MATT KLAVINS (Guitar)
DAMNATION MAGAZINE (US) INTERVIEW
When it comes to progressive metal one usually thinks of Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, or Devin Townsend Project, especially for more extreme/experimental sounds. A couple years ago I came across a band from the Land of Oz that completely blew me away, so much so that I made it a goal of mine to try and land an interview with them. Well, upon the huge success of their crowd funding for their first world tour I couldn’t think of a better time to try. I reached out to Ne Obliviscaris through Facebook, they mentioned they were in the studio working on the follow up album to Portal of I (2012), titled Citadel, but to go ahead and send questions to their manager and they would try their best to answer and get it back to me as quickly as they could. For those unfamiliar with the band, they are an extreme progressive metal band from Melbourne, Australia that incorporates some non traditional metal instruments into their sound; most notably the violin. Mix that with technical guitars, blackened/death metal vocals and a truly amazing drummer and you have the excellence that is Ne Obliviscaris. Find out their drinks of choice, musical influences and more in our brief conversation with guitarist Matt Klavins (he did his best to answer for the rest of the guys).
Congratulations on surpassing your crowdfunding goal! We helped out a little bit, but that is a huge milestone for you in funding your first world tour. In the weeks/months leading up to the start of your campaign did you ever thing you would surpass your goal by so much? What was going through your heads as you neared and continued to pass your goal?
Knowing our fans, I think we all felt that we would reach our target of $40K by the end of our campaign. But it was a complete shock to hit the target in 38 hours and then continue to more than double the target by the end! We spent a lot time planning the campaign, assessing other bands successful and unsuccessful campaigns trying to work out what people liked, what they didn’t and why. We also know how passionate our fans are about the band and the crowd funding campaign really proved how much faith people around the world have in the band.
Ne Obliviscaris translates to ‘Do not forget’ What is the meaning behind the name?
‘Forget Not’ The band was named by the time I joined in 2004. Xen came up with it out of a desire to have a band name with some depth and meaning behind what most standard band names are.
Portal of I is such a fantastic record, With the new album, Citadel, now out what can fans yet to hear it expect from it? Is it a concept album? What new elements have been added to the mix? (ie. brass section, choir, anything that wasn’t there for the first album)
Thanks. Citadel is a bit more brutal than Portal Of I. It has turned out to be kind of a concept album however when we were writing it, this was not the intention. We have a couple of extra instruments on the album that we didn’t have on POI which included two guest musicians which were an extra violinist (Tim’s sister Emma Charles) and a cellist (name). Tim also played piano in a couple of sections.
What does the Recording process look like for Ne Obliviscaris? With having the different stringed instruments (Guitar, Bass, Violin) do the guys each take turns pitching riffs to each other, or is there one that takes the lead and the rest work off of that? Also, are songs thought of as a whole or do they start with one of you messing around and expanding upon it to completion?
All of the above. We don’t have a set songwriting process. If its works and its good it will usually be used. Sometimes people bring in riffs/melodies/beats and sometimes we just jam and improvise on the spot and then try to remember what was good or work out an actual riff based around the ideas that were flowing during the jam. Structure and duration is usually decided once we have worked out variations, who plays what etc. but can and does change up until the track is recorded. Nothing is set in stone until then. Some riffs, leads, etc. still get cut after tracking if they aren’t quite working as well as we had planned out. The recording process for NeO is never quick and never sticks to the deadline as much as we always hope it does. Tracking isn’t too bad but it is the mixing process that has taken the longest on both records. It is pretty hard trying to mix an album by correspondence. Jens would do a mix, we would all listen to it for a couple of days and then come up with a page of notes each which would then be crossed checked with each of us and compiled into a master list, given back to Jens who would make all the changes and send back another mix. The cycle continues until we get what we are after instead of sitting in the same room as each other and making changes and directing on the spot.
Xen, where do your lyrical themes/ideas come from?
Back to the crowdfunding for a bit, you all are working on your first world tour, which is awesome we hope to catch you guys! What has been your guys favorite tour that you have done to date? I think our favorite tour we’ve seen announced of yours was the short stint with Devin Townsend Project, is there any chance that could happen again for any of the tours you are working up; maybe Ne Obliviscaris, Beyond Creation, and Devin Townsend? Any possible collaborations with him in the future?
