To say that Australian Tim Yatras who also at times goes by the name Sorrow has had a busy career would be an understatement. It’s pretty easy to lose count of the amount of bands and solo projects he has been in past and present but somewhere in the reason of 20 would be a pretty good estimate. One should also take into account that people who have been following his progress will no doubt attest that they are all bloody good too and although many that have folded are sorely missed there is always another that springs up to take their place. This includes the latest Autumn’s Dawn who have recently released their excellent debut album ‘Gone’ via Eisenwald. Ave Noctum were keen to chew the fat with Tim and dip back into his past as well as talk about the present and future.
AN: Hi Tim, it really is about time I quizzed you having been following your path through various bands, reviewing them and loving your music for so long, so thanks for taking the time to answer these questions
Tim: No worries, it’s my pleasure.
AN: First I wanted to dip back into the mists of time and ask what got you into playing music in the first place? What were the first groups you were actively involved in and how do you look back at the music you played then?
Tim: I’ve been playing music since about the age of 10 or 11 years old. I played in a lot of bands throughout high school, but none worth mentioning really. I guess the first band I actually did something decent with was a band called Battalion. It was a kind of fast and melodic black metal, similar to Dissection or Dawn, with lyrics revolving around Australia’s involvement in WW1. We released a demo and an album when I was around 18, and I’m still quite proud of them looking back. From then on it all kinda snowballed haha.
AN: I believe that you considered the drums as being your main instrument back then and still today to some extent. I guess this allowed you to play quite extensively with other groups at first not only in the studio but live as well, would this be the case?
Tim: You are correct, I started out as a drummer, although I always played a little guitar and keyboard on the side. Over the years I’ve kinda started to play those instruments more than the drums, however I’m still most comfortable behind the kit. I did play drums for a lot of bands over the years. A lot of the time it was helping out friends bands, and also some was paid session work, which I’ve always done a fair bit of. This has all added up to be a good thing, as nowadays I’m very comfortable live, and especially in the studio. I can usually record an albums worth of drums in a day, or two at the most, which is helpful especially when doing session work.
AN: You were also involved with backing vocals early on too but I think it is fair to say that it was with Austere that you really came into your own taking more control and developing these to lead vocals. You were still playing with other bands then but this must have seen you much more taking things in a direction of your own?
Tim: Yes, for sure. Austere was the first project I was involved in that was something really close to my heart. To be able to sing my own lyrics – and also those written by my close friend Mitch – was the first time I guess I was able to really show emotion in my vocals. I also had Germ as a side project at this point, although only one song from that era saw the light of day, the rest remained unreleased, even though they were completed. Aside from that, as you mentioned, I was mostly just adding backing vocals in the other bands I was playing with, aside from a lead vocal here and there on various things.
AN: Austere was a project that you set up with childhood friend Desolate aka Mitchell Keepin (also of Nazxul, Temple Nightside and Ill Omen). I guess you had a good rapport and this led to a successful musical partnership. How do you look back on that time and what were reactions like, would you say that this was the first time you got true recognition of your own?
Tim: I look back on the Austere years very fondly. Mitch and I had known each other for years, and at that point when we were doing Austere, we were pretty close friends. I think this really helped with the musical chemistry we had together. I do think that was the time I began to get “actual” recognition. Before that, although I’d already done a few big tours, and played on quite a few albums by various bands, it was all pretty low key. Even during the time Austere was active it wasn’t that much, but towards the end, after “To Lay Like Old Ashes” especially, I definitely noticed a change.
AN: Austere’s career was all too brief lasting just several years between 2007 and 2010. Recent reissues of your work have no doubt helped gain renewed interest and I am sure people would be interested in seeing the band recording new material. I’m not sure exactly why the group was put on ice, is resurrection a possibility?
Tim: There is 100% no chance Austere will ever come back. We spoke about that a couple of years ago, and decided that it is best left at rest. I think we ended on a high, and I don’t think it’s right to try and force something to happen just for the sake of it. Mitch is happy with what he is doing, and Germ is going better than I ever imagined, as is Autumn’s Dawn. We’ve moved in different directions and are both satisfied with what we’re doing nowadays, that’s all there is to say really.
