The following interview was conducted informally between March 10th, 2021 and mid-April 2022 wherein Derrick Vella (Tomb Mold, Outer Heaven) had given me a quick heads up pertaining to the name of his new doom metal project, DREAM UNENDING, suggesting that he’d just finished tracking his parts and that it “Came out better than I ever could have guessed and it still needs to be mixed and vocals still have to go over it. I feel a certain way about it that Tomb Mold doesn’t compare to. You’ll hear it someday” while also remarking on Cyberpunk 2077 running poorly, thoughts on early 2021 standouts such as StarGazer and The Ruins of Beverast among other things. In between mentions of his usual haunts (Blue Nile, Keith Jarrett, et al.) he’d struck me with the most affecting discovery, and perhaps most key precedent to ‘Tide Turns Eternal‘, Dream Unending‘s debut full-length (released November 19th, 2021), in the form of ‘Pacific Ocean Blue‘ the long overlooked sole solo effort from former Beach Boys member Dennis Wilson but, sure… How does a funky, nigh progressive late 70’s rock n’ roll album apply to a hugely atmospheric death/doom metal record? Well, it shouldn’t surprise that feeling and texture can transcend either world in the form of the artist’s interpreted tension, emotional timbre and voice, Vella‘s pairing with a formidable cohort in DeTore could’ve only resulted in a serious, personalized event. Anyhow, this thing eventually turns into an interview that’d been intended as the frontispiece for a zine I’d been working on. Consider it a reminder that more Dream Unending is coming soon and that their first album is still brilliantly resonant, even if death/doom isn’t your thing.
D.V. — “It’s just me and Justin [DeTore] from INNUMERABLE FORMS/every Boston band. Oh, well my dad played some piano on it too. No blasts, lots of clean guitar. I think I’ve narrowed it down to “if you give me the first AHAB album and ‘Disintegration’ and maybe ‘Loveless’ and told me to write a record” haha. It’s the first time I’ve come out a recording session and felt overwhelmed but what we captured. […] I think hearing every song slowly get built at my fingertips was different. Since Justin tracked drums remotely it was just me and my engineer in the control room for 3 days making pretty sounds. Very personal, and we both fed off it. Lots of good energy. Mostly slow, no blast beats, only one real death doom part, very sad boy.”
The tragic idol, or rather the ‘genius in waiting’ perhaps never in the right place or time but luminant within the belated ear of history has long attracted the now multi-instrumental Toronto area musician, be it early PINK FLOYD, BLUE NILE or KEITH JARRET. It is what I’d consider the symptom of an open mind, not only to the future just beyond today, anxiously hoping to find a next step ahead of the curve but, also holding onto a sentimental piece of the outsider observed and within. As our discussion pulls out beyond ‘The Thule Grimoires’ we get a sense of Vella’s mindset beyond the norm, a need to innovate and be challenged by new ideas.
“You know that “I play metal and just heard DEPECHE MODE” thing, I can’t see it going away. Honestly half the time it just sounds like RAMMSTEIN and I’m not talking shit but like, you know what I mean right? We won’t get enough of the “we play metal but have you ever heard MINERAL?” That makes a band like SWEVEN cool. Everyone too uptight and masculine, not to generalize. I do have a sort of death metal side project that is a lot brighter and I’m tempted to say it’s “If SUNNY DAY REAL ESTATE played death metal”. I took the approach of writing mainly on fretless bass to see how it would go.”
From there he elaborates on ‘Tide Turns Eternal’ in light of the pressure of expectations upon a well-branded artist, his popular ‘old school’ death metal band TOMB MOLD being a complete hit since forming in 2015.
“I gotta say too, it’s nice to make a record with no expectation. TOMB MOLD, it got so popular it was definitely a weird thing when you’re writing and it’s like “Oh shit, how ya gonna top so and so” and with this it can just come out and people can go “I’d rather a new TOMB MOLD record” haha.”
Our conversation picks up back in May 24th, 2021. Wherein The Binding of Isaac: Repentance had kept the musician busy in between authoring a second DREAM UNENDING record while in the process of finalizing the first, something not uncommon for an inspired artist behind the scenes but nonetheless impressive from my fandom-set point of view. He’d also shared some preliminary photos of the cover artwork, from San Francisco-based artist Matthew Jaffe, in progress.
