(Andy Synn posed some questions to Ken Sorceron, vocalist/guitarist for Abigail Williams, whose 2015 album The Accuser was one of our favorite 2015 albums — and here are the answers.)
Hello Ken, how are you, and how are things in the AW camp?
I’m fine, thanks for asking. The band is good, just gearing up to go out and support Fleshgod Apocalypse in Feb.
How did the recent tour go? (Feel free to embellish with stories of drunken hijinks, drug-induced lunacy, or fine-dining experiences.)
Lots and lots of drug-induced lunacy, that’s for sure. Though it’s pretty hard for a band at our level (low) to operate like that over time, so that era has had to come to an end. Obviously drugs and alcohol will still be around, we aren’t squares or anything, just to a lesser degree from now on. The last two years were pretty insane on that front and we are somewhat lucky to be either alive or not in jail or something at this point.
As far as fine dining goes I’m a big fan of eating in the South and in the Midwest. Eating at all my favorite places around the country or world is pretty much one of the main reasons I still tour.
How has the new line-up gelled out on the road?
It pretty much had to self-destruct at some point and it has! Jeff and I are, however, putting together a new live line-up and one much more capable at that.
What sort of setlist have you been performing? I’m assuming you’re taking the opportunity to showcase as much of the new material as possible, obviously, but are there any particular songs from Becoming and In The Absence of Light you’ve been playing as well that people might be surprised to hear?
On the last tour we did mostly songs from The Accuser and a couple off Becoming, depending on the night. Once in a while over the last couple of years we have done a song from In The Absence Of Light but we haven’t done anything off our first album in a while. I’m not opposed to playing older stuff so much anymore, it’s just that I need a drummer who can pull it off, so that’s what I’m searching for now. I think on the next tour it will be a mix of a few albums’ worth of material.
And, going back a bit, what led to the formation of this particular line-up of the band? (and can you explain exactly who’s in/out these days)
The line-up for the The Accuser was just what had naturally happened at the time. Jeff joined the band a while before, I was playing with Charlie in Lord Mantis, so that made sense, and then I asked Will if he wanted to play bass one night I think when we were drinking at a bar. Right now the only actual members in the band are Jeff Wilson and I. We will be having people fill in on bass and drums until we find the right fit.
Obviously your new album came out not all that long ago, so how about you tell us a little about that (since it’s basically the whole reason for the interview after all)?
I guess it came out a while ago and I’m just really bad at getting interviews done on time [yes you are Ken – Andy]. I suppose people can just go ahead and listen to it now instead of me just talking about it.
Who wrote/performed what, and how involved did all the various members get in shaping the band’s current sound?
I wrote I guess 95% of the music and Neill Jameson and Charlie Fell wrote lyrics to a song each, which they also performed vocals on. Charlie wrote a riff in one song and the rest was ideas to add things here and there from him and Jeff. Will Lindsay basically wrote the basslines for the songs he played on right on the spot when we were recording, which I think came out pretty tasteful and shaped the sound on certain songs for sure.
Charlie plays drums on 4 songs and I played drums on a couple (“Will, Wish and Desire” and “Godhead”) and programmed drums on 2 of them (“The Cold Lines”, “Nuummite”). Jeff Wilson played synths where they are synths and I did the guitar and a lot of the bass. Charlie added some bass on a couple songs, but I think it only made it on one of them in the end and it was done in sort of an industrial sampling type of way. Also my buddy Lucas from an Olympia band called Spectral Hatchery added some vocals parts here and there, as he was hanging out when we were recording and I thought it would be cool to get him on a recording.
Most of the songs I had written by myself over the years and a couple of them I had written on the fly right before recording and sort of jammed them out at the old practice spot in Chicago with Charlie playing drums. Songs like “Forever Kingdom of Dirt”, “The Cold Lines”, and “Nuummite” I had written long before I was playing with any of those guys, but the rest were written in the time period when we started all playing together.
How about lyrically – what are the underlying themes beneath/behind the songs this time around?
It’s just a real negative album lyrically, almost to the point where I don’t like talking about it and it’s a bummer to even perform them sometimes.
Correct me if I’m wrong about this, but it seems like the overall structure of the album – a violent start, leading into an ebb-and-flow-, rise-and-fall-, dynamic across the intervening tracks, culminating in a sombre, stripped-down finale – is also echoed internally, with a lot of the tracks (subtly) following a similar dynamic pattern… was this a conscious choice? And, if so… why?
When it comes to making an album I think it’s a good idea to tell a story with the song order and overall flow of the songs. Lots of songs were left out because they wouldn’t work in the flow of the record even though they were awesome songs. I’ll be using some of those on other records or other projects that I’m working on though.
I know it’s hard to choose these things, but are there any particular tracks that are your favourites to play (and any that are a real bitch to perform as well)?
Some of the songs from …A Thousand Suns and In The Absence… are a bitch to perform on some nights when I can’t warm up on guitar, and the vocals weren’t written to be sung while playing guitar at the same time, so that was a challenge to a degree. A lot of the songs on The Accuser that we play live are kind of mid-paced to fast-picking chords for long periods at a time and that can start to hurt after a while, but not if you get a good buzz going first.
I used to like to play “Beyond The Veil” live a lot, but lately I’ve been sick of it because people always want to hear it and it’s just SO long. “Radiance” is a good one to play when the sound is really huge and the vibe is right though, and lately I’ve been into playing “Lost Communion” live because the riffs are fun.
