…that a freak, no-hope Brummie and a homosexual, working class Walsallite could forge a world-wide cultural movement is astounding.
Originally released last year on a very limited cassette edition, Funeral Throne’s Threshold is to be unleashed upon a wider audience through Blut & Eisen Productions on 15 September 2015. Here, bassist/vocalist Jack Welch talks to MR’s Jason Guest on a number of topics including the upcoming re-release of the album, the album and its development, the band and what they’ve been up to these past six years, the left hand path, music as spiritual communion, black metal, truth, scaring Pantera and Nu Metal fans, the upcoming Lords of Chaos adaptation, as well as the Midlands, aka the Home of Metal…
Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on the re-release of Threshold. Originally released in 2014 as a limited edition cassette, it’s now being released through Germany’s Blut & Eisen Productions. How did you come to work with the label?
We put together a number hand-crafted promo packs to send out to a select few labels and B&E was one of a few that expressed an interest in releasing it. After weighing up the options and knowing the calibre of what had been released through both B&E and WTC we decided this was the best home for us. We are pleased to sit alongside bands that seem so dedicated to the cause.
It was six years between Nihil Sine Diabolvs and Threshold. Why so long between releases?
We began working on ‘Threshold’ almost straight after finishing the first record – although there was a period where our three founding members were in another band together called Haizum. Then human shit got in the way – our guitarist established his own tattoo business and the rest of us went through the education system (we were still in school when the Nihil was finished/released) and we wanted to focus on that as well. Saying that, we could have hurried the process along if we had wanted to but we thought there was no need. We spent as long as felt right to complete the album – and I think that it worked out for the best. We’re very pleased with how much work went into making each song, and over the years we spent making it we have grown much in the light that binds us so it was a necessary process.
About the album, is there a theme or concept behind the album? Can you tell us about it? And where did inspiration come from?
There is no over-arching concept, no, but the album is certainly a fixing or a document of the five or so intense years we spent writing it. The inspiration came from allowing ourselves to drown in the band and its reason for being. I call it Satan. We really opened ourselves up to what was feeding us and giving us energy and I like to see each track as illustrating a particular key that was granted or profound experience that was had. For me it is a very powerful album because of how autobiographical it is, though I guess that can be said for a lot of music. I don’t think the tracks are alienating though – I like to try and create my own symbols and a language that has specific meaning to me but I hope that people who have had experiences like those we speak about can see something in it.
Can you tell us about the album title and its meaning?
Threshold just came automatically, like many of the lyrics actually, and it instantly felt right. It’s such a clear word but it also feels cryptic and intriguing, this is why I like it. It kind of feels like if I have to explain it then you don’t need to know! It partly represents what I spoke about previously, the opening up of our lives to the forces we pray to – breaking through and being broken. The idea of transgression is key too, as is the power of Heavy Metal and Rock music being about fighting against established order/boundaries.
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did each of the tracks and the whole thing take shape as it was being developed?
We wrote ‘Novus Ortus’ and ‘Victory’ first (they appeared on the demo) and we knew we wanted it to be represent where we had progressed to as musicians but apart from that, I don’t know. Much of the first album was written when I was around 15 years old and so by the time we came to start writing new material (some years later) we were better musicians but also had more conviction about where we stood ideologically. We kind of sat back from ‘Novus…’ and ‘Victory’ and were surprised by how powerful they both felt and so carried on in a similar vein but we have always tried to make each song have an individual character, even in our early days, and this was carried through into writing ‘Threshold’. Every song has (we hope) a different tone and feeling.
What was it that you want to achieve with the album?
To explore, simply put. To allow ourselves the freedom to write something from our hearts and guts and to draw upon real experiences that we have had. We’re not writing stories or fictions – which was what happened on our first album, for the most part.
Can you tell us about the artwork and how it relates to the music?
