Black clouds and devouring pits: an interview with Richard Smyth of Servants of the Mist

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A proposition which consumes the psyche, festers with ruinous abrasion and sonic pestilence within emotions, Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation, the new EP from US metallers Servants of the Mist is without doubt one of the most hostile and excruciatingly bitter treats of the year so far. It is an encounter where bravery brings the weightiest rewards and an incitement finding its creators at their most creatively and emotionally vitriolic yet. We seized on the chance to delve deep into the heart and thoughts of the band at the kindness of vocalist Richard Smyth, with whom we talked EP, personal experiences and their influence on the music, Florida and much more…

Hi Richard and thanks for taking time to talk with us.

My pleasure…

Can we start with the origins of Servants of the Mist and the circumstances bringing members together and band into existence?

The band was formed in 2010 by our guitarist, Ed Tobar. Before I had entered the fold there had been several other musicians briefly involved, including a few vocalists. After meeting their then bassist at a concert I joined as vocalist that September. Humorously enough, by December I was the only remaining member (besides Ed, of course), as the other three band mates had all either quit or been fired. At this point I assumed the role of drummer in addition to my duties as vocalist and Tim, a childhood friend of Ed’s, was recruited to play bass guitar.

We carried on as a three-piece for the next two years until Tim was asked to leave due to his excessive drinking habit. One by one I started bringing friends into the band, beginning with Kenny Nguyen on bass (he eventually switched to second guitar) and RJ Howley on drums (he has since been replaced), which has led to our current line-up that also includes Jason Kleim (bass), Gordie Coop-Man (drums) and Brian Schille (keys/samples).

Did the band start out with a specific intent and purpose and does that still core it’s thoughts into new horizons?

I can’t necessarily speak for Ed, but I’d say the intent was pretty simple from the onset- to create music that is both sonically and emotionally heavy as a way of exorcising our own personal demons. Our sound has definitely changed a lot through the last four years though. We started with a more traditional doom style with some gothic rock elements and have evolved into a sound that has more in common with what could be called funeral doom.

To us on the outside Florida seems a place of warmth and fun, so where is the dark sufferance which compellingly soaks the sound and songwriting spawn from?

Hahaha. For the record, Florida is pretty awesome. The weather is nice (aside from the fact that it rains every fucking day from April to November), the cost of living is low and death metal is everywhere, but like anywhere else in the world it’s loaded with ignorant human beings who go out of their way to suck the life out of anyone or anything they come into contact with. Plus, life is filled with disappointment, pain, frustration and regret no matter where one lives. Also keep in mind that Ed works in an Intensive Care Unit. The death and suffering he deals with on a daily basis definitely goes into the songwriting process, as do my own emotional problems which stem from a traumatic brain injury I sustained earlier in life.

Since forming the band, until it’s now stable line-up, as you said has been through many line-up changes, has this in some way added to the venomous side of the sound which ravages senses across your pair of EPs, a predatory frustration bred by previous instability?

Good observation. I’m sure that added some fuel to the fire.

Tell us about the evocative band name, where did it spring from?

We took the name from a very early song of ours. The “mist” we “serve” essentially represents anything that we as humans, having an instinctively addictive nature, rely upon for sustenance, be it drugs and alcohol, pain or even love. It’s what we always run back to and it’s generally what destroys us.

You have just released the fearsome and ferocious Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation EP. Tell us about its inspiration lyrically and emotionally? som cover

Of the two original songs on the EP I only wrote the lyrics for one. That song would be Undeserving, which is an autobiographical account, detailing the feelings of shame and self-directed hatred with which I have to live on a daily basis. As for Gross Knowledge, Ed’s a bit of a horror buff and he wrote those lyrics. It’s written from the viewpoint of a sexual sadist. As to whether or not it’s autobiographical from his own psyche is not for me to say, as even I am not necessarily sure. Hahaha.

What has inspired you most potently in your music and lyrical provocations since you began writing songs? How much of the fury in tracks is as you suggested earlier bred from intimately personal experiences?

All of the musical fury is bred from our personal experiences. However, not all of the lyrics have personal relevance. For instance, some of the songs delve into themes of violent sexual perversion in relatively graphic detail. These particular topics, while not relevant to my own views or habits, work well within the form of creating dark, disturbing art in a similar fashion to bands like Cannibal Corpse and Carcass. As for other themes we tackle such as suicide, depression, self-hatred and addiction, those lyrics are generally spoken from our own experiences.

The new release follows the acclaimed Suicide Sex Pact EP, how would you say your sound has specifically evolved and expanded since then and indeed The Daydreamer EP before it?

Our sound has definitely gone through a pretty steady and drastic evolution over the past four years. It hasn’t necessarily been intentional either. The riffs that Ed brings to the table just happen to have gotten progressively heavier and noisier over time. As a result I have adjusted my vocals, which used to be almost exclusively melodic, to the harsher blend of growls and screams prevalent now.

In hindsight, the Daydreamer EP certainly seems to have been a turning point in the transition to where we are now. I don’t recall any conscious decisions being made at the time of its creation, but I’d say that it’s safe to assume that bringing a new group of musicians into the fold (Kenny, Jason & RJ) played a crucial role.

Do you write with specific things in mind or is it more an organic expulsion each time?

It varies. Some days are more eventful than others. For instance, Ed could bring in a riff on a day that has been particularly frustrating and emotional. As a result I will write lyrics based upon my feelings and experiences that day. On the other hand, Ed could present new ideas on a day where I’m not particularly feeling much of anything or perhaps I’m even (gasp!) in a good mood. In that case I would look towards other media or art for inspiration and write based on that.

On the evidence of certainly Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation, the band wants to provoke and challenge thoughts as much as punish the senses but equally there seems an underlying seduction which creeps up on the listener in songs; like a coaxing to promote the forbidden.

In the end it’s all about creating a dark, disturbing atmosphere for the listener. We’re not promoting any specific behaviors, but we definitely intend to challenge our audience to confront the darker side of human nature.

How does the songwriting generally work within the band?

The songwriting process generally starts with Ed. He brings in a few riffs, sometimes with lyrics, and we all work with them and arrange them until they cohered into a proper song. It’s a very organic process and you may not believe this after listening to the material, but it’s a pretty relaxed, pleasant atmosphere. For the most part it’s six friends getting together after work with some beer and seeing what happens.

Tell us about the potent opening track to Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation, the seriously haunting and disturbing Sadism & Suffering?

I’m going to be cheesy and use a cliché. It’s the calm before the storm. I feel the track helps to build up some anticipation for the cacophony that is to come. The repetitive nature also works toward firmly planting the seeds of negativity in the listeners psyche in an effort to add to the experience.

 som2We called the following Undeserving, a monolithic predator in sound and intent. It is a track which seems to us to encapsulate everything about the mind-set and creative voracity of Servants of the Mist at this moment in time. Do you feel that also in some ways?

Absolutely…That song in particular is very personal. I can’t speak for everyone else, but lyrically it sums up every emotion that inspires me to write. Musically speaking, it is an accurate representation of where we are as a band and I think that it encompasses all of the fury and raw brutality we strive to convey.

Listening to the track, and the whole EP, it feels like you guys have no control of what emerges from your ‘toxic invention and aural corruption’, but in full command with skilled invention of how that heart bred tempest is delivered and presented. Is it that organic or are we short-changing a predetermined aspect to the band and songwriting? 

Interesting take…I see it as a union of both. While the initial ideas come naturally and beyond our control, those particular elements are put together in a conscious effort of creating a proper song.

Are you a band which holds an element of hindsight which leads to self-critical analyse when it comes to previous releases or quickly move on to new horizons with new writing and sounds?

We tend to not look back, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. It definitely works well when applied to the creative process. Our lack of hindsight also adds an unpredictability to our shows and recordings, which could be viewed as either negative or positive, depending on the listener.

You have a very impressive live presence over in the states. As an unsigned band how easy is it to get gigs and get on more prominent shows as you have in the past with the likes of Jucifer, Ulcer, After Death, and the Tardy Brothers, nowadays?

It’s been surprisingly easy. It’s really just a matter of networking and going to shows.

What is ahead for the band across the rest of 2014?

We’ll be embarking on a tour of the east coast of the United States during the month of August, which will take us from Florida to New York City. As far as any other plans are concerned, it remains to be seen. One can’t force creativity.

Thanks once more for sparing time for us, any last thought you wish to leave us contemplating?

In the interest of art, nothing is sacred. If an artist doesn’t provoke thought or make a few people uncomfortable that artist has failed. At its best, art is honest and direct.

http://www.facebook.com/servantsofthemist

Read the Gross Knowledge of Genital Mutilation review @ https://ringmasterreviewintroduces.wordpress.com/2014/06/24/servants-of-the-mist-gross-knowledge-of-genital-mutilation/

Pete RingMaster

The RingMaster Review 10/07/2014

Copyright RingMaster: MyFreeCopyright

Listen to the best independent music and artists on The RingMaster Review Radio Show and The Bone Orchard from

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Categories: Interviews, Music

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