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Ilenkus | Interview


They put out the video that got people talking. It was the simplest idea, executed perfectly.

Much more importantly though, Ilenkus have released a detailed and powerful album that’s packed with energy and intensity.

Jamie Grimes sought them out for a chinwag – and tried to find out if they’re really against long black hair and beards.

That pic above courtesy of Oisin.

***

Making That Video

So let’s just get the elephant out of the room straight away and talk about the video for “over the fire, under the smoke”.

How nerve wracking was that to shoot on the day first of all? And did you expect the kind of reception it recieved in terms of being mentioned in the national media?

Has that translated in real terms to people taking an active interest in what you’re doing?

Chris: To be honest, making the video wasn’t as nerve wracking as you might think.

I was mentally prepared for it, and I reckon I probably did more freaking out in the days preceding it than I did on the day itself. While we were doing the walk, it was all just adrenaline. I think I was too focused on the performance to be nervous.

In terms of the reaction – we did not expect it to explode the way it did, but at the same time I don’t think it was a total shock either. The concept was good, worked with the song well and it being out in the streets of Galway certainly helped with spreading the word.

Everywhere we go, the video is mentioned. People turned up to our shows in Holland last October that had come just off the back of having seen it, and left having bought vinyl/t-shirts etc.

So yes, it has helped a lot with spreading our name, and I think some people have ended up really connecting with what we are doing that would not otherwise know about us.

Body Of Evidence

You’ve just released your second album, “The Crossing”, and it’s a huge step up from the debut to these ears.

There’s an awful lot of variety at work in these songs but it works perfectly as an album – I was wondering when it came time to write this record, did you approach it as a body of work or were you simply just writing and collecting songs as you went along?

Was there a set of central themes or concepts either musically or lyrically that drove the writing, like was there a broader vision at work so to speak?

Josh: There were definitely some concepts at work from quite an early stage of the writing process. But we wrote the songs over a fairly long period, so the concepts developed and it was only really at the end of the process that we could sit back and take stock of all the themes running through the record.

I think that was also down to us having three vocalists. While we do collaborate on lyrics and themes from time to time, a lot of work is done individually. One thing that we did deliberately do, was to make ‘The Crossing’ shorter than ‘Rule By Thieves’.

It’s still pretty diverse, but we felt that we could make the listening experience more focused by having less songs. In terms of our concepts and themes – they’re fairly evident when reading the lyrics.

Did It Themselves

You’ve been fairly hands on in terms of the recording process from what I understand, having recorded a lot of the music for the new album yourselves in your rehearsal space.

Firstly, was the interest in self recording there before the band or did it come as a result of it? Do you feel from a control point of view that doing things this way allows you to get the sound in your heads down the way you want, or was it out of necessity?

And in general, is self recording something you’d reccommend for other bands?What advice would you have for bands looking to start doing this for themselves?

I think there’s an overall gravitation towards sound production for all members of this band. The way we look at writing music is not just how it’s going to be performed live – that is a huge part of it, but another is how it’s going to sound on record.

So it made sense for us, especially for our first record, to figure out exactly how we wanted the songs to sound. That way we could know that we weren’t compromising our vision for the sake of financial reasons, etc.

With ‘The Crossing’ we blended a bit of our own DIY work with a couple of other processes – recording with Owen Lewis(Hole, Flogging Molly) and mixing with Chris Common (Chelsea Wolfe, Pelican). This allowed us to get the best of both worlds, to draw from their wealth of experience and also to have a grip on the production and sound of the record.

To answer your question in relation to other bands taking that route, I would recommend it – as long as you’re gonna be able to see it through and keep a high standard as you can.

It requires a lot of patience and a willingness to accept your mistakes and live with them – prob not a bad lesson for life in general!

From my own personal experience with this approach, my advice would be to hold creativity above everything else. Don’t get bogged down in details and technicalities until you have properly explored the spark of creativity that led you to get to that point in the first place.

With Ilenkus we typically spend a lot of time jamming and improvising before we begin to arrange songs.

