Impressed by the power and quality of their "Archaeaeon", I reached via facebook these unknown Canadians guys. An exchange of impressions lasted about a month. But it was really a pleasure to "investigate" their sound, so brutal and hallucinatory, but also full of poignant insights.
How is your adventure begins? How did you meet?
Nick Yanchuck: Mitochondrion adventure started in 2003 with Shawn Hache (Vox, Guitar), Nick Gibas (ex-Bassist) and myself (Guitar, Vocals, Bass) deciding to start a death-metal band with intention of composing our own material. I was friends with Gibas from elementary school, Shawn was friends with Gibas from school. Somewhat ironically, these schools were all christian schools, despite myself and my family being non-christian. Very paradoxical? The maniac known as Karl Godard (drums) joined us in 2006, as our second drummer, to replace our then inept drummer.
What about your pre-Mitochondrion musical experiences?
Shawn Haché: I was only a vocalist when we formed the band. I had tinkered with the guitar throughout my teenage years (mainly acoustic) but never took it seriously. I started to write riffs for songs that appeared on Through Cosmic Gaze, and then once our former 2nd guitarist left the band to pursue shitty tech death I picked up the guitar full time, continuing on main vocals of course!
Karl is by far the most musical of us all ... he has been in a handful of bands before us. He plays piano, guitar, DRUMS and just about anything else you throw at him. However, he had only played drums as a teenager before joining Mitochondrion, and had only played seriously for about 4-5 months before playing a show and recording the TCG demo. Fucking impressive!!
NY: Nothing too interesting. I played in a shitty rock/metal cover band in highschool briefly prior to Mitochondrion.
Which are your most important musical (and non musical) influences?
NY: Always a good question! Easy to answer. Rites of Degringolade, Incantation, Portal, Allfather, Immolation, the Victoria Power Electronics/Noise scene. We played one of our first shows with Inquisition, Allfather and Rites Of Thy Defgringolade and it really set us in the direction we were destined to follow.
As far as non-musical influences, my writing is mostly influenced by personal observations of myself in this human condition we all find ourselves in... Fear, Pain, Agony, Anger, Incongruancy... most of my material is an attempt at realization of these internal micro-events with the goal of raising them up to a higher, more meaningful plane of existance. An attempt at organizing the chains binding my body and mind if you will. Shawn and I write about equal ammounts of the Mitochonrion material. As far as my input goes, large ammounts of cheap whiskey had a lot to do with Archaeaeon. My input on the new album "Parasignosis" is more influenced by drugs than it is by liquor, and even newer material that I am writing is governed by sobriety and pain. The internet helped a lot with my inquiry into satanism and medevial witchhunts and alchemy. The movie "The Devils" has some influence on the new album.
SH: To lesser degree, acts like Boyd Rice/NON, Blood Axis, and Death in June have given us the fearlessness to branch out into odder, more experimental areas. My riffs are mainly inspired by anything warped that I hear - I am not satisfied by a riff unless it inspires some sort of mental unrest in me. Lyrically, I have written based on strange imagery and even stranger metaphysical scenarios that I try to elaborate upon with words. These days I am inspired by occultism, magick, hermetics, most forms of ascension, and my own take on making sense of what humanity's spiritual path consists of.
How would you define your sound?
SH: When people ask I say it is a mix of twisted death metal and savage black/war metal.
What do you mean when you talk about "war metal"? Is a Blasphemy offspring?
SH: Well, I guess ultimately all war metal owes its beginnings to Blasphemy. But yes, I do like the term "Blasphemy offspring" rather than "Blasphemy clone". We never consider ourselves a war metal band ... that is something that other people have tagged us with. But it is definitely an influence, and just like all of our other influences, we try to take it and reinterpret it in our own vision.
Ten essential albums for your musical training…
Axis of Advance - Obey
Conqueror - War Cult Supremacy
Portal - Seepia
Rites of Thy Degringolade - Totality
Incantation - Blasphemy
Behemoth - Zos Kia Cultus, Demigod
Blut Aus Nord - Fathers of the Icy Age and The Works Which Transform God
Hate Forest - The Most Ancient Ones
Immolation - Close to a world below
Inquisition - Invoking the Magestic Throne of Satan
Morbid Angel - Covenant
Non - God & Beast
Let's talk about the Victoria musical scene. Is a vital scene? Many metal ensembles?
