Interview: Final Coil

Interview: Final Coil

- in Written interviews

UK’s Final Coil released the second new album called The World We Left Behind For Others. Listening to this new record, I concluded that it has a lot of influences and elements, aswell an interesting concept. To find out more about this album, I had an interview with Phil, the vocalist and guitar player of the band, where he had answered some of my questions.

Greetings Phil and nice talking with you again! A new album called The World We Left Behind For Others, a first thing to point out is about the cover I like it a lot, seems like a fairy tale or something like that. Tell me how the recordings and the writing process of this albums went?
Hey Carla, thank you so much for taking the trouble to put these questions together. I’m glad you like the cover – it’s something into which, as a band, we’ve always put a lot of effort and thought because, of course, we grew up in an era where physical media was such a big part of music, so it’s only natural for us to try to continue that great tradition.

The recording of this album, on the whole, went incredibly smoothly. Once again, we went out to Italy to record at the excellent Real Sound Studio with Wahoomi and Ciccio, which was also where we recorded Persistence of  Memory. The only differences were that Richard and I drove from England to Italy in order to have a greater array of gear at our disposal and the mixing was done by Jonny mazzeo at mathlab Studio. Getting to the studio was fantatsic – it was an epic journey that took two days and we stopped to camp in the Alps along the way – what an experience!

Once there, we found that we’d mapped out the demoes so effectively that the whole recording actually went far quicker than either we, or the studio, expected! Barry (who was our session drummer for the recording and who has now joined the band full-time) got his parts down incredibly quickly, as did Jola, and that then left Richard and I plenty of time to layer guitar parts and harmonies over the rhythm section. It was a huge amount of fun and we experimented with a lot of different elements from bowing the guitars to dropping hex keys between the strings in order to get the textures that we needed.

From that, we sent the album to Jonny Mazzeo at Mathlab studio for mixing. Jonny just grasped what we wanted to do instantly and he did a great  job of putting all the pieces together to get the sound for which we were hoping. I imagine he found it challenging at times, because we can be very nitpicky and we did put him through hell with tiny revisions that probably only we would ever notice, but he was calm, patient and professional and he did a remarkable job. I’m proud to have worked with such a fantastic team on this record and I think it really shows in the quality of the recording.

What is the concept behind this album then? It has a suggestive title, indeed…
Well, the album was written in the wake of my Grandmother’s death. She passed away shortly after the recording of our debut (aged 101) and, as she’d been a huge part of my life, it was a difficult time. However, when we were packing up her things, we came across some letters which none of the family had ever seen before. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but essentially they opened a door to elements of her past of which we’d not been aware and they were couched in language that reflected a much greater degreee of patriarchy and misogyny than most people are really aware still existed in the sixties and seventies.

From there, I started thinking about such patterns of behaviour are passed down through the generations and started to devlop this idea of my Grandmother and Grandfather looking back at the world they had left behind for others (both positively and negatively) and the progressive alienation they must have felt from so rapidly changing a society. It was a difficult subject to embrace, but cathartic, and I hope that I treated the topic (which is so very pertinent right now) with the respect and dignity that it deserves.

Alice In Chains, that is the sound I can hear on your music. Do you agree with me? That is what got through my mind when I heard the new song “The Last Battle“.
Well, I can certainly see why you’d pick Alice in Chains as an influence on that song, but I don’t think it’s as clear cut as that, and to simply pin the track down to one artist is reductive. There are a number of elements within “the last battle“  that most certainly do evoke Alice in Chains – not least our use of vocal harmonies – but we also incorporate a number of elements into that track (and across the record as a whole) which are far outside the scope of Alice in Chains’ approach.

However, as I’ve discussed in many other interviews, everyone who hears us seems to hear the influences with which they’re most familiar, so whilst you say Alice in Chains, someone else might say Porcupine Tree or Katatonia, which tends to suggest that there’s a lot more going on than our simply following in the footsteps of a band who, whilst phenominal, are only a small part of our musical DNA.

Besides this, I can hear on this album mixed sounds and elements like dark, heavy, atmospheric. Is this a challange for you when you are writing and composing the music and use these all elements togheter?
No, I wouldn’t say it’s a challenge as such, because that implies a very conscious approach to song-writing that I simply don’t take. I’ve always believed that, if you’re a song-writer who listens to one style of music then, inevitably, your writing is going to sound remarkably similar because that’s the palette that you have available to you. However, I’ve always had a very wide-raning taste that incorporates everything from extreme metal to jazz and blues.

That’s not to say I’m not picky – there’s nothing worse than asking someone about their tastes and getting the reply „Oh, I like anything really!” (translation – I listen to the radio and don’t object often to what is played). So, yeah, I’m super picky about the music to which I listen although, of course, there are some genres and bands to which I return time and again… but it is a varied range of things and, as a result, there’s a range of ideas and influences that present themselves in my writing.

But, and this is important, I’m not cynical enough to be sitting at my desk thinking „how do I make this more atmospheric?” or „how do I make this heavier?” or whatever. Rather, I’ll get some nagging melody or riff idea in my head and I’ll try and figure out how to play it. If it comes out sounding good, then maybe I’ll work further on it until it becomes something that I can present to the band… and, if it comes out sounding lame, then I’ll add it to my gargantuan file labelled „what were you thinking?”

