March 2008 - HOUR OF 13
HOUR OF 13 is a very new US-Doom Metal band, but their debut sounds as if it would be their third or fourth album, It contains all that I love so much about this musical style: emotional depth, an intense atmosphere, and no to forget about the excellent songs. I'm pretty sure, that this record will be a classic in ten years, which is important as all the other great Doom Metal albums we all love. It became very clear, that I need to know more about this outstanding band and so I sent some questions over to vocalist Phil Swanson. His insightful answers show, that he got a very differentiated point of view about Satanism, the music buisness and more. The result is an extremly informative interview....
Hello Phil, it wasn't easy for me to focus my attention on one of the bands, where you're involved. There's SEAMOUNT, UPWARDS OF ENDTIME, VESTAL CLARET, ATLANTEAN KODEX and EARTHLORD, and although I like the all the other groups, my favourite one is HOUR OF 13. The debut album was like a fresh breeze in the Doom Metal scene and for me it's one of the best releases in 2007. Great songs, great playing and the atmosphere of it is simply overwhelming. What do you think about the album now? Are you satisfied or is there anything you would like to change?
I am completely satisfied with the Hour of 13 debut. I am glad I was able to continue the themes I began with Vestal Claret so easily with Hour of 13. It was a near seemless transition that only made for the better by Chads music.
Chad Davis is responsible for the songwriting, while you have written all lyrics and melodies as well as the vocal arrangements. When and where did you meet Chad Davis and how long have you worked on the album?
Thats a strange description of our participation mostly on the labels part. Simply put Chad wrote the music and I wrote the lyrics, both make the song. A good friend of mine introduced Chad and I when he was in North Carolina hanging out with Chads other band US Christmas. Chad had approached our mutual friend Chris Thomas if he knew any metal type singers. Chris and I had been friends for around 20 years and met in Texas before I moved back to Connecticut. Chad then sent me the music to demo. I was looking to get out of the situation I was in with Vestal Claret as it was loosing its original intent. The music Chad gave me was a perfect vehicle for the lyrical ideas I had for Vestal Claret, in days we had a demo available to share with labels.
Have you composed all songs together with Chad Davis or when did you come up with your contributions?
Chad approached me with the already written and arranged music. I had all the lyrics finished as well as they were to be used on the Vestal Claret full length. We just took these two works and combined them to make the songs of Hour of 13.
Whenever I listen to the album, I'm still speechless that it wasn't recorded by a "real" band, because the overall sound is absolutely organic. It would be really a shame if HOUR OF 13 never play live. Have you ever thought about a complete line-up and what are the latest news?
There is definitely no shame in not playing live. Bathory did not play live, and Quorthon lived shamelessly. And why would one consider Hour of 13 not a real band? I cant understand that. There are countles active bands consisting of only two members like Ulver, Fleurety, Solefald and on and on..What are the requirements in making a "real" band. It is music we are intending on making, not a band. Making a band would be trying to achieve a standard or some sort of representation. We are making music, writing songs and recording for the listener, not the viewer. Of course there is the possibilty of performing live. But what would be the reason at this point? Right now we are still writing music, maybe if we run out of ideas we will take a break and perform live. But now the interest is in writing not performing. I am not a performer nor entertainer, I am a songwriter so that is my objective above all else.
Apart of the excellent music, I think, that the lyrics are pretty intensive. A lot of bands pretend to write about dark and sinister themes, but yours are really profound and extremely dark. What was your main inspiration when you wrote the lyrics for songs like 'Missing Girl' or 'The Correlation'?
The idea of "Missing Girl" is influenced much in part by Alice Cooper and the song "Dead Babies". At the time of release it was so shocking, but you couldnt deny it and avoid listening to it. I wanted to have a song like that, that just made you feel guilty about even hearing it. "The Correlation" is a song connecting the Illumanti to the current state of world chaos, just formulas and numbers that lead one to believe there is an involvement.
What is your point of view about the philosophies of Dr. Anton LaVey?
I have no point of view on Anton Levay, Alister Crowley or the Mad Arab himself. They are all evangelists to me. Just like Christian theologians, all trying to define the undefinable. Ridiculous, foolish, bullshit artists!
Isn't it sad, that Lucifer is always the scapegoat, although he is the bringer of light!? Although I don't believe in all this religious shit, my sympathy for this figure is endless. What's your opinion?
