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Minsk – Reverberations Interview

Recently conducted an interview with the US band Minsk. You can read the the full interview below.

Minsk is one of those inimitable, indescribable acts; one whose music crosses and blurs genre lines, and slashes sacred cows. At once both heavy, emotional, psychedelic, and beautiful, the band’s latest effort for Relapse Records, entitled With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone, clearly and purely exemplifies all of the hard work and dedication set forth by the band since their 2002 inception. In an attempt to place a stethoscope upon the Technicolor dreamworld which is Minsk’s beating musical heart, took some peyote and delved deeper into the mystic with Tim Mead, the band’s vocalist, keyboardist…and conga player. Enjoy. While most musicians feel their latest work is their best, I feel that—in this case—the shoe definitely fits. Do you agree, and was there any pressure to follow up Ritual Fires of Abandonment, which could be seen as a sort of ‘breakthrough’ for you guys?

Tim Mead: For me, it’s really hard to have a true perspective on anything we do or say it is the ‘best.’ We’re very happy with how the record came out, and very excited for people to hear it. Whether it’s some sort of “breakthrough,” as you suggest, I really don’t know. There wasn’t really a whole lot of pressure after the last album, but we do always want to better ourselves in some way every time we enter the studio. If we continue growing as a band and as individuals, I don’t think that’s an unrealistic goal to have. What occurred during the two year span between the records? How far back does the songwriting go, or was the time mostly spent on touring?

Mead: We recorded the album this past winter, and I think at the time maybe one or two songs were more than a year old, but the vast majority of it was written the year preceding the session. We spent as much time as we could on the road, but also had a good amount of time to stew over new ideas. We basically wrote a lot in the summer and fall, and managed to squeeze in two tours before the winter. It was nice this time to be able to feel out some of the new songs in live settings before they were recorded. I think by the time we made it to the studio, with those songs especially, we had a much better grasp on what we needed to do to make them what we wanted them to be on the album. Would you say Minsk is in no mood to “rush” songwriting, as a band, letting things fall into place, or would you classify yourselves as perfectionists, in a sense?

Mead: We’re definitely in no mood to “rush” songwriting, which I think lends itself to the perfectionist tag as well, rather than in contrast. It was over two years between albums for a reason. Things come quickly to us when we are writing, but we are notorious for rethinking and reworking songs over and over, or spending too much time picking miniscule things apart. I think our songwriting is based on the combination of a relaxed process that lets things beyond us happen as they should fused with a tempered perfectionist’s eye for detail. If we do it right, it’s a beautiful balance of the natural and the contrived. How much writing goes on during tour, and how has the process progress progressed over time? Do you jam still, or trade fleshed out ideas back and forth?

Mead: We have done some writing on tour, and playing new songs live is definitely, for us, a part of the writing process. But we don’t do a substantial amount of writing on the road. The majority of the writing process happens through jamming and recording. We jam new ideas together, fill in the gaps and play around with arrangements, and then ultimately record the song, which for us is huge part of the writing process too. Having a producer in the band is an absolute luxury in this sense. You asked about the progress of this process, and I do think it’s changed over time in certain ways, especially in our abilities and desires to try experimenting with our process itself. I think the new album has evidence of that all over it if you look for it. Do you feel that the psychedelic presence has reared its head more over time? Where does the influence come from, and how do you feel it is filtered through Minsk ’s thick, doomy sound?

Mead: I don’t know that it’s reared its head more over time. I actually remember the first time anyone ever told me our music was psychedelic was shortly after we’d recorded our first demo. I don’t know, exactly, that we started the band in hopes of making something psychedelic, but it just sort of happened that way. The influence is obviously traceable to psych rock from the 60’s and 70’s, and some world music, ambient artists, etc. We just all love that experience of being thrilled in that way by a band, and somehow or another it just sort of came out of us. I do think we’ve gotten better at harnessing it over time though, and “filtering” it through our own interpretation of heavy music. Dark, heavy, psychedelic music is just bursting with possibilities for us. Some sort of musical language or place that is familiar to us. It just seems to be the place we end up collectively. Do you feel that Minsk should even BE classified as ‘doom metal’, or classified at ALL? Where do you feel the band ‘fits,’ if anywhere? Does Minsk pride itself of defying expectations and definition?

