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Fierce Deity's Jonathon Barwick: "The idea of FD became even more delicious as I began practicing meditation during my grief and exposed to the teachings of the Buddha, then spent some time in Japan"

Interview with Jonathon Barwick from Fierce Deity
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 24 August 2019, 3:08 PM

Like phoenix rising from the desert sand, so did Jonathon Barwick, ex-vocalist / guitarist of the Australian Taberah. As the band was slowly going down the drain, there was a spike. Later on, after several of personal happenings, that spike became a reality, it became Fierce Deity. With the release of a new lyric video called "The Path", along with upcoming tracks to be groomed for a future album, Steinmetal had a talk with Jonathon about what happened in Taberah, the idea of Fierce Deity, new song, Metal studies, production and more…

Hello Jonathon, it is awesome having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine. How have you been matey?

Thanks for having me, Lior! I have been very busy which is good. My life is a nice balance of work and hobbies these days.

The last time that I listen to you sing was back in the “Necromancer” album by your early band Taberah, one of my top albums for that year by the way. You should have gone way high up the ladder with that offering. Now, I am hearing that the band fell apart. What happened?

I think "grew apart" is more fitting. Life looks very different at 30 than it does at 21 and our respective lives have brought about respective change. After "Sinner's Lament" my world changed rapidly with a relationship ending and I found a new level of both insight and foresight that I'd never experienced.

Within a few months I had another album ready to go but the "Sinner"'s tour had left us in a financial hole about $3k deep. I've never wanted to do anything else than see the world and make music for it so I made the decision to use personal savings to clear that debt so we could move on. I took a look at what we were doing and realized we wouldn't be able to keep performing at national level let alone expand our horizons unless we adapted and invested to build an audience. I wanted to do album #4 but not waste time/money on domestic tours - this would require personal investment.

Not everyone was on board so it just hung in space. Thus began what I can only describe as an 18-month process of the band bleeding out. I grew frustrated that my desire for adventure was not shared and my attitude towards the band made it impossible for them to enjoy their hobby.

So out of the ashes you rose with a new musical entity called Fierce Deity. What can you tell about it? It is that sort of your way to unleash all the stuff that you have been keeping inside before Taberah disbanded?

I am really fond of these songs. I wrote them during a mental breakdown and each track is a small glimpse of where my mind went during the grief. It was absolutely intended to be Taberah's next studio effort but - before I'd even considered going solo - a Taberah member stated that if we weren't going to play shows then it should be a JB project. He was speaking in a financial context but the comment got me wondering what the songs could look like as something else.

What would you say are your influences as a Heavy Metal artist?

I kneel at the altar of Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Iron Maiden when it comes to the old-school. Queen had a profound effect on me as a young man and I'm always trying to emulate their huge vocal layers. I've found a lot of new-school stuff I like too - bands like Protest The Hero and Harlott turn me on with those aggressive riffs and production! There's way too many guitarists to name so I'll spare the reader my list!

Who is with you on this? Any of the old Taberah members?

It's all me dude! I play the guitars, bass and keys. I use Toontrack's EZ Drummer 2 to program the drums.

Why calling the band Fierce Deity? What is the source?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask! My favourite game. The idea of FD became even more delicious as I began practicing meditation during my grief and exposed to the teachings of the Buddha then spent some time in Japan. In Buddhism, the fierce deities are known for their wrathful and forceful energy in which they destroy obstacles that block enlightenment. A power you must learn to wield but also temper - very cool!

What is your musical vision for Fierce Deity? May it be to continue the same pattern that was paved in Taberah?

When I was writing this stuff for Taberah, I unleashed myself from the notion of toning down the genre jumping so it suited the style of our first 3 albums. I let the songs go where they wanted and worried about learning to sing it/play it later haha! I decided to get enough gear to record at home and spend as much time as I wanted trying ridiculous ideas and failing over and over until I hit that gem - I live for this process now! The songs are all a little weird as a result of this.

Recently, you released a lyric video for a first single, “The Path”, which to be honest made me wish I could lock you and your guys in a room and just finish a damn album and issue it. It sounds like a continuation of Taberah but with an extra dosage of great Heavy Metal execution. How do you feel about the track?

Haha! Hey if I can pay my artist, co-producer and video editors to do that let me know! The lyric video blew me away - Connor from Imperium Pictures is a rare beast. His vision is unreal - I simply gave him the same single photo you can see on Spotify/iTunes and he came back with THAT video. Totally amazing.

