Silenced Minstrel Interview Questions
1.For those that have never heard of you before, can you tell us a little bit about the musical project?
Hi everyone! This is Silenced Minstrel from the one-man-band Silenced Minstrel, playing black metal with death metal and Nusantara influenced Gothic elements. I’ve just released my fourth album “Volume 4” online not too long ago and I’m currently looking for a record deal from any interested parties.
2.So far you have released 4 albums with this project, musically how do they both differ from each other?
My debut album “Volume 1” was a mishmash of materials from my former band, thrash metal stuff that I done from the mid 90’s (before I formed a band) and also some experiments I did after the band broke up, experimenting on new sounds like keyboards, synths and MIDI orchestra among other things. The sound is still quite “erratic” at this stage, where I used drop tunes for some of the old band material, and standard tuning for both the before and after songs.
The second album “Volume 2” was more of a Gothic death metal showcase, with an extensive use of keyboards and synths, strong melodies and a bit of atmosphere, whereas the lyrics contained dark poetry, vampirism, psychotic musings and lots of depression.
“Volume 3” was an experiment of mixing dark heavy riffs with MIDI orchestra; with lyrical content of spiritual negativity. There’s a lot of anger, hatred, depression and some damning philosophy thrown in between. This is also where I ditched my Gothic tendencies for a more metal dynamic, wanting to drop the sentimentality for something that reflects the harsh reality.
And the latest one “Volume 4” saw my music taking a step further from the previous one, concentrating only on guitars, bass, drums and vocals. This time I aim for chaos and damnation on all the tracks, both chord progression-wise and lyrics-wise.
3.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects you have explored over the years with the music?
I was struggling with clinical depression for more than a decade so my lyrics are mostly psychotic, erratic, incoherent and…suicidal? If you look at the song “Misery, Revisited” (Volume 1) that song was written on the onset of my disorder, and from there you can imagine how all my lyrical content would sound like. Whereas the lyrics to “I Shall Miss Quintessa” and “Another Black Year” (Volume 2) were taken from my unpublished anthology called “Paintings Of My Minds”, a collection of poems that I wrote when it was at its peak, when I actually hated playing music but I pressed on nevertheless. I also wrote about automatic writing, Sufism and undead love affair in between and, thankfully, by the end of the decade I’ve recovered. Hence a part of my third and all of my fourth album sounds a bit “happy” in a metal sense. Depression opens a floodgate of creativity but it comes at a huge cost, which I thankfully didn’t pay for it.
4.According to the Facebook page you also have an interest in the occult, shamanism and new age, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in the esoteric arts?
Though this statement may never be taken seriously by the outside world but I was actually born a clairaudient psychic, meaning that I can hear not only the dead but also lower and higher spirits. However all my abilities were kept in check until my father died, and that’s when all systems switched on! Guided by my “whitelighter” uncle I learned about accessing my abilities, a bit about eastern mysticism, contacting the fae folk and also some Sufism. I remember talking to my late grandparents at their graves, joined an entourage to stay on top of Mt Ophir for three days just to seek treasures of the Orang Kayangan (High Elves) among other things. I also supplemented my eastern mysticism with western new age spiritualism, where I discovered my knack for scrying, automatic writing, reading the Tarot and the Elder Futhark runes and also noninvasive healing. And since I was suffering from depression at that time my foray into this part of reality actually helped facilitate my healing—I never took any anti-depressant meds at all but still I recovered.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Silenced Minstrel'?
Superficially it means my voice sucked, something I found out earlier on in the 90’s when thrash metal was all the rage and everybody wanted to be James Hetfield. So I went out of the spotlight and concentrated on songwriting and arranging until my old band broke up, right at the time when metal was not in demand anymore! So I resorted to take on the vocals again, after hampered by my attempts to find any suitable vocalist to carry my songs.
But on a deeper context, it represents my internal grouses with God, where I always questioned on why does somebody with good looks and voice always gets the best jobs whereas a committed songwriter like me didn’t get the full package, e.g, talented but bad voice and ugly looks; much less, gets signed!