Then we rehearse the shit out of the them, until they’re as tight as we can get them. That’s when we start to get into the nitty-gritty, technical side of it.

Like “do I want a high gain amp for this sound or more of a classic crunch?”, “does it sound better with all down strokes?”, “should I take that guitar part out altogether and replace it with some synth?”

We found that going through these processes was a big part of writing the music we wanted to produce and now when we go to a recording studio we’ll have rehearsed some of the recording techniques before-hand during pre-production.

That’s really what I’d recommend to other bands – learn how to do your own pre-production.

The Crossing

As I say, there’s an incredible amount of variety at work in the music on “The Crossing” overall – to go from something as mental as “Devourer” to something like the more sombre moments and harmonised vocals on “Goodbye Denial”.

Yet to have a consistency throughout is extremely impressive, and what you’re doing is pretty impossible to pigeonhole. What was influencing you guys musically on this record?

Are there actually any restrictions you impose on yourselves when writing or is it totally an open book? And in terms of the writing process did the songs go through much editing before they arrived at their final versions?

We have never imposed any restrictions on ourselves in the past, which has almost definitely lead us to create this kind of variety within our music. I take it as a compliment that it’s difficult to pigeon-hole.

That’s not to say that we might do something more focused in the future, but taking such a free approach to writing our music has definitely allowed for us to develop in some less conventional ways.

I would say that “The Crossing” was probably most inspired by post-metal bands like Cult Of Luna and Isis. But I can definitely hear the Dillinger Escape Plan influence as well as some less obvious ones like Radiohead and Mogwai.

In terms of editing, yes – the songs went though a lot of editing before we ended up with the versions that are on the record. As I was saying earlier, doing a lot of pre-production allows you to explore different avenues in which to take the song, before you have to record it proper and lock it down.

Bands take lots of different approaches to writing music, but for us it comes down to trimming the fat. We’ll write something , arrange it, rehearse it and then attempt to analyse it(that can be quite difficult if you’re heavily involved with the riffs, etc.) – as in “does this section really add anything to the song?”, “does it compliment the other bits or take away from them?”.

Stripping down songs can end up leaving you with a lot less material sometimes, but at least you’re gonna be fully confident in what you have kept. Losing confidence in material after writing it, is something that I personally really hate.

It’s very frustrating and can stop you from enjoying the performances of that song. I guess that’s something that all artists have to deal with, but we find that taking a hard line from the outset can definitely help preserve the longevity and integrity of your performances.

Throwback Bands and Devils Advocates

You made some interesting comments in a Youtube interview about the Irish public’s perception of metal recently,and made some tongue in cheek comments about “throw back bands” and how “we don’t all have beards”.

That could, if I were to play Devil’s Advocate here for a second, be misconstrued as being dismissive of many bands in Ireland’s metal scene.

Firstly, do you feel what you’re doing is outside the metal scene in this country over all, is it something you’re trying to ditance yourselves from?

And secondly, I suppose this goes back a little to the first question about the video but do you feel like you want to reach out to some degree to people who wouldn’t normally listen to this kind of music? Do you feel limited remainingin Ireland?

First things first – I should clarify the context of the comments made in that interview. Laura Sheeran and myself had been having a conversation about Irish music festivals prior to the interview we did with Unit 1.

The content of that conversation stemmed from an article in the Irish Times that was all about Irish artists getting paid fairly for festival performances.

The point I had been making was that let alone getting paid, Irish artists from the heavy music community aren’t even being vaguely represented at such events. So I felt that a discussion was relevant as to why the situation is how it is in Ireland.

That’s what we were talking about in the interview and as a booker and promoter, who is quite opinionated about these things anyway(!), I expressed that I thought that possibly the heavy music scene was undervalued by the larger media and population.

I attribute much of that negative perspective of the scene to the fact that there isn’t huge amounts of originality coming from bands within the country. I wouldn’t book a band unless I thought they were in some way different or interesting. For me that’s where the appeal is. It isn’t because they are one genre or another.