“I got really deep into Isaac again now that Repentance is out. Work has been a killer. […] I got my first vaccine shot today. It is still slow going up here. […] I got sucked into writing another DREAM UNENDING record. Speaking of, the first album is finished. Finalized the mix, album layout is almost finished. I kind of can’t believe how well it turned out. My elevator pitch is “Cinematic Dream Doom”. It’s massive and pretty and should leave you feeling good about life. Very non-evil, but has a couple spooky moments. It is a really good headphone listen.”
So, I’d finally heard the album thereabouts and it’d torn me away from my usual internet review blog idiocy for the sake of ‘Tide Turns Eternal’ being not only texturally different than most anything else released in its realm but tonally quite unique when we consider the revelry in the dark side of emotion and nihilism that the melodic death/doom and funeral doom metal sub-genres usually serve nearby. Fawning over the album I’d remarked “You know you made something great here, eh?” going on to praise the use of organs on “In Cipher I Weep” alongside the upward flung solo, gushing over DeTore’s massive vocals, and suggesting “Dream Unending” was an early favorite on the full listen. He’d elaborated on a few details in the midst of my noise.
“The organ on “In Cipher I Weep” [is] Courtesy of my dad, as well as the piano on “Adorned in Lies” and the piano and Jupiter synth on “Dream Unending”. [RE: vocals] Justin killed it, I honestly didn’t know what drums were going to sound like until I was sent his recordings in February. By the time he tracked, everything that you hear was written. So he knew what to anticipate at every turn and set drums accordingly. His vocals are a performance for the ages. His lyrics are incredible too. He wrote all of it except the poem and clean vocals. That’s my writing. The clean stuff was the most fun stuff to write and record next to solos. Buying that 12-string electric was a game changer. That and the Strymon Nightsky pedal. Was able to create multiple textures, I wanted the record to sound like a hazy dream, like if ‘Loveless’ was doom, like how the JESU self-titled is “if Loveless was sludgey af.” Or something like that. I just wanted it to be super colourful.”
“I’m really glad you like it man. It was a labour of love and it really shows. I think it’s going to catch people by surprise. Especially for doom. It’s bright and refreshing, artistic, life affirming. I think that will annoy some people haha. Especially for an album never practiced in person, just two guys doing Doom Metal Postal Service. […] I’ve been in a hole of only listening to this album, Bruce Hornsby and late 90’s ANATHEMA. lol.”
From there it’d become clear an interview made sense but no doubt a lot of very direct interviews would get a ton of great information out of Vella during the regular press cycle. I’d decided it’d be more interesting to keep it conversational as this is where we’re treated to the self-reflection available to the artist, where the messaging and the person connect most naturally.
G.B. — Thinking back a few years ago when you’d first mentioned this project or the idea of it… you’d referenced some classic funeral doom like UNHOLY, I think the first MY DYING BRIDE, and mid-90’s SEPTIC FLESH records? I appreciate how this album is so that kind of ‘romantic’ doom aggression, hits on actual death/doom metal heaviness but ringing “upwards” without becoming progressive rock. There is serious weight here but more of a directional flow, I don’t feel like it is plainly beating on the listener, maybe the ground or the wall at times. Those 12-string guitars are seriously magic now that I have a better idea of where you’ve used them and what is guitar effects or otherwise. […] Is that a fretless bass on “Tide Turns Eternal” (and the intro to “In Cipher I Weep”)? Man, I think that last song will push this album over the edge for a lot of people in a good way if “Dream Unending” doesn’t do it first.
“Dream Unending” is definitely my application into heaven. Justin claims the first song on the next LP (Yeah I know lol) is the best thing I’ve written but “Dream Unending” is really good. That was one where “how” and “what” I wanted to write started to really make sense. The way I wrote the album is a little strange and out of order but I love its flow too. I really wanted to set it up so the whole thing felt like a vision quest. Or the Simpsons episode where Homer eats all those the super spicy chilis at the cookoff and meets the coyote.
