Black metal is an ever-changing beast; shifting, writhing and evolving, but always with the same cold heart. With last year’s stunning album ‘Failure, Subside’ on Season Of Mist, Tasmania’s Départe have made it their own: its cold heart is surrounded by swathes of gorgeous emotive post-metal and howling lashes of dissonant death, creating something both harrowing, uplifting, and wholly unique.
This also nestles them in quite nicely to the incredible and varied line up for Direct Touring‘s fifth birthday celebration, ‘Direct Underground Fest’: Marduk, MGŁA, Ulcerate, Gorguts and Départe. Vocalist/guitarist Sam Dishington was kind enough to sit down amidst preparations for the Friday night Sydney show to answer a few questions.
Hey Sam! Thanks so much for your time. We’ll start with the shows you’re doing this weekend, Direct Underground Fest: Marduk, Gorguts, MGLA, Ulcerate and Departé. That’s the greatest line-up Australia has seen in years! How did that come about?
– It really is a massive line-up isn’t it? We are all very excited, and I’d be lying if I said we weren’t also pretty nervous – to be sharing the stage with some of the best in the business is not only a huge honour, but it’s a pretty big responsibility! We heard about the tour in its very early stages, back when it was only one or two bands. We eagerly expressed our interest in being a part of it, and thankfully David at Direct Touring found us to be a suitable support act.
You’ve toured with Ulcerate before. Which of the other bands are you personally the most excited to share a stage with?
– We have played with Ulcerate many times since we started this band, they are good friends of ours and we are incredibly thankful to be able to share the stage with them again. We also played with Gorguts once before in Melbourne back in 2014, and that was an amazing and humbling experience. I know everyone in the band is extremely excited to see Mgła, given that we are all huge fans of their work and we never thought we’d get to see them play, let alone in Australia. To top all that off, being given the honour of supporting someone as long-standing and influential as Marduk is very exciting for us.
Your last album “Failure, Subside” was an absolutely crushing, emotional beast that simply demanded its inclusion on many end of year ‘best of’ lists, my own included. How do you feel about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to it?
– Releasing ‘Failure, Subside’ to such positive response has been a very exciting and humbling experience for us. We didn’t know if anyone was going to like it, we worked so hard to make it happen, it took a very long time, and it’s a very personal album, so even handing it over to the label when it was finished was terrifying – at least for me. I remember starting to get really anxious when I heard about it being sent out to various websites and magazines for review, I felt like I wasn’t ready to know if people thought it was good or not. But, when the first track was premiered, and all the positive reviews started coming in, it felt like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. The support and encouragement we’ve received from this release has been a real blessing to all of us.
For an album so bleak and dissonant, the fascinating flipside of it is that it packs an incredible emotional weight, helped in no small way by the inclusion of your clean vocals. They’re quite frankly great. Do they come naturally to you, or is it something you’ve had to develop?
– Thank you! For some reason, I’ve always liked the idea of clean vocals in metal, though it’s not always particularly well executed. I used to be really awful at it, as is evidenced on the first album by Separatist, the band I used to do vocals for. Regardless, I stuck with it. Over the years my voice developed into something far more mature, and when Départe came to be my voice just happened to sit well in this style. As we developed the band’s sound we knew that that kind of emotive clean singing in our genre would be a little divisive, but as with everything we do in this band, we’re just doing what we love, and we loved that sound. Thankfully, it wound up being a fairly substantial point of difference for us, which has proven beneficial.
It seems to be a very introspective, cathartic album; and from a technical standpoint I’m a huge fan of the sound. Can you shed some light on the writing and recording process?
– I’m really glad you like the sound, we are incredibly happy with how the production turned out. Half Moon Productions, the folks that mixed the album, is composed of a friend of ours, Jamie Marinos, and his business partner Lance Prenc. They specialize in more of the modern metalcore/deathcore/djent style mixes – in fact, if I’m not wrong, I think we were the first band in the realms of black/death/post metal that they’d ever mixed. But, we had heard their previous work, and we decided they were the right fit for the job, especially based on their ability to dial in a really thick, heavy bass tone. So it was something of a gamble, but we really believe it paid off and that they nailed it. Drums were recorded at Red Planet Recording Studio in Hobart by a friend of ours, Nic White, and everything else was recorded in my bedroom, with assistance once again from Nic, who helped out with mic placement and allowed us to borrow some of his gear.
