(Not long ago we had the thrill of premiering a song from the forthcoming second album by the fungal death metal band Mycelium, and now we have more delights to present through an extremely entertaining interview by Comrade Aleks of the man behind the mushrooms, Greg Edwards.)
And here we have a fantastic death metal project from Glasgow with lyrics telling stories of mushrooms and unspeakable horrors! Greg Edwards ran the black metal one-man band Necronoclast for ten years from 2003 to 2013 but then he had to take a pause and rethink his priorities. As result, Mycelium was born!
Greg started it in 2020 and the first album Scream Bloody Spore was released already in 2021, and now one more year has passed and one more album was recorded! Mycoticism: Disseminating the Propagules is to be revealed to the extreme metal underground on the 25th of November through the Swedish label Blood Harvest. And I hope this interview will pique your interest towards Mycelium and the magic world of deathly dangerous mushrooms.
Hi Greg! How are you? How is your mycelium?
Hello! I am good thank you, hope you are too. I’m trying to relate the term mycelium to humanity to answer your second question… mycelium is defined as the body or root of a fungus, often a large network of fibres (hyphae), often underground or buried in wood. The mycelium is like the tree from which the apple (the mushroom) is borne. So, my mycelium… perhaps if we take my corporeal form as some kind of fungus (there are people who would certainly agree), we could say that it’s my mother. She’s well, thank you.
I was sure that you already have your own mycelium on a metaphysical level. What’s it about? Do you feel this project as a sort of extension of your… will?
I like it, we’re taking mushrooms down a path of spirituality. And why not, because for many people the two things are highly intertwined – a look into the realms of psychoactive mushrooms will highlight their uses throughout the ages in association with spirituality, alchemy, and self-discovery. Some people have written about this fairly extensively, such as Clark Heinrich. Metaphysically, my mycelium certainly propagates through my work, spreading my thoughts and ideas, my interests and my passion. And with the forthcoming second album, my mycelium is spreading its fibrils deeper and wider than previously; a sign of health indeed.
You had your solo project Necronoclast since 2003 and until 2013. And then there was a seven-year-long break until you started Mycelium in 2020. What did you do during this “inactive” period and what made you found a new band?
A lot of boring life stuff, mainly. Among other things, I had a child, and one of the sacrifices that was made was that my free time for writing music and playing guitar declined. I sold my amp and fell out of the routine of writing and recording. I felt that I’d probably done everything I wanted to with Necronoclast and so it kind of quietly slipped away. I wouldn’t rule out going back to it at some point but it’s not on the agenda at the moment. But, I felt inspired to create something new, something different. When the pandemic started and we had all the “don’t leave your home” stuff going on, I suddenly had a bit more free time again which allowed me to get Mycelium up and running.
I understand you well, so did Mycelium became your shelter from daily routine? A return to your metal roots to some point?
Yeah pretty much. An escape. Cathartic, really – perhaps subconsciously, starting up a new project was a way for me to step back from the rigors of dealing with my day-to-day life and to try and reclaim some of my past. And yet at the same time, not just on a nostalgic level, but to drag a part of me that I’d left behind forwards into the present.
I have a lot of memories associated with what I did with Necronoclast, some of them are embodied in the lyrics, some in the ambience. Places I lived, phases of my life, they’re represented by the albums that coincided. With a solo project, everything you pour into it remains within, undiluted, quite raw.
First and foremost, I write what I feel reflects something that I need to hear myself. I suppose that on a very literal level, I don’t mean that psychologically I need to hear songs about phallic mushrooms, but rather an amalgamation of mood and interest, passion and drive. To go through the process of creating an album brings a huge range of emotions which, for me at least, are often a microcosm of life on a larger scale.
Greg, you have chosen very specific theme for your songs. What drew your attention to the realm of mushrooms?
It has been an interest of mine for a long while. Mostly from a food perspective at first I suppose, I always loved mushrooms! I lived in a fairly rural village for a while and one day when I was driving home I passed a large mushroom by the side of the road which caught my eye, and I stopped to take a look.
I started to walk through the local woods in my spare time, looking for different types of mushroom. There was also a farm shop nearby which sold several times of edible mushrooms, some of which I’d never heard of or seen before. It became a passion of mine, and a great way to escape from the typical dismal daily grind.
The more I learned, the more I came to realise what interesting organisms fungi actually are. They have a reputation as a pizza topping or something that might grow somewhere dark and dirty. The reality is far, far more interesting, and I try to explain that in my lyrics.
Your label-mates Blood Spore also explore the magic and dark world of fungus in their own way. Do you have a contact with them? Don’t you plan to record a split album with Blood Spore?
