– Hi, thanks for taking the time. What’s the band currently up to?
Mike: The Axis Of Perdition is currently in a state of hibernation following the completion of “Urfe” and “Tenements”, which we conceived and created as a single body of work. With music this intense and demanding to make, it tends to take us some time to recharge our creative batteries so that we can keep giving the band the commitment it deserves. While we aren’t in the process of composing or recording any new music at present, we are toying with various conceptual possibilities of where to go thematically for the next album, aiming to find something that expands the established Axis mythos and keeps us excited by the creative process. We’ve got some promising ideas gradually simmering away but we’re being careful to allow things to develop at their own pace. The prolificacy of our first ‘era’ (from “Corridors” to “Deleted Scenes From The Transition Hospital”) was very satisfying and thrilling but we really burnt ourselves out by the end and it took a long time to gather new momentum. As and when new work will materialise, I really can’t say.
– First off, I hope you don’t mind to start making some history of THE AXIS OF PERDITION…
Mike: The Axis Of Perdition formed in Dec ’01 – Jan ’02. It’s a little difficult to pin down as I started writing the music for “Corridors” that December but Brooke didn’t join until the January, cementing our direction, and we didn’t choose the name until the demo was completed. My initial goal was to take aspects of black metal I liked, such as the wall-of-noise approach of “Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk” and the dissonance of Craft, mixed with other atonal music influences from orchestral music, dark ambient and the like, blended with our interests in sci-fi, horror, roleplaying and the kind of immersive, conceptual music that you can get lost in. Following “The Ichneumon Method” album (which we think of as an embryonic, not-quite-there-yet piece of work) where we vacillated between a few different directions and crowbarred various bits and pieces from our old band Minethorn into songs (with varying degrees of success) we made a deliberate effort with the “Physical Illucinations…” EP to concentrate on just one or two particular influences and run with them. We’ve followed this direction ever since, more or less, always looking for different ways to challenge and surprise ourselves musically and keep things fresh. Increasingly, we have sought to create a fusion of industrial and extreme metal where the latter is subservient to the former rather than the other way round; metal used as texture and gesture within an industrial palette, and composed in an industrial way. First and foremost though, we consider the Axis to be a certain feeling or atmosphere, not pinned to any genre, techniques, instruments or sounds. Where that atmosphere comes from and how we recognise it is deeply rooted in who we are and in our lives.
– Why did you pick “The Axis of Perdition” for the band’s name? Are you usual videogame players?
Mike: I love bands and artists who create worlds for the listener to explore. Not necessarily as explicitly as, say, Rhapsody of Fire or bands of that ilk, but bands whose work inhabits a particular mythos (however implicit) of their own making and each release is a new immersive experience into different aspects of those worlds. Artists like Tom Waits and Nick Cave (or Ramsey Campbell, or Guillermo Del Toro, if we go all multimedia for a moment) are especially good at doing this while avoiding tying themselves down, and we aspire to creating a world that is suggestive, distinctive, instantly recognisable yet free of demarcations and limitations; with its own interior operant logic which we are aware of but which is not necessarily clear to the listener. The Axis Of Perdition as a name is both specific and permissive, as we have established both our core character and our willingness to deviate from the anticipated musical trajectories that our character implies. It also openly stresses our emphasis on world-building. I don’t play much in the way of video games; I enjoy survival horror games as a fan of a particular kind of macabre tale and I enjoy the agency that the gamer experiences in the stories. I lack the dexterity to be much good at any game that requires manual skill and I’ve found little time for games since around 2003/4, which was my high watermark for gaming. Certainly, our interests in games have been wildly exaggerated, which I think we only have ourselves to blame for. An exception to this is that I recently got massively addicted to Portal and Portal 2, on my housemate’s recommendation.
– And what are the band’s main musical influences?
Mike: Speaking for myself; Emperor, Craft, Scott Walker (“The Drift” mainly), Tom Waits, Nick Cave, David Bowie, Throbbing Gristle, Esoteric, Godflesh, Swans, Mark Anthony Turnage, Penderecki, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Arthur Honegger, Ulver, Maeror Tri, Megaptera, Gruntsplatter, Raison D’etre, Kammarheit/Cities Last Broadcast, Jeff Wayne, Akira Yamaoka, Angelo Badalamenti…all sorts, really. Contrary to popular belief, I don’t feel influenced by either Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega. They’re brilliant bands that I admire very much, and I’ve picked up a couple of techniques here and there from them, but we’ve all been making dissonant music in our own distinctive ways for a long time and I’m much more interested in assimilating influences and strategies from outside the ‘metal’ world into my own practices and working with my personal palette of influences (as above) rather than cannibalising ideas from bands I consider to be contemporaries.
– Your latest «Tenements (Of the Anointed Flesh)» was released a few months ago; how’s its feedback being so far? Both from the fans and press.
Mike: The feedback’s been reasonably good so far. We always have a mixture of polarised reactions, always some fans who are disappointed and complain bitterly, always win over some new people or re-engage with fans who’d given up on us. It’s a fairly predictable ebb and flow and it doesn’t particularly bother us much.
– I could say this «Tenements…» is quite more straight-forward than your prior albums; was this something you aimed for?
