Interview: Black Moth
We’ve never felt so proud and content with an album before and we feel it reflects how far we’ve come. Not only are we dying for people to hear it but some of these songs are now desperate to be played live. Interestingly, some of the themes we explored on the record have matured and settled somewhat over the past year and now feel ripe and ready to go.
In an age where rock’s sub-genres’ can define many bands, Black Moth buck that trend and prove to be quite apt and adaptable at blending across it all. Just look at their support band c.v. and you will see the likes of Sisters of Mercy, Pentagram, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Amplifier, Monster Magnet, Orange Goblin, L7 – goth to doom via prog and stoner rock. As well as appearing at Bloodstock, Download, Camden Rocks, and already pencilled in for this year is Desertfest.
For the imminent release of third album Anatomical Venus (released on 2nd March on Candlelight Records) and a UK headline tour in February (with dark, heavy, growlers Grave Lines as tour openers), they hurl through the fuzzy charged universe with an upload of very tasty and inspirational Black Sabbath riffage, hooky Thin Lizzy leads, adrenalized stoner grooves, giddy grunge vibes, sludgy strokes, and intellectually profound lyrical themes (female sexual objectification and female anatomy), which must constitute a first in the largely male dominated heavier rock/metal world. But more importantly they, more than ever, sound unlike anyone else but Black Moth.
Vocalist/lyricist Harriet Bevan and rhythm pounder Dom McCready kindly provide Echoes a detailed insight into the mechanics, experiences, and vision which form the afore-mentioned new album.
E&D: It must be with some relief and excitement that the new album Anatomical Venus is to be released very soon on Candlelight Records?
Harriet: Ha! You bet! The wait this time has been just torturous. We’ve never felt so proud and content with an album before and we feel it reflects how far we’ve come. Not only are we dying for people to hear it but some of these songs are now desperate to be played live. Interestingly, some of the themes we explored on the record have matured and settled somewhat over the past year and now feel ripe and ready to go.
E&D: You recorded the album roughly a year ago. How does it sound to you now?
Dom: Well, often albums can already feel old by the time they come out due to the long turn around between recording and release. However, with this one we have kept it fairly under wraps and not played much of it live. So, it still feels fresh and exciting. I can’t wait to unleash some of it live, it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
E&D: The guitar interplay on the album between Jim and Federica, a combined mix of Sabbath riffs and Thin Lizzy leads, grungy spirit, are mouth-wateringly excellent and a rather genius mix, in my book. Has that been the benefit of them having time to form a guitar partnership instead of rushing in to record an album straight away? Or did their potential and development form right from the very beginning as soon as Federica joined the band?
Dom: Well actually when we auditioned Federica one of the things we did is show her new stuff we were working on and get her to try some of her own ideas out on them. This is what led to us recruiting her as we were really impressed with the ideas she brought to the new stuff. So yeah you could say that the potential was right there from the start and we always had it in mind whilst writing the new record.
E&D: The album is quite epic and huge in scope in places, it is also a bit of a change of direction from previous album Condemned to Hope. Would you say there are more complexities, depth, and nuances in the song writing this time around? And what have been the key influences?
Dom: Well certainly on the first record and even a bit on the second we were quite new to the whole idea of recording albums. I think since then our song writing and ideas have progressed and we have a clearer idea of what we want. For me this is first record that we have fully realised, what we were trying to do. In terms of influences we have always been a crazy melting pot of lots of different things due to all the bands members having quite varied tastes. But certainly, the fact that Federica comes from a very different place musically than our old guitarist Nico will have influenced the direction considerably.
E&D: The album’s lyrical content is more serious this time around. What impact has your psychotherapy training had to your writing?
Harriet: My training has had an enormous impact on my life and undoubtedly my writing. It has stripped me back to my most raw and exposed state, “re-sensitising” me so that I can be open to and be soft with my clients, whilst maintaining my own boundaries. The training is known for being quite emotionally brutal, but immensely worthwhile as you peel back the layers and learn so much about yourself- delving into your shadows and exploring your deepest, darkest parts. In some respects, this very raw, authentic mindset does not allow for artifice even of the most beautiful, poetic sort. The things going around my head would have made for some very odd songs on their own.
I was confused. I believed that an artist of any worth must bravely delve into the darkest shadows of the human unconscious and brings back something deeply hidden but well known to all, in an ancient collective unconscious. I needed to feel and portray these potent, elusive, scorching feelings. And yet I was creatively deadened for a brief time by my discoveries. Would it feel too exposing to achieve a radical honesty? I could share, but then I would have to carry on living it, perhaps with some consolation for having shared it, touched others in some way and been heard at a deep level. But I would then have to live with the knowledge that my worth is toxically weaved into my turmoil… the “madness” that brings me such discomfort. My privacy might feel invaded if I wasn’t careful. We so love our rock stars to be “fucked up” don’t we? It is a sickness.
