domingo, 28 de mayo de 2023


 Good afternoon, thank you very much for answering these questions, how is everything going in San Francisco?

Hello BMSP and thank you for the interview.

1. Botanist began its journey around the year 2009, however over the years its proposal has varied, in fact, in these early years Botanist's proposal is more related to a grind character, why did you decide to create Botanist and why these more grind beginnings in music?

Originally I imagined Botanist would be a two-man grind project, with me playing drums and someone else playing guitar, and maybe a vocalist.. I had seen Pig Destroyer live, loved their “Prowler in the Yard” and “Terrifyer” albums, and was inspired by their less-is-more approach to personnel. I likely also had grind on the brain in bb to   since I felt enabled to have a band be about scientific botany because another band, Carcass, made a project about scientific forensic pathology.

Anyway, that little grind experiment / era lasted two albums, and then I moved on. All that’s really “grind” about the first couple Botanist albums is my approach to the drums and song lengths. As I quickly learned, making a dulcimer sound like a metal guitar, and a grind guitar/bass in particular, is something to let go of and just let it be what it is… something totally different.

2. The sound of Botanist has been turning over the years, in some way there is a connection with black in their sound, however it is no less true that the variety of styles that come together in their sound are as varied as we can confirm after listening to your latest album "VIII: Selenotrope", a new album that follows a bit in the wake of your previous "Photosynthesis" but taking the sound to new heights, how has the process of writing and recording this album been? new album and what do you think has changed compared to the past? What brands of instruments have you used in the process?

I try to make each Botanist album somehow different within the context of Botanist being a very restricted project. It is restricted in that all the songs are about plants and flowers, as told through the viewpoint of the titular Botanist, a scientist gone mad from witnessing the destruction of the Natural world at the hand of Humanity. It is also a restricted project in that all the songs must be written on dulcimer.

I believe that restrictions are great enablers to stretch and expand those very limitations. Being truly limitless is a dangerous thing to creativity, at least as far as my own creativity goes. Basic guidelines and rules are important, because they provide parameters to push against and stretch. 

A great way to stretch these parameters is by inviting other people to contribute to writing albums. Such is in large part the success of “Photosynthesis” and one of my favorite Botanist albums “The Shape of He to Come.” Having others’ talents and visions enable a fresh take to the rigid ground rules. Ironically, this opens up its own door to limitless possibilities as any new thing can be possible within the restricted rules, and those new things can be subtly nuanced to extremely new. You will see as the project continues over the years, as a secret roadmap is in place.

On the other hand, the solo album production gives me a clearer picture on how to progress the albums from solo album to solo album. In this way, I see the progression of Botanist solo albums as kind of distinct from the progression of Botanist collective albums, while not being totally separate things. They are different tendrils that intertwine, then go off in different directions, and come back to intertwine again.

For “VIII: Selenotrope,” I wanted to make an album with more dulcimer parts per song, with greater focus on melodic vocals, with no keyboard instruments,with no screams, about plants that bloom in moonlight, and hiring Unisound AB again for the mix. Dan Swanö worked on “Photosynthesis,” and I wanted that same working relationship to apply to a Botanist solo album.

3. Do you use an instrument like the hammered dulcimer in your compositions? What exactly is this instrument? When did you discover it and how did you think it could fit into the musical proposal of Botanist?

The hammered dulcimer is the Celtic version of the same basic instrument that exists unrelatedly in many cultures around the world. It’s a trapezoid hollow box with strings stretched on it, over bridges, and you hit the strings with sticks. I first discovered it on the streets of Tokyo, where an American musician who had come to visit and make a little money by busking was playing the instrument. My main mechanical skill as a musician is being able to hit things in time. Applying that to a percussive melodic instrument was a quick and intuitive way to expand upon and take advantage of my skill set. 

4. Previously, you spoke of a more grind beginning for Botanist, but over the years your sound has not stopped evolving until you reach a truly ambient proposal on your latest album. What bands and styles have influenced you over the years? When defining its sound? How would you describe the sound of the album to someone who hasn't heard it yet?

Every album I’ve ever heard has influenced me, from deeply emotionally, to providing a lesson of what not to do. The influence can be in less extreme in-between points, like an idea of where to place an instrument, where to pan it, a new way to arrange a song, what to change expressively in the future… Again, having new humans in the band enables new influences, abilities, enthusiasm, visions and ideas that those people bring. It’s a beautiful thing.

I’d wanted to do an ambient, or at least drum-less companion album to a Botanist record for years. I had planned it for another album that I started about 10 years ago, and has been put on pause for years. The issue I was finding was what ideas I had were not really aligning with the emotional vision I had for the ambient album… but working with Dan Swanö this time opened up that door, and in a way that I could not have imagined before. I’m so pleased this particular art came together for “Selenotrope / Moonflower”. 

