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"...I wrote a few questions to Phil Swanson about Seamount's 'Nitro Jesus' and his experience of working with other bands, and soon I had all the answers Ė deep and detailed."

Interview with Seamount.
"On the 9th of October, The Church Within Records released the fifth album of international Doom project Seamount, under the title 'Nitro Jesus'. All of Seamount's musicians are from Germany, except the bandís vocalist Phil Swanson - who proved his skills in such American bands as Hour of 13, Vestal Claret and Briton Rites. 'Nitro Jesus' has already got some recognition, as such a strong Doom/Heavy masterpiece just canít pass unnoticed: a bunch of high quality hits with proper riffs, excellent solos and catchy choruses show Seamount at their best to date. I wrote a few questions to Phil Swanson about Seamount's 'Nitro Jesus' and his experience of working with other bands, and soon I had all the answers Ė deep and detailed."

Phil Swanson.

Hail Phil! Iím glad we have this opportunity to talk about the bands and projects you're involved with. And the main news for today is the release of the fifth Seamount album 'Nitro Jesus'. Seamount is a German band, and as I understand it you still live in the States. How did you work over the new songs?

We have had the same working and recording process since day one album one. Its fail-safe at this point and we have no intention of changing. We work almost completely independently all the while being completely codependent. We each do all our writing and recording in our residences, nothing has ever been recorded mixed or mastered in a studio at any time.

What part did you take as a vocalist in the recording process? Did you discuss lyrics with other band members?

I take on all parts in Seamount, vocally and lyrically, as well as doing all my own recording and production. The finished music is delivered to me and I write and arrange all my lyrics, vocals and melodies to the instrumental tracks and record all my vocals to these tracks with a light mix, Then Tim dumps my tracks into the music tracks and does a final mix and mastering. On occasion Tim will give me a title that I will write my lyrics around. On this record it's the title track "Nitro Jesus". Tim and I have 100% confidence in each others ability so theres not much discussion on what each of us does with our parts. What ever he sends me I work with as a final instrumental composition and what I add is pretty much final as well. There have been a few times we have worked that in reverse, where I will send him a finished vocal track that he writes his music against like on ďHold Up the SunĒ. That was written vocals first.

Seamount's Tim Schmidt.

The album has already got a lot of positive reviews, and it sounds stronger as some songs are more catchy than those from Seamount's previous albums. How do you see the band's progress on 'Nitro Jesus'?

I think Tim and I are learning more and more every day about each other and as well about writing and recording. The more we have a chance to learn the stronger Seamount and the songs will become. It is a continued learning process especially when youíre an independent underground artist. We make it up as we go along, very punk rock. We donít work with studios, producers or engineers, it's all DIY. No one's telling us how to do it or even making suggestions. Itís all trial and error and it's very possible we are still leaning more towards the error side, which is not always a bad thing when you consider how much room that leaves to get better in the future.

Youíre talking about artistic freedom, and itís interesting from that point labels could lead the process? For example, I believe that Church Within gave you all the freedom you need, but what about bigger ones - like Earache, who released Hour of 13's '333' album?

Church Within is a label unlike any other, as is our arrangement and relationship. It is based on a very close friendship between band and label and there is an infinite love between us. Earache is a corporation, there is no love there, only money, but every label has learned that getting involved with me you need to leave lots of room for indecision and indecisiveness. I'm flighty and some say difficult and even Earache accepted that and was very understanding to it. They made many suggestions but never demands.

Seamount Ė 'Nitro Jesus' teaser:

Phil, what meaning did you put in the albumís title?

That would be a question for Tim, as he gave me that title to write lyrics against, I just ran with the idea and imagined Nitro Jesus would have these huge balls more like his father, unlike the hippie hanging from the cross weíve become so familiar with, and pitted him against the Devil in the Book of Revelation.

Do you plan a brief promo tour with Seamount to support new album?

There was originally, but I felt I wasnít mentally strong enough to do it at this time. Iím kinda living a life of solitude right now and not real comfortable around people. It would be way more stressful for me than it's worth. Iíve made a decision to avoid as much social interaction as my life will allow, while still being able to function as an artist, and touring is not necessary for me to do that.

Get your point, but what about holding a connection with the fans? Donít you feel the necessity of some kind of recognition, for example?

I hold connection to the fans by constantly delivering to them new music rather than replaying music for them theyíve already heard. By not wasting time touring and rehearsing Iím able to write and record. Seamount V was just released this week and we are already done writing Seamount VI and 3/4 into recording the final tracks that will be ready for a Spring release. So I choose to recognize the fans by truly giving them more rather than more of the same.

