We were so excited about the just-released debut album by Oregon’s Arkhum — which we reviewed here — that after we got the chance for an advance listen, we asked if the band would subject itself to an e-mail interview.
Proving themselves to be kind-hearted as well as talented artists, guitarist Stephen Parker and his brother, vocalist and lyricist Kenneth Parker, agreed. They didn’t even try to back out after they saw our questions, which included such penetrating inquiries as what it’s like being in a band with your brother and whether they ever try to beat the hell out of each other.
In addition to getting the answer to that question, we also learned details about how Arkhum’s label-signing came about (which is breaking news all by itself), the science-fictional topics addressed in the album’s lyrics, Kenneth Parker’s recommendations about other bands, Arkhum’s future plans (including the next album), and more.
We thought the answers to our questions were interesting, and might be interesting to you, too. So, what follows after the jump is our interview of the brothers Parker from Arkhum.
NCS: First of all, congratulations on the official release of Anno Universum. I know you guys have some big news to announce — that you’ve signed a deal with Vendlus Records, who have also signed bands like Agalloch and Wolves in the Throne Room. Tell us how that came about.
During the mixing and mastering process Jason Walton had told us how much he enjoyed Anno as a death metal release. Which was an obvious compliment to us because of the influence that Agalloch have had on our music in the past and present. Jason had recently spoken to Vendlus Records about us and they seemed extremely interested. He then sent the album their way upon its completion and they were very excited about it. We looked over the papers and what they could offer us, and they’re the perfect home for Arkhum. Anno Universum and our follow-up album will be released through Vendlus Records.
NCS: Do you have any info from your label about when worldwide distribution will start and what distribution channels will be used? For example, it seems that in the U.S., Vendlus has a distribution arrangement with The Omega Order.
Yes, through the US you can get the album through The Omega Order as well as Revolver Distribution (Midheaven Mailorder). In Europe you will be able to get the album through Code 7 and Plastic Head Distribution. Distribution and the ‘official’ release will be in October.
NCS: Between now and October, what’s the best way for people to get their hands on Anno Universum?
You will be able to get Anno straight from us in our webstore at http://arkhum.bigcartel.com starting on August 20th.
NCS: Have you got any plans in the works for post-album-release touring?
We have looked into doing a west coast stint this Winter and/or Spring and we plan on hitting the entire US next Summer.
NCS: To come back to Anno Universum, I’ve seen the lyrics for “Obviated Geocentrism” plus the “Chronicle” section of Arkhum’s MySpace page, which is attributed to “The Glyph of Kuk’puro’ghem’k from The Findings of the Archivist.” And then I also saw on the band’s Facebook page the identification of “Space” as an interest of the band. Help me out here. What do it all mean? Is there a story or concept behind Anno Universum or behind Arkhum itself?
My interest in the space sciences can be traced back to seeing Return of the Jedi for the first time when I was eight and watching the PBS series Nova on a consistent basis. I’ve been into the universe beyond our atmosphere ever since. I’m an amateur astronomer and avid science fiction/fantasy reader, and my goal, lyrically and conceptually, has always been to merge my foremost interests into something unique and interesting to read.
With a lot of death metal you could discard the lyrics and be not one iota poorer, but with Arkhum it is integral. I’m not sure that we have a message per se that could be distilled, nothing moral or explosive, anyway. We don’t hold with alien conspiracies, don’t partake of 2012 paranoia (Y2K, anyone?), etc etc.
As for Anno Universum, there’s not a story exactly, simply various topics I thought were interesting. ‘Appellation’ deals with a line of computer code written by an ancient extraterrestrial intelligence that allows the spontaneous generation of self-aware beings. These beings remain emotionally blank and inert until a string of specific phrases are spoken.
‘Grief Urchin’ concerns a small child who is the harbinger of an apocalyptic plague a la I Am Legend. ‘Bloodgutter Encircling’ is right down Lovecraft’s alley, even directly referencing a scene in one of his more chilling and fantastic short pieces. ‘Expendable Biomass’ is a ‘War of the Worlds’ sort-of situation.
Basically, I love science. It never ceases to impress me, amaze me, entrance me or impart to me a sense of wholesome insignificance. It’s not true what they say, you know. Existentialism is a viable ideology. I stand outside under summer skies, staring at the Jovian system through my scope, and I think to myself, “People need to know this, they need to know that this kind of experience is available to them.” It’s all very profound.
NCS: I hear lots of influences in your music, including a black-metal vibe, though the music certainly isn’t traditional black metal. If you were trying to describe your sound to someone who’d never heard Arkhum’s music, what would you say?
Months ago our bassist was asked the same question and his response was ‘Spacened Blacknical Death Metal.’ Of course we found this fucking hilarious, and have since taken to labeling ourselves as such. Seriously, though, I would simply call us brutal death metal with Norwegian- and USBM influences.
NCS: How did the four of you currently in the band come together for the Arkhum project?
