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Abigail Williams' Ken Bergeron: "I don’t think you can make Metal for nearly 2 decades and not have it be part of what life is. I mean there’s no way around it at this point, I don’t even know what else I would do in life"

Interview with Ken Bergeron from Abigail Williams
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 25 October 2019, 2:17 AM

The power of a single mind, against a group, should not be underestimated. It is not about surprising, it is about motivation, clarity over the purpose and doing on one's own what feels right for the greater of the longtime flame. Abigail Williams is about to unleash a new album, which also presented a single songwriter that is ready for the challenge. Steinmetal had a chat with founding member, Ken Bergeron, about the new album, being the only founding member, songwriting, development and more…

Hello Ken, it is wonderful having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Doing well, thank you for asking!

Over the course of four years, since the release of “The Accuser”, things appeared to have been busy in the Abigail Williams camp. Whether literally sending the band lineup home for instance, remaining the sole member, ending relations with an old label and I have the feeling that there were also things in your personal life. Would you say that these events caused you to lose motivation for a while when it comes to the activity of Abigail Williams or it actually ignited you with a new kind of fire to storm forward on your own without nothing to lose?

Well yeah, of course some of these things cause loss of motivation temporarily, though mostly more things in my personal life. I didn’t actually send an entire lineup home, however. It’s been years since the last album, and the group of people I had working with me at that point… well let’s just say it couldn’t keep going on like that forever. But I certainly didn’t fire everyone or send everyone home at once or anything like that. It just reached a point where our time together was done in everyone's eyes.

As far as things with Candlelight go, we fulfilled our obligations to the label, and also during that same time they sold off the label to a bigger parent label, the contact with them got broken off, and so we went our separate ways and I think that's worked out for the best for us.

After being a part of the Candlelight Records label for several years, a new plotted heading and you signed with Blood Music, which I can refer to as a sort of a boutique kind of label for Metal bands. How do you feel about this signing and its contribution to Abigail Williams’ future? Why was it the right time to end things with Candlelight Records?

I think it was a good move, it’s nice to work with a smaller label where I get more communication on the daily. I just want to say there are some great people that worked at Candlelight, and some of them are amongst my best friends in the world, but I think it’s safe to say I wasn’t happy with how things had turned out with our releases with them. I'm sure they could say the same, I guess it just wasn't the partnership either side was expecting.

“Walk Beyond the Dark” is the given title of your new exploration of Black Metal music. Since you are the remaining official member of the band, is there a connection between the given the title of the album and your lonesome journey? If not, what influenced you to come up with such a puzzled title?

Yeah, that’s one way of looking at it. The title really covers a lot of ground and hints at so many things in my life, the band's existence, and lots of things beyond all that, which is why it was the perfect name for the record.

While listening to the album, it was hard to shake the fact that it was way deeper than most albums of the same genre. What are the philosophical aspects that surround the atmosphere of “Walk Beyond the Dark”?

A lot of self-reflection. Looking within and picking out the worst and most horrifying things about myself and my past, and bringing them to light and examining them. To understand and accept them, and ultimately choose whether to celebrate or destroy those aspects.

What is your take on the linkage between the music and lyrical themes on “Walk Beyond the Dark”? How does the two connect in order for the listener to flow through the songs?

I always write the music first. I don’t write the lyrics until right before I’m about to try performing them along with the music for the first time. Right before I’m about to perform the vocals, I sit down and just write, stream-of-consciousness style, and let the words come out with the music in almost a trance. If I allowed myself to dissect and criticize the lyrics, I’d start editing them and I'd never stop. So what comes out when I'm in that writing state is what sticks, and I think it's the most honest reflection of what I'm feeling in the depths of my being with that music.

“Walk Beyond the Dark” shows that Abigail Williams came a long way with its version to Black Metal music, yet this particular album feels that you went over the top, made it to become immensely varied while not centering on a single frontier. In your opinion, how did this album contribute to the evolutionary process of the band’s music?

Well, I can’t say it was my intention to do anything over the top, and to me it just seems like a natural record as far as song choice and evolution. The goal is to make a record that I would want to listen to and doesn’t feel stagnant. One of the reasons this album took so long to put out is because every time I thought I had the record written, I felt dissatisfied because it might have been too similar to the last record, so I kept working until this was the result. I wanted to make an album that I wanted to listen to, something that felt fresh and engaging to me, so I kept trying until I got there.

