Interview with YEVABOG

Interview with YEVABOG

- in Written interviews

Hi Joel! The maxi-EP “Between Two Fires” explores the themes of possession and the evils perpetrated under the name of god. Can you delve deeper into the inspiration behind the album and how it relates to Christopher Buehlman’s novel?
Yevabog is a project I’ve taken on as part of a personal journey. The first album, King of the Worms, was largely about my battle with alcoholism, and arriving at sobriety and a new mindset, following some major turmoil in my life. I had recently read Between Two Fires for the second time when I was writing this album, and it really embodied some of the topics that had been on my mind recently. I grew up in very a religious home, and the mental struggle to let all of that go and to recognize the things being done in the name of “God” was a bit of a journey, which felt represented by the characters in the book. Between the inquisition, crusades, pedophile priests, and the far right politically in the United States, spewing hate in the name of god, this album was my attempt to wrestle with those issues in my mind.

“A Golden Reaper” tackles the destruction of the earth by global powers. Can you expand on the analogy of a demonic entity taking control of a subject and how it reflects the theme of the song?
It’s a pretty shallow metaphor, honestly. A demon takes control of its host, burning out the body for its own gain, resulting in death. Billionaires and capitalist governments exploit normal people and natural resources for their own gain, and we’re starting to see the results of that on a global scale in a way that has never been seen before.

“In Veste Maculatum” addresses the unholy pious in the world and references those who promote violence in the name of their god. Could you elaborate on the message conveyed through this song and its connection to religious figures?
As I mentioned in the first question, this is referring historically to crusades, inquisition, religious wars – Christian, Muslim, and Hebrew. The title translates roughly to “in filthy clothes”. Clergymen of all faiths have a long history of exploiting children and the weak while professing their god. Televangelists and preachers are trying to wring every last cent out of their poor congregations while living in mansions and flying around the world on private jets. Natives in the Americas were abused and murdered in the name of god. More recently, in the United States, a “white christian nationalist” movement is promoting hate, racism, and political violence in the name of god. The list goes on and on.

“Host” focuses on the experiences of the one being possessed and touches on religious indoctrination. How personal are the themes explored in this song, and how have you personally worked through these issues in your life?
This is definitely a personal issue for me, as I touched on above. Growing up with certain ideas and ideals driven into you over and over for as long as you can remember is not an easy thing to move away from. Part of my journey coming out of several years of alcoholic stupor, was to learn to abandon some of those ideas, and take power out of the hands of an invisible god and give it back to myself. I know AA is a good resource for some people, but for me, the only way to get sober was not to admit I’m powerless and to give it up to a higher power, but to take responsibility, and to quit because I choose to, and I have that power. If anyone is struggling and wants to discuss other helpful resources for struggling with addiction, find me on social media and we can talk about it.

“Rituale Romanum” references the Catholic exorcism ritual and questions the futility of performing rituals for a god that may not exist. Can you discuss the underlying message of this song and your perspective on the significance of religious rituals?
I think your question largely answers itself, in that the performing of rituals cannot benefit a god that we have no evidence even exists. If it did exist, and was all powerful, why would it need us to say the right words and draw the right symbols in order to exercise that power? The more you look at it, it tends to fold in on itself. Also, it’s easy to see something like communion as a harmless ritual, but from the outside, it’s insane! Eat the flesh and drink the blood of your god in order to commune with him? Honestly, I think religious rituals are done for the benefit of the people involved. Which, again, has historically been weaponized by the powerful. Outside of religion, we all have rituals that make us feel like everything is going to be ok, it’s human nature.

“A Saint Or A Witch” delves into the historical treatment of mental health and the labeling of individuals as evil or possessed. How does religion play a role in this, and how does Christopher Buehlman’s book influence the song’s message?
I don’t remember the exact quote without the book in front of me, but basically, a character in the book, which is set in 14th century France, is hearing voices. The characters surmise that she must be either a saint or a witch; that she hears either the voice of god or the devil. Throughout history, mental illness and disability has been treated with a heavy hand, often blaming the victim, and treating them accordingly. As recently as the early 1900s, hospitals that treated the mentally ill with compassion, as humans, not moral failures and evil doers, were seen as radically progressive. Many cases of “possession” can easily be ascribed to mental illness. In my own life, I’ve been around many forms of mental illness, some violent, and sure, it would be easy to blame the devil, but it’s clear that it’s just a person. A hurting, ill, person who needs help and compassion, not to be shouted at in Latin.