I made the artwork and it has always been handled this way. I work as an illustrator under the name of Seventhbell Artwork so have skills in that area and we have always been clear that we would handle as much of the process of making what is to represent us using our own hands. It only seems right to do it that way. As for how it relates, well like the title itself it seemed to come from the aether and I like to honour when things like that happen, if they feel particularly profound. So in that way I am still working it out myself! It is a left hand. It points towards something unseen. I know what I have been led towards and what I have achieved by walking that path and anticipate what else I will be pointed towards.
About the band, to get our readers up to speed, can you give us some background on Funeral Throne? How did the band form, what drew you together?
Funeral Throne formed around 2005 when J. Wilcox, R.Wakelam and myself met as youngsters in the local ‘scene’. We messed around in shitty projects, passing the time playing with other friends but the three of us felt a kinship at that early age and we knew we wanted to create Black Metal music together. We were obsessed with religious Black Metal and Heavy Metal bands like Maiden, Priest and Sabbath – the latter having a particular place in our hearts because of where we come from in the world – and so we just started jamming together. Our infancy was documented in our rather crude first demo and the first steps were tentative but we loved getting in peoples faces and playing live. It was a bit of a shock I think for the local Pantera and Nu-Metal fans to see a kid in corpse paint cutting himself on stage! As we got older we felt that we really did have something to explore and so started to take the whole thing a lot more seriously, not that we ever joked around on stage. We looked for a second guitarist to fill out our sound and thus B.Williams joined in 2010.
How has the band developed since its formation? How does the Funeral Throne of 2015 compare to the band of the early days?
As I have just mentioned, we came together as children and like all children we faltered and learned and I think something special came from the innocence (for want of a better word) that surrounded the time of our inception. We weren’t self-conscious and allowed whatever wanted to creep in to do so. I think we still operate in this way, though we are more grounded in who we are and what we want to express and how we play our instruments. There is still a youthfulness that I think a lot of bands maybe miss as they play around when they are younger but then form their “bands” in slightly later life. Funeral Throne is us, heart and soul and we have given a lot to it. We were children that played in the dark and took a stranger’s hand and we still continue along that road.
How does the band approach composition? Do you write individually, collectively, thrash ideas out in the rehearsal room…?
We write individually, from single riffs to nearly complete tracks but getting together and hammering it out in the rehearsal room is most important. We now live separate from each other in different parts of the country but continue to write in this way. We will always need to jam together to get the feeling right. Writing on your own always feels like it is lacking something.
What does the act of making music mean to Funeral Throne?
Spiritual communion. Brotherhood. It is exciting to take all the energy built up from our last gig, rehearsal or even our last conversations about the band and allow it to transform us and manifest in the music. For me personally, it is pretty much the only thing that feels right in life and so doing it is a compulsion. Take from that what you will, read it as over exaggeration or pretentious waffle but if you get it, you get it.
Black metal: music, art, ritual?
I can only speak personally and it feels like all three and yet none of them at the same time. Black Metal is a construct – a name given to a genre of music we can package and put on a shelf – the real meaning behind the music is what is of real importance. The magical act of creating music that has an effect in the physical world and in the world beyond. Black Metal is a vessel, but like all vessels it is temporary – what fills it cannot be seen, only sensed and never truly comprehended by human minds, eyes, hearts, ears. Give yourself over to it and let it explode your puny heart.
In the promo material, you said : “All true heavy metal has rebellion and truth at its heart, and this is what led us to take the initial step across the snares that illusory life placed upon our path.” What is this truth?
I can’t fully put into words what I mean by truth and nor do I wish to be able to. All I know is truth is a word that causes every atom of my being to chime together but also yearn to rip apart.
Music is a very powerful medium for conveying messages, secular and spiritual. Do you think that music – something intangible and abstract – is itself imbued with a power to provide an avenue into these unknown aspects of existence?
The definition of magic is the power to influence events by “supernatural” or “mysterious” forces. Music is magic because it is, as you say, intangible and yet can effect the physical world. There are certain albums that have a power not only in their message, but sonically as well – albums that feel like they are opening something up, perhaps against the listener’s will and unbeknownst to them.