NY: It used to be better. There are lots of metal bands but, not many are extreme anymore. Victoria used to be home to CONQUEROR and ALLFATHER, and FUNERARY CALL, and to a lesser extent GREMORY. Karl Godard (Drums), and Shawn actually live in Vancouver now. I am the only one left in Victoria. The most extreme stuff going on here these days is Power Electronics or Noise projects such as GRIEFER or BRUTOPHILIA. Most music in the Victoria/Vancouver area is weak and feeble unfortunately.
I know that you recently did some gigs with Portal ... In my opinion, the Australian band was one of the most important band of today's "death." A music really haunted! The way I see it, you represent a step forward compared to their sound ... I see you like a mix of Gorguts (for your "otherworldly" and “progressive” vibe), Nile (I think, for example, in some passages, especially at a martial instrumental as "Descent ..."), war-metal (well, you are also a Blasphemy offspring!) and of course Portal (also your stuff is fucking haunted!). A very original sound, no doubt.
NY: I believe them to be the most unique death metal band to have ever existed. In my opinion, neither us nor GORGUTS are in the same category as PORTAL, as we lack the theatrical performance that PORTAL possesses, despite possible similarities composition wise. Gorguts, Nile, and Blasphemy are all large influences on us, how fitting you mention them. We're trying to combine the sound from death metal bands we like to create something similar, yet new. We are NOT combining sounds just for the sake of it like lots of bands with jazzy hard/soft pointless wankery that lack direction and weight. There is respect to be had for the talented musicians typically in projects like that... its just not what we want to express. A step forward you say? I'll have to agree we are a step, but only into a previously unoccupied void, not necessarily a step forward... I believe Mitochondrion to be a success if we can continue to move further into uncharted territory. Our next album that will ONE DAY fucking be done...(we recorded it in the summer of 2009...but since there has been a billion setbacks)...is a little weirder yet a little bit more straight forward. I'm not 100% happy with it, but its got some good ideas here and there. I am most looking forward to our newer newer material...God knows when that will be done.
In any case, I think "Archaeaeon" is a masterpiece, one of the most important metal albums of recent years. And, of course, the Portal, with all their merits, have not yet made a record so efficient!
NY: Oh, thanks. I'll have to warn you though, PORTAL's live show far surpasses ours!!!!! The Curator is quite possibly the more terrifying frontman extreme music has ever seen, and Illogium and Aphotic's technical ability and riff work is unsurpassed!
By the way, because you are not completely satisfied with "Parasignosis?
NY: “Parasignosis” was recorded in non-ideal conditions leading to, in my opinion, a non-ideal guitar tone. I think the album should have at least one more song on it, but oh well.
Returning to "Archaeaeon, I remember that in one of our first email exchange, you told me:"there is nothing that sounds like this album”. Well, I agree. In any case, before recording the album, did you have any ideas on what would have been the result?
NY: Not really. If everyone was into a riff or a section of a song, we went with it, thats about it.
SH: Archaeaeon is the culmination of 2 years worth of writing and 10 months worth of mixing, tinkering, and tweaking. We pretty much just took all of our material and recorded it for better or worse!
What are the most obvious differences between your first demo [self-titled, 2005] and "Archaeaeon?
SH: The demo represents a band that a) didn't take themselves too seriously at the time and b) were VERY inexperienced. For all members involved at the time, Mitochondrion was our first band. The demo is an embarrassment to me (aside from one song) and I wish it to vanish off the face of the earth! We recorded it with a guy with almost no experience recording a real band outside of his terrible bedroom black metal joke band that used DI guitars and a drum machine. The result is an audio abomination (NOT in a good way!!!!).
"Archaeaeon" is a living fucking being!! It has taken it's own life form and continues to spread its influence to unknown realms. It was a COMPLETELY independent release 2 years ago by a virtually unknown band, and now it has garnered enough attention out there to warrant a degree of success (in my eyes). By contrast, the demo has faded into obscurity and I will not even offer the mp3's to anyone anymore. It is fucking DEAD!