I feel like when I set out to write for this band, I thought it would stay traditional but the more I explored it, the more I realized it could be something much more epic. I love “Call of the Wretched Sea” by AHAB. That album is cinematic at times to me. I realized I was more suited to approach doom like that. Big open riffs, fill in the space with harmonies, clean overdubs, solos. Each song has some sort of head bobber, but they’re not all tough. But I was also listening to so much DENNIS WILSON and GENE CLARK and GARY MOORE that I knew I needed to have pretty passages and leads. It couldn’t be that scary, it had to have ups and downs. And I knew it needed more than just reverb, it needed shimmering and wobbly chorus and it needed moody solos. End of “In Cipher I Weep” is a bit of a tease. Its like “Oh we could write you a punishing death doom record but we’ll just give you on serious mid pace riff and blow it out with an insane RITCHIE BLACKMORE style solo overtop. Also it goes without saying, these songs don’t exist if those RUINS OF BEVERAST records didn’t exist.”
[On themes] Deception, lament, tragedy, unification/connection, distance in mind, eternity. I feel like there is a sort of meditation upon changing the perception of distance between others or, finding someone in your dreams, finding reality there. Still sort of getting an idea since I am bad at pulling lyrics from death metal vocals.
“Yeah it definitely progs out a bit here and there, some of the pretty stuff can remind Justin of YES at times, but I think at some point we knew we had to take a spiritual angle with it. The more we talked about stuff, the more we got to know and understand each other. There is a total shift from the poem reading onward. The whole album tells a story. Its supposed to be hopeful. Maybe in Doom that’s a taboo, but I don’t fucking care. haha. I think you’re on to all of this though. The record is definitely coming out on the other side, so to speak. Goes through despondence and loss and reconciling and then clarity. That’s why those guest spots hit so hard. Its like listening to someone searching and then being visited twice with some sort of wisdom. Its like something out of Dark Souls 2. I loved how it turned out. Justin wrote the lyrics but that poem and clean spot of singing [on “Dream Unending”] is mine.”
When you say ‘application into heaven’ and suggest a more spiritual approach and a narrative it makes me even more curious about the lyrics. Is this due to doom metal being a better conduit for your own more emotional connection with music? Or, did 2020 kind of pull a different sort of goal/contemplation out of you?
I think it might be a combination of factors. I think the style, the pacing, the amount of overt melody and mode I can explore… it all plays a role. I don’t like to frame any of this as a “pandemic” record because I find that to be cheap. But I will say, 2020 gave me more time to think I suppose. I was working through the majority of the pandemic, but commuting on trains for a total of 3 hours a day, living in a city where I didn’t really have anyone to spend time with, being separated from my wife and only seeing her 3 times through the year, I had a lot of time to just sit with my thoughts and songs. But I think these songs can’t have the spiritual quality if I make them with anyone that isn’t Justin. I think we are similarly aligned on spiritual outlook, especially considering he spent a considerable amount of time being Krishna. While he doesn’t follow it now, it gave him an alternative way of thinking and you can take those ideas, those principles, the feeling of faith, whatever you want to call it, and you can apply it in your daily context and in a musical one as well. This thing we experience called life is just one stop on the journey our souls take. Anyways, I’m getting off track. I think 2020 just tested my resolve. I opted to do something instead of nothing. In a time where thousands of people are dying daily on top of the average worldwide daily death toll, I needed to do something for me. I wrote a lot, connected with music on a deeper level, read a lot, re-read books i love, revisited movies I love. I didn’t want to put something negative out into the world. I think the album is an affirmation of life, more than anything else.
You’ve answered this mostly, but is the trip from start to finish as easily read as the running order’s titles? So, you’re kind of answering the ‘goth’ doom metal dilemma by presenting resolve, which -is- modern in terms of the “wallowing in despair” issue I’ve long had with somber extreme music. When I listen to OCTOBER TIDE or whatever I pull myself up in the silence afterwards, the record leaves my head in a noose. Going through something, feeling it, and responding with adaptation. The addition of the deus ex machina or, duo of spirit guides helps me see the bigger picture now. Does this come from a personal religious revelation, a change in your own self-defined spirituality? Are you becoming more optimistic, finding more peace, or finding music more fulfilling to create now? (And now the spoken word part on “Dream Unending” will always be the fox spirit guide from the Simpsons in my head.)