Add in to all that my inherent introvertedness, always didn’t get a chance to speak my mind and always be the last to know of everything, I found out that I work best from the shadows, observing people’s mistakes and foibles and then finish them off when they’re down on their luck. It is universally known that stepping on other people’s faces--those that used to step on yours--when they have no more fight left in them; evokes a sense of justice and satisfaction.
In conclusion, Silenced Minstrel hates humanity thus he resorts to sing songs for the dead.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The picture shows an image of a restless angry spirit with his mouth welded to the inverted crucifix (evoking a sense of vengeance from beyond the grave that can only be met via metal music) and superimposed with an image of a small child (representing lost innocence in pursuit of material stability)…my proverbial middle finger to humanity and its narrow-minded perception of normalcy.
7.With this project you record everything by yourself but also have experience playing in full bands, how would you compare the 2?
I missed playing in a full band in truth. When I picked up my instrument my dream is the same like any other stoked teenagers: to be a part of a successful touring band. I missed the enthusiastic planning, the pre jamming hangouts, the thrashing of studio equipment, the post-jamming hangouts, the reviewing of the badly recorded rehearsal songs on some Walkman over our drinks as we laughed ourselves silly and then our pledge to do it again same time next weekend. Times that by a hundred when some organizers found out about our music and invited us to play in a gig, times that by a thousand when some fanzine editors agreed to interview us, and times that by a million when some metal label approached us to sign a record deal!
8.In the past you have also worked with 'Depressive Illusions' and 'Vibrio Cholerae Records' on the physical copies, do you feel these labels have been very helpful when it comes to getting your music out there heard?
Yeah, it was one of my friend’s ideas because he got ties with some eastern European labels looking for Asian metal stuff, so I said what the heck and sent two albums in. Thanks to these two labels “Volume 2” and “Volume 3” found its way to the Russian and Ukrainian underground music market. Unfortunately that’s just about it. Not a reply from them at all. Maybe because of competitions from local metal bands made my music got lost in the tide but I don’t mind. At least in the future somebody will find these two albums and appreciate them.
9.On a worldwide level, how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black metal?
Cold I guess? Apart from some Asian fans on my Facebook pages that’s just about it. I did send ads to some metal discussions groups over there concerning my band’s progress but so far it’s been the same.
10.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that you are a part of?
Sadly most of them are just hobby bands now, playing free gigs organized by close friends in the underground scene (don’t you just love cronyism?) doomed to be raided at any moment by cops even though all requirements have been met. I never heard of any of them getting a record deal, going out touring overseas and such so yeah, I am among the tiniest of minority so to speak.
11.Where do you see yourself heading into as a musician during the future?
Maybe I’m going to keep on getting better and better as a songwriter and producer, learning new skills and upgrading to better equipment. Maybe I’m going to get signed, maybe not, but one thing’s for certain, maybe I’m going to try my luck in playing in a band again. I’ve observed for a long time that most metal labels would sign a full band instead of solo artists because the former has a tangible track record like the list of shows performed, zine interviews, newspaper articles etc, where they can gauge the band’s worth. But for solo artists like me? Not so much. This is not fair but hey, that’s how things have been since the beginning.
12.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
A lot of old school black metal bands especially from 90’s Scandinavia scene, old school metal bands like Deeds of Flesh, Immolation, etc, and Norwegian goth metal bands like The Sins Of Thy Beloved, Tristania and Theater Of Tragedy. My list of listening is quite erratic, sometimes I’d go all 90’s Scandinavian black metal, sometimes I’d listen to US death metal but The Sins Of Thy Beloved influenced me a lot when I was about to form a band back in the late 90’s.
13.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
I’d like to thank Mr Zach Moonshine of Metal Devastation Radio and John Larsen of Occult Black Metal Zine for this interview. It really amped my motivation a bit replying to these questions! Till next time everyone. All hail!