Monday, October 31, 2011

Interview with Aaron Carey of Nechochwen & Forest of the Soul

So I've been a fan of guitarist Aaron Carey's work for a long, long time. We've been corresponding since the days of MySpace (oh gawd), so it was definitely interesting to interview someone who was a friend first. In this interview Aaron discusses his musical past, sources of influence, and what happens next.

The Forest of the Soul album, as you've told me, was six years in the making; what is it like to work on a single album for such an extended period of time? Did it start off with a different sound and vision or did that remain constant? What comes next for Forest of the Soul?

It was not a continuous process of working on it, or it probably would have been like four hours long! We started compiling and demoing stuff by about summer 2005 and some of the material I was writing was so different that it became the debut Nechochwen album ‘Algonkian Mythos’. Our focus also shifted to releases by Angelrust, Harvist, and other projects, but occasionally we’d share a riff or song skeleton and think about when we were actually going to get this album together. At one point we had a gig in Texas that was a big deal for us so we quickly released the ’Faun Song’ EP but weren’t completely happy with some of the song versions. Some of this was re-done for ‘Restless’, as well as two tracks from the self-titled debut. The other tracks slowly manifested over time. I think songs are like beer, they have to ferment.

As we discussed my review of the FotS album, I found out that, while I had compared the album to grunge, you nor Della Cagna had really listened to grunge outside of the infamous Alice in Chains. What DID influence "Restless in Flight"?

That’s not exactly true. We grew up in the early 90’s, how could we avoid listening to grunge? It was everywhere. We were aware of those bands, and I liked Alice In Chains and older Soundgarden because they made really good music regardless of genre. I wasn’t a big fan of the style overall though, as I was extremely excited by the death metal explosion of the time. As a fourteen-year-old, how could any of those grunge bands compete with the likes of debuts by Dismember, Incantation, and Amorphis? I’d say Restless was influenced more by folk music, Irish immigrant songs, maybe even Lep Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, but not so much by grunge bands. The more ‘new age’ type stuff is influenced by artists like Phil Keaggy, Michael Hedges, and Ian Melrose. We like blues too and old Appalachian tunes.

Having branched into varying styles of music ranging from Appalachian folk to the black metal-tinged "Azimuths to the Otherworld" or the more rocking Forest of the Soul material, it is obvious that you utilize a vast array of influence. What are some favorite albums/musicians/compositions that you can say have shaped you as a musician?

Steve Morse – The Introduction and High Tension Wires; Pink Floyd (all); Tiamat – Wildhoney; Anathema – all, but particularly Serenades;Mick Moloney – Far From the Shamrock Shore; LAGQ – For Thy Pleasure; Christopher Parkening (all); David Russell – Plays Bach; Julian Bream (all); Ulver (trilogy); Iron Maiden (first 8 records);R. Carlos Nakai (all); various Clawhammer Banjo players. I think the most powerful influences of all are the ones you don’t realize you have. If you can’t find some musical influence in nature itself, there is something wrong!

How long have you played guitar? Have you had any formal musical training? What is your absolute favorite tune to play on guitar? Any genre, of course.

It will be 23 years next month. I took lessons for a couple years, and I really took to tab books and learning albums by ear. I’d come home from school and figure out tapes by Maiden, Metallica, etc., later on going to Death and Morbid Angel albums. My first teacher tried to teach me notation and theory, but I was stubborn and got bored with the academic end of it. I quit lessons after two years. When I was about 16 or 17, I felt like I’d gone as far as I could go with playing, and so when I started college I took a basic guitar course and decided to finally get serious about learning music. I earned my B.A. in Music from West Virginia University in 2001 and took various graduate courses along the way. I was trained in classical and jazz guitar and was president of the University’s guitar ensemble. I got to participate in master classes with David Burgess, Larry Coryell, and Paul Galbraith, which was good to experience.

My favorite original piece to play is probably Forgotten Day from Restless In Flight. I’d say my favorites beside that would probably be Michael Lorimer’s edition of S.L. Weiss’ Lute Sonata in Em or Sunburst by Andrew York. They’re both fun. I miss playing in a classical ensemble, trios and quartets are really fun if you have reliable players in your group. I prefer playing my originals anymore, the classics are played much better by the multitude of virtuosos out there.

Upon ending Angelrust, what made you decide to move into a folkier, more classical guitar-oriented side of music?

I’d say it’s more the other way around. I wrote a lot of classical and fingerstyle acoustic music before I ever joined Angelrust or Harvist. Some ended up on the s/t Forest of the Soul album, some never was recorded or became the basis of metal songs later on. So this (Nechochwen in particular) has really always been my style. Angelrust had a little bit of this too, but it was more than just me writing the music. By 2005, I started recording rough little acoustic demos at home that eventually became Algonkian Mythos. Originally the project that is “Nechochwen” was going to be an all classical guitar album for Dark Horizon Records but I can’t force a particular style or concept unless I want to. It came out more diverse than just a classical guitar album whether I planned it that way or not. At the time I was way more into steel-string fingerstyle guitar than classical. In some ways I still am. While my brain was trying to come up with good classical solos (of which there are some on Algonkian I think) my heart kept telling me to write with the slide, psychedelic keyboards, and ebows. If I’d done strictly classical solos to convey the heart-wrenching subjects on that album, I don’t think anyone would have remembered it 5 or 6 years later. I had to mix up the folk and classical styles. Keep in mind this was three and a half years before Angelrust split up; I think I just chose to focus more on Nechochwen after the breakup. I really enjoy the process of creating Nechochwen albums.

What comes next overall? A new Nechochwen album? How about some ANGELRUST? Eh? Eh?

Yes, of course. We just finished mastering the new Nechochwen LP-only release last night. I have no title yet, I’ve been 100% focused on the music and lyrics spanning two languages, English and Shawnee. It’s about a half hour in length. Although the songs complement each other, the album is not as much of a concept piece like Azimuths to the Otherworld was. I consider it a Double EP, if such a thing exists, with side A being more ethnic/acoustic and side B being heavy. It has some surprise twists to it but if you liked the first two albums you will enjoy this as much or more. It’s the warmest, most natural sounding music we’ve ever made in my opinion and (even as their new-ness to me has worn off) probably my favorite batch of songs we’ve done with any project.

Some Angelrust songs may be re-worked and recorded in the future but I don’t see an actual reunion on the horizon. I do have a death metal project called Infirmary that is a bit more extreme than Angelrust was. There is a split with The Reprisal called Unholy Conception that got a limited local release. I’m hoping this gets officially released and distributed soon; I’m very proud of it and plan on writing more Infirmary material next year. I have two songs posted at for those interested in checking out Infirmary.

Any parting words?

Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the music I’m involved in. I hope people out there are enjoying it. Please support artists and small labels by contacting them and purchasing their products. If you’re reading this, you probably already do and for that I am grateful!


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