Many of you might have read the review that I did for 'Unusual', which completely blow me away. After listening to this album I got the chance to drop a mail to Andras Perneczky, guitarist of Aebsence, with some questions. Andras answered all the questions without any problem and I am pretty sure that this band will keep us busy the next years to come. Enjoy. |
Hi Andras. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer to my questions. First of all congratulations for your first official release, ‘Unusual’. It really caught me by surprise. To start up with, can you maybe tell us in a few words the band’s history for our readers?
Andras: Thanks for the compliment and the opportunity to introduce ourselves. The band formed 8 years ago. Back then, we played a complex instrumental type of metal, without a singer. Two years later we were joined by Péter Budai as a vocalist. Since then, the lineup has not changed. Early 1999 we published our first demo, called ’OLD’, which was greeted warmly by the Hungarian rock press. Shortly thereafter we have won a national talent contest and received some invitations to various festivals (e.g. Metal Hammer’s Progressive Festival) and done 1 or 2 tours in the country. After publishing the demo we agreed not to make one each year, so we started to prepare for our first album.
‘Unusual’ is self-financed. This means –and correct me if I am wrong- that no record label has shown any interested for Aebsence music. Even if this is hard to believe can you identify the main reasons of why this happened? And please tell us if there is any interest for the band for any record label.
Andras: Here in Hungary, there were 2 relevant labels concerning themselves with metal music at that time: a richer one which went broke by the time we published the record, and a more influential one (Metal Hammer Hungary) that had less money. Therefore they cannot make preferable offers to a band striving for uniqueness like AEBSENCE. So we decided to provide the necessities ourselves. Right now international promotion is on its way and we are waiting for feedback. As soon as we can say anything specific, we’ll be eager to let you know.
One thing I loved on ‘Unusual’ is that it is unique. It is not hard to understand why you named the record like this. Do you believe that your music is unusual and how hard it is to be unusual?
Andras: Actually, the adjective ’UNUSUAL’ was used by a Norwegian webzine (Scream) in the context of our first demo, ’OLD’. We liked it a lot as we found it very descriptive. When the album title had to be decided, we didn’t even think of any other possibility, it was agreed to by all of us. What makes this music interesting is the usage of centuries-old Hungarian folk music tunes, which are obviously not our compositions. Is it hard to walk one’s own way? It is: lots of people cannot relate this music to anything else. And if one resorts solely to everyday clichés, one might well find it irreceptible. Thus our album was extremely disparaged by a few – mostly true metal – fanzines.
No matter how much I try, it is difficult for me to identify your influences. One name I could get close was Skyclad, but surely you are quite different from them. Can you please identify the band’s influences to us?
Andras: I think Skyclad build their folk themes on traditional heavy metal elements, so I’d rather not compare the two bands. All Aebsence members grew up listening to different kinds of music, our musical genres differ even now. I, for example, was heavily influenced by Suicidal Tendencies and Death Angel, although our drummer Attila has never ever heard a song by these bands. We all try to bring something of our own into Aebsence, and perhaps that’s why direct influences are not really mentioned in reviews. A few common favourites are Tool, Anthrax and Alice In Chains. We often play a cover song from these bands each on gigs.
It seems that you love the folk music of your country; at least this is what sounds through the album. One other thing that really impressed me is that you try to balance through progressive rhythms and unique elements with mainstream sounds. By no means ‘Unusual’ lacks the nice melodies and mainstream sounds, for example ‘Sick Days’ and ‘Countdawn’. Will Aebsence continue to this kind of music or are you going to concentrate on building more ‘mainstream’ sounds and melodies?
Andras: Yes, we do love Hungarian folk music, although I have to admit that we are by no means experts in it. Lest one might get scared off: we are not folk musicians but a metal band that uses Hungarian folk themes as an auxiliary. In what direction the new songs will trail off is not even known to us yet. We do not intentionally influence our musical genre. It will be rather determined by our mood at that time, nevertheless I think the duality of complex and mainstream will stay.
