Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
(Read more)

Random band

Extremely heavy and thick traditional Doom act in the vein of bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard, only more heavily influenced by doom. YOB
(read more)

Relatively young band Lowen recently released their eclectic debut album, which reviewer Dante found intriguing enough to follow up with this interview with the trio.

Interview with Lowen.
For those who may not have heard of them before, London-based trio Lowen started out in 2017, and lost little time in working on their debut album 'A Crypt In The Stars', officially self-released in July 2018 on both vinyl and CD. When reviewer Dante wrote up the album, he took the opportunity to find out a little more about what fuelled the band's Middle-Eastern-influenced Prog/Stoner Doom ideas, and all three of them were kind enough to pitch in with contributions...

Lowen: Louis Suckling (Drums), Nina Saeidi (Vocals), Shem Lucas (Guitars). Photo: Colin Evans.

Hello, and thanks for being up for the interview! Feel free to introduce yourselves and tell a little bit about what Lowen is working on at the moment.

Nina: Hello, I'm Nina and I'm the vocalist, lyricist and manager of Lowen. Currently we're working on playing as many shows as possible and slowly starting to think about writing new material.

Louis: Hi I'm Louis and I play drums in the band.

Shem: Hi, I'm Shem and I play the guitars in Lowen.

Is this the first band that you all have played in, and how does it feel to have released A Crypt in the Stars? How was the experience recording the album, as well as distributing it independently?

Nina: This is the first band I've been in. I never expected to end up in one, especially not as the vocalist.

I'm so happy with A Crypt in the Stars, releasing it has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever experienced. The reaction to the album has been overwhelming and we can't wait to do it all over again with more new music.

We live tracked the album in one 12 hour day and then added some extra layers afterwards. It was a very raw and surreal experience that bled into the atmosphere of the music as we played it in the recording room.

I handled almost all of the aspects of the physical release, from finding a pressing plant, sorting PRS, PPL, to setting up distribution and handling PR. The amount of admin involved is unbelievable but I actually really enjoyed the entire process and am always looking for more things to do in order to further the band.

Louis: I've played in quite a few bands over the years. Nothing I've done before has been as focused and I feel really lucky to be part of the project.

Shem: I've been in a couple of other bands prior to Lowen, but none approaching a similar sound or level of commitment as we have. I'm incredibly proud of the album, we live tracked most of it in a single take in one 12 hour day.

Distributing it independently has been hard work (most of which has been done by Nina). It's been amazing to connect with people as they discover the album and buy it from all over the world, some of the reviews we've had are really very touching.

Something I find interesting about your music is that there seems to be a pretty diverse mix of elements; Doom, Progressive, Stoner, Psychedelic, etc. What are some bands or musicians that have influenced your style, and how would you describe Lowen's music to someone who hasn't heard it before?

Nina: I would describe Lowen as ancient music from a distant planet to someone who hadn't heard us. We all listen to a lot of different genres, eras and geographies of music and you can definitely hear that in our sound.

I've been deeply influenced by the traditional and contemporary Iranian music I heard growing up, but vocally there was never anyone in particular who I tried to emulate. Singing is very new to me and I'm still finding my voice, but I think that trying to sound like someone else never results in the best version of what a musician is capable of.

Louis: I would describe Lowen as prog doom I guess.

We all have pretty varied taste. For myself 70's prog rock bands like Soft Machine and Emerson Lake and Palmer are an influence. In terms of doom metal I really got into it listening to bands like Noothgrush, Khanate and Grief. The more slow depressive stuff really strikes a chord with me.

Shem: I'd say Tom G Warrior has had a profound influence on me. I was going through a dark time in my life at one point and I listened to "Monotheist" by Celtic Frost a lot. That album is just so miserable in places, but it's really a journey, and you can feel the whole weight of the world pushing down on you as you listen to parts of it. There's this bit in the song "Obscured" where you feel that pressure start to reverse, like he's found new strength. It feels very real.

Mike Scheidt of Yob is also a tremendous inspiration to me both as a musician and as a person.

But overall, I want to create art that takes you to a place you've never been, rather than retreading the ground of others.

How does the songwriting process flow in Lowen? Does one member handle most of the songwriting, or is it a more collaborative process? Being a three piece, do you feel as though there is a lot of room for creative freedom?