Again I have no opinion on Lucifer or Jesus Christ any more than Zuess, Budda or any other man made myth. Yet they make for great story telling and lyrical content. But as being the scapegoat it is a proven fact that most crimes originally considering by the occult where commited by devote Christians rather than nomadic satanic cults. I am speaking in more 60s, 70s and 80s term of course before the black metal surge. And the black metal crimes are more trend to a lifestyle rather than religion, no different than neo-nazis of the 80s. But the lyrics of Hour of 13 are mostly influenced by Satanic Panic and exploitation of the 60s, 70s and 80s, not more current satanism.
Do you think, that this world will ever be free from all this manipulation, that is well-known under the name religion?
I think we are getting closer. I personally think no country should be lead by any religious believer. Religion is a biased influence and cannot represnet any country as a whole. And anyone who believes in myths and legends doesnt have the mental capacity to rule over a nation. When we can put an athiest into office(even a Muslim would be a start), we can start moving forward as a people. But I suspect when that does happen we will have to go through a long period of Christian terrorism before anything can be truly accomplished.
Tobi of Metal Coven Records told me, that you're working on a HOUR OF 13 split-12", that will be released by Metal Coven Records. Please, tell me more about this upcoming release. Have you and Chad Davis recorded new songs, or is this unreleased material from the recording sessions for the album?
Wow! Didn't know we were putting that out there yet. But if Tobi said it then its true. He's the man! I fucking worship Metal Coven and what they do!!! No one does it better and more honestly than Metal Coven. Well the plan is for a Vestal Claret / Hour of 13 release. There is one song from Vestal Claret that wasnt released that will appear on this split called "Devils Daughters" reworked with new a reworked version of the original "Call to Satan" with two cover songs, Thelemas "Dance of the Witches" and Skin Yards "Hallowed Ground". The Hour of 13 side is still in the writing process. I spoke with Chad today and he said he has the music for 4 new songs ready to record. Once I lay the lyrics and vocals on them we will decide from those songs which will appear on the split.
Are you still in contact with Shadow Kingdom Records and are there any plans to record a second album for Tim's label?
We are still in contact with Tim of course. Plans for a second album are undetermined. We are writing new music but how it will be released is undecided. Right now we are looking forward to doing the Metal Coven split as it is always fun working with the Metal Coven crew! Their releases are fuckin classic one of a kind pieces of art. And we cant wait to see what they have in store for this split, hopefully 2 sided artwork chock full of naked virgins thanx to Headlight!
When did you discover your interest in being a lead-vocalist and do you play any other instruments?
Probably like 12 or 13, staring at oversized posters of Bon Scott, Ozzy Ozbourne, Alice Cooper and Ian Anderson as they played on the stereo. That and I could never get lyrics out of my head even though I wasnt a singer yet at the time. Always writing things down and throwing them away in frustration cause I wasnt able to complete them as songs. I do write music by ear mostly on bass or keyboard on ocassion. Actually most of the last Upwards of Endtime record and allot of the earlier UoE material and the majority of Vestal Clarets music was written or initiated by me. But I dont really play an instrument, I can pick one up and write a melody within minutes and turn it into a song, but would need someelse to actually perfect and complete it.
Who's your favourite singer?
Thats tough I am influenced in many ways by so many different singers. Mostly Ozzy but also Alice Cooper, Bon Scott, Phil Mogg, Paul Dianno, John Arch, Katon De Pena, John Stabb, Henry Rollins, Ben McMillan, Roz Williams, John Sox, Sam McBride, Chuck Mosley, Carl Mcoy, Thomas Squip, Arthur Stevenson, Chris Connelly, Spike Xavier, Max Vanderwolf... Really a lot of guys with their own style and not only metal singers. I like to bring less obvious influences into metal like from punk and death rock. I dont mind Ozzy comparisons but I wouldnt want to be compared to Bruce Dickinson, Geoff Tate or Rob Halford, I like these guys allot but man I am so sick of hearin' it over and over again. Metal has lost its personality and style. In the begining every band had its own voice. No its just the same thing, cookie cutter, no style style whatsover.
It seems as if you always work simultaneously for different bands. A few weeks ago the German band SEAMOUNT released their debut full-length, where you're also the lead-singer. From where comes all this creative energy and is there a band or a project that you like more than any other?