Devin Townsend is a musical idol for a lot of us in the band and we felt very lucky to be able to play along side someone of such caliber and we would love to do something again with Devin or the DTP in the future weather it be touring or (however unlikely) collaboration. Anything can happen. We recently played a showcase show for Bigsound in Melbourne which Devin’s manager Andy Farrow attended. Lets hope he liked us, ha-ha. Its always great to be offered touring supports with bands you have looked up to for years but nothing compares to doing it for yourself. I think our headline tour of Asia has been my favorite tour to date. Our sold out show in Tokyo was probably the highlight and blew all of us away.
What is a Dream tour for you all; if you could do a tour with any band/musician living or dead with you as either supporting or headlining act what would it look like?
That is a hard one. It would be more like a dream festival. Everyone in the band would have a different opinion but, in no particular order… Emperor, Devin Townsend Project/Strapping Young Lad, Opeth, Dream Theater, Cynic, Animals as Leaders, The Contortionist, Exivious, Meshuggah, Unexpect, Deftones and the list goes on…
For your world tour do you get to choose who to play with? Or does the label set that up?
We have some say in it but it also comes down to who is available to play, location, feasibility of it all.
Speaking of Collaborations, in your campaign you offered the services of playing on a bands album. . . If any of you could choose one artist to work with on their album, who would it be and why? On the other end of that if you could have any guest musician you wanted on your album who would it be?
Hard to say, but I guess Devin. His works are always great. He has a broad range of styles and you never know what direction the next thing he brings out is going to head. He is also not so much about being flashy but writing great songs and songs with feeling. It doesn’t matter how flashy you can be if you can’t write good songs. If I could have a guest vocalist it would be Devin or Mikael Akerfeldt. Both can do the best of both worlds (harsh/clean). Tosin Absi would be hard to pass up on as a guest guitarist. The man is a freak.
For all of you, who are your greatest influences that made you choose your instrument? How long have you been playing/singing? Did you study at school/university or is it mostly self taught?
My early influences were bands like Nirvana, Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer, Pantera. I joined a band when I was 13 or 14 as a singer and quickly found out that I couldn’t sing so bought a guitar instead haha. I had a few lessons in the beginning learning chords and the basics but have been pretty much self taught since then. Once I worked out how to read tabs I was able to learn more and more. The best way to learn new things was by playing with different/better people. Especially the people in NeO. I would have to say that NeO guitarists Corey King and Benji Barret have had the most influence on my playing to date but the band has always fostered an attitude of always trying to get better and the last couple of years since POI has really stepped up. No one practices as much as Dan though and he always likes to remind everyone, ha-ha. I think Tim is the only one who has had any sort of real formal (university) training in the band.
Upon creating the band was there always a thought in your head that there would be Violin? Its such a unique instrument in the metal world, that adds a very creepy intense sound to your music!
Tim was in the band second to Xen. Violin was in the band before drums, guitar and bass haha. The use of violin has changed since the start of the band though. It is almost used as a second lead guitar now instead of how violin is traditionally used in metal.
Obviously your music is all over the place with influences anywhere from Jazz to Flamenco, to black/death metal. What bands did you all listen to growing up? What are some of the bands you are listening to today, not so much for inspiration but just for relaxation? I know a lot of the bands we have spoken to say they try not to listen to too much metal, do you fall under that category or are you keeping up with what’s coming out? Who are some of your favorites?
We all listen to different music to each other with a few bands crossing over. Emperor is probably one of the only bands we all listen to. As I mentioned earlier, bands that i grew up on were Nirvana, Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura etc. At the moment I have been flogging Exivious’ album Liminal and The Contortionist’s new album Language. The music I listen to does depend on my mood but unless there is something in particular that I want to hear, I just have my phone on random.
Last question, Is there any place in particular that you would like to play either on this upcoming world tour or another on in the future? On the other side of that is there any place you would just love to visit without the worries of setting up a gig?
Looking forward to playing anywhere in the world that will have us! I guess the US and European legs are what I am looking forward to the most at this stage.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us, we really hope you can make it to St. Louis, MO on your upcoming tour. . or maybe somewhere close, we would love to hang with you guys and possibly get you some drinks. . which btw what does everyone drink?
I drink beer. Brendan drinks bourbon. That’s where our shoulders come from. The other boys mix it up a bit more and probably don’t drink as much as we do, ha-ha.