Funnily enough I’ve not really been in touch with them, despite the obvious ideological connections. I bought their demo CD from them when it came out because, as you can imagine, I jumped at the idea of a mushroom-themed band, and I’ve followed their releases ever since. When I learned that Blood Harvest were interested in releasing the second Mycelium album, it seemed very apt to be signing to the same label. I’d certainly be up for doing a split with them for sure, you never know…
Mycelium is your solo project and you don’t play gigs. Do you feel yourself isolated from the other underground?
To an extent; I think all solo projects are to some degree if they don’t play live, as it is ultimately a restriction. I’d like to think that my mycelial threads spread through the underground more and more as time passes by, and that those who take the time to immerse themselves in its murk will ultimately find what they seek.
At the end of the day, and I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but I’m making music for myself and if others can appreciate it in some way, then that’s awesome. Mycelium is a very self-indulgent project; it marries the worlds of mycology and death metal in a way that is rarely done – and it’s rarely done because it’s so niche. As such, I suppose it’s always going to be a bit of an isolated thing.
The underground, though, is really more accessible and ‘open’ than ever. Traditional methods of connecting, like local band gigs or bigger band tours, have waned, particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic. I’ve seen big touring acts like Anthrax and Lamb of God cancelling or postponing tours even in these last few months.
Meanwhile, bands’ online presences have become more and more sociable. Even going back 10 years, when I was doing Necronoclast, it was the done thing for bands to have a website, but social media pages were still relatively obscure. Now, bands typically have a Facebook page, a bandcamp, instagram… loads of other platforms that I’ve never even been on. The underground is globally more and more expansive, but yet at the same time, people are carrying the bandcamp app on their phone in their pocket when they go to grandma’s 80th birthday gathering.
So come, I say to all ye mycophiles and those curious about nature, its bounties and its miscreants. Indulge.
There were songs dedicated to entomopathogenic fungus, impudicus, hypomyces, galerina (???) marginata mushrooms (and maybe a few more) on the Scream Bloody Spore album. How did you manage to write lyrics like this? What’s your daily job? Mycologist?
Mycology is a hobby, I actually work in healthcare/NHS and my background is medical. I appreciate a lot of different lyrical styles but for Mycelium I found inspiration in the medical textbook-style writings of bands like (the originators) Carcass. The Mycelium lyrics are a mix of what I would describe as ‘field mycology’ – observations, details about where fungi grow, features, characteristics – and more science or lab-based mycology – details about structures, biochemistry, microscopic features. I spend a lot of time writing the lyrics and researching them, because it’s a deep dive for me into things that truly interest me, and I get a lot out of doing it.
I think that, in death metal, the typical lyrics have been done to death now (no pun intended). In the early ’90s, cover art was being banned and reading through Chris Barnes’ Cannibal Corpse lyrics was truly shocking. That’s not really the case anymore because it has been done so much. I want to do something that’s a bit different, yet still true to the roots.
There are also a couple of songs here and there that take factual information and go off into more horror-esque territory, such as “Mycorrhizal with the Dead” on the first album, and “Rosecomb Marauder” on the new one.
Yes, I’d like to ask you about horror-styled themes. I supposed that you tended to avoid this topic, but here it is, you said it. Is it just a tribute to the genre? Or are you into some specific horror-movies like Splinter for example or The Hallow? At least the last one (SPOILER ALERT!) touches the parasite fungus topic.
For me, it’s a natural extension of some of the innate fungal features that I describe. Does it play into the genre’s stylings? Yeah, it probably does. But variety is the spice of life, right? I think taking some lyrics off in these different directions adds to the atmosphere of the album, it adds to the dark, dingy aura. It also helps to put some context on some of the terms I’ve used and some of the phenomena I have described.
And ultimately, I quite enjoy taking that sidestep into a different approach when writing the lyrics – it’s important to me to keep that factual, scientific backbone to what I’m writing about, but taking it in different directions helps to keep things interesting and adds some adrenaline to the mystique.
Well, we’ve sorted it out with lyrics, and what about the music? Why do you see death metal as a more suitable genre for channeling the mushrooms’ will?
I think a brief look at some of the particular fungi I’ve examined on the album gives a good insight into that question. On the new record, there are tracks about fungi that can cause sickness, severe illness, death… fungi that destroy man-made structures, even fungi that parasitise other fungi and literally reshape the host DNA. Fungi are nature’s recyclers – they rot, decay, putrefy. For humans, they are food, they are poison.
So many of the themes on both albums are literal horror stories, but they are true to life. I think this style of music is very fitting to explore the themes I’m touching upon, even down to the kind of dark, dirty and rotten production vibes that can be found within the genre.
Then death-doom could be a solution! Do you see a space to grow and develop Mycelium in that slightly other musical direction?