AN: It’s a good point to ask about your vocals as they are pretty damn ferocious and you have become renowned for the blackened shrieks that you unleash as well as your more harmonious and clean style adopted in the likes of Germ and Autumn’s Dawn. Did you ever have any formal training in singing and developing your vocals?
Tim: Nah, no training at all. I think if I went to a vocal teacher and showed them what I did, they would probably ask what the fuck is wrong with me haha. I can scream and shriek all day and not blow my voice out, so it’s not a problem. It would maybe be nice to learn some better techniques regarding clean vocals, however I’m pretty content to just practice on my own and move forward at my own pace.
AN: Not naming any bands but I get really annoyed at times when good singers pretty much turn their backs on the blackened vocal style that served them well early in their career and state that they will never sing that way again. Your vocals have definitely progressed as mentioned but you always seem to have time to unleash a hideous rasp or screech here and there. I take it this is something you will not be stopping doing?
Tim: I don’t think I’ll ever stop with harsh vocals. Maybe I’ll do some project that has 100% clean vocals at some point (Grey Waters was pretty close to that already), but I think I’ll always have harsh vocals in Germ. There are no plans whatsoever to change that. In fact, I think there’s gonna be MORE harsh vocals compared to clean on future releases. Probably the same for Autumn’s Dawn, too.
AN: I see that Woods Of Desolation is still active and indeed snuck an album ‘As The Stars’ under my radar earlier this year. This is one of two projects that you work with the somewhat mysterious D the other being Grey Waters who it would seem split after the excellent ‘Below The Ever Setting Sun’ EP. Why was that just a one off and what made the two of you decide to take a sidestep as such from your main outfit?
Tim: I actually have nothing to do with Woods of Desolation anymore. I was on Torn Beyond Reason, but I always told D that I wasn’t going to continue after that, as I wanted to focus more on my personal projects. Grey Waters officially split in early 2012, however, we had been inactive for over a year already at that point. GW was just something different to work on back then. D had that project going for a long time before anything was released. Actually I played drums on a GW demo in around 2006, and Mitch from Austere provided vocals. That was never released, but I think a song from that was reworked for “Below the Ever Setting Sun”. So it wasn’t really a sidestep, it was its own beast really. A different way to express similar emotions, if you like.
AN: I’m going to move it forward to Germ as if we spoke about every act this interview would run completely out of control! You now have two albums and an EP under your belt here and I have to say they are all absolutely fantastic as far as I am concerned. This has given you the outlet to do everything pretty much by yourself and I believe although only recently as far as releases are concerned Germ have origins stretching back to 2003. Is this an idea that you have been developing since then and why did it take so long to come to fruition?
Tim: Yeah, the first idea for Germ was conceived a long, long time ago, when I was still a teenager. I just wanted to create what I wanted, and not worry about what anyone thought of it, or more specifically, what they thought it should or shouldn’t be. I recorded a 3 song demo in 2006, however only one song was ever released (it was uploaded to the old myspace page). The material that was found on the “Wish” album, and “Loss” EP was mostly written between 2006 – 2009, and recorded during 2009. The reason they weren’t released until 2012, was that I began working on other things (the Woods album for example), as well as beginning to work as a composer and arranger for some more mainstream artists. In 2011 I made the decision to finish the Germ material I’d started, and by the time it was all done, it was 2012.
AN: I guess it was a learning curve for you instrumentally as you found yourself playing many different instruments that you were not normally associated with, how difficult was this?
Tim: It wasn’t too hard, I mean, I’d already written all the music myself on those instruments. Germ has definitely helped me improve my guitar and keyboard playing, though. The new material I have written for the upcoming third full length album, for example, is way more complex and involved that “Grief”. I guess it’s just a matter of growing and evolving as a musician and composer.
