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With the release of latest album 'Anatomical Venus', Black Moth have seriously cemented their place in the Stoner Doom canon. We talked to the band about everything that went into this latest release...

Interview with Black Moth.
"Originally assembled as The Bacchae in Leeds, in around 2007, Black Moth first spread their wings in 2010 with a heavier stoner doom take on the punky garage sound of the earlier band. Eight years on, with a well-established fanbase and a brace of critically-received albums to their credit, the self-styled Mothic Horror outfit have just launched their third full-length, the intriguing 'Anatomical Venus' . We spoke to vocalist Harriet Hyde and and drummer Dom McCready about how the Moth has evolved, and what the 'Venus' means to them."

Talking to us today: Harriet Hyde (vocals) and Dom McCready (drums) of Black Moth.

Hello and welcome! How are things up north at the moment? Planning anything special for the launch of 'Anatomical Venus'?

Dom: Things up north are cold and brutal as always!! Well we just finished a headline tour of the UK for the album which was pretty fucking special. All the shows were amazing but the last night in our home town of Leeds was something truly incredible. All of our friends, families and fans turned out and we played one of the best shows of our career.

Harriet: I’d agree with that. The atmosphere was just electric that night, I’ll never forget everyone’s beaming, beautiful faces! We had a special guest appearance of Jake Harding from Grave Lines singing Tourmaline with me onstage which was magic but other than that it was just a classic Black Moth set!

How does the pre-release period work with each passing album? Does it get easier and more blasé each time, knowing in yourselves what you've delivered, or more nervous and tense waiting to see whether it'll meet expectations set by the preceding works?

Dom: It definitely gets harder especially the longer you have to wait. This record is coming out 15 months after we recorded it so we have had a long time to reflect on it. But comes a point where you just wanna get it out and get it heard! I don't find I get nervous about whether it meets the expectations of the previous record because for me so far our albums have got better every time as our songwriting has gotten better. I’m fully confident that this is our best record to date.

Harriet: Same here! I certainly wouldn’t call it blasé as the creative process always feels like giving birth to me- just as painful yet perhaps just as rewarding! The only expectations I have to live up to are my own though really.

Black Moth current line-up: Jim Swainston (guitars), Dom McCready (drums), Harriet Hyde (vocals), Dave Vachon (bass), Federica Gialanze (guitars).Photo: Kirsty Garland Photography.

And the corollary - how much does that acceptance matter to what you do, anyway? You're positioned somewhere at the more commercially-successful end of the doom spectrum, with a female-fronted retro-stoner sound, but that's not setting a terribly high bar in terms of popular appeal! How wide an audience do you want your music to resonate with?

Dom: It doesn't really matter at all, we have always just played music for us because we enjoy it. It's great that so many people like what we do and that we have loyal fans who come to all our shows. You may see us as "female-fronted retro stoner" band, we just play heavy music and never try to conform to any genre. Frankly we just don't give a fuck about genres. But ultimately we are doing this for us, it's a cathartic release! We want as wide an audience as wants to listen to us, end of the day no matter who you are and what your musical preferences, if you like black moth then that's great.

Harriet: Yes. Dom is right. I have realised a huge drive for me in this is personal connection with people all over the world. The feeling of having reached someone and moved them with your writing is just magical and so special. But we would never tailor our music to reach a bigger quantity of people. It’s quality and integrity that matters.

Your lyrics are interestingly varied, both brutally blunt and sprinkled with Hemingway's 'ten dollar words', and apparently covering both the prosaic and metaphorical. Is there a consistent theme or message to them? And do you intend them to be interpreted on different levels?

Harriet: Thank you, that’s a kind thing to say! The only consistent theme really is my own mental state…. Sometimes I read back on the lyrics to our previous albums and realise the lyrics are far more exposing than I even knew at the time. It’s a bit like reading back over your teenage diaries! There are many layers of possible interpretation to almost all of them, I would say. Themes that have consistently come up for me are Eros & Thanatos, folklore & mythology, dark/black comedy (very British!) and strange sexual perversions/paraphilias! On this album though, I have been getting much more in touch with my particular experiences as a woman. The Anatomical Venus was an amazingly synchronicitous discovery as she is the perfect metaphor for that.

Black Moth - 'Live At Download' (2013):

If we can cover a bit of history, you formed in 2010, with a nearly full core of members from The Bacchae. What prompted the change to Black Moth, and how do you feel the bands are both similar and divergent?