What surrounds the lyrical concept of this song? Does it represent your stand with what happened in the past?

I see why it would seem that way - but as I said this material was written for Taberah. There is lots of religious narrative that make reference to life being a path in which we travel/choose. I had an amazing experience playing The Witcher 3 shortly before my breakdown and lyrically I found the grief to be similar to a Witcher's trial of the grasses. I have a video on my YouTube channel explaining that a little further!

What can you tell about the song’s sound production? It sounds stellar, modernly polished, which is to be expected, but highly clear and simply pleasurable to listen.

I'm glad you felt that little extra something because I took the time to educate myself on songwriting, vocal technique and production before recording these songs! The real magic happens in the mixing/mastering phase and those compliments need to go straight to Joe Haley of Psycroptic fame! I recorded with my one-of-a-kind Gibson 'White Wolf' Les Paul (1997 Custom, hand built in Nashville and left-handed) and Joe re-amped it in his studio. I own a simple Ibanez bass to take care of the low end swagger and the drums are based from samples of The Black Album - heavy!

I noticed that you are quite the die-hard for video games, that 8 bit, if I am not mistaken, imagery in the lyric video sure brings back memories for me. Which of those old games have you been playing? What are your favorites?

Indeed! So Fierce Deity is 100% nerd metal. You might also take note that the logo is the Twilight Princess font! Video games have been a massive part of my life. A huge influence on me creatively. My all-time favorites would have to be the Zelda and Resident Evil series'. The only thing that comes close to knocking those off is Witcher 3! I'm about to start playing Sekiro on my Twitch channel (twitch.tv/fiercedeityband) soon - I love the Souls series!

How do you think this new band will be accepted in your local Metal scene? I have the feeling that in Europe you are going to kill it, and hard. Were there reactions to the new song?

Locally it's been loved! Lots of Taberah fans/old peers got in touch to congratulate and wish me well. I'm hoping to grow a fan base in Europe and Japan - I like the idea of holidaying there once a year to play music! There's been a massive spike of plays in Poland this month - not much in Japan at this stage!

Have you already started sending songs / demos to various labels worldwide? Anything that you can hint that is on the table?

As I put together the idea it became very apparent that due to not releasing physical copies of the music I have nothing to really offer a label. I currently have six tracks in various stages of production that I will release for free (fans can support FD with a merch purchase at fiercedeityband.com or by subscribing to the Twitch channel) though I do foresee some rare vinyl pressings in my future. We'll see what happens!

In general, what are the plans ahead for the new band?

I'm going to educate myself on promotion whilst enjoying the creative freedom that modern day technology allows! In a few years I would like to put a band of gypsies together if the stage is set! I have a particular friend (who I would love to name but I'd hate to rob the reader of the mystery) which I speak to regarding FD as a live act down the road. We speculate on who we'd have in the band and ridiculous ideas for the stage production - but I'm really quite content creating and releasing music as a studio project for now!

Let’s talk off topic, I don’t know if you heard but in Australia they actually opened a faculty, or courses, for Heavy Metal music. I guess it is similar to history lessons. What do you think about that? Doesn’t the genre should remain underground or should it burst out again in the open?

I think it's important to appreciate heavy music in an anthropological sense. The behavioral studies would be fascinating! The metal movement has been a massive display of tribal behavior ever since the birth of its name. Then again, it is just another case of "young person rebels against older authority's view on what should be" but it's an interesting example none-the-less. Study it!

K.K. Downing, ex-Judas Priest, made a stage appearance at Bloodstock Open Air a few weeks ago, after a decade. Do you think that it signifies that he is still relevant? Was it a hint for Priest that is able to come back? Should he come back to Priest or perhaps join Ross The Boss as permanent?

This idea of replacing members with young people is interesting to me - there's a bit of it going on. Makes me wonder if at some point it will become more about the banner than the band under it. Like a sports franchise! Imagine Judas Priest are a basketball team and there's hot shot young players all being groomed in young bands until they deserve a shot at the big leagues! I hope K.K feels as though he can do whatever he likes - especially after all the time he has given.

Jono, all the best for you and the new band, I am in love with your voice and your music. I can’t wait to get my hands on the new CD. Cheers mate and thanks for the interview.

Thanks again, Lior! Peace.



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