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Whispers In The Shadow - Interview #2

Interview with: Ashley Dayour
Conducted by: T.V.

One of the most significant names inside the gothic rock scene of today and Austrian longest living gothic/post-punk band Whispers In The Shadow have returned after four long years since their masterpiece Beyond The Cycles Of Time, and after a lot of uncertainty about what will be the future for them. There were also rumours spreading that Whispers In The Shadow will be put on an indefinite hiatus or even that everything will be over. But at the end of last year, the rumours were shut down as the band announced a new album and around one month ago, exactly on 13th April, Whispers In The Shadow came back victorious with a new release, their ninth full-length already, The Urgency Of Now, released by the mighty German gothic rock label Solar Lodge. If the band was deeply rooted in the mystical occult gothic rock on their previous four albums which formed a cycle that started in 2008 with their fifth album Into The Arms Of Chaos, followed in 2010 by The Eternal Arcane, then all goth rockers kneeled down in 2012 in front of The Rites Of Passage and in 2014 one of the most intriguing, complete, obscure and important spells hes been casted - Beyond The Cycles Of Time, now the things are turned upside down and those who were expecting to get another dose of gothic rock extravaganza were quite wrong, Whispers In The Shadow on their new offering serve with their most raw and dirty politically engaged pust-punk that you could imagine. They went that far that even a new font, logo, new cover artwork style were created. Ok, The Urgency Of Now has still many typical characteristics that are unmistakable their own, also some moody mystical and quite atmospheric tracks can be found, but the whole thing offers a different sonic experience. This is an album deeply rooted in the here and now, an album that could only have been written during the last year. Whispers In The Shadow are now on the crossroads, like the humanity is right now, and why not making an album that is raw, direct, without keyboards and almost without atmospheric sounds, the music provides the soil for the on point and almost uncomfortable urgent lyrics. I had to ask the bands charismatic leader Ashley Dayour about the new direction, about lyrics, about his point of view on the current situation in the world, about future plans and many other things which can be discovered in this very interesting interview.

T.V.: First of all congratulation for a new album, The Urgency Of Now! Tell me, how are you satisfied with, as it marks a new era for the band after the four-album cycle that ended in 2014 with Beyond The Cycles Of Time?
: Thank you. It was indeed not an easy task. I even thought about ending the band a couple of times. It was clear to me that, if we wanted to continue, we’d have to find new ways. It took some time to find the right direction though, and I was starting over a couple of times. I’ve thrown away a lot of songs because I wasn’t happy with the direction, everything sounded like a rehash of things we did before. So, this album was indeed a long way coming. Now, with the first reviews in, and they are absolutely raving, even speaking of the best Whispers In The Shadow album there is, I begin to believe this might indeed be one of the better albums we did. We (me and Martin Acid) produced, recorded and mixed the album ourselves, so that was also a totally new approach, and we had to find our own way of getting it done. I think in the end this was the right thing to do. To take all matters in our own hands. With this personal and political album that was the right and logical thing to do.
T.V: Soundwise The Urgency Of Now is quite different to your previous albums. It's more direct, raw, straight and less mystical. Why such a change in your sound?
Ashley: We did four albums that were interconnected with occult/magical themes. A four-album concept that took seven years to complete. Everything was said and done in that department. The simplest answer however is not to bore ourselves to death. Our sound became very safe, we made ourselves at home with that kind of song writing, that kind of sound. So obviously if something like this happens you need to leave your comfort zone, sail to different shores. Art that feels safe is lazy art in my point of view. And as I said I began to feel very safe with what we’ve become. But don’t get me wrong! I absolutely love these four albums, but it was time for a change.
T.V.: Like you already said the album deals with political themes and gives quite a strong message. Can you tell me a bit more about the lyrical topics?
Ashley: On one hand they are indeed political driven but, and this is very important to point out, they are not meant to tell people what to do. This album is meant as a mirror one can look into. It is an observation of our times. But beware, you might not like what you see when you look close enough. I’m not just criticising other people here, I’m also warning myself. There are also a couple of songs which are more personal, like “Scavengers Of Time” which deals with the younger days of the band. “Morning Falls” is about the loss of a close person. So, you have these two poles, a somehow political observation of our times and a couple of very personal songs.
T.V.: As well the album title, The Urgency Of Now, together with a very interesting and meaningful front cover artwork tells a lot.  What actually is in your opinion this urgency of this very time?
Ashley: I’m very happy with how the artwork turned out. I would even go so far to say that this might even be our best cover yet. The picture is from an Austrian photographer Maria Wagner and I knew that there could be no better way to portray this record. Gerhard Simader, our long time graphic designer also did a fantastic job with the whole design plus the new logo. I also wanted to have a complete new look for the band, and like the music itself it is more stripped down and simple. Same goes for the video clips by the way, which are again done by Edie Calie. They also portray a very different band and style. It was important to me that everything, from the music, to the artwork to the band photography to the video clips goes hand in hand and makes total sense. I think we exactly did that. About “the Urgency”, well if you turn on the TV, or open a newspaper the urgency is kind of obvious. We are standing at the crossroads and what is going to happen in the next five to ten years will determine the course of history in ways we can’t even begin to image. So, the question is, do we give in to all this hate and fear mongering, do we really want to take two steps back or do we stay human, do we choose life, do we choose a better future, are we embracing change. I’m not sure if it isn’t too late for that, but the urgency is kind of clear I think.
T.V.: Can you be a bit more specific about your political views at this point? Many strange things are going on the world right now and I’m wondering what’s your personal point of view?
Ashley: As I was saying, we are living at the crossroads. The Problem I see is that the powers that be are not handling the situation very well. Capitalism is doomed, that is not a secret anymore, but there is no other system at hand at the moment. This is a good time for hate and fear mongering and the populist of the world know that. The pied pipers of the world are on the march again. It is upon each and everyone of us not to give in to exactly that, hate and fear. The detractors and rat kings promise us simple answers to very difficult questions. Questions nobody has the answers to, actually. So, it is upon each and everyone of us to decide what future we would like to live in? Should it be a future ruled by fear, hate, racism? Or do we choose life? Foremost I am a humanist, I value life, every life it doesn’t matter which religion, colour, profession. I also despite pure capitalism, it still tires me that the only thing that really spins the wheel is profit. I also believe that the strong have to care for the weak. Survival of the fittest is for animals! But maybe after all that is what we basically really are. But one can still hope.

T.V.: And don’t you find it interesting and sick that some of the “big capitalists” even dare to take advantage of misery of people, under the mask of “compassion” (like of migrants for example, but absolutely not only), to come off as some kind of benefactors, this way they only gain even more power, political influence and money?
Ashley: Of course, that is no surprise. You don’t have to go so far to point the finger to the “big capitalist”, the whole illegal immigrant smuggling is a lucrative business. It’s nothing new that some people have no problem with getting profit out of other people’s misery fears and pain. The whole weapons industry is build on that. The important thing is not to lose compassion. These are actual human beings here. And of course, the money is there, don’t get me started. It’s the big challenge of our times to handle that well. It’s very difficult and of course not everything is pure sunshine. You have different cultures clashing on another. It needs work, from both sides. The most important thing is to stay human and not to forget, these are actual human beings. Like you and me. They maybe talk different, behave different, look different, nevertheless these are people we are talking about here. Again, I think the strong have to care for the weak. Because what is the solution? Shoot them at the boarder? Besides all is no surprise. The west is living on the shoulders of these people for a very, very long time. Well now it’s payday. Let’s make the best of it and make it with compassion.
T.V.: Back to music now... Absolutely the new album of yours is more post-punk oriented than gothic rock in its basis. Quite a drastic change. Was also the compositional process in any way different than on your past albums?
Ashley: No, not really. It just took some time to find the right direction. There was a lot of trial and error. And I started over a couple of times, but as soon as we found the right direction the whole writing and recording process went very fast. The album was written in less than two months and recorded in about 14 days. The mixing took a little bit longer, but then again it was the first time we took these matters in our own hands. Martin did an amazing job with mixing this beast. I really like the sound of it. I definitely want to continue to work like that. I think the next album will not be such a big step, certainly not theme wise.
T.V.: You said that there was a lot of “trial and error” and that you have thrown away a lot of songs while working on The Urgency Of Now. Can we expect to see these songs that didn’t make it on this release on any future special release or as a bonus material somewhere? Maybe on the next album?
Ashley: Well we released some of that material on the bonus album Distant Thoughts which was available via our crowdfunding campaign, it includes outtakes, demos and remixes from The Urgency Of Now. There are still a few left now, here: But most of the material I actually erased, like deleted, it’s gone forever. I almost never keep stuff from previous albums. I mean if it didn’t work then why should it now and being the conceptualist that I am these old demos obviously never fit to the new themes of the next album.
T.V.: Were you recording the new album in the same studio as your previous album? Can you tell a bit more how the whole recording process went?
Ashley: Yes, we did. When it comes to recording we are pretty fast. The album was recorded in 14 days, when we go into the studio the songs itself are written and fixed, there is not much we change. I like to work fast, the problem with taking too much time is that sometimes things can get a bit out of focus, especially with this album I wanted to have it as fresh and raw as possible. If it takes too much time you tend to polish things. That can be a good thing, if you aim for exactly that. But this time I wanted the exact opposite of polished.
T.V.: I find it interesting that you didn’t use any keyboards for this album, but still it feels in many parts quite atmospheric. Why did you take this decision?
Ashley: For me limitation is a good thing, it makes me creative. Very early on I had the feeling it might be a good thing to kick out all the keyboards and electronics. Every band I know is going into the “let’s try out more electronics” direction, so I thought why not do the complete opposite of that. We never recorded an album like this. And again, if you limit yourself, if you force yourself to work with what you have, or rather with what you allow yourself to have, that’s a philosophy I can very much identify with. With The Devil & The Universe it is the same by the way. When working on an album with them I limit myself down to three or four different synths/plug ins. That’s it. Same with the new Whispers In The Shadow album, we just used two different kinds of guitars, the same amps, the same FX, one could say no bullshitting was kind of the credo for that album.

T.V.: The album is released by Solar Lodge, like most of Whispers In The Shadow albums. It seems that you are pretty comfortable with this very label? Ever though to change the label or maybe got any proposals in this regard?
Ashley: This is the third album we did with Solar Lodge, so it is three out of nine albums, I wouldn’t say that counts as almost all albums. However, we are very happy with them. Besides I count Artaud Seth as one of my friends. And the relationship is very good. No, I wouldn’t want to work with someone else actually.
T.V.: You released two videos for the songs from this new album, “The Urgency Of Now” and for “Detractors”. Quite a surprising thing for Whispers In The Shadow, because for the previous album there were made no videos at all. Still, how do you enjoy making videos and can we expect some more from this album?
Ashley: We didn't shoot a video for the previous album simply because we didn't come up with a concept that was possible and worth it. So rather instead of making a mediocre video nobody is satisfied with we decided against it. Which in retrospect wasn't a very clever move. I wish we would have done one anyway, but that's how it is sometimes... A lot of the ideas for the clips come from director Edie Calie. She’s also responsible for the The Devil & The Universe videos. The process is simple, I give her the songs I have in mind for the videos very early on (in the demo stage), and then she comes up with a concept and an idea. Then we sit down and talk about how we can get there. If you are interested I would like to point you to a blog post of her, there she talks about the ideas behind each of the new clips. It’s worth the read:
T.V.: My favourite songs from this album must be the more moodiest and atmospheric ones, “Morning Falls” and the closing one “Exit-Gardens”. Both are more personal ones and I wonder if you can tell me a bit more about this two?
Ashley: "Morning Falls" is indeed a very personal one. It is a song about the loss of a close person and about coming to terms with that. However, I think that is a very universal theme and can be understood by anyone who lost someone close. "Exit-Gardens" on the other hand isn’t personal at all. The opposite actually. In that song I even sing from the perspective of an invited “character”. A person who thinks he or she can continue to go by his or her own business. Someone who thinks all the stuff going on in the world right now is nothing of his or her concern. Someone who is selfish and a true coward by not taking on the responsibility to speak up. I also refer to the Greek myth of Kadmon and Europa, in which Kadmon leaves Syria to look for Europa, who has been abducted by Zeus. It is not difficult to see a link I think. But some people are looking for the “Exit-Gardens”, not to be confronted with this situation.
T.V.: And these “moodiest” songs have some elements that remind to The Cure if you ask me. It’s just a coincidence? Because we know that also your first albums were pretty much influenced by them. Maybe a slight return to the roots here?
Ashley: "Morning Falls" does indeed have some The Cure vibe, that intentional, I wanted to create a feeling of nostalgia and of looking back and days long gone, which makes sense with the lyrics. And what could be more nostalgic for this band than to look back to the very early days. However, I think it still doesn’t sound at all like our first album Laudanum. "Exit-Gardens" I have to disagree. That one doesn’t sound like that at all to me. Maybe the drum pattern but the rest is something else. Funny thing some people told me it reminds them of Black Sabbath. Which I can’t understand either.
T.V.: I know that this is always a tough question, but which one of the songs from this album is the closest to your heart and why?
Ashley: Indeed, a difficult one, it's like asking parents which one of their children is the favourite, which of course everyone has a favourite, haha. I’m honest enough to answer that question. "Detractors" might be the one. Lyric wise it has everything this album is about in one song, I consider it one of the best lyrics I ever wrote. Music wise it turned out exactly like I wanted it to be. And it is going to be great to play that one on stage. "Exit-Gardens" has to be number two though.
