I admit it, it has taken way too long to finish this piece. When this interview took place, it was still a week or so until the release of “Doom Decimation”. Some reviews were already out there, does Procession’s main man Felipe care about what the reviewers think about the album?
– Does anyone read reviews anymore? It seems like people sitting at home have become the opinionated reviewers. They listen to one or two songs online, and then think they can judge an album without holding it in their hands. I don’t really know if reviews are that important anymore, I think it’s cool to gather a few and use them as some kind of presentation of your band. Reviews can also be good because they can have people talking about an album before the actual release. On the other hand, people already care too much about the opinions of other people. I like to think that when “Doom Decimation” is out, people that I care about, people that I know have followed the development of Procession, will at least borrow the album from somebody, and do things the old school way; spend some time with it, check the lyrics and then have an opinion on the album.
Last time we spoke, we agreed that “To Reap Heavens Apart” was the perfect Procession-album. So how do you approach the follow up album to something as good and as critically acclaimed as that one was?
– I think “Doom Decimation” is just as good as “To Reap Heavens Apart” was, so why not having two perfect ones? Both records are connected in a way. I grew up with idea to be able to go out and face life, and to have a solid, inner background. “To Reap Heavens Apart” is a very internal album that speaks about symbols about self development. It’s like an internal journey, and I think this is reflected pretty well in the music as well as the lyrics; destroy yourself to be born again in one way. On this second album we are done with that process, and go out and see what this world is all about. It’s just a natural second step, I think the next one will be more complicated. What will be the third step? What’s after life? What’s after this doom decimation? It’s cool that we’re living the times we are living, because they are very inspiring. As long as you are aware and keep looking around at thing, you get inspiration from everything. The last album was perfect for the moment it was released, this new one is perfect right now.
Felipe already told me in the past that “Procession is a heavy metal band playing doom”. For this new album, I think this might be more valid than ever.
– I always saw doom metal in the same way the bands in the eighties saw it, never forgetting that you are a heavy metal band. You can hear it in Solitude Aeturnus in the late eighties, or in Candlesmass on an album like “Tales Of Creation”. The heavy metal factor is there. I think doom metal is more of an attitude or an approach, a quite pessimistic one. I would say 99 percent pessimism and 1 percent hope, just so the listener doesn’t commit suicide. Haha! You can also see the pattern in many bands during the nineties. I am speaking about the survivors of the Maryland scene like Revelation, Iron Man or Unorthodox. If you listen to the riffs, there is a lot of seventies heavy metal in there, like Judas Priest and Uriah Heep. Unfortunately the scene also produced elements that made doom metal sounding the same, uninteresting and repetitive with bands copying each other. Why more of the same, when you can actually go your own way? I think it’s essential to stay interesting, both for yourself as well as for the people that appreciate doom in the same way as yourself. And of course, you need to remember that you are a metal band.
From what I’ve read, the track “Lonely Are The Ways of A Stranger” was very important for paving out the direction of the new album. According to Felipe he came up with half the song just a few weeks after “To Reap Heavens Apart” was recorded.
– Some of the riffs were supposed to be part of “To Reap Heavens Apart”. It’s a song that speaks about this warrior or conjurer-character that goes out and realizes there is a doom decimation happening. So on this new album, “Lonely Are The Ways Of A Stranger” is the song that brings back this character that was on the album before. I think that’s the connection in a way. Music wise it’s a pretty typical Procession-song, with these melodies and how I grant Jonas room to do his thing.
Speaking about Jonas, how involved have he and the other guys been in the creative process this time around?
– I made like 95 percent of the album this time, mostly because we are all living in different countries. The last two years have been…You know, from not having an album at all to the point were suddenly the songs start popping up, along with the concept and the images. I am not the kind of guy that can sit down and record on my computer. I never learnt it, and I don’t think I ever will. I like to try to have effective musicians and friends with me while working in the rehearsal room. Something along the lines of: Here is a riff. What can you do with it? I really trusted the other guys, and they trusted me. The whole album thing was a big project, nothing was written down, it was like: Lets go to Chile, rehearse and learn it down there.
Let’s get back to the song “Lonely Are The Ways Of A Stranger” for a little while. How do you feel about it being released as a single before the album is out, when the “Doom Decimation”, as all your previous ones, is clearly made to be enjoyed as an entity?