AN: It also allowed you to experiment with many different types of music far removed from black metal. There’s everything from pop to trip hop to post metal and shoegaze, Indie music and electronica in there. How easy was it to combine it all into a cohesive whole, was it something that came naturally to you? I can imagine it is all great fun putting it together?
Tim: Yes, it all came very naturally. I listen to many different styles of music, and I always have. I guess “Wish” and “Loss” feature non-metal elements most prominently. When writing those songs, I basically didn’t limit myself regarding to what I added. If I thought a song section could benefit from a trance style synth, or an electronic drum loop, I put one in there. That’s really all there was to it haha. I just didn’t limit myself to what I would add to the basic framework of a song. I guess I’ve kinda moved on from that again now, though. “Grief”, in my opinion, was a bit less “out there” than what came before with Germ.
AN: It strikes as the work of someone who constantly shape-shifts what they actually listen to outside their own work. I can imagine you are a pretty avid consumer of music yourself. What do you like and what inspires you in that respect?
Tim: I love music, it’s pretty much my whole life haha! I listen to a lot of different genres, and always have. I don’t think I’m completely inspired by and particular artists, but rather music as a whole. Having said that, at the moment I’m listening to a lot of different bands, everything from 80’s Goth to 90’s BM, to 70’s electronic.
AN: So Autumn’s Dawn sees you working with another artist Matthew Bell aka Anguish. Looking at discographies it appears that it is the first time you have worked with him, how did this meeting of minds come about?
Tim: You are correct, Autumn’s Dawn is the first time I’ve worked with Anguish, at least in a compositional process. I actually enlisted him as a session guitarist when I took Germ out live late last year, and we found we got on great. One night Anguish sent me over some riffs he’d been working on, which didn’t fit any of his other bands. I really liked them and suggested doing a project together, and so Autumn’s Dawn was born!
AN: How would you describe the music of Autumn’s Dawn compared to Germ? There are a lot of parallels but again it is different. I found the merging of jubilation and depressiveness particularly poignant and loved the crisp, fresh and well, Autumnal air of the music.
Tim: For me, AD and Germ are worlds apart. Whereas Germ is basically me locking myself in a room and delving inward, AD is very much a collaboration between the two of us. We bounce a lot of ideas off each other, and of course working with someone else brings a completely different vibe to the process. Anguish also has a very different style of guitar playing than I do (for starters, he’s much better haha), and I think that is a major factor in AD having a sound independent of anything else I’ve done. Even if Anguish is playing a guitar part that I wrote, he’ll add his own touch to it, making it sound different. Lyrically, although both in vaguely similar areas, AD is also a bit less “personal’, for lack of a better word, and contains a little more in the way of outside observations.
AN: I am guessing you wrote and recorded it as Autumn approached, it has arrived here release wise just at the right time for us. I guess inspiration flowed around fairly easily judging by the atmospheres within the music?
Tim: We actually wrote and recorded pretty much the whole thing during our southern hemisphere Autumn. We began really cracking down on the composing in early March, and we finished the mix in late May. All photos used in the artwork were also taken around my home town during May. Inspiration did flow quite freely during the making of the album, nothing was forced and we just kinda let everything take its natural course, if that makes sense.
AN: There’s a huge feel of poeticism about your lyrics and song titles and one gets the impression you are incredibly literate and well versed in that respect. Is poetry itself something that inspires you. Somehow I also get the impression from both your music and verse that you are a bit of a dreamer, would that be a fair assumption?
Tim: Haha, wow , thanks for that compliment! I’m actually totally overwhelmed a lot of the time when it comes to writing lyrics. I know what I want to say, but often I have real trouble getting it out. So to have someone compliment me on them is quite nice haha! Also, I can say I’m not very well versed in poetry or anything like that at all. Of course I have read a little poetry, and I have always enjoyed reading various books, however I am absolutely no expert on anything like that! As far as being a bit of a dreamer, I guess you could say that I am. I like to fly away from reality with my imagination, so to speak.
