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Nature is the great Equalizer

Whenever time alongside school, work and other musical projects allows, 21 year old Jake works on the first GALLOWBRAID release, finally coming up with a formidable brand of atmospheric black metal with folk and doom reminiscences on "Ashen Eidolon".

"Besides there isn't much band history yet, haha! GALLOWBRAID saw its inception in the year 2006. It's taken a long time for any of the music to get recorded so the music heard on "Ashen Eidolon" is actually a few years old, having been written during 2006 and 2007." Listening to GALLOWBRAID names like Agalloch or Ulver come to one's mind, influences which definitely can be detected in the music. But actually Jake's main influence is a band which is hardly tangible within the music. "One extremely important influence for GALLOWBRAID is Opeth - "Blackwater Park" and "My Arms, Your Hearse" particularly. Obviously my music sounds nothing at all like theirs, but Opeth was one of the first metal bands I got into, and they have a lot to do with my appreciation for dynamic shifts and lengthy songs. Early Drudkh is also a big influence, especially "Forgotten Legends" and "Autumn Aurora", and Enslaved, Amber Tears, Windir, Draconian. Early Vintersorg also played a role in the early stages of GALLOWBRAID's development." Whereas Jake sees himself more as a fan than a musician. Someone who starts writing songs for the sheer enthusiasm for the sounds the bands he listens to create. "I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to do it myself. The creative process really just consists of me sitting down with my guitar after class and playing whatever comes to mind. If I particularly like a riff, I'll play various permutations of it until I arrive at something I really think would make a good basis for a song. The rest just sort of flows from that starting point."

Melancholy which seems to be a constant companion in his songs stems from the fact that "music is very visual for me. I love songs that create a vivid image in my mind, and I would like to achieve that myself. For me, there's a certain type of melancholy melody that always brings to mind beautiful autumn landscapes, and it's that imagery that I wanted to try and capture with the "Ashen Eidolon" EP. The full-length will be more diverse in the imagery it draws from, but the important thing for me is that there is always a palpable atmosphere coming from the music. Personally, I don't think I'm there yet, but hopefully with time and maturity I'll begin to achieve that goal." Regarding the lyrical side of "Ashen Eidolon" Jake turns out to be rather self-critical while slightly hinting at a bit of a concept story behind the music. "The lyrics aren't very good! Lyrics have never been my strong point, and they're always the last part of a song to be written (though I promise better lyrics on the full-length, haha!). The title track definitely has the strongest lyrics of the two metal songs on the EP, which probably has a lot to do with the fact that they were co-written with some friends of mine. Basically, they are fragments of a concept story for what was originally going to be a full-length album, but it never came to fruition. The lyrics for the songs on the EP still make sense by themselves, so I decided to leave them as they were. The lyrics for "Oaken Halls Of Sorrow" in particular are pretty lame. Oh well, we all start somewhere..."

GALLOWBRAID's sole sign of life before "Ashen Eidolon" is the track "Earthen Throne" which can be found on the compilation "Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer" (The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog). Jake's participation is - though less - based on the superordinate conceptual idea as well as originates from his friendship to Niels, the mastermind behind this project. "I was already friends with the multitalented Niels of Depraved Designs who conceptualized, organized, and developed the entire Der Wanderer project. I already had parts of "Earthen Throne" written and I felt it would work with the concept, so I told him that I would be more than happy to contribute. Caspar David Friedrich was a fantastic painter, and the concept that Niels had developed for the compilation tied in beautifully with the nature-centric emotions of reverence and solitude expressed in his work. I'm happy to have been lucky enough to participate!" Indeed, the homonymous painting by Caspar David Friedrich which is also the compilation's cover artwork, but also Friedrich's works in general would make an apposite inspiration for the musical landscapes of GALLOWBRAID, considering Friedrich's view of the natural world as well as the role of the human element in it. And certainly there are also other painters to be seen as likely sources of inspiration. "Honestly, I'm not very well-versed in the world of visual art. I do have my favourite painters, of course, but my musical inspiration is drawn primarily from other sources. Niels' overall goal was to convey a connection to nature and a celebration of pantheistic ideals through the music of a diverse lineup of artists.

I think the concept was fantastic, and I do think that the GALLOWBRAID song fit in nicely, but my views on these philosophies tend to differ from many of the bands playing this style of music. I am not a spiritual person whatsoever - I have no belief at all in any kind of metaphysics, gods, or anything of the sort. There tends to be a very neo-pagan attachment to nature in a majority of this music, whereas mine is a naturalistic connection. Nature is the great equalizer, where all began and where everything will ultimately end. Any human who has the ability to look beyond itself experiences a deep sense of wonder and awe when surrounded by those spectacular pockets of nature nestled amid all of the decay we've created, and it is this sense of wonder that comes through as the nature-driven aspect of GALLOWBRAID. I may not believe there is any kind of spiritual energy that connects it all, but I certainly feel that it is the mightiest entity in all of existence, as evidenced by everything from the mind-blowing complexity of the evolutionary process to the unfathomable natural architecture of a spiral galaxy."


