Pioneering in their sound Akercocke are a band like no other. Combining elements from all of the dark arts of the extreme music world, the band made their comeback last year in August at the heralded Bloodstock Festival. Join us as we return to the Catton Park to speak to both drummer David Gray and guitarist come vocalist Jason Mendoca about what their performance was like returning and what we can expect from their new album Renaissance In Extremis later this year, we hope! The monkey has well and truly been let out of the cage.
I am here with the two dudes of Akercocke! Have I said that right?
Jason : You can say it how you like bro! We say it Akercoke (ah) but we hear all sorts of various Akercock-y, Akercock however you want to say it.
How was it coming back and playing Bloodstock?
David Gray : Yeah it was great! We’re really happy to be invited back, we played here a few years ago and its a great festival, really well organised, the people here are really good.
Jason : The crowd were amazing.
David : The crowd was amazing and the weather’s great so…
Jason Mendoca : Great weekend yeah! Whole different experience from Download haha!
Is this the first show that you have played?
David : Since 2011.
Christ! What was that like, it must have been not frightening but were you not quite used to it or was it just like right back into the saddle?
Jason : I don’t want to sound like arrogant, I don’t want to come across that way because its not intended to be but we’ve been doing this for a long time. Whilst we have been out of the saddle, we’ve also been practicing a lot to try and be up to scratch for the fans. Actually we were fortunate with our team and the festival crew, it went like clockwork. It was just an absolute pleasure to be honest with you!
What made you decide to premiere “The Darkness Inside”?
David : Its a bit of a popular tune I think. You get lots of requests for certain songs and you know we enjoy playing certain songs but then you think that no one has ever asked to hear that live so generally you don’t get that involved with it. If there are people that enjoy the music so much that its a particular track we try our best to accommodate fan opinion.
Onto the new album. Is it completely written, what’s the kind of status of it?
Jason : Pretty much, David was just saying earlier its been quite an odd year for us. We didn’t expect to be so busy so soon. We got back to our rehearsal space and Paul brought a huge amount of material to the table. David and I had some songs that we had been working on a long time ago. Rexamined and worked on again, I suppose the short answer would have been yeah, its essentially written in terms of framework. We know how the songs go roughly but the actual adding of all the detail and really finalising the end result comes from the recording process for us. What actually happened was, there we were, putting this material together and then all of a sudden there was a requirement to play live. We had to put that on the back burner to actually get back together, put a set together and practice that. Its been slightly disjointed but there’s nothing wrong with that, it just means that it has changed our schedule slightly.
Are you guys going to be recording maybe this year?
David : Yeah, we start recording in November, the original plan was a little bit sooner than that but we did think that priority with the tour. Everyone’s been so enthusiastic! We just though lets just go with it, that meant that recording couldn’t begin as soon as we would have liked but then again we want to get it right. We want everything to be as good as it can possibly be so we just need a little bit more time I think to make sure that what we produce makes us happy and hopefully everyone will be into it as well.
You guys have got a headline tour which is scheduled October time?
Jason : I think the first date is possibly the last day of September? Then its through October.
And you’re also doing an appearance at Damnation Festival.
Jason : Yeah! Great! We’ve played that a couple of times and its always brilliant, its great fun. Again like the Bloodstock team, the Damnation team are really on it. When you work with people who exhibit and execute that level of professionalism it just makes it.
So much easier.
Jason : Completely! Then you know you can relax, get into your performance and do your job. Really looking forward to that.
You also released a new song. Was that kind of a little thing for the fans as you’ve announced that you’re back or was it to tie them over until the new album?
David : We’ve got quite a lot of new material. I’m not sure that there was a deliberate kind of contrived reason for that song, the one that was presented, I think it just turned out that way. We had quite a few songs that were finished and I’m not quite sure that that one was the one.
Jason : I think, we were experimenting with some new recording techniques as part of preproduction recording. We demo’d three new songs and then we got that one mixed by Neil Kernon, it just seemed appropriate for it. As Dave said there was no real reason for it, it just happened!
Also, I remember when you were teasing this Bloodstock announcement “The monkey is out of the cage” what’s that about?
Jason : So the origins of the band, when David and I dreamt up the concept in ’96. There’s a book and Akercocke is a monkey, we wanted to do something a little bit cryptic to get people thinking just kind of get some vibes out there to give those who know and those who know the mythology. That’s where the monkey is out of the cage, symbolic the monkey has come back. So that was what that was all about really!
What’s the story behind the name then, this monkey?
David : Oh mate! Robert Night is an Irish author, he wrote a version of Faust and we were big fans of that book. The first album that we did Rape of The Bastard Nazarene was a concept album based on that book. Akerocke was a monkey that was a kind of symbolic representation of, I’ve forgotten how we used to describe this…
Jason : You’re going back into your old stock answers! You’re reaching back into the recesses of your memory!
David : I wasn’t expecting to have to explain it haha!
Jason : Akercocke is a really horrible character and he becomes anthropomorphic and he starts speaking and we just found the book hilarious and it was full of loads of dark humour that appeals to us greatly. The project was born!
What about the artwork for Words That Go Unspoken, Deeds That Go Undone, its always struck a chord. How did you come with that idea, its quite a stark contrast. You’ve got loads of black and then a small amount of white…
Jason : Do you know what film noir is?
Jason : So its a film noir concept, we’ve been fortunate in our career to work with some really phenomenal photographers and one of them was a gentleman called Sam Scott Hunter. David conceptualised that artwork and worked with Sam to reproduce it as photography and I was really, really pleased with it.
In terms of your sound, there’s a war on two fronts going on. You’ve got the kind of soothing, its a bit more evil than soothing…
Jason : Hahahahahahaha! Evil soothing!
It really reminds me when I hear “Verdelet” when that bit comes in and then you’ve got the really caustic, has that always been something that you’ve strived to go against?
Jason : We’ve just always had a kind of melting pot of ideas based on our eclectic influences. We’ve always been about songwriting, its having the tools in your armory. God mixed metaphors haha! To be able to paint the different colours, light and shade and contrast, we’ve always operated on that basis. Do what’s right for the song, its all about the song.
You can answer this together or individually but what has been an album that you have been listening to over the last six months?
David : A new album do you mean?
A new album, any album really!
David : Wow, I don’t really listen to a hell of a lot of new music to be honest but I have been listening to a hell of a lot, I’ve been listening to Focus by Cynic. That’s an album that I never get bored with, that’s to me that’s just heavy Metal genius really. Taking the tools and the idea of Heavy Metal but taking it one step forward and that is really important. There are bands that just make music that you expect them to make and there’s nothing wrong with that but I do think that we keep moving forward with music. Create music that has never been heard before.
Do you think that you will try and bring that into the new album?
David : Cynic?
Not Cynic but more that idea into the new album?
David : We always have. We’ve always tried to do that, we take the familiar influences of all the bands that we’re into, Suffocation, Killing Joke and try to mix it in such a fashion that has not been heard before but is familiar. That’s what we have always tried to do.
Is there anything that you have thought was particularly good?
Jason : Something that I think, I really like Wovenhand. I discovered Wovenhand a very good friend of mine Ilia, played me some of their early stuff and then I listened to a bunch of stuff on YouTube and I bought Refactory Obdurate and I love that Americana vibe. I love the passion in his writing and in his songs, so yeah been listening to that a lot! If you want my absolute honest answer probably one of the things I have been listening to the most is Superbad by James Brown.
Jason : Always!
Akercocke are set to release their new album Renaissance In Extremis this year!