“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” -Carl Sagan
The dream of being a touring musician is an interesting one, and almost intrinsically demarcates a peculiar, singular soul. A perpetual outsider.
In exchange for many of the things valued in this society- security, wealth, stability, family- one lives out a considerably more Quixotic journey, and in return receives experiential knowledge, visions of far off lands, and the chance to mingle with a people alien, yet bound by common cause.
One such man, Paul Riedl, is on this journey, and is confident that somewhere, something incredible is waiting. We asked him about his musical endeavours with Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, and the umpteen other bands he helms; his future goals; and most importantly… what is really beneath Antarctica?
Watching BLOOD INCANTATION gestate in to the entity it has become has been a really crazy thing to watch. The band has accomplished so much in such a short period of time, and perhaps the most interesting part is to watch how excited people are to be a part of it. You seem to have really embraced letting people be part of the journey. What do you attribute this rare dynamic to?
Thanks man! First, let me first say HAILS to The Covenant and thank you for the interview and years of support to our bands. As for the journey, it has definitely been a crazy time getting from our rehearsal demos to where we are today, no doubt. I think part of the appeal for people is basically the transparency between the records, the people listening to them, and the people making them. You can see online and in person, through our tours and public adventures, the amount of effort being taken behind the scenes (though obviously it still looks much easier at a distance), and you can sort of see the weird personalities behind the bands. Humans in general love to observe and participate in group activities, so there is a sense of camaraderie between us and a lot of our fans who seem to know the backstories, see the legwork, and generally sympathize with the struggle of living for our music.
We are just trying to make the records as sick as we can. We want the shows to be powerful. We want the merch to be something we’d wear. Personally, I also prefer to see these human qualities in bands I like – I get a bit turned off by bands with too much art or mysticism piled on, who are ultimately just people who also check their phones and eat, have jobs etc. Anyway, I think people can see the human reality behind our endeavors; my hope would be that they resonate with that.
Let’s start with something pertinent. One of the first times that many Canadians heard the name BLOOD INCANTATION was at the totally chaotic COVENANT FESTIVAL II. The band was just starting to make waves with the excellent EP, and the full length had yet to drop. Since this was a formative time for the band becoming the touring force it is today, walk us through the period in time leading up to the summer of 2016.
Hah! Well, this was basically the most chaotic period of the band to be honest. All through 2015 we were rehearsing 4-5 times a week, often double-duty with SPECTRAL VOICE, and we had just convinced Jeff to come over on bass from SV into BI and were preparing for our first tour and the release of our first EP, which itself had been in development, hell, since Summer 2013 when we initially recorded it. We had the full length written well before “Interdimensional Extinction” came out, and were busy hand-assembling the SV/BI split 7″s right up until the hours before we left for the first tour in September. The 7″, EP and tour all happened around the same time and the waves had not really started happening yet.
We did sell out of our merch on the first tour (a harbinger of things to come), but that was more due to our inexperience and only making so much (not enough) merch. The shows themselves were mostly lackluster, except for one or two choice spots (Seattle, Salem, Oakland). We played on the floor a lot. When we went to New York for Martyrdoom Festival was when we first saw that people had bought the record and were anticipating the show. We probably sold more split 7″s at that one show than we did on our entire first tour.
Once we got back from New York we booked the studio time for recording the album. I can proudly say that when we finally went in we were razor sharp. The majority of the album was recorded in single takes – “Hidden Species” was the most with three takes. All of the initial tracking was done live in unison, with the only overdubs being vocals, synths, and occasional leads (as distinct from solos). For the duration of the experience we were completely immersed in psychedelic alien landscapes mostly of the 70s variety; vintage posters and esoteric books were strewn about the studio, with “Cosmos”, “Ancient Aliens” etc playing on loops on every screen in the house. We did the whole thing in 5 days if I remember. This was all in January 2016. Basically as soon as we left the studio we had all of the art and layout finished, so we just practiced and practiced and practiced until the Summer to prepare for the “Starspawn” release and subsequent tour.
Let me paint a picture. Summer of 2017: A lot had changed with both the band and the fest when you guys returned to headline the first night of Covenant Festival III. You put on a clinical performance (in a far more cooperative venue setting hahaha) and left the impression of being seasoned veterans as you kicked off your North American tour with QRIXKUOR. In retrospect, this was a pretty special tour package that well represents a moment in time of contemporary death metal scene. Tell us a little about this tour.
That tour was fucking sick!!! We had a great time teasing the Brits endless while they endured the record-setting heat that summer. There’s always a few days (sometimes weeks, heh) of awkward getting-to-know-you types of vibes, but this time everybody eased up pretty quickly and by the end of it were just a bunch of lads on tour having a laugh. Both bands slayed every night and got better with each show. I’ve also still never seen so many Ironbirds in one place!
We’ve run into Adam, Mike and Ryan multiples times in the years since that tour and it always feels like the tour was just the other week. They’re such great demons man, total support to them! I can’t really tell too many stories about this tour without incriminating a bunch of people, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Your start was playing funeral doom, noise ridden drone metal, and ambient, folkier metal. You still very vocally have the support of these scenes in your projects. At what point did you decide that the outlet you needed was something faster, thicker and altogether meaner like Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice?
Thanks for asking! I appreciate the look into those past projects, however briefly. The vast majority of interviews I’ve ever done seem to think I started playing underground music the day before “Starspawn” came out. Anyway, back in 2004-2008 I simply couldn’t play anything remotely technical, so drone, noise, and raw forest black metal are kinda of to be expected, heh. I’ve always liked experimental, psychedelic and atmospheric music, so naturally have always appreciated extreme bands that incorporate these elements.
