(In the following new interview Comrade Aleks spoke with Garrett Johnson (a/k/a Wandering Mind), guitarist/vocalist of the international band VoidCeremony, whose newest album Threads of Unknowing was released in April of this year by 20 Buck Spin.)
Californian prog-death/black-metal outfit VoidCeremony was formed by Garrett Johnson and Jon Reider in the summer of 2013, and now after a few line-up changes the band consists of Wandering Mind (guitars, vocals), C. Koryn (drums), The Great Righteous Destroyer (bass), and Hyperborean Apparition (guitars, vocals).
There’s nothing impossible now, and thanks to Metal-Archives we can figure out that Wandering Mind is Garrett himself. C. Koryn is Charles Koryn who’s known for his drumming in bands like Ascended Dead, Ghoulgotha, Vrent, and more. The Great Righteous Destroyer is Damon Good himself, the founder of one of the oldest Australian funeral doom bands – Mournful Congregation (as well as Cauldron Black Ram and Stargazer) — and that fact makes VoidCeremony an international project, as well as the residence of Hyperborean Apparition, who’s Philippe Allaire-Tougas, “multi-instrumentalist, producer, recording engineer, and guitar teacher” from Canada. He performs with Chthe’ilist, First Fragment, and more.
As you see, here we have a bunch of prolific and talented musicians performing a different kind of extreme metal, and if you heard VoidCeremony’s debut Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel (2020), then you know where they can lead. The band’s sophomore album Threads of Unknowing was released on the 14th of April and it won’t disappoint fans of intelligent progressive extreme music.
These deconstructive tunes of primordial (crawling) chaos aren’t something you need to talk about but rather to experience, and yet we tried to discuss the contrasting sonic canvases of Threads of Unknowing with Garrett.
Hi Garrett! How are you? What’s your plan now that your new album Threads of Unknowing has been released?
I’m well. My plan is to continue creating and teaching music. Threads of Unknowing is only the beginning! Working on new VoidCeremony material, live plans, and other projects.
Really? Do you already have a general vision for the next VoidCeremony album? Will you follow the same prog death / black direction?
Yes, in fact. It will once again have abstract and philosophical concepts incorporating a dark spirituality. More of what you would expect. Makes it sound pretty one dimensional huh? I don’t think that this even remotely describes my ideas. I also feel like I don’t need to describe it, the music speaks for itself.
You started performing bass in Archaic Mortuary but left the band in 2014. What didn’t work there for you? I see that they didn’t release anything besides those two songs for the split with Ethereous.
What didn’t work was our conflicting ideas for a band. Ian and Nick had material written that was not ready that would have been what I wanted to play, but unfortunately they didn’t record it. From what I hear the album is complete. I am excited to hear it as well as work on projects with Ian in the future.
It looks like you have a clear vision of where to move with VoidCeremony. While bands usually tend to start their career with demos, you – instead – started with the official EPs Dystehism (2014), Cyclical Descent of Causality(2015), and then Foul Origins of Humanity (2017). How did you see VoidCeremony from the start? What kind of ideas did you search to channel through it?
Yes, Dystheism was the initial step with a more realized sound after my previous projects were just drafts, same as this demo/EP was an artistic draft for the future idea. What set it apart was that it had a concept at the time and I had strived to voice my opinions in the matter of religion, particularly Western and Christianity. It helped me move on from thinking about it and for me that’s what VoidCeremony has always been, an artistic outlet for growth in my own life.
What kind of views did you strive to voice in VoidCeremony?
In the beginning, I voiced more anti-religious focused sentiments, and later it became more my own strange philosophies.
It’s you and Philippe who perform vocals in the band. How do you share your duties and who’s the lyrics author in VoidCeremony?
Well, on everything up til now outside of a few moments, I had performed everything. That’s something that can be easily found on Metal Archives. Phil performs vocals on some of the songs on the new record; I wanted to take a chance to focus on my guitar. Phil has incredible vocal placement and he really helped it stand out more. I write all the lyrics. I have always considered giving up vocal duties entirely.
Foul Origins of Humanity is quite a remarkable title, and the artwork of the EP fits it well. What’s the concept behind this work?
A dark alternative reality, and even a possible origin of humanity.
Cool. And what is it?
The original creators of humanity sent off the bacteria to this planet to develop with the intention of causing extreme distress and sadness. Basically leading to what we have now. It’s fun to imagine there was dark intention.
The debut album Entropic Reflections Continuum: Dimensional Unravel (2020) got very enthusiastic feedback. How do you think which of the album’s features helped to draw such attention?
Definitely my compositions, coupled with the bass and drum performances. Definitely… We have an enigmatic sound. These performances lead to it all…
Which influences do you see in this material? What was the kit of necessary elements you searched for to include in your songs?
I don’t know, I don’t really listen to that record. I’d say more of the gameplay of Resident Evil 1 and Bloodborne, or something. The most necessary elements are certainly to make sure it’s fun. What I search for is the best gameplay in a video game, so perhaps it would be wise to reference that in terms of the riffs being fun to play.
Damon Good recorded bass for this album as a guest. How did you lure him into this project? And how did it happen that he’s now a member of the band?
We were fans of each other’s works! StarGazer is a huge inspiration for me. I felt compelled to ask him after we connected at one point.
Philippe Tougas joined you in 2020, and he’s a prolific musician as well. How did you work on the Threads of Unknowing material having such a strong line-up? Was it different in comparison with the session you did for Entropic Reflections Continuum?
It was much different in that all of us were in different parts of the world.
How would you compare Threads of Unknowing with Entropic Reflections Continuum? Did you want to keep the first album’s vibe or development as a cornerstone of VoidCeremony?
Overall, I’d say the first record was more of a rough draft. I think some of the first album’s vibe stayed behind, but it developed into something otherworldly all on its own. You can hear a distinct difference between the two records. The performance and tonality seemed to have echoed into Threads from Entropic, but it’s truly the compositions and execution that is what impresses me now.
Did you search for some specific settings and equipment when you recorded Threads of Unknowing?
Not particularly, no.
VoidCeremony tends to complex and multi-layered compositions. How do you see the vector of the band’s development? Do you see it as a challenge to surpass yourself with the next release?
I believe this is still only the beginning. Or slightly past it. I don’t see it as a challenge as much as a drive to improve again and more.
As I understand, Damon won’t play live with VoidCeremony, but previously you collaborated with musicians from outside to fill your live sets. What’s your gigs’ schedule for 2023?
We are aiming for some performances in the Fall or so.
I love the hints that Metal-Archives sometimes do, and in VoidCeremony’s case they point to “Dark spiritualism, Anti-religion, Occultism, Philosophy” as your lyrical references. Would you confirm these references as an integral part of your texts?
Yes. Even the most abstract meaning can have meaning, even with or without intention.
We used to simplify things and each of the genres has its number of cliches, like extreme death metal tending toward gore and torture or black metal bound with themes of “religious obscurantism,” so to tell. It’s a simplifying of things, but how do you see VoidCeremony’s entity? Is it a channel for negative experience? A work of twisted art? A field for technical experiments?
It has all channeled negative experiences, exists as twisted art, and certainly musical experiments. Again, it’s about who is looking, it’s all perspective. There should be an element of enigma, but it should have a way of expressing the detail. With VoidCeremony, it has moments where I decidedly and by will would express ideas. It has been catharses as well as a way to give that guise as a technical expression. Maybe all of it…
Thanks for the interview Garrett. Any final words for our readers?
My final words are enjoy this new record, thanks for all the support out there.