AN: I am guessing that environment plays quite a big part in inspiration and gives an edge to what you do musically. You are based in Wollongong which I could have stereotypically imagined being some barren and desolate outback settlement (forgive me I just watched Wolf Creek 2 recently). Looking it up though, well it looks bloody ripper mate! What a lovely place according to the pictures. Tell us your true feelings as an inhabitant and does it help you musically?
Tim: Wollongong is a pretty nice place, at least geographically. We are on the coast, with many great surfing locations and beaches, and we are also surrounded by mountains, so it’s quite picturesque. Unfortunately, we also have a shitload of unemployment, drugs and crime. I guess you have to take the good with the bad, though. I’m actually in the process of moving away from here at the moment, down to Tasmania, which is a small island south of mainland Australia. It’ll be interesting to see if the change of scenery affects the creative process. I’m hoping it’ll bring about a positive change.
AN: Sticking with the area, well there appears to be no shortage of musicians, is it a hotbed of talent, a thriving scene or just a few likeminded people who have managed to find each other?
Tim: I think most people have a total misconception about this place, and any kind of “scene” that there might be here. It is absolutely just a few people, certainly no crazy hotbed of talent. I mean, maybe for indie folk or some kind of death metal or hardcore, but certainly not the kind of music I’m interested in haha!
AN: Australia is so spread out it must be difficult touring. I noted Germ played with Enslaved when they came over. I guess you had to put an actual band together for this, how was it and how much opportunity do you get to play live in all the bands you are involved in?
Tim: Yes, I put together a five piece live lineup for the shows we did. After the Enslaved show we played with Moonsorrow, and then Deafheaven. We also travelled to Melbourne, about 900km away, to play a festival down there. Germ has had a lot of offers to play various shows around the country, however, as you mentioned, due to the huge distances between capital cities, it’s quite hard to make it happen. As far as playing live goes, aside from those shows with Germ, I haven’t been involved in a band that performs live shows for almost 5 years, so I basically never play live haha, or at least it’s quite a rare occurrence.
AN: I believe you have also contributed recently to a couple more bands, Blackened Angel comprising of members of an earlier group Lord you were involved in and a Russian act Skyforest. Tell us a little about these?
Tim: Both of those projects were just session work, I’m not an actual member of either band. Blackened Angel is a project of Lord Tim from LORD, along with his cousin. I did the drums for the debut album as a favour, as Lord Tim is a close friend of mine and we’ve worked together a lot over the years. Having said that, I’m quite happy with how it all turned out. As for Skyforest, that is a project of B.M from Annorkoth, Blurry Lights, etc. I performed drums and vocals and wrote the lyrics for the album, however again it was just as a session member. B.M wrote all the music, it’s his band. It’s a really good album, though! I’d recommend people into Woods of Desolation in particular check it out.
AN: With all these projects how do you find the time to do anything else and what do you actually do in “the real world” on a day to day basis?
Tim: I haven’t worked a “typical” job in a few years now. Most of my days are filled with music, be it listening or composing. I still do a bit of work writing for other artists, so that takes up a bit of time. I’m also a keen surfer, and have been since I was very young.
AN: Anything you are currently working on at present that I have missed and what are your plans for the future? I certainly hope it includes more Germ and Autumn’s Dawn is not a one off?
Tim: At the moment I’m working on the next Germ album. It’ll hopefully be released in the first half of 2015, and it’s my first album for Prophecy Productions, who I signed with earlier this year, so I’m pretty excited about that. As for Autumn’s Dawn, it won’t be a one off. I think Anguish and I will get together next year and work on some more material. We actually already have a few new song ideas floating around.
AN: Well that’s it, sorry if I asked a lot and thanks for the answers. Anything else you would like to say to readers of Ave Noctum?
Tim: Haha, it was quite the marathon interview! I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who takes the time to read it, and keep an eye on the Germ and Autumn’s Dawn Facebook pages to keep up to date with what I’m up to. Cheers!
Interview Pete Woods