NY: Less ambition and less experience. I also wasn't as involved with themes, vocals, and lyrics. We had a different drummer.
Then, "Through Cosmic Gaze", better than your first demo, no doubt!
NY: We just wanted to get something out there with Through Cosmic Gaze... A couple of songs are really really old as well... written with our old drummer who didn't fit as well. Archaeaon is just far more cohesive and thought out.
Totally agree! And... it’s incredible that “Archaeaein” is an independent release! No label proposal?
NY: We had offers, but nothing really worth it at the time. Now there are lots of options. Our next album should be out on Profound Lore!!!! A definite favourite of ours!!! Portal!!! The Devil's Blood!! Cobalt!!!
SH: I was in discussion with Morbid Moon, Aural Offerings, and possibly a few others. But we didn't want to sit around and waste our time while some guy hum and hawed about whether or not to go forward with us. FUCK IT! We did it ourselves and it could not have turned out better. It is exactly the release that we wanted to hear! Let it be known that we are also greatly involved with Siege Engine Records (formerly Unholy Horde Records) and there will be a slough of releases to come from him. Great guy to work and correspond with.
Where did you record the album?
NY: In our jamspace at the time which we shared with GREMORY. Since then the building has been sold. We mixed it in Karl's apartment.
Is it a “concept album”?
SH: “Archaeaeon” is not a concept album no. The songs do not link thematically per se, but there is a consistency and atmosphere that permeates throughout. For example, a cursory glance at the difference between songs like Eternal Contempt of Man (sheer DM brutality), Infernal Weapons Summons (primitive War metal barbarity), Wraithlike (several soaring leads and melodic riffing), and 137 (slow paced and torturous) would suggest a lack of vision. But the album as a whole works together! Hence the idea that it is to be taken in all at once.
Talk me about the subtitle, ”Eternal Age of the Ancient Ones: Fornix Ferreus Scientiae Mortis”...
NY: "Fornix Ferreus Scientiae Mortis" is Latin, clearly. It translates to "Deadly Archive of Iron Knowledge". Latin is a powerful language, sort of the language of the elite for the last thousand years or so, scholars and the inner circles of Catholisim...why not use it occasionally? Probably has a little less bang to you Italians, but its not like we abuse it or claim to be Roman or any crap like that. The whole subtitle basically is saying: "Beware the contents of this album! Inside is contained powerful knowledge regarding the true nature of reality! The forces at work in this world are ancient and still active! Learn more within, but it its not for the weak".
The entire thing is a little ostentatious, but in our defense, its METAL! Its supposed to be shameless and ridiculous! Conceptual depth is just our way of trying to make a mark.
Even the cover is quite mysterious...
NY: I did the artwork. I wanted to do something simple, yet different than the usual black red and white layout format. I think I succeeded in making it simple, informative, yet interesting. The image is just a woodcut of a codex of execution/torture methods, which I thought was kind of like an album of extreme metal compositions.
And the title, “Archaeaeon”…
NY: Archaeaeon has several meanings!
It is a combination of the words Archaea and Aeon giving it the meaning “the Aeon of Archaea”, which itself has multiple meanings. The first is there on the album cover: Eternal Age of the Ancient Ones, in a mythological sense, in that the primordial forces still reign over all EVEN in this day and age.
Second, that Archaea, a relitively ignored ancient single celled life form are thriving below the surface, living in the deepest of oceans, evolving and surviving in extreme environments, which is an analogy to our extreme music thriving in the most hidden of places.
Third, it is sort of a reference to the bands name in that Archaea are similar to mitochondria, as they are without organelles and a nucleus and survive in extreme environment (in this case within multicellular organisms), YET as all life is dependent upon them, our lives are dependent upon this band.
Track by track...
NY:Chapter 11 (Yanchuk)
Biblical reference. The sound of God crushing the futile efforts of man.
...Into The Pit of Babel (Music - Yanchuk, Gibas; Lyrics - Yanchuk)
Kefka reference. Influenced by Incantation and Blut Aus Nord
Agonizing (Music & Lyrics - Haché)
Influenced by Rites of Thy Degringolade
Eternal Contempt of Man (Music & Lyrics - Yanchuk)
The title says it all.
