Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Interview with Melodic-Blackened-Death Metal band, Encroaching Darkness

EXTREME METAL EMPIRE presents our latest interview with Montara Mike, sole member and songwriter of the excellent, ENCROACHING DARKNESS and several other projects.

Extreme Metal Empire: Introduce yourself and state your role in Encroaching Darkness...

Montara Mike: I am Montara Mike from Montara Califronia. I do all the instrumentation, composition and production for my project Encroaching Darkness. My instrumental songs are all me, but I am also involved in projects with several other musicians mainly vocalist. 12 Gauge Ventilation, Spornographic, Eternal Rest, and Stigmiasmata.

EME:Describe Encroaching Darkness' sound...

MM: I have trouble describing my own music. My instrumental music is a mix of Atmospheric Metal, Death Metal with some weird progressive time signatures thrown in once in a while. My other projects are varied: Heavy Metal, Black Metal, Deathcore, and Death Metal. I am also working on an instrumental project Mellowcore that is not metal and is more of a rock/jazz type of thing. I am not a big fan of the low production some metal bands like (but I do understand the attraction). I spend a lot of time mixing trying to get the best sound I can.

EME: Tell us the origin of Encroaching Darkness and the meaning of the name...

MM: The project started out frustration of not being able to find any reliable local musicians and decided to do it all on my own. Then I found facefook was a great place to find other musicians with my same taste in music and who were also willing to collaborate. The name Encroaching Darkness came from the feeling I had when I saw a photo from my photographer friend Darren Quarin of Quarin Photography. He is not a metal fan, but I find many of his photos awesomely dark. I love music and imagery that is dark and heavy.

EME: Which bands/artists would you say have most influenced you?

MM: I was raised listening only to classical music. My mother was a classically trained pianist who also played flute, her sister played Viola, Her father played cello and conducted a symphony and her mother played guitar. My grandmother gave me my first and second guitars. I listened to nothing but classical music until I reached high school. I always seemed to gravitate toward heavier and darker music in any genre, even with classical. Early in my guitar playing career my influences were Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Deep Purple. That was in the 70's. Later I got into Iron Maiden, Metallica, Metal Church, Flotsam And Jetsam, Nuclear Assault. Lately I find I like all genres of Metal with some of my favorites being Decapitated, Arch Enemy, Cannibal Corpse, Gojira, Immortal, Dissection, Satryricon and my #1 favorite band of all time Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult.

EME: What are your thoughts on the current state of extreme metal?

MM: I know a lot of hardcore metal fans don't like the current state of Extreme Metal. I love it! I love all the different and new things all these bands are coming up with. For me change is good. I even listen to Baby Metal LOL, the band that is. Variety keeps things fresh and gives the metal musician more options. The one thing that bothers me about Extreme metal is all the Satanism crap. Most bands who use satanic images and themes are doing it for shock value, even Venom admit that is why they did it. I think that part of it is taken too seriously. I look at the evilness etc. in metal as I do when I watch a horror movie. The members of Cannibal Corpse don't mutilate people, even though they sing about it, in fact they are some of the nicest people from what I have seen in documentaries and interviews, as are most metalheads.

EME: What are some current bands that you enjoy?

MM: Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult
Amon Amarth
Cannibal Corpse
Year of no Light
Septic Flesh
Cerebral Bore (before Som Som Pluijmers left the band)
Cattle Decapitation
Sulphur Aeon

EME: Describe the songwriting process. How does it all come together?

MM: I usually play my guitar at least a couple times a day. After practicing scales and finger exercises etc., I start messing around with nothing specific in mind. If I come up with a little riff I like I record it immediately and save it on my hard drive. As a result I have hundreds of little bits of songs saved away. A song usually starts when I come up with a riff or melody and I feel it is worth turning into a song. I will come up with a bass line and record it or sequence it depending on whether I can play it or not on the crappy Bass I have. Sometimes I will play a bass part on the guitar and lower the audio an octave in Audacity. Then I will program a simple drum track. Then I play the guitar part over and over looping the short bass and drum tracks I put down. I will usually get a feeling of where the song needs to go next and sometimes actually hear the next part's melody in my head. Sometimes I will realize that one of my earlier riffs I saved sometime in the past will fit and I will add that. Once I have the main guitar parts figured out I will record them all again panning one track to the left and the other to right which makes for a nice full sound. I tend to do a lot of layering of guitar tracks. My songs can have 4 -20 guitar tracks, 1-4 bass tracks which sometimes will be a combo of real bass and sequenced bass. I sequence the drums by having the snare on a track, the cymbals on a track and the toms and bass drums on a track each with their own EQ. Some of the more melodic songs will also have simple keyboard tracks with strings and/or organ patches that I will either sequence note by note or input using my midi controller keyboard. Once all the instruments are down, I go back through the drum tracks and start adding drum fills and changing the basic drum track to somehting more varied and less repetitive. The final step is to play the entire recording over and over making slight tweaks to the EQ I have setup for each track. If I cannot mix it so that every instrument can be heard then I remove the instrument that is being covered up.

