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Ghastly's Ian J. D'Waters: "It is a spiritual journey out of your comfort zone into the darkest corners of your mind, and from there to the cosmos"

Interview with Ian J. D'Waters from Ghastly
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 29 May 2021, 2:16 PM

An out of body, out of world experience, somewhere ditched at the other side of the cosmos, spreading thoughts, sharing deep thoughts, all converged into a nightmarish atmosphere that puts things into an extreme type perspective. There are many questions that have yet been answered, and doubtfully ever will, but it is a good thing to hope for answers. Taking that different angle is the Finnish band Ghastly, and their new album, "Mercurial Passages", talks that talk. Steinmetal had a good chat with the multi-instrumentalist, Ian J. D'Waters in regards to the band's latest creation, visions and musical output.

Hello Ian, it is great to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing in these crazy times?

Hey Lior, quite ok here. This is a year of change for me so I’ll be open to everything the world is handing me.

Since there is a first time for everything, it was me witnessing the reality that you created through your band’s new record, “Mercurial Passages”. I found several worlds converged into one, a lot of spirituality and damnation. What would you say is the nature of this particular record as a matter of concept?

“Mercurial Passages” definitely is a boiling pot where dimensions and damnations of the universe get mixed up. There is not a concept in a way usually concept albums are, but the music is constructed the way that it needs to be listened from start to finish to work. Lyrics on the other hand have been written using subjects like nightmarish and dreamlike visions, stream of consciousness and symbolism of Mercury.

What were your main influences that helped you come up with this mysterious and darkened journey as displayed on “Mercurial Passages”?

Surrealism.

Riikka Pesonen made you an amazing artwork, frankly, I don’t believe that I came across his creations earlier on. There is a futuristic, possibly dystopian in nature, feel to it, but also a state of emergency, or rather madness. What was the vision behind this piece of art?

Riikka has done all of our album covers and she’s done few other covers, The Wandering Midget’s “From the Meadows of Opium Dreams” and Lord Fist’s both albums. Fantastic artist and we’re privileged to have her amazing art on our album covers. The way we work is that we give her clues what the lyrics are about and free hands to paint whatever she comes up with. She has always amazed us with her talent.

How do you relate to such a mystifying title as “Mercurial Passages” in terms of meaning? How does this phrase tell the story of the album?

Lyrics have the theme of Mercury, both the planet and the element on the album. It sure does have a mystifying aura, for example the planet Mercury is a dry, dead and mysterious planet no human can visit. The element on the other hand is a toxic metal. These both go well with the music and the fact that we have done our share of the rotten corpses etc lyrics for now.

Is there a relation between our current worldwide reality, which is essentially Covid-19 based, or rather is post period for some places or rather the record is a wicked sort of escapism out of this not so potent reality?

The pandemic started later after the recordings so it does not have any relation to the music or lyrics, but you might find something that connects these too as the whole album is universal, and as you put it, escapism out of the reality is a key factor for me.

In light of the record, what are your personal beliefs when it comes to the narrative that is being displayed within the tracklist?

What I need for the tracklists on albums to be is that it works and has a plot like in a movie, and you might figure it out that I am not talking of a Disney-styled plot here. The music has been constructed the way that the difference of the songs works together when the album is played from start to finish. There’s always something around the corner. Lyrically the album ain’t done the same way, but somehow the last songs of any of our albums have always played a role that there can’t be any other song to finalize the record.

Would you say that there is a search for answers for perhaps riddles that are related to what “Mercurial Passages” means to stand for?

I’d say the riddles might be in the head of the listener. Everything you need is there to see, hear and to make your own decisions.

At first, “Mercurial Passages” shares a lot of qualities of the deadly fusion of Death and Doom Metal, early 90s driven material, whether British of Swedish. However, I believe that I noticed a few contemporary stints of the Post kind, which rather worked for your benefit. How would you say that you guys developed yourselves as songwriters through the work on “Mercurial Passages”?