Infernal Weapons Summons (Music & Lyrics - Yanchuk)
I wrote this after a good read of the Necronomicon...ha...
Oath in Defiance (Music - Aramenko, Yanchuk; Lyrics - Haché)
Oldest song on the album. Our old second guitar player M. Aramenko [2005-06, ndr] wrote half of the music.
Descent... (Music - Yanchuk, Godard)
Supposed to be the intro to "pit of babel", but wasn't working as the album intro, so it was re-worked. The harsh noise was recorded live in our jamspace.
Wraithlike (Music - Yanchuk; Lyrics - Haché, Yanchuk
Our best written song in my opinion. Influenced by Axis of Advance.
Akashic Predation (Music & Lyrics: Haché, Yanchuk)
One of the best live songs. Influences include Angelcorpse and Inquisition.
137 (Death's Hedecratia) (Music: Haché, Yanchuk; Lyrics - Yanchuk)
Influenced by Beherit. Occult Numerology. See if you can find the Fibonacci sequence.
Organum Exitus (Gibas, Yanchuk, Haché, Godard)
The harsh noise was recorded live in the jamspace. That is real tympani on this track too (and the rest of the album).
Ah, the Fibonacci sequence on "137 (Death's Hedecratia)"...
NY: Hint 5:37-6:08...
About "Into The Pit of Babel", then, you spoke of a reference to Kefka ... Perhaps you mean Kafka!
NY: Hahaha, Kefka! I meant Kafka.....SOMEONES BEEN PLAYING TOO MUCH FINAL FANTASY VI!
Do you earn a living by the music? Or you also have a normal job?
NY: AHHAHAHAHAA We haven't made a dime off of this band. Doesn't look like we ever will either. Maybe one day when bizzare harsh sloppy metal with occult references is popular. S. Hache holds a degree as an English teacher. K. Godard is a software designer. I WAS a line cook, but am now on medical employment insurance due to a chronic pain condition.
I saw, on youtube, "Trials", new song that will appear in your next album… and I saw no bass player…
NY: Our bassist, N. Gibas, the other founding member along with myself and S. Hache played his last show with us in the end of 2008. That was the last time we have had a bass player. He left Mitochondrion to focus on other musical projects he was more into. We're a pretty tight knit group, and have many close friends who are more than talented enough to play session bass for us live, but at this point we have no intentions of adding any more members to Mitochondrion. Maybe if we end up playing a large festival or something we would get one of our friends to play bass. Small and shitty venues always have shitty sound, and NOT having a bass tends to clear things up for the kick drum and keep the low end under control, especially during fast shit. Slower, heavier parts suffer a little by not having a bass player live, but thats the trade off I guess. Its also easier to plan shit with less members.
As you see Mitochondrion in a few years?
NY: We will probably have another album out in a couple years, but nothing big performance wise or anything.
Change the subject! What do you think, in general, of Religions?
NY: Religions are interesting. S. Hache and myself were subjected to catholic school at parts of our life, and I believe it gave us a healthy contempt for major organized religion. Nothing extreme though.
What do you think about the web and the peer-to-peer? Many are convinced that this is a loss for the band, but I think thanks to peer to peer with many more unsigned band can finally be known ...
NY: You should ask Karl the web peer-to peer question! That completely his territory!!!!!!
Karl Godard: I may be biased on this subject, since I don't care whether my band makes money or not, but I definitely believe file sharing is going to improve the music industry. The record industry is the only part of the music industry that is taking a hit. The reason it feels like CD sales are now in decline, is because labels like EMI and BMG aren't capitalizing like they used to and now we're hearing the crying moans of their pitiful death. While it's true that more and more people are downloading music everyday, there are still large numbers of people buying records. A lot of bands these days are still releasing their music on vinyl. Why? Because vinyl is cool and people like having rad gate folds with sweet artwork! I just bought Portal's 13 Globes 7", and I don't even own a record player. It just sits up on my wall looking evil. If I had the choice, I would only release music on weird analog formats. CD's in my mind are the bastard child of the record industry and the 80's, and should all be melted down and turned into something more useful. If you are going to put something digital on something physical, put it on a Flash thumb drive or something else you don't have to handle with microweave protective gloves. I really hate cd's, besides, selling physical copies of music isn't the be all to end all revenue streams for bands anymore anyways. Thanks to the internet music has transformed into something more fluid, and acts more like a marketing campaign for everything else the band has to offer. Touring and merchandise are probably the two most important things a band should be focusing on. The more ways you can package and sell your "Brand" (insert brutal band name here). The bigger chance you'll have of having somebody taking interest and clicking that Paypal icon on your myspace page.
