The Australian extreme prog band Ne Obliviscaris just released their third album Urn. Guitarist Benjamin Baret fills us in on the record, touring, crowdfunding, his favorite Australian bands and more.
Chad Bowar: Was there anything unique about the songwriting process for Urn compared to previous albums?
Benjamin Baret: We’ve toured quite extensively with Citadel, and for the first time we’ve had to do some songwriting on the road which was a first for us. Other than that it was business as usual for us, recording demos at home and jamming on it in rehearsal until everyone is happy with it.
How did you decide on having Mark Lewis mix the album?
We have been often told that we sound a lot heavier live than we do on CD, which is a good thing I suppose but we wanted to transcribe that on the new record, so we started to list the albums we like and the sound engineers that we’d like to have and we agreed that Mark was going to be the one. Mark already knew about the band, came up with lots of ideas sound-wise and was genuinely interested in working with us so we picked him. He did a fantastic job and we’re extremely happy with the result.
What will be your strongest memory of the recording of Urn?
Endless technical difficulties for me personally as I had a lot of issues with the guitar I was using for the recording. Then we lost three days of recording due to a technical error, then more issues with the guitar arose (I play 7 string guitar and I am left handed so finding a replacement guitar is pretty much impossible). But in the end we got there and the satisfaction of listening to the final takes at Pony Studio is always a great moment.
You had some fans sing on the album as well, right?
Yes, some of our Patreons came down the sing some gang vocals for one part on the album. It was definitely good fun for both them and us, and will be a banger to do live.
How has the band’s sound evolved/progressed on this one?
I’d say we refined the songwriting a bit, tried to say more with less notes which is quite possibly the hardest challenge in music. The change of production definitely changed the sound of the band as well and it’s a different side of Ne Obliviscaris that gets to shine on that record.
Is there a lyrical concept or theme?
Yes there is. The lyrical concept would be around death, but maybe not in the traditional sense of it as it is more treated as a necessary aspect of life, the thing that bounds all creatures. The artwork represents Mother Earth pouring a boiling sun onto herself.
What are your goals and expectations for the album?
Just like every time a band puts out a new album: trying to tour as much as possible in every corner of the world, connect with new people in new places, spread the joy of music and live experiences to the biggest numbers that we can. We’d like to do our first headline tour of Europe, get to play all those fantastic European festivals. To me being on stage/on the road is the only point of being in a band.
How were your recent album listening parties?
They were great indeed. We’ve now being doing that for every album we’ve released and it’s always been a success. We get together, cook for the attendees and blast the new album in a very friendly and relaxed vibe.
You’re coming to North America for a tour in November. What are your most and least favorite things about touring here?
Touring North America is quite easy in the sense that you know what to expect. You will be able to communicate with everyone you meet, there will be similar stores and food everywhere. A bit of reliability is a good thing on tour, but it can also get boring. It is a vast country and the difference in scenery and weather are always interesting. A pet hate of mine is having to show my I.D to everyone every time we want to get somewhere, even the place where you are playing. I am a 31 year old bald man what more do they need?
Tell us about Martino Garattoni, who will be your touring bass player.
Martino is a talented bass player from the north of Italy. He was the best player out of all the ones we auditioned and also one of the most experienced. I’ve already spent a few days jamming with the man and I can guarantee he will do the job perfectly. He has big shoes to fill because it’s not easy, this is the first change of lineup in 9 years.
Technology has certainly shrunk the world, but is it still more challenging for an Australian band to break worldwide?
Indeed it is, and we’re from Melbourne, at the bottom of Australia, only Tasmania is further. To put it simply, an Australian band touring North America or Europe will have to spend at least $10,000 more than anybody else, just because of the location, then experience some serious jet-lag for a week. The good thing though is that Australia is a rich country, so it helps counter balancing that. Promoters are always a bit reticent to book Australian bands, you’ve got to prove your worth twice more than bands from North America/Europe.
Your Patreon campaign was controversial, but it appears to have been very successful. Are you satisfied with the response?
Yes we are. How could we not be? It’s incredible to see that so many people are willing to support us financially so we can keep doing what we do at a higher level every time. It was a risky bet, but something that had to be tried. Patreon is not a new thing, many artists/solo musicians/painters/digital artists were using it, but I don’t think that any heavy metal band was using it so it was a bit of a surprise to that world when we announced we were starting one. It wasn’t perfect from the beginning of course, but we’ve tried to improve it and get people to feel that they are getting their money’s worth. It is a strange day and age to be playing music, the old ways of making money with it are truly dead and buried and we’ve got to find new ways. This is not the perfect solution, but it is a solution.
How have things like crowdfunding and Patreon changed the relationship between bands and record labels?
Not that much, because when all is said and done we are playing weird music in a weird musical niche, so few artists in that genre do it full time. It is in the record label’s best interests (at least our record label, Season of Mist) to let us try that, because the more we play, the more we sell, and the more we sell, the more they get. I’m not sure the same thing could be said about actual big bands/artists in more popular types of music.
Who are your all-time top 5 Australian metal bands?
Psycroptic, Alarum, A Million Dead Birds Laughing, Caligula’s Horse, Blackhelm. Australia has lots of great bands, it’s a great scene.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
We’ll be touring your fair shores really soon and I hope to see a lot of you there. It’ll be a great show, vast sonic landscapes will be drawn upon you, and you will like it!
(interview published October 27, 2017)