Saturday 30 July 2016

An Interview with Andy Beresky from Black Pyramid and Palace In Thunderland (PART 2)

It's time for Part Two of the interview with Andy Beresky of Black Pyramid and Palace In Thunderland fame. Aleks is happy to offer you this detailed and interesting reading, so let’s not waste our time with discussing the things we already know and ask a few questions to Andy.

You can read Part One here. Time for Part Two...

The second full-length “In The Afterglow of Unity” was released just a year after - in April 2015. How did you work over this stuff?
We finally pulled it together??

We'd all been off playing in separate bands for awhile, Adam and Matt with Blue Aside, Monte with HydroElectric, and me with Black Pyramid. With that space between us, we were able to figure out a lot of things about what makes each of us tick, our playing improved, and we all made good records during that time. It's like when you separate from a romantic partner, give each other space, you both figure out your respective shit, and then reconnect in a better place.

Almost immediately after Monte asked me to jam with him again, songs and ideas started coming together. We had no expectations going in, we really didn't. We'd get some beers and sandwiches, watch some TV for awhile, and when we'd once again have these long jam sessions, just he and I. Before we even stopped to think about it, we had more than half of "In The Afterglow Of Unity" written, and we realized that we had to get Adam and Matt involved again and do this as Palace proper.

The real key to the record was that we were finally able to do most of the recording ourselves. We did the drums and the mix at Sonelab with Justin Pizzoferrato, though we recorded everything else ourselves, mostly in the Thunderland Compound. This gave us a lot of time to experiment with sounds and get everything exactly the way we wanted it with the guitars, vocals and bass. We'd also been significantly upgrading all of our gear, so we were really able to dial in some cool, unique sounds for this one.

Palace in Thunderland performs pretty original mix of stoner, doom, psychedelic and space rock; how do you keep the right balance mixing all these components?
Well, I think those elements and components are all really compatible, when shoves comes back to push. Doom and stoner rock are pretty much first cousins, and the same could be said of psychedelic and space rock. So it's just like a big family reunion.

What's a little trickier was that on "In The Afterglow Of Unity", we really tried to bring in more 90's influence, which were the bands that got us into music in the first place. Having a heavy Soundgarden influence wasn't really a stretch, and they've always been a big influence on our sound. I for one wanted to make a real GUITAR album, like Smashing Pumpkins' "Siamese Dream", and Monte was certainly on board with that. So we were listening to a lot of stuff like Hum, Failure, Swervedriver, Dinosaur Jr, bands that layered a lot of different guitar parts with different atmospheres and effects. We also tried to bring in some post-hardcore influence. Quicksand was an influence we incorporated, as were Fugazi, Helmet and Girls Against Boys.

Once we really got into the mindset, none of these bands were too much of a stretch, because they're all guitar heavy bands. We just shifted how we wrote riffs slightly, and focused a little more on different melodies. I feel pretty happy and confident that we pulled it off really well. With the split 12” we recently recorded and the next album that we're already working on, I feel like we're bringing even more diverse influences to the table.

So we can suppose that with "In The Afterglow Of Unity" you found golden mean and "right" sound as the question of further Black Pyramid movement is still open, right?

I think we definitely struck gold with what we did on “Afterglow”, and we're going to continue in that direction with how we make albums in the future. The band is really at a high point creatively, firing on all cylinders, so we're going to ride that wave for all that it's worth. The next album is going to be a real concept album, inspired by albums like Pink Floyd's “Animals”, Husker Du's “Zen Arcade”, and Refused's “The Shape Of Punk To Come.” If that sounds wild and weird, well, it certainly is. The album is something else, and we're really stoked that it's coming along nicely.

As far as Black Pyramid, it's tricky. I think we will end up experimenting more, and moving as much as possible beyond the confines of whatever genres and styles we've embraced in the past, though I also feel like we've pigeonholed ourselves a little more, and it's going to be tougher to break the mold. It was a real stretch just progressing from the self titled album to “II.” I really feel like we need to reinvent ourselves a bit.

Black Pyramid - Illumination

Can you pick up one certain song of "In The Afterglow Of Unity" which shows that you really wanted to express through the band? Something like quintessence of Palace in Thunderland?

At first I was going to say “Decadent Decay,” and I think that song was pretty indicative of where we were on “Afterglow.” It's a good song, it's catchy and covers a lot of ground musically.

Overall though, I'd have to go with “Before The Dawn Descends.” That's the last song that we wrote for “In The Afterglow Of Unity”, and it's a bit more where we're going overall, with the more expansive arrangements. That song has a bit of everything, the loud/soft dynamics, the many guitar tracks to create atmosphere and depth, the big catchy guitar riffs, pounding drums, harmonized guitars and vocals. It's also a song where we establish a theme early on and then revisit it later in the song. That's going to be pretty key to the next album. We're focusing heavily on that moving forward.