T.V.: The Urgency Of Now is if I’m not mistaken also your album with the shortest running time (34 minutes). Can we say that this the “punk” album of Whispers In The Shadow?
Ashley: Well if you want to see it that way. Thing is I don't like albums that are too long. Even some of our own albums are too long, the last one most certainly was and in retorspect I would like to shorten it by one or two songs. I think 40 to 45 min is the maximum an album should last. With this nine songs I we said everything we had to say. We sure could have put three more songs on it, but again, I wanted to keep that urgent feeling and I only wanted to have songs on it which I really like. If it comes to the question quality or quantity I always aim for quality.
T.V.: I guess that now Whispers In The Shadow will play a lot of shows on festivals this summer. Can you tell me where and when your fans can see you playing live? Any tour in plans for autumn or winter?
Ashley: There is just one show at Amphi-Festival in July (Cologne, Germany). And then there is another in Vienna at Schattenwelt-Festival in November. That’s everything so far. However, but there will be more shows next year.
T.V.: Ok, lets hope that a tour will follow and that you'll visit as many places as possible. What can people expect to hear on your live shows now. Mostly new material or will you include also older hits?
Ashley: We will concentrate on the new album of course. The difficulty will be to come up with a set list that sounds coherent and makes some sense. The new ones are so different than the older ones, so it is going to be a real challenge. But of course, we will also play older tunes, it would be stupid not to. They are still very dear to me, and to the audience as well I suppose.
T.V.: It’s interesting to see that after many years we see Ashley Dayour without the characteristic hat that you were wearing. Is this some kind of a symbolism as well?
Ashley: Sure, it is not a coincidence. Everything goes hand in hand, also the outfit of the band members need to change. Everything changed. We have a new logo, the pictures look different, the whole album design is something else. In a way this is a new beginning for us you know. So it was logical to get rid of the hat as well.
T.V.: We all know that you are also involved in The Devil & The Universe and Near Earth Orbit. Last year you released with both this projects fantastic albums and I wonder what can you tell me in that regard, and what can we expect in the future from these two acts?
Ashley: Well we are doing lots of shows with The Devil & The Universe pretty much everywhere around Europe. There are more shows coming up in autumn and we are also playing places we haven’t been before, which is always very exciting. Spain is on the list, there is talk about a show in Portugal and more is coming up. And we will start to work on a new album if we can manage to finish it this year we will see. I also don’t want to wait too long with the next Whispers In The Shadow album though. It would be a crime if takes another four years until the next one. Near Earth Orbit is currently on hold, but there will be something new sometime and most likely sooner than you think.
T.V.: I think we should end at this point. Thank you for your time and interesting answers as always. The last words are all yours!
Ashley: One thing’s for certain, if we like it or not we are all sailing the same boat here, and it is upon every individual if you, like the person on the front cover of the new album, are drowning in the sea of propagandistic fear or not. If we can make just one person think twice, this album has fulfilled its purpose.

Whispers In The Shadow line-up:
Ashley Dayour - vocals, guitar, programming
Fork - bass guitar
Martin Acid - keyboards
Alex Kühmayer - drums
Lazy Schulz - guitar

Whispers In The Shadow links: Official website, Facebook, YouTube, Solar Lodge
Photo credits: Maria Wagner

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