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Interview | Trevor Matthews from PILLORIAN - February 2017

Everybody heard about Agalloch's split. And nobody got over it yet. However, bad news never come without good news: John Haughm, the band's frontman, is already back on the path of creation with Pillorian, surrounded by highly respectable names : Stephen Parker, founder of doom metal band Maestus, and Trevor Matthews, who is our conversation partner. Trevor has founded two major black metal bands of the Portland metal scene : Infernus, and more recently Uada, whose excellent first album has been reviewed here last year (over here). Trevor gave us some insight into Obsidian Arc, Pillorian's first gem (reviewed here). 

1. Hello Trevor, and thank you for giving Scholomance Webzine this interview. The announcement of Pillorian's formation came quite quickly after Agalloch's split. For how long had you three been knowing each other when Agalloch came to and end? Did you already consider working together?

Stephen met John a couple years prior, introduced through Jason Walton. He later became their merch guy on Agalloch's final US tour. I had met John earlier in the year at an Uada gig we played with Stephen's other band Maestus. They were working on a lineup for a more Swedish death metal type project and were interested in me possibly drumming. We eventually rehearsed together a few times on that material. After the Agalloch split we put that idea on the back-burner to start a new project.

2. Even if you've all been evolving in the Portland metal scene for many years, you still come from perceptibly different musical spheres. Yet, you came across each other and are now working together. Would you say that your local scene is particularly close-knit? How often do you attend gigs in Portland?

Portland is very close-knit and has quite the thriving music scene, metal in particular for only being roughly 500,000 people. Many great artists and bands. I attend gigs here very frequently and have since I was 14. Less so in the past 6 months than ever in my life though with being so busy.

3. Now is the time for the dumb but essential question : why did you choose the name "Pillorian"?

Many reasons. It was a bit of a nod to the great Abysmal album "The Pillorian Age". As it is essentially a made up word from the root word "pillory" it was not taken. We wanted a one word name and it had a nice ring to it that wouldn't pigeonhole us to a specific sound or image while still being dark and fitting.

4. You are signed by Eisenwald, a German label. Why did you choose to work with them, instead of an American label for example?

John has worked with Eisenwald for many years and I have as well with Uada. They have always been great to us and work with us more than most labels would.

5. Your debut album, Obsidian Arc, will be released on February 10th. Was it equally composed by all of you? Do you have different ways of working and composing? For instance, Stephen Parker used to be the only member of Maestus; one can imagine that must have made him quite independent.

Very equal input was given forth to compose the album. The riffs were about 50/50 overall and I wrote my drums based off of basic ideas for tempo. Stephen also recorded the bass on the album and engineered in studio. But the writing was a highly collaborative effort.

6. This album is quite varied, and easily switches from cold straightforward black metal to fervent melodic parts. Obviously, your influences are diversified. What essential references do you all share?

We share a lot of similar tastes, but try to steer clear of referencing other bands as to how we wanted parts to sound.

7. How would you define the artistic goal you aimed at with Obsidian Arc?

I am sure John would have a far more in depth answer to the goal of the themes, but dark and powerful is definitely something we would all agree with.

8. In this album, there are more instrumental moments than vocal ones, and in the latter case, the voice isn't always much put forward. The core of your work is instrumental, with some exceptions of course. In metal, do you think there could be such a thing as "pure music" which wouldn't need vocals, just like in many classical genres? Do you feel that instruments have a wider expressive range than the human voice?

There is definitely a place for more instrumental music in metal if done well. I would agree that instruments have a wider expressive range than a human voice, as there so many different instruments, let alone effects. But that would be largely discounting the power of words. Music leaves everything up for interpretation, which is amazing. But words can often be more powerful than any note or beat could ever be to the right person at the right time. A thoughtful mixture of the 2 is what makes music the most potent universal language and highest form of magic that exists.

9. Speaking of the human voice, who wrote the lyrics of Obsidian Arc? When are they usually written? Before the music, so that the whole structure of each track can closely fit its own text, or does the instrumental composition comes first?

John wrote the lyrics and they came after the song structures with loose ideas in place during composition.

10. One of the tracks that touched me the most on Obsidian Arc is "Dark is the River of Man". What does this river mean to you? Is it some kind of bleak metaphor of fate, in which we're all mired?

Me too. Definitely a dark and bleak metaphor. Maybe not of fate so much as the human condition and the perpetually tainted ways of our destructive and flawed nature.

11. A few elements of Obsidian Arc will certainly remind the listeners of Agalloch's characteristics; I'm thinking of the doubled clean vocals, of the very lyrical lead guitar, of the ambient and dark folk elements... What was your position towards this inevitable comparison when you recorded the album? Was it something you feared, somehow?

We will never write something based around what we think critics may derive from it. We knew going into this project that there would be nothing but comparisons at first and there is no winning that battle. Many people would be angry if it wasn't a carbon copy replica of Agalloch and others would be mad at anything that resembled Agalloch. Some hints of Agalloch would be inevitable with John's distinct voice, very specific instruments, amps, pedals, etc. Not to mention riffs, song structure, themes. He was a big part of Agalloch and there is no denying that.

12. At the moment, more than twenty Pillorian shows have been announced, but only in Europe. Why do you begin with this part of the globe? Is it more welcoming than America, does it offer more opportunities?

There are definitely more opportunities with the festival circuit and many different cultures, but those were just the first announced shows. There will be a couple US shows immediately preceding the European tour.

13. Do you want to highlight Obsidian Arc's unique atmosphere with some particular visual artefacts in this upcoming tour? Or would you rather stick to a sober show?

I encourage the audience to come find out for themselves.

That was my final question. Thank you very much for your time. Hope to see you on the French boards as soon as possible!


Interview by Marion


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