White Ward – Formlessness

Monday, 3rd July 2017

We’ve yet to experience full saxophone inundation. Sure, Ihsahn has used it hardcore on a trio of his studio albums and Sweden’s Shining have made a career out of it, but the brass instrument remains on the outside looking in, employed by only a select brave few. Ukraine’s White Ward is one such band, adding the saxophone to an already avant-garde mix found on their fantastic Futility Report debut, which saw release via French stronghold Debemur Morti earlier this year.

Capable of blending harsh black metal with symphonic pushes, melodic forays and various sonic quirks, White Ward prove they are incapable of being boxed-in. Not only that, their Ukraine locale plays a key factor in their sound and development, giving Futility Report an atmospheric onto itself. Wanting to delve further into the inner-workings of one of the year’s most captivating albums, we sent Yurii Kazaryan (guitaris), Yurii Kononov (drums) and Andrii Pechatkin (bass) some questions. Here’s what ensued…

Dead Rhetoric: You are from the Odessa region of Ukraine. How much do your surroundings influence your sound?

White Ward: Odessa is a big port city near the Black Sea. And the sea and the whole atmosphere of the city have influenced us, no doubt in that. You may find lots of port factories in industrial areas here, forests of freight cranes, multiple high-rises, quiet narrow streets, wild beaches and many more various things here. Lots of these images were spinning in our heads while we were creating the album and, of course, have influenced us and album’s atmosphere which has a significant chunk of urbanism in it.

Dead Rhetoric: Was it difficult to find like-minded people to form a band like White Ward?

White Ward: Starting the band wasn’t really difficult. At the beginning of 2012 Yurii Kazaryan and his drummer friend decided to play some canonical raw depressive black metal. They quickly found other dudes and started rehearsing, recorded one horrible demo which has never been released and then it all ended. Everyone except Yurii has left the band, he started looking for new people and from this moment the long hard times of forming the band have started. And only in the last year we have finally managed to form an excellent team and this curse seems to have left us.

It is extremely difficult to find musicians in Ukraine if you are playing something that stands out of canons and trends. For instance, in Andrii’s (the bassist) earlier years, the longest journey between his home and the place where rehearsals regularly took place was about 20 hours: he had to travel on a train through the whole country. The reason was an insane progressive rock band called Gravitsapa and at that moment he was the only musician in Ukraine who wanted to play bass in that band. As for White Ward, we were born in different cities and still not all of us live in one place, but we think that interesting musical ideas break borders and reduce distances combining people together.

Dead Rhetoric: Right from the beginning in 2012, you started releasing demos, splits and EPs. How and why are you so productive?

White Ward: We love creating music. From making raw demos to prettifying the finished results with final arrangements we just enjoy the whole process — so we actually do what we love and naturally return to these things again and again. We faced the majority of difficulties while forming the band really. Besides that, all goes pretty well and yes, we may say, productive. Some songs, for example “Black Silent Piers” and “Walls” were written in about a day. And now it looks like we have finally solved the problem of forming the full band — so stay tuned for the new stuff because we actually plan to start recording the new album at the end of this year.

Dead Rhetoric: How did your deal with Debemur Morti come about?

White Ward: We started looking for a label after finishing the album. We wanted a proper physical release and started sending out letters to the labels suitable (in our opinion) for our music. The guys from Debemur Morti liked the record and offered us to sign a contract. It is a real thing and we are very happy to be on such a great label! It’s a real pleasure to work with them.

Dead Rhetoric: We tend to label bands and you’ll probably get hit with the “avant-garde black metal” tag. Are you okay with that? Or, how would you describe White Ward?

White Ward: We’ve mixed various genres which are usually far from each other: black metal, post metal, jazz, sometimes even electronics. But, of course, it’s not a panacea. Musical style derives primarily from emotions one feels while writing it. Our latest album is filled with despair, lost hopes and other things, which are common for post-styles. So we would prefer to stick with “post black” label for now — avant-garde is yet to be explored. But still — defining a genre is a good excuse to not listen to the record! “Is it avant-garde post black metal? Oh, I hate this genre! So I won’t even try that album”, you know! So when officially asked of defining the band’s sound we usually say we perform “intensely deviant music of a noir shade,” and cause much more confusion by that ha-ha.

Dead Rhetoric: Futility Report is simply fantastic. What was the goal when putting the album together?

White Ward: Thank you very much for the kind words! We really wanted to do our best with this album. We wanted not only to create the good record which would introduce White Ward to the world but to stay ultimately true to ourselves, our personalities, characters and preferences. We all differ from each other, we like different music and we have slightly different approaches to music creation. Our goal was to make the right mix out of this and ultimately something self-sufficient while also staying true to black metal roots out of which White Ward came into sight.

Dead Rhetoric: Why did it take so long to record the album?

White Ward: For years we were facing a handful of huge problems which tried to lead us into the worst scenario of not putting the band together and never giving birth to the album. We didn’t want White Ward to be a studio project, we wanted a proper live band and it was really hard to find a good line-up of soulmate musicians here, in the land with almost no scene or music industry at all. Also we were still searching for our sound. Staying in the main vein of black metal we tried slightly different approaches here and there (you might want to check out the Origins compilation of early recordings reflecting that period of the band) until we have eventually figured out what we are and how we wanted our first proper album to sound. It was a long hard road indeed and we feel huge relief we have finally made it, and feel very happy we have made it pretty successfully.

Dead Rhetoric: The use of a saxophone is one of the defining traits of your sound. But, you don’t overdo it. What’s the approach to using it?

White Ward: Before providing the answer, we’d like to return to the question about forming the band. The idea to use saxophone was always appealing to us, but it was almost impossible to find a person who will take part in the creation of our album. Someone didn’t understand the music of White Ward, while the others didn’t have enough skills. Luckily, we discovered that Alexey Iskimzhi, the vocalist of Tectum, knows what to do with the saxophone. Our idea was to record it just for several songs, but when Alexey received demos of the forthcoming album, he told me that it would be great to record as much melodies as possible. We agreed, and due to the great deal of choice, the mixing stage turned into a puzzle when we were sitting at the studio trying to figure out what saxophone tracks to leave and what to eliminate from Futility Report.

Dead Rhetoric: “Black Silent Piers” is an obvious standout. What’s the story behind the song?

White Ward: The process of composing this track was very quick, like a stormy river current. It’s one of the simplest tracks of the album, and probably the most “black metal-ish”, but still, we love it no less than the others. When it was in more or less finished form we have decided not to complicate it really much, so it wouldn’t lose its atmosphere and charm. It was “Black Silent Piers” and “Futility Report” which could be heard on our very first live show.

Dead Rhetoric: Finally, what’s on your agenda for the rest of 2017?

White Ward: In the near future we plan to start working on the second full-length album and to play lots of gigs since the beginning of autumn.

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