Mike: “Tenements” is the most metallic thing we’ve done in a long time; I’d argue that it isn’t any more straightforward. If anything, the compositions are much more detailed and chaotic than ever. We conceived “Urfe” and “Tenements” to be a Yin and Yang, each exploring the farthest extreme of our sound, from the most industrial we were prepared to become to the most metal at the other end of the scale. We tend to use the metal to communicate the aspects of the Axis world which we feel can only be explained in abstract composition, which ambient or concrete sounds or other musical forms are insufficient to represent. Neither “Urfe” nor “Tenements” are complete listening experiences without the other to shadow them, which is why we conceived the overarching narrative to tie them together inextricably. Neither of them are a balanced reflection of the Axis “sound”, if there is such a thing – I think “Physical Illucinations…” is the only release that comes close to covering all the bases at once, and in future we only plan to confuse the issue further with new tangents and new ground.
– So, do you plan things or does things just flow?
Mike: A mixture of each. Our established practice from “Deleted Scenes…” onwards is to create a concept, and map out a very rough storyline which dictates the kind of music we need to make. However, the process of searching for ideas to fit that map inevitably change the shape of the story, and everything ultimately warps together until what was intended and what was accidental or spontaneous are indivisible.
– Anyway, I would like to know how was the songwriting for this CD; if it’s a team-work, if is more of an spontaneous process, etc.
Mike: Me and Brooke created the concept together, coming up with the embryo of the story about two weeks after “Deleted Scenes” was released, which latterly became very informed by the material that Les created for “Urfe” (which was conceived entirely to create a character which we could prime as much as possible for the story arc of “Tenements”; we had to know how and why the character got there). I went away and created guitar parts, bass and basic programming that matched the concept, more or less; Brooke concentrated on lyrics, artwork and recording/production techniques. Dan took my rough programming and fleshed it out partly with his own performances and partly with digital adjustments and refinements. We all contributed ambient sounds, including our new contributor Saulius who created the piece “The Dark Red Other” to our specifications and added various other textures to the songs.
– And beside the music in this effort, I would like you to tell us a bit about lyrics in general and the concept in the album specifically.
Mike: The world that Axis’s music depicts is a kind of purgatory created by two realities abrading each other; our reality, and the reality of “The Axis Of Perdition”. The Tenements Of The Anointed Flesh represent the furthest you can travel in this purgatory before being utterly consumed by the other reality. The Tenements are an initiatory labyrinth, a rite of passage to becoming one with the Axis (whether you want to be one with it or not). To enter the “Tenements”, you have to have survived the trial by ordeal of the “Transition Hospital”, which is another kind of test or judgement that weeds out and consumes those individuals who are insufficient to progress to this final stage. The “Tenements” album is the story of Urfe undergoing this final involuntary initiation. The sleeve-notes will tell you everything you need to know, presuming you can decipher them.
– And what could you comment on the artwork? Who crafted this piece, what does it represent, etc.
Mike The art is all Brooke’s work; it’s directly linked to the concept thematically. Spirals are a recurring glyph throughout the album.
– Your previous «Urfe» meant a new direction in the band, but we could now say you have gone back to your roots. Why did you do someting like «Urfe»? What did this album mean to you and what did you want to express with it?
Mike: I think I’ve partly answered this question earlier, but to clarify: I really don’t see the Axis as having a linear evolution or inhabiting one particular style. We are depicting a world and, usually, a narrative within that world, and as such all aspects of style and composition are subservient to those. Because we jump about between different parts of the world, it means we jump about stylistically too and what we do on one album is not necessarily any indication of what we will do on the album after it. We don’t question the process; we just get on with it. “Urfe” primarily represented three things. One, an attempt to see how deeply into industrial textures we could submerse ourselves while still feeling like the music fitted the Axis name; two, to cut ourselves from the apron strings of formative early influences like Silent Hill and really take ownership of our own mythos; three, to stop using film samples of any kind and work with a live actor instead.
– Anyway, the band has been evolving constantly with each release, trying different details. Is this an important thing to you as a band?
Mike: I don’t see the point of doing the same album twice, ever. We want to keep challenging ourselves, keep the music fresh, enjoyable, not get bored or stuck in a rut and be truthful to ourselves artistically at all times. I firmly believe that every band should approach their music that way.
– Because of the aforementioned can be something difficult to describe your sound but; how could you do it?
A mixture of Industrial and Metal that is both and neither; the latter consumed by the former, but changing in the act of consumption.
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
Mike: To recuperate! We’ve both recently started back at university and have lots on our plates. I’ve been extremely busy in my other capacity as keyboardist for Wodensthrone and my heavy electronics alter-ego Cauldhame (http://cauldhame.bandcamp.com), which should appeal to any Axis fan who likes having their ears punished. I also recently started playing keyboards and effects for another band which I’m very excited about. Brooke is very busy with his doom/death band Hesper Payne (http://www.hesperpayne.com) and online label Works of Ein (http://www.worksofein.com) which features many Axis related projects.
– That’s all, thanks again. Now feel free to add some final words.
Mike: We may do something to mark our tenth anniversary. We may not. Keep your eyes peeled! Assuming you’re happy to have peeled eyes, that is.