There seems to be a fair amount of great black/blackened Tasmanian bands vs. population. Do you reckon there’s truth to the thought that being amidst the isolated forest peaks at the bottom of the world fuels inspiration?
– Yes and no. I think being in such a small community that’s somewhat isolated from the rest of the country has the potential to cultivate particular styles and movements, but at the same time with advances in technology and connectivity we’re really not that isolated any more.
Recently you guys have been doing a bit of charity work, raising funds for White Ribbon, which I reckon is fantastic. Is that something you’ll continue to do in the future?
– We plan to continue with that sort of thing, yes. It’s important to all of us that this band amount to more than just music and lyrics. People are starting to pay attention to us, and we all believe that in that situation, even though we’re still relatively new, it’s our responsibility to try to make a difference to the community around us. It’s all well and good for us to play music because we love it, and we do love it, but it’s far more fulfilling to know that we are able to reach beyond ourselves to make someone else’s life better through our words and our actions. We hope that our actions will encourage more people to do the same, not necessarily for the same causes that we stand for, but to find something that they’re passionate about, something that affects their community, their loved ones, and make a stand for change.
I’d imagine you guys have a wide range of influences and great listening tastes, I think it may have been you Sam that got me on to Hexis in an article I read once. Any other ace recommendations of artists you’ve been particularly inspired by, or have just been jamming lately that everyone should check out?
– Ah yes, I remember that article, that would have been the Bandcamp Bargain Bin list I contributed to. As far as bands that have particularly inspired me, and probably shaped what Départe became over the years, I’d have to say Celeste, Isis, Rosetta (we got our name from one of their early songs), Altar of Plagues, Deathspell Omega, Plebeian Grandstand, and Ulcerate. I’ve also always been a big fan of Deftones, they are a huge influence on my writing, and they have been ever since White Pony came out. As far as stuff I’ve been jamming lately, right now I am listening to ‘A Perpetual Descent’ by Greytomb, which is excellent. They’re good friends of mine, and it’s great being able to listen to and enjoy something so much that your friends have created. In addition to that, lately I’ve been listening to Dodecahedron, Ulsect, Varaha, Old Solar, Skáphe, The Drowned God, Zhrine, Kollwitz, Gevurah, Pianos Become The Teeth and, just to shake things up, the score to The Revenant.
Being that you guys are at the forefront of the current metamorphosis of the archetypal black metal sound twisting from its origins and assimilating other influences to devastating effect, what’s your opinion of the current state of the genre?
– I think this genre has so much potential, as is evidenced by the vast amounts of different bands moving taking the style in all sorts of different directions. There’s always trends, as with any genre, but above all I really believe the genre is growing, shifting, and evolving. It’s very exciting.
What’s in the forseeable future for the band after this run of shows? Thinking about the next album yet?
– We’re working on getting back overseas hopefully in the near future. Aside from that, I’m sure there will be a few more Australian shows before too long, though nothing confirmed yet. We actually plan to start work on writing for the next album fairly soon after Direct Underground Fest. We want to try some new things, new techniques, and get better at working together as a band as far as writing is concerned, so we are allowing ourselves a great deal of time to get used to that.
Thanks again guys, can’t wait to see you decimate this weekend! Anything else you’d like to add?
– Not really mate, we’re very much looking forward to seeing everyone at these shows on the weekend!
You really should catch Départe and the rest of the excellent line up at either The Factory Theatre Sydney on Friday 17th, or The Corner Hotel Melbourne on Saturday 18th. Tickets still available from http://directtouring.oztix.com.au/
Donate to White Ribbon: https://www.whiteribbon.org.au
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