Have any of you played in other bands?
Empyrean Asunder is a project band with constantly revolving members. Every album or two most of the lineup changes and a new sound is created. There have been close to 20 different musicians contributing to Empyrean Asunder. With that being said there are a few individuals who have appeared on multiple versions of Empyrean Asunder and various other bands of mine.
I’m currently in The Promise Of Plague (industrial black metal) and Märcoda (electro), ex-Assisting Sorrow (death metal), ex-Fatal Step (metal), ex-Alice In The Aftermath (electro-alternative), ex-Absence of Faith (industrial), ex-Coronach (black metal) to name a few.
Chris Dodd: Märcoda, Caducus (metal), ex-Alice In The Aftermath
Chris Dalton: The Promise of Plague, ex-Psychopathy (horror metal)
Jim Higgins: The Promise of Plague, ex-Assisting Sorrow, ex-Coronach, ex-Abominant, ex-Astrum to name a few
Olivia Hertog-Ellis, the most recent vocalist, has only appeared in Empyrean Asunder. Hopefully she finds another band to work with soon. I’d love to hear more from her.
How is it that you started playing music? I was raised by my mother, grandparents and 2 aunts. It was a very diverse home with each individual deeply moved by a particular genre. From an early age I was introduced and influenced by a diverse range of sounds. It is this diversity of sound that gave birth to my love of music and my desire to merge many musical genres into one cohesive element.
What are your names? / Who plays what? / How old are you? The most recent incarnation of Empyrean Asunder features Olivia Hertog-Ellis (vocals) – 23yr, Chris Dodd (bass) – 34yr, Quentin Lee (guitar) 27yr, Andy Feldman (drums) 37yr, and myself, Jerry Barksdale (guitars,electronics) – 39yr.
Did you make music even when you were young? I started playing guitar at 10, I wasn’t very good…I’m still not good but I was releasing albums and on stage regularly as a teenager.
Where are you from? We’re all based in or around Louisville, Kentucky USA.
What year did the band form? The original Empyrean Asunder formed in 1998. The newest incarnation formed in 2013
What's your style of genre? Originally we were atmospheric melodic industrial black metal and have reshaped our sound every few albums. Currently the sound can best be described as electro-industrial metal but really it’s a blend of so many musical genres that I find it hard to categorize.
What inspires you?
I’m not really sure. In music I guess I’m mostly inspired by an honest and sincere song, the type where you can actually feel the emotion. I think most recently the song “The Exorcist” by Daniel
Cavanagh of Anathema and much of the album “Saved By The Great Yellow Bird” by S.A. Garrison & D.Luke (folk/bluegrass).
How often and where do you rehearse? We are currently in between albums and members. I have a few ideas for the next version of Empyrean Asunder but right now they are just faint ideas I’m imagining something much darker. Doom metal but electronic, electro-doom? I’m not sure right now but I feel that will be the direction I’m heading. I’m finishing up an album with The Promise of Plague, once that’s completed I’ll solidify the next version of Empyrean Asunder.
How have you developed since you started with the music? Empyrean Asunder has existed for the better part of my life. It’s seen me grow from an angry bitter teenager into an equally angry and bitter old man.
Do you have other interests of work outside the band? I’m a father and a microbiologist. I hike/kayak/camp a lot and spend as much time as possible outside. If the weather is shit you’ll find me at a local coffee house reading.
Are you looking for a booking agency, and what are your thoughts around that? I’m not interested in touring at all. I’m not cut out for that lifestyle. I will consider a rare show from time to time but it’s certainly not my focus.
Are you looking for a label, and what are your thoughts around that? I’ve attempted label representation twice, I think mostly to satisfy the other musicians in the band and each time I deeply regretted following that path. I hate the concept of music as product and merchandise. All of my music is available for free and I hope to keep it that way.
What made you decide to make this music? I had to. It’s impulse. I’m a reluctant artist, if I had the choice I’m not sure I would choose this.
What are your songs about? The prevailing theme of Empyrean Asunder has always been focused around my attempt at making sense of life and the world around me, wherever I may be at that particular moment. The lyrics offer a deeper reflection of my personal life and the choices that I’ve made. The name itself, Empyrean Asunder, loosely means “heaven divided”. I imagine the cartoons I watched as a kid where the character had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other and they fight to gain control over his decisions. Unfortunately in my life the devil on my shoulder has often been the victor.
Who does the composing and writes the lyrics? For the most part I write everything and then the other musicians will take what I write and add their on influence to the sound. It’s a very haphazard mixing of ideas and more often than not the final product reflects this but I think it’s better because of it. You certainly hear more of their influence during live shows, with the exception of vocals the recorded material is mostly me.
Do you start with the music or the lyrics? I generally write and record the entire song in one sitting. I sit down, hit the record button, and when I stand up the song is finished, and the lyrics are usually written in this session as well. It happens all at once. I think the more you edit a song, the more you tweak it and produce it the more emotion you lose. With each edit and each retake you lose a bit of that original intent so I try to keep it as raw and pure as possible. This often leaves the songs a bit sloppy but it captures my initial emotion as it happens.
Do you compose in a certain environment? I write and record everything in my bedroom on a cheap ass computer and an even cheaper soundcard. It’s a very low-fi recording environment.