– Actually it all happened because we had this cover song that we still hadn’t used, I was looking at my Iron Maiden-singles one day, and they used to do a similar thing. Just before the release of an album, they would release a take from it along with a B-side. The whole point was to have the single out a month before the album, because it reminded people there is something coming. Of course back in the eighties there was no internet or newsletters circulating. On our release, the B-side where we cover Death SS, is more important than the A-side. In a way we’re all pretty big fans of the whole Italian scene surrounded by so much mystery, and Death SS is the most symbolic band of them all. “The Darkest Night” was supposed to be on a split with some other Italian band, then in the end, the song ended up not being used. There are so many Death SS songs around, but Steve Sylvester supported it and said: If you guys are gonna do a cover, please choose something from the newer stuff. “The Darkest Night” is more industrial and electronic, but the challenge, to try to put our mark on the song, was a good one. I kind of like the result, it’s a bit odd. When it comes to cover songs, I like to do something else than just the predictable ones. It’s always cool to take something very obscure, a doomy song from a heavy metal or speed metal band for instance. All those bands back in the eighties had that odd song. I have a list of ten or fifteen songs I hope to do at some point. I think people will be surprised.
Do you have any examples?
– Future Tense for example. A lot of these mini-LPs had an odd killer track. There was plenty of stuff like that in the Eastern Europe scene as well, they didn’t really know where to shoot, which scene to belong to. It could be a Fata Morgana-song or perhaps some old Törr-stuff, they always had one doomy song.
The fact that you recorded in Chile, how do you think it has affected the outcome? The last one was recorded in a house in the woods in Sweden. That sounds quite isolated too.
– Yeah, exactly. To isolate yourself in the woods, fits the introspective nature of “To Reap Heavens Apart”, while this new one is more extrospective. It made a lot of sense to take ourselves out of our safe spots, at least for the three of us here in Europe, to abandon our regular lives and jobs and go to a city that is pretty intense like Santiago is. You feel a bit exposed as things are revolting all the time. In the summer also, the heat is like 35-40 degrees every day. We had a lot of these small situations that somehow make life in Chile so intense and complicated. The stress made us come to the studio and just vomit out everything. There were lots of stuff happening. We had this bug plague coming, so we had to leave the apartment for 24 hours, then we had to leave again and find another apartment, moving all our stuff while we were recording. Because of the heat I mentioned, there were fires all around the city, something like 300 fires, so there was a lot of smoke and ash. We woke up and couldn’t breathe properly, being covered in dust and ashes. All these small, but annoying happenings, but at least it made us return home with a story and an album. Some of the struggle you can really hear in the album. I wrote the lyrics down there, while we were struggling with all this shit, like trying to find a new apartment, or seeing a red sky and hearing sirens. None in the band regrets the decision to go to Chile to record, and for the second time, we realized how important it is to have a proper scenario and to actually “live” the album while you are recording it.
How would you describe the atmosphere within the band during the rehearsal and recordings? Was it calmness, peace and quiet or lot of loud discussions and slamming of doors?
-There was a lot of the latter. First of all, I am not an educated musician. I can’t explain ideas by writing them down. Secondly, I am not an educated leader either, sometimes you just expect people to get it, and during rehearsals we had a lot of discussions. When they occurred, we just had to quit working for an hour and then come back. The guy in the studio had never worked with a band like us before, but had a lot of experience recording for TV, jingles and old South American popstars. He was very helpful, and told us to chill out and also came with some suggestions on how to do it. We were five people trying to make the best out of it, and the only one who knew how it was going to sound, was me. I really needed some patience from the other guys.
Felipe is sure it all contributed in making the album better.
– Absolutely! As I said, it’s a quite negative and pessimistic album, it wasn’t supposed to be nice to record it, not for them or for me. It was supposed to be a challenge. I always put my soul into it, and this time my body was really compromising. We all made a big sacrifice. To put yourself away for two months in this danger zone, I can imagine for the European guys in the band, even for me, that are so used to how thing work here, is quite a big step. Promises and deals are always subject to change in Chile, and you never know what to expect. Another thing is the fact that I didn’t want the standard European, good sound, instead I wanted a South American sound. If we were to make an album that would make us stand above the standard sounds in doom metal, we had to find that sound somewhere else. And even more with a guy who had never recorded a band like us before. He certainly had the skills though, and we knew what we wanted. The most important thing was not to sound like an European band, not because I don’t like the way they sound, but because I wanted us to do our own thing.
What’s the difference between what you refer to as the typical European sound and the South American sound?
– I think it’s a certain sort of unawareness connected to the South American sound. I showed the guy we worked with things like “King Of The Grey Island” by Candlemass, and the first record from Heaven and Hell. He hadn’t listened to any of these albums before. If we mentioned the word “heavy”,to begin with, he was probably gonna think “heavy like Slayer”, but then we showed him this whole new world, and he started listening to Candlemass now after we recorded with him. This is the sort of unawareness I am speaking about. If you record with a Scandinavian sound guy, he would probably have followed the evolution of a band like Candlemass. This guy, on the other hand, tried to imitate what he felt when he heard a non-classic Candlemass-album. It was a funny experience, we didn’t know exactly how the album would sound in the end, but we were sure it would have to be heavy, intense and dark.
What is the thought behind the title “Doom Decimation”? I have understood that creation and destruction are two important keywords.
