Interview with Corey Webb (drums), Chuck Brown (guitars and vocals), Brent McClellan (bass) and Justin Avery (guitars)
Interview conducted by Cluedo
Date online: July 14, 2007
The city of Indianapolis has once again made its presence felt in the noble genre of true, traditional Doom. Standing alongside the monumental THE GATES OF SLUMBER are the equally colossal APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE. The young foursome led by former TGoS kitman Chuck Brown, have released two earth-shattering releases in the past two years. As AoS rolls on towards securing a seat at the head of Doom Metal's table, all four members - Justin Avery (guitarist), Chuck Brown (guitarist and vocalist), Brent McClellan (bassist) and Corey Webb (drummer) - spare some of their time to answer a few questions in the following interview.
Thanks a lot for the interview guys. I hope these questions find all of you in good health. Right, first question and it's a straightforward one. What drove you to form AoS?
Chuck Brown: At the time AoS started I was still playing drums in The Gates of Slumber and was limited in how much guitar work I could bring to the table because obviously the other two guys wanted to write also. So I kind of needed another outlet where I could write more guitar riffs and Apostle solved that.
Corey Webb: A good friend who I'd been rehearsing with moved to California, so I was sort of searching for another project for a couple weeks before I got together with Chuck and Brent. We hit it off, and things just progressed from there.
Justin Avery: The guys already had the band going for a while before I joined, but I hadn't been in a band in a while, and I met these guys. It's definitely been the most fun band I've been involved with thus far.
My own interpretation of "Apostle of Solitude" leads to me to believe that the name has a spiritual connotation. What does the name represent, and how does it tie into the band's outlook?
Chuck: There's definitely a spiritual connotation to the band name. It's not really all that complex though. It's just the concept or idea of a person who goes through life learning, discovering, teaching and being devoted to things they hold to be true and right. And they do this spiritually alone meaning not as a person who follows any set religion or idea or person. Hope that makes sense.
The use of the word "Apostle" also suggests a theological underpinning. Although it is not clearly evident in the songwriting, does the band have any sort of theistic inclination? What are your general thoughts on the compatibility of religion and metal, in particular doom metal?
Chuck: The songwriting really varies as far as subject matter. We're not trying to be a band that writes songs only about theistic or religious ideas but the songs do tend to be about the more serious side of things. Aside from Gospel music I don't know of a type of music that deals more with religion than Metal so I would not only say they are compatible but practically inseparable. Doom Metal in particular though seems to deal with the darker side of things.
Justin: Really depends on your view of religion and doom metal, there is certainly a lot of doom in ye olde holy books.
It seems to me that APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE is a very personal venture. At least, that is the vibe I get when I read your lyrics most, if not all, which seem to be written in the first person. Tell me, if it is not too much of an intrusion on my part, what fuels the lyric writing process? What are the reasons behind the themes of grief, pain, darkness, and general despondency?
Chuck: You've definitely paid attention to the lyrics, I'm impressed. Although the lyrics are very personal I feel like many people can identify with them. So although they're in the first person I hope that anyone who feels that way can relate to them. The reason behind them is very simple - sadness. But it's kind of cathartic in a way to speak about them and get it off your chest. The songs aren't necessarily meant to depress someone just give you something to relate to and think about.
Thus far, you have had two releases in two years and to me it is clear AoS is quickly evolving into a dynamic juggernaut. What sort of progression have you noticed from the time the 2005 Demo was released until the writing of the Embraced by the Black EP? Were there any conscious efforts made when recording this new material? What about unconscious developments which you perhaps noticed after listening to the final product?
Corey: Nothing was changed consciously. I think any improvements in the songs would be attributed to us just naturally progressing as a band. At the time the '05 demo was released we hadn't really performed live yet. When we put the [Embraced By The Black] EP out, we'd gotten quite a few live shows under our belt and built our confidence up a bit.
Brent, during my research for this interview I discovered that you are somewhat 'new' to the scene. How did it initially feel to join a doom metal band? What was your reaction upon being initiated into the doom metal fold? What does it mean to be a part of a band, to experience playing live and interacting with other musicians and how does it compare to when you were just 'dabbling' in music (as Chuck put it in his interview with Chris Barnes over at Hellride)? Do you now feel a connection with AoS' output, or do you view yourself as only a musician?
Brent McClellan: I have always leaned towards the heavier, melodic and atmospheric side of music. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Judas Priest among others being the mainstays. Although, I was always searching for something else, but was caught up in the "mainstream". Then, I met Chuck and he introduced me into the "underground" world of Doom Metal. This was the sound I was searching for.
