The Meads of Asphodel are a British black metal band with a strong medieval influence and hints of Eastern melodies, who have been exploring the themes of religion and historical conflict with their unique and innovative music for almost 15 years now. M3 tracked down the band’s elusive leader Metatron to discuss the concept of an album as an artistic entity, the downsides of the digital age and the band’s decision not to play live…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Metatron – I am the vocalist/ lyricist in UK progressive black metal band, Meads of Asphodel.
What inspired you to form the Meads of Asphodel? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Music inspired me. Bathory, Venom, Sigh, Hawkwind, Stiff Little Fingers, Warfare, Deliverance, The Doors, The Damned, Emperor, are some of the influences that inspired my vision of the Meads of Asphodel.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
CD, Tape, Vinyl are all ok. I was very involved in the tape trading in the nineties so I have a great affection for these formats. Vinyl is also very relevant as my collection started before the CD format. CDs are more convenient, and no doubt MP3s even more so, but I am not ensnared in this faceless format as yet.
Each Meads album seems to either tell a coherent story, or have an overarching concept behind it. Do you ever worry the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, is in danger of being undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
For sure, but that is the bane of the digital age [one I am not fond of], but when you get so many new bands forming under its shadow, it’s hard to argue against it as these bands know little else. I find the whole internet to be a faceless cold medium and one I have had to accept. Our music is best absorbed in its whole, but we do allow the songs to exist on their own merits so it’s not a drastic worry.
In some ways digital media frees the concept of the album from the physical length restrictions that have traditionally defined how long an album should be. Have the Meads ever considered making use of these new digital formats to create lengthier pieces?
No, and we never will. How long do you want an album to be? If it exceeds the length of a vinyl or CD, make it a double, or a treble. The digital media has no control over this at all. It just cheapens music by taking away the whole concept of cover art, and the booklet. It takes away the personal connection between fan and band. That’s the future and there’s no escaping this sad inevitability.
Much has been made of the supposed death of the record store in recent years. Do you believe the digital age has killed the record store, and if so, do you think that this is a necessary part of progression, or a tragic loss?
It has destroyed the record store and it is a tragic loss. On the other hand the record stores charged too much for a product that cost pence to produce. [labels are as much to blame for this] They got what they deserved but I do feel sorry for the bands who not only lose their art to a record contract, they also lose any revenue. Internet piracy is theft, simple as. I know people who feel it is a their right to download a new album illegally. Why pay, if its for free? Progression will destroy the small labels who exist in the underground as they will not even break even due to piracy, and all the zines who give a lot of time for a free promo CD will die as the albums are all digital. It’s a mess and one that will be to the detriment of a once close scene. True fans will by music, but temptation for anything free is hard to resist….
Why did you decide to refrain from playing live concerts?
Like Bathory, I wish the Meads to carve out a piece of Metal lore on their own terms. Playing live is not part of what this band is about. It is an obvious source of revenue, and probably the only source if the internet vultures continue to rape the bands of all they try to achieve.
As a non-touring band, how do you feel when people try and justify illegal downloading by saying that the band can reclaim that money through touring and ticket sales?
There is no justification for it. If you download a band’s art you are an ass. You are a leech and should not call your self a fan. The bands are the ones who suffer in the end, as do the small DIY labels who are the blood of the underground. They both create the music and give joy
to the fans. The bigger labels always make a bit of money as their signing strategy has changed. Instead of signing a few good bands they sign many average bands and hope a few sell. This makes them a living and the bands get fuck all. [apart from the few who make the whole
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
No copyright laws are enforceable as they cost too much to enforce. Fear makes the laws work to an extent but at the end of the day the governing bodies to these laws are generally toothless. This applies to bands that exist under a commercial level, and in Metal music 90% of bands reside therein.
Similarly, do you think copyright legislation’s may pose a threat to the creativity of artists who make use of a variety of samples in their work?
Contracts stifle a bands art to the extent that they sell their souls before they even create the art. Its all down to, what motivates you to create? If its riches, don’t bother. If its from the heat then you’ll create what you will regardless to legislation. A band’s music should be protected.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
I could not care less. What will be, will be, and probably is. It will not effect me as I will do what I do anyway. It’s like trying to police the Afghan Mountains. Unless all is one, nothing can be all.
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Not making a living out of what you do. Having your music owned by someone else, watch your music stolen from the web. That’s the modern age of freedom of speech.
Finally, what does the future hold for the Meads of Asphodel?
We will do what we do long after your words have been forgotten. We have a new album out in November ‘Sonderkommando’, about the Holocaust.
To find out more about the Meads of Asphodel, and read about the concepts behind their albums, you can visit their official website.