involved with that aspect of the creation process. For me being able to present your music to the highest level possible is important. I recently came across a great community and online mixing school called Nail The Mix. It mainly focuses on Rock and Metal music and they give the original stems for a track each month. At the end of the month there is a 6+ hour live stream with the original producer of the track. They even had Nolly from Periphery on not too long ago. It's proving to be really helpful and I'm hoping the new knowledge will reflect in my future productions.
I have been slowly creating an online presence and started to post regular covers on Youtube. I also plan to put up some guitar and recording lesson and tip videos in the future. I would definitely say one of the challenges for any musician currently is trying to stand out and be noticed.
Q. Just listened to your 'Light of the Diamond' LP and I must admit it's incredibly good for an independent outing! I especially liked 'The Dark Diamond In The Rough', that song had some killer moments! How would you describe the production process when making this album?
SM: Thanks, the production process was a very steep learning curve. I am self-taught on the production front so this involved a lot of trial and error. I had spent around a year or so just playing around with recording before diving into the album. My days literally consisted of waking up and then spending the whole day recording and mixing. Being on a minimal budget meant making use of what I had. Thankfully it's a lot easier these days to record on a tiny budget. You can get some great sounding guitars and drums using digital plugins and without needing to leave your house. Most of the album was recorded in my room at home and produced using cheap computer speakers and a decent set of headphones. It would have been great to spend lots of time in a studio, but in many ways being severely limited in options forced exploration for alternatives and lead to an understanding of other ways to create music.
The one thing on the album I had to hand over to someone else were the drums performances. Whilst I am comfortable programming drums they aren't the same as a live drum performance. Recording a live drum kit with a deadline looming and no experience miking a drum kit was not an option, so the drums were all triggered using an electric kit. The drummer, Rowan Tremain, who plays for the band At Worlds End, provided some fantastic performances. I gave him a general outline of how I wanted each track to feel on the drums and left him to interpret as he felt fit. It resulted in something far superior than I could have ever programmed.
Q. What about the creative process? What was it like writing these tracks?
SM: The process I take varies depending on what I'm trying to achieve. In the case of Light of the Diamond it started off by writing a few riffs which evolved into a few songs. At this point in time they had no lyrics or real meaning. I then went back to study for a Master's in Music Composition and was determined to write a Metal album as the final project. I don't think many people get to say they got a Master’s degree for writing a Metal album!
As the course progressed I was introduced to a wide range of new compositional techniques, such as isorhythms and polymetrics. Through this exploration of new music and compositional styles and having coincidentally watched the anime series Steins;Gate at the time, I decided to use the idea of time, world lines and time travel as the theme for the album. This is what ultimately led to it becoming a full-on concept album with a story running through.
Having a concept changed the approach to the writing. The previously written songs were revisited and revised to incorporate elements of the theme of time. To help write the remainder of the album I first developed a clear structure of what I wanted each song to represent in the overarching story of the album. Once I knew how many tracks I wanted on the album I worked out the tone and mood I wanted to purvey with each song to reflect each part of the story, which is heavily based on the themes in Steins;Gate. For example, I knew I needed a faster, more aggressive track, a more melancholic track, and one that created an uneasy feeling without knowing entirely know what is causing it. One of the first examples of uneasiness is in the first track where the guitar pitches are digitally altered to create dissonant melodies.
As the album progressed the tracks were refined and other new ideas were introduced spontaneously. For example, the choice to use a ticking clock sample at various point in the album to represent time and a rhythmic device, or the use of an electrocardiogram beep to sonically represent if someone was alive or dead. It was a careful crafted balance to have the sound effects as subtle and part of the musical ambience, rather than added in as an afterthought. Every part of the album planned and executed with a purpose, for example all tracks with lyrics have a single word as their titles, whereas the instrumentals are much more descriptive.
I also chose to undertake the visual elements of the album, hand drawing the artwork in pencil and then adding in the colouring digitally. The artwork is also carefully designed and has meaning, in the same way as the music. The meaning behind the cover art is referenced right at the end of the last track 'Curse'.
Q. Have you got anything exciting in the works for the near future?
SM: I do indeed. I am currently in the process of writing an E.P. to date 4 tracks are written
and there may possibly be a 5th in the works. How the final release will end up is still a work-in-progress. I am hoping to collaborate a bit more and get some other musicians involved.
Q. What goal do you aim to achieve by the end of this year?
SM: The main one is to release the E.P. and at some point perform my work live. The tracks for the new release are a bit shorter than those from Light of the Diamond, which should be easier to bring to a live setting.
Q. What was the last track you listened to and would you recommend it?
SM: Blackhole Passenger by a local band The Alchemy. It's very different to what I write, much more in the alternative rock vein, but it’s got one of those catchy choruses and some creative uses of electronic elements. I have seen them play a fair few times now and they sound just as good.
Thank you to Stringbuzz for the interview and if anyone has any questions for Shadow Mantra, head over to the Shadow Mantra Facebook page by clicking here and post your questions!
So there we have it! It was great fun putting together this segment and Shadow Mantra is honestly an incredibly talented artist with a really bright future. Make sure to spread some love and give his album a little listen!'
At World's End
The Alchemy Link