Saturday 7 May 2016

Ascending Riffs - An Interview with Simon from VOKONIS

Swedish Stoner Metallers – Vokonis – have just released their superb debut album – Olde One Ascending. An album packed full of great songs that will appeal to fans of Black Sabbath, Kyuss and Orange Goblin. Or mainly for everyone who digs good old fashioned Stoner Metal where the emphasis is put on lyrics as well as vocals and the riffs.

Vokonis were originally called Creedsmen Arise who released a great debut EP – The Temple – last year. The guys have re-grouped and returned as Vokonis. Our team member Niels Fuzz recently reviewed the album and he raved about it. You can read his great review here.

I've caught up with Simon (Guitars/Vocals) from Vokonis recently where we discussed how the band came together and how the new album came about. So lets get started.

Hi Simon. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.

Hi! Thank you for conducting it. We’re doing quite well, A bit tired after our gig last night in Gothenburg.

Vokonis was originally known as Creedsmen Arise. But you changed the name to Vokonis. Can I ask you why you changed your name. As I loved your original name.

When we were known as Creedsmen Arise we built our music and lyrics around an already existing mythos (Dopesmoker), and when we split ways with our original bass player and vocalist we just wanted to get a fresh start. To kind of get rid of some of the expectations. Because we knew we were gonna sound different than Creedsmen. I don’t know if that worked but I know for a fact that Olde One Ascending doesn’t sound the same as Temple.

Was it a hard or easy decision to change your name to Vokonis.

It was necessary. We all felt it was the right thing for us if we wanted to move forward. So I guess it was a mix. It was hard letting it go but at the same time we felt thrilled about a new name, a new sound and no ties to the old material.

Why Vokonis. Why do you choose that name. What does it mean to you as a band.

We had the song King Vokonis Plague before we changed name. And when we came to that point of us wanting to move forward it just made sense to choose a name of this old evil King in his decrepit kingdom.

How did the band get together. Did you all know each other before forming the band.

Me and Emil knew each other from before since we played in Creedsmen. Jonte came along sometime around a year ago. He actually filled in on bass for Creedsmen at one of the two gigs we did. And when we split with our former bassplayer and vocalist it felt natural to ask Jonte to join us as a full member. And he agreed, which made me and Emil very happy.

For a first time listener looking to discover your band - How would you describe your music.

The obvious answer I expect heavy riff-based stoner metal. We try and make our own thing in a very crowded scene. I mean there are a LOT of good and great stoner bands. Even in our area. We just try to do our thing. Which happens to be this Sabbathy thing I guess.

Your new album – Olde One Ascending – is a stunning album. If you have to describe your new album in your own words to a perspective new fan – What would you say to them.

First of all, thanks a lot. We put a lot of energy and focus into this album as it was both conceived and recorded in just a few months. This is my first singing experience so it’s a very personal album to me. If I were to describe the album I would say that it tells a Lovecraftian story, it has a beginning and an end. And we wanted to make it in a way as that you wanted to just play it again and analyze it. The lyrics are obviously very fantasy based. But we wanted to let the listener determine the meaning of the songs.

Was recording the album an easy or hard process to complete.

It was certainly harder than penning the album. A big part of that was that I had no previous experience recording vocals so I had to learn in the studio, which isn’t the best time to learn. But we put a lot of blood sweat and tears in it and in the end we were very happy with the results.

And we recorded with a great guy at a great studio here in Borås (Fredrik Jordanius, Bastard Sounds Studios). We really feel that he helped to bring out the best of us.

The album is being released by the awesome Ozium Records CAT RECORDS. How did you get involved with them. Did you have offers from any other labels.

Indeed it is. I first got in contact with Mats at Ozium when Creedsmen released Temple. But they wanted to wait to see what we could conjure up as our debut record instead. Now obviously things took unexpected turns. But as soon as we announced our plans to record our plans on recording an album to Ozium they immediately wanted to sign us. Without hearing a single note of Vokonis.

So we because of that dedication and their previous catalogue of bands we didn’t look elsewhere. It felt like being embraced by a big family.

