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Sepia Dreamer - Sublime Intervention

Discussion in 'Metal Interviews' started by Tom Strutton, May 14, 2007.

  1. Tom Strutton

    Tom Strutton Member

    Oct 23, 2006
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    [IMGleft][/IMGleft]by Tom Strutton

    Dark, serious, evocative and thoughtful is a fair way to describe Sepia Dreamer’s recent sophomore opus The Sublime. Make no mistake, the pilots at the helm of this brooding ship have made it their business to navigate you, the audience, through a turbulent sea of fabled dread...promising an exhilarating ride for those willing to climb on board and surrender themselves to this ultimate clash of the titans – Art vs Nature. Coursing effortlessly between passages of angular technicality and sombre reflection over sepia-coloured tonal backgrounds, you will be hard-pressed to find a more honest and delightfully moody album this year. I caught up with one half of Sepia Dreamer, Sam Brokenshaw, to ask if he could shed some light on how such a project reaches fruition...


    As a theme in philosophical discourse, the sublime is heavily associated with (among other things) fear, terror, danger, enormity, obscurity, and the human reaction to these things. In crafting your interpretation of the sublime did any one of these figure more heavily than the others? What, primarily, did you wish to put across?
    These things are natural by-products of reality and nature, thus we were trying to explore the connection inherent between perception and reality. Why are we afraid? Is nature truly fearful or is it just a by-product of our own condition? Sadly, human beings are often ruled by fear more than any other motivation, and in a sense that's entirely the point.

    Your work on The Sublime and Portraits… suggests that, as composers, you are drawn to evocative imagery. What is notable about The Sublime is that you go for a balance between evocative, atmospheric soundscapes and technical, progressive writing. Do you consider these to be equally important aspects of the Sepia Dreamer experience?
    Well we don't really tend to think "technically", to be honest. We just write what sounds good to us, and take it from there. The atmosphere is definatly the more important aspect, and without it we probably wouldn't be happy with the material. Having said that, it is of some importance to actually be as good a musician as I can be, I'm sure Jonas feels the same too. Any really technical parts are just a side effect of finding an odd piece to fit into the proverbial jigsaw, in the same way as well composed photograph might be technically very good but ultimately presents a kind of atmosphere.

    In terms of the creative process do you begin with a promising idea and then compose around it, or do you attach the concept to the music as an afterthought depending on the direction the composition takes? If the former were the case, would you liken the process to that of portraiture, i.e. concerned with penetrating and interpreting your sitting subject?
    Yes and no on both counts. It's more of a case of subliminally picking up on something I've read or seen, and then it seeping into a piece of music that I'm working on. With The Sublime; I wrote most of the first part, wondered why I'd done so, remembered the painting and took it from there. Then it was a case of going back and altering anything that needed changing in order to fit. So I followed the cliché of pinning the picture to the wall and staring at it a lot. (Feel free to laugh at the conceit).

    The predilection of the masses towards the human voice has ensured that instrumental music has nearly always been in the shadow of vocal music. What do you consider to be the main advantages of working without vocals? How do you think it changes the way that your listeners might want to approach your music?
    Firstly, I'm not sure that it is at all. Instrumental orchestral music is still very popular and other genres like jazz are still heavily instrumentally biased, but it's fair to say that the metal scene adheres to that predilection. In this way, I'm not so bothered about genre stereotypes, because we're writing music for music's sake. We aren't writing "death metal music" or whatever. Personally I don't really care for the advantages or disadvantages, we don't write to be commercial and so we don't really care if it doesn't have huge hit potential. It's fair to say that it's probably infinitely harder to be as atmospheric when using vocal parts, as those bands that can be really atmospheric and vocalise tend to be the true greats. Swans are a good example of that. I guess we'd like listeners to approach the album with no preconceptions of what to expect, just relax and let the music do the work.


    The format of The Sublime is markedly different from Portraits… with fewer, but longer tracks. Is this a format that you found yourselves working more comfortably with? Do you think that this format facilitated an evolution for Sepia Dreamer?
    Format is another thing that really isn't set in stone. The form the album took just seemed the right fit, so we went along with it. I'd hope that we are evolving as a band, but I'd rather that it was a natural process and not doing things for the sake of change.

    You have stated that The Sublime was partly inspired by your reaction to J.M.W. Turner’s celebrated painting The Slave Ship (1840). It is always a relief to discover musicians looking outside of their own discipline for inspiration. Having said this, please would you fill us on your primary musical influences - is there anyone you particularly admire?
    We have a lot of different musical interests. Condensing it down, we like metal in most of its various forms... Meshuggah, Madder Mortem, Burst, Emperor, Katatonia and many others. I like a lot of electronic stuff, like Nordvagr, Gridlock, Juno Reactor, Raison D'Etre etc. We also like a fair bit of left-field stuff, like Coil, Swans, Dead Can Dance and Aphex Twin.

    The Sublime was delayed in its release. Now that it is out and you have received some very positive reviews, is there anything about the finished result you can say are most pleased with? Do you think you will carry anything from the experience into future projects?
    I'm very pleased that the damned thing is finished and released! Now we can do something new, which is always the most exciting part of the creative process.

    What is your personal opinion of the current underground metal climate? Do you see a lot of exciting work being produced or is there still a lot of uncharted territory that people are too cautious to explore?
    To be honest I tend to ignore a lot of the metal scene these days. In my opinion there are far too many bands all trying to do the same thing, which they have a right to do, but it doesn't interest me in the slightest to hear the latest "most brutal, most technical" death metal band. The same goes for the fuckloads of black metal bands out there trying to be the most true and grim. That said, there are a few bands that are trying to be the best at doing what they do and succeeding. You don't necessarily have to do anything brand new to be a great band, just be very damn good at your stated aim. With bands like Estradosphere and Ephel Duath, the boundaries are being stretched further and further. Which can only be a positive thing.

    Sepia Dreamer evidently works extremely well as a two-man collaboration, with contributions on The Sublime from Leon Macey, doing a great job as session drummer. Do you think this is a line-up that Sepia Dreamer will maintain, or is there a chance that permanent positions in the band may become available in the future?
    Jonas and myself are basically Sepia Dreamer, and Leon is a very welcome collaborator. Leon probably won't have enough time to work with us again, not that we wouldn't want him to. We are looking for a more fulltime drummer from the general Stockholm area and anyone from Stockholm that can play The Sublime is welcome to try out. We're looking more for a collaborator at the present time, but maybe Sepia Dreamer will eventually evolve into a live concern.

    Finally, how would you define your responsibilities as musicians? From my experience with The Sublime I would say that you work for the music rather than letting the music work for you. Any thoughts?
    Thanks, we were hoping it seemed that way. Our responsibilities are the same as they are for anyone trying to communicate their ideas. We only wish to be understood by those willing to listen, and so we do what we do and let everyone else make up their own minds. At the end of the day, we want to provoke thought and not be tied down to any preset idea of what we should or should not do. If we can achieve that then Jonas and I'll be very happy.

    Sam, thanks for enlightening us and congratulations to you both on the release of the album!
    Thanks for the interview!


    UM Review of The Sublime
    Official Sepia Dreamer Myspace
    Official Galactic Records Website

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