Ephel Duath – The New Disorder

Sunday, 31st March 2013

(This content originally appeared on Blistering.com)

Ephel Duath’s Davide Tiso probably doesn’t intend to write such outwardly difficult music to grasp; it just comes naturally for him. He’s one of our scene’s boundary-pushers, someone with little regard for the rulebooks that at times, bog the metal scene down and threaten to send it hurdling back to the Stone Age. A cursory glance at ED’s previous output reveals a loose, avant-garde current that worked like a charm on Pain Necessary to Know, but was dull and uninspiring on 2009’s Through My Dog’s Eyes.

Looking to at least gain some semblance of balance, Tiso relocated from his native Italy to San Francisco, loading up with Crisis vocalist Karyn Crisis (who also happens to be his wife), bass behemoth Steve DiGiorigo (Death, Sadus), and drum champ Marco Minneman (Necrophagist). The result is the year’s 3-song EP On Death and Cosmos (Agonia Records), a body of work that leans more to the black metal side while retaining the elusive, yet alluring feel that has come to embody Ephel Duath’s sound. And as we learned via our correspondence with Tiso, the road getting to On Death and Cosmos was a bumpy one…

Blistering.com: You’re now based on the west coast of the United States. In what ways has your new locale shaped the way you approach writing?

Davide Tiso: I think my writing comes from such a deep and personal part of me that the result would probably be the same regardless where I am, but I have to say that living in San Francisco is giving me the chance to be in contact with such a big source of daily inspiring inputs…it is extremely liberating. It feels to me that you can be whatever you want to be in SF, without being judged that much, or not judged at all. It’s a good sensation. I think you can easily re-invent yourself in SF, or even discover sides of yourself you didn’t know.

I come from a pretty bigot and conservative part of Italy, the northeast. I literally ran away from there and it feels like I came out of a very thick and sticky fog. Now I see colors, much more than the one I was used to see and they are very, very bright. I see my future with a pleasant sense of uncertainty and it feels damn good to realize that I’m not following the steps of anyone before me, like, unfortunately, most guys I grow up with are kind of forced to deal with. I love my family, I love my country but I’m more than fine to have both of them of the other side of the planet.

Blistering.com: Ultimately, what made you move to California? It’s quite the different world from Italy, I would imagine.

Tiso: Just before starting the promotion for 2009 Through my Dog’s Eyes, Ephel Duath’s singer Lucio Lorusso had to leave the band for economic problems. After putting so much effort in that album, after having arranged that album again and again for a dozen times, after having recorded it spending all the last cent left in our pockets, I suddenly remained the only member in the band. In the meantime Earache was putting some pressure to find new band members and after trying to play with other musicians for a while, I decided to do the promotion for the album by myself and take a break from Ephel Duath.

In the meantime, I got invited by an Italian producer I knew to play the guitars on the Karyn Crisis solo album that was in the works, I accepted. We recorded 17 songs in five-to-six months, and when Karyn came to Italy to record the vocals, there was a fallout between her and the producer and the whole album got into a hold. I didn’t have any more ties with Italy anymore, Karyn didn’t need to be there anymore either, so we both decided to move to California, where she was living at the time, to find new musicians and start a life together.

Blistering.com: Your split from Earache was rather well-publicized and you didn’t hide your feelings about the label. Now that we’re a few years removed from it, do you have different sentiments regarding the label?

Tiso: I still think Earache was not the right label for Ephel Duath and Ephel Duath was not the right band for Earache, especially in that timeframe, we were right in the middle of that trash metal revival they were investing so much money into. When we got signed with Earache we were under the sub-label Elitist records run by Lee Barrett, who strongly believed in the band. When Elitist closed, all the band got dropped except for us and Biomechanical, and from that moment on I felt there was no one at the label that know what to do with a band like ED. I think it was a relief for both sides to part ways.

Blistering.com: How are things with Agonia? They seem to pretty willing to let you do as you please, which in your case, has to help.

Tiso: To be the top priority of a small but dedicated label run by a fine, supportive and enthusiastic gentleman, is probably the best situation a band like ours could wish to deal with. Now ED has more support from the label, more promotion done by the label, more and better communication with the label, more interviews found by the label, more control and freedom regarding everything about the band granted by the label, music available in gorgeous vinyl and digipack versions thanks to the label, shall I go on? Let me just add that the contract I signed with Agonia is one of the fairest deals I have ever read in my music career so far.

Blistering.com: Having Karyn in the band must be an ideal situation for you. What’s it been like working with someone you’re in a relationship with?