Do you think by having Hungarian lyrics on major parts of your songs, can help you in building the folk atmosphere you might want to achieve. Although, your lyrics are beautiful, I cannot hide you my sadness by not being able to understand what some parts of the songs talk about.
Andras: Yes, the aim was partly to create the folkish atmosphere specific to Aebsence. In the beginning we considered translating these into English but it would have ruined the feeling. These parts can be felt more easily this way, in our mother language. The Hungarian parts were selected to fit the concept of the lyrics. CountDawn’s chorus is, for example, about the ’hero’ counting the minutes until morning, not wanting to sleep, waiting for dawn to chase his sorrow away. This can be also interpreted metaphorically, of course. In ’Deep’, there is a typical Hungarian ’outlaw ballad’ theme: I go away, leaving everything behind, no one will ever hear from me again. From a pessimistic point of view it is about turning away from the world, from an optimistic one, it’s about leaving an old life behind and starting a new one. ’Old Black Song’ is about mourning for a love lost. Azure’s chanting features another ancient ballad about love until death: "my body be laid the grave together with yours, my blood be flown together with yours". ’7/4’ is about the world’s changing and the disappearing old values. ’Negative’ is once again about sorrow, it is the lament of a dirgeful man.
Where do you draw your influences for these wonderful lyrics? I believe that the songs talk mostly about coping with life hardness? Correct me if I am wrong.
Andras: No, you are absolutely right. The whole record can be viewed as a concept album (although it was not really meant to be one). It is as if a tired man, troubled by worries and memories, sits down into his armchair one evening, in the solitude of his unlit room. As the first song begins, he is overrun by emotions, memories, thoughts, and he tries to get ahead, and waits for dawn and enlightenment. Each song brings another scene from his life back to memory: youth gone, a love lost, hopelessness, a changed world. He’s looking for values in his wrecked life. In the end, ’Sick Days’ brings (as in music so in lyrics) a more positive atmosphere, so although our ’hero’ is cannot solve his problems, but the night is over, it is dawning again, and the song says even if you cannot change the world, don’t give up trying. And finally, with the dying sounds of the violin the troubling thoughts also die, and we sit in the armchair as the sun rises.
Really, how is the song-writing process on Aebsence? Do you guys do the orchestration on the flute and violin or do you have special guests on the album?
Andras: I do most of the composing, so I usually introduce a complete song on the rehearsal. Of course each one of us has a say to the songs, and believe me, they never miss the opportunity :-) Everyone puts their own concepts, their own flavor into a song, so it is not uncommon for songs to take a totally different form in the and as I have formerly imagined. Unfortunately we do not play folk instruments, so these were done by two of our friends. Jácint Jilling is surely to be mentioned, not only contributing to the flute parts, but also to the intro and all the effects.
I have read in your biography on your site that you have won a talent competition in your country. Are you planning to go into this direction again or will you simply try to gain a contract with a major record label to escape the borders of Hungary?
Andras: We entered two such contests. One still before publishing our demo, in that case we’ve won an extra prize. The other was after the demo recording, a national contest of a larger scale, and we’ve snatched the first prize there. We do not enter any more such contests as we’ve published an album since and as we cannot get a better rank :-) Well, you should also keep in mind that even winning a national contest didn’t mean that a international label would’ve offered us a contract or that popular media would play our songs. This was more of a symbolic recognition, received from a professional jury and musicians in the audience. We also had luck with the jury as they were not interested in who-plays-more-notes-in-a-second things but rather in bringing something new. So, talking about international labels, it would be swanky to say ’no way’ as we are by far not in focus for them, but nevertheless, we’d be the most satisfied with an independent metal label providing us opportunities for a European underground tour or two. This would be the most important thing.
Anything on concerts? I know it is hard to ask you if we are going to see you outside Hungary but at least are you getting asked to play and if possible as support act to major bands or maybe in any festivals this summer?
