SOUL ENEMA: Taking Chances & Pushing Boundaries

SOUL ENEMA Premiere New Album Ahead of Release via Prog

Israeli progressive metallers Soul Enema have returned recently with the release of their sophomore studio album titled ‘Of Clans and Clones and Clowns,’ which includes a number of guest contributions: Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), Yossi Sassi (Yossi Sassi Band, ex-Orphaned Land), Sergey Kalugin and Yuri Ruslanov (Orgia Pravednikov), and more. 

We chatted with keyboardist, singer and composer Constantin Glantz about the band’s mission, the new record, future plans, and more.

Define the mission of Soul Enema.

Well, if you take a look at the name, the album cover, the song titles, the lyrics, you might see that we take ourselves very seriously all the time. [laughs] So we probably must be here to present you some grand statement, to proclaim the second coming, at very least! So let me try then: Ladies and Gentlemen, that second coming is the coming of Progressive Prog, one that actually progresses somewhere, in a similar progressive position the way it was in ’69, the year ’69. You know – take chances, push boundaries, don’t be too serious all the time, don’t be too afraid to challenge and even provoke a little when necessary, etc. Ok, and just one more little thing – don’t forget about the good songwriting in the process. That might help even in 2017!

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns

Tell me about the creative process that informed your upcoming, second album Of Clans and Clones and Clowns and the themes it captures.

The songs were written over several years, influenced by different triggers, both in lyrical themes and in music. And in the end it can be anything – I think we seem to bring many sides to the table, as much as a real life has many sides, moods and situations. From plain modernistic themes, like the “Aral Sea” ecological disaster, or “Breaking The Waves,” based on Lars von Trier’s famous film, to some goofy or grotesque stuff that is rather post-modernistic or perhaps even anti-modernistic? And then to some global social or historical themes, like the rise and fall of civilizations, the mechanisms of human society on different stages, human psychology and it’s extremities, different writers, different thinkers, such as Pelevin, Spengler, Machiavelli, Orwell, as persons of some interest. So it ranges from the most personal to most universal.

What is the message you are trying to give with Of Clans and Clones and Clowns?

I don’t think that we stick to one certain message and get preachy about that, that’s not the plan anyway. But if anything, it would be: “educate yourself to be able to think for yourself.” If anyone is interested in the themes we reflect upon, there’s some good ground to do the digging. But that’s only a bonus, because it’s a music album, by the way, and music comes first, naturally. And interestingly, the very same message is actually appropriate for the music. You just throw most of those musical clichés in the garbage, and start doing your own thing. The garbage bin icon is usually in the left upper corner of a screen. Just move it there, that’s nice!

How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Well, it can be anything appropriate for the moment. A voice recorder, or Cubase sequencer for music, a piece of paper or notepad for lyrics. Then it goes to be arranged in form of a full midi demo. This allows flexibility and it makes the quality of songwriting independent from the quality of sounds. You don’t have the privilege to get carried away with sounds using the cheapest midi banks. Still, you may have very sound-dependent patterns and ideas sometimes, and that’s fine, but the essence of good songwriting should not be compromised in any case, and a great riff, arrangement or melody is usually recognizable even on the most god-awful gear.

Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?

It is. I don’t really like to use a melting pot just because there’s a bunch of cool ideas, to stick them randomly together and see if something good comes out of it. I mostly tend to have an approximate structure map in my head with ups and downs, calm parts and culminations, flow of themes and blocks. It’s usually interconnected with lyrics in each particular point. But it’s not limited to a heavy structured approach only, because sometimes I don’t want to make it too stale and predictable either, so there’s an occasional element of improvisation as well. Did you listen to “The Age of Cosmic Baboon,” for example? That little devil can break many paradigms.

Describe the approach to recording the album.

