Interviews : The Eternal (Mark Kelson) – 26/08/2008
With their first australian shows in a year coming up, and the pending release of their new album, Kartika, Metal Obsession spoke to Mark Kelson from The Eternal about ‘Kartika’, the upcoming tour, and what we can expect from both.
MetalObsession.net: Cheers for taking some time out to chat with metalobsession.net. Could you please give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and The Eternal?
Mark: The Eternal formed in 2003 after the end of my previous band Cryptal Darkness. Cryptal Darkness had really hit a dead end for me and it was time to start fresh. Not long after the recording of our first demo, we signed to finnish label Firebox Records and we have been working with them in some way or another ever since. Not long after the release of our first album ‘The Sombre Light of Isolation’ we toured Europe and various other places and have continued to do so.
As for myself, I have been involved in the Australian metal scene for quite a while now, I have played with bands such as Virgin Black & Black Majesty on various tours as well as being lucky enough to become involved with ex-Anathema songwriting mastermind Duncan Patterson on his solo project ION, I contributed vocals to his last album and I’m currently begining vocals for his new one.
Im also involved with InSomnius Dei with The Eternal guitarist Terry Vainoras, and I have an international project on the go called Ashkhara which features members of To/Die/For and Soulrelic. We should have a demo out later in the year.
MO: November will see the release of the bands third album, Kartika. What can fans expect?
Mark: I think they can expect something different from we have done previously. There is still all the elements of melody and emotion, but maybe on this album we have taken the melodic elements of the band further, particularly with the vocals, we have alot of vocal layering and harmonies going on. As the release gets closer I’m a little nervous but I feel confident in the fact I have written songs close to my heart and the whole songwriting process was very natural, I did not go into the process with any pre-conceived idea’s. But at the end of the day, its still in the realms of dark, melodic and emotive metal:)
MO: After two critically acclaimed albums, was there any pressure from inside or outside the band to change your sound in any way?
Mark: We felt more pressure to return to ‘heavier’ sounds, as we are still an underground metal band and people tend to focus on your past glories and not the progression of the band. We tired the best we could to put this all out of our heads and just focus on making a consistent album that we are happy with. In the back of my mind of course I know ‘Sleep of Reason’ was well received, so I know we need to deliver the goods with ‘Kartika’, which I’m hoping we have done.
MO: What is the process you guys go through in writing an album?
Mark: Up until now I have been responsible for the bulk of the songwriting, so a lot of the process takes place in my home studio. I usually nut out fairly comprehensive demos and then we go about bring the songs into the live band situation. In the case of ‘Kartika’ I had about 17 demos on hand, and we tried to work our way through them to find which tracks would make the most consistent album. It’s only been recently we have started ‘jamming’ at the start of our rehearsals as a band, in the future I’m looking at actually writing songs as a live band more.
MO: I notice on the press release that you have been included as mixer and engineer alongside Endel Rivers for the new album. Was this a conscious effort to have more control over the album’s sound?
Mark: Due to the large amount of material we had and not a huge budget, a lot of things were tracked at my home studio, sound effects, extra instruments such as Hammered Dulcimer and the Chinese Pipa. So I guess by default I’ve become involved in the production process, I do have a pretty clear idea of what I want, so I try to be involved in the whole process, from tracking to mixing.
MO: Did you travel to Tallinn to oversee the mixing of the album with Endel and what was that experience like? Did it present any problems?
Mark: It was a last minute decision to head over to Estonia and mix, I was lucky enough to be the one to go and assist Endel in this process. With the huge amount of tracks (some songs well over 100) it was important that one of us was there to help sort through all the files as quickly as we could as by this point, time was of the essence!
Mixing over in Europe was great, I spent some time in Finland also, I was lucky enough to get up and sing a few songs with To/Die/For and to also see one of my favorite bands Amorphis for the second time. Tallinn was a beautiful city to be working in and I trust Endel a great deal with our music, so it was a worth while trip. The only mishap was I didn’t book my ferry back from Estonia to Finland and it was sold out and I had a plane back to Australia in the morning, this basically resulted in me having to book an expensive first class ticket on another liner and drinking as much free booze as I could in an hour and a half haha.
