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Hi everyone, I thought you might be interested in reading an interview that was recently done with Samantha by MetalHead magazine
I believe it is the first interview the band has done since their announcement of "Requiem", so I thought you would all enjoy the read. Hope everyone is well, and I dare say some official news will be filtering through at some stage soon.
On behalf of the band, Willow.
Our deepest hails and thanks for accepting the interview for METALHEAD mag. By the way, congratulations on your website which is, thanks to its great design and interactivity, simply the best band site I have ever surfed on. First of all, could we know who is the brain behind this work? (Samantha): The website concept was predominantly mine. We wanted it to be aesthetically appealing while maintaining the ability to function in a fairly straightforward manner.
To what extent do you attach importance to the website in VIRGIN BLACK existence?
I think it’s an essential point of reference and one which most accurately represents us as the information is directly sourced from the band.
Let’s get back to the main subject, the band VIRGIN BLACK and please, tell me more about the chapter named “the birth of Virgin Black”. How did the band start to exist?
In my early years I began writing music with a few other guys. It wasn’t long before I realised that my own musical direction would never be appeased if I remained in that existing situation. Rowan London heard what I was writing and later approached me with a proposal to collaborate. He had a very similar attitude or spirit to me, musically. Really, that was the birth of Virgin Black.
In ten years I guess that the links within the band must have become quite tight and strong. However, don’t you think that too much complicity and knowledge of each other might in a way threaten the spirit of emulation and competition necessary to excel oneself? In other words doesn’t comfort and stability open the door to stagnation?
Well, it should and often does, particularly after some of the punishing challenges we’ve had to endure. But you know something’s real when it ignites more vehemently even after such difficult times, and after so many years. As writers, for both myself and Rowan, it’s as if we have only just begun.
How would you describe VIRGIN BLACK’s music to those that don’t know you?
A comfort in darkness.
How did you come up with the name of the band? Is there a special meaning or message behind it?
Our official definition is, an anomalous harmony between the juxtapositions of purity and humanity’s darkness. Contrast seems to be inherent in what we do. : Virgin/Black, a contrast of purity and hope against the dark night of the soul and hopelessness. The anomalous possibility of opposites existing as one.
When you write the songs is the whole band working together?
Rowan and I have written all the music on the albums as well as this 3-album requiem mass which is soon to be released. We tend to work differently in that all the songs are written and completed before they’re presented to the band. I like writing alone, it just seems to work favourably for me.
Tell us more please about the process that brings a VIRGIN BLACK song to life…
When inspiration is sown into the heart, you really need to be gentle with it. It is much too easy to trample and deface it with your mind. Our job is to remain true to that initial seed of inspiration, allow it to grow, and do whatever’s possible to reflect that which it represents; that is, to reflect its true essence. I hope that makes sense.
Tell us, please a few words about your message and the theme from your lyrics.
It is interlaced with the smallest hope amidst the deepest darkness. Sometimes, that is enough to get people through.
Is there a dream you’d like to make come true with VIRGIN BLACK?
To never lose the honesty in the music.
You performed on the same stage with bands like Opeth, Paradise Lost, Cathedral, Tiamat and many others. How did it feel?
It’s always an honour to share the stage with a band you esteem.
With which band do you dream and wish to share the stage in the future?
I think I just yearn to repeat a tour that we’ve already experienced and that’s with two lesser known bands, Antimatter (Mick Moss, Duncan Patterson) and Agalloch. I love them as people and as musicians. We all shared a great dynamic together and it would be great to re-visit it.
Let’s go back in time, back to your first release, the Virgin Black demo in 1995. How would you describe your first material now? And what are you feeling when you are listening to it after ten years?
Aren’t you meant to loathe your first demo?! That’s really not the case here; in fact we still play most of the songs on it. There’s something very special about that release and I still feel very partial to it.
After 4 years from your first demo, you released the first Virgin Black E.P. called “Trance”, then 3 years later, in 2001 you released your first album “Sombre Romantic”… and after another 2 years in 2003 you released your second album “Elegant…and dying”. Now, what I want to ask you: did you plan all your releases this way: after 4, after 3 years, after 2 years… and now after other 3 years a new material from Virgin Black is waiting for us? Is it all well planned? Are we going to have another Virgin Black material in 4 years till this year?
There are numerous cryptic links that coexist in our releases but what you’ve described is merely coincidence. Writing has already begun for the release after Requiem. I would be very disappointed if it took four years to release it. Actually, I’ll boldly promise you it wont.
Now, that you explained this interesting phenomenon I say it is time to talk about your third album that you are going to release. We have to deal again with “the number phenomenon” because your third release is actually 3 albums, each a separate entity. Can you explain this please?
Of course. Well, the past few years have culminated in writing and recording 3 albums at the same time. Collectively it is a requiem-mass, that is, a piece of music written for someone who has died. It’s a deflection from the current Virgin Black sound, but just as, if not more, potent than anything we’ve done before.
I think it is really wonderful and that’s why I want you to tell us a few words about “Requiem” and about its every part, please…
The first album, Requiem – pianissimo is entirely classical. There are no modern instruments. We wrote all the orchestral arrangements ourselves and recorded it with the prestigious Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. It features exquisite choral arrangements along with tenor, mezzo-soprano and soprano solo voices. For me, it is a palpable solace.
In Requiem – mezzo forte the band is ushered in and courts the orchestra. It is an intimate relationship where the two desperately need each other to completely speak what needs to be said. So often, band/orchestra combinations are very disjointed, but everything on mezzo-forte was written explicitly, and is a symbiotic relationship. Out of the three albums it is perhaps positioned closest to our current sound.
Requiem – fortissimo unbridles a much heavier sound, heavier than anything in our past yet it still maintains a flavour of classical sensibility amidst intense death/doom. Essentially, the three albums progress in sonic intensity and if you were to play them one after the other they would join seamlessly.
How did you think to create such an album?
To write a requiem was something that was brooding within me for countless years, but I never spoke of it to any of the members, and to be honest I didn’t envisage it happening speedily. It was just after the Opeth tour that Rowan approached me and said the words “what do you think about writing a requiem?” You’re safe to assume I was dumbfounded. At that very moment I knew it was right. The problem we faced was that there was too much to say.
Each album has its own unique voice and its own eloquent expression, but just as importantly each album needs the other to complete its own unique voice.
When exactly are you planning to release it?
The label has forecast an early 2007 release.
Will you start a “Requiem tour” after the release?
Touring is certainly anticipated.
Is there a chance to see you in Romania?
I do know we’ll be in Switzerland in April, but all other details are still irresolute. There’s always a chance.
What does Virgin Black mean to you, now after 10 years?
It means more to me now than it ever has in the past.
It is an entity of consequence.
The end of this interview is very close, so that is why I want to thank you very much for taking time out to answer my questions, good luck with “Requiem”. And honestly now, there is something magic about Virgin Black’s music and all that Virgin Black means… it is something more than words… thank you very much!
Thank you Elisabeth, you have been a joy to speak to.
…and because “Finis coronat opus” (the final crowns the opera”) I want you to have the final words in this interview, please…
I always find last words difficult as I’m unsure to whom I’m speaking. I will assume they are to those who understand and embrace the music. If I could take each person’s hand, and hold it against my heart, that gesture would be my words.