By Jason Wick
The ever so vast, atmospherically enthralling solo act Autumns Eyes has been thriving under the sole watch of Dan Mitchell for the past decade. Anyone familiar with the project is aware of the unique electrically charged tone underlying its entire discography while musically extending over a large array of genres. I decided to dive into the mind of this project with his new release approaching us.
Well I would like to start by thanking you Dan for taking the time for this interview. You said that youíre in the process of completing a new album; how is that coming along?
...and thank you for your time as well! The new release has been somewhat like one of those nightmares when your trying to climb a melting staircase. Which is ironic, as nightmares have been a massive source of inspiration for this release. I started writing new material in late 2008, and began pre-production in 2009. There were about 30+ songs to choose from, but in the end it was narrowed down to 10. Everything came to a sudden stop about 6 months ago when I cracked the radius bone in my wrist, so that definitely put a damper on things. The down time gave me a chance to work on arrangements and other details, so that once I started recording again there was a better focus on what needed to be done. Currently I am finishing up vocals which will then lead to mixing/mastering, and it should be ready to go.
What can we expect from your upcoming release? Your previous material holds a distinctive tone but yet varies musically to a great extent, what previous Ďsoundí would you say comes closest to what weíll be hearing on your new album?
Its without question the most diverse of the material. One of the first things I addressed were the vocals, and losing most of the screams. Personally, I am really sick of the current sound Metal has developed into as a whole. The majority of bands seem to just be doing what everyone else is doing, like a group of dogs chasing their own tails. I really didnít want to join the crowd and start screaming over a basic blast beat on every song. The only problem is that I am by no means a ďsingerĒ, and most of my prior material has been screaming with a bit of singing. This time around it will be the opposite, singing with a bit of screaming. The songs are structured differently as well, there are more dynamics feeding the arrangements. Elements from all the prior releases are noticeable, but the songs are so different here. I payed a lot of attention to detail on this one. I created and captured my own reverbs in the woods behind my house, I did a ton of foley production for sound effects, and there are a lot of new instruments used.
What would you say has been the driving influence behind Autumns Eyes? Not just musically, but as a whole.
It comes back to that instinct we all have inside to strive for something we love to do, and not accept anything less. Music has always been like oxygen for me. I breathe it everywhere I go, and in a strange way I need it to survive. The opportunity to write and record my own songs has been nothing short of a blessing for me. It acts on so many levels as a friend, an enemy, a therapist, and more. You can put anything and everything you have inside into a song, and the song acts like a snapshot of your life at that time.
Themes of the occult have popped up in your work numerous times. Is this simply something you find intriguing or does it play a bigger role in your life?
I have always taken interest into the occult, but I donít think its a subject that lends itself to much intrigue anymore. The only reason I explored it in the first place was because so many people considered it some what evil. I was curious what all the hype was about. Since then, people have become so desensitized to any kind of darkness or mysticism. With the rise of TV Shows like Ghost Hunters and what not, that side of the spectrum has almost become nothing more than cheap comedy.
You seem to have a passion for horror in general, care to elaborate on how elements of horror make their way into your work and simply what sparks this passion?
With the Occult being some what of a phase in my life, Horror has always been a consistent source of inspiration for me. Ever since I was a little bastard learning how to walk I can remember my parents watching the old Dracula and Hammer Horror movies. Its just one of those things I grew up with, and always keeps me grounded. Some people are comfortably inspired by the beach, or clouds in the sky. I myself happen to be triggered by the sight of a teenage slut getting chased across a camp ground and getting hacked in half. Donít get me wrong, Im not one of these disturbed youth who plots revenge on society via Horror Movies. After a long day of mowing my lawn, cleaning the garage, cooking dinner, and feeding the dog, its always a great escape to be able to sit down and watch a couple Jason movies back to back. The sights and sounds of Horror keep the creative juices flowing.
