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09/02/2007 – Interview with GORATH

GORATH (official website) is a Black Metal project from the Belgian Filip Dupont, who's also active in several other bands. He got some help from fellow colleagues and friends for the other instruments and last year the band's second release, except for the demos prior to this one, came out: "The Fourth Era". I'm not really into Black Metal, but once in a while there are certain albums I can appreciate and when it originates on Belgian soil, then my attention wil be bigger of course. ;-) You can read my findings on "The Fourth Era" at this location.

Filip himself contacted me for an interview and it didn't take that long before I came up with some questions related to the new album and GORATH in general. Seems like he and I share a common interest: other civilizations like the Mayan, the ancient Egyptian one, and others. Also the kvlt that hangs around those cultures. Below you can read his replies, of which I'm very satisfied, as he's very elaborate in his answers.

Gorath logo

Hi Filip, how are you doing? Congrats with the new album, which deals with an interesting subject: what the Mayas had to say about 2012. According to them, there will be some major changes in that year. Quote from Wikipedia: "It does not necessarily mark the end of the world, according to their beliefs, but a new beginning or time of re-birth". From where comes the fascination for this particular theme? Did this interest already exist when you were still a student?

I actually don't have a clue how this idea came to mind. I was always interested in alternative theories about history and metaphysical subjects. From my childhood I was carrying sympathy for the mystical and the unknown. But I guess it must have been something with sudden polar shifts and world wide climate changing, linking me to the Mayan stories.

I knew the number 2012 is used in different religions and many have their own judgment day, Armaggeddon or apocalypse. The Mesoamerican variant had my attention immediately. Their religion was partly built on astral science, making the whole story more realistic. I guess we still don't know the real facts of our own history. Did you know the ancient Egyptians used some kind of drill to make carvings into stone (tombs)? They drew the tool on several wall paintings, yet today we cannot make a tool drilling with the same precision. Remarkable! The Mayas believed mankind would be lead into a golden ago after the end of their calendar. A sort of spiritual rebirth.

You naturally did the required research. Which books (e.g. John Jenkins' "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012") and movies (incl. National Geographic?) helped you in your quest?

There you mention the most important book I've read. It's damn difficult literature, but John Jenkins displays a lot of fact proven information. I added that information with stuff found in several short parts of books and internet pages. National Geographic has got many very interesting programs, but I don't recall seeing one about the subject we're talking about. If you really want to know more about this, I would definitely advise "Maya Cosmogenesis 2012". Jenkins wrote several more books about it.

The Fourth Era coverCould you describe how the 'story' evolves with every song or what each song represents?

"The Fourth Era" is not an album with a story line. All songs deal about the same subject, of which all information is put out of different media. I'll give a short summary of which every song is about:

* "Sagittarius" is about the Mayan Underworld and the saying the earth will pass through all twelve constellations. The centre of Sagittarius is also the centre of the universe, the possible end date.

* "Xibalba Be" is the name of the Underworld, ruled by the demon Vucub Caquix. He's depicted as a black sun in the beak of the zodiacal sign named the Swan. Nowadays scientists have discovered a black hole on the place where the Mayas situated the black sun.

* "Create & Renew" deals about the creation of the world through the eyes of the Mayas. Some parts are integrally taken from the One Hunahpu, the Mayan book of creation.

* "The Fifth Birth" is all about the end of our era strengthened by some modern science facts.

* "Zenith Point" again is an ode about our own self-destructiveness.

* "Cosmogenesis" is about space defining our future. And...

"The Astronaut Of Palenque": that's about Quetzalcoatl, right?

...right. "The big bird "Quetzalcoatl"" was actually the working title of the song. The Mayan people also saw this God as a white man with a beard, a pale skin and blue eyes. And they called their god astronauts. Again this part of myth takes down modern history. The Mayas speak about white people learning them many things. They came from over the sea and their ships looked like dragons. They even named a messenger Votan, quite similar to Wotan. To say it very clearly: the Vikings already exploited Mesoamerican cultures even before we knew about the continent. The lyrics of this song come from Jurgen from THEUDO.

Are the sounds in "Descending The Realm" samples or did you go outside, walking on some snow or grind and meanwhile recording it?

