Interview by Si Smith
The years is 1891. The Gentleman’s Club known as A Forest of Stars are re-releasing their two full-lengths this year, along with juicy extras for those already initiated into the Company. For those unacquainted with their speciality, they represent the Aristocratic England of the past; a society of gentlemen (and a lady) who describe themselves as “a bunch of inebriated, soporific wastrels” who have managed to create musical vistas of progressive black metal through the general haze of Victorian alcohol and cigar smoke. Femme Metal met in secret with Katheryne, Queen of the Ghosts, to dish the dirt on the boys’ antics.Kati, thanks so much for meeting with us in this secret location. A warm welcome from all at Femme Metal. Firstly, congratulations for infiltrating the Gentleman’s Club – how did you do it, and what is it REALLY like in there?
Hi! Although I could not possibly give up the secrets of the club and the treacherous initiation process or how I managed to sneak my way in, I can say that it is something of which I am very proud to be part of. Secondly, we have to know, how important is alcohol to the creative process of A Forest of Stars, and what are everyone’s favourite tipples?
I don’t think alcohol is a necessity for creating music, it certainly helps! I seem to remember a lot of sherry being consumed when we were writing the last album 🙂 Ok, back to business. Lyrically A Forest of Stars deal with major themes of existence – masculinity, femininity, life, death, spirituality – where do these philosophical musings originate? How do the threads of a song come together? I think this would really be a question for Mr Curse as he writes the lyrics, however writing the music itself and the feeling behind it is definitely a collective experience which generally involves all of us passing ideas between each other and gradually building up layers of music until we feel we have conjured the spirit of what we are trying to achieve. The band have been together since 2007. Were you around when the band first started? Do you know the origin of that first sacred spark of creativity? Yes, I was around when the band first developed, I believe it was The Gentleman and Mr Curse who originated the club after many years of playing and listening to music and gaining inspiration to do something which was black metal but a little bit different and with a real theme. It was only a year afterwards that the first full-length “The Corpse of Rebirth” was released. That must have been some pretty hard working for that year! How did the band take to the recording process?
The recording was really enjoyable for all of us, I think it was winter when we recorded the album which really helped with the atmosphere! We spent many cold, rainy nights with a bottle of sherry in a dimly lit room and got lost into the music.
“Silence shattered like ice, incipit rage in myriad voices of the win. All light now absent as the banshees howl. No solace in the maelstrom”. Such are the very first words of “God”, the first song on the first album by AFOS. The poetic content of the lyrics is evident from the start, are there any particular poets that have inspired the writings? Or philosophers? Again I think this would be a question for our singer, who knows what goes on in the depths of that illustrious mind! I know he has books and books of ideas that he has written and I know that it is all very personal to him which I think is important as it adds meaning and emotion to the music.
The length of each track varies from 8 to 16 minutes in length. It is clear that a listener will be taken on a journey, that the tracks are all dynamically heading somewhere. Is it difficult trying to fill all that time with music and vocals? Or does it just come naturally to the guys to compose long songs?I think its actually more difficult trying to shorten the songs enough to fit onto the album! We all have a lot of ideas about how the songs should develop so that they grow and have momentum and sometimes I think we get a bit carried away!
“Opportunistic Thieves of Spring” was first released in June 2010. Why has the decision been made to re-release the album so soon? The re-release of the album comes after our signing to Prophecy Productions, of course we are really happy about this and the re-release give us chance to get the album heard by more people.
Your contributions to the songs add a special aura to the recordings, lifting the music when maybe it just needs a female voice to raise it up to a certain level. How do you work out which sections require a female vocal? Do you have any creative say in what that vocal ends up sounding like? Some parts of the music just naturally lend themselves to having female vocals. Again it is a group decision at the end of the day as most aspects of the music are with us, but I do usually have a good idea in my head of what I would like the melody to sound like, although I often get help from Mr Curse for the lyrical ideas, as it has to fit in with the theme of the song. The Press seemed to go mad for the new album, inspiring many 9/10s and 9.5/10s in reviews, many describing the album as “a one-of-a-kind musical experience”. What is it about the album that causes such a stir, do you think? To be honest I couldn’t say, personally I’m really happy with the album and I’m sure we all are. There was a really good atmosphere and vibe when we were writing it and I think this comes across.
Prophecy Productions describe themselves as “a label for eerie emotional music since 1996”. Do AFOS have anything to do with other bands on the label’s roster? What was it that drew Prophecy Music to A Forest of Stars in the first place, do you think? (or was it the other way round) Prophecy approached us, and I’m really happy that they did because I think our music fits in with a lot of the bands on the label which we are all very proud to be alongside.
The question of live dates rears its ugly head: how easy is it to reproduce that special “atmosphere” of the recordings in the live arena? Are there any particular challenges this brings to the band? It can be quite difficult to conjure the Victorian spirit when you’re in a small pub in the middle of London and I think the hardest part is fitting us all on stage! However when we start playing and really getting into the music and enjoying it, the atmosphere builds itself.
I heard rumours of a get-together between yourselves and like-minded bands such as Old Corpse Road and Eibon La Furies – is there any truth there? That would certainly be a great spectacle! Are there any live dates planned for this year? We don’t have any dates planned as yet this year as we have all been busy writing the new album, I think next year will be more for touring, unfortunately we had to politely decline the offer of a gig with Old Corpse Road and Eibon La Furies for the same reason. Finally, a big thank you to you Kati for talking to us, would you like to give us a final word about the band from your unique perspective? I don’t think I really have anything to say here apart from thank you for taking the time to interview me, and I hope you will all enjoy the new album which should be out next year!