MO: You’ve had quite a few changes in band members over the years, including Dave Langlands on bass and Terry Vainoras on guitar joining the band since 2005’s Sleep of Reason. How have these changes affected the band and what did they bring to the recording of the new album?
Mark: Line-up changes in The Eternal have been mostly due to the touring and family commitments, unfortunately we have been unlucky in this respect, but when people start having children I can understand their need to kind of move on. Dave Langlands has only been in the band for about 5 months now, so I handled bass duties on the album. As far as having Dave in the band, he is a great guys, he had just moved over from new Zealand and was very enthusiastic to get involved with a band. He is really easy going, intelligent and cool guy to have around. Terry Vainoras and myself go way back, we worked together in Cryptal Darkness briefly in the mid 90’s and have crossed each others paths ever since. Terry is a fantastic songwriter and a great guy to have around on tour, he has had much experience with bands such as Earth, Damaged and Order of Chaos over the years, so he is a guy that can handle the life style on the road and just knows how to conduct himself professionally.
MO: At the moment you’ve got two upcoming gigs scheduled, one in Melbourne at the Arthouse on the 29th of September and then in Sydney on the 4th of October for the Under the Blue Moon Festival. What are your touring plans for the release of Kartika and what can fans expect from these shows?
Mark: We are in the early stages of planning some touring for early next year. We should be doing a complete Australian tour and also shooting back to Europe in about april. It’s early stages, but we are planning to tour ‘Kartika’ as comprehensively as we can.
MO: You scored a support slot with Finnish goth rockers HIM and Swedish metal gods Opeth back in 2006. What was it like to play with such big bands and was there anything you learnt from them?
Mark: These were two very cool experiences and only within a month of each other, so we where very lucky indeed! It was fantastic to see from the inside how these bigger tours work. I would say the shows with Opeth were my favorite as the band and their crew were just fantastic to us and always took the time to hang out and share their wisdom with us. Also by the time we got to the Opeth tour I think we where in good form as a live band. These will always be fond memories, that’s for sure.
MO: You’ve toured extensively overseas for your first two albums, including shows across most of Europe. How was the band received?
Mark: We have had great shows and average shows around the world, but some unexpectedly good ones! Overall the response to the band in Europe has been great. Over the years some of my favorite shows have been in Finland, Hungary, Portugal & Hong Kong, these places were great to us and the crowd responses was great, even when the shows have been small. We are just looking forward to getting to some new countries with ‘Kartika’ and continuing to expanding our fan base.
MO: You’ve been in the music industry for over a decade now. What bands inspired you to play metal when you were starting out?
Mark: When I was young, there was the usual things, Metallica, Slayer, Queensryche, Candlemass and then the big three came out, Paradise Lost, Anathema & My Dying Bride. That pretty much changed it for me and I knew I wanted to express darker things with my music that didn’t necessarily need to be fast. I’ve always had a soft spot for progressive bands and I’d say bands like ‘The Tea Party’ had a great impact on me. These days I spend a lot of time lost in the 70’s with bands like Whitesnake, Deep Purple & Rush. My tastes have always been pretty diverse and I’ve never been afraid to enjoy most styles of music, from the extremely soft to the extremely heavy, it all has its place for me.
MO: Are there any Aussie bands out there in the local metal scene that have caught your attention recently?
Mark: As far as fairly new bands, I really like Be’lakor & Requiem for the Damned from Newcastle are also coming along really well. I haven’t heard heaps of ‘sleepmakeswave’ but I’m looking forward to checking them out at The Arthouse of the 29th August.
MO: Any last words for the readers?
Mark: Thanks for your support and we hope to see some of you down at The Arthouse Friday night for some great local bands and some cold beverages! cheers!
MO: Thanks for your time, and best of luck for the future!
Thanks also to Mathew Boelsen for writing the questions for the interview with Mark. Be sure to check out The Eternal at one of their two upcoming gigs in Melbourne and Sydney!
29th Aug 2008
The Eternal @ The Arthouse, Melbourne
w/ sleepmakeswaves, Arbrynth and Divine Ascension
Tickets available at the door 8pm, $10.
4th Oct 2008
The Eternal @ The Sandringham Hotel, Sydney
A Night of Doom And Gothic Metal (Under the Blue Moon Festival)
Tickets available pre-purchased here $18 + BF, or at the Door $20