Many argue that black metal has become commercial in the sense that, because anyone can access the music, the true spirit of black metal has become diluted and dulled. Do you agree?
I wouldn’t like to say what that ‘true spirit’ is or isn’t. There are people out there that interest me and that I feel have integrity – but that is only integrity as I see it. I don’t care if you listen to Dimmu Borgir or The Third Eye Rapists.
What’s your opinion of the film adaptation of the Lords of Chaos book? Is it the death knell of black metal as art and an underground phenomenon?
I hadn’t heard about the film but I think it will take more than that to break the underground. You only have to look at the fairly recent trend of wannabe witches and occultists with Instagram accounts to see that Black Metal and Metal in general is fashion, but has it destroyed the real underground? No, and I don’t think it will. For instance, some folks might be wearing their One Tail One Head shirts because it has a nifty logo but those few can’t take away what is at the heart of that band.
What is your opinion on the intellectualisation of black metal? Is black metal something that can – and perhaps should – be rationalised and understood?
People will always seek to understand a cultural phenomenon, perhaps out of fear so they can reassure themselves that it’s all OK really – so they can wear a pentagram and not worry about the power it holds. People will always discourse about music and Black Metal is, maybe on the surface, just that. I don’t want to sound like one of those fucking twats who says that Metal is more than music but I am going to have to be – to me it feels that way. I don’t mean that in a “let’s sink a beer to our brother Dime!” way – fuck ideas of a metal “community”. I mean it in terms of personal exploration. It will never be rationalised however, because it is not up to one person or a group to say what it is – but people will always try I suppose. I can only use my individual interface; world-experience and so on to interact with the thing called ‘Black Metal’ and what comes out the other end is only my interpretation of it. I like to muse in my own time about what this means, but I don’t care to “intellectualise” it for anyone else.
The occult and metal – black metal in particular – have become almost synonymous. Has it become cliché or is the occult, the dark side still relevant?
It’s not a case of being relevant because that is measuring it against something that I don’t give a fuck about. If you have to worry about it being relevant then you are missing it. The “dark side” doesn’t adhere to relevancy or anything this physical reality represents.
What are your thoughts on the Midlands being identified as the Home of Metal? Is heavy metal entirely dependent upon the social, cultural and economic factors that affected this one particular area?
It can be seen as being entirely dependent on this particular area in the sense that it only exists because a small number of people from here said enough is enough and made Heavy Metal a thing – consciously or unconsciously. Metal is how it is because of the cultural, social and economic factors that affected the Midlands at the time and you only have to look around Dudley, Wolverhampton etc nowadays to realise that the situation is pretty similar. It is not confined to this area now of course, so no, Metal is not only Metal if it’s from the Midlands. Fucking hell, I mean look at the state of the bands currently springing up here! The Metal history of the place is fascinating though and it makes you wonder what is beneath the coal-blackened soil. The fact that a freak, no-hope Brummie and a homosexual, working class Walsallite in their respective time and place could take on the world and forge a world-wide cultural movement is astounding.
What does the future hold for Funeral Throne? How do you see the band evolving / developing?
We are writing new material again and organising gigs, the same way we have always done. We will continue to push ourselves into new places and allow ourselves the freedom to explore, then going on to formalise this in our art. We don’t know what is around the corner but we are asking for things and they are being granted… We have goals and will work towards achieving them until the time comes when it feels like we have no more to give.
Is there more music in the works?
We have a lot of ideas, and we are getting together to flesh them out. It might take a few months or a few years.
Any upcoming shows? Any in the Midlands?
Our next ceremony takes us to Hungary with Acherontas and fellow Midlanders Sheol – our drummer will be handling the sticks for them while we are out there actually. After that we will be looking to organise a string of Autumn UK dates in support of the album and perhaps a Birmingham slot will be arranged.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Any closing words for our readers?
Funeral Throne Lineup:
- J. Wilcox: Lead Guitar and Vocals
- J. Welch: Bass Guitar and Vocals
- B. Williams: Lead Guitar
- R. Wakelam: Drums and Percussion