Wednesday, September 28, 2016
The Reticent Talks Most Emotionally Intense Album They Have Ever Recorded, Thoughts on Religion, Politics and Mainstream Appeal!
Interview With Chris Hathcock
North Carolina's The Reticent have always a been a bit of a cutting edge progressive metal act, but On The Eve Of A Goodbye sees them at the heaviest they've ever been, both musically and lyrically. This suicide based concept album can be very difficult to hear at times, especially since it is based on a dear close friend of group mastermind Chris Hathcock. That's right, all of the pain and misery here is authentic, which makes it a sprawling wave of emotion unlike any other I've heard this year.
I always start these interviews at the beginning, at what I mean by that, is I’d like you to talk a little about the band and how you came to be. Not mentioning the recent unexpected departure of your drummer, how do you feel about the lineup of The Reticent at present?
The original intent of the The Reticent was to be a conduit through which I could funnel a lot of the more quiet and morose songs/ideas I had while playing in some different black and death metal bands. I was writing the more personal and often despondent tunes consisting usually of just my voice and an acoustic guitar. It wasn’t something that really fit with the hyper-aggressive music I was already playing but was something I needed to write to fill that void. As such, the first two records (the demo “Hymns for the Dejected” and “Amor Mortem Mei Erit”) were almost entirely acoustic. After the other bands I was in had come to an end, The Reticent became my sole outlet and so many of my other compositional ideas (many sprung from metal of all types) became a part of the sound. This is probably clear in hearing the evolution from “Le Temps Detruit Tout” (the last record) to “On The Eve Of A Goodbye”. The band has seen its share of line up changes in terms of the live performing members. The core group that I have right now is extremely solid and committed to the vision I have for the band which is very important. We’ll most likely be adding a member or two soon but either way we’re gearing up to get back out doing shows again presently.
Before we get into the extreme lyrical nature of On The Eve Of A Goodbye, let us talk about the disc musically. I’ve noticed much of Tool as on prior records, but also a great deal of Opeth influence. It sounds almost as if you’ve been studying a lot of those earlier Opeth albums here. What were some of the records that you feel personally may have helped to inspire sections of this piece?
You know, the funny thing is I haven’t listened all that much to Opeth since they released “Watershed”. I know our styles are similar but maybe that’s why I don’t listen as much to them as I once did. All during the writing of this album I was listening to a wide array of music as the songs on this album span several years of writing. Some are 9 years old and some were only months old when I recorded them. So with something that has been in my mind slowly coming together for a long time, it would be very difficult to pinpoint any albums in particular that had a direct influence. I can say that the albums I most was moved to write by during this period were: “Kind of Blue” by Miles Davis, “Souls At Zero” by Neurosis, “Symphony No. 7” by Ludwig Van Beethoven, “Option Paralysis” by The Dillinger Escape Plan, “Sideshow Symphonies” by Arcturus, and “Anthropocentric” by Ocean. I’d have to say my biggest influence overall is probably Neurosis, though. I know that my music sounds nothing like them but then no one can sound like them. I am more influenced by their approach and the depth they put into their music, rather than trying to emulate their style.
Lyrically, the record deals with the suicide and the aftermath of the suicide. But before you go into discussing the concept, tell me a little about the writing process for those lyrics. Obviously it was a very difficult process. Were there a couple of songs that you didn’t use the lyrics for, or that you had to re-write a little entirely? I’ve heard that “Funeral For A Firefly” was hard for you to sing.
Writing lyrics for something like this is a rather difficult journey. Rewrites upon rewrites upon rewrites. I’d try to walk the line between being poetic versus literal because though it is my story I would like for it to have enough room for others to be able to put themselves into this as well. Suicide is not something that is a small time issue. In the US it is the 10th most frequent cause of death. Many people have been affected by it either explicitly or implicitly so my hope was that by telling my story in the right way I could purge myself while giving a voice to someone else. “Funeral For A Firefly” was the most difficult recording/performing experience I’ve ever had. To this day, I have sung that all the way through only one time - that performance is what you hear on the record (mistakes and all). I had underestimated how hard it would hit me to be in the dimly lit vocal booth and actually say these things that I had wanted to say for years. The first attempt at recording it, I got two lines in before I burst into tears. And I mean sobbing. I thought - well, actually I even told Jamie (my producer/engineer) that there was no way I was going to make it. The song was that close to being left off because I couldn’t make it. But Jamie convinced me to try just one more time and what ended up on the record is the result. By the time I got to the shrieking ending, it felt like my heart was being torn apart.
Tell me about the lyrical concept behind the record and what is happening within each scene of the piece. It seems to slowly countdown from 24 hours until the time of the event, as well as the aftermath.