I invite listeners new and old to listen to the album when in a dark or still place, and see where the album takes them.

5. We must highlight the focus that is given to the theme of your lyrics, just like the name of the band, everything is related to botany, at what point did you decide to carry out a project so far from conventionalisms in terms of theme? How do you develop the lyrics and themes that are present in your lyrics?

Conceptually, the creation of Botanist was at a convergence of the following the desire to make a band that created albums at my own (rapid) pace = on my own, at least at first my personal focus on the vast worlds of botany, scientific nomenclature, and scientifically accurate art throughout the centuries to pay aesthetic homage to this vast world.

My love for music -> metal -> black metal -> Nature themed black metal -> Romantic themed black metal and how I wanted to give back to it, and be in some way an entry into this vast pantheon

My connection to the Romantic themes of black metal, and how they recalled my connection to the study of Romantic literature and art that impacted me so strongly as an adolescent. 

A way to enter a world that I understand and yet happily do not understand, that remains wonderfully mysterious even to me; to emerge from that world with a new creation that I can only partially explain. 

Thus, guided by the fundamental concept of the project, and guided by a marriage of scientific nomenclature and channeling of Romantic sensibilities, the words of The Botanist are created.

6. Although you have been at the forefront of Botanist since its inception, over the years you have incorporated new members to form a band, what criteria do you follow when incorporating new members to Botanist and what do you think have contributed individually to finish defining the sound of the band? Why don't you have a guitarist in the band?

New members are added based on the criteria of ability, availability, eagerness, and personality. Increasingly having a CV of work makes a difference. 

Botanist uses hammered dulcimers where other bands use guitars. The use of the hammered dulcimer is not in itself a device of contradiction or opposition, but it does shine a light on the kind of foregone conclusion that is so accepted it is not challenged: why must a band in the rock or metal genre feature guitars, or any other instrument, in order to be metal?

7. There may be certain connections with other European bands in terms of sound, however I think that the American "black metal" scene is richer in nuances and let's say experimental projects within the "black" sound, perfect for a band like the Yours, do you feel in some way linked to that more experimental and particular part, almost author, of the sound of bands from the United States or do you not feel any kind of ties to other projects in your country?

About 25 years ago the US black metal scene was not good in my view. It sounded like it was trying to be making black metal by making death metal, and not really succeeding at either. The metal world did not consider the US scene as really having much credibility – it was like a slow child playing on plastic toy instruments. Then acts like Weakling and Leviathan came along and the train started getting on the right track. In consideration of my taking a retrospection on that, it is ironic that in 2023 people outside of the USA now think of the US black metal scene as a whole as being nuanced and artful and experimental. I’m not contradicting that at all, but rather feel some kind of satisfaction at today’s realization at how much it’s grown.

As for the question of Botanist’s relation to other US bands or ownership of other bands’ work: Botanist makes its own music, informed by the elements I talked about before. We like many other bands, including US black metal bands. 

8. It is somehow surprising that you have never given up taking Botanist's proposal live. How complicated is it to be able to put together a concert with all the supposed instrumentation that appears in your sound? Perhaps the biggest handicap of a concert for you Is it having to work with an instrument like the hammered dulcimer and not being able to capture your live sound in a coherent way?

Botanist live is indeed far more of a headache than a basic guitar/bass/drums/vocals act, entirely because we’re taking an instrument that wasn’t made to perform in the context that we are forcing it to perform in. The dulcimers are heavy, bulky, cost more to travel with, take long to tune, are a problem if they go out of tune (because of all the strings on it), and although products for electric guitar basically “work” with them, many, many products, effects, pedals, etc.. don’t really offer anything useful as they might for a solid-body guitar whose only purpose is to be run through an amplifier.

Considering this, Botanist dialed in its setup and approach to playing live around 2015. Each new sound engineer will have their own entry-level experience, but that’s ok. We know what to tell them and almost always it goes fine. Going forward we are still refining our live setup, but essentially the work is long done, the hassle in general will not reduce more than a few per cent at this point. 

9. You have always used images for your covers related to the theme of botany and for the new album it was not going to be less, who was in charge of the design of the cover of the new album, what does it represent and how is it related to the content of the album? album?