The album is starting receive some great praise within the Doom/Stoner Metal community. Have you noticed that yourselves. Are you pleased with the responses so far.

We are extremely pleased with how the community is responding to the album. The fact that people are writing to us and saying that they like album that much is unreal.

How hard is it being a band in today's world. What are the most difficult aspects in being in a band.

I think that it’s hard enough putting together a band, and that it’s even harder to get out there and play. It is a tough world where there are maybe 100 bands and 3 good places to play in a city. But it’s very rewarding. If you’re playing a show and you see people in front rocking out and after the show they’re asking to buy your album, that’s probably one of the best feelings in the world.

What is the song-writing dynamic in the band. Is it a group collective or down to one individual.

I write the music and lyrics, and then we jam on it to see if we can make something out of it. I’m a very creative person when it comes to writing and I’m constantly in writing mode. I have a strong sense of how I want our music to be. So it’s a very natural dynamic we have in the group. I think we already have most of the song structures ready for the next album. But that’s a long ways off.

Can we talk about the fantastic album cover. I see that Tessa Naijar designed the picture and Dominic Sohor designed the Vokonis logo. How did you get involved with those two great artists. And how much input did you have into the final design of both the album cover and logo.

I got into contact with both of these great artists back in the Creedsmen days. And they are extremely talented and imaginative. Dominic created this almost old school death metal logo for us which I fell in love with instantly. I think it’s iconic and we are very grateful for his effort and support.

And ever since Tessa drew the artwork for Temple we just kept in touch. So when I described what we were up to in terms of lyrics and mythos she immediately started sketching of an idea with this figure (Hazmat) that were summoning this ancient being to destroy the world. So it was her take on what our music might look like if that makes sense.

What inspired you to become a musician? Any particular album, band or life-changing event that told you – Yeah, that's what I want to do....

I got into playing the guitar when I was about 16-17 years old. I had started listening to band such as Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine and wanted to make some noises of my own. Pretty soon I discovered Dinosaur Jr and the world of fuzz. From there on it was just a downward spiral into death and stoner metal. If I were to name some pivotal albums for me as a musician and a person that would be (in no particular order): Opeth – Ghost Reveries, Dinosaur Jr – Where you been, Black Sabbath – Master of Reality.
Will you be touring this record heavily. If so what dates are you performing and what can people expect from the live VOKONIS experience.

We love to play in front of people and have couple of dates in Sweden, Germany and Czech Republic booked. The great thing is that we are playing with a lot of great bands such as Bad Acid, Öken and the mighty Långfinger and Skraeckoedlan going forward. I look forward to it a lot.

We try to bring rawness to our live shows. A reason to come and see us over listening to the record. From the point of us taking the stage you can expect 40 minutes filled with fuzzy mayhem.

Here are a list with upcoming shows:

21/5 @ Backstage Varberg
28/5 @ Kulturhuset Freja, Skövde (supporting Skraeckoedlan)
30/5 @ Hijazz, Uppsala (with Bad Acid)
3/6 @ Klubb Orange, Borås (Releaseparty, support Långfinger)
17/6 @ Komsjälsfestivalen, Timmele
8/7 @ Pocco Bar, Hamburg, Germany (with Bad Acid
9/7 @ Chekov Cottbus, Germany (with Bad Acid
12/7 @ As.Music Club Cihellna, Czech Republic (with Bad Acid
13/7 @ Subway to Peter Chemnitz, Germany (with Bad Acid
14/7 @ Arsvitae Café Rodewisch, Germany (Bad Acid)
15/7 @ Kulturhof Lübbenau, Germany (with Bad Acid)
16/7 @ Leipzig. Flower Power (with Bad Acid)
30/9 @ Wizard of Fuzz, Gothenburg
Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans.

We would like to thank everyone who supports us in any way they can. We want to direct a big thank you to all the people who have supported us and bought our album. It’s been overwhelming.

Words by Steve Howe and Simon Ohlsson

Thanks to Simon for talking to us. Olde One Ascending is available to buy digitally now. CD will be released on 25th May whilst the Vinyl will be available to buy from June/July 2016 via Ozium Records.