Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Interview: Twilight Fauna Gets Folksy

There's an artist in the hills of the Appalachian Mountains.

He and I have exchanged many messages on twitter, but I honestly can't say I know a whole lot about the man himself.

We're about 2 months away from the release of his first music, a split with Jennifer Christensen.

It seems like it's high time that this man got a little light shined his way.

Even on twitter, he's fairly incognito. So, without much further ado, let's delve into the world of  the master of Atmospheric Folk/Black Metal From Appalachia, Twilight Fauna.

Glacially Musical: Thank you for taking some time out of your day to answer some silly questions. Please tell me a bit about yourself?Twilight Fauna: Thank you for taking the time to ask them. I'm Paul Ravenwood. 

I'm the sole person behind Twilight Fauna. I also have a neofolk band Green Elder and run Ravenwood Recordings. 

GM: What happened that made you think, damn, I need to record some music?

TF: I've been involved with music in some way for as long as I can remember. 

My parents were huge Southern rock fans so I grew up going to concerts, started playing instruments when I was around 12. I recorded an album in a traditional all analog studio when I was around 16, and it all grew from there. 

I always wrote and recorded songs but in my mid 20s I really started getting serious in terms of songwriting. That's when Twilight Fauna developed and even in the early stages of the project it felt like this was the story I wanted to tell. 

GM: If you had to choose, what do you think the five most important albums ever recorded are?

TF: Oh wow, that's a hard question. 

For me personally in terms of my own development, it would have to be:

1. Judas Priest - Sad Wings of Destiny, this is the first real metal album I heard when I really young. I immediately fell in love with the genre and have remained a huge fan of their early work. 

2. Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger, the first black metal album I heard 

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd - Second Helping, I know this pick won't be popular with the some of the metal crowd but it's really the first musical memory that sticks with me. 

My dad and I would ride through the mountains and this cassette was always blaring from the radio. It made me appreciate rock music in general I think. 

4. Sarah Ogan Gunning - A Girl of Constant Sorrow. This is traditional Appalachian music that is purely honestly to her experiences living in the mountains. 

It wasn't made to sell records, it was meant to document her story and those around her. It's been hugely influential to me in terms of using music as a medium to tell stories. 

5. The Ruins of Beverast - Rain upon the Impure, this is probably my all time favorite black metal album. 

It has an otherworldly atmosphere. It transports you to another place. 

And I know you said 5 but I would be remiss if I didn't mention Hammerheart by Bathory. I've been listening to that album going on 15 years now, hugely influential. 

Thinking about the albums I've chosen, that's a pretty good cross section of my influences. If you were to smash these 6 albums together, I like to think you'd end up with something similar to Twilight Fauna. 

GM: Tell me about your process. How do you write a song?

TF: I usually start out on acoustic guitar. Especially with the more ambient sections of my music, it's important to me that I retain some form of melody, otherwise it could get to the point of being noise in places. 

I want to write beautiful but harsh music, writing riffs on an acoustic guitar means I can't use a bunch of reverb and distortion as a crutch. From there all the other instruments gets added. 

Here lately I've switched off and have been beginning with banjo and mountain dulcimer quite a bit which you'll hear in future recordings.

GM: Metal has been segregated into subgenres and lots of people are really serious about them. Tell me about your description, "atmospheric folk black metal."

TF: I always struggle with how to categorize my music. 

It doesn't fit into a specific box which I like because it means I'm not ripping off some established band. It continues to evolve as I explore new directions. I've heard it called all sorts of things, "blackened folk, atmospheric black metal, black ambient." 

Or people will add post before it, and gaze after, as in post-black metal or black gaze. The way I look at it, Twilight Fauna is a combination of 3 genres that I love: black metal, Appalachian folk, and ambient post rock. 

Some releases are more in one direction than the other, I'm constantly trying to balance between those three. But I'm not so much concerned with what people call it as I am whether or not they're moved by it. 

GM: How did you decide to do a split with Jennifer Christensen?TF: I have a huge amount of respect for Jennifer's work. 

Between the various projects she is involved in (Møllehøj, Disemballerina, Sadhaka), her body of work is staggering. So when I was thinking of who to do a split 7" with, it just sort of came together. 

Originally it was going to be a split with Møllehøj but as Jennifer started writing it came out as something new. When honest music naturally flows from a person that's when really powerful music happens. 

Her track came out as something more classically based, and I've never been one to divide music up by genre. I always try to push genre limitations, and the pairing of these tracks, which match tone and content wise but are completely different genre wise, it feels like a real accomplishment. 

I can't wait for people to get their hands on the vinyl. It's been a year in the making.

GM: When are we going to get a proper full length?

TF: Well the bulk of this year has been focused on getting the split out, but I did have a full length come out back in the summer. 

It came out as a digipack CD (via Acephale Winter Productions) and Sylvan Screams Analog just put out the cassette version. I guess I've technically had 5 full lengths but if I'm honest, the first 3 were really demos. 

If people are digging through my back catalog, I suggest starting with Hymns of a Forgotten Homeland that came out on 12" vinyl last year. To me that is the first true full length where I achieved the sound I was going for. 

GM: Who would be your musical hero?TF: I try not to idolize people but I guess it would probably be Quorthon of Bathory. 

He seemed to constantly evolve his sound. He did his own thing over the course of 20 years, exploring different genres and released album after album of quality work. I highly respect that. 

GM: What kinds of things keep you busy when you're not making music?

TF: I live in the mountains so I do a lot of hiking. I write a lot of my material out on the trails. Other than that, I live a pretty quiet life really. 

I spend a lot of time with family and friends. Community is incredibly important to me.

GM: What else should we know about you?
TF: I think we've covered most of it. If you are interested in hearing my work it's all up at twilightfauna.bandcamp.com & greenelder.bandcamp.com.

I do it all myself and fund a lot of my own releases so all support is appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today.    

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