Haha, yes to all of that. I think you nailed it. The album tells a story, we follow someone contemplating and reasoning with themselves. Shouting questions into this sphere, so to speak. They’re visited, they’re given revelations or a message of hope. I think as I’ve gotten older, felt more present in the present moment, I’ve managed to carve out my faith and beliefs, but not tied to any religion. I might talk to “God”, but I don’t know who I’m talking to. It isn’t something I talk about publicly too much, probably out of fear of ridicule or just the general eye rolling I expect if I ever bring up anything to do with my self-defined spirituality. Sometimes you make music, or you write something, or really, when you’re trying to create or achieve anything, sometimes your output is asking a question. Maybe I was asking the question “Is life worth living?”, and I think the answer Justin and I gave is a resounding “Yes”. A lot of DREAM UNENDING material, present and future stuff we’ve been working on, how do i say this, it feels like these songs are about “awakenings” of some sort. A determination to be a little better than the day prior, to try and not get bogged down in the things we suffer, we grieve, that make us anxious. Maybe metal is the wrong genre to do this with, but also fuck that, Believer is one of the coolest thrash bands to exist.
I’d really like to see you do one of those Amoeba “What’s in my Bag?” things, just because I feel like you are very good at finding music that resonates rather than “shows” at face value at least when presenting them to others. What I’m getting at is that I think DREAM UNENDING has a bit of both, a deeper resonance to connect with and the big, burly magic of its heaviness.
I think the strength of the band is not exactly using doom bands as a blueprint or reference point. Like I said above, pacing is something I’m concerned with but I feel like everything I write takes on a weird pop structure in some way. Even TOMB MOLD songs that twist and turn and go places, much like Dream Unending, there is always this conscious decision to try and balance challenging ideas, dissonance, within a catchy framework that can get stuck in your head. I thought more about albums like “No Other”, “Pacific Ocean Blue”, “Filigree and Shadow” or “Kill for Love” more than I did “From the Shadows” or “Dance of December Souls” if you will. Definitely thought about those ones, but I found myself listening to these emotional dreamy albums and in that haze I realized that’s what the band needed to be. I mean, the name is DREAM UNENDING after all. I’m sure Justin had more of the doom reference material going for his part. Which would make sense.
I spent a couple of days really scouring the first two SEPTIC FLESH records last week, and I guess two things struck me. First, the lyrics are occasionally amazing, just beautifully stated. “Crescent Moon” just skins me every time. And I guess yeah, there is a lot more PARADISE LOST ‘Gothic’ in there than I remembered, extended and reinterpreted but, still. Anyone who likes that sort of thing will like some of the turns you take on “The Needful”, not that any of it is expressly similar but it is a vital bridge between two of the album’s biggest pieces, the glass staircase to the next realization with some of the coolest tones on the record imo.
“The Needful” is definitely the most important song on the record. It was the last song I wrote for the album. You’re right, it bridges the gap. I am really fond of it, I actually think it has some of the most melodramatic parts. I love the solo at the end, I love the clean overdub during that riff after the bass break. It closes side A perfectly. The way the humming fades out, you’re given a moment of respite before the more emotional half of the record. I played the record for a friend and his partner and I watched them react to it in real time, which was a lot of fun. Normally you send your songs to someone, and you wait to hear back, and sometimes you never do or you get some texts or an email and they resonate but the real life experience is something else. It isn’t something I do much. By the time we had cleared the sentinel’s message, and that overdrive guitar slides into that note, I could see his eyes were red. I think it can be impactful if you allow it to be. Someone asked me how long it took me to write that song and I can’t truly remember. I remember though sending Justin the first 9 minutes or so of that one and thinking if he was in, then I knew this band would work. And he was.”
With plenty of time left before the actual release of the album, we’d continue to check in roughly once every month or two. We now make the jump to roughly August 15th, 2021 where the conversation picks up again.
