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The Living Fields – When Daylight Doesn’t Die

By: David E. Gehlke

The product of the Internet’s ability to make international projects a reality, The Living Fields have quietly spent the last four years mapping out their Running Out of Daylight sophomore effort via computers, with it finally seeing (no pun intended) the light of day this past summer. Running Out of Daylight follows in the tradition of classic British Gothic doom (My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost), with TLF becoming another in a long line of bands to effectively wreak havoc on the underground with smoldering guitars, forlorn passages, and a provocative string section. Running Out of Daylight is stocked with such moments, making it one of the year’s more formidable entries into the doom field.

Formed in 2002 by Chicagoan Jason Muxlow (who also runs the excellent Deadtide.com) and British-based singer Jonathan Higgs, The Living Fields don’t rehearse and don’t perform live, but the duo was able to answer Blistering’s queries on the new album, their union with Candlelight Records, and much more. Here’s what transpired…

Bllistering.com: You’re close to being ten years of age as a band. Does your union with Candlelight and the release of Running Out of Daylight validate all the years of hard work you put in?

Jonathan Higgs:
For me it is a great step forward and to feel “validated” is a very apt description. We revel in doing something different but that has the side effect that sometimes you wonder if anyone else really gets it or you are just doing it for your own amusement. Candlelight has a track record of working with bands that want to explore a new sound for themselves, so it is a good fit for us.

Jason Muxlow: Absolutely. One of the people responsible for us landing with Candlelight was Lee Barrett, who founded Candlelight and (I’m pretty sure) signed Emperor, Enslaved and Opeth back in the day. Having someone with that track record see something in us worth supporting is pretty amazing. As is being on the same label that released albums which helped inspire me to start The Living Fields. It’s kind of surreal when I stop and think about it.

Bllistering.com: You received quite a bit of positive feedback for your debut EP as an independent act. What did that do for the band?

You can’t help but be pleased with positive feedback and those early reviews at least help to assure us we are not wasting our time on something that is too obscure for anyone to really enjoy it. It is important to push boundaries but not if the result is a hopeless mess!

Muxlow: It got us the Candlelight deal!

Bllistering.com: How did the deal with Candlelight come about? What do you hope to get out of it?

When Jon and I released The Miseries Never Cease in 2004, I sent an email with a link to the songs to a number of the industry folks I was in contact with from running Deadtide (www.deadtide.com). The next morning, I had an email from Lee Barrett saying that he really liked it. He emailed us again the next day saying he wanted to sign us. He was running Elitist Records for Earache at that time, but before we could finish negotiating the deal, Elitist was shut down by Earache. When the dust settled, Lee and a couple other people put in a good word for us with the new owners at Candlelight who then offered us a deal.

Bllistering.com: We’re four years removed from the last album, so describe the changes the band went through during that time.

The biggest change for the band was bringing on Samu, our new guitarist. He wrote for Deadtide and was the only guy from the site that was here in Chicago. We met at a blisteringly cold Grave show in January of 2008 and got talking about guitar. We met up one day to jam and it went well enough for me to want to do something with him. We worked on material for a couple side projects of mine that still under-construction and that went so well that it became kind of obvious that I’d be an idiot not to have him in TLF which had been languishing for a while due to some pretty miserable technical issues with my home studio (I “technically” didn’t have enough money to buy the equipment needed to mix something like TLF, which is just gobs and gobs of overdubbing). Once he agreed to come on board, we tore apart the existing material, relearned it, polished up some bits, rewrote some stuff and made the whole endeavor that much better.

In addition to Sam, I also got hooked up with Chuck Bontrager (violin/viola) and Petar Kecenovici (cello) through Rachel Barton Pine, who I play with in Earthen Grave (www.earthengrave.com). They came in and brought my orchestrations to life, adding immensely to the finished product.

The last big change was meeting Jay Walsh at Farview Recordings. Jay recorded and mixed Earthen Grave’s demo (and subsequently our soon-to-be-released album) and having him take over the mix was a god send. Chuck and Petar let me throw away all the fake string software that was killing my machine and Jay let me just concentrate on playing instead of pulling my hair out trying to be a mix engineer. He made us sound great and helped us make some really good decisions regarding the production.

Bllistering.com: Using string instruments like you do is not unique to metal, but the Living Fields sound is definitely one that is your own. What do you think this stems from?

Basically, I listen to a LOT of metal and a lot of different kinds of metal. Running Deadtide was like running a record store at times because every promo passed through my desk to be ripped, skimmed and passed on to the appropriate writer. We didn’t specialize in any one kind of metal, so I heard every style of metal imaginable and then some.

Another big influence on me for The Living Fields is world music. Less so on Running Out of Daylight, which is very “Western” sounding, but on the previous releases and the material we’re tossing around for our next album certainly reflects that.

Bllistering.com: The band is based out of Chicago, but has a decidedly European feel to it. Is it safe to say a lot of your influences come from bands across the pond?

When Jason and I first contacted each other we had a common bond of My Dying Bride and early Anathema/Paradise Lost etc. which, it is true, are all British. America spawned thrash and death metal which will be its enduring (and significant) contribution to the metal art, but that is probably less of a direct influence on The Living Fields (although there is no denying that death vocals crept into doom). Bands from elsewhere in Europe have made a big contribution, mostly in terms of their desire in incorporate traditional folk influences that might have origins centuries old.

Muxlow: Definitely. Classic UK death/doom (My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Enchantment), the Finnish funeral doom scene (Shape of Despair, Coliseum, etc.), Scandinavian Viking metal (Bathory, Manegarm, Asmegin), more avantgarde bands like Solefald, Enslaved, Arcturus.... you just don’t get much of that stuff over here in the States because there’s so much mallcore, Hot Topic metal and “Pantera fucking RULES!!!” horseshit. But that seems to be changing. Oh, and Slipknot. Good Christ, don’t forget Slipknot...

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