Thankfully, around this time, one of my closest friends (Jessika Green) was having a poetic blossoming and her words moved me greatly. She is someone I trusted implicitly and our interests have always collided without effort. It was a lyrical dream team by all accounts!
E&D: The album title suggests it may be a concept album? Would you like to explain further any songs and the themes and issues explored?
Harriet: The title comes directly from a book edited by Joanna Ebenstein which was released by Thames and Hudson two years ago now. It literally jumped off the shelf at me in Donlon Books on Broadway market. Strangely enough I bought it as a birthday present for Jessika (who ended up by being my lyrical co-writer on the album). It was such a gorgeous book I ended up falling in love with it so I kept it and got her another copy.
The Anatomical Venus was a creation of the 18th century- a wax surgical sculpture designed to teach training doctors about the female anatomy. She was gratuitously beautiful and adorned with golden hair, pearl necklaces, feet tied, allowing her to be scrutinised and invaded. Like I just mentioned, as a trainee psychotherapist and as a woman in 2017, I found myself digging deep into my experience as a female; a very personal and often painful process. The Venus seemed to symbolise both my personal exploration alongside a history of man’s dissection of woman, invading her every crevice in an-attempt to understand her, reveal her magic, snuff out her unruly flame… and all the while sculpting her to be aesthetically pleasing to their taste. These are not simply medical models for education, they are fetish objects, designed by men under the guise of their scientific purpose. A surgical excavation into the spirit of woman.
Jessika and I lit candles and meditated on the images of these sculptures and tried to imagine what they might be thinking or feeling, letting them speak through us. We were also very much inspired by a range of other sources at the time such as Dianic Goddess Worship, witchcraft, John Keats, Joseph Campbell, C.S. Lewis, Carl Jung and even the Moon!
E&D: Can you tell us more about the new album’s artwork?
Harriet: Yes, the image on the cover is actually a photograph licensed from the Anatomical Venus book I mentioned. I cannot recommend the book itself enough! We talked about having another illustration for the cover but in the end, I thought there was nothing more striking and powerful than one of the Venuses themselves, staring right out at the listener, with her painted lips and brain exposed. Both gory and beautiful!
E&D: You have undergone, for the first time, a change of record label. How was that experience?
Harriet: It was not an easy decision to move on from New Heavy Sounds as they have been so good to us, raising us up from our baby demo efforts to where we are now, with unwavering support and encouragement and respect for our artistic decisions. However, we all agreed that Spinefarm and Candlelight are such esteemed, established labels with a wide reach and they could push us that little bit further, getting our music into the hands and ears of listeners worldwide. We all know Candlelight as the home of some brutally heavy music, and some excellent, established acts at that, from Emperor and Obituary to some of our favourite bands such as Crowbar and Orange Goblin. They were excited by what we do and understood our ethos and aesthetic instantly so we are confident we have a strong team going forward!
E&D: The band members are now split between Leeds and London. This must present some challenges?
Harriet: Well yes, I’m not gonna lie, it’s a pain in the arse! But what can ya do?! At least we still straddle two incredible cities… a finger in two delicious pies! Ha!
E&D: To make the long distance between members work it must be a strong indication of how everyone believes in what the band are doing?
Dom: I think in this day and age long distant bands are quite common due to careers often taking people to different cities but not all band members necessarily wanting or able to move as well. I certainly quite a lot of bands who are split up like that, even a couple who live in different countries. Ultimately if you believe in it and just as importantly you enjoy it, you will make it work. I guess like a long distant relationship, ha ha!
E&D: One of the fascinating things about a band is they evolve. How would you describe how Black Moth has evolved?
Dom: It’s kind of hard to see the evolution when you are a member of the band as I guess to us it’s a very slow progression, where, as to the listener they see the jump from album to album. All I hope is that with each record our song craft improves and with each tour our live show gets better.
E&D: You head out on a headline tour in February (with the very promising Grave Lines as support). Am I right in thinking you be making your first Desertfest appearance this year? Exciting times in the Black Moth camp. What do you hope this year will achieve for Black Moth?
Dom: Actually, this will not be our first Desertfest, we played Desertfest London back in 2013 and Desertfest Belgium in 2014, but of course we are always excited to play such a great festival. My hopes for this year are the album does well. I hope that it gains us new fans as well as our existing ones loving it. We’ll be doing some good festival slots as well as hopefully getting back out to Europe later in the year.