So to summarize, here is what I think a band should do in order to be successful:
1. Write and record some music.
2. Let people hear your music for free, the more ears the better!
3. Sell some CD's, some merch online.
4. Book and Advertise a tour.
5. Sell merch and CD's at shows.
6. REPEAT (never stop making more music)
Also.... stay in school and keep your day jobs!
What about Canada today?
SH: Canada is a great place to live. People do a lot of complaining but life could be so much, much worse. At least we are not living in the cesspool that is the United States! Although sometimes it feels like there is little distinction. Although touring here is proving to be more difficult than anticipated as our major cities are very far apart. However, we are home to some of the most extreme, uncompromising bands on Earth!!!
Did you ever been in Italy?
SH: No, I have never been to Italy. I hear there are a lot of metal maniacs there and of course excellent bands (Mortuary Drape, Abysmal Grief, Blasphemophagher). One day perhaps but definitely no time soon.
On January 18, 2011, the band release "Parasignosis" on Profound Lore.
What about the title: "Parasignosis"?
NY:I named the album "Parasignosis". I constructed the word and the concept immediately after "Archaeaeon" was released. A rough translation would be "transcedental knowledge from disease/parasitic behavior". It also can mean "knowledge from images of the beyond". A believe it to be a fitting title for the concepts and sound of the album.
Which are the most important difference between “Archaeaeon” and “Parasignosis”?
NY: The main difference between the two albums, was the planning behind the track listing and totality of the release. For "Archaeaeon", we recorded all the songs we had written, and currently played live up to that point, and then pieced them together into the track order after the fact. I only began working on the artwork after we had completed recording. For "Parasignosis", the whole album was planned out from start to finish when we began to record it. Obviously things changed here and there, but the flow and track order and ending was all planned out ahead of time. Also, the artwork for "Parasignosis" was worked upon at the same time as the recording and editing was. In general, Parasignosis is more unified in all aspects. Also, I was responsible for the bass this time around, which was a lot of fun.
How you came in contact with Profound Lore?
NY: We’ve been talking to Chris from Profound Lore for a while now. I can’t really remember how we got in contact in the first place, but I assume it has something to do with the constant comparisons to Portal. I am honored to have our album release alongside the plethora of amazing artists on Profound Lore.
A few words about each “Parasignosis” track...
Initially a whole song on its own (there is a demo version somewhere I think), we decided to strip it down and turn it into an intro. One cannot learn from illness and disease if one allows one’s thoughts to be clouded by the illusion of free will and agency. This song is an attempt to absolve the chains of free will in preparation for what is to come.
Lex Ego Exitum
Law of Ego Death/Ruin; An anthem to self-destructive action.
The chorus of “Strike down, Saturn”, “You, shall never”, “Consume me!” can be taken in different ways, which I feel it is so powerful. It is both the defiance and the embrace of Death.
Probably the most “normal” death metal song on this album.
This is the oldest song on the album. It was written in 2008 just after Archaeaeon came out. Most of the riffs are even older, from 2005 or 2006. I like this song the least on this album actually, probably because it has been around in one form or another for so long, and I feel that our writing has changed a lot since.
This is the last song we wrote for this album. All the lyrics for this song are written by Shawn, which is unique, and I quite prefer, as they are cryptic and dark as hell. Both the music and the lyrics pull you into the pre-cosmic void and chain you there for eternity…
NY: Well, more Mitochondrion, for sure, although we are probably going to be slowing down in the next few years as our personal lives become busier. Hopefully we’ll have another album out if not in 2012, 2013. There also may be a split in the works, but nothing is finalized at all. We do however have an astronomical amount of riffs and song fragments lying around in wait to be assembled and twisted into (in)cohereance.