A Forest of Stars – Strange and Becoming
By: David E. Gehlke
Blistering.com: The story of Der Sandmann serves as the basis for the album. What drew you to ETA Hoffman’s tale?
The Gentleman: I have been a big fan of that particular short story ever since I was introduced to it by a friend about, ooh, ten or fifteen years ago. I was immediately struck by it and especially the central themes. In that way, I suggested the idea of madness, and the question of if a person is mad because they think so, or because other people say so – and just because events surrounding you are a little bizarre, doesn’t necessarily preclude that they may actually taking place. I found that to be fascinating, and when I was thinking early on about this album and wanted a concept, that leapt forward as an idea. So Hoffmann’s story acted as a catalyst, but we didn’t really take any of the “story” itself, if you see what I mean?
Curse: During the writing process I wasn't exactly stable myself, so the suggested theme immediately struck a chord and off we went...
Blistering.com: The violins of Queen of the Ghosts are simply breathtaking. She’s almost the perfect contrast to the harrowing vocals and concept, so what brought about her prominent role?
The Gentleman: Being a founder member of the band, and a multi-instrumentalist is the simple answer. There’s nothing more to it than that, really! She was there right from the start, and is just as part of the band as anyone else – the songs are written with the violin in mind – not as something to just stick on top for the sake of it.
Blistering.com: You’ve recently started to play live, so did that have any effect on the songwriting for the new album?
The Gentleman: Oddly enough, no. We still wrote as we had done previously for the other albums, and will continue to, simply because that’s what seems to work best. We never play/perform the songs as a band before we record them – we do everything the wrong way round. That said, things may change next time around. Never say never!
Blistering.com: Your songs are awfully involved and intricate, so what’s the live experience like?
The Gentleman: A lot of fun! We never try to copy the songs exactly (that would be tremendously boring and frustrating), so we re-arrange and shuffle things around to make it work. There are new parts added in, old parts subtracted and various bits and pieces reinterpreted. The energy of playing live seems to supply adequate compensation (so far), and to be honest, it is a completely different experience to the records, but hopefully an enjoyable one.
Blistering.com: Describe some of the trials and tribulations you’ve had in terms of filling out and maintaining your lineup.
The Gentleman: There’s not really been anything approaching a stressful level with regards to our line up, truth be told, and any gaps were filled within the space of days. We’re very lucky to be part of a vast musical community of talented people, who are also great friends. The current line up has been together almost two years now (although perhaps not with everyone as official full-time members) and everything has nicely settled into place.
Curse: We are lucky to be surrounded by such creative people – so when life dictates that one of our number should fall away, we can find others capable of filling their admittedly huge shoes.
Blistering.com: Are there any plans for a quick follow-up to A Shadowplay?
The Gentleman: I’d very much like to say yes to that. Several of us have accumulated quite a wealth of ideas and we are all keen to flesh it out into fully fledged songs, but having the time to do so may well not be possible, with other things (life, etc) getting in the way. We shall see, though; I am particularly in favour of stepping up the album cycle and maintaining the momentum.
Curse: I have ideas bubbling around in my head, and am waiting for the time to be right to start writing things down. I tend to know when that is, and I can feel about coming on in the reasonably near future, so we shall see. There is definitely a very creative air (should I say miasma?) floating around the band at present, so I see no real reason (apart from the aforementioned other things in life, like work and all of that) why we couldn't come up with another record sooner rather than later.
Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2012, going into 2013?
The Gentleman: A long rest (punctuated by some song writing/demoing) and a bit of a sabbatical before gearing up for a year of touring as far and wide as possible (well, I think “where we are welcome” would be more realistic) in 2013. Well, that’s the plan – if the gods are kind!
Curse: A most welcome rest, whilst hoping to find a full skeleton donor, so as I can replaced my miserable fragmented bones. Then, on to a robotically augmented 2013 of much music and semi-merriment!
A Forest of Stars official site
Connect with Blistering: