Here’s Rob, making the first of some occasional posts on new and noteworthy music he has discovered, today he’s chatting with the genre-bending Zeal & Ardor.
I bumped into the music of Zeal & Ardor while randomly clicking on soundcloud, and my attention was grabbed immediately, as had happened to many others before me, if the positive reactions on each and every post are anything to go by. What particularly fascinated me was that music born out of the incongruous combination of blues, spirituals and black metal could work at all, let alone generate some real earworms.
It seems insane, but the results speak for themselves, listening to tracks like Devil Is Fine or Blood In The River, the soulful vocals, sounding for all the world like lost John Lomax field recordings, lend a bit of swing, and singability to the bludgeoning black metal guitars, and by contrast, the guitars enable the song begun by the vocals to soar to new heights.
I was eager to understand how this combination had come about, but with the artist’s online presence largely confined to the music itself, there wasn’t a lot to go on, at which point I reached out for an interview, presented here.
The Werd – Hi, thanks for talking to us. To start with, would you like to tell us anything about yourself? Where are you from? What’s your background in music?
Zeal & Ardor – I was born in Switzerland and grew up listening to metal music and weird rock stuff. After having a couple of bands I began making music more secularly for myself.
TW – When listening to your songs the combination makes perfect sense, but how on earth did you hit upon the idea to mix blues, soul and spirituals with black metal? And how long have you been tinkering with this strange genre alchemy?
Z&A – I thought about how Christianity was forced upon American slaves and how a similar thing happened in Norway. Then I had a lot of fun singing satanic lyrics in a classic gospel sort of way. It’s a playful and often funny process.
TW – A previous review of your work I read was absolutely convinced that your vocals were sampled field recordings of spirituals and work songs, how do achieve that authentic sound? And are the lyrics your own or do you take inspiration from those old songs?
Z&A – I just own shitty equipment really. Listening to old recordings by Lomax and similar records helped of course. The lyrics are my own, I don’t think it’d be too easy to find weird lyrics like that authentically sung (sadly).
TW – What’s your process for writing and recording a track? Does it vary from song to song?
Z&A – There’s no real formula to it. Often I’d start with a chant and just go from there, trying out what works. Turns out a lot does not.
TW – I had assumed Z&A would be a studio only band, but you seeing that you have a couple of live shows coming up, what’s the setup there?
Z&A – I’m currently experimenting with that. Zeal and Ardor should be a spectacle more than it should be a concert. Some things are done digitally, invisible to the audience and a great deal is done live. The challenge here is to make it seem coherent with the tone set and believable as a story of sorts.
TW – Are there any more directions you like to explore with this project?
Z&A – There surely are, but not with this project. I also have a more pop oriented output called Birdmask where I get to experiment with genres and mixing them also. It sounds stupidly simple, but making new things even if they end up as failures is the part of creativity that makes me happiest.
TW – And finally, what’s the significance of the name?
Z&A -Both words are terms with heavy christian connotations, but can be applied to deviance and fervour too. I think it sums up the project nicely without being to blunt about it.