I myself, am a work in progress. I have owned music gear through out the years, but never really learned to play until now. So as for joining a Doom Metal band, Nothing short of a dream come true. Chuck, Corey and Justin are excellent bandmates and my brothers. I can not express how much I appreciate playing in a band with these guys. To come together as a group and take a piece of each of us and put it together and create music that bonds us, and also connects us to others is an awesome experience.
Chuck, some of us are aware of the fact that you are most widely known as a drummer. How has the transition from being in the background to being at the forefront as the vocalist for this band been? What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? How does it feel to take on the responsibility of being the 'face' of this band (if it isn't too unfair of me to say)?
Chuck: Well although I've spent the majority of my time behind the drums I did at one time front another band so it's not completely new but it is a bit different than being the drummer. Not better or worse really just different. The biggest challenge for me is trying to sing well every show. If you're sick and can't sing well that's tuff. I don't have to deal with that kind of stuff when I'm playing drums. As far as the "face" of the band goes I just hope to represent everybody in the band and not just tell you "my" views. I know what it's like for people to think you feel the same way as someone else just because the singer said it in an interview or something.
Chuck, you were of course the drummer in the renowned THE GATES OF SLUMBER. How does it feel to have contributed to a contemporary Doom classic like The Awakening? How would you compare your time in TGoS to starting up APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE? What points of convergence and divergence have you seen during your time in both bands in terms of songwriting and also 'ideological' (for want of a better word) inclinations? What did you learn from being a part of TGoS and how have you implemented these lessons in AoS?
<- [Photo courtesy of John Gallo (ORODRUIN/CRUCIFIST)] Chuck: I have some very fond memories of my time with TGoS but I like what I'm doing with AoS and that's where I want to be. In AoS the whole approach to writing songs and ideology is much different than when I was with TGoS. When I was in The Gates it was more of a reluctant group effort where as in Apostle everyone seems to be more than happy to share ideas and try things out. Now that's nothing against the guys in TGoS it's just that everyone wanted things to be their way (myself included) and wanted the song to sound the way they envisioned it. It's a little looser in AoS. Someone may bring something in but it doesn't come out sounding quite the way it did when they came in but that's OK because everybody contributed and that's why the song sounds the way it does. In Apostle we don't care so much about what category or style of music people put us in we just want people to enjoy it as much as we do. From my time in TGoS I've learned to be more patient and talk about something if you don't like it.
You guys seem to have a genuine enthusiasm for playing live. What does it mean to each of you to play live, and how have audiences reacted to your performances?
Corey: This is the first "serious" band I've played in, so playing live is definitely one of the most fun aspects of being in the band. The audience response has been pretty good for the most part. You'll find the fans of the old school metal sound digging it as well as people who might not be your typical metal listener. The local underground metal and hardcore scene has been very accepting and supportive, which is cool. There are a lot of very good bands coming from this city right now, and to get that sort of respect and positive reinforcement from your peers is especially cool.
Chuck: Playing live is where you hope to get a chance to get people to enjoy your music as much as you do, so I love it.
Justin: Playing shows is always fun for me. You really couldn't ask for a better local scene than the one we have here in Indy. Touring is a blast as well, you get to see new bands and meet new people even if the crowd isn't into you or isn't there its about making music. As long as I am able to do that I will.
Could you tell us more about NECROLOGY RECORDINGS? There doesn't appear to be much information about them out there, although from what I understand they are a local label. What sort of relationship do you enjoy with them? How have they supported you during your alliance? Have you entertained thoughts of moving to a bigger label?
Corey: Necrology is more or less just a good friend of ours here in Indianapolis who put the label together with the strict DIY intentions of helping out Indiana bands that he was into. No more - no less. He put the first demo out under the Necrology label, and helped us with the Embraced By The Black demo, although that release does not carry the Necrology name. He's a great guy and a good friend, and has done a lot for AOS really in getting things rolling since before the first demo - A true soldier no doubt. I won't name drop, but if you live in Indianapolis and are involved in the scene in any way, you know who the man is.
We've talked about label support. We're planning on going into the studio again this summer to record another few songs, and spend a bit more time in the studio than we have for the past two recordings. We're planning on shopping this next one around to a few labels, but it's honestly not that big of a deal for us. We're pretty much working at the pace that we want to with this band. Sure, it'd be nice to be able to afford more studio time, to record more, to have better distribution besides the US Postal Service and to have someone else pay for studio time, merchandise, and touring costs, etc.; but it's not really a situation of something that would "make or break" the band. It's somewhat satisfying to operate under the radar anyway.
At the time of writing, I have noticed that all of your music which has been released officially is available in the public domain. All three tracks from Embraced, and Pale Sick Horse from the 2005 demo are available for streaming at your Myspace site, while the remaining two tracks from the 2005 demo can be downloaded from the official site. What are the reasons for this? Do you have any concerns about downloading and bootlegging? Does NECROLOGY have any problems with having all your output up for grabs?