In terms of whether we see ourselves as existing outside of the metal community, I don’t really know how to answer that question. We exist within it and outside of it as far as I’m concerned.

It’s not the be all and end all of this band, but it is definitely something that we value. So we’re not trying to distance ourselves at all, we’re just trying to be honest about who we are and what we’re doing. If we’re part of a scene as a result – that’s great. If not then that’s not a big deal.

I guess we are trying to get our music into the ears of a broad demographic, but that really is part of this band’s philosophy – that heavy and intense music doesn’t have to just be for a narrow audience.

Anyone reading this knows how much of a rewarding and cathartic experience it can be to listen to heavy music and we don’t feel that this should have to be an exclusive experience. It would be awesome if more people were listening to and in turn, creating more heavy music in this country.

Is staying in Ireland limiting what we can achieve? In a traditional sense I guess it is – because we can only play live to a certain amount of people here. But we love this country, it’s our home and we want to help improve the scene, so any achievements we make here feel that bit more rewarding.

No doubt, if we never toured abroad we’d be limiting ourselves, but I don’t think that living in Ireland is necessarily a negative thing for our band.

Road Dogs

I know you guys have been road dogs over the last few years, so I’m guessing touring is something you love to do. Where are you favourite places to play both locally and outside the country first of all? And how integral to growing your following do you think playing live has been?

I can’t overstate how important playing live is to us. It is the life-force of this(and in my opinion any) band.

Anyone can spend months in a studio polishing songs to the point where they’re so perfect, they might as well have been written by a computer algorithm. When you come to play live – that is where the songs really exist.

That’s what they were meant for and no matter how much layering and production you put on to a record, the live version is the true version of the song. Otherwise it’s just a shiny lie. The imperfections and personality of a live gig are what really makes a great performance.

One day, a few years ago, that just clicked for us – we were playing a gig in the middle of no-where to 5 or 6 people and we were just like, “You know what lads – fuck it. Let’s just go for it.” and we did. And those 5 or 6 people were probably pretty surprised to see us completely losing our minds on-stage, just for the sake of it. We’ve carried that attitude into every single gig since.

Favourite places to play… Well Galway’s definitely a fun place to play because we have a lot of friends and a bit of a following here – in fact our launch gig for “The Crossing” was in some ways probably one of my favourite gigs we’ve ever done.

Cork is also somewhere that we have a strong fondness for and a lot of mates in cool bands down there. If I had to pick a couple of places that I really enjoy gigging in the UK – I’d say Bristol and Nottingham. Again we have good friends there and the shows always have good energy. Everywhere you go on tour is fun just cos of the random shit that happens on the road.

We had a great time in Bruges last year, even though we weren’t even playing a gig. We had a day off, so decided to hang out and go on the lash. Ended up at a lock-in in a bar with a load of Belgians who, once they found out we were a band, demanded that we go to the van and bring them stacks of merch that they wanted us to sign and then sell to them!

They bought us all our drinks for the night and just generally treated us like kings. That shit never happens to us, so it was pretty fun considering we hadn’t even played a gig!

It’s quite hard to determine how integral our live shows have been to developing our following, I’d like to think that they’ve helped a lot. But they have been so integral to us developing as a band, that I hold live performances as one of (if not) THE most important element in us getting to this point.

For What Died The Sons Of Roisin (Dubh)?

A couple of years ago Galway was producing seemed to have a pretty great scene for heavy bands,with the likes of Rites, Harvester, Neifenbach, Bacchus and the like..it seems in the last few years though that things have quietened down with some of the more notable bands either breaking up or seeming to go into hibernation over the last year.

You’ve been around a while now through ups and downs for heavy music in the city; do you feel there’s a bit of a lull there at the moment or are there some new bands coming up we should be looking out for?

And as the town has been a hub for a lot of touring bands over the last few years, how do you feel the underground music community has grown there?

