Metal Army America interviewed EPHEL DUATH mastermind Davide Tiso via email. The on the eve of the release of a sprawling new EP, On Death And The Cosmos, Tiso shared a great many insights. The new EP sports an all-star lineup of some of the greatest names in all of metal which enabled Tiso to bring his grand vision to life. In the interview below he not only explained the concept of the record, but broke down each song to its lyrical bones, detailed how the new lineup came together, what the future holds for the group and much more!
MAA: Please discuss the concept behind the new EP On Death And The Cosmos?
DT: The main concept of On Death and Cosmos rotates around the idea of feeling rootless. The creative process this time started from a personal loss: that event marked me so deep not just because I’ve lost a person I felt very close to, but because together with his disappearance I feel I broke the bond with the place I’m coming from. At this point in my life I think I could live pretty much everywhere without feeling home sick. I have a “cosmos” of opportunity opening up in front of my eyes, and while this can be considered a positive things for a human being, the lyrics in the EP dig in the painful process of detachment from what for 30 and more years I felt were my roots. On Death and Cosmos holds together some of the lyrics I’m most attached to. These words erupted from me, and all three songs are lyrically tied together by the theme of Death and mourning, and the escape represented by the Cosmos.
After that loss I mentioned before, I felt in a terrible depression and returning to compose for EPHEL DUATH was the way out from that paralyzing state. Some days I was feeling so bad that I felt my mind getting take over by the spirit of my dead beloved, who was not accepting his death and wanted to keep living through me:
The opening song “Black Prism” pictures the hopeless search of oneself in the splitting process of spirit attachment.
“I lie between layers of perception
I’m neither here or there
Twice but still nothing
My image multiplies
While my sight plays dead and regress”
The song “Raqia”, the ancient Hebrew word for the English “firmament”, marks the pain caused by abandonment and the excruciating consequences of letting go.
“You may be as lonely as I feel
But the emptiness around you is cosmic
Mine tastes just like flesh”
Composing the lyrics of On Death and Cosmos I spent a great deal of time out at night, listening music, smoking cigarettes and looking at the sky. Considering the turmoil my life was in at that moment, writing new lyrics I was literally pushing my sight and my mind as distant as possible from that mess I was in. I wrote this way every time I got the chance and I started to feel a pretty strong comforting sensation while immersing my head and thoughts into the sky/firmament/Raqia entity. I read that warming feeling like the confirmation that my healing process was supposed to pass through that stage to get to the core of my pain and I kept going.
The closing track “Stardust Rain” is an ode to self-purification through inner death of senses.
“I am the black coat
Where stars hide in
I protect each of them
One by one
They keep shining to live
I let them burning to live
To my slow death I aim to”
This is probably the song I feel closer to. Everything in life has a positive and a negative power, I think that bad situations are the one that teach us the most: loss gives us the chance to readjust or even reshape ourselves during and after the mourning process. This positive chance offered by such traumatic experience is blurred out by the big dose of pain involved but I’m confident that each of us while suffering, on the long run, have the chance to know how much they are changing and self transforming day after day.
I changed for better while mourning: I was an unfocused and worse person before my grandfather died. His death brought some good to me, I had the chance to find myself again, and as I wrote inside the booklet of On Death and Cosmos: “It took one’s death to give life back to another”.
MAA: How did you go about recruiting such stellar talent to join the band?
DT: Respecting my music so much I try to set the bar pretty high for what concern the other musicians I involve with EPHEL DUATH. 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 stubborness, 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 MINNEMANN and STEVE DI GIORGIO 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.
Having KARYN CRISIS at vocals is like a dream come true. I’m a huge CRISIS fan and I’ve been a fan of her since the very first time I read one of her lyrics. I’m extremely proud of having Karyn spitting out my words on a microphone and I can’t wait to have her record some new material.
To make this shine even more I choose to have the supersonic ears of ERIK RUTAN behind the mix board, and I have to say that I have never felt that connected with a producer before. Erik worked non-stop on this EP for weeks, and I found his work ethic to be frankly stunning. I consider Erik Rutan one of the key elements for On Death and Cosmos successful result and collaborating with him has been one of the best musical experience I had since I started this band.
MAA: Karen especially seems to fit the music perfectly. Did you write with her in mind originally?
