Friday, February 12, 2010

EHNAHRE Interview

Ever wonder where all the metal went after the first two Kayo Dot albums? It went right into the avant-black/doom metal band Ehnahre! But the story on this twisted trio from Boston treks back much farther that the founding members involvement with KD and with a new limited edition 12” under their belt, more material in the works, and percussionist/noise artists Ricardo Donoso behind the kit, Ehnahre are poised to take their heady, hyper complex, experimental metal to the next level. Ithaca Underground’s Bubba Crumrine gets the skinny from bassist/vocalist and Ehnahre co-founder, Ryan McGuire in preparation for their Ithaca debut on February, 20th at The Shop.

IU: Let's start with how the band began. You and John started the band prior to each of your involvement with Kayo Dot, correct?

RM: Yes. Actually John, DJ and me started an earlier version of Ehnahre in high school. We went through a variety of phases, playing hardcore, metalcore, doom/sludge, and grind. We disbanded sometime around 2000. Then when I joined Kayo Dot in 2003, we needed a soundguy and a guitar player, so John and DJ joined up. After leaving KD in 2006 we started up another band together. We kept the name Ehnahre, even though musically we were doing something totally different, because we still had a burned screen (for screen printing) lying around with the old band logo on it, and we could print t-shirts easily.

IU: How did noise guru Ricardo Donoso get involved with the project?

RM: I have been playing with Ricardo for years in a variety of free improv/noise/free jazz groups and pick up bands. Even back when I was in Kayo Dot we had been working together on other projects. After a night of drunken
revelry, which turned into a night of drunken and disorderly conduct (and a few flying fists), Ehnahre parted ways with our drummer, Tom Malone. We asked Ricardo if he wanted to step in, as he seemed a natural fit for what we were doing, and the direction we were going in.

IU: Does he contribute live electronics in the set in addition to percussion?

RM: When we first started, he just concentrated on learning the songs from “The Man Closing Up”, and on getting his metal chops up to speed. Now that he has been working on new material with us, he is adding touches of electronics to the live set.

IU: Which other projects did you work with Ricardo?

RM: Ricardo and I still play together in a free improv group called the Epicureans with saxophonist/mastermind Dave Gross. I play double bass, and Ricardo plays percussion, which usually amounts to a strange assortment of forks, metal rods, and other found objects. We have also done some recording projects together that didn't really amount to much, and have played in an assortment of improv lineups around Boston. We had a group for awhile with Forbes Graham and Nathan Ahlers called Calliope Quartet, and our first group was a rock/improv hybrid called Dieslow, with Pete Lalish, Josh Jefferson, and Lucas Lejeune (who played Violin on “Alpha/Omega”). Kind of similar to Mothguts.

IU: Tell us about the new 12" you have coming out, “Alpha/Omega.”

RM: “Alpha/Omega” is a concept record of sorts, in spite of its brevity. It's composed of two songs, “Leda and the Swan” and “The Second Coming”, which allude to the beginning of the world, and the end of the world. Mystical and mythological themes run throughout, as is typical of Yeats poetry. The music reflects the whirling chaos and turmoil of either situation, as well as text painting more respective to each poem. This record is going to be a limited pressing, with hand printed record jackets. I think it’s a window into our progress since “The Man Closing Up”, as well as a prelude to the wet-brained insanity that is going to be our next full length record.

IU: What inspired you to use William Butler Yeats works “Leda and the Swan” and “The Second Coming” as a base for the works?

RM: I am a big fan of Yeats poetry, and have used his works in writing classical art songs. I thought these two poems might make good subject material for a metal record. “Leda and the Swan” is a telling of the Greek myth, which is about Zeus taking the form of a swan and raping the heroine Leda, wife of Tyndareus. It has many interpretations, one of them being that it's a creationist myth- as the world is created, or begun with the offspring of that violent meeting between Leda and Zeus. “The Second Coming” is a vision of Armageddon, told through the eyes of someone living through war.

IU: Are the pieces working in twelve tone like on "The Man Closing Up"?

RM: Most of the material in our new music is also twelve tone, and usually combinatorial.

IU: Any other musical theories that were applied in the writing process?

RM: Yeah, some sections are written using just free atonality, or using 9 or 10 note rows, and there are the improvisational elements. Other tools were certainly employed- metric modulations, reworking parts though inversion, retrograde inversion, atonal/serial "modulation" etc., cluster chords, hockets. And then there are a couple parts that are just straight up guitar riffs.

IU: Are there any concepts, music theory, or additional elements that you're hoping to apply to the coming  works as you all continue to progress together?

RM: I think Ricardo is definitely going to bring more of a noise/electronic element into the mix. I don't really have concrete plans to incorporate any new techniques, but who knows- I'm sure that will change soon enough. I would just say expect it to get farther and farther out there.

IU: You list double-bass as one of your instruments. Do you use double on "Alpha/Omega"?

RM: There is some double bass on “Alpha/Omega”. It's mostly just used to color the sound. There are times when it's more out front on *The Man Closing Up*, but it's utilizing all extended techniques, and wouldn't really be recognizable as a string instrument.

IU: Do use it in live performances?

RM: No, unfortunately.

IU: How does your live set work? Is it usually strictly selected works as they were recorded or are their improv parts that vary from show to show?

RM: There are definitely many parts, particularly in our new material, that utilize improvisation, and we do improvise live. We have many sections where there might be a pitch-set, or a series of notes/chords/riffs, but no established meter- so whoever is serving as the "leader" on that section sets the feel, tempo, and meter (or lack thereof), but typically with a lot of push and pull. Or there are sections where everyone is playing a different phrase, with no established meter, but all have to meet up at certain hit points, which might be dictated by the vocal line, or signaled by a drum fill. That creates a lot of variation in our live sets, and there are many sections that have never been played the same way twice.

IU: On your site you mentioned two new released in the first half of 2010, in addition to "Alpha/Omega" what else is coming our way?

RM: Well we were supposed to be putting out a split record, in late spring, but that sort of fell through. However, we are entering the studio in May, to record our next full length album, which will hopefully be released in late 2010. We are also in discussions with several other bands right now about doing splits.

IU: Seems like a trite question, but since your titles and themes all seem very purposeful, is there a story or purpose behind using "Ehnahre" as your moniker?

RM: So, the band that DJ, John, and me started in high school, was first called Negative Reasoning, named after a song title on Eyehategod's album, “Dopesick” called "Non Conductive Negative Reasoning", and we were frequently referred to as NR. When we wanted to change the band name, DJ suggested we take NR, and spell it phonetically. This became Ehnahre (pronounced N-R). So it really has no meaning, other than a somewhat tenuous tribute to Eyehategod.

IU: Will you guys be looking to tour more consistently with the new line-up?

RM: Definitely. We have a good, solid, musically sound lineup, and want to play out as much as possible this year. We're trying to do a lot of east coast dates in the spring/summer, we're considering a west coast tour in the fall, and hope to make it back to Europe very soon.

IU: Ever been to Ithaca, NY before?

RM: Ricardo and me actually played in Ithaca about 10 months ago, at No Radio, while on tour with our group, the Epicureans. It was easily the best show of the tour.

IU: Awesome! Well we’re glad to have you back! Any parting remarks to our readers or to those considering attending your performance at The Shop on February 20th?

RM: We hope to see you there, keep an open mind, and get fucked up, stay fucked up!