Phone interview conducted on April 11, 2011.
WULF: OK, so I just want to start off by saying congratulations on the success of the “The Green Album”! Also, I’ve been listening to you guys for a long time, ever since I heard a track that was featured on a Brave Words and Bloody Knuckles (Knuckle Tracks 83 sampler) compilation way back in the day.
DAVID: That’s like 9 years later and it’s the best 700 dollars we ever spent.
WULF: Yeah, (the track (“Shedding the Deadwood”)) was off of (“Pursuit of the Sun & Allure of the Earth”), yeah.
DAVID: Yeah, perfect!
WULF: Yeah, but anyway, congratulations with the success of “The Green Album” and I want to know how the reception has been for this new album so far on your end?
DAVID: I guess I’ll tell two sides of that story, one being that we had originally released that album independently at the end of 2009, and at the time a lot of people weren’t really sure what to say about it. There were a few reviews and some of them did service (to the album) and some of them were really good and people gave it high praise and there were some that just destroyed it basically, and then I think the people who remained silent were the people who didn’t really know what to think about it. So we went into that record kind of looking at it like an experiment because after doing three records we were still an independent band and we decided, well, we’re only working towards our own agenda so let’s just write whatever we want to write and if there’s anything that can be considered an experimental Woods of Ypres album, like “Woods IV: The Green Album”, was certainly it. So we had put that out and I guess for about a year and a half we weren’t really sure what to think about it either because we saw that there were people who were getting into it and obviously we can see online that a lot of people got their hands on it, but from our point of view no one had bought it really.
So we kind of looked at it as something that was really cool that we did, but in terms of doing business, was kind of a failure, and it’s interesting that a year and a half later a label takes interest, and I think that really changes the way that people look at a record like that. So our label, Earache, came on board, they saw something good in (“The Green Album”) and put it out there, and then now we’re seeing a couple things. A lot of press sources that maybe passed on the idea of covering the record a year and a half ago now have a new perspective on it and are publishing really good reviews, and even, believe it or not, a few interviews that I did a year and a half ago are finally being published.
WULF: Oh, man! That’s good though, that’s good!
DAVID: You gotta be patient doing this, and we certainly were, it’s not like the record deal was kind of “make it or break it” for the band, I mean, the band would always exist, but it was certainly more satisfying for us now to be able to do a record like that and finally have people hear it.
WULF: Yeah, and I know that it was out awhile ago, but for my college radio station, that’s how we went through (and got this interview) was through Skateboard Marketing , but it’s being promoted now and you’ve got Earache so congratulations on that man, it’s definitely good stuff.
DAVID: Thanks man. The other side of that story is that story is that there are people who are hearing us for the first time now and we’re a band that’s approaching our nine year birthday now, but that’s cool too because I realize that those are people who are hearing us now because of Earache, who probably otherwise would have never heard of us, which is cool because they come on board with “The Green Album” and I think the same way that I discovered, for example, a band like Opeth, I mean, I think Opeth kind of blew up in North America on the “Blackwater Park” album, and (for) myself too, I knew about them from “Still Life” and I knew of “My Arms, Your Hearse”, but then they got really popular and everyone looked into it and said, “wow, this band’s got four other records (besides “Blackwater Park”), and that’s (like) what’s happening to us now. We’ve got three other black metal-based records and there’s certainly a lot to choose from there.
WULF: Even stylistically-speaking, I can see some similarities between you guys and Opeth as well. The album (that introduced me to Opeth) was “Still Life” (thank you Tony Doria!!) that had just come out, and, of course, I was in high school, and we were all just losing our shit over Opeth and yeah, so that’s cool man, hopefully some people are going through that with Woods of Ypres. Anyway, so I read in a recent interview you guys did with Xplosive Metal that you weren’t even planning on making “The Green Album”? I was just curious, why is this?
