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Experimental Paul Chain-inspired Slovenian outfit have spent their lockdown pushing out a fistful of new releases. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Etienne guides Comrade Aleks through the band's history and philosophy.

Interview with Chains.
"This most Paul Chain-oriented project in the world celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Formed in Izola, Slovenia as a solo project of Etienne "Hellscream" Chelleri (of Black Metal outfits Bleeding Fist, Provocator and a host of others), Chains turned into a duo when Lord Samhain joined Etienne as drummer, in 2012. They recorded debut full-length 'Of Death' in 2012, and since then Etienne has chosen to follow his inspiration's path and plunge into a world of Doom, Drone and sonic experiments through over a dozen EPs, singles, demo sessions and live ritualistic gigs working on the band's own individuality. Welcome to this crazy world of Chains (Of Death), with Etienne as our guide."

Hi Etienne! How are you? How are you spending your quarantine time?

Hey hey, everything's fine here thank you, I spent my time writing new stuff for Chains, read books, went for walks in the nature, and completed my first EP for my solo project Teufel.

What kind of stuff are you preparing for the new Chains recording?

We are gonna release Dead Tapes Vol. III via At War With False Noise, which is a collection of demos (more psychedelic stuff) from the Sonic Sabbath demo sessions plus 3 new songs.

And what is Teufel?

Teufel is a one man project of mine dedicated to the Slovenian dark folklore, fairy tales and pagan rituals from our country, it's a darker project I can compare with early Urfaust and Isegard, all the lyrics are written in Slovenian, I just released the first self-titled EP on tape via Resistance Soundscape Records. At the moment I am in a writing mode for the full length which I plan to release in October.

For a lot of our readers it's first encounter with Chains, so how would you introduce the band?

Hypnotic, Dark and Lo-Fi, hahahaha.

Hypnotic and dark what?

Ha-ha… eh… Maybe the material on Sonic Sabbath is a little less hypnotic but Chains in it's essence focuses on hypnotic and dark stuff which will be present in Dead Tapes Vol. III.

You started Chains in 2010 as a solo project and it's no secret that you were oriented on Paul Chain's music and aesthetic. Which elements of his diverse discography draw you most of all?

I like his not so conventional philosophy of making music, his stuff is spontaneous and free, you can find everything in his projects, from 70s rock to doom, speed metal, space rock, some classical organ stuff and much more; I really dig his jam and kind of composing

Chains - 'Devil' (Official, 2020):

Chains' debut album 'Of Death' (another reference to Paul Chain's legacy) sounds underground and quite raw. Was it your first big work? What kind of sound did you aim to achieve?

Yeah, first I wanted to call the project Chains Of Death, but I choose only Chains, and opted to use Of Death as the name of the album. Of Death was more than an album, I saw it pretty much as an experiment. I wanted to do a project with a mix of sounds and aesthetics of Sunn O, Urfaust and Paul Chain, with a hypnotic element, so I used a metronome at 60 bpm to record the songs which is the tempo used for hypnosis, and I added some binaural sounds to make the thing more fucked up.

If I'm not mistaken binaural sounds may be considered as healing ones, or the opposite. What kind of energy did you aim to channel through this experiment? What was your intention?

You can find different types of binaural sounds, I used different ones now I don't remember exactly which ones, but I think I used the one to induce fear and hypnosis for sure.

By the way, I don't remember any traces of Urfaust in your songs… Why did you choose them amongst other Black bands?

First of all because Urfaust is a band I love and respect for their experimentation hypnotic vibes and second because many people are saying that our music reminds them of a mix between Urfaust, King Dude and Danzig.

The Drone element plays a significant role in some of your recordings: which bands and projects formed your perception of this kind of music?

I love the hypnotic part of drone, it puts you in a meditation kind of mode. I love Sunn O, our Italian brothers Dolpo, Earth, Om, Moss, Monarch (France), Big Brave and many more.

What's about Chains' lyrics? Paul sung in an imaginary improvised language, do you follow the same pattern?

There are some old songs made with phonetic language, but most of them have lyrics.

Cool. And what are these lyrics about?