Dom: We began writing heavier and heavier music. If i'm honest it was kind of my mission when I joined the band to push them towards playing heavier stuff! There came a point where we realised that we weren't the same band anymore. Thus Black Moth was born.

Harriet: The Bacchae were much more of a garage punk band with influences from 60s protopunk to bands like Modern Lovers. We still LOVE that music but heavy stuff is just more fun to play live!

Black Moth is a much more anonymous and unevocative moniker than evoking Euripides' classic tragedy. Is that significant - do you feel you gained, or lost, anything in terms of context and expectation in the change?

Dom: The name "Black Moth" was inspired by the Tennessee Williams poem - Lament for the Moths. It's an amazing piece full of dark melancholy. I feel that our name invokes a more serious, darker and almost horror influenced feel. And though our lyrics are sometimes tongue in cheek, or even comedic, this is our commentary on the dark comedy that is life.

Harriet: Also the name "The Bacchae" confused the hell out of anyone not well versed in classical mythology… which is probably most people! So it made us feel a bit pretentious having to explain it all the time. We are still raging Bacchantes but Black Moth suits us down to the ground.

Album discography: 'The Killing Jar' (New Heavy Sounds, 2012), 'Condemned To Hope' (New Heavy Sounds, 2014), 'Anatomical Venus' (Candlelight, 2018).

The debut Black Moth release, 'The Killing Jar', came out in 2012. With the benefit of hindsight, what would you say were the most significant aspects of the band that it established? Is there a moment you'd point to as a particular highlight?

Dom: I think we established the bricks and mortar of the bands sound for sure. I would say it established our staple "as heavy as possible but still melodic" sound. But we were still finding ourselves, experimenting, sometimes it worked and out and sometimes it didn't. Highlights for me would be "Blackbirds fall" "Spit out your teeth" and "Honey lung".

Harriet: Yes and I can see how lyrically I was finding my feet too.

How easy was it to get a deal inked for it? You'd already worked with New Heavy Sounds on the 2011 split 7": was that always intended to continue over a number of releases?

Dom: We got signed surprisingly fast, having only been a band for about a year when we were. I think it was a bit of luck and a lot of hard work. We played a lot of live shows in that first year and really put ourselves out there. We always intended to do an album with NHS once we started to work with them. The album deal had an option for 2 albums and happily after we did the first they decided to take out the option of the 2nd.

Black Moth - 'Blackbirds Fall' (Official):

'Condemned To Hope' followed in 2014, after an intervening single...how did that progress from the foundation of 'The Killing Jar'? What did you do differently - or the same?

Dom: I think our songwriting had really progressed in between and we knew a lot more about the recording process. We were very green when we went in to do the Killing Jar, but by Condemned to Hope we certainly had a lot more experience under our belts. Also we had recruited second guitarist Nico Carew into the band. He brought with him a whole new set of influences which we threw into the mad bubbling pot of Black Moth. His influences show through strongly on some of the tracks and more of Jim on others. Almost like a mad tug of war between influences. It's a lot more varied in sound than the first record and I don't think that is a bad thing.

And now we have 'Anatomical Venus', presumably referencing wax models of women, such as the Venerina, created for teaching anatomy in the 18th century. Is that correct, and what's the inspiration you take from them?

Harriet: Correct, yes. They represented to me the surgical excavation into the spirit of women. A knowledge that in this context cannot convincingly claim to be merely scientific. The models are unnecessarily, gratuitously beautiful and even erotic in their expression and positioning. Their intestines are often spilled out on the table and their flesh is peeled back in an astonishingly realistic portrayal, but their faces often show erotic ecstacy or absolute terror. Such strange objects, and Joanna Ebenstein’s book which inspired me explains it a lot better than I can here, but something about these objects just spoke to me. I am a trainee psychotherapist so have spent hours digging deep into my psyche so there is a personal element, but also a somewhat political one as I see this as somewhat of a metaphor for what the patriarchy has done to woman across history.

There was a book on the subject last year: was it of any relevance to the album, either in naming it, or catalysing the concept behind it?

Harriet: Absolutely, that’s the very book I mentioned! Go buy it, it’s just stunning!

Do you have any set process or timescale for composing songs, and putting together an album? Or is it a more organic evolution that's 'ready when it's ready'?