Phil, waitÖ do you really mean that you're already working over a new Seamount album? More new than 'Nitro Jesus'? Can you share some details?

Yes, we are already into VI. We were working on a bastard record of heavier songs Tim had written sometime ago and as I began writing the lyrics and vocals it was decided to rework them as Seamount VI. Plus we had a couple leftover tracks from V and with the addition of a few more, we had more than a record full of songs that are nearly ready for release as I type. So once Nitro Jesus saturates a bit we will be quickly following it up with a new one that is a bit more paced.

You did play shows in Europe and the USA, whatís the difference between playing and organizing gigs ďhereĒ and ďthereĒ?

The US sux, very boring and lame. Europe is amazing and wonderful... EU>US

Why? Stoner stuff seems to be closer to the US by its origin, and I bet that thereíre more doom bands in USA than anywhere else.

Honestly I wouldnít be the one to ask: I have no idea, Iíve probably played less than a handful of shows here in my lifetime. Iím not and have never considered myself a "performer", to me performing has nothing to do with music. It's stage acting for pop musicians who are better seen than heard. No one needs or wants to look at me. It adds nothing to my music and only takes away from me and it. Before recorded music it was a necessity to be heard, now its just about vanity and attention seeking. Music is an audible sensation not a visual one. Sure you can successfully mix the two but its not a goal for me and I have no appreciation for live music whatsoever. I donít care what my musicians look like or how they "act" on stage. I want to close my eyes and hear them, disappear in the songs, not be distracted by dancing and head banging...

Seamount Ė 'Bulletproof':

'Nitro Jesus' has such romantic rock songs as 'Hold Up The Sun' and 'No One Knows' besides common Stoner/Doom tracks. Did you sing in rock bands before you started your career in the Doom and heavy scene? How did you realize that your voice was suitable for such types of music as Seamount, Hour of 13 and Vestal Claret?

I was always primarily involved in heavy music, hardcore punk and heavy metal. The idea of leaning more and more towards rock oriented music is mostly to challenge myself as a more universal songwriter. Not a more commercial songwriter but more one that can capture any one's attention with a well written song if it's possible for me to do so. Whether they be an extreme underground music fan or a fan of mainstream pop. As extreme music fans we all come across a very radio-friendly song we can't deny as a guilty pleasure. I try to approach Seamount from the opposite perspective, keeping in mind always we are an underground band, but also hoping that songs could somehow be relatable and understood by your mom if she took the time to really listen.

My father died when I was a teenager, we had a very tumultuous relationship and werenít in contact for some time when he died. He was a very successful businessman and once told me there was no artistic talent in our family. Iíd be curious to know if anything Iíve done as a musician would convince him otherwise. So I think part of me will always aspire to achieve that by writing something universally appreciated. ďHit songsĒ are a thing of the past so maybe Iíve missed that opportunity.

As for how I knew I was suitable for the genre I think its more of the right time in the right place situation. If I tried to do this in the 80s Iíd be a laughing stock, current times are much more lenient for the imperfect. Itís actually regressing more and more everyday, in current times if youíre the right kind of shitty you can actually do very well in the underground. Thatís meÖ Iím just the ďright kind of shittyĒ. Imperfect and real, almost folk or garage. Not relying on talent but realism, thereís no pretense here: if I suck Iím ok about that. I just sing what I hear in my head when I listen back to the music. Itís all total expressionism. You can say I sound like Ozzy a thousand times and I canít help or change that, itís what my head hears and the words are what my heart tells me. And I could be compared to worse, thatís for sure.

Some of your lyrics have a ďsatanicĒ or ďantichristianĒ message. You know Ė after listening to such lines as ďWith sacred blade self mutilate, To my own wounds I masturbateĒ (thatís taken from one of your most catchy songs, 'Call to Satan') I wonder how serious are you about that?

Not serious in the least bit. Anyone who actually thinks I sit around at night jerking off and cutting myself glazed in my own blood and semen is taking their heavy metal way too literally. And there is a very specific theme to my lyrics that lean much more towards mental disorder than satanism if someone actually takes the time to read more closely. But the reality is anytime youíre dealing with someoneís belief in the occult you know already they arenít right in the head. If you actually believe in black magic and the devil youíre probably more than a bit delusional. Which may in part answer your next question to some degree.

This song was performed by you, both in Vestal Claret and Hour of 13. Vestal Claret is active, thereís nothing new from Hour of 13; as I understand Chad Davis just has closed this project. How did you work with Chad? Is there any chance that Hour of 13 will return?