Usually our lyrics specially in Sonic Sabbath rituals, witchcraft, the necromancy, devil, psychedelic experiences etc…

Chains - 'Sonic Sabbath' (Official, 2019):

Etienne, did you consider Chains as a live project from the start? When and where did you start to play live? I'm asking where because I bet Chains would have fans in Italy.

No, when I started Chains I did it just for myself and to share it with a few friends, I didn't have the intention to publish it in any way; most of the material for Of Death was recorded in 2010 and two years later, in 2012, I decided to pull the recordings out of the closet and publish them.

I never thought of Chains as a live project, since I was its sole member. In 2015 I was invited to attend a live show in Banja Luka Bosnia, and I asked my friend Knjaz from a Bosnian band Zvijer to play the drums on that occasion; we recorded the live improvisation and released it as the Balkanic Hypnotic Ritual EP; a few months later I was invited to play in Ljubljana to perform my second show, and my friend Tegla (Eruption and Dickless Tracy) joined me as the drummer for that occasion, and after that I started thinking about playing live and focus on a more band oriented material.

Later we played at a few shows in Italy where, as you said, we have our most loyal fans.

When did you decide that you need live drums in Chains? I see that Lord Samhain joined you as drummer soon after the 'Of Death' release…

I didn't decided, it simply happened, when Chad Davis (Lord Samhain) from Hour Of 13 asked me if I needed a studio drummer, I didn't hesitate to say yes. After the Dancing With My Demons EP I already knew that Chains will need a rhythm section.

How did you get in touch with Chad? He seems to be busy man running a few different bands at the same time.

He contacted me on Facebook and asked if I need a drummer to record new songs.

What was people's reaction to the album? Did you feel that you reached the goal you set?

People liked it quite a lot, since now it's one of Chains's best selling releases, even Jim from Urfaust contacted me for a copy, so from there on we keep in touch and trade band stuff. Did I feel I reached a goal, no I didn't have a specific goal, but because of the good feedback people gave for Of Death, we started setting some objectives.

Since then you only released EPs, singles and compilations, wasn't it easier to focus on full-length album?

As I said before I like to experiment so I thought the best ways to do so is through EPs, now with Sonic Sabbath and with a full time drummer Matz Sick we started to do things more seriously, and focus on full lengths; yet I still think EPs are easier to listen to and you could be more focused on fewer songs than on full length ones; anyway I think 8 songs is enough for an album, for me less is more, you can hear that even in our music.

Having now a relatively big discography how do you build your gigs?

We focus mainly on songs from Sonic Sabbath and on a few songs from Dead Tapes II.

You entitle some of your releases as Rituals, what meaning do you put in this word?

All the songs are made from rituals, even now when we write songs we put ourselves in a state of euphoric and psychedelic meditation surrounded by incense which is our sonic or composing a ritual; we record everything and listen to the material after a few days.

Chains - 'Dancing With My Demons' (Live, 2019):

Each ritual has some aim, what's yours?

The aim is purely to create music, for me the creation of a song could be compared to alchemy, to transform thoughts, feelings and stories into music.

How did you work on EP Sonic Sabbath? Was it a planned session or was it a series of jamming which turned into solid songs?

Since Matz joined Chains we started reworking some of the old songs from Of Death and added some new ones; we are always composing songs in the way mentioned in the previous question, it is a psychedelic jam ritual, when we complete our songs, we start working on them till we are fully satisfied. Regarding the sole composing, we are doing this process during selected sacred dates during the year when we play all night long till complete exhaustion.

It seems you didn't record anything with Chains since 2017, and now EP 'Sonic Sabbath', two volumes of the demo 'Psychedelic Ritual Sessions' and live album 'Demysteriis Dom Gromka' – all of these were published in 2020. What pushed you to such activity this year?

Since we were forced to cancel all our shows, and were trapped in quarantine, I started to dig in our archives and found all this material, so instead of shows, we wanted to give our followers some treats. In fact I found some unreleased material from the Sonic Sabbath demo recordings, and it will be released via At War With False Noise records as Dead Tapes 3, featuring 3 reworked and rerecorded studio tracks we didn't include in Sonic Sabbath.

Thank you for the interview Etienne, how would you like to resume it? What's the ultimate Chains message?

Live Slow Die Old, thank you too Aleks.

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Interviewed on 2020-07-27 by Comrade Aleks Evdokimov.
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