When I return to this album there is something special about the first few chords of “Entrance”, I mean I see the design of it more now whereas before I was obsessed with the timbre and movement. The hanging notes that start “Adorned in Lies” set such a mood, it is devastating foreshadowing when in the right mindset. ~4:31 on that song, sounds like a draining heartbeat, I don’t even know how else to describe it but I love when/how it hits.
“The way it flows into Adorned, I gotta thank Arthur [Rizk] for that. He kept this strum of 12th frets from forgotten farewell in the space between entrance and adorned and it solidified the C# minor key perfectly. The clean riff that comes in at 3:30 on adorned, that’s some serious sad weightlifter stuff right there.”
This is closer to you, you’ve said as much, more personal and directly channeled. Emotional music with you up front, well Justin too, not just the ambition of the self but maybe a closer capture of your vibe -now- or within this process. The TOMB MOLD process of creation was kinetic in a different way and I saw you reaching for more meaning, thinking of lasting resonance as the second and third albums released. But that was a connection with the instrument and to some degree the lyrics. I mean we’d talked about KIETH JARRET and the emotional connection with the instrument and you’ve mentioned some deeply jazzy, dream-like references (“Meniscus” from THIS MORTAL COIL, for sure) This is -everything- by comparison, right? Is it important that DREAM UNENDING represents you in this regard? That level of vulnerability seems like it’d be a scary thing to expose as an artist, I think expressly in metal if we can maintain perspective.
“It’s definitely nerve racking, I think it will catch more people surprise to hear Justin on it. It’s truly a further departure for him because of the breadth of his work. The closest he’s ever come to something like this is MAGIC CIRCLE, and it’s just different planets. TOMB MOLD sort of represents the workhorse in me, and in Max. Always on to the next thing, never second guessing ourselves too much, not getting lost in the details that hold up other people. There’s more of a spirit in the sense of a “Get up and go” attitude with TOMB MOLD . Those first couple years were a trip. Just constantly working on something, going on a tour, working on something. Never any “dead time”. DREAM UNENDING, it’s much lonelier and I have too much time to be meticulous.
Those TOMB MOLD records feel truly “Devil May Care” compared to how I treat DREAM UNENDING. But again, it’s more of just me. Granted there is a lot of Justin in it too. The band doesn’t exist without him, it can’t exist without him. He just understands perfectly. Maybe it’s because we care as much for KING’S X as we do MY DYING BRIDE. It’s weird to put so much of yourself on the surface. We included a Khalil Gibran quote with the record, which in itself says something about what kind of person you are. We make the joke that we could come off as Christian. but to some extent the songs I write are some sort of extension of my ongoing process of defining my beliefs. I feel like things I used to write, lyrically especially before and somewhat including TOMB MOLD were very “wrath of god” and now I’ve graduated to writing about “God’s love” or something, haha. I don’t know what I believe in yet, but something’s inside of me. I just don’t talk about it much because, yes, metal scene.”
As I consider my own attachment to the album — I think that if it wasn’t existentially affirming (waking into deeper worth) it’d be 60% devastating 40% uplifting, surreal, quieting. I think because death/doom with melodic value is so often tragic, or nihilistic if philosophical certain “reads” are hard to shake. I like this quite a bit, you’ve angled into a different sensation.
“It’s definitely the opposite of Nihilistic and I feel like we tried to really lean that way with the artwork (“Woah. Weird” – review of the album cover from Paul Riedl of Blood Incantation, lol) and with the clean spoken and sung parts. Really establish a “We’re hurting but we’re ok”. The soul is a wave and the tide turns eternal… life goes on, y’know? I think that’s part of our identity. The whole life affirming thing. It makes me excited for the next record too. More epic but still gut wrenching with an uplifting message. I feel like a lot of this will make sense when you can read the lyrics.”
In terms of your own spiritual path, is the ‘belief’ part of spirituality all that important to you? Whenever I run into people who are capable of so much by their own will and likewise able to enhance their own ideas within a community of caring others, it always appears as if they are already resonating with the tools any well-meaning temple or deity could provide. I’d really like to know more about this spirit/lifeforce you’ve alluded to but I understand it is personal and awkward to write about if you are still in process. It is exciting on my part to see at least some of this journey reflected within the album, growth within a huge and harrowing sonic thing which is sonorous but not based in entropy. I dunno, less of a “I’m bored + COVID” album and more something you’ve been mulling over for several years.
