Saturday 26 May 2018

Continuing Their Progressive Journey - An Interview With Nick and Marlon from SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI

It’s hard to believe that Sons Of Alpha Centauri have been around since 2001 and they are about to release their second full length album with Continuum. It’s also their first full length album since 2007’s debut S/T album.
Though the band have not been quiet since then. As Sons Of Alpha Centauri have released split albums and singles with bands such as Yawning Man, Karma To Burn and Hotel Wrecking City Traders.
Sons Of Alpha Centauri are considered pioneers of the UK Desert/Psych/Stoner Rock scene and it’s good to see the band return with a full length album of their own. For this album, the band have teamed up with Aaron Harris from Post-Metal titans – ISIS. Aaron recorded and produced this album and Continuum has a more post-rock/post-metal feel compared to previous releases.
I managed to catch up with Nick (Bass) and Marlon (Guitars) from the band where we discuss their formation, evolution of their sound and the recording of the new album.
Hi Guys. Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today.
Nick – I’m all good thanks Steve. Thanks for doing the interview and good to speak with you again. Marlon is with this time for some variety!
For people not in the know can you give a brief history of how Sons Of Alpha Centauri came together and what the current line-up is today.
Nick – Me and Marlon (guitars) formed in 2001 and starting a whole host of different tracks just out of school. We wrote about 35 tracks and then asked some local musicians who we respected, but didn’t really know too well – if they’d be interested in playing drums and keys for the band. Those people were Stevie B and Blake respectively. They joined in 2004 and the band has had the same line up since then till now.

You’re about to release your new album – Continuum. What can people expect from this album.
Nick – the debut album split down two distinct but very different paths. One was the lighter, desert, stoner type instrumental vibes and that entwined with the darker, heavier contrasting ambient material. We worked the album into a hybrid of these two approaches and although it was quite long at nearly 70 minutes we felt that we have captured the band at the time. We were pretty broke too so had time to write and record. Continuum is a development of the darker material that we knew was always going to be the harsher cerebral side of the band. We extended the war and vessel concepts into the new album too so there is a natural extension of ideology so it still links through, even after 11 years!
It’s your first album in almost eleven years. Though SOAC haven’t been quiet. As you’ve released a high amount of split records with bands such as Yawning Man and Karma To Burn. Why have you decide to come back now with a full length album. Was it the time was just right to release something other than a split EP or record.
Marlon - We have been working on the second album now for several years. Originally it was going to be a lot more chilled however that went on to become the Yawning Sons project. 

We have enjoyed creating the singles along the way with Karma to Burn. But we also found ourselves writing in a darker direction and in the right place for creating Continuum in this heavier darker theme. 

The last couple of years we have been working towards the release of Continuum and once Aaron Harris said he would mix it that was just the icing on the cake.
Do you prefer releasing split records with other bands or your own albums.
Marlon - We definitely enjoy working with other bands and without giving anything away, we have a few more plans up our sleeves for the future. That said, time has been slipping through our fingers and recording our own album allows us to go 100% in the SOAC direction without compromise. Music can be self-indulgent at times and once we started writing Continuum we knew we were on to something.

SOAC seem to have taken on a Progressive Space Rock/Post-Metal sound on the new album. Compared to your other records. Was that the intention to return with something different.

Marlon - I don't think we intentionally picked a direction. Nick and I have two very different approaches to writing and who influenced us. Combined each track we write can vary significantly. Sometimes we find the darker side taking over - that's what happened here. It can also depend on what time of year we are writing, this album could be reflective of the bleak winters we have had recently.
Was this a hard or easy album to write and record for.
Nick - Hmmm… an easier album to write for but very difficult to perfect. Most of the tracks were hit out of the park straight by me and Marlon but Blake had a much bigger involvement in this album. ‘Io’ was written by me and him first and then Marlon came in and worked on it later. Blake has a much bigger role but it was another pair of ears that needed to be satisfied. The band has gone through so many personal changes over 10 years but overall the maturity and ambition of the album is what drove us to know that this would be our sophomore release.
Aaron Harris recorded and produced this new album and you can feel his influence all over this album. How did you get Aaron to produce your album and what does Aaron bring to the SOAC standard sound.
Nick – I met Aaron at an ISIS show when I was doing a lot of work with Seldon (Hunt) on the debut SOAC album back in 2006. Seldon was doing our t-shirts, logos and album covers and Aaron and the ISIS guys were taking a genuine interest. I think at the time as the band was taking a definitive form we thought we might end up as more of a Hydrahead band and there was a lot of talk of tours with Pelican. Anyway, Aaron was interested in the band, we traded details and we kept in contact.
When ISIS called it a day and Aaron went into production full time then I remember thinking that it could work out. After the release of the Palms album that he had produced and mixed I contacted him to see if he would be interested. He’s exceptionally busy and on average does like one or two albums a year but he said to send him through a couple of tracks, which we did. He was in. So, we recorded the whole album and sent it through to him for mixing and production. His production was adding stuff that although is the recorded instruments isn’t the original sound or interpretations.

