Interview with Enochian Theory

Enochian Theory embarked on a number of UK tour dates with The Enid and TesseracT this month. The talented trio are set to release ‘This Aching Isolation’ as a single on May 8th– from last year’s impeccable second album ‘Life…And All It Entails’. The Portsmouth band have been steadily gaining fanbase after the album widely impressed anyone with a penchant for prog, alt rock, metal and ambience in equal share. I interviewed the three-piece before the opening show of their tour with The Enid at The Cluny, Newcastle to find out more on the album’s impact, the band’s influential themes and their diverse demographic.

EnochianTheory

It’s been over a year since you released ‘Life… and all it Entails’. Looking back, how do you evaluate the album and its success?
Ben Harris Hayes (guitar + vocals): We weren’t particularly happy about how the release was handled. However, the feedback from that was good, nothing but positive reviews. I don’t think I read a negative review and I trawl the net a lot! For the first album, there was a couple of negative reviews when people just didn’t get it, or just didn’t want to get it. We popped up on a couple of album of the years. We won best prog album on metalstorm.com. That was really cool. It was good to see the album appear in a lot of magazine scribes’ end of year lists and stuff like that.
Shaun Rayment (bass): There seemed to be a lot more going on with the album in the second half of the year than at the actual time of the release.

What was the initial issue with the release?
Ben: It was more the promotional side of the release. We don’t want to say who or what, but that was the issue.
Shaun: It’s a cycle isn’t it? You only really get one shot to do it, but obviously now, we’re rereleasing it.

You usually need a push to gather momentum when releasing a record. It must have been hard going to get that momentum with the problems you had…
Ben: It went dead still to a complete stop! [laughs] You need that big push initially. All the bigger bands do those tours before the album comes out. It’s not how we would have handled it personally.

At least the material is prioritised – you have that foundation there with the passion, talent and resulting songs. It’s better than having no songs and good promotion…
Shaun: You could make the best album in the world, but if no one knows about it, no one’s going to hear it.
Ben: It’s best that it’s not the other way round though.
Sam Street (drums): You can see a lot of that in the pop industry.

What do you think Simon Cowell would think of Enochian Theory’s work if you knocked over a few CDs for him?
Ben: He’d say it’s not auto-tuned enough! [laughs]
Shaun: I think he’d enjoy it. When the camera catches him being himself a bit more, you can see that the guy knows the music that he’s throwing out there is what it is. He’s not silly. He’s a money man.

Do you feel you have everything in place to move forward?
Sam: We’ve got the resources to put it in place now.
Ben: We’ve got the options to do what we want to do.

You are rereleasing ‘The Aching Isolation’ on May 8th. Is that correct?
Ben: Yes, we’re pushing the record again. We’re taking ‘The Aching Isolation’ as a single just coincide with the tour with The Enid and TesseracT. We’ve been getting a few plays on random things and popping up on random things. What’s interesting for us is that we get a summation of things and someone will post on our page saying ‘we just found this’ and we’re like ‘that’s cool, we didn’t realise’. We’ve no idea what’s going on! [laughs] There’s a website called Prog Streaming where they stream prog albums and our album popped up on there! [laughs] If you don’t keep us informed, we can’t push it.
Sam: The idea is to keep up relations with these people and to speak to these people and they’ll end up doing it again. It just sort of ends up being a bit ‘loose-end’.

It’s interesting that you’re supporting The Enid on their tour across the UK, yet midway, you go across to Sheffield to support TesseracT. The demographic between the two bands is quite different. Have you found a particular demographic enjoying your music or is that varied?
Ben: I think we sit nicely between the prog and the metal. We never called ourselves prog in any way, shape or form. We always referred to ourselves as an alternative rock band. People would ask ‘well, what do you call yourselves?’ [the answer was] ‘I don’t know – we don’t.’ Then suddenly, we’re prog metal, prog rock, this, that and the other!
Shaun: We’re whatever you say we are!
Ben: It’s something we like. It’s something you can’t buy – the ability to straddle all these groups of genres. We find ourselves with people saying ‘well, I don’t like so-and-so, but I like you guys’. We’ve got a little bit of heaviness, a little bit of lightness! It’s a good thing in many aspects and it means we get to tour with lots of different bands.
Sam: I think it changes too. It goes from demographic to personality as well. It’s not just age; it can go right across through someone’s particular mindset too.
Shaun: You have some younger guys and girls that are more open to music and the older stuff and some other people who will only listen to metal. Some of them we seem to be able to latch onto, but some of them say it’s not heavy enough. It’s pretty indescribable.
Ben: We just do what we want to do and if they like it, great, but if not, then… job done! [laughs]

What – in terms of lyrics and themes – do you feel are centric to the band?
Ben: I think it’s the human disposition. That’s what all of the lyrics are about – human experiences and thought patterns. Going back to when I was younger, I shared a thing or two with certain bands and certain lyrics and they still ring through today – even down to when I was 16, listening to Pantera and thinking ‘this is fucking great! I feel strength inside me!’ It’s great. But I think exploring the human disposition and the human psyche is something that we explore lyrically and thematically.
Shaun: People ask us what music inspires us and we never really feel it’s the right question.
Ben: Usually, it’s ‘what relationship have I fucked up this week?!’ or ‘which group of people have I annoyed this month?!’ [laughs] You can’t come up with that shit, you have to experience it for it to mean something to you, and possibly that shines through in what we do and people share an affinity with that. They can see that it is personal.
Sam: A few people have said that they can tell we’re playing it for ourselves. At times, it is like that.