“I definitely have written other stuff as an extension of “I’m bored and COVID” but DREAM UNENDING serves to be a good vehicle to explore things I wanted to explore. Justin is a perfect shipmate for that journey. I don’t look at my abilities as anything god given but writing music for me does seem to be an offering as sorts. Maybe it’s something as simple as a need to please others, or bring joy to others. Creating music with others where they get just as much enjoyment or fulfillment out of it, that means something to me. Maybe that’s why I have such mixed feelings on ‘Planetary Clairvoyance’ now that I’m removed from it by a couple years. DU is easier to satisfy all involved parties. Less of a balancing act. Maybe I’m in my own head about it because I just figure people I’ve known since I’ve been a teenager will never take anything I do seriously. Outside of my wife and my parents, I can’t count on anyone, or I at least feel that way. Maybe I turn to looking for a higher power to offer something to. It brings me comfort, I can say that much. It’s helped take my mind out of the dark places I go to. Even writing that, I sound like an edgelord. I think there’s a part of me that looks at songs like DREAM UNENDING and Tide Turns Eternal and I think I wanted to harness some of the essence that I feel when I listen to a song like “How Could I”, maybe offer a glimmer of hope to anyone troubled. Maybe 10-15 listeners will read the lyrics, maybe 1 will take something from it. I’d be happy with that. Most people will just listen and think its some nightmarish journey, its quite the opposite. I suppose it has its moments…”
The album art is cool, it reminds me of old paintings of Hebrew/Judaic golems and I like the strong contrasting color quite a bit. Did you give any direction for it? Is the image directly related to a personal dream?
The album cover is a pretty direct interpretation of the poem section. I showed Jaffe some stills from Kagemusha (1980) and we used that as a jumping off point as far as colours go. I wanted it to be bright and vivid, I wanted it to stand out and not be some spooky gloom bullshit. haha.
Granted I often interpret poetry in odd ways but I see the lyric for “Tide Turns Eternal” as an acknowledgement of impermanence to some degree, accepting the natural way of things but also remembering what remains of us. The -choice- to heal is the part that really stabs at me the most, because there is this emphasis on personal agency even when accepting the flow of things. Ah well, I am probably just doing a lot of esoteric rambling but I am getting a sense of you perhaps musing over love, anxiety, and finding some extra purpose in the midst of grief or strong empathetic reaction.
“I think you nailed it with your take on Tide Turns… I think Justin and I both share those feelings. We keep moving, and its never easy but life goes on. There is no sense in dwelling, it is easier to just let go and push forward. It’s often the hardest thing. We get comfortable with our misery, or hatred. It’s harder to grow from it. Morrissey was right as much as it pains me to say, haha.”
At this point in the conversation ‘Tide Turns Eternal’ was released to rave reviews, including my own long-winded and blathering review plus inclusion in the Best of the Year. We got back in touch on December 27th, 2021 for some conversation on the joys of the pre-stripped down funking prog of STEVE WINWOOD via the original mix of “Taking Back the Night”, and some deeper examination of one of Vella’s all time favorite artists, Scottish pop group BLUE NILE.
“I think I’m ready to reconsider my stance that “Hats” is the best BLUE NILE album. It might actually be their last one, “High”. It feels like the most logical conclusion to a band ever. It’s the most crestfallen. Whereas every other record has joyous moments, especially Hats and Peace at Last, the tank is empty on this one. Maybe I just resonate with it a little extra because its Paul Buchanan at his most self deprecating. He has that ability to write one line where I’m immediately saying “Yes I know exactly what you mean”. “Stay Close” might be the greatest closing track to a record ever. I might be exaggerating a touch, but I can’t think of many I like more.
