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We took the opportunity to have a chat with Atten Ash's James Greene to mark the reissue - three years after an obscure initial digital release - of the band's debut album.

Interview with Atten Ash.

In the hot seat today: James Greene, band founder: clean vocals, guitars, drums.

(1) Greetings, and many thanks for agreeing to be interviewed for Doom-Metal.com. Could we start with the usual introductions to our readers: who are you and where are you from?

Thanks for the opportunity to do this interview. we'd also like to thank Nick, of Hypnotic Dirge Records for all of his hard work in making this stuff come together. The basics... Well, we're all from North Carolina. I've been in the Chapel Hill area for 15 plus years now. I'm from Charlotte, but Barre and Archie are from areas around Chapel Hill. It's a small town surrounded by larger areas like Durham and Raleigh.

(2) So, Atten Ash was actually founded sometime around 2011, by yourself? How did everyone else get on board with the project?

I guess Atten Ash started a few years before 2011, but it took until then for the ideas to materialize into what was released with "The Hourglass". Essentially, there were loosely written songs/riffs that were organized and arranged by the band as a whole. At the time, we were all working together in our day jobs, and everyone saw some potential in the framework - so to speak. From those ideas came the album. From what I've read on the internet, some people believe Atten Ash is another incarnation of Daylight Dies. While certain elements are similar, it's really just another band amongst many in the genre of doom metal. There's not anything new or novel that Atten Ash brings to the table other than more of the same thing. That said, I mean it in a good way. It's just a continuation of a sound that some of us appreciate. Oh, and I'm not that great at guitar and the pace of the music is manageable for a mediocre drummer to play.


The band: James Greene, Archie Hunt and Barre Gambling.


(3) And what does the band name actually mean? 'Atten' doesn't appear to have an English definition; is it some sort of proper name, or a borrowed word?

The name Atten Ash comes from old English. My middle name is Nash, and I came across it's etymology in a book by accident. I believe it literally means "near the ash" or something similar. Apparently, my maternal ancestors lived amongst ash trees. It was abstract enough and thematically neutral. I was solo at the time and imagined that anything that I did musically would fall under the name Atten Ash. When Archie and Barre came aboard, they saw no issue with the name.

(4) The band is based in North Carolina, but last reports from other band sources had Barre moving away, variously to LA or Tampa. Is that still the case, or are you all local now? Is - or was - geography and distance a problem?

At the time of the albums completion and subsequent release in 2012, we were all living in the same area. Barre has since moved to Florida, but is possibly moving back to he area in the future.

(5) How would you describe your musical style, and the influences on it? Is it evolving in any particular direction?

Music style... Hmm. A continuation of the doom genre is as accurate as I can be. That sounds pretty vague, but like I said before, there's nothing really new with "The Hourglass". Personally, I enjoy a variety of music and bands. I listen to power metal, classic progressive rock/metal (Rush, Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Psychotic Waltz, Queensryche - to name a few big ones), and dark/doom metal bands like Katatonia, Swallow The Sun, etc. As far as the direction of the band's music, I would love to write more progressive, technical songs, but I'm somewhat hampered by my ability as a guitarist, and drummer, for that matter. That's where Barre comes in... He's got a proven track record in the genre.

(6) What would you consider to be the core qualities of Doom, and how do you express them? Would that be the same if you were working in a more Trad-based genre, or do you see those as having a different set of defining characteristics?

I think a good doom song has the same characteristics of any good song. You know, you've got your intro, verse, chorus, and bridge, etc... We're programmed to appreciate (at least, I am) the formula as it was presented to us by pop artists, really. There's a melody that's introduced, tension with the verse, a climactic chorus that eventually resolves itself - like Shakespeare. Again, it's as though we're innately programmed to appreciate this structure. That said, there's plenty of ingenious and technical nuance that great bands like Opeth use. I'm digressing here - or maybe not being concise enough, but to me, good Doom music has these elements. To me, there's nothing more powerful, communicative, and emotional as a few minor chords with a dark melody that is well orchestrated. You can really just feel it - and feel like it. I don't feel other genres or sub genres the way I feel dark metal. So, when I think about music and writing music, it sounds like Atten Ash. It's quite personal and intimate, despite the fact that it's nothing new. Like a lot of folks who gravitate toward the genre, I'm a glass half empty kind of guy.

(7) What inspires or influences you to write music? Do you have an established process for composing, or is it a communal thing where everyone pitches in?

I'm still such a novice at writing music, so I can't comment about the process with a lot of credibility. Really, the ideas just start in my head. Oftentimes, it's because I heard something somewhere, like a melody, and personalized or elaborated on it. The hard part comes when I sit at the computer and try to convert these thoughts into songs. I'm sure I'm not the only musician with a DAW song/project that is 12 hours long. Oh, the beauty of copy and paste, and non-linear editing with software these days. I think we all agree as a band that it's most efficient to write a a preliminary song by ones-self. Do the best you can with ideas and present them to everyone else. One does the bulk of the writing and others come in with suggestions. Atten Ash is still so young that we may find that this method doesn't work so well. Time will tell...

(8) This interview is really tied to the issue of 'The Hourglass' this month. It was originally a digital self-release, in 2012: how did that come about?

In the summer of 2012, "The Hourglass" was released by us via an internet distribution company. Tune Core, I believe. We had to do something with it, but as far as self promotion goes, we didn't do any. Globally, it sold just a handful.