Steve and I started the band in 2004. Kyle, our other guitarist, was recruited immediately and actually begun playing guitar so he could be in the band. I mean, there were other reasons, but that was a big one. So, in reality, it’s been the three of us, in some form or another, for about five-and-a-half years. We’ve had various drummers and bassists, all close friends or individuals who have gone on to become close friends.
We came into contact with our bassist, Matt Edwards, through a recently-deceased Springfield band, Atonement. He also composes raw black metal under the moniker Terra Deep and he and I have a joke black metal band called Grømkvlt. We’ve all been friends for years.
NCS: We’ve already written on this site about how much we admire the cover art for the album, originally done by Abe Hurd (Rye Wolves). Did he do this specially for Arkhum or was it something he had already done that you guys liked. And if he did it for you, did you give him any ideas or directions for what you wanted?
He did actually do it especially for us. We explained our intent for cover art, what we wanted to convey, and settled on the description, “Huge alien tongues that also act as biomechanical probes emerging from dimensional portals to interpret the status of the Earth across space/time.” Something like that haha.
NCS: Now that you say that, I can see it. I won’t ask what put that image into your heads. I’ll ask this instead: Different bands approach the songwriting process in different ways. Could you describe the process that Arkhum followed in creating the songs on Anno Universum? And did that seem to work well, or are you approaching the writing of new music differently?
Typically, Steve and Kyle will just get together and write riffs, and eventually a song will form. Also important is the style of the drummer that they’re writing with, as he usually determines the feel of a piece. For the next record we’re going to try a purely collaborative approach. Realistically, I have the easiest role in the band. I even have so much free band time that I’m already done with the lyrics for the next release haha.
NCS: Jason Walton (Agalloch, ELS, Sculptured, Self Spiller) did the mixing of the music on Anno Universum, and the album sounds great. How did you guys hook up with him?
It’s fucking insane to actually see that written out. Here’s a band and a group of dudes that has been admired and held in high esteem by us and a ton of our close friends for years, and suddenly we’re in a working relationship with them. I feel privileged to be in the position we are in, what with Jason’s work on the album and the efforts of Joseph Cortese [Vendlus] to aid us in getting Arkhum’s name out there. Honestly, I think Stephen just asked him haha. He’s worked with a lot of really great bands. New Agalloch and Self Spiller sometime soon! Excellent.
NCS: Totally random question: I’ve got a brother who I’m now really close to, but for about the first 20 years of our existence we used to argue and beat the hell out of each other on a regular basis. So I have to ask — even though I don’t really expect an honest answer 🙂 — what’s it like being in a band with your brother (Stephen)?
A long time ago I actually did haul off and hit him at a practice, and that was disastrous for us. We have our moments of disagreement, but we don’t usually let it impede our ability to function in the band. We bicker, sure, but we have a passion for our music and that supersedes agendas or personalities.
NCS: I hear you dudes have already been recording demos for the next album. How would you compare the new music to what we hear on Anno Universum?
It’s faster with a greater focus on the death metal elements. We’re tossing ideas around about more experimentation with samples, ambient noise passages, keyboard integration. Even singing! I guess we’re fucked if we hope to ever get more coverage from you guys.
NCS: Nah, we do have this principle called “Exceptions to the Rule” that allows us to enjoy some music with some clean singing. Just don’t over-do it! 🙂 I like to ask people in interviews to recommend music to our readers that they might not know about already, partly for their benefit (and ours) and partly because it says something about the interests of the bands we’re talking to. Have you got any recommendations?
Rings of Saturn, Katalepsy, Ash Borer, Dripping, Cephalotripsy, Skagos, Addaura, Darkspace, Angst Skvadron, Mania, Leech, Azaghal, Verivala, Sikfuk, Vivimancer, Blood of the Black Owl, Av Sorg, Leviathan, Fueled by Fire, Nefandus, Den Saakaldte, Primordial, The Royal Arch Blaspheme, Krallice, Liturgy, Facing Extinction, Scrolls, Cult of Unholy Shadows, Evoken… on and on, ad infinitum.
NCS: Do you have any other news about the band you’d like to share with our readers that I’ve failed to ask about?
We’re working on securing a new drummer at the moment, and hope to be able to do a small tour next summer. We’ll see what the stars have in store for us. Just kidding, astrology is horseshit.
NCS: Thanks for making time to answer our questions, and best of luck to all of you.
Thanks very much for the kind words and exposure! And be sure to speak kindly of Anno Universum. I have this vial of alien anthrax from Rigel 7 gathering dust on my shelf…
Kenneth hadn’t seen our review at the time we did this interview, but of course, he had nothing to worry about. We have indeed spoken kindly about Anno Universum. And so Kenneth will be able to keep that vial of Rigel 7 anthrax on his shelf until it is actually needed. Future reviewers be forewarned . . . .
Man, these guys are fucking nails! I nearly fell out of my chair reading the line about the alien anthrax from Rigel 7. Pure fucking awesomeness.
I can’t wait to listen to their music.
You’ll get a good taste from the song we’ve put up with the review – it’s brain-scrambling stuff!
Might I just say that Arkhum has exquisite taste in band shirts.