The next DREAM UNENDING album will have some unabashedly BLUE NILE moments, minus the singer of course. […] It’s been interesting seeing people resonate with ‘Tide Turns Eternal’. Some very personal responses have come my way, I think the next one will be even better too. The songwriting feels more mature, it pushes a little further out, still retaining a lot of that searching for an answer. I don’t know if people will like it as much, but I know that I’ll love it. I haven’t been listening to much death metal lately.”
After a long tangent on my preference for the first Blue Nile album, it being a bit more post-punk influenced in terms of rhythm I’d asked if he’d read the band’s official biography Nileism and recommended a KLAUS SCHULZE album that’d transfixed me. I’ll spare you, the reader, the paragraphs of my rambling in between.
“Moondawn is great, I really enjoyed reading to that album. And yes I’ve read Nileism a couple times I remember buying it the moment it hit the shelves. Hats is their high point, but High is an emotional low point in a good way. High feels very naked compared to Hats as well, way more vulnerable. Stay Close may be the greatest closing track to an album ever, but the title track “High”, the lyrics are too relatable. Because of Toledo as well. That simplistic approach to lyric writing is so damn effective. You barely say anything and yet you’re saying everything.
I had a couple conversations with certain listeners who told me the DREAM UNENDING album was like therapy for them, they’d listen to it each night. A friend of mine told me he’d listen to it at night with headphones while hanging out with his young son who would be sleeping. It’s weird to create something full of personal feelings that are universal but also try to express that without sounding like a dickweed. You know me, I’ve always tried to create in the moment and not try to have some master plan.”
As we moved on to February 2022, the conversation moved to JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, realizing the rock-jock side of Alan Wake since it’d been remastered, and the second DREAM UNENDING album entering the studio.
“I started tracking the next DREAM UNENDING album yesterday. It’s funny that we are on the second one within a year of tracking the first LP, but I got hit with inspiration and rather than sit on it and try to chase some unknown quantity, I let the songs come to me and I always know when I hit the finish point of an album. I need it out of my head so I can write more. That is sort of the beauty of recording, even while dialing in guitars I’ll dwell on these little riffs and I’ll think “Oh I can make something out of that later”. I’m only down one song but I think this album will be better than the last. I left the studio last night overwhelmed with joy. More epic than the first. I think it’ll be heavier and prettier than the first. The writing feels more mature. Day 2 starts in about an hour. Still got a big mountain in front of me to climb.”
The last four records you’ve released in succession don’t indicate that you dwell to the point of writers block. Is it that you trust your own sensibilities, that the next group of songs will turn out best if you get them out in a timely manner? Does this feel spontaneous on your end? Is self-doubt a part of the process we don’t see/hear?
Self Doubt plays a role in the way that I feel inspired to work fast and hard at a collection of songs in order to please and appease bandmates. Sort of a “I offer up these tracks so you’ll continue to not hate me too much”. At the same time, if I’m not getting a certain level of commitment to learning the songs, then its a confirmation of “this person doesn’t respect me”. I never understood sitting on songs for too long unless you’re in a position where you get to write full time and release records yearly. I mean, I have been beyond fortunate to release albums yearly in some way or another, but I’m not a full time writer. For instance, if the new DREAM UNENDING album is 45 minutes of enough material written for 3 guitarists, a bassist, and maybe enough for a keyboard player? That takes from late March of 2021 to January of 2022. That’s about 10 months? Each song can take anywhere from 20-40ish hours of writing, playing, workshopping, whatever you want to call it. It’s a lengthy endeavor and I guess in my head, I’m doing it on top of leading a normal life where I work full time and have responsibilities so I don’t feel like I have the luxury of shelving songs. If someone writes something today and can say “Oh I’ll use this on a later record in like, 5 years or so”, you have more confidence in yourself and others than I’ll ever have. I almost envy it. But then again, the idea of recording a song that I wrote from 5 years ago today is ridiculous. It’s almost a “move on with your life dude” moment. haha.
Is there a sort of mental outbox, or, standard met in mind where one idea is finished and the next is already in mind? I figure this second Dream Unending album insisted upon itself? Had ‘Tide Turns Eternal’ revealed its next stage of evolution while the ideas were still in motion, or was the next iteration already pre-loading in mind? Are you particularly sentimental about any past releases? Any major regrets?
