The Roots Of This Earth Within Your Blood,’ the remarkable second album from Irish mist weavers From The Bogs Of Aughiska is a dark, frightening and compelling ambient work and one that had coils within coils. So given the opportunity to fire a few questions their way, we eagerly did just that and discovered the tangle off the land does indeed go right through those roots. So grab a whiskey (with the e of course) and listen.
AN: Hello Conchuir. Thank you for the opportunity to ask a few questions. And also many congratulations on the outstanding second album by From The Bogs Of Aughiska.
Your first album caused a nice stir, particularly among the black metal scene when other dark ambient acts have seemingly passed by unnoticed. Have you any ideas as to why? Was it even deliberate?
FTBOA: Yes, it was definitely deliberate. I wanted to create a sound that was distinctly from the west of Ireland but created a similar atmosphere to bands like Hate Forest, Primordial, Walknut, Drudkh etc.
AN: What is it that draws you to more ambient styles of music as opposed to a more traditional song structure approach?
FTBOA: I can’t play any normal instruments so my writing process ends up being a lot different and doesn’t follow any traditional song structures.
AN: I notice you do play live a fair bit. This isn’t usual in my (limited) experience for an ambient group. Why is this important to you and how do you go about recreating the world you conjure up on the albums?
FTBOA: FTBOA live is a much more full on and terrifying experience. We create this by having live visuals projected onto a screen behind us and burning incense. On stage we wear white shirts, black ties and balaclavas. This image takes focus away from who we are and more onto the sensory nightmare we create.
AN: Your new album, in passages like Hell Complex and the title track has a much more fierce and violent black metal style to it. Is this a direction you intend to move further towards or was it just that the subject matter and journey on Roots Of This Earth Within My Blood lent itself to it?
FTBOA: I don’t want us to be pigeonholed into one style but we will be using more guitars and vocals in future releases.
AN: You have interesting guests on this album: Mories from Gnaw Their Tongues who straddle that line between ambient and all out black metal, Chris Naughton from Winterfylleth with his well known fascination with ancient heritage, Ken Sorceron from Abigail Williams and the remarkable Eddie Lenihan the Irish storyteller. How did all these people come on board?
FTBOA: Mories, Chris and Ken are all friends who I’ve met over the years and it was great to work with them as I’m a fan of all their bands.
Mories did the artwork for the first FTBOA album, mastered the new one and I played the first FTBOA live gig supporting Aderlating in the Netherlands. Chris released the debut on his label, Lone Vigil, and was the first person to see potential in what I was creating at the time. Ken lived with me for a short time a few years ago and is a similar soul to me. I did some ambience on the last Abigail Williams album and got him to return the favour with some interesting percussion on the title track. Bryan who is now a full time member in FTBOA has also toured with Abigail Williams so we have some comradery between us.
AN: What does Eddie Lenihan’s seanchai status mean to you? Can you explain his cultural status to the uninitiated like myself, and is this something you see as a kind of parallel to the music you create?
FTBOA: On the first album everyone raved about the track ‘Aos Si’ which features people, including Eddie, taking about the banshee and I had to top that on ‘Roots of this Earth…’ so getting the best storyteller in the country was a goal I set myself at the start of the recording process.
Eddie is one of the last links bringing Irelands past legends and folklore to a modern day audience. I was captivated when I heard him tell a story as a child and it was an honour to have him guest on the new album as there is definitely a parallel to the music we create and the stories he tells.
AN: There is a passage in Eddie Lenihan’s section where he talks about how belief, right or wrong, has demonstrable effects in the world. The ‘other’ affecting the ‘real’ if you like through, at the extreme level, terrorism. I know these are his words but how much affinity do you have with them? I’m thinking also of his idea of leaving yourself just enough room to say “Ah, but what if….” when it comes to the faeries and that when the dark comes what we might believe changes.
FTBOA: Yes I definitely believe you need to have some space in your mind for the unknown, regardless how absurd it may sound.
AN: From The Bogs Of Aughiska are steeped in the heritage of Ireland and its landscape. How much is personal belief and is this something you carry through in your personal lives or more an artistic expression?
FTBOA: From The Bogs of Aughiska is very much a personal project. Growing up in Co. Clare moulded me into the person I am today.
AN: This is also the second album that has chime to the subject of faeries; what is their particular fascination for you?
FTBOA: On the first album the track ‘Aos Si’ is about the Banshee, a fairy woman who begins to wail if someone is about to die. The story on the new album relates to tampering with a Faerie fort and the results of ignorance to your surroundings. Faeries are usually depicted like in Walt Disney films as these happy sparkly creatures but in Irish folklore they are dark, evil and mischievous. Just like the FTBOA sound.
AN: I viewed the album very much as a journey: We had the initial warning from Eddie Lanihan, then the first almost feral experience of the ‘other’ in Hell Complex before the travel through the landscape with its bitter beauty. Is that how you see it, or does the interpretation even matter?
FTBOA: Yes this album was created as a journey. It starts off in ‘Aughiska Mor’ the area of the band name in the bleak rain before building up to a chilling tale by Eddie Lenihen in ‘An Seanchaí‘. ‘Hell Complex’ brings you out to Doolin on the west coast of Ireland where Mories screams instructions on how to enter the underground cave system know as The Hell Complex. If you listen closely during the middle of this track you can hear the sound of someone driving in a cave known locally as ‘Hell’. ‘Rise In Bealtaine, Turn To Ash In Samhain’ deals with the changing seasons before ‘Inish Cathaigh’ tells the storey of St. Senan living in isolation on Sacttery island trying to deal with his own inner demons. ‘Roots of This Earth Within This Blood’ is about never forgetting your heritage and the final track ‘Conversatio Morum’ combines harsh noise with Benedictine Monks chanting which portrays the stranglehold Christianity has had on Ireland.
AN: One thing I was seriously intrigued by was the monastic chanting at the end. For me it seemed to be that at the end of the journey, it was almost the notion of sanctuary or on the other hands perhaps the insularity off the Church as the natural world rages outside. The continual coexistence of church and folklore even though the church may not acknowledge it. Is this a reasonable line to follow? Is the tension between the two something tragedy inspires you or angers?
FTBOA: Christianity has had such an impact in Ireland from ruling our lives to taking over the old pagan beliefs. On ‘Conversatio Morum’ which combines harsh noise with Benedictine Monks chanting I tried to portray the stranglehold Christianity has had on Ireland. Combining two counteracting elements – harshness and calmness
FTBOA: Don’t abandon your heritage or forget where you came from.
AN: Now, finally, I hope you’ll forgive a slightly frivolous question but I had this idea of settling down with this album in the firelight with a good Irish Whiskey. Any suggestions as to the whiskey?
FTBOA: Jameson redbreast or Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey
AN: Any last words?
FTBOA: Thanks for a great interview and an excellent review.
‘Go raibh maith agat go leor’!
AN: Thank you again for your time. And thank you for such a fine album. All the best.
Go on now, all off you, buy a copy of Roots Of This Earth Within This Blood and remember, as you listen and sip at that whiskey, to leave just enough ‘what if’ in your mind for the land to help remind you who you are. With From The Bogs Of Aughiska as the musical openers of that way, it won’t be hard.
(Interview by Gizmo)