– First, it is a catchy title. Coming up with the title, the whole concept with icons and symbols and how it all should look, were among the first things we did for the album. “Doom Decimation” talks explicit about the divinity of man as a race, as creator and destructor from the moment of birth. For the sake of human life, we are sacrificing other sorts of lives and so on. We are doomed from birth, and subject to constant decimation through generations. I don’t really believe in the end of the world, but I do believe we sacrifice with each generation. Somehow we tend to forget that the same things we are experiencing now are what everyone has gone through before. Back in the sixties, people were convinced they would see the end of the world by nuclear power, atom bombs and stuff. In the seventies people were convinced drugs were going to extinguish humanity. During the eighties there was fear of the machines, with everyone thinking fucking robots were gonna take over. Every ten years people are convinced they are going to witness the end of the world. I think it has a lot to with how we humans overrate ourselves: We are the last ones, there is no one coming after us. That explains why some people are so selfish. That’s why people have stopped having children. We are the last ones. Already at school, I was thought that patterns just repeat themselves. Mass media controls and all formulas have been exposed, so it’s more important to know what are we sacrificing for. We’re not going to die, but if we are really exhausting our resources and stuff, what is it for? Is it worth it? That’s what the title is about, and that’s what I spoke about before: The times we are living in are so inspiring to make an album like this. This constant stress, people truly think we are doomed. So do I, but I don’t think were doomed to an end, but doomed as we have always been.
You have already said that the “Doom Decimation” stands against the modern times musically, something I can understand quite easily, but also conceptually. Please explain!
– It has a lot to do with what I was just saying. People are obsessed with the fact that they will experience the end of time, that a war will start in seconds. All this kind of influenced thoughts. I am not talking about the end of the world, but the sacrifice we are doing as a human race. People should be concerned about the fact that there are more of us coming. That’s what I say against a modern perception of what these social problems are. And musically, as you say, it’s pretty easy to hear it. I am trying to see doom metal in the way band in the eighties saw it, which means stepping over the boundaries of playing slow without forgetting that you are fifty percent a heavy metal band and fifty percent a doom metal band.
The coverart of “Doom Decimation” is significantly different compared to the artwork on the previous albums.
– We tried to find symbols that were almost shockingly clear. We had all these ideas, like the duality between seeing earth as earth but also as a womb that is being bombed by creation. And then one of the bombs hit Chile, and creates this big explosion. I don’t know, I like to see things in a very explicit way. The whole point was to raise some eyebrows, and so far that’s how the response has been.
I know from before that Felipe usually thinks a lot about how to build an album in the most effective way. “Doom Decimation” starts with the two shortest songs, and ends with the two longest.
– Yeah, the last song is the longest one, just like it was on “To Reap Heavens Apart”. I think I have come to the conclusion that I like this sort of solemn, funeral endings. I like the feeling of exhaustion. “The Warning”, the intro on the album, was supposed to be a song in itself, but in the end I didn’t know how to continue with it. Let’s not squeeze this two and half minutes of mid tempo heavy metal riff anymore, let’s make a song that develops from it instead. So yeah, the first two tracks, “The Warning” and “When Doomsday Has Come”, was supposed to be one song. For the album as a whole, it feels cool to start with a straight on heavy metal riff and then slow it down in a way.
High Roller released your very first recordings, on a 7” titled “…Of Doomed Beginnings” last year. Did the release make you look back and reflect on how far you have come?
– I found those recordings at my parents place in Chile some years ago, the recording stems from 2006, even before the demo recordings. Last year the recordings, as well as the band, were ten years old, and I thought about doing a special cover single or a box or something like that to mark the anniversary. I spoke to High Roller, but in the end, ten years aren’t really much to brag about, especially if you compare it to a band that has been together for 35 years, like Candlemass for example. There was no point in spending too much time and effort trying to make a big thing out of it, but this ten years old recording was something no one had heard. It’s just a simple seven inch, that can be sold cheap, but I know there are people collecting Procession-stuff that really wanted the full discography to be available. Also, we knew we were going to Chile to record this album, and we had some gigs booked, so with this release, we had some seven inches to sell down there. When you have existed for ten years, you have to remember that you are still building a career. We have done a few European tours, some festival gigs and a couple of albums, but there aren’t too much to look back on.
You are soon embarking on a tour with Epitaph. What kind of expectations do you have for it?
