Interview completed by Scott Anderson â€“ Vocals, Guitar and John Clark Paterson â€“ Bass
1.What made you decide to take part in Metal 2 The Masses?
SA: Funnily enough, it was booze. I was out at the Classic Grand in Glasgow for a friend’s birthday and was talking to Barry who runs the club. We were drinking and talking for a while when he mentioned that one of the bands due to compete in the M2TM heats had had to pull out and he asked why we didn’t give it a shot. I decided that we should enter at that point because how often does something like this actively come to you. I’m glad that we did: we won the heat, then the Glasgow final and finally the national M2TM final at Bloodstock.
JCP: When we did the Glasgow heat I was actually in France at the Hellfest Festival and discovered that we had reached the final via a text message in the middle of the night that said ‘You’re sacked.’
We had recruited a good friend and excellent session musician Andy McLaughlan to fill in that night who did a great job for us. It was good to come back to the final as luckily the text wasn’t serious.
I think, importantly, we treated the M2TM events like normal gigs for us, not worrying about the competition element and concentrating on doing a good show and being as professional as possible, which worked for us and ultimately worked for us at Bloodstock.
2. What was the whole experience like and did you learn anything from it?
SA: It was surreal. Unsigned bands usually don’t get to play big festivals, especially bands from Scotland. It was as if we’d been playing for years and suddenly this thing came out of nowhere and gave us a chance to be seen on a bigger stage.
Despite this, we did learn that regardless of the opportunities that come your way, you still need to be capable of making the most of them and be willing to put in the work to make anything come of them. Although we were given the opportunity to enter M2TM, we were up against a lot of good bands, both at the Glasgow gigs and at Bloodstock. The years of experience that we’d built up beforehand enabled us to win it in the end. We put out flyer’s with our stage time on it, gave away a free track, told everyone we could speak to about Achren, arranged to have the set filmed – everything we could think of to get people to see us at Bloodstock and to make the most of the fact that we were there, we did.
JCP: It was a great experience and itâ€™s a great event to be part of. There are so many amazing UK metal bands in every corner of the country that sometimes don’t get the full recognition and commercial support they deserve, the M2TM initiative and Simon Hall in particular does his best to improve that situation and give bands a chance to perform on a much greater level than has been possible in the past.
3. Upon winning the competition, you got a slot to play Bloodstock which you recorded to release on DVD. Is there a set date for it yet and where will fans be able to purchase it?
JCP: Yes and yes. We have just recently proofed the DVD. It is now available to purchase via our online store atÂ http://achren.bigcartel.com/ and via a link on our homepage through http://www.achren.com. There are a few more distribution channels that we might look at in the near future but we’re quite happy to sell via the web.
4. What can fans expect to see on the DVD (besides the Bloodstock performance)?
JCP: There will be a band biography, photo galleries, discography and maybe a few other things on there. We want the DVD to serve as an introduction to the band, especially as we’re going to be playing places in the near future that we’ve never been to before and as we have the album coming out soon. Hopefully it will help raise our profile somewhat and give people an opportunity to find out a little of what to expect from Achren on a live stage. Itâ€™s difficult for any band in any style of music, especially one not on a label, to sell albums in the current climate of online streaming and downloading, as recorded music is now viewed as a ‘service’ a band provides, whereas in the past it was a ‘product.’ The live DVD means you have the unique visual aspect that offers at least something different. Hopefully it will achieve the goals we’ve set for it over the coming months.
5. It must have been an extraordinary experience for you to play Bloodstock but now you’re going 10 times better and playing Wacken. How does it make you feel to know that Â you’re going to play at one of the greatest and most respected metal festivals?