Nina: We wrote A Crypt in the Stars in 9 months by jamming it out in the rehearsal room. The entire album is organic and mostly untouched, it fell out of us quite naturally. The a cappella intro on Ashurbanipal's Request is the only part of the album that wasn't written during a jam. That part simply burst out of me one day out of nowhere. I took it to rehearsal and it sparked the beginning of the jam that became the first track of the album.

I think three is a good number for songwriting, but our real creative freedom comes from the strength of the bond that we all share with each other. We all have a deep, unfuckwithable friendship and can be both vulnerable and harsh with each other in equal measure when it comes to creation.

We're not closed to the idea of a fourth member though. If someone stepped up and showed us the right levels of dedication, professionalism and open-mindedness then we would welcome them with open arms.

Louis: With A Crypt in the Stars it was very collaborative, and a lot of the instrumental ideas really evolved in rehearsal. For instance, I couldn't pick out a part of the record and think of a specific point where it changed. Nina writes all of her own lyrics, I don't think a group approach would really fit in terms of lyrics as it's quite a personal thing and Nina has a real skill with words.

Shem: The process for this album was centred around us learning to work with each other and discovering how to open each other's artistic potential. As a result there are things that I personally will do differently in future knowing what I know now.

I would say that for us, being a three-piece has allowed us to forge what it is that we really want Lowen to be, we might potentially add another full member in future, but at this stage if that were to happen it would be about finding someone who can demonstrate the same commitment to the band that we have, and though we are fully aware this is a big ask, you can't compromise if you want to achieve something memorable that will stand the test of time.

Lowen - 'A Crypt In The Stars' (Full, 2018):

Expanding a bit on the songwriting process, some bands or musicians have their own routines or "rituals" that helps them get into a creative mindset. For instance, they may need to be in a certain mood to feel inspired, they might only write during certain times of the day, or they might do things like meditate/take a walk in the woods/dim the lights/burn incense/smoke weed/etc. When finding inspiration to write for Lowen, do you have any "rituals" like these, or does it mostly come at random?

Nina: My mind is constantly racing and producing ideas, I don't need to do anything in particular to get into a creative state. I could sit down and write a song right now if it was needed. I have to regularly lift weights and do martial arts to clear my mind or I will sit and chew on ideas at my own detriment.

Louis: I find that when I take a break from playing I come back with new ideas, a bit of reflection time is always helpful.

Shem: When I play guitar at home I tend to spiral into a hole and get stuck playing for hours at a time. By the time I finish it's like I've been dreaming and it takes me some time to come back to the real world. It's the same when we play live, I enter a battle-trance and let the primal rhythms take over. I don't need any substances or rituals to do that for me.

From what I've seen, fantasy seems to be the general theme that Lowen is going for, what with the surreal artwork, the spacey atmosphere, and lyrical content describing war, space, and Mesopotamia. What inspired you to explore these particular themes?

Nina: My ethnic background and history was the primary source of the theme. My family fled Iran during a violent, bloody revolution and as a result I have never been able to go and see the country where I am "from". I live between two cultures and two worlds where I can never be at home, I'm an outsider that resides in the space between two cultures at war with each other. The rise and fall of empires, the collapse of worlds, and the sense of belonging nowhere is something that has shaped my life and it is something that naturally came out of me when we were writing during the jams.

I chose to specifically focus on aspects of Mesopotamia for A Crypt in the Stars for many reasons. Our name is partly a reference to the lion hunts of King Ashurbanipal. Lions were a symbol of chaos in this culture, where the first recorded city was built and the first writing was found. I find it fitting that Shem, Louis and I found each other amidst our own personal chaoses and decided to frame some of it with music, despite the fact that I would be hunted down and murdered for doing it in the very part of the world where I am from. There are many more reasons and paragraphs I could write about this but I will leave it here.

Louis: We all have a love for sci-fi and fantasy.

'A Crypt In The Stars' artwork: from "l'Initiation" by Hervé Scott Flament (click to expand).

You recently played a show supporting Lucifer. How was that experience? Are there any other bands that you would be interested in playing with, or any festivals in particular that you would want to play?

Nina: Playing with Lucifer was an incredible experience. It was only our fourth show and to have the honour of sharing a stage with such accomplished musicians is something I am incredibly grateful for. Their support, Blood of the Sun, were amazing as well, I recommend them highly.

