One defining feature of Esoteric's music for me is that it lends itself very readily to intense visual imagery, and seems almost hallucinogenic. Is this something you strive for, do you find yourselves summoning images in your head when writing/performing?
Yes, it is often the mental images and thoughts/emotions, etc. that we see within our minds that are then transposed into the music, as a medium to express what is within our minds. To us it is natural to put such imagery into the music and it happens quite subconsciously. Hallucinogens have always played some part in the creation of our music. We have had some very intense visual and mental experiences through combining drugs with the creation and improvisation of our music.
Are Esoteric still looking for guitarists and a drummer? How difficult is it to find new musicians that really suit the requirements of the band - and what are those requirements?
We will carry on working with Keith York on the recording side until such a time that we find someone else who is at least as inspiring, if not as technically perfect. Keith is the first drummer we've worked with whose musicianship has been more than adequate. The others were always limiting our ideas and didn't lend to the music in the way we wanted the drums to work. We're not really looking for a guitarist as such because three of us already play the guitar. If a suitable guitarist did come along then it would allow us to play live more easily because then Gordon can play the drums and it would allow him to concentrate on that. It's always very difficult for us to find new members. We're pretty isolated people, difficult to get on with, and so it's both hard for us to find people interested and even harder for us to find them suitable. It's not the kind of music many musicians would want to play. Drummers have always found it very difficult to play. The immediate requirements are to have an intense empathy for the music we create, to be able to add to the evocation of that music and also to be able to play it well. I guess those are the main requirements, though it is also necessary to be very open-minded within the music, not being afraid to experiment and explore.
Is Esoteric more than just a musical entity to you?
Yes, in the sense that ESOTERIC is the vehicle for which we express the contents of our minds. Therefore it is the sum of parts of our thoughts, mental processes, experiences and all that is within, to the very deepest of levels. Hence the name ESOTERIC. It is the medium for the most extreme parts of our thoughts, our darker sides and our emotions. To us, it is not only a musical thing, it is just something that we do, and could not not do. It is on a greater level than what one might usually associate the common denominations of music, for example, entertainment, love, ambiance, relaxation, or whatever a type of music usually tries to achieve. Our music isn't trying to achieve anything. It exists. Music is commonly a form of communication, ours is an exorcism, a method of equilibrium.
Your latest release 'Metamorphogenesis' is layered with effects and production. Some have suggested that this compromises the purity of the music's brutality. How do you respond to this?
The effects and production are part of the brutality as we've enhanced the parts as a whole rather than just created layers. The effects cast emotions and atmospheres because they are written with the music that it aims to enhance and evoke. It is not the afterthought, but often the sounds themselves which determine and influence the writing of the music. It is also because we take the creative element into the studio as well. Where most bands rely on engineers for the effects and advice, we've always dealt with that ourselves. We create this music for ourselves, so the opinions of others really have no bearing on whatever direction our music might take. We have always made intense music. It has always been brutal in places, but not throughout. Some of the sound effects are brutal, where intended. The effects are as important in the overall atmosphere and emotion within the music as the "notation", chords or riffs of the "music" itself. The music is not a question of parts, it is the sum of the whole. Previous releases might have had lesser balanced mixes, or less parts in total, because the progression wasn't there, the time or budget wasn't there, and mainly because that was where we were at that point in time. "Metamorphogenesis" was where we were at that point of time and future recordings will be where we are at those points in time. The music is still fucking heavy as it always has been. It has always been diverse in atmosphere, not always brutal all of the time. Every mix is a compromise, and in order to add new ideas, change must occur. Anyone who wants the same shit on each release might as well carry on listening to the same old albums.
It strikes me that Esoteric are probably not the kind of band who assimilate influences from existing bands and styles. Is that fair? The only other bands I can think of listening to 'Metamorphogenesis' are early Swans, Deinonychus, and Corrupted. Do these names mean anything to you?
We don't take influences from other bands. It's something that we have always maintained, and something I have touched upon in earlier questions. Our influences have never been musical, only mental. From within. We don't own any music of those bands. We had a SWANS tape once, but I don't think we paid it much attention. We usually try and find out what a band sounds like after any comparisons, to see if we like them. We're often disappointed. Our idea of music determines the bands we listen to rather than the bands we listen to influencing the music we create.
On a related note, do you see Esoteric fitting into any particular scene?
Most reviewers/interviewers have commented that we are hard to categorise. We have never really felt as though we were part of a scene, but of course any coverage in any form of media is going to mean that some form of categorisation will be used. It wont make any difference to what we create so I guess that is what is important. We tend to be lumped in with other extreme forms of music, which seems fair on a general level. So long as no direct comparisons are made, it tends not to bother us. We have been compared to quite a few bands, of various styles and "categories". The media often look to such ways in order to help describe a band. If they have no higher means of being understood then it is up to them to use whatever means they feel necessary. Sadly, in many cases such comparisons between bands stand because there is a direct link through some means of plagiarism.
I've heard (but alas never witnessed) that Esoteric have a fearsome live reputation. How often do you play gigs, and what is the reaction like?
We used to play live more often when the line-up was more complete. We now need more musicians in order to recreate the music in the live environment. The crowds reaction has been varied. I don't think that very many people understand what's happening if they hear us live for the first time without having heard us previously. We have managed to clear some places, and others were empty to begin with. We have had a few good reactions, mainly in Germany, where the audience seems more open to something new. We haven't played many gigs in total, and we thought that we had more of a reputation for not playing live.