What was recording with Aaron like. Did he provide any helpful advice when recording the album.
Nick – Aaron transformed some of the songs in terms of dynamics. He heard what we had recorded with fresh approach and different ears. Despite being instrumental we still do tend to have usually all four instruments performing at the same time. He used space and silence to build dynamics and even cut off or really reduce some performance. He invested a lot into the album, it wasn’t just ‘Here you go, cheers’ it was a whole other collaborative experience. Needless to say he has excelled the tracks to the next level and he was totally invested into the mood and concept.
H42 Records and Cobraside is releasing the album. Though H42 Records have released a few of your split records over the years. Was it an easy decision to continue with this relationship. Did you have any offers from other labels to release the album?
Nick – H42 Records have been great. I didn’t really look elsewhere as everything had gone so well with our previous releases. They really believe in the arthouse and unique version of each release. Jürgen invests in different colours, versions and each release in a way that is bespoke and tailored for that band. Despite the main pressing in five different colours which was one for each region, he did an Abyss Edition for this album that was different artwork, silkscreened with a 3” CD of a remix that we did of a track from the debut plus all copies come with a CD and an MP3 download the whole deal. It just really makes the extra effort for those people that do want a physical release to ensure that we cover not only all of the formats but it is a truly physical engagement and the best possible representation for the album, entwined with the artwork. H42 Records make that happen and we really didn’t think or look anywhere else.
Will you be touring and promoting this album heavily. Or will it be down to a few gigs and festival appearances.
Marlon - We already have some shows lined up, dates to be confirmed. Looking forward to playing the new tracks. That said, I have recently had my first born son "Logan", so whilst we will be promoting the album, we won't be going crazy.

The Stoner Rock/Instrumental Rock musical landscape has changed dramatically over the years since SOAC first formed and appeared on the scene. Have you noticed any dramatic changes over the years. Or is has it remained the same.
Nick – It has changed dramatically. I went for a drink with guys from what would become ‘Desert Scene’ after the release of Yawning Sons back in 2009 and there was very little in the UK in terms of shows and promotion but they had an ‘idea’. Desert Scene put on the their first few shows at the Underworld and we played pretty much the first 5 or 6 shows straight up. Then in 2012 we played DesertFest and then, well look at what DesertFest is now.
It’s a bit weird that we released a more stoner album back when post metal was in its hey day and now when stoner doom seems to be rocking it, then we’ve gone with a heavier more progressive output as opposed to I think, what was expected but then, SOAC are predictably unpredictable in that sense. We had to do what felt right for us, and with Aaron and John involved it is something which contrasts nicely with where the UK scene is right now.
Before you go do you have any words of wisdom to say to your fans. Best of luck with your new album as it’s a great sounding and progressive album.
Nick – Thanks Steve, that’s a great thing to say! Glad that you’re liking it and appreciate the progressive elements. I think the main thing to say is that we have spent a lot of time honing our craft but after 15 years we really feel that this is kind of the end of the beginning now. I quite like that we operate in the shadows a bit but it’s easy to be forgotten - this album is reinstating ourselves as being true to our commitment to the band and people who have followed us in our various guises that this feels like something special and we want people to be a part of it. Thanks again Steve and for your support as always. Hope to speak again soon!
Words by Steve Howe, Nick Hannon and Marlon King

Thanks to Nick and Marlon for doing this interview. Continuum will be available to buy from the following records labels and distributions sites listed below on June 1st 2018.