“22 Disciples Of Hell” explores the satanic panic of the 80s and 90s. Can you elaborate on the impact of religious zealotism during that time and how it influenced innocent lives?
There are many books, podcasts, etc. on the topic, and it’s too much for me to really detail here, but many accusations were made of satanic ritual abuse of children. None of these carried any real evidence, but people were removed from their children, arrested, there were trials, etc. The most egregious case was the McMartin Preschool trial. There were also satanic allegations made involving several killers in the late 70s and early 80s, including the “Son of Sam”, David Berkowitz, who was supposedly involved with a murderous coven called the 22 Disciples of Hell. This also includes 2 cases which had tertiary links to Dungeons and Dragons, so that was clearly pure satan as well. It’s all a fascinating topic, and really shows how mass hysteria can spread in a relatively modern context.

Can you discuss the collaborative aspects of the album, such as Robin Stone’s drumming and M. Nihilist’s guest vocals on “22 Disciples Of Hell”? How did these collaborations enhance the overall sound and concept of the album?
I did the first album, King of the Worms, purely solo, and I was ready for some help on this one. Specifically, I wasn’t happy with how the drums turned out. I can play drums, but not at the level that the songs required, and I’m garbage at blast beats. So, I used a combination of programmed drums, and stuff that I played on an electronic kit. It worked, but left room for improvement. I was hoping to put together a full band before starting the second album, but sadly, I have yet to find people to make it happen. I came across a video of Robin Stone playing in his studio space online, and immediately knew I wanted him to play on my album. I looked up his page, and found that he’s a session drummer, so I booked him. He did an incredible job, and really understood what I was going for. Nihilist is a friend of mine who I used to work with. He’s been in a whole bunch of great black metal bands, going back through the 90’s. I don’t remember if he offered, or if I asked him first, but either way, once I had heard some of the stuff he’s done, I was excited to have him sing with me on a song. I’m really happy with it. I think our voices mix together well while still being discernibly different.

The cover art for “Between Two Fires” was created by Felipe Froeder/ Arcano XV. How does the artwork align with the themes and atmosphere of the album? What do you hope listeners will take away from the visual representation?
I hired Arcano XV to do the cover after seeing several of his pieces on Instagram. I described the theme of the album, and said I wanted some type of female figure and a demonic entity. It’s a lot more direct and less abstract than many of his pieces, but I really like it. I feel like it does a good job of letting you know what you’re getting when you open the album.

How do you feel the music on “Between Two Fires” combines heaviness, aggression, and beauty to create a unique experience? How does the blending of different metal genres contribute to the overall atmosphere and impact of the album?
To be honest, I don’t think I’m doing anything new or revolutionary here, just doing my take on my favorite sub-genres of metal. I definitely have a few death metal inspired segments in the album, but it leans way more towards black metal than King of the Worms did. I just love being able to take a nasty dissonant riff and layer in a beautiful string section, or to have growl vocals layered with ominous choirs, etc. Lots of bands have explored these elements before, I just hope I’ve put them together in a way that others enjoy as much as I do.

Can you provide insight into the creative process behind the songwriting and composition for “Between Two Fires”? How do you balance the melodic and evil elements in the music?
My songwriting process is a little silly, to be honest. I start with a guitar riff, which I practice, while recording, until I get a solid take. Then, I noodle off the end of it to figure out what comes next, and so forth. Then I usually program some simple drums, go back and record the guitars again. At this point, it’s all playing by ear, then I figure out what key it’s actually in and start writing all the synth/choir stuff and bass. A lot of revisions happen in this phase, and that’s where it really becomes a coherent song. The choir stuff has no lyrics at this point, just oo and ah. Then I start recording vocals without lyrics, just scatting with growls. It’s ridiculous. As the song develops a real sound, then I actually write lyrics and go back through the vocals. For this album, I sent off tracks to Robin Stone for drums somewhere in the middle of the lyric writing phase. So the music comes first, and I try to write lyrics that fit the mood of the music, and whatever has been on my mind lately. Then I go back and mix after everything is done.

What message or emotions do you hope listeners will connect with when they experience “Between Two Fires”? How do you envision the album resonating with fans and leaving a lasting impression?
I think that’s up to the listener. As you said, it balances melodic and “evil” elements, and I really wanted to embrace that. Beauty and evil really do live side by side everywhere in our lives, and I hope my music conveys that.

Are there any plans for live performances or future releases that you would like to share with your fans? How do you see the evolution of Yevabog‘s sound and themes moving forward?
I say this in every interview I’ve done so far – I’m looking for members to make this a real band and play shows. If you live in the Seattle area, are reasonably competent at an instrument, and want to play these songs, get in touch with me!

In conclusion, how would you summarize the overall journey and impact of “Between Two Fires”? What do you hope listeners will ultimately take away from experiencing this maxi-EP? Thank you for your time.
For me, it was a journey of solidifying my beliefs as I came out of a period of agnosticism, alcoholism, and personal turmoil. I think the music definitely conveys a struggle, but I hope that it also conveys some degree of hope and beauty. I had a fantastic time working on it, and I hope that shows as well. Thanks!

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