How would you differ emotionally the material you did for Black Pyramid and Palace in Thunderland? It seems that the last one sounds lighter and more positive. Subjectively of course...

That's true. Black Pyramid tends to be more dark and menacing. I believe that dark emotions can be really energizing if channeled and utilized properly, so I tend to draw on the raw, primal pain and anger.

Palace In Thunderland is definitely the more light-hearted, positive band, you're absolutely right. I try to bring in some darker elements and emotions, though I like to have a turning or breaking point in the songs, where the light breaks through the storm clouds and transcends all the previous darkness.

What is lyrical concept for both bands?

Well, Black Pyramid lyrics are really about using stories and mythologies as metaphors for inner conflict. Nothing is literal; everything is allegory. When I'm singing about wars, horrors and violence, I'm not talking about the external world, what I see around me. I'm talking about what's inside of me. I'm a pacifist - I believe we should strive for peace, and that violence only creates more violence. This doesn't mean that I necessarily feel inner peace and serenity all the time, and the lyrics are an outlet for when I'm not feeling it. The words are cathartic, a way for me to purge my various inner demons. They're in no way meant to glorify or dignify war, atrocity or violence.

With Palace In Thunderland, I use a lot more science fiction concepts, and that's largely because I am writing those lyrics more about society and humanity as a whole. They're more about finding freedom, identifying the various things that keep us in chains, both external and internal, and then looking for ways to transcend our boundaries and barriers. It helps to be primarily forward thinking rather than inward thinking in that regard, which is why the sci-fi is fitting. Not that Palace lyrics aren't introspective as well, it's just to a different ends. I'm going for a more transcendent feeling than a cathartic one, at least on “In The Afterglow Of Unity….”

On the split 12” we're finishing up, I didn't write all the lyrics, everyone in the band contributed, so they're a bit more personal. The lyrical slant is also much different for the next album, as it's about a fictional character, and there are a few voices within him that sometimes conflict or manifest in different ways.

Andy how do you manage to separate your efforts between two bands?

It's actually not that tough for me. I go by feel and intuition. If I'm writing something, and it feels more like Black Pyramid, it becomes a Black Pyramid song. If it feels more like a Palace song, then it's a Palace song.

Do you have certain plans on Palace in Thunderland or Black Pyramid is your main focus now?

No, Black Pyramid is not my main focus. It's a wonderful thing that we've been given another shot at doing that band in its original form. That's a rare and special opportunity. Clay is still in Georgia, Eric and I are up North in Massachusetts. The idea is that we're going to do this on a permanent yet part time basis. We'll see what other opportunities we're given, and we'll do what makes sense.

Palace In Thunderland is a different animal. We practice every week and we gig regularly. We're constantly writing new material, upgrading our gear, working on our skills and our sound. That's really where much of my focus is right now, as we're also working on new material for our next album, “The King Of The Empty Aeon.”

Do you already have an approximate date of release?

We really have no idea, as we've just started piecing the album together. It's mostly written at this point, so I'd guess we'll rehearse like crazy and record next year. It looks like we're going to do it as a two-part double album, so we'll release the first part sometime in 2017, then the second part in 2018? Maybe we'll get the second part done earlier, I'm not sure. We've actually started the second part, so anything is possible.

I'd imagine we'll do a new Black Pyramid record for 2017 as well….

Andy Beresky - solo

Will you release it again through your own label Reverse Feed Records? Is it more comfortable for you to work with Palace on Thunderland in this way and didn't MeteorCity Records or Hydro-Phonic Records lend teh band helping hand?

I'm honestly not sure what we'll do in terms of a release. We'll work with a label if it's a mutually beneficial relationship. There are pros and cons to self releasing, and if a label was able to help us overcome some of those cons while maximizing the pros, we'd definitely be all in!!

As far as Meteorcity Records and Hydro-Phonic Records, Palace has never had any involvement with either label. Blue Aside and Black Pyramid have worked with Hydro-Phonic in the past, though they're currently on hiatus, which is a real shame. Travis put a lot of time, effort, energy and passion into his releases, and his inactivity is a real loss for the scene. That dude developed vinyl releases to a high art form.

I'm also not sure what's up with Meteorcity, as they haven't released anything in the last couple years, and honestly, I haven't talked to Dan in a long time. I'm honestly not sure where we stand, as my abrupt departure from Black Pyramid brought up some tough conversations where I didn't exactly act or communicate in an exemplary manner. I was not in the greatest of spaces, and I was a bit of a prick to a lot of people because I was feeling confused and angry. I should reach out to him, and definitely offer an apology….

Palace In Thunderland has a good relationship with Twin Earth Records, Ric has helped us out in various ways through the years, so we've got that going for us, which is nice!

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Andy Beresky