I think the process really starts once I have finished recording an album. I sit around waiting for it to be actually finished and mixed, I wait for artwork, that kind of stuff. Once I have a board mixout of my recording sessions to keep me satiated, that’s when I can really reflect on the work. When Tide was done on my end, I was quite happy with what I captured but at the same time was thinking “What didn’t I do that I want to do” or “What is the natural continuation of this”. You don’t really know what you have until you lay it down for real. I also had the luxury of too much time alone during the writing of Song of Salvation (the upcoming LP) which was a blessing and a curse. I bought more gear, tinkered with ideas, and started sketching songs with no idea where they would go. I think hearing Tide being played back, it was evident I was more interested in writing “movements” than songs. Maybe. That sounds so pretentious. That’s the other thing too, I’m always struggling to explain my process without sounding like I’m so far up my ass that I have to retract statements or potentially make other people annoyed. The thing I liked about Tide was how it flowed. As a single 45 minute piece, I felt like it said a lot, but at the same time, the idea of releasing it as one long song, get the fuck outta here with that. That would be like getting a copy of “Crimson” and not being able to skip to “Part 3” or whatever. I think after a while, forcing a listener to listen on your terms is ridiculous. I think if I’m sending an album early to someone, I have more freedom to be a dick about it, sending as one long file or what have you.
Anyways, with that said, I wanted to find a way to pick up where Tide left off. I wanted to say more, but I wanted the two albums to almost be a shared experience. In an ideal world, you could back to back both albums. Maybe I have to release a single sided 10″ called “Intermission” to really bridge the gap. I wanted SOS to be more intense, I wanted to throw more at the wall but still in that “relaxing head massage” kind of way. I think I wanted the next album to be an exhilarating experience. Aim for the heavens and settle with purgatory. The right people will like it and the right people will hate it, sort of like Tide. Clearly I don’t care too much about what the listener wants since I wrote the majority of SOS before I could see public reaction to Tide. I’m more concerned that everyone involved is happy with their part and the overall album.”
From that point he elaborates on how growth within the two projects (DREAM UNENDING and TOMB MOLD) are different in terms of collaboration, and ultimately suggests the different ways that various works have appreciated over time, and the human element of sharing this sort of personal work with a larger audience.
“I’m not overly sentimental or rather I am but usually just with the people closest to it. Primordial further solidified a bond between Max and I, and listening to Payson’s growth as a guitar player over the two TOMB MOLD lps that followed (as well as my own), fills me with good feelings. But I’m so careful as to how I phrase that because I don’t ever want it to come off as “My songs made you better” but instead “you have made my songs ‘our songs’ and in that, you’ve made them better than I could ever imagine.
[By contrast] I think I found myself interested in taking prog rock ideas, and executing them within DREAM UNENDING. Even saying that just makes me sound full of myself. I don’t think I’ll go shout from the cliffs “DU IS PROG DOOM” or anything as such. I found myself more drawn to say Alan Parsons Project records that had a thread running through the whole thing but still contained these pop sensibilities. I wanted a constant thread to run through the album, sort of that cinematic flow. I didn’t know I had achieved that (to some degree) with Tide until I heard it back after the mixing was finished. But I think even that helped shape how to approach records going forward. Every record you make is a valuable learning experience. I think the biggest and most jarring takeaway from the first record was that some listeners felt sincerely touched by it. That’s an intense feeling. I’m grateful it could cross a barrier for some.”
Without getting into details for the next release, what is next for DREAM UNENDING?
I guess the next thing for DREAM UNENDING is to form a live band. I feel like I’ve shot myself in the foot and made some of this stuff nearly impossible to play live unless you have 7 people on stage but hey, never say never. Beyond that, tab out the albums, keep writing music when I have some downtime. So on and so forth!
What is the best way that listeners can support DREAM UNENDING?
The best way to support DREAM UNENDING is just to reach out to us and tell us you like it, why you like it, ask questions, suggest things for us to check out. Tell your friends, show your non metal friends, I don’t know. Actually, you don’t have to do anything except listen. I don’t want to ask for much.
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