So, as a short answer to your question, it’s not a challenge per se, because I don’t see writing as a conscious process where I’m trying to produce music that sounds a particular way. I write what I feel at the time and I never stop to think about if it works in a band context until after the piece is done.

Is it difficult for you to hold on an “unique“ sound?
I don’t really think about it in those terms because this notion of „uniqueness” is very subjective. For example, Joe Bonamassa is an amazing artist who operates within the fairly well-mapped-out framework of blues-rock, so there’s a language there that is well-worn, but you instantly know that it’s him, so you could argue that that makes him „unique”.

It’s the same for a lot of metal bands. Only this morning I was listening to Soilwork and, although they also operate within a farily well-structured framework, they always sound like Soilwork. So, to that extent, you could say that they are „unique”.

So, I see it as shades of grey. For sure, if you’re expecting full-blown innovation with every band, then you’re apt to be disappointed because bands who align themselves to a specific genre are always going to have to present themselves in a certain way, but I also think that critics and cynics deliberately overstate the notion of what it means to be unique in order to justify their criticisms.

From my perspective, I think we are lucky to the extent that we’re not really constrained by genre language because we’ve never really alligned ourselves consciously to one specific genre – thus we’re pretty much open to approach our music however we feel and there’s no weight of expectation for us to fit into a certain niche, with the only thing we worry about being whether the music fits the emotions that we are trying to convey. So, although people might hear all sorts of reference points (which is only natural because, of course, we are influenced by the bands to whom we listen), they’re often combined in ways you wouldn’t necessarily associate with those bands.

I asked this question because not many bands can manage, probably, to have an unique sound today or to sound close like other bands, in your case as I said, Alice In Chains, a strong influence for FC music.
Well, yes and no. I’d actually argue that this album has far less of an Alice in Chains influence than the previous one, although if we’re going to be compared to any band, I couldn’t really ask for a better choice.

Nonetheless, what I find is that our music seems to mean different things to different people and you can see that in the reviews. For example, whilst you hear Alice in Chains, other reviews have opted for A Perfect Circle, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Tool, Helmet… hell, someone at one of our shows the other day mentioned My Bloody Valentine and Led Zeppelin! Some of those artists made instant sense to me, others made me think for a moment, like „oh, really?!”

I don’t know, I guess every single reference point is as valid as another because I’m a fan of all of those bands and those influences are a huge part of my musical lexicon… but the very fact that everyone has a different take on how our music sounds suggests that people’s perception of our music is at least as much down to an individual’s experience with music as it is to how we actually write the songs and I love that.

Certainly, from my perspective, I’ve never written a song with a view to sounding like Alice in Chains, it’s simply that, although I love really heavy riffs, I love to sing rather than scream… but, you know, melodic vocals are used by a number of bands who sit at the heavier end of the spectrum – Katatonia, Anathema, Screaming Trees, Soundgarden, Deftones, Alcest – and that’s just a tiny fraction of the bands that have influenced our sound. Whether we sound unique or not is really is for other people to judge, but I don’t listen to our albums and hear Alice in Chains first and foremost, despite the layered vocals – I hear myriad influences and ideas and, given how many disparate bands reviewers seem to find in  our style, I guess other people do too.

You had also a contribution for the new album by The Way Of Purity. What was that and how was the collaboration with this project?
Well, I’ve been a fan of that band for a long time. Even though  I am not committed to their vision, I admire the purity of their ideals and I agree with the broader message that mankind is furiously paving the way for its own demise thanks to its obsession with commerce and the wanton cruelty with which it approaches the planet’s resources and animals in particular. Actually, the more we hear in this country about how the UK government wants to bring back Fox Hunting and declare that animals are not sentient, the more sickened I become and the more sympathetic to the band’s viewpoint…

At any event, when the band told me that they had a new album coming out and asked if I would be willing to contribute a closing piece, it was an absolute honour for me and and I immediately set to work on crafting something that (I hope) does their music and their vision justice.

Of course, anyone who has heard TWOP and Final Coil will know that, stylistically, we are pretty different (or at least superficially). However, I actually used a lot of electronic elements on the last Final Coil album (and I am also working on an electronic side-project), so I decided to produce something in that vein for the band. In the end, I actually composed three separate pieces for them and then sent it over so they could choose. Once they’d made a choice, I finalised the track with their producer, Jonny Mazzeo, who had also worked on our album. It was a great pleasure to work with him once again, albeit briefly, and I can’t wait to hear how the finished piece works in the context of the album as a whole. I am certianly very proud to have been involved and I hope that the band’s fans enjoy the piece I produced.

Definitely gotta see you live one day aswell. Are you planning some shows to promote the new album?
Well, we’ve literally just played the Camden Underworld, with Shonen Knife and The Garage with Marky Ramone and both of those gigs were spectcular. We also have some great shows coming up, including another trip to London on the 18th September (to play alongside our good friends Hats Off Gentlemen It’s Adequate) and Ragefest in Nottingham. We will definitely be putting more dates together in the future and it is our plan to come to mainland Europe as soon as the right opportunity presents itself. Our label is Italian, so you never know…

Thank you for your time again Phil. See you soon on the reoad!         
Thank you for the great questions!

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