I recently found out about a terrific, yet seemingly little known band called Seal of Saturn. I reviewed their EP, “Nine Circles”, not too long ago (click here for the review) and I’ve been hooked ever since. I was lucky enough to catch up with the band’s mastermind, Mikhail, to find out a little more about Seal of Saturn and their music.
Lou: Hi Mikhail, thank you for agreeing to this interview. I’d like to start by asking a few ‘run of the mill’ questions before we go any further… So, how are you?
Mikhail: Personally, could be better, could be far worse, but right now I’m ok.
Lou: How would you describe the music that you create with Seal of Saturn?
Mikhail: Good question. To put it simply, extreme metal. You can go off into so many different pigeon-holed subgenres like saying you’re black metal, death metal, etc, but will eventually pin you down and hinder artistic creativity. I would say we’re very eclectic in the fact that anything and everything in music is fair game, for as long as it’s done according to the artists desired feel.
Lou: How long has the band been together? Who is in the band?
Mikhail: Damn, I think its been maybe since January 2008, so four and a half years? And the member of Seal of Saturn will always consist of myself, but there’s often a revolving lineup. It’s myself, my brother Nick Juarez on bass and guitar as well once in a while, Josh Greenburg whom is doing guitar and writing with me as well, Alexander Torres who also does guitar once in a while and helps write material, Frank Cantu who does live drums and occasionally have input, and of course Darren Cesca who did drum work with me on the studio recordings of “Nine Circles” and will work with me on the future recordings of other material.
Lou: On the Seal of Saturn Facebook page, you describe yourselves as “not a local band”. What does that mean? How would you describe yourselves?
Mikhail: Well, you see, we are not necessarily a “local” band at all. Not to offend anyone who refers to themselves as “local”, but that term often tends to have negative connotations. Everyone, with the exception of Darren, all live in the same area. The funniest part is that we have a larger fan base in other places besides our home town, Kankakee. For instance, this interview and site are from the UK, but we are from the USA. How local is that? We have fans all over the country and world, like in Scotland, Scandinavia, Mexico, Canada – the list goes on!
Lou: You play the guitar, bass and keyboards – as well as doing the vocals for this project. Who or what inspired/encouraged you to pick up each instrument?
Mikhail: Oh wow, that’s a hard one. I’ve always played guitar, so bass was an easy transition. I guess wanting to be a musician was the natural drive to want to learn everything. Piano and keyboards were greatly inspired by many black metal bands as well as classical composers, so that just happened because I always wanted to compose. What inspired me to get into music was Guns N’ Roses’ album, “Appetite for Destruction”. I loved the rhythms and leads and the over all mood the album put out, so that inspired me a lot. As time went on I got into heavier music like Metallica, Slayer, Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel, and it only kept getting heavier from there. I also listen to a lot of soft music as well, so I have a diverse taste in music, and as time goes, I plan to show it in future material.
Lou: Which band or musician has influenced your guitar playing style the most?
Mikhail: Trey Azagthoth, Jerry Cantrell, Kurt Cobain, Chris Broderick, James Hetfield, Erik Rutan, Nergal and Seth, Jon Nodtviedt – there are so many! Behemoth is a big influence for me and so is Dissection. I guess they’ve all had an emotional impact and kept me inspired the entire time I’ve been playing guitar. It’s really hard to point one single person or band out.
Lou: I’m a big fan of the “Nine Circles” EP. What has the general feedback been like for it?
Mikhail: I’ve shown so many people and musicians. I have not heard one bad thing about it all from anyone. The occasional “I don’t like it because I don’t really listen to metal” shit gets said, but that’s always bound to be said by someone who doesn’t listen to metal. I’ve shown members of so many large bands and have had nothing but positive reviews for it. I’m actually astounded. If it does get criticized at all, its mild and barely a critique. So in general, the feedback has been virtually all positive.
Lou: The EP has a very dark and chaotic feel to it and I was wondering if the lyrics reflect this. What sort of things are talked about in the EP’s lyrics?
Mikhail: Oh yes of course. The lyrics for the EP are very personal for me. The past 2, 3 years of my life have been very chaotic and dark. So much negativity has been building up in my personal life that it ultimately reflects in my drawings, paintings and music. The lyrics often occult references, Lovecraftian themes, the death of earth and life, and a lot about dying and transcending beyond the physical body to achieve a higher state of spirituality, to put it simply. The second track “Hymns to the Eldest Ones” references the Cthulu Mythos, which often parallel many ancient occult traditions. The track “Curse of the Revelations” is about the coming of a new beginning, a new dark aeon, by the “Beast”, To Mega Therion, returning and cleansing the world. “Abyssum Invoco Luciferi” is virtually a ritual that goes hand in hand with “The Ninth Gate”, which out of all of them, is the most personal. It is about shedding the human shell in the ultimate goal of becoming a pure being of darkness, and a being estranged from the taboos of the “human” life. This track is the most negative one in my own opinion and I hope people can tell. I feel a great desire to be unbound into chaos and it does and will always reflect in whichever medium I choose to convey it through. I cannot simply interpret the lyrics for anyone, but I can post them on the bands page for anyone to interpret freely. The greatest music is the music that the artists and fans relate to.
