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05/11/2008 – Interview with MAR DE GRISES

Around the end of September I had an interview with MY SHAMEFUL mainman Sami Rautio. Several weeks later I sent some questions to that other Doom Metal band on Firebox Records, MAR DE GRISES (website). It was drummer Alejandro Arce who answered the long list of questions. MAR DE GRISES released its second full album, "Draining The Waterheart", on the 14th April. You can read my review at this location.

Items tackled in this interview include ofcourse the new album, the Chilean Doom scene, touring, work vs hobbys vs music and more. Special thanks to Adrian Butler from Lugga Music (website) for arranging this interview.

Mar de Grises logo

First of all, congratulations with "Draining The Waterheart". As you know, I found this a very good album and one of the best Doom releases this year. To start off, MAR DE GRISES means Sea Of Grays or something like that. Is there a specific reason for having chosen this name and who came up with it?

It was the idea of Rodrigo M., although we all have given different meanings to it. That is the idea. We wanted it to be wide in terms of interpretation. On one hand, the name comes from the inspiration that our grey city gives us; this grey grand magnet that we despise and love; this grey city that we would like to leave someday, a day that, at the same time, we would not like to live. On the other hand, it comes from the perception of monotony off which we feed sometimes. Not white, not black; an emotional state that wanders around nothing necessarily consistent. I think that state is quite interesting at the time of creating because you don't know exactly what you are doing or where you are heading in terms of creativity and inspiration, so the result is irrationally honest. Anyway, any other interpretation is as valid as these.

Mar De Grises band picture 2008So far you have two albums in your discography, musically reasonably different, but with an important role for atmosphere. Do you try to seperate each album from the other, as in not doing the same? I don't own "The Tatterdemalion Express", but based on the one or two songs in your MySpace player I had the impression that "Draining The Waterheart" is even more atmospheric and Progressive, while the previous album was more Death/Doom, heavier, so to speak.

In some way, we have grown as musicians, interpreters and as members of a band. Having that in mind, the form of the compositions on the "Waterheart" album may be more mature, progressive, or whatever. But the truth is that the reason to play music is more or less the same inside of us, and that reflects in the fact that the essence is both albums is the same. So, to answer to your question, we never rationalize the main essence of what we want to do or how the final result will be. Every difference on the albums is just what naturally came.

When did you start working on "Draining The Waterheart"? And did you work differently than for "The Tatterdemalion Express"?

Although one of the songs, "Summon Me", was composed just a time before the release of the "Tatterdemalion" album, we started working on the new album right after we found the correct replacement for our former keyboardist/vocalist Marcelo, who left the band in 2005. We took a couple of years on these, but in early 2007 we finally did with Juan. That was when we really started working on the "Waterheart" album. About the differences in the procedures, we used to work more as band; every idea was brought to the rehearsal room and we started to work on it. The last years and now, maybe because the kind of life we are having (more work, studies, more responsibilities), the way to work is different. Rodrigo M. and Juan are in charge of composing by themselves. When they have some things done, they usually show them to the rest of the band for us to add our own touches. Then we just play them over and over so to make arrangements happen naturally.

Draining The Waterheart coverThe cover art is very nice. What does it represent?

Thank you. it shows in a very direct and simple way the title itself; you can see some kind of creatures that are "draining" off the water of some kind of heart, and they, at the same time, are part of that heart, just as feelings create themselves at the same time of being them. This refers to an attempt to reach the pristine core of human emotions, just after you finished draining your waterheart, what means that you really and truly clarified what you feel, as you drained all the water off it, taking water as a metaphor to chaos.

What exactly are the songs about? Is there a sort of story that connects the songs?

In some way, the title encircles all the songs, each one of them having the function of a catalyst to drain off human negative or sometimes positive attitudes such as pride, envy, fear, suggestion, prejudice, etc, in order to try to reach and feel the most pure essence of emotions. That is what "draining the waterheart" means, so the only story that maybe connects them is just that, the title itself.

The A5 edition contains a bonus disc. Is it because that one song didn't fit one the first CD or are you offering a preview of how the next album might sound?

None. We wanted to explore different sound textures with the bonus material of "DTW". We didn't want it to be an extension of "DTW", but more like a complement to it. I think it is just the same essence, with the same kind of foundations, suggestions and purposes as "DTW", but with a different form.

Were you present during each step, from recording until (and including) mastering? Or do you have enough trust in the respective engineers?

Yes, we were present always. I think that was a mistake, because we know what we want, but it is very difficult to put 6 people into an agreement. We did have enough trust in the engineer, but we wanted to know everything that he was doing in order to state our own opinions. Although the final result in terms of sound is not bad, for mental peace sake, and for a better result in general, we will definitely work with a producer the next time, in order to trust him and let him take the important decisions, obviously after letting him know more or less what we want, but no more than that.

Lots of reviews are very positive about the new release. What does that do to you?

Not being the sole reason to play, positive acceptance is something that has helped us grow as a band in many aspects. Those positive reviews have helped us to promote our music, touring, knowing many new and interesting different people and places, and have contributed on the possibility to show our music to more people in general. So, after all, those reviews have been quite important.

How's your relation with Firebox Records? Do they do a good job? Are you frequently enough in contact?

It has been quite good, sometimes difficult because of the distance, but good after all. Yes, we are periodically having contact; there are always issues to cover like recordings, album sales, merchandising, interviews, etc.

Mar De Grises band picture 2008Some months ago you toured through Europe. What was it like? Plus, how would you compare the European and the South American crowds?