For a long time there’s been a strong underground scene here, that is really supportive of local bands and also provides the platform for touring bands to come. I’ve lived here now for nearly 10 years and I strongly feel that we wouldn’t be where we are now without the support and opportunities given to us from that scene.

As far as I’m concerned, the musical and cultural vibrancy of Galway is what attracted me to the place and allowed for Ilenkus to develop in the way that we have done.

As for a lull, I would have to kind of agree. There’s been a lot of cool bands in the city over the last few years, but quite a few have called it a day fairly recently – which is a shame. It’s not a terrible situation though, by any means.

There are new bands forming all the time and various members of old bands floating between new projects. Honestly I think if there is a lull it’s just part of a cycle. It’s hard to say exactly how the scene has grown, but having touring bands coming to Galway has definitely had a positive impact

Okay, so I have to ask: you record and release your own music, you book your own tours, and seem to thrive on a do it yourself approach. How far does that extend for you though?

Is that approach something you’ve absorbed into yourselves as a permanent modus operandi ora temporary measure til something bigger and better comes along? Do you feel there are limits to what you can achieve off your own bat?

It’s been a part of how we do things since day one and I do believe that it can be an effective and successful approach to running a band. That being said, we are completely open to new and bigger opportunities if they arise.

It became pretty obvious to us pretty quickly that to have a band like ours – that functions properly, it’s pretty much a necessity to be able to do everything yourself. We’ve been learning and improving our approach throughout the life of this band, so it’s quite hard to say how far we can go with it.

In some sense, any limitations that we feel are really only being imposed by ourselves, while at the same time, there’s no question that having some form of backing and experience can definitely help, if even just to accelerate things.

In my opinion it’s in a band’s best interests to have involvement in the day-to-day running of the band. It gives a better understanding of the business (let’s not be under any illusions – a band has to at least attempt to be a business in order to be sustainable) and therefore gives insight on where you can save money, be most effective, etc. Without that, you’re relying on other people to do what they think is best for you, which might not necessarily be what you want.

For Ilenkus it was important to learn how we want to be represented and to use that understanding to further ourselves in an honest way.

What’s next on the agenda? I see you’re about to hit Europe with Artemis in April – will there be much more live work between now and then and are you thinking about another release yet?

We’re doing a UK tour beginning 18th February and two Irish gigs before that; one in Whelans on the 30th January and one in Fredz on Feb 7th

In terms of our next release, we’re already in pre-production for a new EP. We’re doing this record with Aidan Cunningham from Murdock, so hopefully he doesn’t fuck it up 😉

Interview with Jamie Grimes ::: 15/01/15


13 Comments
  1. Great band. Love the video. Good interview too.

  2. justincredible Says:

    Can’t really buy into the mean and moody look when he’s wearing a pink hoodie.
    Good song though.

  3. Class video, really like the song too. I don’t think I’ve ever caught them live yet, so that Whelans gig is going on the to do list.

  4. Owenofhexxed Says:

    Great video. Looking forward to the gig in whelans

  5. an_slua_sidhe Says:

    Will have to catch them in Fred’s, missed them the last time.

  6. Excellent tune (which is all that actually matters), but the video is pretty cringeworthy. It’s what I’d imagine Robb Flynn does Shop St. to look like.

    Sorry!

  7. nazgulbrian Says:

    Hahahaha

  8. good band, but they talk some amount of shite.

  9. Good music but the fuckin hack of that music video. fuck me, it would nearly put ye off the band. Why have someone filming ye walking round town like a complete twat screaming/shouting at a camera.

  10. Black Shepherd Says:

    Sure Primordial’s video is just someone dragging a sack of coal around the countryside and Nemty half-mouthing words into the camera. I think this video’s worth the event it depicts – I mean, if I had been in the crowd, in person, I would have found it hilarious in the best possible way.

  11. I like the look of one of the older onlookers, who gives your man the same expression as if it was one she didnt recognise at mass this week.

  12. Great video that, deadly song too, have to check them out next time they play Dublin

  13. Great video and a great interview – nice one.

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