DAVID: I’m trying to put that answer into context…
WULF: Sorry, I probably should have-
DAVID: I’m trying to think…there’s a couple reasons why I guess I would have said that. There was a time when we were doing “Woods III: The Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues” in Toronto, and that was when we had the Toronto band and I kind of lived and worked there and everything, and I guess there was a time for sure when we were thinking we would do “Woods III”, and then that would have been maybe the end of the band. I guess after doing three albums and then that record which we put 15 tracks on, I think that was one of the reasons we decided to release so many songs on that record because there was a chance that we wouldn’t have done another Woods of Ypres record. It wasn’t until I took a hiatus for a year and spent the year working in Seoul, South Korea, and then coming home from that the first thing I wanted to was re-re-reform the band and then do another Woods record…and yeah, that’s history.
WULF: Yeah, sorry, I probably should have framed that a little better. So one of my questions later ties into you recently working in Kuwait, but I wasn’t aware that you were in South Korea also.
DAVID: Yeah, just really quickly, the year that I was there I actually drummed for a kind of a famous Korean death metal band in the Seoul/South Korea scene called Necramyth, I just kind of fell into it…I think on my Youtube page there’s tons of stuff from me drumming with Necramyth on there, so I kind of left (Woods of Ypres) to take kind of take a break from music and everything, and three weeks later I found myself drumming in that pretty serious band, so we were rehearsing, like, two or three times a week, playing a show every weekend, we did a CD, so my year (in Korea) became a balance between my job up there and doing this drumming gig, but it was good, man, it kept me busy.
WULF: Wow, that’s cool man! I’m actually looking at (the metal-archives.com page now, are you “Veillko”?
DAVID: On there, yeah.
WULF: That’s really cool, man! Were you teaching English over there?
DAVID: Yeah, I was teaching business English, pretty much the same thing.
WULF: Right…I was really interested in (teaching English) in Korea or Japan but it looks like Japan might be out of the picture for a little while…
DAVID: Yeah, a little while man, but it might be a good opportunity too.
WULF: Yeah, but Korea…I would definitely want to go to Korea. Originally that’s what I was going to do but…well, we’re getting a little off topic here, but-
DAVID: It’s awesome. If you’re considering at all, go and do it, yeah, it is awesome. A life-changing and mind-bending experience.
WULF: I’ll bet!
But it looks like it’s definitely worked out for the better, it looks like Woods of Ypres is back and it seems like maybe you guys were stronger than you were before, especially since maybe the band was gonna end, but anyway…one of the most striking aspects of “The Green Album” obviously is its departure from the black metal style of the earlier albums. You had been hinting at this on the earlier albums but never quite executed it as far as you did with “The Green Album”. While I understand that bands evolve, I was curious as to how this departure came about for Woods of Ypres. I think you might have answered this earlier, or hinted at it, but did you get burned out with black metal, or did you get more into doom metal, or what’s going on here?
DAVID: Well let’s see, I’ll have to think about that for a minute. I think that when we were writing “Woods III (The Deepest Roots and Darkest Blues)”, which was still very much a black metal-based record and came out in late 2007, it was the longest process for us that had a lot of stages. We were in Toronto and that recording took a long time. I think that by the time that record came out there had been some songs that had been on our minds for about three years, and that’s really a long time to hold onto something. So it’s like, the record comes out in 2007, but some of that stuff I had been writing when I was like 23 or 24, and then that was kind of the end of all that black metal influence, so I think if you talk to a lot of guitar players and a lot of songwriters, there’s those years where when it’s time for them to finish composing songs and recording them, they always have these ideas or these riffs or these songs that have been around for years, so you’re always drawing from something that you’ve done years ago, or a song is on the new record is inspired by something that might have happened years ago or you’ve had those ideas for years. We had done “Woods III”, so all that black metal stuff was done, and then writing “Woods IV” I think that it was a combination of a few things where there were a few ideas, riff ideas, guitar ideas, that had been around for a few years that could never fit on a black metal Woods of Ypres record, which, when you’re doing a record like that it does have some rules that you had best adhere to in terms of what to do and what not to do, for example, something like “Suicide Cargoload (Drag That Weight)” or “Halves and Quarters” which are those sludge songs off of “Woods IV”, we wouldn’t fit those those an earlier Woods record, but then writing “Woods IV”, it was meant to be a record where we not so much play within these rules, but try to tell this story, and in order to tell this story we needed four, five, six, seven different genres of metal that we put in there, and that’s how it came about so we had a few ideas that didn’t fit into other Woods records, but fit perfectly on “Woods IV”, and then there were some other guitar ideas which were brand new, so we had a clean slate, and then we looked at, “OK, here’s this song, this is what it’s about, this is what this song is about, what are we going to write that’s going to fit into that?” And I think that was the most challenging part about writing “Woods IV” was that it was kind of like editing a movie, you have to have continuity from one song to the next in terms of that story you’re trying to tell, and from a songwriter’s perspective it’s much more challenging than, say, writing ten mostly disconnected songs and then putting them on the same record.
