Cold North: An Interview with Ian Campbell of HARROW by Arrrrrv
Victoria, B.C.'s HARROW just released a new record, entitled "Fragments of a Fallen Star". I had the great opportunity to ask frontman/vocalist/noisemaker Ian Campbell some questions about the new record.
KWUR: Can you introduce the people who worked on this record? What's your songwriting process like?
IC: Sure, Fragments was written by myself, Ian Campbell, and Kyle Brickell. The song “Keening” was written with the help of our first bass player, Chase Sutherland, back in 2011. Ray Hawes also lends his voice to a few parts on the album and plays banjo on the last track. The artwork is done by Jeremy Hannigan, who did our first album cover and will most likely continue to bring our full lengths into the visual realm.
The song writing for “Fragments” was a bit… fragmented, to use an awful pun. The album was written in small chunks over the course of 2011 and early 2012. When we started recording, Keening was the only song that was completely finished. The rest of the songs were pieced together over the spring and summer of 2012 as we recorded. It isn’t until recently that I have presented complete songs for the other members to learn and add to before we record them.
KWUR: When you approach a longer piece like the title track, how much spontaneity is there when recording? Did you plan out the noises and samples in advance, or did you take a more improvisational approach?
IC: There was quite a bit of spontaneity in that track, especially at the beginning and the end. The noise was totally improvised, as was the drum solo. We did multiple takes, each different, and chose the best one, the space samples were added later. When we play the ending of that song live it tends to be different every time as well.
KWUR: How long have you guys been working on "Fragments of a Fallen Star"? After your last split with Walden, your production seemed to become more spacious and open-sounding. Was this a specific choice in making "Fragments"?
IC: We started recording in April 2012 and finished most of the tracking around June. However, I spent quite a long time mixing the album, getting guest appearances recorded and re-recording some parts, so the album wasn’t complete and mastered until very early 2013. It was definitely the longest I’ve worked on a piece of music. At this point the album seems old to me already and it isn’t even out in physical form yet!
The production was somewhat a conscious decision, yes. It is a result of Kyle and I both improving our recordings skills, as we are both self taught through doing these and other albums. It is gratifying that the change is noticeable, hopefully in a good way.
KWUR: What's next for Harrow? Do you have any touring plans or upcoming projects?
IC: Well, “Fragments of a Fallen Star” will be released on cassette at the end of September by my label, Shadow of the Stone. Other than that we are working on what will become our third full length. We have two songs finished and a third one on the way. The album will most likely be recorded at some point over the coming winter.
We have a few shows planned in around Victoria and Vancouver in October, including two supporting Wolvserpent, which we are excited for. We also may be doing some less conventional dates around Vancouver Island, but those are still in the planning stages. The new material we are working on is very much meant for live performance, so we are very excited to bring it to life for an audience.
Other than that Jake is working on recording the next Walden album and always doing something with his grindcore band Bungus. I may work on my folk project, Crooked Mouth, when I get the time, as I have a few ideas for split releases being tossed around and a few unfinished songs to record, but nothing is set in stone at the moment.
KWUR: What inspired the use of samples/noise from NASA's Voyager probe? Is the space theme something that defines "Fragments" or is it a more general artistic choice?
IC: The space theme is certainly an important part of “Fragments.” The point in the song the samples were used are meant to represent the main character being broken down and transported across time and dimension where he will be reconstituted to exist in a more heroic age. These samples appealed to me greatly, they really are music in themselves and they seemed a good fit for the concept and the sonics of that specific part of the song.
The concept that really defines this record is my take on the idea of “oneness.” We can find the path to this concept in so many different ways and traditions. One that helped open my mind to the idea was contemplation of space and the origin of matter, which, as far as we know, originates from some kind of single source and has only been transformed over the vast gulf of time to form us as humans who contemplate it. It is a very Sagan-esque idea of course, the expression of this “oneness” though the filter of modern human science rather than a more esoteric tradition. We are the fragments of our fallen star, our elements created in the nuclear fires of its core. We all come from something much greater than ourselves.
KWUR: Can you give us a rundown of your local scene? If you were to play a local show, who would you share the stage with? Anyone in particular that you respect or admire from the BC metal scene?
IC: There are some excellent bands from Victoria to check out, we recently played with Northern and Nostrum who are both great bands and good friends. Black metal has a following here but bands seem to come and go rather quickly. We’ve played with some pretty diverse bands, as much out of necessity as anything else. Our first tour was with stoner metal band Hoopsnake. On that venture we played with war metal cults, all girl punk groups and powerviolence bands made up of high school kids, often at the same show. So the B.C. scene is quite interesting. There is no united “black metal” scene to speak of.
The one metal band from Victoria who is still going and probably have the most international notoriety is Iskra. We’ve never played with them, but they are key supporters in the city’s punk scene and keep a lot of things going for extreme music in the area.
As for the rest of B.C. we would heartily recommend Skagos, Mitchondrion, Funeral Circle, Gyibaaw and Night Profound to name a few. We’re happy to call all of these groups friends and are very much fans of their art.
Big thanks to Ian for his time. Harrow's latest record, "Fragments of a Fallen Star" can be purchased via their bandcamp page, http://harrowblackmetal.bandcamp.com.