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Catalunyan band Black Lotus released their debut album last year. What started out as a conversation about the politics of independence eventually became a full interview: so here's Comrade Aleks talking with drummer/vocalist Hugo about politics and music.

Interview with Black Lotus.
"Black Lotus, from Barcelona, have been performing tight and heavy doom metal since 2015, and as you may hear on their debut album 'Sons Of Saturn' (Inverse Records, 2018) they're good in this discipline. Massive songs have lot of hooks and righteous riffs, and this power trio puts all their energy into performing these with maximum vigour. I've seen Catalonia appearing again in up-to-date political news, so, keeping in mind Black Lotus' place of origin, I sent them a message which turned into a proper interview with the band's drummer and vocalist Hugo Ballesta."

Talking to Aleks today : drummer/vocalist Hugo Ballesta.(Photo: Roser Pascual).

Hail Black Lotus! How are things going in Catalonia? Do you have time and energy for music in these turbulent times?

Hi Doom-Metal.com, Hugo Ballesta from Black Lotus here responding. A pleasure to spend a while answering your questions.

Actually in Catalonia things are going well so far. It's true there is some political and social agitation, but it isn't a "pre-war" climax as some media are trying to show to the world. Actually this situation gives us more energy and inspiration to play our music and compose new songs. In fact, we have a new song called "Soldiers of Infamy" inspired by the ominous police repression on the voting day for the referendum declared "illegal" by the Spanish justice on October 1st 2017.

What's your position towards the requirements of those people protesting on the streets? Do you see a chance for positive changes when everything is done?

As I mentioned those media supported by the establishment are trying to present the independence movement as an instigation to chaos in the country, but those are very few in comparison to the great pacific independence movement, as it has always been.

The Spanish government is trying to justify its repressive and violent attitude against the movement on images of some violent subjects, but the true violence comes from the state. We are not especially interested on independence, but we believe in the right to vote and that the population should decide. But what we do mainly is question the democratic quality of the Spanish state in this context. On the other hand, there's some signals across Europe that don't give us reasons to be optimistic after all this. The conservative right handed parties are increasing their representatives across the EU, including Spain, so everything points to some hard times ahead.

Black Lotus - 'Sons Of Saturn' (Official, 2018):

Okay, Hugo, thank you for this insight, now back to the music. Black Lotus was born in 2015. How did you meet each other? Was it your first band?

In my case, I've been, since a teenager, in several different metal and rock projects. Later I was inactive as a musician for a while but always connected to the metal movement. One collaboration worth mentioning is the stoner metal act Dolmenn. We did some good stuff then.

After I departed Dolmenn I started thinking on something new, more into the classic sound of genuine metal, but always with some freshness, not being a simple copy of the classics. We started playing some riffs with a colleague, but it didn't work out at the beginning. Later the guitar player from Dolmenn left the band as well, and I offered him to join my project. It took some time until Cristian Vil responded to an add we published in a music forum, where we were looking for a bass player, and this way Black Lotus started to run.

Cristian was playing in more extreme metal different acts in Chile, his native country, later in Spain as well, but the Doom and Gothic Metal was always part of his background. He is a great musician and song writer, and gave us the motivation to go further, always with one foot in the classics.

Later Caio Pastore, who had recently established himself in Barcelona from Sao Paulo, Brasil, came to see us perform in a club. After the show he contacted us to express how much he liked our music. At that time we were planning to have two guitar players to enrich the harmonies in our songs, and when I realized he was a guitar player I offered him to audition for the band.

Caio is a great performer and he is always in a good mood, and after some hard times with our former first guitar that concluded with his departure from the band Caio took the lead with the best of attitudes, renewed enthusiasm and freedom to create. We work quite well as a trio now, and the sound of the band it's better in many aspects. We don't discard to have a second guitar player again in the future, but for now we are getting along very well and this, as many of you may know, is not something easy to reach.

What are those bands who helped you to form Black Lotus' sound?

Of course metal classics of the 70's, 80's and even some from the 90's, with the grunge impact on all those bands. We share a lot of likes, but if we have to talk about sound influences each of us has his favorites.

I am more into the classic metal and hard rock, and I like the early heavy doom stuff: Sabbath, Dio and the Tony Martin era, Pentagram, Candlemass, Mercyful Fate, Trouble, Celtic Frost, Angel Witch, Reverend Bizarre, and the new wave of occult heavy rock just to mention a few.

Cristian bases his sound in the early nineties doom and gothic sounds, like early Anathema, Paradise Lost, Samael, Tiamat and some nineties sludge like Neurosis, Isis, all that stuff.