Talking about natural architecture one can't help but think of the stunning nature of Utah with places like Zion National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park. Living in that state simply must be a significant inspiration. "Definitely! Southern Utah is home to some very unique and breathtaking desert landscapes, and I live in close proximity to numerous spectacular mountain ranges. This local scenery definitely has a lot of influence on GALLOWBRAID's music, the mountains and wild aspen groves in particular." As Jake's compositions give a strong impression of being close to nature even if one doesn't have any background information, one presumes environmental issues are of importance. Regarding the oil rig exploding in the Gulf of Mexico not everyone shares the opinion that the government acted in a timely manner to limit the damages which will have severe long-time effects (and it leads to the question if they do enough to conserve nature in general). The Russians - as could be seen on the news - even proposed using nuclear bombs to seal the rig. "The government put too much of the cleanup responsibility into BP's hands. I think much more could have been done on the government's part, but I'd still like to see BP held fiscally responsible for the disaster. The problem is that BP had no incentive to do much at all about the issue at hand seeing as they couldn't give two shits less what happens to the environment. It's all about a bottom line for them. And as far as the idea of nuclear bombs to seal the rig goes, I really can't see that being a feasible option."

Utah's daily life and culture is not only heavily influenced by the Mormon Church but also has a prominent heritage of several Native American tribes. So it's interesting to explore Jake's views to which extent there are any perceptible tensions of contradictous beliefs and if these reflect in the concept of GALLOWBRAID in any way. "Absolutely! Many of GALLOWBRAID's songs deal with themes of atheism and the degrading effects of religous belief on the human experience. These themes do not play a central role on the EP, but definitely will on the full-length. Unfortunately, the overarching culture in Utah is informed much more deeply by Mormon dogma than by Native American influence (or many other influences, for that matter). The United States is, on the whole, a very religious nation, but Utah is truly its own beast. The omnipresent conservative atmosphere certainly helps breed a particular distaste for religious faith in general. My own disgust toward religion is definitely going to be reflected in the themes explored by GALLOWBRAID's music in the future."

Talking about the future some online sources assume that "Earthen Throne" may find its way onto the full-length but Jake negates that and gives an outlook what we can expect from the album and from GALLOWBRAID in general instead. "The song "Earthen Throne" will remain exclusive to the Der Wanderer compilation. The full-length will be almost entirely comprised of music written much more recently, and there is also a new full-time member on board who will bring some of his own influences and stylistic flourishes to the table. The album will have the same basic roots - dynamic black/doom/folk metal with both harsh and clean vocals - but it will be darker, more epic, and more mature. My true love for music is for metal, and that is what will shine through the most. There are, of course, nonmetal influences, but for GALLOWBRAID, they serve as a way to further develop and enhance musical ideas that are firmly rooted in the metal genre." So one new band member is already on board. The original line-up, in the biography referred to as ´the rehearsal group´ splits up before any live performances are ever held. Would it be an option for Jake to also introduce the GALLOWBRAID material live in the future? "Originally, there wasn't much direction, just a friend of mine, my brother, and myself jamming after school. The first songs coalesced this way, one of which eventually became "Oaken Halls Of Sorrow", which is one of the tracks on the EP (I think the promo version calls this song "Oak And Aspen"). Eventually, everyone's schedules clashed too much to get any real work done, and seeing as I was handling the songwriting anyway, I just continued by myself, creating low-quality demos with programmed drums on a laptop computer. Now that I'm more experienced in a live setting from gigging with other bands I've played in, I'd definitely like to do some live GALLOWBRAID shows in the future. The focus will, of course, be songwriting in preparation for the full-length, but a few live shows would be a great way to experience the music in a slightly different medium. I'm curious to hear how it would turn out."

Last but not least let's see how Jake came up with the name GALLOWBRAID. Is it an individual form of gallows braid, and if so, how can it be defined and for whom? "Well, seeing as it was originally going to be a doom metal band, I wanted something dark. Really, "Gallowbraid" is a pretentious way of saying ´noose´ (as in the braid - rope - of the gallows' pole). I came up with it one day while daydreaming in class, ran it by a couple of friends, and the reaction was positive. The name stuck, and that's what it's been called ever since. As a side note, I've since learned that there is a ´Magic: The Gathering´ character of the same name. So, for those of you who have been wondering: GALLOWBRAID is not named after this character, nor do the lyrics have anything to do with the game. However, I played often when I was younger, so maybe it crept in there subconsciously, haha!

For further information check out GALLOWBRAID's myspace.

Interview done by Endrew. September 2010.

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