A little more than a year after their debut, Howling Sycamore return with Seven Pathways To Annihilation. The trio was founded by Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), who fills us in on the new record, his other projects, what he misses about Italy and other topics.
Chad Bowar: How did the songwriting process for Seven Pathways To Annihilation compare to your self-titled debut?
Davide Tiso: The debut’s guitars were composed on pre-existing drum tracks, while the new album was composed starting from the guitars themselves. This is probably the main difference. For both albums the bass and the solos were composed after the vocals were recorded. Composing with only guitars made the songs very organic. They developed a kind of storytelling vibe, probably also because of this, the album is much longer than the debut.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Probably the moment I got a grip of the album itself. It takes a few songs for me to understand where an album is headed to. Once I get there, the rest of the songs literally pour out of me fast and I just need to keep up with the process and record everything. Composing music is almost like channeling for me. Often times after a recording session I’m not able to recall the mechanics of the writing itself. I find it liberating and intoxicating to let go, opening myself to the music I have in me. Offering my songs to the other members of the band is such a joy. Seeing how the songs are growing after each and every element, especially the voice, is added on make me feel like I’m putting together the ingredients of a spell.
Back in the day releasing an album a year was common, but not so much these days. What led to the quick turnaround between records for you?
After recording the Howling Sycamore’s debut I had few months off while I was looking for a label and I immediately started to compose again because I felt very inspired. Signing with Prosthetic Records, releasing the album right away and receiving so much praise from the public and press give me a big boost and it definitely sped up the process.
How has the band’s sound evolved from Howling Sycamore?
The sound on this second album is more layered, it’s richer. I wanted the production to sound as natural as the debut, but for the kind of songs I had in my hands I opted for a slightly more polished vibe. Enter Jamie King, a real master at dealing with complex mixes. It took us months to find the right balance between the instruments. It hasn’t been a particular easy process for me, also considering that I wasn’t in studio with Jamie mixing, but I can assure you that the result is as close as possible to what I had in mind for this second chapter. Patience and hard work paid off.
What inspired your lyrics this time around?
Once again metaphysical topics, in particular shamanic and Buddhist principles. I take a lot of time and effort to write in the most poetic and brutal way I possibly can. I love to use nature elements in my metaphors. I like to bring the reader in that place I go and hide from the world during meditation. The cover artwork of Seven Pathways to Annihilation resembles that spot, and so does the gorgeous image in the album’s booklet created by Dehn Sora. The album title and the whole is based on the shamanic principle of destroying my own ego in order to psychically advance. Each of the seven songs in the album are meant to be a pathway to that.
Bruce Lamont and Kevin Hufnagel make return appearances. What does their presence add?
I like the idea of giving some continuity to Howling Sycamore, because of the fruitful collaboration we had on the debut I thought that having both Kevin and Bruce again was going to be a good idea. Both their musical inputs enrich my music in such an intoxicating way. I’m very grateful to have them on board. It has not been that easy in my career so far to find the right local musicians that can complement my vision, this is why I often have big names from all over the world on my albums. I don’t deal well with compromises. I had the opportunity to play with amazing players in my career so far and I want to keep offering the best I can to the Howling Sycamore fans. I owe that to myself, too. I want to offer the best I can also to honor the hard work and sacrifices I have done in music to this day.
How did Marty Friedman’s guest spot come about?
After I composed the song “Second Sight” I thought that having a solo ala Marty Friedman on the final riff was going to be a beautiful way to close the song. Then I remembered that Marty is on Prosthetic Records. I immediately wrote to the label asking what they thought about a possible collaboration with the master and not only they we’re enthusiastic about it, but they also contacted him for me and made the whole thing happen.
Last year in our interview you said you were working on plans to play live. Any progress on that front?
Bringing Howling Sycamore live comports an economic investment that is not that easy to deal with. There is no many ways around it. The show I want to present has to be up to par with what we present on albums. I’m working hard to make this happen still.
Give us a preview of the upcoming Gospel Of The Witches album.