Dom: In general there is no timescale. Although on Condemned to Hope we were given a strict deadline which certainly made things interesting! The process is definitely very organic. Most songs start off as us just jamming out a bunch of riffs. If we enjoy it we carry on with it and if we don't then generally ditch it. This is our core philosophy on songwriting really. Some stuff writes itself and is more or less never edited from original composition to album recording. Other stuff requires more prodding and teasing into a stable form.

Black Moth - 'Moonbow' (Official):

How easy was it to put the album together and get all the stages of recording it completed, this time around?

Dom: We had a much longer period of writing this time, over a couple of years. Which was nice as it gave us breathing room. We didn't want to rush this record and all agreed that we wouldn't record until we had something great. I'm glad we did it this way as it means we really focused on the tracks and honed them into something special. Recording it was very enjoyable process this time around. We recorded it with our good friend and mad genius producer Andy Hawkins. He is the kind of guy who always pushes you to do better, to give the song more. I remember on a couple of tracks almost passing out from hitting the drums so hard as he just kept saying you can hit them harder!

Do you feel it represents any significant change of direction in Black Moth, or more of a refinement and evolution of core ideas? What are the strongest points about it, would you say?

Dom: I wouldn't say it was a change of direction but more of a continued evolution of our sound. Once again I would say we were better songwriters than before. Also we all had a very clear idea about how we wanted the album to sound this time around. Nico left the band and we recruited Federica Gialanze as our new guitarist. She brought to the band her own influences, some of which we had already and some which were totally new influences for us. For me it just feels like a more cohesive album, I think we have finally realised the sound that we have always been trying to get. The strong points are the production and the songwriting.

Harriet: Agreed, and I hugely enjoyed collaborating with a poet friend (Jessika Green) on the lyrics this time. It can be such a solitary process, so sharing that with a close friend made it far more enjoyable.

It appears you've had some 'dream ticket' live shows over the years. How did you end up on tours with the likes of Sisters Of Mercy or Pentagram? Did they seek you out, or have you just got a top booking agent working for you?!

Dom: We do have a fantastic booking agent, Mr Ben Ward of Orange Goblin fame and he has certainly got us some great shows. We got the Sisters of Mercy tour as Chris Catalyst one of the guitarists is a good friend of ours and offered us the tour. Would also like to mention that playing with L7 was extremely special for us as well as they are a huge influence on the band.

Harriet: Oh amen to that! Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats was also a phenomenal tour. We’ve been so lucky. L7 will always be the winner for me though : )

And what's the best and worst things about playing live, from your point of view?

Dom: Best thing is seeing people come out to support you. We recently did a headline tour of the UK and it blows your mind to see venues fill up with people that our specifically there to see you. When you get the ultra fans at the front singing all the words that rocks to. Downsides I would say are that touring is very tiring and it takes you away from family and friends. It's an honour to be able to do it but it can be hard, especially on longer tours.

Harriet: At best it can be fucking transcendent. But it’s so hard to sustain that over a whole bunch of dates. As a woman, it is particularly difficult to perform when the tour inevitably falls on your menstruation period, when all you want to do is wrap up warm, cradle your swollen womb and hibernate with a warm dog on your lap!

Any plans to tour in support of the new release? Or any other plans for the near future?

Dom: As mentioned before we just did, but i'm sure we will be out in Europe supporting it very soon, as well as festivals and support slots.

Harriet: Yesss and Desertfest!!

Is there a Black Moth philosophy that you could sum up in just a couple of sentences: something that really nails down the spirit, the direction and the appeal of the band? If there isn't now, would you like there to be one some day?

Dom: As heavy as humanly possible, as melodic as humanly possible, no fucks given Mothic Horror.

Harriet: Can’t argue with that! I’d also add that we are a band that want to engage with the extremities of human experience, shying away from nothing. We are a proudly mixed-sex outfit and we’re especially honoured with how mixed the demographic of our crowd is!

To close, thanks for your time and I hope we've taken a good look at the band. If you would like to add anything to that, the last words are yours…

Harriet: Only that I really hope we get to come back to Italy soon as we LOVE playing there but we also now have an Italian guitarist!!

Note: A shorter version of this interview was originally published in print format in FIRE Magazine Issue 8, Spring 2018.

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

Visit the Black Moth bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-06-19 by Mike Liassides.
Aesthetic Death
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