And Caio has a hardcore background, but the classic hard rock, grunge and Metal from the nineties are his main influences.

When together we just play spontaneously, trying to get what we would like to hear from a band, and that results in the current Black Lotus sound.

The band: Caio Pastore, Cristian Vil, Hugo Ballesta.

The debut album 'Sons Of Saturn' was recorded at Moontower Studios between the end of 2017 and early 2018. Were all the songs already composed when you entered the studio?

Yes, the songs were already done when we entered the studio, but many details were added during the recording sessions, like some guitar arrangements and some vocal harmonies.

Javi Félez, the sound engineer, contributed with several ideas to the sound for the record, and his huge working capacity was decisive to carry out the recording at its best.

What were your requirements for the band's sound? Did you already have some settings for instruments in mind, or did you search for the right formula there in the studio?

Although our influences are mainly classics, what we all agreed upon is that we didn't want to sound as another Sabbath clone, as many others in the scene nowadays. We tried to keep the rawness of the old bands but with some modern flavor. We wanted to sound huge but not too overproduced, in line with our approach for live performances.

Talking about sound settings, we already had some in mind from our rehearsal room but details of the sound profile are being always nuanced in the studio during the mixing and mastering process.

Black Lotus - 'Sandstorm' (Live, 2019):

Hugo, how much attention do you pay to lyrics? What are the most natural topics for the 'Sons Of Saturn' songs from your point of view?

We give to our lyrics the same attention as to our music. For us it's important to express something we believe in, something we feel about or our view on a specific historical or contemporary fact. Cristian it's a natural poet, he and I are the main lyric writers, and I thing both of us have the same decadent dystopian view on things.

I base my inspiration on personal feelings, readings of a lot of post-romantic and decadent philosophers and writers and his natural heirs in pulp literature, as well as lyrics from other bands I like.

Cristian bases his lyrics mainly on personal experiences and expresses his feelings on what surrounds his existence. Poetry flows naturally from him as I said, and I think he is not too conscious on how connected he is with the poets I mentioned before who inspired me.

Do you have something of Catalonia in your songs? Any local influences, mentality or suchlike?

Well I would say the "Catalan" thing is in our attitude, as we aim at doing things our way. Actually the only one born in Catalonia is me, but Cristian and Caio have both connected with the culture and the social environment very deeply. Actually it was Cristian's initiative to write the lyrics for a new song in Catalan. I didn't have anything to do with that, but I encouraged him to do it. That's the strength of our culture, when people live near us they rapidly understand our view of society and simply identify with it.

The album has some really catchy tunes, like the song 'Protective Fire', for example. What kind of feedback did you receive after Sons Of Saturn release?

Yes, we always believed that our densest doom sound should have its counterpoint in some good melodies. As I said we are huge fans of classic rock, with all those catchy choruses and vocal harmonies. It's part of the distinctive sound of Black Lotus, and it will be as well in the future.

About the album feedback, it was really awesome. Inverse Records did a good job with the album distribution and we got numerous reviews, most of them really positive. In spite of this, as we know we are living in a global internet world where there is too many of everything, and when you play an underground style of music like we do, it's always difficult to connect even with all those potential listeners out there who could enjoy your music, but still don't know it. We will continue to work to reach them.

(Photo: Roser Pascual).

How actively do Black Lotus tour? French Doom band Carcolh released their debut 'Rising Sons Of Saturn' a year ago, I guess you could do a tour together!

Actually, we didn't know about them, you just discovered them to us. Sorry for that, they are really in our vein. As I mentioned, there are too many distractions in our global world and even in our own "little" environment we didn't know each other. But was really a causality they named their album almost the same way... I want to believe…he he he

Well, about touring, we would really love having more proposals from promoters in other countries. We did some good gigs around Barcelona, but we are really looking forward to perform outside our borders. We have had some contacts in the past that sadly were not conclusive, and we will certainly focus our efforts to try to export our music in the next months. So if you guys are interested in having us in your country... don't hesitate! Get in touch as we would love to.

In the meantime, our next commitment it's to open for Lord Vicar on January 18th 2020 here in Barcelona, once more, and we are very excited about it.

How soon do you plan to return to the studio? Do you have a concept for the next release?

Nowadays we are combining some live gigs with composing new material. We don't have a concept yet for our next album, but what I can say is that there will be much more of those good things that made exciting our debut album! maybe we will enter the studio later next year, let's see…

Cheers to all the followers of Doom-Metal.com and thanks for the interview!!

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Visit the Black Lotus bandpage.

Interviewed on 2019-12-09 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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