The sophomore (full length) album for Ascension Of The Watchers, Apocrypha – is a very intricate concept, steeped in various prophetic and doctrinal texts, so we can understand why it was a decade in the making. So I want you to take us through this new album and we’re going to tackle it in three parts; the vision for the project, your connection and personal journey with the album and of course the creative process. “Ok, sounds good – the vision really started back in 2002 when I left LA on a sabbatical, I travelled to the east coast to go visit my friend John (Bechdel) who was the keyboard player for Fear Factory at the time. I had some music that I wanted to record, some ideas I wanted to get down. So John and I toured together frequently with Fear Factory and we would room together most of the time, and I just felt like he really understood the vision, he was the one I wanted to work with on this project. So I took my ideas to Pennsylvania, and started working in his studio and eventually after three months of staying in his studio – I decided to get an apartment there (Laughs) so I started living there on a river in a small town in Pennsylvania and I was reading a lot. I came across this book by Elaine Pagles, called The Origin of Satan, and in that book was a brief description of the watchers and how that came about – which lead me to The Book of Enoch from the Dead Sea Scrolls where I read more about the watchers and what I read about the watchers really intrigued me. It really resonated with me and struck a deep chord, everything I was writing was pertinent. I was able to identify and relate to this story; a story of the lost sons being banished from heaven and being stuck on earth. The story of the watchers holds impassioned cries and pleas to the one who has banished them, to forgive them to be released from this purgatory”.
You hold a connection to this project so can you describe your personal journey through the project? “This was a very personal journey for me – everything I write is from personal experience, personal thoughts and opinions, introspection, retrospection and so over the ten years I was writing – every time I would sit down to write it was because I was feeling something. There was something inside of me that was compelling me to write these melodies on a guitar or a piano. It has been a very long ten years for me, a lot has been going on in my personal life especially. There were moments that were so impactful and so poignant that they would resonate with me and I would sit down and play something on the piano that would match how I was feeling, so the vibrations I was feeling within myself were coming through my body and able to express themselves on a piano or guitar and when I feel that connection between my emotions and the melody I’m like ‘Yes, I found it’ and I would expand on those melodies. It was a period of ten years, things would happen – a friend passing away or the birth of a child, the loss of love – loss of something great and so each song is very personal to me, written in a very poetic form”.
So I’m guessing over this process it was quite a cathartic measure for you? “Yes, it is. It is the only thing that keeps me sane. I don’t go to see psychologists or psychiatrists – a lot of people do, I can understand why they do as most people don’t have the ability to express themselves or to release what they’re feeling – for me; my music, my singing, my words – they are my processes of catharsis. Because I am able to express myself I feel like I have passed something, that I have worked through something and I feel like I’ve created something out of destruction. Because of this also, I don’t harbour deep regret, though it is difficult for me to listen to the songs (Laughs) – it is such a reminder. For instance on the first release (Numinosum – 2008) I had a song dedicated to my daughter Violet Morning she was my first born and on this album (I’ve had two more kids since then) so I have a song dedicated to my son and another to my youngest daughter”.
We’ve chatted in depth about your journey through the material and its creation – and let’s identify that this project is a trio – yourself, Jace Lewis and John – all coming together with an arsenal of talent and decades of combined experience, so what drew you to these musicians in particular? And what are their strengths within the music that got the project over the line? “Yeah, so John and I have been working on the Watchers since the very beginning – I brought him the music and we started working together; the Watchers was born in his studio, so John and I are really great friends and he has always been a part of it as far as I’m concerned. I think it was 2004, 2005 maybe…. When MySpace was still a thing. There was a post that popped up in my feed, it came from Jace, stating that he was managed by Darth Vader and I was like ‘What?!’ so out of the blue I sent him a message asking how this was a thing and he told me this story – we started communicating then. It was a couple of years later, we finally met backstage after a Fear Factory concert in Manchester, England and we started talking more and more, about his studio he wanted to build. I was intrigued. The whole time I was sitting on this music and not finding any interest with it, by labels or management – nobody seemed to be interested at all. And as discouraging as that was I just kept going – I wasn’t on a time limit, I intend to live a very long life and I intend to make this happen (Laughs). So it was 2016 maybe – I went to go visit Jace. I took a trip to Wales, where he had in fact now built his studio. I told him that I had a few ideas that I hadn’t demoed at all – and I said, let’s make it happen. I had my guitar, I went to his studio in Bridgend, South Wales. And It was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever seen. It was built from ancient stone that is connected to a two hundred and fifty year old manor. The atmosphere inside the studio is amazing…. The atmosphere inside the manor, where we spent a lot of time at the bar there, was also amazing (Laughs) It was just a very serene setting, a very pastoral and vibrant environment. I spent two weeks there and we recorded a demo version of Ghost Heart and a demo version of The End Is Always The Beginning and in those two weeks we recorded guitars, bass, put some keys on it and vocals. It came out amazing. I was so inspired to be there, my creativity was on an all time high and I just loved it there. I found that working with Jace was amazing too – John and Jace are both incredibly talented, John is classically trained in piano and very well schooled through trial and error with electronics; keyboards, synthesizers, programming and has a very unique sound – this really drew me to John. We both enjoy the same sounds; sounds from the seventies-eighties post punk era and the early electronic era so we both echo around these sounds. Jace, is a lot younger than both John and I (John just turned fifty six, I’m fifty one – Jace is forty one) so he’s a younger lad and highly talented; he’s multitalented, he’s a drummer, a guitar player, he plays everything, he has the type of personality who can pick something up and learn it immediately through trial and error, just working through it and he learns very quickly so its his tenacity in his detail. Both John and Jace leave me fascinated. By how they think, how they work and it compliments my own method. We all share the same interests in music, it is really refreshing”.
