Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview Time with Mat Davis of Castle

Castle is quite the popular name in the music world, 3 different Castles have played a doomed style of metal 2 of which I believe are now defunct. This brings me to this Castle, a female fronted doom metal band coming out of San Diego, California who are making waves in their respective scene. 

Signed to Van Records they released their debut 'In Witch Order' in 2011. Since then the band has seen loads of positive press and have put on some great shows in the past year. In April of 2012 their second album 'Blacklands' was released and it too has garnered rave reviews. Floating on all this success I am glad that vocalist/guitarist Mat Davis found time to sit down for me and answer a couple questions. Click on through for all you need to know and more about Castle...

Check out some of their music first!

To get things started let's go over the basics for any newcomers to your music.

1. Who are you?
This is Mat from the San Francisco band Castle.  We just released our second album "Blacklands" on Germany's Van Records.  It's the follow up to our debut "In Witch Order"  released last year.

2. What do you do? 
I play guitar and write the songs. 

3. Why do you do this? 
That's not such an easy question but made simple it would be because it's what I want to do.

4. Where are you from?
Originally I'm from near Toronto Canada.  I moved to San Francisco about 7 years ago where I started writing the music for our debut.  I met Liz around 3 years ago and the band quickly accelerated to recording our debut.

5. What made you decide on the name 'Castle'?  
That was a name I carried around for a long time.  I was waiting for the right inspiration for the music to come through in a special way.  Ultimately, it was an archetypical and simple idea, a place of strength and fortitude.  It also sets the scene in an historical and literal sense for the music to come across dramatically.  Ultimately it was just the right name to go with the music that I began to write a few years back and continues to inspire me in lots of ways.

6. 'Castle', 'In Witch Order' lots of medieval and occult imagery there. What is the attraction to Witches and Occult themes and why do you think so many doom inspired bands love it? 
I can't speak for any other bands but the music comes first for me and that is written without any forethought or desire to sound a certain way.  That's the sound I hear, like a darkness and a shadowy element.  I find myself exploring those dark corners and there's a lot of freedom to move in these sounds.  The music really is responsible for the imagery.  They fit so well and the words often force themselves onto the riff as you're writing them! 

 7. 'Blacklands' sounds more fantasy driven to me, sadly I've yet to listen to the album, what is the story behind the name? 
I don't think there is a huge jump off from the 1st to the 2nd album with the lyrics and theme.  Although many people pick up the fantastical and story telling elements there's also sometimes an underlining theme to our lyrics that gives the interpretation a deeper undercurrent.  The song "Blacklands" for instance does have a fantasy approach but ultimately it was written as a view of the modern world returning to primitivism and pagan beliefs in the face of control and fear instilled by an unseen and unknown new world order.  There's a feeling of hopelessness that is creating a new dark age and subversely maybe we are wearing the sheep's clothing to get to the wolf.  Where there should be enlightenment and a moving with better understanding into an enlightened future we are doing the opposite. 

8. You got together with Billy Anderson for that one, who is quite renowned in this scene. What was it like working with him? 
It was fantastic.  Billy really knows quickly where you are going and knows how to get you there sound-wise.  He also has an amazing ear and helps in lots of little ways bring the right touches together in the finished recording.  Not to mention he's funny as hell and it was a pleasure working with him.

9. Tony Iommi was a big influence on the music, any other driving influences? Books, Movies, Music? 
All of the above.  It usually comes back to Iommi doesn't it! But I've always considered Castle a cinematic band and in that way there are vista's within the sound that we sharpen .  I want the sound to become physical through guitar tones and other elements to give someone the sense that you are seeing the music.  I also heavily edit the songs during the writing process to bring out a hard boiled type feel... the bare essentials remain.  I prefer not to get jammy or let the music wander and in that way I'm greatly influenced by lots of directors who had a complete vision with their movies and some authors as well.  Lot's of times I write with movies playing in the background with the sound off.  I guess I'm writing the soundtrack I want to hear!

10. It's been said that your music is tough to define, not your cliche doom metal band. I'm thinking we should make a New Wave of Female Fronted Heavy Metal tag. So many great doom and classic metal bands are coming out with female leads, why do you think this is such a good combination? 
I'm not sure and maybe we don't fit entirely in with that tag either.  I can see down the road Castle moving away from rather than into any definable sound.  I'd like to think we'll exist on our own.  I find the press, reviewers etc.. needs these things more than others to be able to latch things together.  I'd rather have the freedom to move in all directions from our center which of course can only be Castle.

11. Being married to Elizabeth (lead vocals) must be tough? So many friendships are broken due to bands, how do you keep the balance? 
We work very hard at our band but our relationship comes very easily.

 12. Getting back to the music and away from personal life, did 'Blacklands' hit your expectations? Does it all seem surreal yet? 
I think there have been moments of surrealism but they quickly fade and I think this comes from the deliberateness with which we do things.  So in this way Blacklands was exactly as we wanted but there is no other way.  The half way option is gone when you move into a realm of deliberateness.

13. To introduce someone new to your music, what is one track you would recommend, one you are most proud of? 
On the new record "Corpse Candles" exemplifies many of the elements I wanted to come through in this music.  There is an epic yet hard boiled quality and a journey through the music.  The riffs really do take you somewhere and the lyrics are simple and suggestive of that.   The melody as well is strong and simple and plays off a little bit of progressive guitar work throughout the song.  That and it is a great mix of metal and hooky songwriting.

14. Touring for the past couple of months, new album, great reviews, what does the future have in store for Castle? 
More of the same.  We are booking as many shows as we can at this point and also planning some recordings in the not too distant future.  We also working on a couple video's.  I love the format and it we are fortunate to know a few very talented filmmakers.  Dave Hall from Handshake Inc. is almost done a video for Corpse Candles and Jaan Silmberg and Pistoltrixx will be shooting a video for "Storm Below the Mountain" very soon.

These last two questions I ask everyone, nice to see everyone's answers.

15. What is your stance on piracy and the downloading of music? 
Funny you should ask.  Just a couple days ago when our album went into wide circulation it was available on a few dozen blogs as a pirated download.  I think there's always that instinct of being ripped off and wanting to put a stop to it and somehow fighting it but in a way it might be a necessary evil.  I think there a lots of people without access to the music whether the reasons are financial or other and really, more than anything I'd like people to hear the record rather than not and who knows maybe it does lead them to buying the record or going to see the band when they tour.  I think it evens out.

16. Let's assume you are only available to listen to 3 albums til the day you die, which 3 would they be? 
Impossible to choose but I like to go off the top of my head and in that case I'll say there would be Motorhead, that much I'm sure of.  The rest would be the rest.

Thanks for a great interview and all the best,
-Mat Davis 

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