WULF: Right. Actually, what you just said kind of ties into my next question, which is….”Woods IV” is obviously a heavy album musically but also lyrically…were there any songs that were more difficult to write either technically speaking, from a musical perspective, or lyrically, from a personal perspective? Because some of the songs are sad or melancholic, while others just sound straight-up angry like “Suicide Cargoload”.
DAVID: True. I mean, there’s certainly a balance, and I’ll admit that I think when songwriting if I’m looking at two lyrics on a page, so maybe I’ve got like a verse and it’s got four lines, and there’s one line and I’m trying to decide on, and I can either go this safe way and maybe choose something that kind of rhymes or sounds better, or I (can) choose the lyric that’s more provocative and maybe kind of stands out, and almost kind of sticks out like a soar thumb sometimes. But for me, especially on “Woods IV”, I’ve always been one to where I tend to kind of grab that lyric that’s more provocative, and lyrically I don’t really take the safe road. We catch a lot of criticism from people who don’t like those decisions and don’t like that style, but equally we hear from a lot of people who appreciate the fact that we tell it up straight like it is. At the end of the day if there’s a discussion of Woods of Ypres lyrics I still laugh and I think that’s it’s cool that we’re discussing lyrics at all, you know?
For a band of the metal genre…and that’s just the way it is. Woods of Ypres has always been a love-it or hate-it band, and that’s cool, that’s the way that we do it. There is kind of a fine balance that I try to achieve among songs because we do still want things to be listenable and enjoyable for the listener, but you do want to deliver this really heavy message, and there certainly were plenty of heavy messages on that album, and for us it was like the only album we were capable of writing at the time. We chose to kind of bite the bullet on that album and purge it and get it out of our system now. I think the other alternative would have been to pretend like that album didn’t exist in us, and kind of continue on our way as if “oh no, we’re OK! We’ve recovered, everything’s fine, life is good” or whatever, but instead we wanted to put out that record, and instead we wanted really to put out that record and then some parts are just like…they seem like they couldn’t get anymore crushing or depressing.
WULF: Yeah, it’s dark stuff man, it’s really dark.
DAVID: I mean, that was the point, and we thought, if we’re ever going to do a record like that, do it right, do it as heavy and as dark as you can, as dark as it really was…but for us too, I thought it was really important that the record had somewhere to go. I’ll explain what I mean. There’s people who listen to the record and they say, “I wish you only would have put those first seven songs on the record” for example, and those are all the doom kind of songs in the beginning of the story, and I think they want that because (those) songs kind of sound the same and then after about (track) 8 out of 16 they start to kind of work their way out of that depression, and they kind of go somewhere, and at the end at least there’s that message that says “if nothing else, move on”. I think if we were to try and write a record that would get you your 10 out of 10 in Terrorizer Magazine or whatever, that record I think is the record where you’d play things a little more safe and you wouldn’t rock the boat so much lyrically, but you’d write that heavy, doom-y kind of record that has ten songs that more or less sound the same. For me, I felt it’d be irresponsible for us to write such a serious, true to life, heavy, emotional record, where the message of the first song is “kill yourself”, and then the message of the last song is “kill yourself”. It seemed so pointless to me, and I wanted to give the listener, whoever it was, some more perspective, some more hope than that. That’s why around track 11 or so it starts to show a little a bit of light and then it goes somewhere, so someone listening to that CD doesn’t feel beaten down and depressed by the end of it, but hopefully feels a little bit more empowered than they did when they started listening to it.
WULF: Well that seems to reflect sort of how it really goes in real life. With depression and that sort of thing, or there’s some really horrible breakup or whatever. That it’s like, eventually, through time, you do get the strength or what have you to burrow your way out of that hole that you’ve been in.
