The mortal world is fraught with terror and panic, perhaps this year more than ever as at every turn some corner of it seems hellbent on ripping the whole thing apart. Perhaps that’s why 2012 has seen such a quality deluge of emotionally exhausting releases, Evoken and their Atra Mors standing at the tip of that deluge, leading the way and crushing absolutely everything in its path. The ever eloquent drummer Vince Verkay was nice enough to sit down with us and discuss heavy topics like the above, the joys of having been around for two decades, responses, and more.
Blistering.com: 2012 has been a gnarly year for emotionally exhaustive releases, is there something in the water bringing all of these demons out?
Vince Verkay: I don’t believe it's anything in the water, although these days one never can be certain. I think it's a result of the times we live in, and the way the media has fed society its daily dose of doom and gloom etc. We have come to a crossroads as a society, we're paying the price for our excess and treatment of the planet; we have abused the planet to its brink. We witness every day the cost of mankind's ignorance, acting like spoiled children to Mother Earth. On a daily basis we see natural disasters and their death tolls increasing.
Prior to this, we witnessed high death tolls as a result of our own doing, now the reality is beginning to sink in, that we have no control over this planet, no matter how arrogant we have become in thinking we are master over our domain. Also, people are suffering due to the excess of a select few who feel wealth is a gift to be played with. People are suffering in ways they never imagined, having to accept that life is no longer this grand dream they believed would last till death. Essentially, due to the above situations and reasons that are so many, one cannot even list them in one sitting. There lies a sense of no hope, no faith and a growing sense that things will get worse before they get better. Taking those elements into consideration, people are finding themselves expressing those negative emotions in abundance.
Blistering.com: Reaction to Atra Mors appears to be almost overwhelmingly positive. How does that resonate within the band?
Verkay: It's great, we're very pleased with the response received thus far. We all worked hard on this album, and everyone contributed to the creation of the songs, so it's quite satisfying.
Blistering.com: Evoken songs are usually always lengthy and complex affairs. How do these behemoths come together? Is there a primary songwriter for any given song or is it a continuously collaborative effort?
Verkay: It comes from everyone in the band. Don't get me wrong, previous albums were written as a collaborative effort as well, but majority of the songs were written by Nick, on certain releases like A Caress of the Void, etc. This album definitely came about because everyone in the band contributed; there wasn't a sole writer. There really isn't a process to the writing. There are times where someone comes to rehearsal, shows everyone a riff, by playing it a few times, then each member contributes to that riff. Plenty of riffs were created by experimenting with different notes at practice, or an idea someone may have at that moment. That would be just two examples of an extensive list of ways a song is written.
Blistering.com: The drums, as usual, are absolutely monstrous (especially through a quality sound system). How did you manage it?
Verkay: Experimentation, mostly. We look to avoid being bogged down to a template-sound for the drums. The drum sound for one album may sound incredible, but of no benefit to myself or the band in repeating that sound. I believe using the various effects the studio provides can only enhance the drums to a certain point. You have to develop a solid foundation to work from. Prior to entering the studio, I make absolutely sure I have new heads, but worked onto the shell of the drum. I also pay close attention to the tone and tuning of each drum and in relationship to each other.
I've seen drummers with expensive drum-kits have a wide array of studio effects to work with, but in the end have an abysmal drum sound. So, you can dress up a drum sound so much, but if you neglect to pay attention to the actual tone itself, you're stuck with the sound of a water bucket. Just adding to that thought, for Evoken, the kick-drums play such an essential role. I have listened to so many albums completely lack any power to notes being played because the kick-drums were too low. I never understood that approach. They are there for a reason, use them.
Blistering.com: It’s been almost five years since your last album, though only two since the (phenomenal) split with Beneath the Frozen Soil. Did that release factor into the distance between this latest album and A Caress of the Void?
Verkay: It did somewhat since we had to begin the entire writing process again, obviously those songs (split EP songs) would have been on the new album. Plus, factor in completing the writing, recording and mixing our portion of the split, which takes time away from writing a new album. Of course finding someone to create the layout/artwork etc takes time. With that said, this was only a proportional reason for the time taken. The largest reason for the time it took was due to the change in line-up regarding the loss of Nick. Once we completed the recording and mixing for the split, Nick [Orlando, guitars] left the band; the travel distance to continue with Evoken was too great. With Nick gone, we started the search for a new guitarist and lucky for us, the search wasn't as extensive as it could have been. Chris [Molinari] is a good friend of ours for over two decades. He also filled in for Nick years ago in NYC. So, not only were we aware of how talented he is and sharing of influences, but we knew him as a person and that was the most important aspect. We could have linked up with someone extremely talented, but if they turned out to be an asshole, it simply wouldn't have worked. Ultimately just knowing Chris as a person really helped to move things along at an accelerated rate. Of course we did a two-week tour of Europe, several shows in the US and had the honor of being invited to play Roadburn Festival. Add all those elements into the mix and you have a delay of five years between full-length albums.
Blistering.com: The shorter ‘interlude’ tracks featured on Atra Mors were a particular standout in that they were standalone rather than song intro/outros. Was this an intentional choice or a natural event during the album’s creation?
Verkay: It definitely wasn't entirely intentional. Chris created "Requies Aeterna" toward the end of the writing of the album, with the intention of it being on the new album as an interlude, just no decision on placement until the final days of mixing. "A Tenebrous Vision" was written by Don [Zaros, keyboards] to be included over the ending of a song. It wasn't developing the way it was intended, so we nearly scrapped it until Don played it with several affects. We thought it sounded fantastic; giving it an atmosphere which sounded and felt like it was recorded over 100 years ago. We thought it really represented the theme of the album. Once Don recorded it, we listened back and were blown away.
Blistering.com: Now that the album is out touring is likely in the plans. So where can we expect to see you first?
Verkay: I wish I could tell you where, but it's a bit early in planning. You are correct though, we definitely intend on touring in support of Atra Mors. There are so many places to visit and perform. We've toured Europe twice, the first being a mini-tour, the second having been a more extensive tour. We were only able to cover a few countries, so the list of countries to perform in continues to grow.