And again you're right! I recorded myself walking in the snow and added some audio samples sounds to it. It must sound like a lot of people going deeper into the realms of hell, as if they were expelled.

"The Precession" was released on the FYU III Sampler and not on "The Fourth Era". How come? Why is this one song missing in the 'storyline'? Or is it on the album as well? Because the promo track listing didn't indicate a 9th song, yet there is a 9th one.

I wanted to make an exclusive song for that sampler. It was the first song right after "Elite". Musically it's more like IMMOLATION go black metal. I thought it would be great having a more death metal orientated song on a Death Metal sampler. I like the song a lot, especially the foreign language part. Arne from HERFST was at my home when I recorded the song. He lent his voice for a guest performance.

The ninth song on "The Fourth Era" is the MAYHEM cover "Buried By Time And Dust". Actually I wanted to put that song as a hidden track on the CD. Something like number zero, so people would have to rewind the first song to hear it. Unfortunately some technical problems made this impossible and the artwork was already published by then; hence the "all nine tracks, no mistake" statement in the booklet.

Gorath - FilipYou're the man behind it all, but you have gotten the help from others. Did they have any influence in the songwriting process? Or did you tell them how and what to play?

I always like the idea of having guests on an album. I wanted clean vocals for "The Fifth Birth" and asked Wulfstan from FOREFATHER to do it. He agreed, but wanted me to create the vocals line. Something out of my reach to be quite honest. Then I found Peter from THURISAZ, an even better vocalist. He recorded the parts in a jippy and the result is stunning. My old pal from THE QUIESCENT, Bart, did some grunts. He will be present on every GORATH release. And also Roel from ILL FARES THE LAND sung some parts in the MAYHEM cover. Too bad I forgot to mention him in the booklet. Finally Zahrim from PANCHRYSIA joined in for some guest vocals. When he was at my place he altered the accents in the lyrics to make them more as one of his own.

Let's say I wrote 99% of all music. Only a few people gave some ideas and producer Raf added some effects on certain parts, like the acoustic intro on "Xibalba Be". Originally it was a very clean acoustic guitar, without any reverb. When finishing a song I always check a small group of people for some feedback.

Which came first: the lyrics or the music? And how did you get started? Did you isolate yourself in your house or elsewhere to fully concentrate on the matter?

I always write the music first. Before starting the writing process I need to clean myself totally. Meaning no sex for 6 months and 6 days, no meat at all and daily one hour of intense Tai Chi practicing. No, I just play and record the stuff. Later on I'll see whether it's useful or not.

For GORATH you decided to collaborate with Descent Productions, which is a small label. How did they get involved and which other labels did you have talks with? Next to that, for how many albums did you sign?

"Elite" was released through the American Black Owl Records. Ken did a good job and always kept his promises. Though it seems like that guy has disappeared from the world a year after the release. I knew Geert from Descent Productions through Vampire Magazine, where we both were writing for. He told me he was about to start a brand new label. He was interested in GORATH and I wasn't interested in contacting other labels. I know Geert and liked the idea of starting something totally new. After all, Descent Productions definitely chooses for quality. Look at a roster containing bands as IKUINEN KAAMOS, COR SCORPII (with ex-WINDIR members) and MAR DE GRISES. Plus he offered a great digipack release. The deal was fine for me. Just for one album. We'll see what the future may bring.

"The Fourth Era" does have a very 'live' feel, like one is in the studio with you guys, seeing you play and stuff. Was this done on purpose and make sure people know what to expect when you would/will be performing live?

I actually recorded everything myself. I don't like the sound of many black metal albums, it's most the time way too under produced. There's no big deal about recording a rehearsal, I wanted quality. Bands like DARKTHRONE also have a very unclean sound, but just have a decent listening to "The Cult Is Alive". It's very obvious there has been put a lot of effort in creating their raw sound. I don't like noisy productions, but I dislike even more the ultra mechanical productions. I swear by a warm and very natural sound. I used SHINING's "The Eerie Cold" as a reference, though GORATH's next album has to be a lot more organic than "The Fourth Era". That's why I really want to use real drums next time. To get back to your question, it's not done on purpose. During the recordings I didn't intent playing live.

The recordings took place in the Crestfallen Studio. Where is this situated and what's so special about it?