DAVID: Sure. I think for us, if teenage kids or whoever is into metal, I wasn’t sure if you were (a teenager) too, I mean, I’m 30 now, but I think for a kid who might be 17 or whatever listening to any Woods of Ypres record, listening to “Woods IV: The Green Album”, you know, it’s not at all to say, from our perspective, that we’re smarter or harder or tougher than anyone else, it’s just like, we were there before you WERE, you know what I mean? And that’s that, it’s a little bit of insight that ourselves, going through those stages, didn’t have, and maybe that’s why it was as brutal as it was, and on the other side of it we realized that life does go on, despite whatever doesn’t kill you, you know?
WULF: Right, right, and then you get stronger. OK, well I hate to shift gears a little bit…I’ve got a minor question, I looked around and I couldn’t find anything, but what is that saxophone or flute-like instrument that’s featured on songs like “Shards of Love” or “I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery”? Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that really beautiful (instrument).
DAVID: It is an oboe.
WULF: An oboe! OK!
WULF: Because you hear it in symphonies and stuff but I wasn’t (sure). Who performed that? Was that you?
DAVID: Oh, no. Her name is Angela (Shleihauf), she played with a group called Musk Ox, and they’re kind of like a (inaudible), like classical instruments. Yeah, and the main guy is Nathanaël Larochette, a guy from Ottawa, Ontario. We knew them and the timing worked out where we were doing this record and I asked if they’d be interested in hearing a few tracks and contributing something, and sure enough they picked a few and it was really cool because they picked kind of like the beginning, the middle, and the end of the record. They come in and they added classical guitars, oboe, and then cello, and it’s really cool because I imagine how that record would sound without them and even with a song like “Shards of Love”, in the beginning sounded like Katatonia or something, and they stood on their own without those classical instruments, and then hearing that oboe for the first time on the first song, “Shards of Love”, we kind of laughed, it sounded like something off of Titanic or something like that, but it was really cool man, it fit and added another dimension to the record and I think that it added some class to that record as well.
WULF: Yeah, it was really gorgeous. I was definitely struck by it when I first heard it on “Shards of Love”, and it was cool that it was throughout the whole album. OK, so we talked about this a little bit earlier, but you recently returned from working in Kuwait. How was this experience for you? Do you feel like your experiences living there will have any impact on your songwriting in the future, or lead you to explore lyrical themes you wouldn’t have considered before?
DAVID: Yeah, I (inaudible) intend to do that. A lot of my Korea experience I intentionally brought into writing “Woods IV: The Green Album”, but I also didn’t want to become that guy who travels and wherever he travels to he just picks stuff and that becomes a part of his band, you know? I didn’t want to keep doing that and become some kind of novelty, you know? Another thing was that the whole time that I was there was pretty much consumed with just the job itself and doing a good job and keeping your head above water, but I didn’t have any spare time or brainpower when I was there. I brought a guitar up there and intended to do some writing because they advised that you bring a hobby, something to keep yourself busy, just to stay sane or something, something familiar for you to do. But the whole time I was just busy learning how to live there and (was) consumed with the job. I was only there from August until the end of December, so just one semester. What happened there was we finished our plans as a band last summer, which was a fully (inaudible) North American tour, and then we went into the studio and recorded five really heavy songs, and then it was after that that we had a deal from Earache on the table, but at the time I was already scheduled to go to this job in Kuwait, and I did. I guess at the time I didn’t want to NOT go to Kuwait and then (have) the deal fall through, so then (I’d be) zero for two, you know what I mean?
Anyway, so I went out and I guess we did our negotiating from out there which I think was an interesting move because we were discussing the deal with the label and it was really strange to them, as it was for us, that I’m out there, you know? So I’m like, “well, I’m already in Kuwait working”, trying to decide if I’m going to come home or not, but then I kind of knew what I was going to do anyway but after talking to a lot of people and they asked, “well, really, what do you want to do because the opportunity is there now, you’ve been doing this band for almost nine years, Kuwait will always be there, any route where you want to teach will always be there, which is the truth, but I hope that we can have just a few really good, white hot years with the band in the next few years. It won’t go on forever, you know what I mean? I’ll be turning 31 this year. So anyway, as soon as it became easy I went into work and I waited until my probation period was done and my evaluation was done and at the time I said I had another opportunity. Too much notice up there, they like that better than the people who take their passport and their luggage and leave in the middle of the night, you know? So it was alright, it worked out OK. So I came back at Christmas and we’ve been working hard on Earache Woods of Ypres stuff. Ever since the first week of January.