Mead: No, I don’t particularly like it when we are classified as a “doom metal” band. But I don’t really like any of the other tags we get either…and there are lots of them. So many people seem to come away with a label that fits what they understand. I understand why they’re used, and I get the references people infer from our music. Is it doomy? Yes. Is it metal? Yes. Is it post-rock, post-metal, post-whatever? I don’t even know what these things mean! Do any of those labels give you a true understanding of what Minsk sounds like? I don’t really think so. If it were to be said that we defied expectations and definitions, yes, we would consider it a compliment. Do we actually do that? I don’t know. We get labeled all the time, and in lots of different ways. Maybe we should chain them all together into one long super genre. We do try not to focus on that and to really just make music that moves us. We feel like it may, or may not, appeal to people outside of the scenes that associate themselves with any of those labels. Have you found this across-the-board type of feel within the band’s fanbase? Do you feel Minsk and its fans reflect a cross section of people who are just into heavy, trippy shit, regardless of labels?

Mead: Yeah, I’d like to think so. There are bands from many different scenes that we would love to play with and whose fans we think could understand what we do. A perfect example of this is a tour with have coming up with Wolves in the Throne Room in July. Whatever crazy tag is applied to that band this week is probably not going to be the same crazy tag that’s applied to us. But I think the tour will be a lot of fun, because there is something in common between the bands that is not contained in the labels. Finding that common thread between unlike things is a trait I see all the time with people who love Minsk. It’d be hard to be a Minsk fan, I think, and not be open to a whole host of other heavy trippy music that sounds nothing like us. How has the band done on tour, anyways? Would you say you guys thrived on the road, or do you ever get homesick?

Mead: I think it’s safe to speak for everyone and say that we love touring. For me personally, though, it’s when I feel alive the most. No, I don’t get homesick. We’ve had tremendous tours and really awful ones. But in the past six years of doing this with Minsk, I don’t think I’ve ever once thought that I’d rather be at home working instead of being on the road. Something special happens out there, and it’s not just a cliché from a classic rock song either. For me, it’s truly a little boy’s dream come true. There are different cities, different cultures, and different sights to see. The last two tours we’ve done have been incredible, too. In November we did the east coast with Baroness and Coliseum, which was awesome. And we just recently got back from our first European tour, which was life-changing. Where do you view this album in comparison to Ritual Fires, and how do you view the paths Minsk has taken since its inception?

Mead: This album is just a new chapter for us, plain and simple. In the way that we like to view what we do, each album is simply our attempt at capturing the best possible snapshot of who we are as a band at a given point in time. I know there are a lot of elements to this album that people are going to say are drastic changes from the last, but to me, it’s hard to not just feel everything that’s gone on in our lives and in our band since the last time. We lived, we grew, we changed, and then we got back together again and found that space that we could create together in. And this is what happened. I’d feel silly trying to analyze how alike or different it is from the last one. I’ll let the listeners decide that. They can hear it way more objectively than I ever could. Do you see music—yours specifically—as an opportunity to really delve into a hypnotic, shamanistic experience? The vocals lend that atmosphere sometimes, and the power with which Minsk pushes everything forward also executes this really well, I think.

Mead: Yes, I think your analysis is right on. That experience of trance is certainly a part of what we do, something we strive for. If we do it right, you will lose yourself in what Minsk does. Like I mentioned earlier, I think, we as individuals have always been thrilled with bands that can put us into that state, or take us places outside of normal consciousness. And that state of being outside of yourself then connects to a whole history of religious, mystical, and psychedelic experience. It is a place where people seek to confront the divine, or heal themselves, or experience something outside of typical daily experience. It is a state that can teach or give hope or bring one face to face with terrifying realizations. For us, these are some of the most important types of experiences, and we hope our music touches upon something of that realm. How’s Relapse been to you guys, and what do have in store for us in the future?

Mead: Relapse has been great. For us, they are a great label in that they are large enough and notable enough to ensure that people will get a chance to experience what we do, whether that’s just simply name recognition or having the album in their local record store. But they are also small enough and independent enough to allow us complete creative freedom to pursue this band with our own directives in mind. That is a beautiful relationship. Now everyone go write them letters and tell them to send us back to Europe very soon, and to Japan and Australia for that matter. Ha!

Actually, we’re doing a tour in July out to the west coast and back with Wolves in the Throne Room. And right now we’re also working on plans to go back to Europe in the fall with A Storm of Light. Now that the album is finally done and out, that’s what we’ll be focusing on for a while, just getting out there and going.

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