Which musical elements on the album were given a well-deserved attention in order to make it a standout in comparison to your previous works and other albums of the genre that recently came out?

I think the drums really shine this time around, and I am a fan of the guitar tones. The vocals are also much more upfront and intimate than on some of the previous recordings, I think there's a strong connection between the listener and the words now.

In general, other than the obvious wish to make the best album possible, what would you say were your set goals while writing “Walk Beyond the Dark”?

From a musical standpoint, the goal was to create something that had the raw qualities of the last couple albums, mix that with some of the more intricate playing and haunting orchestrations of the earlier albums, and still retain the proper atmosphere for this music. For the vocals, I just wanted to have them sound honest and clear.

Though I know that you were the sole songwriting while “Walk Beyond the Dark” was created, yet it would be interesting to know about the process, how did you do it? To what music have you been listening while brainstorming? What or who inspired you?

The last song of the record was actually originally something that Ian Jekelis of Aborted brought to the table years ago during his time with us, and was meant to be on a previous release but didn’t really fit that album. Over the years, I reworked the song a bit and really liked how it came out, so I knew it just had to be on this album. Other than that, I did the rest of the song writing myself from start to finish. I’ve listened to a lot of music over the years making this album, but nothing really comes to mind as far as direct influences. I listen to a lot of synth music and techno, and obviously there are no synthesizers whatsoever or techno influence on the record so… what I listen to and what I write don't overlap all that often. And maybe that's a huge part of song-writing for me. I like to write things that I can't just go out and listen to already. If it already existed, why would I bother trying to write it?

I deem “Black Waves” as one of the album’s prized achievements. It can’t be merely referred to as Atmospheric Black Metal, it goes beyond, searching for answers in a striking manner. Certainly, one of your best works to date. What can you tell about the writing of this track? What is your appreciation of it?

I actually wrote that song back in 2012, right when I first moved to Olympia, Washington, and I remember being really inspired by the beautiful Washington state scenery. I just sat down on the floor in my living room with a laptop and recorded the demo for that song. All these years later, it finally made it on an album.

For the purpose of recording “Walk Beyond the Dark” you took on session musicians, which helped you ascertain a higher level for this endeavor. Some of these musicians, if I am not mistaken are also part of the live band of Abigail Williams. Have you thought of making them official members or due to past occurrences the idea was shot down?

No, there’s never ideas being shot down, I think it’s obvious at this point that Abigail Williams is my band, and so people come and go. If you want to call them session musicians, you can, or you can call them band members, because I certainly think of them as band members when they are playing in the band. A lot of them are friends of mine, so it doesn't necessarily come down to session players vs band members so much as just playing music with friends. And I'm always excited to try out different combinations of people and see what that inspires and what kind of chemistry and sounds different groups can create. For the record, I consider Bryan O' Sullivan a member of the band. and has been since 2011 when he first started playing with us, but he lives in Ireland and it has made it difficult for him to play on the tours over here. But he still plays with us when we're abroad, and he's always a part of things in my mind. He's on the new album and I couldn't be happier to have him on there.

Let’s talk about general stuff for a bit. It has been said a lot about Metal music as a way of life, however, times have changed and this saying may not be relevant anymore. What do you think about that? Is Metal still more than merely a music genre?

I don’t know, I think metal is a way of life, it certainly is for me. I don’t think you make Metal for nearly 2 decades and not have it be part of what life is. I mean there’s no way around it at this point, I don’t even know what else I would do in life, because metal has been the focal point for so long. As far as pretensions to what is considered metal and what is not, I don’t really care about thinking about stuff like that.

What do you think are the challenges of Abigail Williams in the coming years? Where is the band going from here?

The biggest challenges for any band at our level are usually financial, ha ha. If the album and tours do well, then that's the main worries taken care of, and I can just keep on doing my thing and not have to stress. It makes it a lot easier too to work on the next album when you don't have any worries like that distracting you.

Do you have plans to support the album in 2020? Perhaps a European tour is in order?

I’m really looking forward to getting back to Europe and hopefully we will have something in store for early 2020.

Ken, I wish to thank you for this interview. “Walk Beyond the Dark” is an extraordinary example of a piece of music that has the potential to flourish. All the best sir

Thank you!



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Edited 05 February 2023

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