May 13, 2010

Interview With Andy Swan From Iroha

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"An original member of seminal Birmingham experimentalists Final (alongside Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Jesu) and Nic Bullen (Napalm Death, Scorn), Andy Swan's new project, Iroha, mixes layers of textured guitar and basslines with heartbreaking melodies and brutally slow beats to produce songs of melancholic beauty". That quote comes directly from their Myspace page because its was only a few weeks ago when i became aware of the band after getting a copy of the split the band did with Fragment. Aleks ( from Russia has come to the rescue though with this interview with Andy Swan so both me and the readers out there can learn more about this interesting band.

-Hi Andy! How are you? Is your split LP with Fragment. already on sale?
-Hi Aleks! I'm fine thanks. It's available for pre-order from Denovali Records. It's also available as a free download.

-Oh, forgive me but I didn't ask this question since… oh, I even do not remember… So what does the name of your band mean?
-Iroha is a Japanese poem that contains each character of the Japanese syllabary. It also means 'ABC' (as in the musical notes). I like short, concise band names and Iroha really appealed to me
for this reason

-It's said that you were member of Justin Broadrick's Final, so can you say that it was a useful experience? For often ambient music sounds pretty simple and I guess that it's hard for musicians to try out something new in this genre if they do not try to overload it with noise-experiments.
-It was a fantastic experience not only from a creative point of view but also on a personal level. Meeting up with somebody at such an early age who was interested in the same things was a great release from the stresses of the overall experience of being a teenager. I consider myself very lucky to have made such a good friend in Justin. The early Final I was involved in was a lot noisier than the ambient textures of later Final but very varied all the same.

-And why did you leave Final? You could practice there longer and maybe use these skills wider in some projects besides Iroha.
-If I'm being honest I'm not too sure! I went to play guitar for a band called DKZ and it wasn't, at the time, the done thing to be in different bands at the same time. If it were these days, I'd have played in both bands for sure.

-How do you think it was Justin Broadrick and Jesu first invented this mix of monotonous doomy riffs with dreamy, hypnotizing electronic effects?
-I guess there have been a few bands that have been based around slower beats but Jesu are, for me, the pioneers of heavy slow riffs mixed with gorgeous electronica.

-Indeed they are! From where do the roots of Iroha grow? Your music is base on doomy riffs (correct me if I'm wrong), and England is well known by it's sons who put their lives to altar of Doom. What did you listen 10-15 years ago? Can you say which bands we could hear in Iroha if we strain our ears?
-Strangely enough I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and US dance music (Strictly Rhythm, Masters at Work etc.) 10-15 years ago although my listening habits 10 before this would probably have consisted of Throbbing Gristle, Crass, Power Electronics, Swans etc! I would say it's perhaps possible to hear a little mid-80s New Order in the Iroha sound although there are undoubtedly other influences in there too!

-Oh.. Pf.. Do not know that I can say after this :-). But I hear not any of these influences in your song "Eternal", one of the best songs which I ever heard. Or I could be deaf enough at least. Is this song from one of your EPs?
-That's very, very kind of you. 'Eternal' is a track from our forthcoming album to be released on Geoff Barrow's Invada Records.

-Andy, what can you tell us about Iroha's discography? Which releases do you have now? Maybe my search was not careful enough cause I only found this split with Iroha and Fragment.
-We have the split with Fragment. on Denovali Records and an album due out shortly on Invada Records. We've got a split with Pyramids that needs finishing off and a possible cover version release on Denovali.

-Your band's name is Japanese and your lyrics are laconic and capacious as hokku, Japanese short poems. I do not want to search any meaning where it is not but… maybe there is really some connection, isn't it?
-I must admit a fondness for Japanese cinema - the movie, 'Hana Bi', has a definite melancholia that appeals to me so, yes, you maybe have a point!

-Andy, how do you think why this heavy slow beats and ponderous bass-lines are so catchy? You understand it well because listening Iroha reflects somewhere in guts with all these vibrations and remains it's traces probably to the heart. You surely know how to do it!
-I think it's probably more to do with the melancholic melodies that are quite simple and yet, hopefully, quite memorable rather than the slowness of the beats. Again, mid-80s New Order had this melancholic sound down to a fine art.