SA: The idea of playing at Wacken is incredible! In 2001, I went to Wacken and was blown away by the fact that there were all of these amazing bands, tens of thousands of people there for one reason, and there was such a great atmosphere. I told myself then that, one day, I will play at this festival – exactly 10 years later, that will happen. This is definitely something that I wanted to do at some point in my life, but back then, achieving that seemed like unscalable mountain. As we’re going to play at the festival I’ve been dreaming of playing for the past 10 years, we’re absolutely going to make it a show of apocalyptic fury.
JCP: Itâ€™s another great opportunity for us and we aim to put on the best possible show we can at Wacken. Can’t wait. It’s the biggest event of its kind on the planet and itâ€™s an amazing place to go, it just got better for us!Â
6. As well as Wacken, do you have any other festival appearances lined up?
SA: We’ve just been confirmed for Metalcamp 2011 in Slovenia, but we may have more to announce by the time this is published…
JCP:Â Playing festivals is great logistically, especially if youâ€™re a band from Scotland. We get a chance to play to a lot of people who we wouldn’t be able to play to otherwise. We’re all very excited about the prospect of playing Metalcamp as well. It looks like an amazing setting for a festival, being situated at the foot of the Alps. Itâ€™s built up a great reputation over the years and itâ€™s a place I’ve always wanted to visit, so we’re very looking forward to that one equally as much as Wacken. Like Scott mentioned, we are hoping that we may be announcing more in the very near future but we can’t really say at the moment.
7. We hear you have an album to be released later in the year. Is it complete yet or are you still working on it? Do you have a title for it?
SA: The tracking is complete; it’s now being mixed and the cover artwork has been commissioned. The title will be “Aura of Flies”.
JCP: We’ve spent a long time working on the album and set ourselves very high standards in what we want the final thing to sound like. We’ve actually recorded in 5 different locations in total, due to budget and time, and have had to overcome a lot of unseen obstacles, hard drive crashes, floods, the usual things that bands on a tight budget suffer from, haha. Itâ€™s taken us a long time but we’ve now got to the stage where we can start mixing. We’re looking forward to pulling it all together and making it available to the metal public very soon.
8. If you have any influences for the upcoming album, who/what are they and how did they influence you?
SA: I hold that I’m influenced by everything that I hear (or even see, for that matter). Whether that be an influence toward or away from a musical or lyrical device or style depends on how I perceived the thing that influenced me. In terms of positive influences on this album, it’s not something that I consciously think of, but you can hear a lot of black, thrash and death metal in there, but with a distinct “old school” stamp – stuff that we all grew up listening to; like Celtic Frost, Motorhead and Slayer. Not that we sound like any of those, but they are influences on us.
9. Do you have a particular writing process for songs or is it different for each song that you come up with?
SA:Â Callum and I usually write a riff or two and jam it into a basic format, swap ideas and then Gordon will come in and start directing the arrangement. John and Gordon write their own parts as this is going on, and start putting their own ideas in. We all have a say in what should happen in any given song â€“ if one of us has an idea, we try it and if it sounds good, it stays. By this time I’ll generally have an idea of lyrical theme and some vocal lines, but the completed vocal line is always finished after we’ve finished writing the music.
JCP: We’re actually working on the next set of tracks at the moment. The whole thing is a constant process for us and we’ve already got 2 demos of new tracks recorded. These will probably change over time, as we play them live and tweak the arrangements but the important thing we’ve discovered is to get the ideas down as quickly as possible while theyâ€™re fresh. We’ve recently started tracking everything separately we play in rehearsal so we can go back and do a rough mix of anything new, and also try out our own ideas individually at a later date. This is definitely speeding up the writing process for us and hopefully we will have enough material by the end of this year to start looking at the next album.
10. Is there an overall subject or theme to the new album or is each song about a different matter?
SA: All of the songs are about different things, but there’s an underlying theme of dark fate and laughing at horrible misfortune that seems to come out in a lot of the songs. I think maybe I’m some kind of awful sadist, but I find things going horribly wrong really amusing. But then, if you’re a balanced human being, you don’t take off around Europe playing metal and screaming into a microphone!