Monday 20 February 2017

An Interview with Justin from KIN OF ETTINS

Doom metal band Kin of Ettins hails from Dallas, Texas. For almost 13 years they tell the story of Northern mythology, history and shamanism in the form of traditional doom metal. Their debut “Tears for Lost Ages” was released in 2009, and since then till now “Snake Den Time” single (2010) and “Doomed in Dallas” EP (2010) were added to their discography.

Well, it’s not breaking news but in November 2016 the band finally released their sophomore record “Doom upon the Slain”.  JOTUN aka Justin Delord (guitars, vocals, keyboards) is Kin of Ettins founding member and ideologist; I asked him a few questions about band’s current status and new album.

Hi Justin! Thanks for your time! Time is a precious thing and there is a 7 years long break between Kin of Ettins debut “Tears for Lost Ages” and new album “Doom Upon the Slain”, some even could forget what is Kin of Ettins about! But how would you introduce the band for those who didn't hear this name?

I don't really enjoy describing the band to be honest, or anyone's music for that matter. I think it's better to simply let the music be heard and people will react how they will. I think our work dignifies itself.

Okay, but what were your general goals when you started Kin of Ettins back in 2010?

I wanted to create traditional doom metal that still offered something a little different. I also wanted more creative control over my vision, which was easier to achieve with KoE.

By the way, how did the band spend this period? What's the reason for such ling hiatus?

It wasn't so much a hiatus as it was just a long pause between albums. We never stopped playing live, and we did release a four song live EP “Doomed in Dallas” in 2010

How long did you work over new songs? What kind of obstacles did you face on your way to this release?

We spent several months working over the songs, but some of these songs are older, having been written before the first album, so I can't really state a time aggregate on it. Out biggest hurdle was a line up change, as we switched guitarists during the recording.

Did you have certain plan when you enter the studio? What did you want to express through this record?

We didn't really have a plan apart from doing it ourselves, no producers. The rest was a learning process, mostly for Donar who handled 99% of that. Our expressive goal was for a more dynamic record with a deeper, heavier sound than before. I think we achieved that, although we'll do a few things differently next time.

Did you face any difficulties recording this album? Do you have some certain “difficult” songs on “Doom upon a Slain”?

Apart from the line up change, the biggest difficulty was just learning how to record and produce our own music. We knew how to do a lot, but our knowledge was incomplete so there was a learning curve. I don't think any one song was any more difficult than any other. We had to troubleshoot each one a little, but in different ways.

How do you see key differences between “Tears for Lost Ages” and “Doom Upon the Slain”?

In short, “Tears” sounds like ‘80s doom and “Slain” sounds more like ‘90s doom, both in style and sound. “Tears” is lo-fi, muddy and very trad, while “Slain” is crisper, chunkier, and a little more groove stricken.

What did make you do this step further in '90s? And how do you see features of '80s and '90s doom? There were not many doom bands in '80s.

The progression in sound, as far as that analogy goes, was purely accidental. Most of that is just in the overall mix. “Tears” has that muddy, half buried, lo-fi sound like you'd hear on a Saint Vitus or Trouble album, probably because that producer was rooted in ‘80s rock and metal. I draw the ’90s comparison on the new album because it's cleaner and heavier, but still less than perfect. I don't know if others hear what I hear, but this is the way the records sound to me when comparing the two.

Kin of Ettins – Echoes in the Deep

I see there was a change in lineup few years ago, does Teiwaz appearance reflect on the band's sound?

Very much so. He's a tremendous boon to the band and a huge part of our sound. His leads have a quality unlike anyone else, as he has a style all his own. He takes enormous pride in his playing and works hard at every aspect of his role in the band.

The band's lyrics usually deal with Northern mythology, shamanism, history and literature as metal-archives say. How are you serious about it?

I'm as serious as one should be about everything beyond survival, which isn't very serious at all. My lyrics are actually inspired by everyday life and its struggles, mysteries, joys and sorrows. Mythology is simply a metaphorical lens for telling those stories. It's not an original approach at all in my opinion. The seeming fantastical elements of Dio and Judas Priest lyrics are of similar scope.

When did you start to interest with such topics?

I started with Norse and Greek mythology when I was about ten years old. That was right around that time I stepped back from the Christian dogma I'd been told and realized how strange religion was, so I began to search for truth in other areas. I haven't found literal truth in any spiritual system, but many of them are overflowing with symbolic significance, and there's palpable wisdom to be found if one can glean it.

Do you discuss songs' topics in studio during recordings in order to set right tone for music? Or does the band have any specific methods of working when you deal with paganism and do on?

Not really. I generally will share a song's lyric with the band after I'm done penning it, and their response is usually along the lines of “OK cool”. Although Teiwaz has some concepts he'd like me to write about, but we haven't brought that to fruition just yet. With the songs we’re writing now, I'm having to go into more detail because I'm the only one capable of reading the lyrics I'm writing, but that's all I'm going to say to that end right now.

Can you tell what did you write about this time? What do you reflect in your lyrics for “Doom upon a Slain”?

There's a lot of subject matter on this one. There are references to human conflict, environmental issues, grief and loss, Celtic shamanism, ancient history, religious skepticism, and the mysteries of the cosmos. I'm still expressing a good bit of this in mythological contexts or through literary obfuscation as those are powerful creative devices.

Can you say that Kin of Ettins today is the band which you wanted to see back then in 2004? How do you value band’s progress since it first days and till nowadays?

I wasn't really sure what the band would become when I first envisioned it. My sole focus at that time was on crafting the first songs and recording. I wasn't even sure it would ever be a live band. Once things got started though, it all just snowballed. I fell in with a good bunch of guys who work hard though, so building up to where we are now has been a natural progression.

What's your next goal as you have new album at hands? Would you like to return in studio in the name of Odin, or play gigs, or just fall in slumber again?

We'll keep playing live for sure. Our rehearsals have begun to shift focus on working on new material, as the material for the next album is already taking shape.

By the way, how often do you play live? And with what kind of bands do you usually share a stage?

We play in or near Dallas every two to three months. We also do occasional road shows around Texas and some touring. We generally keep to shows in the stoner/doom vein. Here in Texas we've played shows with Wo Fat, Stone Machine Electric, Elliott's Keep, Dead Hawke, Mothership, Las Cruces, Blood of the Sun, Project Armageddon, Solitude Aertunus, et al. On the road we've shared the stage with Earthen Grave, The Skull, Apostle of Solitude, Iron Man, Pale Divine, The Gates of Slumber, Orodruin, and a host of others. The doom scene is strong here.

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Justin Delord