Have you done any covers live? Bloodhound Gang “The Ballad of Chasey Lain”, Miley Cyrus “See You Again”, Lady Gaga “Poker Face”, Iron Maiden “The Trooper”, Zager And Evans “2525”, Coroner “Masked Jackal”, Judas Priest “Painkiller”, Venom “Warhead”, Billy Idol “White Wedding”. There’s plenty more but that’s all I can recall at the moment.
What language do you sing in? English.
What are the least and most people to attend one of your gigs? With Empyrean Asunder we’ve played in front of everything from 10-5000 people. One of my previous bands Coronach actually played a show for one single person. She stood there the entire set. I think she wanted to leave but was too uncomfortable and embarrassed to do so. I felt bad for her.
What ages are most of your concert attendants? It’s a pretty wide range. We always had a good mix in the crowd but our typical fan was late teens and early 20’s.
Do you always play the same songs live, or do you vary? We have our staple songs that are in constant rotation, we’ll add new songs as we write them. More often than not we fall back on our more popular and energetic songs.
Do you have a regular place you play live often? Mostly in the Midwest of America. We’ll travel to Chicago, St. Louis, a few different cities in Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee. Most of our gigs are local to Kentucky.
What was your first gig like?
It was with a band called Assisting Sorrow. I was underage and the club kicked me out before we took the stage so I had the guitarist set up my bass rig, turn it on, and as soon as the lights went down I ran as fast as I could through the door, past security and jumped on stage. I was going to
play until they physically threw me out of the club. They were kind enough to wait until after the set to throw me out.
What was your latest gig? One of my all-time favorite bands Ominous Erotica had a reunion show and needed a keyboardist. The crowd was great but the stage sound was terrible. It was one of the most difficult shows I’ve ever played. The speakers sounded like someone was beatboxing in my ear..just noisy distorted puffs of air. I could barely make out what song was playing let alone which riff we were on. I fumbled my way through it.
Have you had to cancel a gig? We’ve canceled some but would try our best to work it out. Our vocalist had a vacation planned to Alaska on the same day that we were playing with The Birthday Massacre so we filmed him singing along to all of the songs. We filled the stage with as many TV’s as we could bring and just played his face on the tvs during the set. It went over well…we briefly considered replacing him with those tvs!
When did you start to sell merchandise, and what do you have for sale? We’re sold out of most of the merch. We have a few copies of a single that was released and I think a few shirts. Since the lineup and sound changes often we print enough to last from one era to the next.
Where can people buy your merchandise? Right now the only way to get anything from me is to directly message me. We had some stuff on our bandcamp for sell but again most of it has since sold out.
What do you think about people downloading music instead of buying records now a days? I completely support it. Physical media is obsolete. With the exception of collectors there really is no need for physical product. I’m also philosophically against the concept of art as merchandise. Of course I offer physical cds as some people prefer that medium and if that’s the case I sell it at cost. I don’t really care to make a single dime off of anyone. For everyone else though every album is available for free download.
How do you think the music industry have changed because of this? I hope it destroys the industry. Music and Industry are two words that shouldn’t exist together.
What do you think of my work? I read through a bunch of your interviews when you first messaged me.
How do you think and know that this interview will help you in the music business? Maybe someone will check out my music and appreciate it. I’m not really looking for anything beyond that.
Do you have any role models or idols? I don’t really. I mean there are plenty of people that I respect and whose work rather it be in music, literature, science or philosophy I appreciate but there is a fundamental flaw in every person, idea and movement that to hold any one thing in esteem is certain to disappoint. I’m not really into the whole hero worship thing.
Why do you think that they exist? I think idols exist because many people need something bigger than themselves. Heros, myths, religions, celebrities, politics, movements…people need these things to give meaning to their own lives. Everyone is searching for definition and will look anywhere and everywhere to find it.
Is it easier to find inspiration from older bands, or bands that are more active today? Depending on the genre. I prefer 80’s Oi, 90’s black metal, 00’s EBM, and 10’s electronic music (retro synth wave and Scandinavian electro mostly)
What have been your biggest obstacles? There’s been many. In music it’s finding new sounds and ideas. I hate having multiple albums that sound the same. I think too many bands become stale and uninspiring after a few releases. They find “their” sound and stick with it, they may master that sound but it becomes boring and predictable.
What advice would you give other bands or artists? I wouldn’t. It’s your music, your art. Let it be a personal reflection, do it your way without regard for the opinions of others.
How do you get psyched for a gig? I don’t really. By the time everything is set up and I’ve had 100 fights with the sound guy during sound check I’m just ready to play and go home. I think the appeal to play live was lost years ago. I still love a one off show but anything more than that is a hassle.
Do you have any new material? I’m in the studio now finishing up The Promise of Plague and I have a few ideas down for the next Empyrean Asunder but no clear direction.
What are your web sites?
www.facebook.com/empyreanasunder | empyreanasunder.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/thepromiseofplague | thepromiseofplague.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/marcodamusic | marcoda.bandcamp.com
How can people reach? The easiest way is to email me directly at email@example.com I also respond to fb messages directly from the artist page but sometimes those messages go unnoticed.
What are your plans for the future? In music, just to keep releasing albums. I’ve slowed down my writing process a bit the last few years to focus on real life but I’m sure I’ll still manage a few albums here and there.