DT: I composed the EP knowing that Karyn was going to sing it. There are some kind of voices that are like a slap in the face and some others that hit you directly in the stomach being that emotionally charged: Karyn’s voice has both these qualities. I think her voice fit the ED music extremely well. Karyn’s raw and cutting way of singing is able to bring the songs to higher emotional picks and I’m blown away by how effortlessly our two different musical backgrounds collapsed together in this EP.
MAA: Is the lineup going to be able to stay together to at least create the next full length album and tour?
DT: This lineup will record also the new album, Marco Minnemann is actually already recording the drums, he did 5 songs and everything sounds stellar so far. ED will return to play live once the full length will be recorded, but just if we will be offered the necessary conditions to do some good shows. To compose music is a very intimate process for me, vital I would say: I don’t do it for passion, I do it because I have to. To bring EPHEL DUATH live usually means to loose a lot of the artistic side of things, and having to deal with just the practical, and worse, side of music: promoters that don’t pay the fees, shows with lack of promotions, bad planned tours, a lot and a lot of expenses. I’m not interested in repeating that kind of experience once again. Returning to deal full time on EPHEL DUATH, I promised myself to not accept anymore compromises and to take decisions solely based on the band’s benefit. To play live in horrible conditions will not be an option for this band anymore. It would be fantastic to have this line up on a stage and I’ll work my ass off to make this happen.
MAA: Do you think it is difficult for visionary artists to exist in the framework of “the music industry”?
DT: I would say that for long time it was pretty much impossible for a musician to deal with the music industry without feeling powerless. The whole music industry was in the hands of few greedy ones, now that whole mechanism is collapsing everyone seems to escape from it, trying to save the few money left and finally, the real stars of the game are returning back. Underground labels: small realities run by really passionate people, respectful of the bands and their music, that with labor of love and not the revenues in mind are putting together products with such quality and tremendous attention to details.
What it’s important now is to save the public. Probably what I am about to say could sound like a silly utopia, but I still think it’s important to underline how much the main public need to return to consider music as a form of art that have to be respected. Music is not supposed to be taken for granted, ready to be consumed and disposed with a click. Bands are not supposed to accept to spend their time begging for attention, bands should instead spend their time playing good music. I think that on the long run, quality music will keep being noticed, and it’s up to the bands to believe in themselves, creating unique music and stick to their vision. To compose honest music probably represents the only way to be musically dissident nowadays. I have faith that EPHEL DUATH’s public will keep supporting all the hard work and labor of love we put in this underground reality since day one.
MAA: What bands or artists do you listen to when you are looking for inspiration?
DT: Sometimes I listen to music to get some musical inputs, and I usually finish listening to death metal. This genre makes my brain feels very alert, there are so many nuances to capture here and there and I would say this is the kind of music I’m more fund at the moment. I like so many bands, the more dissonant the better, probably SUFFOCATION, HATE ETERNAL, AUTOPSY, DECREPIT BIRTH and CATTLE DECAPITATION are on top of my list.
Sometimes I listen to it to relax, and to get some unconscious inspiration, I like BARONESS, UFOMAMMUT, ZU, ANIMALS AS LEADERS, ELECTRIC WIZARD.
Sometimes I need music it to write lyrics: I try to enter in the “writing lyrics” mood at least once every week or two and when I do that, the day is gone: I usually finishing drunk and crying by myself in a park bench while joggers swing by. To write lyrics I usually put a song in loop, or I listen a part of a song in loop. I need heavy sorrowful music, but I never compose lyrics listening to EPHEL DUATH. Lately I have been writing listening to MONUMENTUM, AGALLOCH, CULT OF LUNA, NEUROSIS.
MAA: If you could book a festival for EPHEL DUATH to play with any bands of your choosing, whom would you choose?
DT: I would love to have EPHEL DUATH opening the festival so that I would be able to enjoy the other shows. Three stages, a Death Metal one with DECREPIT BIRTH, CATTLE DECAPITATION, SUFFOCATION and HATE ETERNAL as headliners. A Doom stage with DISPIRIT, UFOMAMMUT, AGALLOCH, YOB and PENTAGRAM as headliners. A main experimental rock metal stage with DYSRHYTHMIA, RUSSIAN CIRCLES, ANIMALS AS LEADERS, IHSHAN, BARONESS and REFUSED as headliners. $60 the ticket, not a bad festival!
(Special thanks to Davide Tiso, Agonia Records and Nathan T. Birk)
by Keith (Keefy) Chachkes