Sure, absolutely. I haven’t sat down and written anything from the perspective of “I’m going to write a doom song” but it’s certainly something that blends well with the aesthetic I’m going for. I also don’t want to write the same album over and over again; some degree of evolution is usually desirable from an artistic perspective. We’ll see what future material brings…
Your new album Mycoticism: Disseminating the Propagules follows the same direction as Scream Bloody Spore both in music and lyrics. How do you see your progress through the prism of this new material?
Lyrically, it’s a different set of fungi that I’m working with on this one, but the principles of my writings are unchanged from Scream Bloody Spore. Musically, I feel that the new album is much more mature, more fleshed out. I really feel that it’s a step up from the first album in the songwriting aspect and I think the overall attitude of the album is probably a little less murky and a bit more incisive. I’ve worked a bit more with altering time signatures, more in the way of harmonies, more leads. It’s often difficult to gain perspective on your own work because you get so absorbed in it, but I think that when compared side by side to the debut, the progression is clear.
What kind of sound did you search to produce for this album? How long did you work over it?
I wanted it to be a bit less muddy than the debut album and I wanted a bit more of that HM-2 ‘bite’ that’s associated with the ’90s Swedish death metal scene, but I also like a fuller low-end. I tend to produce my music myself, because firstly it allows me total flexibility to work at my own pace as and when my time permits, and secondly because I quite enjoy that aspect of the creation process. I spent the best part of a year working on it, from demo writing through to the final mixing.
What’s your most positive experience with mushrooms?
It would probably be difficult to choose just one – maybe I’d go back to that first significant find by the roadside that I spoke about earlier on, since it inspired me. But sometimes something as simple as finding something new that I’ve not encountered before, or even just that perfect porcini to eat, can be a thrill. It takes me away from the shitshow of real life.
What’s your most negative experience with mushrooms?
Now, that would probably be the time I was out hunting for mushrooms and I thought I spotted something interesting in the distance, but when I got closer I realised it was just (another) leaf. Then my feet got stuck in deep mud and the only way I could escape was to leave my boots behind and walk a mile and a half back to the car in my socks. Every now and then, I go on a pilgrimage back to the site of my lost shoes and I remember how sore my feet were. Also, a special shout-out here to Dr Oetker’s frozen ‘funghi’ pizza, which seems to be topped with the only mushrooms I’ve ever encountered that I don’t seem to be able to digest. Fuck you, Dr Oetker.
Oh, I was meaning… well, conocybe, agrocybe, or psathyrella families. Amanita stuff, you know?
Compared to those Dr Oetker frozen agaricus, these guys have nothing negative to bring to the table. They all have their parts to play in the grand plan of nature… conocybe, agrocybe, and psathyrella may not be the most eye-catching genera of fungi, but they have their charms.
I associate agrocybe with the beginning of the mushroom season as they often fruit in spring. Conocybe and psathyrella are common garden mushrooms so may catch the eye and pique the interest of those who are not normally mycophiles if they find them on their own property. You may even find psathyrella ammophila at the beach, in the sand.
But yeah, they’ll all probably make you shit yourself if you try eating them. The amanitas are a wonderful group of mushrooms, including those that are great edibles, those with aesthetic beauty, those who appear in the oldest fairytales, and those who contain the deadliest toxins.
Is there a chance that you’ll include Lovecraftian Fungi from Yuggoth in your Mycelium one day?
I’ll be honest, and I know this scores me negative points in the metal scene, but I don’t have any interest in Lovecraft at all. Just a guy with a big chin. I’d take clathrus archerii over Cthulhu any day (google image search, go!)
Eh, wrong answer… Goomba mushrooms from Super Mario series?
Yeah, I knew it wouldn’t be popular to knock ol’ H.P. As for Goombas… well, I can’t endorse jumping on mushrooms, sorry. It won’t score you any points from me. Do you remember that Super Mario Brothers movie they made in the ’90s? The Goombas in that weren’t even mushrooms, they were big reptile guys. What were they thinking? No. Next please.
Confirmed! Reptilian Goombas is a sick shit! Okay, what are your further plans for Mycelium?
When I started Mycelium, I kind of envisaged it as a single album thing, but as long as I feel that I’ve got something interesting to give then I will keep it going. I’ve got plenty of ideas for further material so I’m sure that it won’t be too long before something new starts to emerge…
Thanks for the interview Greg! That was an interesting talk, quite refreshing and fun sometimes. Do you have a few more words for our readers?
Thank you, I’ve enjoyed your questions. I’d like to encourage anyone reading to go outside and have a look and see what you can find out there, there are a lot of fascinating fungi. And feel free to send me pics of anything you find or if you just want to chat about your favourite entoloma. Cheers!