There’s heavy and then there’s Ramesses. The British trio have just released 2010’s doomedest album in the form of Take The Curse through their management’s own record company, Ritual Productions, and it is a rare beast to be sure. Making use of the UK’s cult rock history, bassist/vocalist Adam Richardson, guitarist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening (all three were in Electric Wizard at one point or another) have crafted deathly atmospherics and crushing tones the likes of which few can match. I always thought the “curse” was herpes, but this is a way better option. I’ll take it.
Shortly after playing the release party for Take The Curse in the band’s hometown of London, Adam Richardson took some time out for an email interview about the album and how the band has changed since they released their last full-length, 2007’s Misanthropic Alchemy.
How was the launch party for Take The Curse?
The launch was great cheers. It was at Rough Trade, which was an unusual setting for us, people were just shopping and hanging out with us and getting stoned. Great chilled out vibe in that shop—Jake and Dinos couldn’t make it unfortunately—they were meant to be deejaying but the night was great and was oversubscribed so was as full as it could have been—loud too! That was a bonus! We played only tracks from Take The Curse.
Take me through the process of writing the album. It’s been three years since Misanthropic Alchemy. How do you think the band has grown in that time?
I think the band has grown mad! Take The Curse is over a year-and-a-half late coming out so you can imagine the frustration and fury for us. There were weeks on end when I couldn’t get hold of our engineer to finish the vokills or the mixes, etc. Things were getting ugly, but we managed to drag it out of the mire and finish the Beast off! Well worth it too. We are very happy with how The Curse turned out. Each song has a very deliberately different feel and production and remind me of short horror film scores, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve in terms of creepy and or suffocating atmosphere… yeah, very happy with the variety of nasty flavours on this album!
Me and Tim put a lot of work into the mournful harmonies which pervade nearly every track—the way the vokills and guitars weave in and out of each other in varied ways like cosmic rays through the gaze of Anubis! I really like the mellower almost folky and certainly pagan sections of the record which shine through a lot more than other recordings we have made due to wildly different approach we took recording The Curse. As a sort of backlash to all things metal, we recorded the album with James Thompson—an expert in recording Cuban traditional music, usually in Cuba—never anything heavy—and in a studio that had never had a heavy band in it, as well as a plethora of unexpected bits of strange equipment and ancient paraphernalia!
Everything sounds pretty massive on the record, but the guitars and bass came across especially huge. What kind of equipment was used for the recording? How did you get those inhuman tones?
Ahh! The Cult Of Ashdown! Both me and Tim have been endorsed by Ashdown since we started seven years ago. And we hate using anything else! Especially as all our heads have been customized for our sound, tone and volume. It took a while to get things working perfectly as we have a very different tone for guitar and bass to any other band I can think of—but now, when we can afford to have our whole back line set up it is truly devastating… it needs to be to keep up with Mark’s blinding concussion—he was recently measured at 110db on his own with nothing mic’d up!
Where was Take The Curse recorded? How long were you in the studio and what was your time like while you were there?
We recorded The Curse in the country miles away from anywhere underneath a huge Tudor mansion with a monolithic historical vibe which we thrived on. We recorded the whole album plus (‘The Glorious Dead’ for the Unearthly Trance split 10” and ‘Baptism Of The Walking Dead’ U.S. 12” just to be released) and ‘Chrome Pineal’ (to be released soon) in just two days! We started doing outdoors—but had to abandon due to weather—we will be returning to this method of recording in the future. It was laying down the vokills and mixing that then took an eternity! Relations in the band were stretched to breaking points with the endless back and forth of mix versions to be signed off by each of us, as every track has a very different production and was approached individually, and me being stuck in the studio mixing, and it dragging on was soul destroying… and then not knowing how many days or weeks until the next session was gonna happen. Like ‘The Pit And The Pendulum’ it was!
Suffice to say the sense of relief now it is finally out as it is meant to sound and look is quite immense.
There’s a lot of variation in the material on Take The Curse. How conscious are you when you’re writing of making sure different elements work their way into songs? It’s all pretty heavy, but there’s intricacy within that heaviness.
Yes the mood and atmosphere of the songs is of great importance to us, including how the other uncontrollable aspects of recording and mixing work their way into our sound—i.e. the unspeakable forces brought into our music as we are creating it—the samples that play themselves, the ‘mistakes’ or gods in the machines which we monopolize on and which become a part of the recorded version of the track…the cosmic jam if you like. Like when I lay my vox down I only ever have one or two of the parts worked out in terms of vocal riff or hook the rest is tapped into on the spur of the moment—and then I double track to that with another vocal style. I get bored singing in the same style, and bored of listening to bands that do that too. Never happy!
How did the decision to put it out through your management come about? Was there something about the way Misanthropic Alchemy was handled that made you want to go that route?
We were just sick and tired of working with different labels and never being able to settle with one, as they all offer you everything at the start and it always dwindles to dust. It’s just how quickly the dust materializes! Not to say that this is always the fault of the people that run the label, but there is always something…
We are fucking thrilled to release Take The Curse on effectively our own label. Cristiane at Ritual has already blown us away in terms of results and actually pushing the record proactively as opposed to handing it over to the distro, running an ad and washing your hands. Quite the opposite. We are very proud to be Ritual’s first signing, and are looking forward to our next release already! We are back in the unholy Essex countryside early July to lay down new tracks in that same accursed studio!!
The cover art is incredibly striking. How did you discover the work of Jake and Dinos Chapman, and what about the piece ‘Fucking Hell’ in particular stuck out to you?
I first saw Jake and Dinos’ breathtaking work in The White Cube gallery where they exhibited in relative darkness a mass of nerve jangling African styled carved heads and busts with a very haunting and voodoo look about them—on closer inspection the sculptures become even more menacing and harrowing when you realize they are all McDonalds characters… Sick. Then it was ‘If Hitler Had Been A Hippy How Happy Would We Be,’ which featured actual watercolours by the lunatic dictator himself which they had painted smiley faces and the like onto. However, when I beheld ‘Fucking Hell’ for the first time I nearly burst! It blew my mind then and it still does when I think about it—or look at our album cover! Its absolute grim beauty…
What does ‘the occult’ mean to you?
It means Hidden or Secret Knowledge…I have an unquenchable thirst for such information..
What’s your relationship like with Jus Oborn from Electric Wizard at this point? Do you talk or is there bad blood between the two bands? Would you tour or do shows together?
Haven’t spoken to him since Tim was in the band. I think shows together is out of the question.
Any chance Ramesses could make it over to the U.S. for some shows?
We would absolutely love to! Only now are we seemingly in a position to go to U.S. In fact, any offers would be great???
Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?
Just the recording of the new EP and LP which we are very excited about, our Southern European tour in September, and the Live Evil festival (Fenriz-curated fezzy in London in October) preceded by some shows with our Norge brothers Obliteration.