Thatís my home studio - named after the same titled ANATHEMA mini album. Around the mid-nineties I started to experiment with recording software on my Atari computer. A few years later I swapped to Cakewalk software and now I'm solely working with Cubase. I'm still no pro, but I manage to record my own stuff. Most the time I got assisted by my long time companion (in THE QUIESCENT and P:407) J. Timmermans who is responsible for the guitar sound on "The Fourth Era".

Gorath - FilipHow would you compare "The Fourth Era" with the previous works and the earlier demos? What kind of evolution is there?

I'm quite satisfied with the result of the new album. Compared with "Elite" much has changed. Not only on a musical and textual level has it easily surpassed the debut album. Also the total sound improved a lot. This time the album got professionally mixed and mastered. The drum samples are of a much higher quality than before and even the artwork is way better than before. I have the feeling GORATH remains true to its MOONFOG inspired black metal. But this time a more own face is shown, without losing the feeling with the traditional scene.

"The Fourth Era" was mixed and mastered by ANCIENT RITES guitarist Raf. Any special reason why he was the lucky one? And is the Rose Creek Studio owned by him?

Raf also mixed and mastered THEUDO's "The Volsünga Saga". The result was very good and both THEUDO and GORATH work the same concerning recording. Raf doesn't live that far from my home and also on a personal level we have a click. He's a very relaxed guy and a mastermind in working with Cubase software. Since he has left ANCIENT RITES some months ago, he's putting more time and work into his Rose Creek Studio.

Do you already have songs or ideas ready for the follow-up?

Yes, the new album is practical fully written and also the main artwork is done. I want to record the upcoming release (working title: "Codex Sicarii") with real drums, since K. De Leener pulls it off without any problems. The music is way more extreme and back to the basics than on "The Fourth Era". Most songs last around 8 minutes and the textual concept is going to be something special again. Right now Jurgen from THEUDO is writing all lyrics. And also J. Timmermans is writing some ambient parts and sampled stuff to enhance the global feeling. I hope to record "Codex Sicarii" this summer and have it out somewhere during the last months of this year.

Speaking of the older material: any chance there will be some re-recordings or re-releases? Perhaps as bonus material?

The Russian label Haarbn is about to release both demos on a limited digipack containing different artwork. Firstly I wasn't very keen about the idea, but now I think a Russian release will have a positive impact on the former Soviet scene. At this moment we have some annoying postal problems and I hope it'll be solved soon. And I'm still awaiting the LP release of "Elite". Hope it'll be there soon.

You're going to play some small gigs in the coming months. Are there talks with bigger bands to maybe do a (small) tour with or are you just not famous enough yet? ;-) Related to that: which bands are on your wishlist, for a tour or just one or more gigs?

Intentionally I only wanted to play a few gigs to promote "The Fourth Era" in Belgium and The Netherlands. I think, at this moment seven gigs are planned. I want to end the performing time in September 2007. Then it's time for the next release. We had the chance to join two different tours. But I had to decline both for TAAKE as well as for VREID, because of my job. Though I hope to pull it off next release.

GORATH definitely need some live experience to spread the word. Good thing the other members are active in PANCHRYSIA, SUHRIM and LENG TCH'E. They've already proven to be excellent live musicians. I'm looking forward to the dates, especially the first gig ever. March 31 will never be the same anymore! I wouldn't like to tour with bigger bands. If I could choose a bill, at this moment it'll be with MELECHESH and SECRETS OF THE MOON. Simply because I'm very into their music at this time.

Which bands/musicians inspired you to start your own musical career?

Though question. I guess there was not really a band or some individuals that inspired me start making music. Around the age of twelve I listened to AC/DC and stuff like Iron Maiden. I even made my own guitars! Just recently I've found myself a goal. When I grow up I want to be rich and famous. I fucking filthy arrogant rock star! MÖTLEY CRÜE! All for sex, drugs and rock and roll! Girls, girls, girls!

How easy/difficult is it to combine your time in GORATH with the occupations in THEUDO, P:407 and MAHLSTRØM? Could you in short describe which music the other bands can be catalogued under?