EME: Is there any particular reason Encroaching Darkness does not have vocals? Is it matter of not finding the right vocalist or do you feel it is better suited as strictly instrumental music?

MM: I have always preferred instrumental music of all styles since I was a kid. I think it is more of a challenge to make an instrumental that is interesting and not repetitive, and I like challenging myself with my music. In my opinion vocals can make an otherwise repetitive instrumental interesting. Also my own vocals suck, although I did do some ambient screams on a few of the tracks on my first album. The album 12 Gauge Ventilation does have several vocalist; Stevil Haunt, Zeke Sporn, Ash Von Horror, Profanator, and C.J. Desecrator. Other projects I am involved with also have vocalist. Spornographic features vocals and lyrics by Zeke Sporn from Adelaide Australia, Eternal Rest has vocals and lyrics by Drekavac (Daniel Webster) from San Jose, CA and Stigmiasmata has Robb Wrathchild from Massachusetts. My own vocals might some day appear on Encroaching Darkness if I can build up my confidence a bit more.

EME: What has fan response been like so far?

MM: The response to my music overall has been positive, but sometimes a bit hard to judge. Friends and relatives will often say they like it whether they really do or not and most of the people who leave me comments are friends and relatives. There has been a few positive responses from people I don't know well, and some honest opinions from friends who are not into the style I play. But, my main reason for doing music is I enjoy doing it. Recognition is nice, but I would still do my music even if all the feedback was negative. What I like the best is constructive criticism, as I am always looking to improve. My wife is my best critic. She is very honest in her reviews of my music.

EME: Any plans on acquiring members to possibly do live shows?

MM: Actually I started out doing just that; looking for band members. To make a long story short I will tell you about a T shirt I am going to have made that says, “The problem with bands is they consist of people”. I have attempted to get together with other locals musicians, but they are either flakes, have huge egos, already have a set idea of what they want to play which is not my stuff or are just out right insane. There is really only one musician I have met that I would consider forming a band with and that is Chris McCampbell who plays bass on 2 tracks on my 12 Gauge Ventilation album. I have had offers from some awesome local musicians to join their groups, but they had set styles and play lists that I felt did not mesh well with the music I want to play.

EME: Name a few of your songs you're most proud of and tell us a bit about them?

MM: My all time #1 favorite would be the track Loretta, named after my lovely wife. I feel that song was really what I want my music to be for that album. I came up with the main guitar melody and the acoustic finger picking part over a year before I completed the track. I had tried several times to turn it into a complete song but was not satisfied. Then one day the entire song just flowed out of me. My second favorite would be Take Flight. It is another one that I am very pleased with. It also just flowed out and was completed in 2 days. I also have a soft spot for the title track Encroaching Darkness. It was the one that was inspired by my friend's photography and set the mood for what was to come for the rest of the album.

EME: Let's discuss the 12 Gauge Ventilation project momentarily. Its a unique concept. How did it come about?

MM: Two things prompted that project. My desire to do songs with the cool musicians I was meeting online and my need to play a bit different style of music than my main project. I was coming up with music while working on my main project that did not really fit. They were more hardcore Black Metal, Death Metal and Heavy Metal. I had already decided my main project would be all me but really wanted to see what I could do with other people so I decided to do an entire separate album. The project is still on-going and I am really pleased with every song so far.
I did a Heavy Metal Song with Stevil Haunt.
Black Metal songs with C.J. Desecrator and Profanator.
2 Experimental Metal Instrumentals with Chris McCampbell on Bass.
A Death Metal song with Ash Von Horror.
I wrote lyrics for a Pagan Metal/Death Metal song called Viking Gods of Metal which Zeke Sporn was gracious enough to sing on.
Zeke had also done an awesome Black Metal song with me, but he and I started doing other music together so I moved that song off to our Spornographic project.
I am still planning more tracks for 12 Gauge Ventilation and hope to have something new soon. I find doing these type of projects with other musicians online rewarding and fun. It has the added benefit of the other artist promoting the music to their fans and friends.

EME: What are some of your interests outside of music?

MM: When I reached 50 years old, I took a hard honest look at my guitar playing and realized I sucked even though I had been playing since I was in my teens. I had always had lots and lots of other interests. I decided I was going to drop all my other interests and concentrate on my music, and started practicing almost every day for at least an hour. That was 5 years ago and I have pretty much stuck to it. I still do a little art like digital art, 3d animation and weird photoshop things for fun but the majority of my free time is spent with music, either listening or playing. Oh, but I do like to cook! Actually cooking relaxes me and gets my mind off of work and stress just like playing guitar does.

EME: Where can one get your music?

MM; montaramike.bandcamp.com has links for all my music. (See all links below ).

EME: What does the future hold for your projects?

MM: I have several "work in progress" projects . The new Encroaching Darkness Album called Light Years From Home. A non Metal Album called Mellowcore. 12 Gauge Ventilation is still on-going as is Spornographic, Stigmiasmata and Eternal Rest. I intend to keep making music as long as I am able, whether people want to hear it or not.

EME: Thanks for your time. Any parting words?

MM: I would like to thank you for this opportunity and would also like to thank Stillborn Twins Records for all their hard work promoting my music.

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