One thing that has stuck out about your music is the quality of the production, which is something that I feel holds great importance for atmospheric songs. It appears that you have personally handled all of the production/engineering tasks for this project since its inception. Did you have experience in the recording field before hand or is it a study that has evolved alongside Autumns Eyes?
Well it originated itself when I asked for a new drum set, and received a 4 track recorded instead. My brother in law Mike, also a musician, recommended to my parents that a 4 track would benefit me more as a musician down the road. To this day I owe him big time for making that happen. I never went to school for recording, but I did surround myself with people who knew a lot about the field. I moved to Boston, MA for a while with my buddy Adam who went to Berkley School of Music. Adam was a huge help as he introduced me to digital recording, and showed me the ropes. It was around that time (2001) that I decided to devote my time to a career in recording my own music. Since I did not have legitimate training, it was all hands on learn as you go. All I knew was that I wanted a pro sound, and would keep striving for it no matter how many years it took. Thatís actually part of the fun in recording, you are always progressing and learning every single day. Your old recordings act like a progress meter, where you can learn from your mistakes and strive to make better sounding recordings. Thatís another great thing about recording, I donít think you can ever reach ďthe perfect soundĒ. Its always evolving, and if your willing to follow it you can evolve with it.
Having studied in the field myself I have known many excellent producers and engineers that have all felt it was beneficial to have others take over those tasks when it came down to them recording their own music. Their reasons varied from feeling it was important to have another take on what they have written to having new ideas opened to them on how to have their vision displayed to the audience. What brought you to do all the engineering yourself? Your work obviously has come across brilliantly, but have you ever wondered if youíre missing out on any opportunities by solely performing all these tasks?
I have been paying more and more attention to that department as the years have gone by. It used to be me locked in a room for a couple weeks, and there was the album. The process has slowed down exceedingly since then. I take breaks in between, and make it a point to share the ideas with people as it moves along. I would love to have someone else engineer for me, that would actually take a lot of stress away. Since Iím not on or searching for a label, engineers arenít really knocking on my door asking to help out. As long as I continue to take breaks, and keep my ears fresh, the material wonít suffer. I have been in the position where pressure kicks in, and you want to finish sooner than later. Thatís when your material suffers, when you have to force something out unnaturally. Itís some what different if your on a label, and have deadlines to meet. However, if your a solo act with no label breathing down your neck, there is no excuse when it comes to time management.
Now on a purely musical level, have you ever felt artistically restrained by the fact that Autumns Eyes is a solo act? Or is this something that you feel has helped you thrive? A mixture of both perhaps?
I played in a lot of bands before Autumns Eyes, and it was a blast doing the whole live thing. I noticed that things always got rough when recording and writing took place. Thatís when all the egos would come out to play, and eventually cause way too much friction. I was always the one sitting back waiting for the arguing to stop so we could continue recording. Since I always favored being in the studio, I opted to do everything myself and deal with my own ego. I never look at being a solo act as restraining, its just another form of music. If you feel restrained in any aspect, then your not pushing yourself hard enough.
Is there anything in particular you would like to express to the ultimate metal reader base that I havenít touched on? Feel free to let it all out here.
I always try to emphasize the importance of broadening your musical horizons. I really want to see more musicians taking inspiration from the music they least expect to inspire them. In the metal community, there are way too many bands trying to do what the others are doing. I have fallen into that phase in the past here and there, and every musician will at some point in their career. Its so important to stick to your guns, and not succumb to whats popular. We are in a great time, musically, to compete with record labels and their overwhelming greed. Anyone can make an album in their own home, and release it to the public. This is something that could not be done when I started recording. The process of Band>Record>Tour>Get Signed has completely changed. It will be interesting to see how music adapts. We could end up with a ton of new music that will begin to inspire a whole new breed of musicians. On the negative side, with everyone having the ability to record, we could just end up with everyone copying the big label bands and end up with more regurgitated crap. Only time will tell!
Well, that is all I have for you Dan. I would like to thank you again for your time, and I am eagerly awaiting your new material.
Thanks Jason, I really appreciate your time as well.
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