(9) So, how did it eventually reach the ear of Hypnotic Dirge and end up scheduled for reissue? The running order's changed, as well as a couple of track names: how much re-work has actually gone into it?

I believe that Barre was approached by Lycanthia for a split. The intention, I believe, was for Daylight Dies to be on the 7". I'm not totally sure how it came about, but thankfully Barre mentioned including Atten Ash on the split. With that suggestion, City in the Sea made it's way to both Lycanthia and Nick at Hypnotic Dirge. All parties approved and fortunately, Nick wanted to release the entire album. Nothing besides the song order changed from its original release. Life changes, day jobs, and working on new material kept us from doing any major changes to the album. There are plenty of things that we could have done better or changed, but it was best left alone.

(10) Would you rather have written all-new material, and made a new album, or are you happier to be getting the wider awareness for the debut? Out of interest, is there anything you think would have been significantly different about it, if it had been composed now rather than several years ago?

I guess my last response kind of bled into this one. Really, we're all just happy to have it released in a proper fashion. It's amazing how much more exposure comes with being signed to a label, as opposed to a self release. As far as any significant changes to the album with this re-release, I think it's better left alone. It would have been great to have recorded this in an awesome studio instead of a room in my house, but that's what we had to work with. I guess it can only get better from here.

(11) We reviewed the album here at Doom-metal.com: did you consider that a reasonable assessment? Was there anything in there you'd like to comment on, positively or negatively?

I think most criticism is fair and what we've read has been pretty good so far. Recording and mastering is an art that I've got no business being in, really. That is me on the drums with some added/blended sound replacement recording alone in a 10'x12' room. I didn't do any real editing or quantizing. Does it lack depth and spatial clarity? Yeah, I totally agree. I've also never sung anything before, and Archie has only minimal experience as a background vocalist. We're just trying to find what works.

(12) Aside from what we said about it, what other feedback have you had from press and/or public? Has it been well-received, thus far?

Overall, those who have heard the album, generally like it. There's a niche market for bands like us, but most people who seek out bands like us, enjoy it. Nothing new, but more of what we like, right?

(13) What about the very recent 7" split with Lycanthia, previewing your track 'City In the Sea': was that something you wanted to do, or more of a label decision for publicity? Has it been a success?

The 7" split was actually how we got our foot into the door with Hypnotic Dirge. It was an awesome opportunity and honor for us to share a split with Lycanthia. Lee (Lycanthia) really got the ball rolling with the release and did a great job coordinating it with Nick. I haven't seen any official numbers on sales, but it's forecast to go at least gold, by summer!

(14) Does format matter? Is it important to you to see physical releases of your work, or is digital-only just as good? Is that the same for music you purchase?

Seeing a physical release - something tangible, is always nice, even though it's a bit dated for today's standards. The permanence of a CD is nice, whereas a digital-only release just gets lost in iPods. That said, I pretty much stick with digital recordings these days. I do have several boxes of tapes and records with nothing to play them on. That's the curse of the physical release, I guess. Music transcends obsolescent technology, though.


Band members Barre Gambling (guitars) and Archie Hunt (growl vocals).


(15) How does the band work, with members involved in other groups - is it a full-time project for some or all of you? And what's next in the pipeline for Atten Ash, working either singly or collectively?

Atten Ash is definitely a part time project for all of us. It's my main musical outlet, but not something that I can devote attention to even every week. Barre seems to have his fingers in all kinds of things, while Archie is pursuing a band of his own. Like everyone else, though, we've got day jobs and families to tend to.

(16) What about live performances: do you ever do shows? If not, would you like to?

We don't, or haven't played any shows yet, but I think it will happen in the future. Tim Rowland, from Woccon, has expressed interest in playing with us. It's a pretty exciting idea.

(17) Do you listen to a lot of other music, Doom or otherwise? Any particular favourites, or recommendations?

Like I said earlier, I do listen to a lot of stuff, but mainly in the metal genre. I find that I can't relate to a lot of the newer stuff. Maybe it's just me getting older, but I'm certainly not on the cutting edge of what's happening with metal, doom or otherwise.

(18) And is there life outside of music? What else do you do to keep busy or to relax and kick back?

Aside from music, I love to do woodworking. Actually, I build my own guitars. I'm currently playing a 27" scale, ash guitar. How fitting. So expect any more releases from Atten Ash to be tuned super low. It just sounds heavier. I've got an awesome wife and an awesome 4 month old daughter who's particularly fond of Katatonia and droning black metal. It has slowed down my music writing to a crawl, but that's expected. Temporary also. I'm hard at work building an outbuilding/studio so that I can separate the drums from the family. That's also eating into my writing time right now.

(19) To close, I hope we've given you the chance to present a good picture of the band, but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to speak with you. It's a bit strange for me to talk about myself so much, as there are other members of the band. I hope we can release some new material in the next year. It many not be 2015, but not far from it. I hope that we improve and mature as a band, and I think you can expect that.

(20) Then allow me to thank you once again for your time and the opportunity to talk with you. It has been a pleasure, and I hope we'll be hearing more from you to follow 'The Hourglass'.

I hope you hear more from us, too. Thanks again


'The Hourglass' at Hypnotic Dirge Records.



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Visit the Atten Ash bandpage.

Interviewed on 2015-02-22 by Mike Liassides.
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