I was in a death metal band in 2009 called Total Darkness that played more typical (but still heavy) death metal with both thrash and doom tendencies, but the only demo we managed to release just made me eager to start playing more complex riffs. Unfortunately the band dissolved when our other guitarist Joel moved to Oklahoma in 2010. From there I kept writing and practicing, trying to get my fingers to be able to match what my mind was hearing.
In Fall 2011 I moved to Colorado to start a new chapter in life. I was touring a lot and not really having to worry about writing material for my active band, so I had many hours of mixtape riffs and improvised jams to study and attempt to improve my compositional skills. I met most of the friends I play music with now during this time, and basically said to them “Hey, I’ve got these riffs, let’s start such and such band” and the few maniac demons who responded are now my bandmates and best friends.
It is always fascinating to watch a circle of musicians work. The listener gets to experience a wider interpretation of sounds they love through a slightly different lens. Between the 5 of you there is Blood Incantation and Spectral Voice, but also ABYSMAL DIMENSIONS, 2 of you have played in WAYFARER, and 3 of you have played in VELNIAS. What are the inner workings of this group that you attribute the success within it to?
Well, as much as it is a pain to only have 4 people to jam with, I do think it has enhanced our subconscious playing abilities and gotten us all onto a deeply tangible wavelength over the years. It’s crazy how specific a riff out of nowhere can be and how perfectly it will fit into our respective projects. We never write riffs for one band and then end up using them in another; it’s always very specific. Velnias was more of a starting point for our crew, as that was the vehicle through which I met Jeff, and Jeff and I met Isaac, Eli, and Morris. Morris has filled in on guitar for a Wayfarer tour, and Isaac has filled in on guitar for a Velnias tour, so everybody is still friends. Even our merch guy (and original SV vocalist) Casey was originally a Velnias roadie back in 2009, and played at my house in Salem way before I’d met any of these guys.
As far as our current bands’ successes, Jeff and I learned a lot about what we like and don’t like about band management during that time. Thankfully I’ve learned from those times and nowadays things operate much more smoothly. Everybody on board knows what we’re trying to do, and we’re all trying to accomplish the same goals.
Have you ever considered naming your coven of demons in order to really plant the flag in the ground?
Haha! Actually Eli and I have been trying to come up with a name since 2011 but all of them are too cheesy. Please do let us know if you think of something.
You’ve been quietly running your own label – Woodsmoke – for a long while now. Why did you start that, rather than let someone else do all the hard work?
Again, this gets back to 2004 and the fact that nobody in Salem, Oregon had any clue about extreme, underground metal, so we were ultimately left with no choice but to start our own imprint. We didn’t get anything released until 2007 for our first tour with Ancestortooth and Vault Dweller. We did a split CD-R as well as a reissue of LEECH’s “Against Leviathan!” demo on CD-R, but of course none of them sold and most were given away to the people who let us stay at their houses on the tour.
I’ve always loved DIY culture and self-released vinyl, home-dubbed tapes, silk-screened shirts, photocopied flyers, snail mail etc. Just the whole thing about the underground – it’s literally the SICKEST!!! So I just wanted to participate and do my best to contribute something to it. It took over a decade for me to get my shit together enough to release my first vinyl (the Spectral Voice/Blood Incantation split 7″) but even that was quite an ordeal and ended up disappearing into obscurity due to chaos and internet fuckery. Now that I’ve got a little more experience, I think the next Woodsmoke release will be really killer! It will just take some time, as the few WS fiends have come to expect anyway, heh. Nothing rests, everything moves…
With having accomplished so much in such a short period of time, what prospects excite you still?
I’m not sure 2002 (when I got my first guitar) to 2018 is considered so short of a period of time, heh, but at least as far as SV/BI are concerned, yeah, we’ve gotten quite a lot done in the last 5 years. Personally I’m endlessly excited about simply releasing records – the whole process is awesome to me, I love the writing, the studio, the layout, the touring, all of that shit. I only really hate the internet meaninglessness and impersonal pseudo-elitist douchery that most punishers think is somehow relevant.
I love touring, but I can’t wait until we get a break for a minute to get back to writing – to totally immerse ourselves and pursue the next records (for both bands). We’ve basically been on the road for two years straight; BI have done 7 tours and SV have done 5 tours in the past three years, in addition to our other bands’ tours like SCOLEX and Wayfarer. I love traveling and can’t wait to see where the bands bring us next.
I just always want to improve; I want the next records to be heavier, the next tapes to be culter, the next shirts to be sicker, etc. There’s no real point in life other than evolution and refinement. Even anthropologically, stasis is death. I just want to explore and create new things that I think are more fitting to the ideas I’m trying to express.
What’s really underneath Antarctica?
Definitely archeological artifacts that will perturb the majority of the present human population’s worldview regarding the nature of their governments, their cultural and religious histories, and the origin of human consciousness.
What’s up next for Paul Riedl?
At the time of this writing I am preparing to leave tomorrow morning for a European festival tour with Blood Incantation. We’ll be playing Brutal Assault, Partysan Open Air, Beyond The Gates, Killtown Deathfest and many others. For KTDF I get to play with Blood Incantation, Scolex, and Spectral Voice – quite a weekend!
After that SV will embark on a full European tour with the mighty gods of DEMILICH!!!!!!! It’s going to be killer. When we get back both SV and BI are playing the Dark Descent 8th Anniversary show on October 20th here in Denver, alongside Cianide, Krypts, Sempiternal Dusk and Adversarial.
After that BI are going into the stargate to finish writing our next record. In the meantime we’re working on a live EP to be released in time for some BIG NEWS in early 2019. With that downtime we are going to start working on other projects like Abysmal Dimensions, Malibilis, Chthonic Deity.
Like I said, stasis is death…
All live photos taken by Factory Worker Media at Covenant Festival II and III