WULF: Yeah, you guys have got a new one coming out soon, as I understand. OK, well we’ll get to that in a second, but OK, before we get to that, I’m assuming that you guys are going to go on tour at some point here in the future. Is that true?
DAVID: Yeah, a couple things…we did a 14 consecutive show tour in March in eastern Ontario, eastern USA, and eastern Canada. And we’re starting another tour, it starts in Philadelphia on May 5, and it goes from May 5 to June 11 or so, and that’s pretty much a show almost every day for about 40 days or so.
WULF: Yeah, it sucks man, I’m in one of the least metal-friendly places. I’m in the middle of the Midwest, and we don’t get too many shows around here. I’m in (the) Kansas City (area).
DAVID: We never played there, for sure.
WULF: It’s so out of the way.
DAVID: I’ll say, though, that it’s not like it hasn’t ever appeared on a few route sheets before, though, when we’re trying to look at our options, I mean, it’s a place that I’m sure we’ll end up at eventually, you know? The Midwest does get avoided because, even for us, we do those kinds of tours and we stick to the coast.
WULF: Well, it’s expensive too, to drive all that way. You don’t know what the hell the turnouts gonna be like. So, I don’t know. While it kind of sucks, I’m 25 and I’m ready to move on and have some adventures of my own and so I’d love to go to the coasts, (places) with more metal, Europe, shit…anywhere…but we definitely do appreciate it when bands do make it out.
DAVID: I’ll tell you the way that it works, though, there’s never a place that I’ll turn down playing once, and even for me, even if we go on and we don’t have that great of an experience, I might even say something in the moment, like, “we’re never playing here again.”
But then it will be like the next tour, and somehow that city ends up back on there, and then we show up and everyone kind of smiles at me because they know that I said we’ll never come back here.
We’re a band, we need places to go.
WULF: Similarly, with Opeth, I think it was before “Blackwater Park”, somehow they ended up in Witchita, Kansas, (I think, but it could have been Kansas City, Lawrence, or somewhere else in Kansas) or something like that, and there was like fourteen people there or something, and then, of course, (several years later) when they came to Lawrence, they were like, “wow! It’s good that we finally have a turnout this time!”
DAVID: This Fall will be three years that we’ve been touring, (inaudible), and it hasn’t been until January this year that we consider this more full-time now. But yeah, over six years we’re already seeing success at shows and stuff. Everybody hears things, (like) they saw Mastodon in Toronto one time and there were twenty people there, and then a year later they blew up. For us even, though, we do pretty well in most cities. We don’t really have many “bomb” shows. Things are pretty good.
WULF: That’s good to hear, definitely. I only have a couple more questions if that’s cool with you. I know you’re probably really busy. Any places that you guys are looking forward to playing in particular? Where would you say you have the strongest support for Woods of Ypres? The craziest fans?
DAVID: When I get this question, my number one is always Calgary, Alberta. This will be the fourth time we’ve played there in the last three years, and it’s awesome, man. I don’t know how it got started, but there’s a really strong following and they’re really supportive. There’s a bunch of people out there that are really into it. We even play like a Tuesday or a Wednesday night, the end of the workweek, and we’ll be the headlining band that will go on at 11:30 or later, and there’s at least 100 people that will come out and wait to see us…and then it will be like, our show, and local support. Our friends, our friends’ bands from Calgary, they’ll play with us. I think some of my favorites from last year were San Antonio, Texas, which we never played before last summer, and then when we arrived there…I’ll tell you this, there’s not too many places that we really feel like we have that kind of celebrity status, even if we play some place we’ve never been before, some people walk up and they recognize you from the internet or whatever, and they shake your hand, and it’s like, “alright, cool, lookin’ forward to seein’ the show!” And we showed up in San Antonio and it was like, people could not believe that we were there.