Going back to talking about names, was there any time you seriously thought about changing the band’s name, or starting afresh?
Yes, I thought about that a lot but decided to stick with the name for a few reasons. For one, a lot of people think the band would be more acknowledged now if I had changed the name at some point, maybe before Becoming or even In The Absence… but I just didn’t want to, because at the end of the day I don’t care what people think about me or the band all that much. If people won’t listen to us because they don’t like the first EP or first album even though they admit they might like the newer stuff, then that’s their problem.
I think people think of bands as a brand, which is strange to me. Some of my all-time favourite bands have dramatically shifted sounds over their careers and didn’t give a fuck. Luckily for them they got a pass, but then again they never switched to playing Black Metal.
Also, going back a bit further, before starting work on The Accuser you initially announced you would be ceasing all AW activities entirely, only to eventually change your mind and reconstitute the band in its current form. I’d love to know a bit more (if you’re willing) about what led to the initial announcement that the band would be breaking up, and also what led you to change your mind – maybe you’d like to set the record straight about this one (though you don’t have to!)?
Maybe I was having an early midlife crisis (I turn 36 in a few days), but I honestly felt like I didn’t want to tour or do the band thing anymore at that time. I tried out normal life and it really fucking sucked, so I decided I was definitely making the wrong choice by quitting, and since not much time had passed I just picked back up where I started.
Sticking to the past (in a sense anyway) but do you still keep in contact with any of the old members? I know that Ashley participated in the Becoming sessions, and the recently reactivated Vehemence have several ex-AW personnel in their ranks, for example. So they’re still active, and I’m wondering if you still exchange messages, keep in touch, etc?
I still talk to Ashley and Bjorn and a few other people fairly regularly. Ian isn’t in the band anymore and is now playing with Aborted (another band I was in) with another ex-AW member, but I still want to stay cool with him — dude was my closest friend for a long time. There’s only a few people who were in the band in the past whom I really don’t like today and don’t keep in contact with at all, the rest I’m cool with when I talk to them or see them.
Coming back to the present (and, eventually, looking to the future), how has the critical response to The Accuser been so far? Any reviews that got it spot-on and any that completely missed the mark?
I think most reviews miss the mark, even when they’re good ones, but I feel like the bad ones this time around really did miss the mark and trust me, I don’t mind a bad review if it’s actually well written and has good points, because I can usually agree with them to a degree. I think overall this was our best-received album to date though.
Was there any pressure – either internal or external – to make an album more like Becoming? After all, for many people that was the album where they finally started taking you seriously (as opposed to just taking them wholesale from 5-year-old internet articles)?
Yeah there was. At first I had started writing songs that were similar to that album, but I realized our thing has always been to push into new territory from the album before. I think a lot of people really liked Becoming a lot, but I can’t just make records that people want to hear with this band for some reason.
One thing that is similar is that you saved the biggest surprise until the end, although this time, instead of a 17-minute epic, you went for the stripped down and sombre route with “Nuumite”, which comes pretty much out of left-field. What exactly was the genesis of that song like, and how did you decide that a) it would be on the album, and b) it would be the finale?
It just seemed natural to have the song on the album, and at the end was the perfect place really. I think things like that don’t even require much thought, they just come naturally. I wrote that song in one sitting after getting a new reverb pedal, so I guess the reverb pedal inspired the song really in a way. Almost all the songs on this album were written in a day, though now that I’m thinking about it, it’s just the details that go on top of it and the tone that usually come later.
We should probably wrap things up now, so I’d like to ask one final question about what you have planned for the future for AW (and for the various other bands/projects you’re involved in)?
Just planning to do some tours in the USA and Europe for 2016 as well as work on some new material. I think we have an EP coming soon as well. As for other projects, I have one in the works right now and a home with a cool label to release it, I won’t say the name of the band yet but it will make sense when you hear it.
Abigail Williams is about to embark on a tour with Fleshgod Apocalypse and Carach Angren. The schedule is below:
01/29/16 Olympia, WA @ Cryptatropa*
01/30/16 Grant’s Pass, OR @ The Haul*
01/31/16 Reno, NV @ PB&J*
02/02/16 Las Vegas, NV @ Dive Bar*
02/02/16 Tuscon, AZ @ The Rock*
02/05/16 Houston, TX @ Walter’s*
02/06/16 Pensacola, FL @ Handlebar*
02/08/16 Orlando, FL @ The Haven
02/09/16 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade (Hell)
02/10/16 Charlotte, NC @ Tremont Music Hall
02/11/16 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery
02/12/16 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre
02/13/16 Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
02/14/16 Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
02/15/16 Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
02/16/16 Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
02/17/16 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
02/18/16 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Bar
02/19/16 Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
02/20/16 Bend, OR @ Third Street Pub
02/21/16 San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge
02/22/16 W. Hollywood, CA @ Whisky
02/23/16 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick
02/24/16 Phoenix, AZ @ Joe’s Grotto
02/25/16 El Paso TX @ Mesa Music Hall
02/26/16 Ft. Worth, TX @ Rail Club
02/27/16 Austin, TX @ Dirty Dog
02/28/16 Wichita, KS @ Rock Island Live*
03/01/16 Colorado Spring, CO @ The Blacksheep*
03/02/16 Idaho Falls, ID @ The Sickhouse*
* ABIGAIL WILLIAMS ONLY