Benjamin König at Sperber Illustrationen handled all the art for “VIII: Selenotrope.” I liked his previous work with Spectral Lore and Lunar Aurora… it turned out he was also a founding member of Lunar Aurora, a band I was a fan of! Working with Sperber was an outstanding experience. He’s extremely efficient and easy to communicate with. He takes his work seriously and makes no concessions on his standard of professionality. For sure, he’s worked with Prophecy Productions some times before, so he knows what is expected of a pro graphic artist. I highly recommend him to other potential clients who would like his style. 

10. This is your third release that is released by the record label Prophecy Productions. How did you come into contact with them to edit your material? Do you think that after a long career you have finally found a record label with which you Do you feel fully at ease thanks to the fact that he has bet heavily on you?

Third release? Not yet! Depending on how you count them, it’s our second. In December of 2022 Prophecy released re-issues of the first three Botanist solo albums, culminating in a large format artbook with 6-disks… the kind of career defining milestone I would not have been able to dream of when I made the material in 2009. 

As far as new material, “VIII: Selenotrope” can be considered as Botanist’s first release on Prophecy. The second new album has been submitted, and we’re currently working on the third. After that, we’ll see what happens!

Botanist talked about joining Prophecy about 10 years ago, but factors were not entirely aligned at the time. When I spoke to Martin Koller in 2021, the planets had aligned. It’s as good a time as ever  to be on a label with strong distribution and who invests in their stable’s physical product as Prophecy does. The feeling of a team of emotionally enthusiastic people on our team is a good one.

11. How were your beginnings in music: first concerts you attended, first albums you bought? What event in your lives pushed you to want to be musicians?

I got into metal when I was maybe 6 because of a cool older kid who liked metal and heavy music – Dio, Manowar, ACDC, Iron Maiden, Scorpions. That kid was the older brother of a classmate of mine whose mom was my kindergarten teacher. He also got me into tabletop role playing games and I associated the two in a wonderful world of fantasy escapism. That was the groundwork for my being introduced to this stirring, epic sound. At age 11 I connected to a new level when a friend (again who was connected via tabletop role playing games) of mine bought Iron Maiden’s “Somewhere in Time,” an album that I still cherish to this day – for sure my favorite, defining Iron Maiden. 

For me, what pushed me to become a musician was 1) around 1998 that a different friend, who was a drummer who played in bands and loved death metal, introduced me to Rush’s “Moving Pictures.” I liked grunge and alt rock at the time, mostly what I heard on the radio, and pop or rock songs, etc… but what I was hearing in Rush’s drums sounded like a whole new depth of thrilling musical expression to me, and it was a major push into me wanting to tap into this kind of expression. 

2) I wanted to be an entry, no matter how small, but a defined entry in the dictionary of music. The act Dream Evil and their album / song “The Book of Heavy Metal” later helped define what I had been feeling when I started Botanist. I didn’t care about having a flashy car, and I’d die to be immortal – I just wanted to be in The Book, to give back and somehow be a part of this worldwide scene of music that I wanted to give my life to, and in a major part, I did and still do.

12. What album represents for you the essence of black metal? What last albums have you bought?

As far as Botanist is informed, if I had to pick one album that is the essence of black metal, I’d pick Ulver’s “Bergtatt.” For me, it is the quintessence of the movement of regarding the forest as the embodiment of the primordial unknown, the original, most expressive Romantic in this philosophical genre of black metal. It also encompasses all of what Ulver was doing and saying during its now relatively brief black metal period.

Lately I’ve been going back to some roots, sort of, taking deeper dives into bands from back in the day, bands I’d either never really listened to or never heard of until now; bands in an era and genre who actually wrote songs that either had hooks or choruses and had singers who sang – you know, kind of like an intersection of proto power metal maybe with some thrashy elements and solidly within a true heavy metal framework. Two of the main acts I got into are Artch, whom I had never heard of before. I like their first album in particular. The other act is the very famous Metal Church. I got their first album because of their eponymous anthem, which is so great. However, I was surprised to discover the album that I loved much more, and may remain my favorite of theirs, is their third album, “Blessing in Disguise.” It’s less catchy but there’s something very interesting and satisfying about the musical craft going on throughout the record that makes me want to return to it again and again!

13. Thank you very much for taking the time to answer these questions for Black Metal Spirit, if you want to add something for the Botanist fans this is the place. I hope the questions are to your liking.

Thank you for your interest in Botanist and consideration for it in your publication! We are pleased and support sites who publish in languages that aren’t English. Everyone should be able to connect with their passions in their own native languages, and you are providing a service to the Spanish-speaking world. Hello everyone and thank you for being such strong supporters of this worldwide scene. It needs all of us!


Blaze of Sorrow – Astri (Dark Clear Blue) 11,99 € 

Vinyl, LP, Album, Limited Edition, Dark Clear Blue

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