For me, 2017 saw a bit of a dry spell for first class Sludge. With the arguable Kings, with a capital “K”, of the sound Crowbar still touring their excellent 2016 offering,“The Serpent Only Lies”, whilst there was a good number of solid EP’s to enjoy, for me, it was only Scotland’s own Atragon who stepped up to the plate with their superlative LP ‘I, Necromancer’, an album that rode high in many underground Stoner/Sludge charts of 2017. In light of their success, I sent of an interview request in December 2017, and now in early February 2018 those answers have arrived from the band’s resident riff-lord Ruiradh Daunton, complete with the apology of “sorry, totally forgot on account of us being hopeless alcoholics!” However, just in time for a forthcoming tour, the answers have now materialised:
AN: First up, congratulations on the new album ‘I, Necromancer’ which is appearing in a whole bunch of “top 10 sludge/stoner albums of 2017” lists. As your first full length release, were you surprised by the massively positive response?
RD: Thank you very much! We are totally over the moon with how the album came out and the amazing reception that it has had so far. We have been totally blown away by how much positivity it has received as it was a total labour of love. The recording just about bankrupted us and destroyed any semblance of mental health left between us, so to have people reacting the way they have is a great feeling!
AN: Invariably people like adding labels to music, which I appreciate can sometimes be limiting. From the first time I saw you opening for the mighty Grand Magus in Glasgow, your sound has evolved far beyond that simple doom labelling; if you had to give your style a particular label to sell it to the uninitiated, what would you like to be known as, or associated with?
RD: I think it took us a while to really find the sound that we have now. We went through a few different members and line-up changes before settling on the four of us we have now and doing so will invariably change any band’s sound! I feel that we have settled comfortably into a middle ground between traditional doom and heavy rock. We call it Doom n Roll!
AN: For me, even as somebody who really enjoys your music and follows it quite closely, ‘I, Necromancer’ seemed to appear almost from nowhere on the scene, just hammering out of the void without any preamble; was this deliberate, or maybe just a result of a spontaneous burst of creativity and availability?
RD: We had actually been sitting on the finished album for quite a few months before releasing it to the public. There were myriad reasons why it took us so long to finally put it out, but at the end of the day it just came down to us getting sick of waiting around for someone else to do it. We have always had a very DIY ethic, so self-releasing the album just made sense in the long run. Once we got the artwork finalised we just thought fuck it, it had been gathering dust for too long, and the world needed to hear it!
AN: There was a hell of a long time between ‘Volume I’, a CD I picked up from you at a merch stand many years ago, and ‘I, Necromancer’; whilst I appreciate that it is not the old days where any Herbert with an amp was picked up by a money bloated label to inflict their bile on the world, five years is a hell of a gap. Please explain?
RD: The line-up changes we went through really threw a spanner in the works for a while. It took us a while to land on the sound that we are happy with now as well. Mix that together with bad drug habits, alcoholism and poor mental health, and you start to get the picture.
AN: Almost as a supplementary question, there was a fair old change of sound between ‘Volume I’ and ‘I, Necromancer’; apart from maybe personnel changes, what triggered that evolution?
RD: I think that we probably always had that sound in us, as the core of the song writing has been here since the beginning, it was just a matter of getting members that were all on board with the same idea. Volume I also contained the only two songs we had written at the time, as it was originally intended only to be a demo release. As we wrote more songs, our sound evolved into what it is now!
AN: Were you surprised by the positive response from so many sites to ‘I, Necromancer’, with the album riding high in a bunch of “top 10” lists, and do you intend to try and capitalise on it with more shows or maybe a follow up?
RD: We are very, very happy with the reception of the album so far! We knew ourselves how great it was, but to actually hear other people say so is amazing! We have an upcoming UK tour with Crowhurst in March, and we are currently writing for the second album. With any luck we will get the writing done and be able to demo some of the tracks live by the summer!
AN: Last time I saw you play live, it was at Bloodstock 2017, where you played the Jager stage straddling sets from the mighty Hell and Obituary, but despite the high profile competition, you packed out the tent; was that a surprise to you?
RD: That was a great feeling, and the crowd that day was incredible! It has been a dream of ours to play Bloodstock for a very long time, and to finally do so to such a great reception was truly an incredible experience – despite our deadly hangovers and technical difficulties!
AN: Since Bloodstock has come up in conversation, are you looking to play maybe more festivals or bigger stages in 2018? Surely Desertfest must be in need of your sound, or maybe the likes of HRH Stoner vs Doom, Freak Valley, and the assorted down tuned festivals that are starting to build a solid following in this country and into Europe?
RD: We would love to and be incredibly honoured to play those festivals. If they book us, we will come!
AN: Inevitably, there is the often used phrase that bands are “only as good as the next album”; what are the follow up plans, be it live support for the release or new material? If new work, do you plan to just fire it onto the unsuspecting public, or build up more slowly with some crowdfunding or the like?
RD: As said before, we are currently writing for the follow up album, and have an upcoming UK tour with Crowhurst in March. We will probably follow the same method of release as I, Necromancer, unless a label wants to pick us up and finance it all!! We will never crowd fund though, if you need to beg to get your music out, then it probably isn’t worth a damn.
AN: Finally, the question I pretty much invariably finish with; you must have to plough through a pile of interviews and the same old questions. Is there a question you would like to be asked, what is it, and what is the answer?
RD: “How did you all become so ruggedly handsome?” “Kebabs and special brew.”
So folks, if you fancy seeing these reprobates live, the dates for some March 2018 shows are below. If you can’t get to them, but still want to listen to their rather excellent album and launch them some cash, the link is below too: beware though, as they warn, “If you buy this for money, we will spend it on drugs!”
London: The Black Heart 21st March
Bristol: The Exchange 22nd March
Liverpool : TBC 23rd March
Leeds: Temple of Boom 24th March
Glasgow: The Audio 25th March