Tiso: Having Karyn in the band is something I’m extremely grateful for, she is the best bandmate I have ever had. I would say that it is not ideal for most couple out there to start an artistic partnership or business together, but I’m so proud the way me and Karyn are handling Ephel Duath. We are very capable to divide the band business from our daily life together, and once we get into the “talking band mode” we share the 100% of decisions, without having any drama or ego involved. Dedication to the band, a lot of work and a clear vision: this is what is getting Ephel Duath better and better every day, and without Karyn onboard I would probably not be able to reach these new goals.

Blistering.com: Do the two of you share similar visions toward music? I would think as such since you’re both on the forward-thinking, almost avant-garde side of the fence…

Tiso: We are both big fan of each other and we really clicked artistically. I’m totally in love with her voice, I find it perfect for the kind of music and lyrics I write and I trust her gut blindly. If Karyn has the feeling that something doesn’t work or will not work out in the near future, she said it loud and clear and we go for it. The goal we are setting for both our lives and our individual artistic expressions are getting higher and higher and I love to be around all day with such a driven person as Karyn.

Blistering.com: On Death and Cosmos has more black metal elements than your previous releases. Your riffing is more angular and obtuse as well. What made you go in this direction?

Tiso: I got the input to restart writing for ED from a personal tragedy, the EP’s mood is very obscure because of this and this is probably what is giving to the whole work that black metal feeling you are talking about. When I felt it was time to return composing for ED, I noticed pretty soon that the material was going to be very dark and cryptic, longer songs with riffs upon riffs melting on each other, everything in order to create as many intense moods as possible. I let my inspiration go, without questioning too much were I was supposed to bring the band this time, and the songs came out effortless, the whole process was extremely liberating.

In 2005, with the album Pain Necessary to Know I started working with open song structures and more dissonant riffs, that mindset was probably the only pre-defined direction I hold onto while composing On Death and Cosmos.

Blistering.com: Was there anything you threw at Marco and Steve that they couldn’t handle? Furthermore, what’s it like working with two world-class players?

Tiso: Respecting my music so much I try to set the bar pretty high for what concern the other musicians I involve with Ephel Duath. When I approach other musicians, the songs structures and all the guitars parts are usually already composed. Considering the challenging nature of Ephel Duath’s music, and considering we are usually dealing with distant collaborations based on emails and phone calls, it is much more productive to work with pre-defined song’s skeletons. To balance the fact that working this way I always finish to be the one leading the game, I try to give as much artistic freedom possible to each musician, and instead of being the one giving directions I let the music speak to them. Just when their creative flows don’t naturally click with mine, I try to help sharing how I was picturing the other instruments while composing my guitars.

In On Death and Cosmos I’m lucky enough to be joined by my first choices in terms of drumming, bass playing, singing, producing and mastering. Thanks to the big support offered by Agonia Records and with a big dose of stubbornness, this time around I was able to make the album I wanted with the team I wanted. Planning things right and way ahead of time we made the collaboration with Marco and Steve possible. Both these musicians have a pretty tight schedule, but their enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment to the project made the difference. They found the time and the energy to learn my songs, compose and record their part, and they both did a wonderful job.

Blistering.com: I understand you’ve started work on the next album. How is it shaping up?

Tiso: We are way into the new album recordings at the moment, guitars and structures are done, so are drums, we are half way with the bass and we are taking four or five months to deal exclusively with the vocals. I believe the new album will be out in the first 2013 quarter.

Blistering.com: Will you tie in any concepts ala Through My Dog’s Eyes?

Tiso: The new album’s lyrics have a strong metaphysical direction and all the songs touch very specific super natural experiences I’ve read, heard or dealt with in my life so far. The words are poetic but crude at the same time and I simply love how the album is growing day after day: it will be the most ambitious piece of music I have ever worked on.

Blistering.com: What do you have planned for live shows? Will you be careful in selecting the dates you play out based on everyone’s schedule?

Tiso: I want the recording line-up to come on stage, and to do so, considering the name involved, I need to plan everything in the best way possible so that this kind of even will become a reality. We are probably going to return to play once the album will be released, but just if we will receive the necessary conditions to do some good shows. For me to compose music is a very intimate process, vital I would say: I don’t do it for passion, I do it because I have to. To bring Ephel Duath live, most of the time meant to sacrifice a lot of the artistic side of things to deal with the lowest and most practical aspects of music: promoters that don’t pay, shows lacking promotion, bad planned tours and tones and tons of expenses. I’m not interested in repeating that kind of experience once again. Once I got back working on Ephel Duath full-time, I promised myself to not deal with compromises anymore and to take just decisions for the exclusive benefit of the band and its future.

Blistering.com: Finally, what’s on the agenda for the rest of 2012?

Tiso: More promotion for the EP, shooting a video for the song “Stardust Rain” and prepare to re-enter in studio in few months to record the new album!

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