Lou: Is there a particular line or verse that stands out for you from the EP? If so, would you mind telling us a little bit about it?
Mikhail: I believe the three main tracks have their own line. The entire EP is almost like a concept album in that the overall concept is shedding the shell of “normality” and “mortality” exhibited by “clayborn” individuals. In “Hymns”, the lines “Flood the Cosmic Gates with your Acausal Flames, in liberation I praise your dark name..” and the lines “Wrathful body raping faith, His rise Our fucking death awaits” from “Curse” both refer to an anti-Cosmic energy or entity. The opening lines from “The Ninth Gate”, “In the darkness of thy coven…” is leading into the summary of my personal hatred for the stagnant river that is the surrounding, ignorant world. Just overall oppressive lyrical content, and very personal.
Lou: Is there a message or theme running through the EP?
Mikhail: Incipit Chaos.
Lou: How long did the EP take to write and record?
Mikhail: The oldest song is “The Ninth Gate”, which was started summer 2008. Over the past four years the material was written, revised, written, and revised again and so forth. I began talking to Darren in August or September 2010 about doing this project, and he agreed, and I just have been working with him ever since. Initial pre-production tracks were recorded in December 2010, we worked on drum tracks for about six months and then I finally recorded the guitar and vocal finals between June and September 2011. We sent the files to Darren to be recorded and they were finished in the December/January time period. Darren also mixed it and I had Erik Rutan of Hate Eternal and his studio engineer Brian Elliot at Mana Recording studios master the EP. It has been finished as of February 2012.
Lou: I understand that you don’t play live very often, but you do on occasion. How would you describe a Seal of Saturn show?
Mikhail: Very heavy. A hell of a lot of energy. Very “atmospheric” I suppose.
Lou: What bands have you shared the stage with?
Mikhail: Actually, not many at all. Watain is the only band I expect people to know.
Lou: Is there any reason why you choose not to play live very often? Do you prefer time in the studio compared to time onstage?
Mikhail: I absolutely love playing live. I wish it could happen more often, but schedule conflicts often interrupt crucial time for practice and also playing shows. Well, also having a reliable lineup is probably the most crucial point to me. You need guys that can pull everything off. There will be more shows in the future, I promise. I love studio time too. I can be a complete tyrant, but that’s because there is no such thing as compromise. I know what it takes to kick serious fucking ass, and if I feel it will be less than 100 percent, it won’t happen.
Lou: What is the metal scene like in your area? Is there a lot of support extreme metal?
Mikhail: I didn’t know there was one…. just kidding! But pretty shitty. We are all from Kankakee, and all there are are indie and hardcore bands. I’m friends with a lot of the “scene’s” crew, but not much metal. In Chicago there’s more of a metal movement, but its more or less death metal I think. I’m not too familiar with the scene up north.
Lou: Are you working on anything new at the moment? Are you able to tell us anything about it?
Mikhail: Yes I am, actually. I look at demoing new material in the coming weeks. What I can tell you is that… its pretty fucking heavy and its pretty fucking dark. No compromise.
Lou: The notion of “the music industry being dead” is one that is discussed endlessly on the internet… so we’re going to continue it very briefly here. Do you think that the music industry is dead? What are your thoughts on music piracy?
Mikhail: Oh fuck. I think it is and its not. You got so many bands playing that its completely alive, but on another hand you have competition soaring to new highs. Its a completely cut throat industry. My feelings towards piracy vary. You got bands like us that rarely play shows and could rely on using money from sales of music to fuel future projects and you got bands that tour all the time to pay for shit. Ultimately it comes down to the shows. You have to have great music and a great show to draw a crowd. Record companies don’t pay a lot either, so the music in and of itself doesn’t make the money. Its selling merch and having great shows that makes the money in my opinion. I’m not saying its right to steal music either, though. I feel that if you could buy the album, fucking do it. If you can’t, download it.. but you better go to a show and show your support.
Lou: I have “Nine Circles” digitally, but I still haven’t ‘grown out’ of my CD phase. Is it possible to buy the EP on CD? If so, where can we get it from?
Mikhail: Currently it is available upon request in a digital form. Unfortunately this is where not having a label sucks because I have virtually no way to produce physical copies and distribute them because of the money situation. I was actually considering making 50 HIGHLY limited edition copies of the EP, hand numbered with a shirt, and other merch for sale upon request as well but it won’t be cheap. Shipping to Europe is insanely high priced.
Lou: … And, for those who prefer the MP3… Where can we legally download your music from?
Mikhail: If I get requests I will send them links to download it. I am currently one of the only few who are able to distribute it that way.
Lou: Do you have any other music available? Or is “Nine Circles” Seal of Saturn’s debut release?
Mikhail: Yes, “Nine Circles” is indeed the debut release from us. That is barely a taste of what is possible.
Lou: What’s next for Seal of Saturn?
Mikhail: Anything and everything. The world is ours. The world is yours. Anything and everything is imaginable and nothing is unconquerable.
Lou: Once again, thank you for answering my questions. Do you have any messages for the readers of Loucifer Speaks?
Mikhail: Ave! Keep all your black hearts burning!!!!! We are the voice of the silence, and its only a matter of time before its heard… 218!!
All photos were taken from the band’s Facebook page. If you are the photographer and would like me to link back to your site, please get in touch.
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