Andras: The club scene in Hungary is pretty depressing. We usually do a tour with 8-10 gigs in different clubs and 2 or 3 festival appearances per year. We know it is by far not enough, but it isn’t worth playing more. Aside from a few places, most clubs provide absolutely technical equipment and as we lack the massive audience, it is not quite profitable to rent a van and bring the whole equipment with us. Supporting major foreign (or even Hungarian) bands costs a lot and we cannot afford it. Unfortunately we don’t have much experience in playing abroad but we hope this will change soon. The feedbacks thus far were good and naturally we try to accept each invitation.
Ok now, in Greece heavy metal scene is really small, although the bands try to do a good work. The chances of signing a contract are really not only small but almost zero. This is due to the nature of people here that choose easy fixed music that is made mostly by major record labels. How are things in Hungary? Do you have the same situation there or are things better?
Andras: Better or worse I cannot say but quite f*cked. The chance of contracting a major label is close to zero. And there are but a few minor labels, operating with terribly small budgets. So the bands have to take over quite a big part of the funding if they want to make a record that stands its ground on the international market. And a few labels even lack in the attitude, saying ’this will be good enough on the national scene, you don’t need a better sound, and don’t sing in English because you won’t be able to sell it, boy’. If this is the attitude that young beginners get spoon-fed, then we really cannot hope an international breakthrough band from Hungary.
How stressful is for you song-writing? I cannot tell you that my expectations for the new album of Aebsence (I know it is to early…) are really high. Are you afraid that at any given point you may not be able to reproduce nice and unique ideas on your music?
Andras: After listening to the first one, many people ask how the second Aebsence album will sound like. Honestly, I have no idea, but I can’t say it’d be stressful even a bit. When we finished recording the first material, I leaned back and thought that I’ve written everything out of me, so I won’t have any new ideas. Quite on the contrary, as I began attuning myself to writing new songs, the riffs just couldn’t stop coming. Of course these still need a lot of elaboration but surely you won’t be disappointed! :-)
Do you guys work to support yourselves? I understand that you do not live through your music. How do you feel about bands that already have their success on their pockets and come up with mediocre or really bad albums? I don’t want to name but I am sure you understand what I am talking about.
Andras: Of course we have full-time jobs. Instead of earning us a living, musicianship continuously demands investments. Not that we’d want to whimper. We’ve chosen this as a hobby. Some people change their cars twice a year, we Play Music. I am personally not annoyed by MTV hyping mediocre Korn clones. I am not envying them. If someone gets to like metal music listening to them and eventually getting to Anthrax, Voivod, or King’s X, the whole metal scene gets ahead.
So, what are the plans for the future? Do you have new songs or when do you plan to start recording again if no new songs exist yet. And please tell me, are we going to listen to more folk elements in the future. I have to tell you, I was expecting more on ‘Unusual’, but this didn’t made me sad at all. As I have already said, Aebsence are perfect on building straightforward songs.
Andras: We’d like to find a foreign distributor for the record, and right now we’re working on this subject. Another grand plan is about introducing ourselves with some live gigs in a few European countries. We are currently finishing our first video clip (to “Domestic Orders Only’). And the usual Hungarian club tour comes in autumn. Of course there will be folk parts on the next record but also in this aspect, we try to renew ourselves.
What Andras Perneczky listens to the last few days on his stereo?
Andras: Anthrax: We've Come For You All. Since it came out, I haven’t listened to anything else. It’s unbelievable!!!
Andras, thank you really much for this interview. I wish the best to you and for the other guys on the band, personally and on your carriers. If I have forgot to ask you something that you want to mention please do it here. I really look forward to meet you in person on the future and I am sure I will since Aebsence will get what they want since your music deserves it.
Andras: Thanks for the opportunity and the felicitation. We also wish you and the webzine team well. Hope we won’t wait too long for that personal meeting!