THEUDO plays pagan black metal like FALKENBACH, ANCIENT RITES or even some SLAYER. P:407 is highly inspired by KATATONIA and TOOL. And MAHLSTRØM sound like DISSECTION before their last album. I only consider GORATH and THEUDO as active bands, the others are on ice. I have to drive more than an hour to rehearse with my bands. But luckily we don't rehearse much. We meet a week before a gig and play the setlist as a test whether we can still pull it off. I practice my lines at home. That's the trick to have enough time left.

And for THEUDO I'm more or less only a live member. I've written some parts which can be used on the next album, but the main music still comes from mastermind Jurgen. I use my creative energy for other purposes. Actually, THEUDO is quite hot now. We have some fine gigs coming up and I recently recorded a track for a compilation album.

Next to being a musician, what else keeps you busy? (job, hobbies, ...)

Music is definitely my number one occupation! I also write for Vampire Magazine for a couple of years now. Further I like photography/Photoshop and traveling to beautiful and enchanting landscapes. All other time is spent on my job and my family. On a personal level a lot of things will happen this and next year. Then I probably have to go easier on the music for a while. We'll see how things turn out.

Lots of band change members due to the classical 'musical differences'. Some like the situation of working with session musicians. What do you prefer and why: a band or just you (and maybe one other person) working on something and have other people join you to fill in the other instruments (= session/guest musicians)?

Last ten years I've played with a real band, but in fact it was me being in charge. Many bands just have one main songwriter and band leader. At this moment I immediately think of MEGADETH or DEATH. So, are they real bands? GORATH started as a one man project, but grew out to a full band consisting of session members. I prefer it this way, if not I would have searched a 'real' band. But that's a hard job. There's always that one guy not fitting the picture and totally living up the expectations of the others. I never had jams where we made songs. Most the time one guy made a song at home and teaches us during a rehearsal. When you don't have a steady line up, a 'real' band is quite annoying. Most time will go in helping out new members, etc. I like to keep GORATH as it is now. If the three other guys want to start GORATH as a real band, I would definitely accept it. But I guess they cannot handle my asshole ego when GORATH would become 'real'.

Putting more focus on the band: what's the reason for and meaning of the name GORATH?

I don't know. I must have found that name somewhere around 1995 when I was 16 years or something. I know it's also some kind of Japanese monster like Godzilla. Or it could be the brother of Borat?

Gorath - FilipDid you take lessons to play music or are you of the self-educated kind? In addition, do you use a certain technique for the screams/growls and how do you take care of your voice?

I'm auto-didactic. I sought out everything myself. Most the time I write riffs in stead of boosting up my technique, which I actually should do. For more technique based parts like solos I ask more talented guitarists to pull it off. I don't use any vocal techniques, but I'm happy my crappy high pitched scream (as on "Elite") evolved to a deeper and dirtier scream as on "The Fourth Era". I recently did some guest vocals on the new THURISAZ album. Can't wait for that one!

Have you always been a Metalfan or did it take some years to get into this music? Also, are there metalgenres you don't like and why?

I started with pure hard rock at a rather young age. Very natural I evolved into an extreme metal fanatic. I'm always in for more musical bands. Bands with a vision or at least not the clones in the scene. Last year was a great year for the metal industry. Many high class albums were released: KEEP OF KALESSIN, MELECHESH, SECRETS OF THE MOON, AGALLOCH, ANTAEUS, ENSLAVED, KATATONIA, ... I'm into must extreme stuff, but I just don't like grindcore, brutal death metal, thrash metal and doom that much.

A few of my favorite bands are GOJIRA, ORPHANED LAND, AGALLOCH and DEATHSPELL OMEHA - all quite different. At this moment I'm looking forward to releases of SIGH, WATAIN, IMMOLATION and SHINING, all expected this year. You see, we can have a long chat about this.

Last question: which plans do you have with GORATH? Or what would you still like to accomplish (be it with GORATH or any other band you're in, or just on a personal level)?

I'll keep my goals as simple as fuck. When I started playing music I wanted to play live. Later on I wanted to release a demo tape. And then I wanted to find a record label. Let's say I want to book progression every release - n each level. And further I like to keep the passion in my musical activities.

Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply and I wish you all the best with GORATH, THEUDO... in short, your musical career. If you happen to play in the neighbourhood (i.e. Kortrijk and surroundings), I'll try to schedule it my agenda. ;-) Feel free to add some final words.

Thank you for the support. Success with your magazine.

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