Covenant is the title of the upcoming Gospel Of The Witches album. It will come out on Aural Music this upcoming fall. It was produced and mixed by Jamie King. It features Karyn Crisis on vocals, Fabian Vestod on drums and myself on guitars and bass. Around 50 minutes of occult doom metal filled with ancient Southern Italian witchcraft and incantations. The album is charged and intense, there is a lot of heart and soul in it, it feels like a wooden knot dripping blood to me.
How did you come to join Botanist?
Botanist is a mind blowing one man operation with a very specific sound and such a strong and focused intent, both present in the project since day one. No one will ever join Botanist, musicians here and there can just help out Otrebor in his quest. That is what I did recording the bass for the upcoming album and performing on stage under the hood. Beautiful experience. Our collaboration came to an end after the Japanese tour we have recently done.
What were some of the highlights of your recent Japanese tour?
The overwhelming bombardment of color and sound by such a different culture. The camaraderie among the live band members, the immediate bond with the two bands we toured with, Seek and Birushanah, the excitement of the fans. The nourishing, often impeccable food, the superb coffee, the amount of sake drank. Wow, what a treat it has been.
Besides family/friends, what do you miss most about Italy?
I miss to be surrounded by the weight of human tradition and history that one can easily feel just being in Italy. I miss the Roman ruins, the arches, the statues, the shingle on the street. I miss the simplicity of the food and its bursting flavor. One in particular? The tomatoes. There is no tomato like the ones grown in the region of Campania where my mother is from. She used to toast big slices of pane cafone bread, brush some garlic on top, graze some local cherry tomatoes on it and add oil and coarse salt. That memory of that specific flavor put a tear on my eyes.
What’s your favorite part of living in San Francisco?
California’s landscape is breathtaking. I often think about those European explorers that got to California first. They probably thought to have found paradise on earth. Humboldt County might be the peak of beauty that this land has to offer. Miles and miles of ancient majestic trees on hills that peak right on the vastest display of water on Earth. The air up there has this misty, watery component that feels like primordial life. San Francisco is not an easy city to live in for me. The economical disparity is exorbitant and flat out inhuman. This is a place that has lost its own vibrant, artistic identity and got literally sold to the greed of few.
New billionaires, millionaires and gold diggers from everywhere in the world pop up every month in the tech industry here while lower and middle class families that have been in the Bay Area for decades are pushed out from their home to build new condos and often finish in the street living in cars and tents. Heartbreaking. Small music venues are closing down month after month, entire blocks are getting literally replaced, not just “upgraded.” Sunday mornings are the toughest for me: lines and lines of dummies waiting to dine in the new, hot and obnoxiously expensive brunch spot while half a block away people are literally dying lying on the sidewalk. This is not progress, this is not where technology was supposed to lead us. We are collectively going back to medieval times where the rich want to be richer and richer and the poor are pretty much invisible. Fuck San Francisco and all the other cities that are heading in this direction. Corporate greed is destroying our souls and we are letting these vampires win.
What are some of your non-musical hobbies and interests?
I’m interested in independent movies, especially the one with realistic qualities and low budgets. I also love noir and psychological thrillers, anything in the vein of “Memento” by Christopher Nolan gets my full attention. I’m interested in shamanic readings and practices. I practice Reiki. I give it to myself and loved ones. I’m interested in gemstones, spell making and some divination. One of my favorite hobbies still is to go to see live music with my friends. Big or small bands, it doesn’t matter to me. Live music charges me up, inspires me and pushes me to keep working hard on my craft.
What’s the last show you binge watched?
Black Mirror. Definitely the most eye opening show I’ve seen in the longest time. Some of the episodes display in details the dystopian, bleak reality that we’ll probably reach soon because of the way technology is taking over in our daily lives. My favorite show of all time? Easy pick: Twin Peaks. The Sycamore in the band moniker is my humble little tribute to the genius that is David Lynch.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Thank you for the interview and the support promoting Howling Sycamore. I invite your readers to give a spin to Seven Pathways to Annihilation and our self titled debut. I already started composing album number three and I hope to start recording drums at the beginning of 2020. Follow Howling Sycamore on Facebook.
(interview published June 20, 2019)