Below is the full interview with Steve by Terrorizer Magazine writer Ed Chapman. Our thanks to Ed!
1. Obvious question first… how would you describe the band’s sound, what are your influences etc.
We’ve always described ourselves as a doom band, but as our songs are pretty long and slow we tend to get labelled as drone doom, which is fine as we do have some drone tracks, but our sound is basically down tempo doom.
Our early influences were bands like Sabbath, Cathedral, Electric Wizard, Burning Witch, Khanate, Godflesh, Sleep and so on. Nowadays we kind of do our own thing, as we write in a particular way and each track develops on from the last, but we do listen to other heavy bands who no doubt also influence us; stuff like Yob, Sea of Bones, Hesper Payne, Asva, and so on.
Nev also listened to and studied a wide range of music during his Music Composition degree, so elements of Classical and World Music also creep in subconsciously.
2. What on earth motivates you to write songs that are so long? Do you think you can only play a certain degree of slowness before it stops being metal and starts being abstract, or even unmusical?
The length of the songs stems from the band we were involved in before Sabazius, which was called Coelacanth. The three of us in that band would just jam and record what we were doing. We moved on as the guitarist, Tatu Pier, moved back toSouth Africa, which was why we began Sabazius. During some of the jams we’d play one riff for twenty minutes or so as it gets quite hypnotic and trance like. Listening back to the tapesNevand I liked that about the music and we decided to continue that, but try to do more with the idea.
The first song we wrote was Terror Is Thy Name, which is 30 minutes long, and the rest just followed from there. We thought we’d try not to limit ourselves in length, and that freedom to just write however long we wanted was where tracks like Shyama and Her Crimson Lotus Feet originally came from.
3. Devotional Songs is so long that really it seems to work best as a digital file, physical formats can’t hold it! On top of that you’ve been upfront about giving music away for free. Is computer/Internet technology something you particularly try to embrace, or is it just the easiest way to achieve what you’re trying to do?
It’s a bit of both really, in terms of whether we embrace it, or whether it’s just easiest. Whilst we do longer songs than most bands, we do still try to ensure that songs will at least fit onto a CD if that’s what people want to do with them. For the time being we aren’t planning on doing a track over 79 minutes long! Devotional does fit onto two CDs, and we were conscientious of that when writing the tracks. Having said that, Devotional was also intended to work as one piece, which without it being a digital file would be impossible. Essentially we were trying to work both ways with that album.
Regarding computer technology and the internet, we have tried to utilise it as partly it makes things easy for us, but also because it gives us a lot more freedom. A record label is a business, and they want to sell records to make money. Both our albums are over two hours in length, which isn’t really commercially a good idea for a band as underground as we are, especially given the length of our songs. Not many labels would touch us as we’re a pretty niche band and won’t ever shift lots of records, so we decided to just put it out there for free; it’s not like we’re going to make any money from it anyway!
We essentially get heard of by word of mouth, as we’ve had very little promotion; other than by the two labels we’ve worked with so far, it’s been via things like Facebook and Myspace, as well as me spending an unhealthy amount of time on internet forums a few years ago.
4. At the risk of setting you off… can you tell us about some of the lyrics and themes in your records? (Be as detailed as you like!)
Most of the lyrics we use are taken from other sources, depending on what the songs are about, and they revolve around various themes depending on what I’m interested in when they are being written. I’d rather leave the concepts for people to work out, and if you listen to the tracks chronologically as they were written, rather than in the order we’ve released them, there are themes which aren’t too explicitly stated. For example, DCLXVI, Torah and The Goat, as well as The Song of Los, are comments on humans creating rules and laws for themselves, whereas Shadows on the Wall was more abstract about human consciousness and perceptions of reality.
The two albums, plus probably the next one, are somewhat different in concept, and are more representative of personal interests at the time. The first album is continuing on from themes which earlier bands we were involved in revolved around, and Devotional was developing one of those ideas further. In fact, the title ‘Devotional Songs’ sums up entirely what we were doing there, and anyone who gets that will understand why we included Asana at the beginning and end of that album.
5. Given that you used to be an RS teacher, and now you’re singing about religious themes, are you hopeful that people will learn something through your music, or at least will become interested in something they didn’t know about before?
Not really, no. The themes of the band are quite personal in a roundabout way, and we essentially make the music for ourselves; basically making the songs we’d like to hear. Obviously being the vocalist in any band involves your ego to an extent, as you want people to hear your voice, but I wouldn’t necessarily say I was trying to turn people onto new ideas or teach them.
I’ve wanted to be the vocalist in a band since I was young, but I can’t sing, and I hate the sound of my own voice. We started Sabazius before I was teaching, which is why the vocals on the first album are so distorted and inaudible, but as I got used to hearing myself talk I became more comfortable using spoken word pieces with Sabazius.
If people do find out something new with Sabazius, learn something, or discover a new interest, then that’s great, as there are multiple layers to the choices in lyrics, but there’s no specific agenda to make people think in a certain way. There are just ideas there for people with eyes to see, as it were.
6. Have you ever played live with Sab? How did it work/could it ever work?
No, we’ve not played live yet. Very early on we decided we didn’t want to just relentlessly play live to small pub audiences who aren’t really interested in what we’re doing. We would consider playing live if we were offered something we thought was worth our time, but we’ve not really discussed how we’d do it as the opportunity hasn’t arisen yet. It’d be more likely that we’d do a one off performance piece, rather than simply playing one of our songs as they are on record.
7. Any good local bands in your area that you’d particularly recommend?
There are quite a few at the moment, which is really cool.Brightonhad a period where there were no good bands, but there are some real gems down here now. Dopefight are an obvious choice, but we also have the more psychedelic band Enos, who are kind of an angry Hawkwind, sludge stuff such as DKH, who are a superb live band, and others such as Gorse, Arteriosis, and Anacondas. There’s also the amazing Lazerhorse, who are an acoustic stoner band, and are brilliant.
Even nationally there are some really great bands emerging; Ishmael, Slabdragger, Sedulus, Gurt, Greg(o)rian, Iron Witch to name but a few.
8. What’s next for Sabazius? Upcoming releases?
We’re planning quite a few new releases for this year and the next. We’ve actually only just started up again after taking a two year break to concentrate on other things, including another band we were both involved with, called Funeral Hag, so we have plenty of ideas still to use.
We’ll be releasing a split EP with Hesper Payne soon, which will be a limited edition CD as well as a download. We have two ‘mini albums’ which we completed a few years ago and just need to actually record the vocals for, and we’ve written nearly two hours of music for the third album. We’ll also do some more EP tracks and possibly a couple of covers. At the minute the new album is our focus, and it’s looking like it’ll hopefully be a bigger endeavour than Devotional Songs was. We might manage to finish and release that this year, otherwise it’ll be out in 2012.