What challenges were you looking forward to while piecing it all together? “Over the years – definitely finding the home for it. I don’t have the energy to put something out on my own, it takes a lot of time, it takes a lot of money. I want to be exclusively on the creative side. I can do this for smaller creative endeavours but for the Watchers – I really wanted it to be heard, giving it the exposure it deserved. Another challenge was the distance. As great as tech is, it was still difficult with file sharing and things. I think once we had the vision of the new album – we need to record it all at Jace’s studio, not only because it was a great space – it also had the technology that I was looking for; a modern analogue studio, which is very rare these days. With this combination we weren’t losing any of the sound – it sounded full. Now, how do we record? what is the next step? So then the fundraising campaign came into effect…. We all know how that worked out [Editor’s note: the platform PledgeMusic went bankrupt and did not release the funds raised…. bastards] because of their failure, it was the biggest set back we had in ten years. There was no money coming in, we had to make some decisions. We finished the recording. How do we mix now? So we all just pooled our money together, personal loans from friends and family to make it happen. So from the recording to the final mix it took just over a year – though the length of time taken proved in our favour because we had no time limit or restrictions to get something out. We were able to focus in detail on every mix”. This is a crucial element for any musician working on material; all deadlines issued by record labels do is mess with the whole creative process. “You’re absolutely right Alice, it does – it creates a stress that some people think is beneficial to the creative process but most of the time it’s not. It creates angst, it creates tension, not just within yourself but with everyone else because you have this ‘Damocles’ hanging over you called time and the person holding the sword is the label. It doesn’t benefit anything”. With the tension, it would alter the flavour, no… its almost tainted material in a way “Absolutely, and it makes the process of recording not fun”.
This brings me to my final question – Ascension of the Watchers is now your primary creative endeavour, so where do you hope to take the band (creatively speaking) in the future? “Creatively speaking I would like to focus my attention on this and I don’t want to bring up the T word, but we do want to tour it but these times do present some interesting possibilities I have to admit. The idea of recording a live show is something we’re very interested in but we want to do it very special. I want to follow Nick Cave’s lead on this one – three to four weeks ago he released a video of him alone at the Alexandra Palace; streamed online, however recorded prior to the pandemic so they had the time to edit it and make it sound perfect. So it was a pay-per-view type of event – buy a ticket and watch Nick Cave in a special one time performance in this amazing place. Following his lead we want to try and do the same thing – so we’re formulating a plan to get everyone together and do a show at the manor which has a ballroom (Editor’s note: editor lost her shit)… So that is something to look forward to – for this to happen we also need to raise money but we can do this with ticket sales. Creatively…. I’m just going to follow my heart on this one. When it comes to the music I am the predominant song writer with our collaborators so creatively I’d like to get the three of us and see what happens when we come up with something together. Jace and John are both very positive, amazing people and I have to say if it weren’t for Jace in particular this band would not be where it is right now. Yes, we’ve been working on it for years, we’ve had moments but the ten years of time has really created a vacuum and Jace’s tenacity is really unrivalled. Once he is into something there is no stopping him. Jace was the frontrunner for making Dissonance Records happen – so that was very, very… very helpful. He’s not going anywhere as far as I’m concerned”. [Laughs]
Apocrypha releases on October 9th.