Would you say your worldview or attitude has changed since beginning Enochian Theory in 2004?
Shaun: Not the music, but the industry. Seeing it for what it really is.
Sam: Since the time we’ve been together, a lot has changed.
Ben: We’ve been together for nearly ten years now and it’s enough to take in a lot of information. We’re relatively young compared to a lot of other bands we’ve toured with, but it’s enough to have that bitter taste on your mouth.
Shaun: We understand that it is a business. It’s not just music, as it started. It’s property and it is a business. We learnt very quickly to think along those lines as well as being musicians. It’s going to be difficult doing one without the other. A lot of musicians struggle with that. It’s always difficult to be part of a company that understands both of those sides.
Ben: A lot of bands who have supported us have been happy to be opening for us. They’re all fresh, new and they’re really fucking good bands. But when we ask them what they are doing with the band, they say ‘we have no idea’. You need to. It’s getting back to the whole learning thing. We’re quite happy to admit that we’ve made a lot of mistakes, but we’ve learnt from those mistakes. We’re only now beginning to work with the people and the companies that we feel we need to be working with. We’ve done exactly what we want to be doing. We have got a business model now and it’s being utilised. I hate to be cynical about it, but the music is making money from the fans. You give back to the fans with live performances and talking to people. I love talking to people. If you spend some time coming to see us, we’ll spend some time talking to you.

A lot of bands have cut themselves short in the past with bad management and lack of interest in the business side of the industry. It’s sad when a talented band suffers in that way…
Ben: It’s surrounding yourself with the right people, isn’t it? Even when you believe you have the right people around you, sometimes it still doesn’t work out that way. But the industry changes weekly.
Shaun: With some other bands who have the history and the stories, we always looked at that from day one and tried to avoid them. We tried to figure out what went wrong and why and always stayed away from that.
Ben: Do you really need to spend £70,000 on a show? Really?
Shaun: We don’t want to be a band who doesn’t make money from the band. You can see where bands go wrong with that – especially on the road. You’ve got to cut out all of the rubbish – all of the fancy bits.
Ben: We don’t want to be rich and famous. Bugger that. We just want to do enough to be able to keep this as a sustainable business model. We want to be able to get back whatever we put in, just to keep it going.

On both your full-length studio releases, you’ve had The Lost Orchestra work with you. Would you ever like to have an orchestra onstage to accompany the set?
Shaun: In time, hopefully you’ll see that. It comes down to the money. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we’ll do it in our own artistic way, especially with it being called The Lost Orchestra.
Ben: We’ll hang them upside down or maybe we’ll have them all on wireless and send them out across the city! [laughs] You’re lost? Get playing! [laughs] We’d like to have everything that’s on the tracks played live, but obviously that’s something that’s expensive. We can just about cover our own costs, let alone for anyone else. We’d love to have another guitarist, we’d love to have another few keyboard players, but it’s just too hard.

You seem to be a tightly-knit group. Would it be a big deal if someone else joined?
Shaun: It would be a massive thing.
Ben: It’s not just the way they would play the songs, it’s a way of thinking. I know that sounds clichéd and cheesy as hell, but it really is. It’s not just about saying: ‘I can play these songs for you’.
Sam: I don’t think we’d be difficult to work with.

You’ve had a few lovely compliments from some really talented musicians. Steve Wilson has said he enjoys Enochian Theory’s work. What was it like to have such a good compliment from him?
Ben: We were never really aware of Porcupine Tree as a band. We’d never listened to them. We were getting back all of these people and we were like ‘who is this guy?!’ [laughs] Then we heard that he’d done this and this and this and this. We’re thankful for that. People say you must be quite proud of the Steve Wilson comments and quite influenced by them, but we’re not at all. He came to one of our shows to the one in London with Touchstone. It was good to talk to him.

Are you impressed with any bands at the moment?
Ben: I like the occasional song by a band and usually I find it hard to get into the rest of the songs. I wouldn’t really want to name-drop any bands! I’d say Animals As Leaders was the last record I enjoyed, and they’re great live too. I’ve seen them twice now. The Algorithm as well. It’s the same as everything isn’t it? If you have too much of something, you’ll end up saying ‘Christ, I’m all teched-out now!

When you first started, did you have any intentions as a band?
Sam: Epic and big!
Shaun: When we first started we were playing to test each other.
Ben: It was just to write big, emotion-laden songs that mean something to us. Just to say ‘this is us, laying ourselves bare, musically and lyrically. If you share something with it, that’s great. If not, pass it onto someone who does.
Shaun: We knew when we started it was going to be more on the alternative side and also heavier.
Ben: In the sense of heavy, it was never heavy in the sense of 220bpm blastbeats and stuff like that! I grew up on death and black metal; I love that shit. But to do it constantly, you just get sick of it. There’s other ways to display heaviness without that.
Sam: It was something (death metal) born out of ‘we’re going to be faster than them’. It was a big rivalry all of the time.
Ben: Just while we’re on the subject of death metal, I’m thinking about all of the cool bands who came out at the start. Obituary were more hardcore-based with a  bit of a Celtic Frost influence, Cannibal Corpse who were all about the speed and Morbid Angel, who were doing what they do. Obviously Death as well, who were a fantastic band.

Photo by Robin Portnoff.

Originally published at SoundShock Webzine:
soundshock.com/index.php/feature-band-interviews/4894-in-the-spotlight-with-enochian-theory

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