It was largely done by exchanging files – an ordinary situation for the XXI century, being friendly with home studios and software technologies. You don’t have a live band sound this way, but you can have full control of the quality of takes and revisit every element of the global picture, which is an important capability with multi-layered and complex music parts. And then we had the mixing done with Jens Bogren, one of the most renowned sound engineers on the heavy side of the map. We aimed for a clear and powerful sound, but not too sterile and over-produced. And it’s never an easy task, when you are about to mix complex stuff with loads of channels, and you can’t be in the studio during the process. You communicate via remote revisions, so it takes some time to balance those things and shape them the best way. A studio with good analog gear can add “warmer,” more authentic colors to your mix, although you can’t really rely on “total recall” options from revision to revision, the way you can in a fully digital mix. I think we accomplished that sonic aim to the largest degree possible in such conditions.

How long Of Clans and Clones and Clowns was in the making?

Too much time to feel very easy about it, and too little time to be perfect, because that’s unreachable by default. Basically it was almost 7 years in the making, with a couple of tracks that were written even earlier, and some, like “Eternal Child,” written at the last moment, when we were near the end of our recording process.

Where does the new album stand comparing with your debut album Thin Ice Crawling?

I think it’s a good step forward in many ways, from songwriting to implementation and production. It’s naturally more mature, but without losing that spark. See, when most of Thin Ice Crawling was written, we were very young. I was 23 years old, and most of my bandmates were finishing high schools! I still think it has its strong sides and there’s also something there, that can’t be recreated, say, by the people in their 30’s. But the age also gives a clearer understanding of what should and what shouldn’t be done, more experience to comprehend what potentially stands the test of time and what falls.

Soul Enema band

Which bands or artists influenced your work on the new album?

Personally, I listen to loads of different music, sometimes out of curiosity. Let’s say, from someone like Brian Wilson in the 60’es, to Steven Wilson these days, that’s just an example out of the Progressive Rock spectrum. Is there something about that family name? So, indirectly it might be anything worthwhile. Our press release says “from ABBA to Zappa, from King Crimson to King Diamond,” and it’s a nice joke in a way, with an element of truth. You may ask yourself, what is there in common between all those artists, right? My answer is that each of them was simply pushing the boundaries in their own area. ABBA had strong melodic hooks, arrangements and vocal harmonies, North European and classical influences brought into pure pop music, King Diamond redefined ’80s metal in certain ways, the eccentric and unpredictable side of Zappa’s experimentalism… well, actually I’d better not even start on the likes of Zappa or King Crimson, it might take too much space to give them any justice. I generally like the idea of Prog with a Punk or Psych edge, when it’s done great. I think that resonates with some strings inside me. But it’s not entirely correct to stick to particular style choices, it’s simplistic and limiting the definitions to anything of potential influence.

What is your view on technology in music?

It’s a big blessing these days and in some aspects even a curse, if we dig deeper. You are blessed with the opportunity to fully express yourself as an artist, working on your music and putting it out, and it’s affordable to anyone out there. You also have an endless choice and availability as a listener. And that’s where the other side of the coin emerges as well. Because, simply put, the current supply exceeds the current demand by far. It’s only some limited time that the listener can dedicate to digging a new music, and it’s also way easier to stick to a more well-known, established artists and bands that you have liked for a long time, so everything just gets more and more fragmented out there. And sometimes really great things from a musical standpoint are just way more likely to disappear from radar almost immediately, even within a particular scene and segment. It’s also the age of visual things that form an immediate impression, because the attention span doesn’t really develop in today’s ocean of information. That means harder times for anything that demands a deeper dive from the listener and takes some time to make a long lasting impact.

Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?

Yes! One of the recent feedbacks I read was along the lines of: “Hey, I started to listen to this album, but I realized that I’m not capable of drinking that much!.” So, as you see, it features a preventive anti-drinking program too. Seriously, I think I can’t fully answer that, because it’s not even in our hands. I can’t really predict at this point what impact it might do to a specific people, and the scope of such impact. I think it contains a certain potential, but from the moment it gets released, it has a life of its own, and you never quite know how it’s going to live that life.

What are your plans for the future?

There’s a well known quote that goes: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your future plans.” I have a bank of thoughts and ideas to consider, but currently I seriously do not look much further than the next step. And now the next step is getting a larger audience informed about our release.

Of Clans and Clones and Clowns is out now; order it from Bandcamp. Follow Soul Enema on Facebook.

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