Interview mit Sean Kennedy von Blood Ceremony

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BLOOD CEREMONY belong to the spearhead of occult retro rock. Hardly any other current band succeeds so well in interweaving classic rock with psychedelic, folk and a certain amount of occultism. We took the release of the new album „The Old Ways Remain“ as an opportunity to talk to guitarist Sean Kennedy about the new album, genre labels and the band’s musical diversity.

Between your last album „Lord Of Misrule“ and „The Old Ways Remain“ lie seven years. How did this long break come about?
The short answer is that we planned to record overseas in England, and the pandemic put a quick stop to that. We had flights booked for London in March 2020 right when travel warnings and talks of closing borders and shut downs all happened at once. In light of all the suffering around the world at the time it was a non-issue, but it was personally disappointing that we couldn’t move ahead with our recording plans. We wanted to return to Toerag studios where we had recorded „Lord Of Misrule“. We held on the idea of recording overseas, which is why we didn’t immediately begin looking for a suitable studio at home. Although it does seem like a long time between album, we weren’t entirely inactive. We released the „Lolly Willows“ 7”-record in 2019 and toured Europe twice in support of „Lord Of Misrule“. We played a couple of headline shows in Greece in early 2019, followed by a UK/Ireland tour with Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats, which was a great run of shows.

The album title is a quote from your song „Witchwood“. Why did you decide to use this quote from this song?
I originally wanted to call the album „Widdershins“, but the rest of the band wasn’t sure so we settled on „The Old Ways Remain“. It was the title we all liked. With it being our fifth album, we felt it was time to start referencing our own work.

Old Ways Remain“ was the first album you produced yourselves. How did it come about?
We’ve always arranged our own material, with the exception of a few tracks from „Lord Of Misrule“, where Liam Watson helped us prune some parts. But we’ve always had a „rock“ engineer in our corner that we trusted to get the right tones. With this album, we knew what we wanted, and for the most part, how to achieve it so we just needed an affordable place with some key gear, like a working Leslie speaker, Studer tape machines, and a classic-sounding mixing desk. We brought friend and ally Paul Kehayas to help us direct the show while we were on the floor playing the songs. We liked and got along with the engineer, Chris Snow, who was as excited as us to use all the classic gear we could so it was a good experience.

Also, your new album is released again via Rise Above Records, such a long-lasting collaboration is rather rare. Why have you been loyal to the label since the beginning of your career?
Lee Dorrian has been a big supporter of ours and trusts us to get on with the work of making our own albums. We share a common aesthetic with the label and are friendly and have toured with many of the Rise Above bands, so it’s been a good home for us for these records.

Do you have a favorite song on the album? If yes, why?
It’s hard to choose a favourite but I’m really happy with how „Eugenie“ turned out. The song began with a riff that Lucas brought to the rehearsal space and it just kept getting stranger and stranger.

Musically, you sound more diverse than ever this time, especially thanks to songs like „Hecate“ or „Powers Of Darkness“. Which influences have played a role in the songwriting this time?
Alia wrote „Hecate“ and we can always count on her to provide some dark, ‘60s-style pop tracks. She and I collaborated on „Powers Of Darkness“ and it just came out as a really direct and simple track. I like the dynamic of having dark lyrics with lighter, catchier music. Read the fine print, and they’re still very much doomy tracks! We were really feeling „Powers Of Darkness“ so we released a music video for it last year.

With Alia you have a studied music ethnologist in the band. How does that influence the way you write songs?
I’m not sure it does, really. Most of our songs are written in the classic rock idiom, which is very much a western thing which has spread out to different countries since the 1960s pop music explosion. Alia has a great ear and if she hears something that’s not quite right she can catch it and we can fix it in the early stages of a song. Alia, Lucas, and Mike have all studied music so there’s a lot of talent and support in the band when a new song idea is brought in.

With „Mossy Wood“ you have a song on the album that was not written by you, but by Amy Bowles. Can you tell us something about the song?
Amy and I used to play in a Toronto-based group called Hollow Earth. It was a folk-psychedelic group (a local paper called it “Hobbit Rock”) that went through a number of line-up changes. Amy had written this great folk-rock song that never saw the light of day. Our band liked it and Lucas came up with a new arrangement for it that we thought sounded great. Amy’s from the west country in England, and „Mossy Wood“ feels like it was tapped directly from Glastonbury Tor.

You are known for getting ideas for your song lyrics from classic horror movies, books and legends. For example, the closing track refers to „The Song Of The Morrow“ by Robert Louis Stevenson. What other stories have inspired you this time?
„The Song Of The Morrow“ by Stevenson was a great jumping off point for a lot of the material, including the track „Widdershins“. The Old Ways Remain is certainly not a concept album, but there are threads of this story that run through it. On the lighter side, „Eugenie“ was the result of re-watching Jess Franco’s „Eugenie de Sade“, which is a nasty little exploitation flick starring Soledad Miranda. „Lolly Willows“ was inspired by the novel of the same name by Sylvia Townsend Warner. It’s a great book about a spinster who ends up being courted by the devil, even though she finds the climactic black mass a little dull. It’s kind of like „A Room of One’s Own“ but with Satan.

You have been successfully active for over 15 years now and can thus be considered among the pioneers of the new wave of occult rock/retro rock. Do you sometimes feel a bit proud about having paved the way for many younger bands?
I think rock music’s a continuing evolution and I get excited whenever I hear something new, or even a unique take on an older sound. If we’ve played even a small part in inspiring someone to pick up an instrument and make noise with it then that makes me happy.

Speaking of the genre labels „retro rock“ or „occult rock“: Do you feel constricted by these labels? As „The Old Ways Remain“ impressively proves, you have much more influences than just classic rock.
We’re just continuing to do what it is that we do. When we produce a new album, we always try and make it better than our last, so in that sense, we’re not always paying attention to what’s going on in the wider world of rock, or occult rock for that matter. If we like the sound of something, we’ll add it into the mix, and generally don’t worry about frustrating people’s expectations. If we like the sound of something, we trust the audience will like it too. It’s important for us that our songs have personality and life in them.

How has the new material been received live by the fans so far?
It seems to have gone over well. We took more of a classic rock approach to the production so it may not be as „heavy“ as a lot of today’s bands, but I was getting tired of hearing so many albums with massive low-end. We got a really weird drum sound for „The Old Ways Remain“ – more of a ‘60s jazz drum sound than what you’re likely to hear today – and just went with it, stacking vintage guitar tones and other sounds.

Do you have any other tour dates planned for Germany in the future?
We played Desertfest Berlin in May 2023, and it was a lot of fun. Hopefully we’ll get back to Germany before too long.

Finally, the traditional Metal1 brainstorming. What is the first thing that comes to your mind for the following terms:
England: My wife!
Eurovision Song Contest: Will Ferrell (we don’t get Eurovision in Canada)!
The Last Of Us: Survival
French Fries: Mayo


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