Spanish metal four-piece Khmer launched their album Larga Sombra is August 2017 (reviewed here).
In an interview for Vinyl Sphere, drummer Ivan Ferro talks about what it took to come up with this record, the creative process, gear, technology, and more.
Describe the musical vision propelling your recent album Larga Sombra.
Music is expression. 4 people standing and feelling together, even in distance, expressing themselves via some instruments, same songs would sound different played by different ones. I think people working on this album are passion, are epic, generous, beautiful, easy and also complex, old enough to skip fears but young enough to look for their own paths. I think Larga Sombra is just us in a musical context in a determined moment. Love my people, love this album.
What made this the right time to pursue that vision?
Just life… 🙂
Tell me about what you’re communicating with the album cover. The vinyl edition of the album showcases the album art in all its glory. Who stands behind the artwork?
Mario Vaises sings, writes the lyrics and makes the artworks since the first day, if you check every release you will see a story, a connection, this album is a new chapter, divided in more chapters. Basically, Larga Sombra is all that shit that chases you in life, and how do you get to leave it behind.
How do you think the music interacts or reflects on the themes you’re touching on in this album?
Riffs and songs, i mean the music, are written first, I know Mario and he knows me, I guess Mario gets touched by a melody and he uses those feelings to approach the themes, when he needs a concrete part I work for him, that’s what everyone here does, contruibuting to finalize a song, guitar performance changes depending on what Michel plays on drums too, he’s so sanguineous that seems he robs your spirit taking you where he wants… Every step brings a new feeling, music affects to themes, themes affects to music.
What was the creative process for Larga Sombra like?
We live separated, so we exchanged ideas through the net, worked at our cities and spaces at first, once the stuff seemed to work out good we met to have a practice and see what happened, nothing too tight, but fresh and easy, and then we start with the studio process, where a main idea uses to change, we’re not closed to change the beat, tempo, or even riffing, to add something or take something out… We try to get a fresh recording, creating something new at the end of the chain.
Usually after recording, we have to learn again the songs…even in live concerts, somethimes we change or improvise some things… as we don’t almost practice. And that’s cool…
We write, record, mix, and finally even mastered all. And as you know, design is in our hands too.
By my part, I think it could be nice to work with “external people”, that could give us a different visión of our own work, what sometimes is missed when you are doing everything, loosing perspectives, but… No doubts that working in this way, we feel the record as something totally personal and even artisanal.
Speaking of the album’s creative process, provide some insight into it. How did you document the music while it was being formulated?
I run this little studio (Kollapse), so I track there ideas I save from some other crappy riffs, it’s a selection… I use to program also drums to check how songs are gonna work, when I see some light on it I share it with the others, and then everyone talk and start to work… I must say that we are lucky, as everyone use to respect other’s work, even when they need a change… It’s funny to listen sometimes to the original ideas, first practices, etc. Quite different sometimes from the last mixes.
Is the dynamic flow of the pieces carefully architected?
Totally. It’s important to know what you want from the listener, a short album is not working like a long one, it’s important not to stress the listeners, or let them get asleep… For me, an album is like a movie. And it takes time to reach the point you wish. Is even more important to know your partner skills, if you’re writting you should’t do it in the same way if you play with some or others… You need to know their skills and thinkings, to push them to the limits, up… Or down, so they can do the same with you. Workflow is the most important. Too many great bands have sunk just because a wrong attitude, but nobody said it was easy.
Did the environment in any way influence the vibe the album transcends?
Well… 3 of us are from the north. Forest, mountains, nature, cold and rain, with a sad or melancholic point… Also traditional music is folk, plenty of those triplet tempos and beats… A lot of death / crust / punk / metal bands with these characteristics have grown in this area… So by my part, when writting, I think that yes, I’m so influenced by my natural enviroment, but not only on this álbum, which was written during my last times there in Madrid, recorded and mixed later here in Lugo.
How does Larga Sombra album compare to your previous releases?
This album is the first one thought and done as a LP, although it doesn’t last more than 25 minutes, so we gave more importance to every part of it. From music to design. The previous ones were splits, so we hadn’t the chance to work on a concept completely according to what we wanted, and to be honest, I think we are still on the way. Also this band started with a different people, so it can’t be the same, and it started just for fun, no plans for future, but offers for splits came soon and we wanted to take part on them instantly. For Larga Sombra we said “no” to some of them, fucusing on employing more time for an entire album, and a whole concept. Moreover, after some years releasing and touring, for this record we got more support and promo from labels, media and listeners themselves. In the end, what we got on this release, a more solid record, plus a bit experimental, more fun, and at the same time darker and more aggressive. Accompanied by a lot of visual information in the form of beautiful sober art.
Tell me about the gear you used for creating Larga Sombra. How did you achieve all these tones?
Gibson and Ltd Baritone guitars for a perfect tuning, with EMG pickups, for a metal tone are always great, played through different amps, Bogner, Mesaboogie, Orange and Marshall, different takes, different mixes to get the tone and textures. A Jazzbass through an OR120. Both guitars and bass amps, were pushed and a bit broken by distortion and overdrive pedals, also fuzzes…and other common Fx. Drums, we used a Gretsch New Classic Maple, with coated heads, i love these to get a rocking sound on toms, and paste pretty cool in this kind of hardcore productions. A Ludwig Vistalite snare that sound huge, so much that snr mics were one hand and a half to get enough control avoiding clipping. A mix of Zildjian, Sabian and Meinl cymbals set. Vocals are natural, just some eq, revbs and dlys here and there, tracked through a tube preamp, no deessers or limiters, pushing the signal to the limit , even clipping sometimes to get exactly that nasty high pitched sound we love for Khmer. I hate clipping but, as this is our band we decided to sacrifice this in favor of vocals tone…what´s done is done.
Speaking of gear, what is your view on technology in music?
I think is great in a creative process, also in a studio enviroment to achieve concrete results faster, mainly to get the best possible experience for the listener. You choose how to use it.
What is your favourite piece of gear or the one that makes your life easier?
Anything working out properly and giving a good feedback could have a place, it’s hard to say, I guess then my ears and a tuner, hehe. But if i had to mention one device I always like, for instace with guits, could be the Full drive 2 – Mosfet from Fulltone.
Which bands or artists influence your work?
Many more than I can even remember, today I’ve been listening to Bad Religion, yesterday Wolves in the Throne Room, it could be At The Drive In or At The Gates too… And I love Breach, Cult of Luna and this project called Terra Tenebrosa… Paco de Lucia has been there for me many years ago too.
Do you see your music as serving a purpose beyond music?
Yes, we use to send part of the money got with the band or merch to support social causes, related with diseases, suffering, migration, wars, animal liberation and care… culture should serve for this, and we use Khmer as a tool for this purpose, for us it gives sense also to the fact of manufacturing plastic in the form of records or any other ítem we are selling to keep this project growing.
How do you see your music evolving in the future?
We are writting new stuff right now, in a very more experimental way, as a necessity, we are trying different things, and the funnier will be to make all fit without loosing the essence.
What advice might you have for other musicians, whether from a creative or business perspective?
This is difficult, and i´m not sure to be the best one to give advices, each person is different, lives and feels different, so…any one and any band has different needs and targets…i would say not to forget that noone has to do nothing for you that you should do for yourself, trust and be honest to yourself first. Sometimes less is more…and mainly enjoy.
With the album out, what else do you have in the pipeline?
We are planning shows and tours for the next years already, while shapping conceps for the next álbum. As i said, we live separated and we need to plan everything with time.
Follow Khmer on Facebook.
Cover photo: Coral Devesa