Corey: The reason for that is just so as many people who might be into it can check it out. Necrology probably cares less than we do about having all the stuff up for grabs haha. At this point both releases are just demos, limited to 100 copies of the '05 demo and 260 copies of Embraced By The Black, so the intent isn't anywhere close to trying to make money. The 2005 demo has been out of print for several months now, and we only have about 40 copies of the ep left, so we're not really worried about that too much.
History has shown that bands from certain regions tend to develop certain sounds, if not quite homogeneous, then sharing a certain base. Two "true" doom bands have come out of Indy in recent times (yourselves and TGoS). How do you see this trend, if at all, continuing? How closely knit is the Indianapolis scene? What are your general thoughts on the music coming out of your hometown?
Corey: The scene here is better than it ever has been by most accounts; It's really an exciting time. There are a lot of awesome bands coming out of Indianapolis right now, not so much in the doom realm, but of metal and hardcore in general, and everybody gets along well enough and supports each others bands for the most part. OK I'll name drop - Devil To Pay, The Gates of Slumber, Black Arrows of Filth and Impurity, The Dream Is Dead, Demiricous, Giraffes Eating Lions, Heroes Laid To Rest, Llange, Signs of Decay, Salvation, Necropharmacon, The Retreads, Redhorse, Off Balance, Amongst The Swarm, Harakiri, Order of the Black Hand, Wasteland DC, You Will Die, About The Fire, The Dockers, Feasting Arena, Phoenix Bodies, ...to name a few.
Justin: The thing about Indianapolis right now is that there isn't a "sound"; a lot of people who love lots of different music have started bands. It's a great atmosphere to be involved in. All the bands Corey mentioned are amazing bands, and they are all different.
What is the allure of doom metal? What does 'doom metal' mean to each individual in the band and to AoS as a collective entity?
Corey: Heavy, crushing music delivered with the utmost sincerity. The "blues" of the metal world, if you will. Hopelessness, despair, and grief, exorcised from the mind and channeled out in a catharsis of sound.
Chuck: I think Corey said it all.
Justin: Being loud... either pissing people off or getting them into it.
THE GATES OF SLUMBER have outspoken views on what constitutes 'true doom'. Chuck, have you brought those ideas into AoS? What do you think of this C.O.T.D issue? What are your general thoughts on the current state of doom metal?
Chuck: I know where those guys are coming from with the whole "true metal/doom". I admit like most people I don't like the idea of someone jumping on bandwagon or playing a watered down version of what you hold to be true and have loved your whole life. But I don't like the idea of trying to run somebody out of town either because they just discovered it or don't play music that conforms to the guidelines that you have set forth. If it has integrity than it deserves respect, and it doesn't have to be doom to have integrity. At least in my opinion.
Do you feel doom ceases to be doom once 'alien' droney or sludeglike influences infiltrate the music? Do you feel doom is merely a music form or is there more to it? Would AoS consider incorporating these alien influences to a great extent?
Corey: Yes, in the classic definition, however I for one get a little burnt out on the arguments over what's really this and that in the metal subgenres. At the same time though, it's nice to have some idea of what to expect before you take the time to listen to something. Being primarily an underground form of music (as much as it can be, in this computer age), doom metal encompasses more than just a form of music. For most people who are into this, it's an ingrained part of who they are. Then again, it's only rock 'n roll.
We don't really set boundaries for what we incorporate into the songs, but we do have a path that we don't want to stray too far from. While we're certainly not going to limit ourselves in what we do, we're not likely to stray too far from the almighty negative riff.
Chuck: Couldn't have said it better.
Justin: It really depends on how it's done, I like some of the more droney and more experimental doom, but other times it seems insincere and forced. It seems easy to tell someone's intentions by listening to their music... doom or not. It really just boils down to what you like and what you don't like. If we write a riff that we like that is non traditional then we are bound to use it somehow if we all like it. Trying to be anything is insincere, you just do it and if you don't have it in you then you move on. Just be honest with yourself.
What lies ahead for APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE? Recordings, tours, etc?
Corey: We're doing a few local shows through the summer, with maybe a few nearby out of town shows, and then recording sometime in August. Keepin on keepin on, basically.
I cannot express how much of a pleasure it has been to correspond with you. Thank you for taking the time and effort to share your thoughts with myself and the readers of The Metal Crypt. If there's anything more you feel needs to be said, please do so. Cheers!
Chuck: Thanks so much for all your kind words and support, I know I speak for the whole band when I say it's enormously flattering and appreciated.
Justin: Thanks for being interested in our band! Its great knowing there are people digging what we are doing.
Corey: Thanks Ujval and CHEERS!
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