And it was kind of a weird experience for us, it doesn’t happen very often. But it seemed like everybody in that place wanted a photo of every one of us. So there was that, (inaudible) would say Worcester, Massachusetts. We played there twice in the last year.
WULF: I’m sorry, where? Where in Massachusetts?
(I was thrown off by the correct pronunciation of “Worcester”, sounds like “woo-stah”)
DAVID: In Worcester, Massachusetts.
WULF: Oh, Worcester, right, right.
DAVID: I said it onstage before, like “Wor-chest-er”…the whole bar, like, SCREAMED at me.
And I was like, what? Wor-ster? And they were all, like, yelling “NOOOOOOO!!!!”
WULF: Right, right.
DAVID: We played at this place called Ralph’s Rock Diner, and it’s supposed to be this diner converted into a rock club. Same thing man, really intense, supportive scene up there, and all those guys have that crazy East Coast, USA accent. All those guys sound like cartoon characters.
To my Canadian ears they do, anyway. But that’s been great, man, no disappointment shows there, for sure.
WULF: OK, good, good to hear. So besides touring, plans for the future as far as…are we going to see a Woods of Ypres DVD in the future? Or is that something you’re not interested in doing? Also, I know that, according to Wikipedia at least, you guys have got a new album coming out. So what’s going on in the future here?
DAVID: Yeah, a couple things. We’re putting out a 7-inch called the “Home” 7-inch. It’s got two songs on it, Side A – “Falling Apart”, and Side B is “You Were the Light”, and those were two really heavy, sludgy songs that we recorded in this August 2010 recording session, we got off of the road last year and booked some studio time and went in and I recorded those five songs because, well…I was going to Kuwait and we didn’t know for how long, and we kind of feel like the songs are ready to record when they’re ready, you know what I mean? It’s like, if the songs are ready to go in August 2010, you’re better off recording them then than to kind of like leave them and pickle for a couple years. If you come back to them they’re just not the same. You will not be the same. We really think over the years that that’s been the most important thing, that the record comes out when the band is still feeling that record. So many bands wait too long, and by the time the record comes out they don’t even like those kinds of songs anymore.
Anyway, so we have the 7-inch coming out, this is direct from the band, we’ve got artwork by Fursy Teyssier, a black metal guy from Paris, France, who does art and music for Amesoeurs , (inaudible), and all those bands.
WULF: Yeah, I know that guy! That’s incredible shit, man! OK, cool!
DAVID: Yeah, check it out online, because it’s really cool, and we’re doing a vinyl with this transparent deer and this ocean-blue vinyl swirl, so it’s like a really cool package, with MP3 downloads and everything. That’s direct from the band, we’re doing pre-orders now and that comes out next month, in May. So if you go on facebook.com/woodsofypres we’ve got all the details there. Then we hit the road May 5 to mid-June, and right now we’re scheduled to go in the studio in July to record a full-length, brand new record, and that will come out in early November on Earache Records.
WULF: Awesome, awesome.
DAVID: If you’re just getting into Woods of Ypres this year, it’s like…”Green Album” came out March 22, this new vinyl is coming out in May, and then there will be a whole new full-length album coming out in November, too.
WULF: So this is the fucking year, man! Right here. Awesome!
DAVID: In terms of DVDs and stuff, I got up this morning and am editing some of our tour vlogs. We’re doing more kind of like, raw and uncut (video) from the road and the shows, and am putting the Toronto ones online now. So if you go to youtube.com/davidypres I’ve got all those there. So in terms of us doing a DVD, that’s probably easier. It’s probably closer to reality than you think, I think if we really wanted to do that we could get stuff together probably pretty quick.
WULF: OK, cool man! That’s all the questions I have David. I just want to end with, you know, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to me, I think this was a great interview. I wish you luck in the future. Any last words, anything else you’d like to say?
DAVID: Yeah man, thanks for your interest, and thanks for having me on the radio, and check out youtube.com/davidypres, and then Facebook is the easiest place to find us, so (go to) facebook.com/woodsofypres. Pick up “Woods IV: The Green Album” and take a look at our vinyl we have coming out in May, and for sure pick up the brand new record, yet untitled, but “Woods V”, it will be coming out in November at the end of this year.