I added interludes through the album that are counting down while simultaneously giving the listener a perspective from one of three vantage points: my perspective, Eve’s perspective, and an omniscient storyteller's. The songs progress through the day before and events leading up to Eve’s suicide and then the fallout afterward. Some songs are very clear in what they are in terms of the overall structure of the story. For instance, “The Girl Broken” introduces Eve but through my eyes, “The Confrontation” and “The Apology” has to do with an argument and subsequent make up the day before, etc. Others are perhaps more purposefully vague in terms of whose perspective we’ve taken or the significance - like “The Hypocrite”. The song “The Postcript” if you were to read the lyrics you would find it was composed of mostly sentence fragments and the music is unlike the rest of the record being far more disjointed and odd - this is because the song is meant to be Eve’s thought process while attempting and ultimately failing to write a suicide note. The final piece “For Eve” is something specifically written for her - my way I of saying to her “I hope you have found peace.”
Not to go too deep into the personal matter behind the tragedy which inspired this masterpiece of human emotion put into the musical medium, but how do you feel regarding the situation now? It seemed towards the end of this performance, that your heart was literally being ripped out of your chest.
Well, to be honest, it got much harder for a while after I recorded everything. Finally putting this all together and on tape had suddenly brought so much to the surface. There were many things I did not deal with when it happened. I didn’t even speak to anyone for two months after it happened. I just shut down. I believe a lot got buried over the years and came out in other ways. I think you are exactly right to use the apt phrase that it was like my “heart was literally being ripped out of my chest”. The album was recorded in album order to allow me to go on the journey and for that to come through to the listener (you can hear the deterioration of my voice as we progress through the record). I am better now than I was. Unfortunately, suicide remains something that comes up now and again so I don’t know that the wound will ever fully heal. As I said, my hope is that this record will connect with someone that needs it - not that they need my crappy music in particular but need to know that someone else feels this. Be it the loss or be it suicidal thoughts, I wanted to give voice to the whole horrid experience. If I in any way can help someone, then I’d definitely say that will help me a great deal in that something good at all came from this tragedy.
Considering all this, it has to make you think possibly a little more about the afterlife. Would you consider yourself a religious or spiritual man? Do you believe in an afterlife? If so, do you feel that there’s a chance (and I apologize for this one, if it’s bit too much to answer) that perhaps the person that the record was based on might have actually heard it or had been there during the performances? Do you feel that she’s still there in spirit? Or do you feel otherwise?
I’m not a religious man. And though I would love to imagine that Eve was there and heard me, I’m afraid she’s just gone. That’s the tragic part for me. One shot and she vanished into nothingness. At the same time, that is what I did on the album. I talked to her, cried with her, screamed for her. I think it is summed up in the line from “The Day After” about mid way through the song: “There’s no more you now it’s just me talking to ghosts who give no reply.”
Changing the subject, some of these tracks like “The Comprehension” for example, are quite radio friendly. Would you ever see The Reticent as a radio-friendly act or do you consider yourself more a part of the underground music scene?
I count myself extremely fortunate that anyone at all likes my music so the idea of anything of mine being on the radio seems extremely far-fetched. I don’t know that mass markets really want something that encourages reflection or introspection, though. I may be wrong - I mean, what do I know? I’m not a TRUE UNDERGROUND KVLT kind of guy either. I don’t really fit in anywhere haha. If The Reticent found its way on to the radio, I think that’d be great but I can’t write with that kind of end in mind, you know?
Considering this rough election season, do you hold a vested interest in any of the candidates, or do you just wish that everyone would stop talking about it?
I am so very, very much the latter. I believe that the United States has picked perhaps the two worst candidates I have seen in my lifetime. This is so emblematic of all the inherent flaws in a two-party system to me. Nevermind the number of people using bullying tactics to push theirs views and cherry picking facts to push narratives and agendas - and I mean on both sides. The whole thing has me so very, very sad. Whereas music may be at its best and most primal when it is fueled exclusively by raw emotion, politics and government are quite the opposite. Objectivity, patience, impartiality, logic, these are the things that are needed and are absent. The candidates who were disciples of such things have been pushed out of the way to make way for more rhetoric, emotionally galvanizing chatter, and a population seemingly content to just argue instead of discuss. I don’t know. I’m fearful, of that I am sure.
Thanks for answering my questions, and I apologize if some of them were a bit difficult to answer. On The Eve Of A Goodbye was a very difficult record for me to listen to as well, because I feel that the way this subject matter is portrayed is very close to heart. The disc left me speechless for a few minutes after it ended, to be honest. I didn’t expect that. That being said, it’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard all year and without a doubt, the single best recording that you’ve ever made.
Thank you so much for taking the time to ask them and I am deeply honored by your very kind words. Thank you for listening to my work.