Gassy and myself have been playing doom metal together over a decade together, so it’s not a weird that those elements can be also present on “Mercurial Passages”. I think this new album has still the same songwriting foundation what I had on earlier works too, but it’s more focused, and more mature. The future will show what will be the next step but songwriting will continue, and usually as people get older, their music changes too.

Continuing the previous question, yet from a different angle, what set of goals did you make for yourself prior to approaching the songwriting, and later on of course the recording, of “Mercurial Passages”? If there were, would you say that you were successful?

For the songwriting part, I think I always try to do a better song than I have done earlier, but this statement doesn’t mean I will do a copy of a song done before but better. I try to develop a song that has its own character but still true to the Ghastly style. My goal was at first to do maximum of 35-minute album, but my bandmates insisted on including one song more to the album and I have to say that they were right. Recording went so smoothly (though not quickly) so I kind of was successful with that. I don’t really enjoy deadlines, so once again I didn’t have to do anything if I didn’t want to and that’s something I think benefits the art.

How do you think that “Mercurial Passages” finds that outstanding pitch that makes it uncanny in comparison to the vast number of Death / Doom Metal styled albums coming out nowadays?

I really don’t see us as a death doom band and by saying that I mean that even though we do possess the doom vibe, it’s not the factor that is our driving force. Ghastly is a band that combines musically all my favorite genres to an extent, so I’d say that this will be different to most of the death doom albums out there.

As I mentioned earlier, “Mercurial Passages” feels spiritual, with an essence that is quite deep. How would you say that this spirit of the record is translated into the album’s music?

Outwardly feel has been with me while constructing this album and that spirit is there in the music too. It is a spiritual journey out of your comfort zone into the darkest corners of your mind, and from there to the cosmos.

How would you say that the work on “Mercurial Passages” influenced the chemistry within the band? Were there tougher moments or it went smoothly?

It went almost the same way as before, as I played all instruments and gave the guys the room to do their vocals. There are always tougher moments if you’re dealing with other people and you are the one who has the vision, but that’s how things roll.

I found “Dawnless Dreams” to be quite atmospheric, certainly a direction that I deemed to fit very nicely to the band and its possible future exports. What can you tell about the significance of the atmospheric element to the music on this song, and for the band in overall?

This particular song has something new for us and as you put it, there lies the possible seed for future. This song like most of my music has only few riffs or parts and these riffs have been torn apart, scattered into the cosmos and then sewed back again, to make the one riff stand out more. The atmosphere has been created like that and when the break came to my mind, I immediately had my mind into the Italian horror genre, which of course made the song to stand out differently than you might’ve thought. It is important that the songs aren't just a blast, it needs more emotion than just that.

Is there any planning for a future video, whether filmed or lyric, for some of the album’s tracks?

Not at the moment, though I’m always thinking of visual presentation for Ghastly. I do not want to have lyric videos as these ones are ridiculously stupid and have ruined many songs for me.

In regards to being a live act, since you guys are a trio, with you as multi-instrumentalist, is Ghastly mainly a studio feature or a live unit once possible with hired musicians?

We do rehearse as a band, but we have not done much shows. I sure do want to have tours and gigs.

This pandemic pretty much shut down everything, and even though there is a good chance to get out of it due to the vaccinations, not everywhere the process is ongoing and fast. Therefore, I ask, what do you miss most about the cultural life in your country?

The most I miss is movie theatres to open properly. There are not that many good gigs around either way, but I sure do miss a good gig quite much. If all gigs will be like the last gig I saw in October which was Amorphis’ 90’s set with personal spaces, I think it will be sad, but let’s see…

Ian, I wish to thank you so much for this interview, you clearly made an extreme Metal album that would send its listeners to think about things and not take it lightly. All the best. Cheers

Thank you Lior, it was great to talk to you and all the best to you and all readers!


 



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