-It's a bit funny because I found Fragment. right after getting news of it's split album with Methadrone, and a week ago Thierry send me the link to your page and this teamwork "Bittersweet". MySpace works, collaboration between bands works too - what do you think about such practice as split-albums?
-It's seems to be quite a popular way of introducing new sounds to different people that they might not have otherwise heard.

-Oh, Andy, did you ever see Thierry? I understand that collaboration via internet is enough to be effective but it's always better to meet people in real life.
-No, we've never met but we've become good friends via email. But, yes, it would be a lot easier to get together and work on a track rather than sending files back and forth. It would be nice to meet up one day for sure!

-How did you share your duties with Thierry Arnal recording the song "Bittersweet" for your split LP? And how did you record it?
-Thierry sent me a track of beats and keyboards to which I added guitar, bass, the keyboard riff and some vocals. I sent these back to Thierry for mixing. Thierry re-recorded the bass and added some extra vocals. He also developed the keyboards to finish off the track as it is now.

-Man, you have famous Priory Recording Studios in Birmingham - were you ever there? If It's a lair of Greg Chandler (Esoteric), and he's well known by his stubbornness and high demands in questions of music's records.
-No, I've never been to Priory Studios but Dominic (who handles vocals for us when we play live) is currently working with Greg on a solo project at Priory. I don't know Greg personally but caught Esoteric live last year at Supersonic.

-There is also the "Bittersweet" remix, so how do you detect line between electronic components of your songs and heavy, metal parts?
-Thierry worked on the 'Bittersweet' remix on his own so I'm not sure how he decided upon which parts to keep and which to discard. From a personal point of view, I've written songs based around guitar riffs and also around keyboard chord progressions so either way works fine. Some songs seem to suit more electronic parts than others whereas others might need just the slightest hint of a string line perhaps.

-You will release this LP through Denovali Records but man why did they spread out this album for free download in this case? Though wait… there is vinyl edition of "Bittersweet" too, right?
-Yes, there's a limited vinyl, a regular vinyl and a CD release. We (Thierry, Timo at Denovali Records and myself) all agreed it would be good to let people hear what it was they could be purchasing. Hopefully, if somebody like's the MP3 enough they will also buy the record. But if they don't then that's OK too.

-Sorry, I nearly forget to ask - who are the other members of Iroha? And which roles do each of your play in the band?
-For live work there's Diarmuid Dalton (bass) and Dominic Crane (vocals). I play guitar and we have beats and keyboards triggering from a laptop. We're also working on some visuals that should be ready for when we support Faust on 10th May

-Do you have any live videos into YouTube? How often and with which bands do you play gigs?
-We've played with Mono (three times), Nadja (twice), Constants, Transitional, Einstellung and Mugstar. We're supporting Faust soon - a show I'm very excited about having been a fan since I was a teenager. There are a couple of videos from the show we did with Mono at The Scala in London on YouTube.

-Your music is "dreamy" and a bit melancholic, what is the core of your artistic work? Do you hold on for any conception? Are there any themes which you would not like to express through Iroha?
-I'd like to think that although the songs are quite personal and don't, perhaps, make any specific sense lyrically to listeners, they are still aware of the main theme running through a song. If a song triggers an emotional response of some description then I'm happy!

-You have the song "Fallen Angel" - what is it about? Sorry, man, but it's a terrible song's name for everyone in metal scene, such a used title :-) From Iron Maiden to Katatonia (though they gave a bit different name for this song, it doesn't matter)! Oh, "Ascending Angel" - why don't you want to compose song like that? :-) Nobody likes "good" angels…
-Sorry! : When I was writing the lyrics for that song the words were actually 'Falling Angel' but it's very hard to discern the difference between falling and fallen so I settled on 'Fallen Angel' for the title. It's about eras coming to an end and knowing, yourself, that they're coming to an end.

-You are from Birmingham and it's also the city of two most old… it would be better to say ancient… football clubs - Birmingham City and Aston Villa Football Club.
-I live quite close to Villa Park and, although I don't follow football as keenly as I used to when I was younger, I would still class myself as a Villa fan. Aston was also the birthplace of Black Sabbath!

-I hope this interview was not too boring for you, thank you Andy for your time and I hope the brand new Iroha's LP will see the light soon. My best wishes!
-I've really enjoyed answering your questions - I hope my answers aren't too boring! Thanks very much for your interest, Aleks.

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