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Interview - Philip Swanson (Vestal Claret)

Interview with Philip Swanson from Vestal Claret
by Dan Mailer at 03 June 2014, 1:12 AM

Not being one of the new guys in the their area, the duo of the Heavy Metal output, VESTAL CLARET, have been showing the other side of the coin, or the horned collaborator from the down in flames. Newly signed to Cruz Del Sur Music, the band’s “The Cult Of Vestal Claret” filled the nights air with divine occult nature. Dan Mailer recently talked to Philip Swanson of the band regarding their music and more…

Hello Philip, good to have you for this interview for Metal Temple, quite a pleasure. How have you been?

Very well, spending a lot of time with my daughter, my professional life is in a positive transition and have just enough music in my life to keep me content while not being consumed.

Let’s start from the beginning, since I fathom that you would want to present your band Vestal Claret. How did this formation exactly began?

Vestal Claret was an idea that came to mind while preparing to record the second UoE record, I wanted to create this traditional heavy metal band with the mid paced tempo and occult leanings of early Running Wild and Stormwitch. To avoid any prentensive trappings I felt it should have a bit of punkish Goth like early Rikk Agnew Christian Death and so it never took itself too seriously I felt the lyrics should be slightly outlandish. That last thing I wanted was to have people think I was taking myself too seriously. I brought a couple pieces of music to Simon at his studio and he filled in the gaps and that’s how we approached the first EP and LP. After that Simon took the helm of all the music for this new record to even better result.

I wonder, as the band’s chosen name is quite unique, what are its origins?

That should always be the goal I think, to have something original and unique although by definition it is quite obvious and rather simple, even generic with its meaning of “virgin blood”. Just one of those things that come from out of nowhere and you know its right.

Recently you guys finished working on your debut album, “The Cult Of Vestal Claret”. It sounded quite mysterious to me when I first listened to it. What is the overall theme of the album?

Well first off its not anywhere near our debut, we started recording our debut in 2007 after our 2006 ep release of Two Stones. We released 2 demos and 4 eps between 2006 and the 2011 release of the first vinyl issue of our debut Bloodbath on Cyclopean Records that featured a host of notable guest musicians from around the world which when released on CD in 2013 on Nine Records had a completely different band only mix.

With that said the theme is a continuation of ideas that I had started with Vestal Claret and carried into Hour of 13 and Nightbitch before bring them back home to rest once again with their  mothership Vestal Claret. A friend once coined the term “abduction metal” which I found a bit amusing and would of held onto if I didnt think people would confuse it for alien abduction and since the Mentors already own “rape rock” and Im not sure if the “occult” really fits either since even though the concepts appear very Satanic in nature their more about psychotic delusions.

Regarding the songwriting, I noticed that you are duo so how is the work being done?

On the first record Simon and I worked pretty closely together on the music and I would take that home with me and write the lyrics, for the material on “Cult of” and going forward Simon writes all the music and then I write all the lyrics, vocal arrangements and melodies. Simon also plays all the guitars and keys as well as records, engineers and produces.

During the creation of this album, any special song that you found in the end to be beyond your expectations, like a sort of a major impact on your perception of the music?

I wouldn’t say a major impact on my perception of music but Id say “Never Say No Again” was something that even shocked me as I wrote it. As I recorded the demo for it I felt all the teenage angst from my youth, all the frustration and anxiety was completely present again like it was dormant and finally coming out after all these years, I just remembered those feelings so clearly, that kind of shit you have to suppress so much as you get older. Pretty unhealthy stuff that was the norm for me those days, very angry kid hahaha

Looking at the artwork, it is quite astonishing, who created it and what were the ideas for its creation? What did you try to express with the final product?

The cover is based on a case evidence drawing by Damien Echols that was used against him in his conviction, we altered it from his original version that was obviously a white magic spell to protect his unborn child but confused and ignorant prosecutors saw it otherwise so we reimagined it through their eyes much the same as I did on Three and Three is Six.

Let’s talk a little about you. What are your origins as musicians? Your inspirations? What are the elements in Metal music that you find so appealing?

Im not much the musician, more the fan. I just do what I hear and what has inspired me and in the case of Vestal Claret it is 90% Alice Cooper (the band, not the man, strictly 69-77), then 9% 80s heavy metal (Angel Witch, Running Wild, Stormwitch, Coven, Deliverance UK) and 1% gothpunk (Christian Death and Thelema). It would be hard to explain why I gravited so much to heavy metal, I guess the same reason I gravitate to horror movies, dick and fart comedy and porn? Which I cannot answer either, you’d have to ask my psychologist but he would probably say Im a sociopathic borderline psychotic but I would trust him, he gets paid to say that kind of stuff!

Any other musical ventures that you have been a part of?

Is that a trick question? Too many to mention and stay on point and a few more coming soon…

What are you ambitions as musician in general?

At this point I’m far less ambitious as I used to be, I’ve achieved pretty much all I set out to and more, I could die happy in that respect. These days I’m just continuing the friendly working relationships I have with people who are musicians, label owners, distributors and writers like yourself. It keeps me busy, gives me a reason to spend time with friends and acquaintances, just become a part of my life and something I keep trying to give up but can’t because there’s so many people I love and respect that are a part of it with me. And while I’m a little more far removed from it lately than I was in the past, its still a part of me, and maybe one day may become a bigger part again. It’s just right now in my life it has to be right where it is.

Though “The Cult Of Vestal Claret” is just around the corner, any works on new material?

Simon and I have discussed it really yet, I’m sure he’s thinking what I’m thinking, but we both thinking too is how much work will it take and if we do it will we get the support we need to do it right?

What about a formation of an entire group to support the album live? Any thoughts about something of a sort?

That’s easy to do, we have plenty of people who would step up for it, it just has to be for the reasons and worth all the effort it would take to do, and I’m not saying financially I’m saying personally. I’m not just going to play anywhere, you talking about a band that has near 10 eps, singles and lps in as almost near as many years and never had to play live. If we do it, were going to do it right. So when I get a call to do Malta Doom Ill be there;)

Philip, I wish to thank you for this interview. I found your new album quite interesting and a glorious occasion for Epic Metal I wish you all the best. Any last words for the readers?

Sure I’ll say this, Simon and I have been struggling away with this project for 8 years, luckily we’ve gotten just enough support to keep it going, a little bit goes a long way, a little more will take us farther and give us the encouragement we need to make an even stronger effort next time out. We’ve been doing this all for ourselves never knowing where it will go and if it will be heard or ever released. If you dig it, let us know, let someone else know, spread it like crabs till we are all filthy with infest and let’s see what kind of record we can do next?


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