It was a very interesting, intense, dense, exhausting, and happy experience; an unforgettable time to us. We knew many different places, many different people. We played in around 10 countries. As for the crowds, we have a great response from the European crowds, but I think that maybe South American crowds are a bit more enthusiastic in general, not because they are necessarily more passionate, but because they have less opportunities of Metal concerts than European people, so they go crazier. The Chilean scene, for instance, is still developing; we don't have the possibility of having the quantity of shows that European people have, so, in that aspect, maybe they are more "spoiled".

How "popular" is Doom Metal in Chile or South America in general? Is it easy to get a fanbase?

Not popular I would say, therefore it is not easy. Actually our main fanbase is in Europe. Although we have managed to have a number of fans here in Chile, Metal is not as popular as it is in Europe; Doom Metal, even less.

Metal in general is a joy for many Metalheads in South America, but how does national press react to this music? Do they write articles, make reports, play songs on the radio, etc... in a way that shows they know what they're talking about? Or do you have to look at the specialised press for Metal?

Speaking about Chile, there isn't much coverage for Metal. Almost none at all. It is very unusual to have Metal programs on the radio, less on the TV. The most heavy stuff you hear in the radio are things like MEGADETH or so, never more than that. So, as you see, the only way to access to it is with the internet, and international specialised press.

Some of you (Sergio and Rodrigo Galvez) are also active in MOURNERS LAMENT and/or POEMA ARCANUS. How easy is it to divide your time over the two/three bands? And is there a significant difference in writing songs for each band?

Yes, they both play in MOURNERS LAMENT, along with the POEMA ARCANUS drummer. It is very difficult to have the time to dedicate to a band, among studies, jobs, etc. More it is to have another. You know, life is not easy here; for instance, among many problems in our society, it is very difficult to have a decently paid job if you don't have professional studies, and the social gap is still too wide, so time is something that you rarely have. You need a lot of dedication if you want a band to succeed. As for the writing process in MOURNERS LAMENT, I just know that the main composer is the other guitar player, Felipe, but besides that, I don't know anything else about their song writing process.

When you're writing songs, do you have a certain group of people in mind (Doom fans, Metal fans or quite simply music fans) = do you try to please as much people as possible? Or do you write/compose what you like the most, regardless of who will like it?

Playing and making music is, in first place, a need of liberation and cleansing of the soul, mind, heart or spirit to us. In order to achieve that, what we want is to stay true to our emotions and vision of the world. If we stopped the composition of any song because we considered it not to be what someone or some people would be expecting, we would be interfering in the natural flow of the emotional translation, therefore what we really wanted to communicate or liberate, would be still inside. So no, we don't try to please anyone in particular at the time in composing; in that case, we would be playing a more commercial kind of music directly. But all these doesn't mean that we don't care about the acceptance of the listener. We play what we want and feel, but if the acceptance is good, that is even better. It is great when you feel that some people are feeling identified with what you honestly do.

Mar De Grises band picture 2008What is Doom Metal for you? Just a music genre or more?

Not necessarily a sad kind of music, but a music to think; deep reflective music. For me, Doom Metal Is a kind of music to live through it.

Do you have time to keep an eye on the albums that have come out this year? If so, which do you like, be them Doom or Power, or Death, ...?

I listen to many things. About Metal, I mostly like Death, Doom, and more experimental stuff. I don't like Power in general. I have been listening to the 2008 albums of GOJIRA, MAYHEM, OPETH, ENSLAVED, BELPHEGOR, ESOTERIC, MESHUGGAH, and many other things. I'm also anxiously waiting to the new VIRUS album, "The Black Flux". VED BUENS ENDE and VIRUS are some of my favourite bands ever.

Is music a full-time activity for you or do you still have a daytime job as primal source of income?

We all have our jobs or studies. None of us is able to dedicate to music as a full-time activity. As I told you before, due to economic and social flaws as a society, it is almost impossible to live and earn a decent amount of money just by playing music in Chile.

Do you have time for hobbies? Or how do you get away from everyday life, to clear your mind, for example?

Playing music mostly, hahah. Also I enjoy relatively normal stuff: I love reading, writing, watching movies, and having a drink with friends.

Something completely different now: several countries have an performance rights organization that make sure that artists get money when the songs are played on the radio or on several events, when artists perform, etc... In Germany there's GEMA, in Belgium there's Sabam, the USA has ASCAP, Argentina has SADAIC, Brazil has ECAD, and so on. How's the situation in Chile and what do you think of such organisations, even when it's not clear if the money really goes to the artists or when the artists are not connected to that specific organisation?

In Chile we have something like that, the SCD. It is a very useful organisation that helps musicians because, as I told you, life is not easy here; even more difficult it is to musicians. But you know, it's impossible to keep everyone happy; more popular artists think they deserve more money and help, but, in another hand, it is the less popular artist who needs more money to promote his music. As in every aspect of life, there will always be complaining side. But anyway, up to my own experience, SCD have been behaving good, and I think that although there are indeed some people that just want to get rich inside there, the general intention is noble.

That's it for me. Many thanks for answering this long list of questions. ;-) I could perhaps go on, but then I wouldn't know what to ask next time, hahaha. Good luck with "Draining The Waterheart" and any other occupations. I'll leave it to you to add the final words.

Many thanks to you, Tim, for your time and support. And many thanks to everyone who feels identified with what we do. Thank you very much. Hope to see you soon. Regards from the end of the world!

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