Chad and Iís working relationship was very difficult and complicated. Two people with two very different visions and personalities. Iíve read Chad has hijacked the Hour of 13 website and renamed it Night Magic saying its a continuation of Hour of 13 with the assumption that if you are an Hour of 13 fan then automatically by default you will be a Night Magic fan even though you havenít even heard an original song from them. This seems very confusing to me as itís a band with completely different members and a completely different name and lyrical author. Though my understanding is at this time theyíre more of an Hour of 13 cover band. It feels like a retaliation to Vestal Claret but the big difference here is Vestal Claret existed long before Hour of 13, so from my perspective Hour of 13 was a continuation of Vestal Claret. So to answer your question... No, Hour of 13 will never continue, as I have no need for it too. The ideas I started with Vestal Claret and brought to Hour of 13 are back in their rightful place of Vestal Claret.

Hour of 13 Ė 'Call to Satan':

By the way, Phil, how was your point of view on religion formed?

I was raised as a Catholic, full of fear and guilt that, once itís injected into your subconscious as they do, is impossible to get rid of. But I live as an agnostic with a faith in spirituality and hope for hidden meaning. I donít pray or practice, I live this life only for what it is. But at this time I am living without much more than whatís already in my mind and not taking part in anything more than my responsibilities demand. My mind, as self-destructive as it is, is still much safer than whatís outside of it.

Phil, it seems that youíre always ready to take part in any heavy band which calls for your help. For example, you sang for the debut Lords of Triumphís EP. What are your criteria and requests to bands which ask for your collaboration?

There is no criteria outside of ďnot being an assholeĒ which has served well but once. If you send me a song and I hear myself in it then Iím on board. I love writing, but hate hearing it back which is the irony of it all. When it comes out it feels beautiful but when itís out and starts to grow I begin to hate it and just want the chance to make a better one next time.

Your other band Briton Rites got wide recognition with the release of its first and only record, 'For Mircalla', in 2010. Do you plan to return to it or is the band totally inactive now?

The vocals for the second record were finished over 2 years ago but Howie has been dealing with a lot of personal issues that have postponed the final recording of the music. Last we spoke he was again working on finishing it. I can say Iíve been pretty anxious for it to come out as I think anyone who has heard the 2 demo tracks from it can already hear how much stronger of a record it is. After the first, I learned how important it is to write the lyrics around the vocal melodies if Iím gonna allow someone else to write my lyrics. Thatís the obvious difference between Briton Rites and Lords of Triumph. I forced lyrics on to the music on the first Briton Rites record, this time all the vocal melodies and arrangements were written before the lyrics as I did on the Lords of Triumph stuff.

How do you see perspectives of this release? When would it see the light of day? And whatís its concept?

I know Howie's big on Halloween releases: let's cross our fingers and hope for a Fall 2016 release a year from now. I know all this also hinged on an analog studio heís been building. 2 months ago we spoke and he said they were rehearsing again and back on building the studio.

Have you had a situation when some bandís ideology doesnít correspond with your own views?

Ha! Actually it would probably be the other way around. Iím the one with the strong ideology that bands have to align with. But at this point people already know what they are getting themselves into, for better or worse, and most respect me for my strong opinions and thatís why they seek me out.

Briton Rites Ė 'The Right Hand Of Doom':

Phil, thank you very much for this interview, itís both detailed and interesting. Can you sum up the activity of your current bands and projects?

Right now Seamount is finishing up our sixth release, as I mentioned, and we have an EP of hardcore punk songs coming out this winter on cassette. Also, Simon and my covers project Bestial Clitoris has an EP cassette coming out in the Spring. Arthur and I just finished recording the Sumerlands full length debut, release date TBA, and of course Briton Rites follow up hopefully 2016... I also should have the Missing Girl book out Summer 2016 in limited paperback.

StopÖ I canít finish this talk without asking you about the book Ė whatís it about?

I had written a script for the Missing Girl graphic novel a couple years ago that never got completed due to issues with artists. So in order to fulfill my need for its release I have decided to release it as a limited paperback book. Now I am just re-formatting the script into book read format. It is the complete detailed story behind the Missing Girl concept that is the bulk of the first 2 Vestal Claret and Hour of 13 records. It will be a companion book that chronicles the songs Call to Satan, The Ritualist, Naked Star, Demons All Around Me, Possession, Missing Girl, Piece of Meat and the Stranger...

Okay, Phil, I guess that was the final question for today. I wish you all the best on your artistic way, and if you have some words for our readers, that would be perfect!

As always, thanks to anyone who takes time out of their life to read my rantings. I always appreciate any and all the love and all the hate. And those who take the time to listen with any bit of appreciation I could never thank you enough for the support and while it may at times seem lost on me I assure you it's not, it is in fact the sole reason for me to continue...

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Seamount bandpage.

Interviewed on 2015-10-20 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
Rotten Copper
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