I would love to play with Sleep or Om. I'm an enormous fan of Al Cisneros and his unorthodoxy. It would also be very cool to play some festivals in the Middle East. I've heard that there are some in Turkey and Armenia, we would all jump at the chance to go. Closer to home, it would be cool to play Dunajam as well. I got to do a brief bit of improvisation during one the jams in the summer and it was an amazing experience to be singing on a beach.

Louis: I really enjoyed the experience, Lucifer are really great live and watching Blood of the Sun was like seeing a modern Hawkwind. Everyone was really nice and hopefully our set won over some new fans too.

Shem: It was a wonderful experience. Lucifer and Blood of the Sun were lovely, warm people and it was a pleasure to share a stage with Nicke as I've been a huge Entombed fan since I was 17. We were very touched that so many people were excited to discover us that night and buy our record or some merch. The list of bands I would love to play with is very long, but I would say that we would be overjoyed if we were ever invited to play Roadburn, I feel like that would be a good spiritual home for what we do.

Live at The Black Heart, 2017.

Something that really stood out to me during the album is the inclusion of ambient sounding effects during some of the quieter sections of the songs (such as on 'The Fortress of Blood' or the ending to 'In Perpetual Bloom'). It almost sounds like a keyboard, but it also sounds like it could be the guitar. How was this effect created?

Shem: All those effects which you can hear on the album are done with guitar. We didn't use any synths or keyboards. I overlap a lot of different effects and I'm always experimenting. I use several Electro-Harmonix pedals including a POG and Cathedral reverb, as well as a Digitech Whammy V. Using pedals with glitchy tracking helps add to that organic sound, even though that's not normally seen as a desirable quality I use it for that very reason.

Expanding a little bit on that last question, there seems to be a bit of an experimental edge to the music in terms of utilizing some psychedelic sounding pedal effects in the mix. I particularly like the hazy, cloudy effect that kind of sits over the music throughout the album. Do you feel as though the recording quality of the album captured the tone you were trying to create?

Nina: The recording quality definitely captures some of the ancient haze that we were trying to capture. James le Huray did a great job in extracting everything from us and mixing it together. Magnus Lindberg from Cult of Luna finished everything off beautifully when he mastered the album as well.

Shem: Our producer, James Le Huray, goaded things out of us that were only half showing up until the point where we got into the studio, so I really think some credit has to be given to him for how the record came out. For the next one I would like a lot more time to go over things and get the opportunity to really fine tune things that we didn't have the chance to this time around.

We live tracked drums and guitar and vocals simultaneously and then overdubbed more guitars, bass and vocals afterwards. I think that really adds to the recordings because you can feel us all vibing off each other. I could never play to a click track, that's just a horrifying idea to me.

Live at The Unicorn Rises, 2018. Photo: Birgit Gebhardt.

Going back to the inclusion of various different styles in the mix, it seems as though a lot of different territory is covered throughout the album (such as various changes in tempo, mood, and atmosphere). As a band's sound is always evolving and changing, is there anything you didn't do on the album that you would like to experiment with a bit more in the future? Do you imagine any particular changes in Lowen's sound in future material?

Nina: There is a lot we are going to bring into the next album that you haven't heard on this one. The Middle Eastern elements of the music will be more prominent, with more microtonal stuff and more unusual instrumentation. I have some gorgeous handmade instruments from Iran that will be appearing, and I'm developing my vocal strength and co-ordination to include more advanced techniques.

I think we will always sound different, but that is something only time can reveal.

Shem: I have been studying Middle Eastern music from a variety of countries since we wrote A Crypt in the Stars. I'll be implementing microtonal musical scales into future recordings. It's a challenge, but one that I am relishing.

That about wraps it up! Thank you again for being up for the interview, and if there is anything you'd like to add, feel free to say whatever you'd like!

Nina: Thanks so much for your great questions! And to anyone reading: if you see us live come and say hello, we'd love to meet you.

Louis: Thank you for the questions.

Shem: Thank you for taking the time to interview us and listen to our record. Your band rules by the way.

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

Visit the Lowen bandpage.

Interviewed on 2018-11-06 by Dante DuVall.
Advertise your band, label or distro on doom-metal.com