The creativity comes from the music, thats the inspiration. If the music speaks to you, you speak back in lyric. I meet these great musicians with all this great music and no words. When I hear it I can resist wanting to be a part of it. I am a fan before a member almost. The Seamount debut was released as an online download package but will also be released on double vinyl with 3 bonus tracks in upcoming months on Merciless Records Germany. The first none death metal band on that label, something Im very proud of. Im glad to be able to release material on labels like Merciless and Barbarian Wrath, its a huge accomplishment to me to be considered by more extreme labels.
As a fan of so many styles of underground music it a great compliment to be heard by a crossover audience. I dont prefer or compete with my own projects but I do commit in certain order to one over the others. Seamount is my main objective, it is what I concentrate most my creative enegies towards as it feeds my hunger the most. Musically it's exactly where my influences have taken me. It brings all my needs to one place and is completely gratifying to me as a songwriter. It is by far the most original project I am involved with, meaning it doenst have the retro markings of my other projetcs. But that doesnt imply in anyway that I appreciate any other project to lesser degree.
I suppose, that is was very difficult to rehearse with SEAMOUNT, because you live in the USA and the other guys here in Germany. Please, give us an insight the process of songwriting and practising.
I don't rehearse with any of the bands I am currently active with. Again rehearsal is for performers, I am not a performer. I am a songwriter. As for the process for Seamount, Tim Schmidt writes all the music and sends me tracks to demo and I write lyrics for them. I lay a demo vocal down then Tim will have the band finsih the recorded music and send back to me for finished vocals. Actually the system has been so succesful that it is how I intend to do all my projects at this time. For the second Seamount record, that is already half way completed, I will be recording all the vocals here in the US but going to Germany for the final mix. Heopefully by the third record I will be in the studio in Germany for the whole process.
Can you agree with me, when I say that you're a passionate underground musician with a strong DIY-attitude, who gives a fuck about the mainstream?
100%! "fuck the mainstream" is a perfect description. I write music solely for my own desires, I release it as part of the process of sharing it. I dont expect the mainstream to want to hear hear it. I love underground music and have always, me being in these bands is just my way to be more a part of it, I am a fan first and foermost!
You are also running your own label Revell Records. When did you start and what have been the latest activities?
Actually Revell Records started as Swayingball Music. And Swayingball Music was started in 1995 as Disclocator and the first independent music seller on the internet believe it or not. It was just me CD Now and Amazon at the time. Started selling my own vast collection along with new CDs of black and death metal also a lot of rare old school metal stuff when no one cared anymore. I sold Disclocator as it became too much to handle and began selling on Ebay as Swayingball. I released the first 2 Upwards of Entime records on Swayingball as well as the vinyl compilation "Unleashed from the Northeast" with the bands Upwards of Endtime, Ogre and Blood Red.
Then Dale Henderson of the band Beowulf who is like my all time favorite songwriters had this project Kool-Whip that was unreleased. I offered to release it for him but since it wasnt really a "metal" record I released under the Revell Records name. Really an amazing record by an amazing talent!!! Hopefully one day I'll be able to release more stuff cause I am talking with a few bands of interest that have material I want to release. But money is tight right now so it wont be soon. I have all kinds of plans for Revell just not the funds to move forward at this time.
I know, that it's maybe a tough question, but can you name five records, which inspired you the most?
Actually a very easy question...
Angel Witch - s/t
Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Judas Priest - Rocka Rolla
Stormwitch - Tales of Terror
Running Wild - Branded and Exiled
What are your plans for 2008?
Well I have been sharing ideas for two new projects, a heavy metal project with Hunch the guitarist from Blood Red and a progressive rock project with Fred Mellilo the bass player of the US band Legend who produced the last Upwards of Endtime and played bass on two of the Earthlord tracks. Just really sharing some time with them, nothing official or long term. We are working on a new Upwards of Endtime CD and well into a new Seamount record but both probably wont be out until 2009. So 2008 will see the release of the double vinyl Seamount debut and the Vestal Claret / Hour of 13 split. And also the re-issue of the Upward of Endtime debut remastered with 4 bonus tracks. Maybe more who knows for sure...
Thanks a lot for your time and your answers, Phil. Anything else you would like to add here?
I would like to ask anyone who is listening to share what the can with who they can. Its becoming an exhausting process at this point and I have done countless interviews and seen even more reviews. If your listening lets us know? It very motivating to know the music being heard and really helps fuel the fire... It just could to know your not alone out here sometimes. And thanx for the interview and to all who have taken the time to read this far.