– What I am looking forward to the most, is seeing Epitaph 18 times in a row. Haha! I am a big fan of the Black Hole-album “Land Of Mystery”. (featuring two of the members that are in Epitaph today) since 15 years, it took me a lot of effort to find it before it was rereleased and available again. I have played it so many times. I knew Epitaph had done some demos as well, impossible to find of course. At some point, I heard they were going to start playing again, I think it was the guys from Black Oath who told me about it. We then played with Epitaph three or four years ago in Milano, we got to meet them of course, got drunk together and learnt they were supercool guys and really interested in giving this whole thing another opportunity. They wanted to make an album and try to work as a band again, for the first time since they stopped playing in 1992 or 1993 or something. They played all these cool demo songs live, and I promised to talk to High Roller to get them to release the first album. I was pleased a deal came out of it. Everytime I go to Italy, we catch up and some time ago, we made a promise that with the next album, we should try to book a tour together. It would help them, since they are not too aware of what is going on in the scene. For us it’s just a fucking pleasure to give these guys a hand. Somehow there is also always something to learn from people that’s 20 years older than you, not because they have done something big in the business, but because they still crave for playing live after so many years. For me as a doom metal fan it’s a fucking honor.
For the first gig in Denmark that kicks off the tour, Procession is hooking up with Altair Of Oblivion, a band with a different take on doom, that has done some pretty neat stuff in the past.
– I have seen the band live, and yeah, they are pretty good. They have this amazing guitar player. I don’t have the albums they have released, but I believe I got this CD-R they did in the beginning. We are not doing all the shows on the tour with Epitaph, mostly because of logistics, so we start ourselves in Denmark, and we try to include mostly friend’s bands, like Evil Spirit in Berlin and Officium Triste in Rotterdam. I don’t really see ourselves playing as much live for this album as we did with the previous one. It involves so much planning and money. We simply can’t generate that amount of money to all gather up and rehearse, especially as long as Claudio is living in Chile. We will be performing an album we recorded down there with him, so it doesn’t feel right to just go out and find a temporary lineup. Instead, we are putting all the effort we can into these shows, both merch wise and show wise. The show is going to be very intense, with a shitload of songs from this album. Hopefully, we will be able to do another tour next year, but festivals and stuff like that, I am really not sure… I am fine without playing any festivals with this album. We have done that before, it’s better to perform in a small club with familiar faces, who you know are getting the message.
But wait a minute, you are going to perform at the Hammer Of Doom in Germany in November, right?
– Exactly. Things like that happens only once a year. And the festivals are getting few and far between. There is no more Doom Shall Rise anymore. Hopefully we can put together a tour next year for the other doom metal fans, and perform at Malta Doom, Doom over Vienna and stuff like that, but the rest of the festivals….I don’t know… They’re cool and everything but it’s so much of an effort for just playing in front of a diverse audience, where only about ten people are getting what you are doing, while the rest is completely drunk. Haha!
Felipe says he feels a festival like Hammer Of Doom has found the right balance between older acts and newcomers in the doom metal genre.
– There is a lot of new bands playing there this year. Since the scene is not that big, bands “expires” and after a couple of rounds the festivals have to look for something different, like Hammer Of Doom did when they booked stuff like Primordial and Asphyx a couple of years ago. A lot of these old acts are getting together and playing live at the moment, but for me personally it’s a cool thing as there are bands I never thought I would get a chance to see live. I still haven’t seen Cirith Ungol, and it sucks to miss them at Hammer Of Doom, but we are playing somewhere else on Saturday. Then there is this Pagan Altar-tribute playing as well. I would love to see Alan Jones playing again, to me he is as important as Lars Johansson from Candlemass. He has this original, personal style. I think it’s good that some bands are getting second chances. You have to remember that this is people leaving their work and families behind to have fun and remember what they were doing back in the day. Before they had the ambition, were building up a career and somebody probably told them they were going to tour the world or something, but now they do the gigs for the fans. I think they are enjoying it, and I go to see those bands as often as I can.
Recently Procession announced what seems like really nice gesture to the people that helped the band out when they had a break in in their van last time they were touring.
– I got a reminder a while ago, when someone made a joke about it when we were speaking about the upcoming tour. I think they said something like: Well, lock the car this time! It all happened four years ago, in Barcelona. It was really terrible, because they took our passports and all the earnings from merch sales. It meant we weren’t able to get into a couple of countries, which in turn meant a big loss in income from the tour. At some point, Alan from Primordial said: Fuck it, this is such a mess. Let’s see if we can help the band to continue. To our surprise people contributed with money, so we could get new passports and some other important stuff back as well. When we saw how much people were caring, contributing through Paypal, we made sure we didn’t forget who they were. When I got reminded of it recently, I thought it made real sense to invite them to one of the gigs on this tour.
It’s been really quiet around your mini label Burn recently. Are there releases planned, or is the label on hold right now?
– The label is on hold, but I have some things in mind. I don’t know when or how, that’s why I haven’t closed down anything. I guess…whenever I have time, something will happen. I have talked to Rich from Solstice about doing some stuff together. It’s the same thing with him, he randomly puts out stuff, and we have some, mostly underground metal or punk related things, like forgotten recordings or bands that not many know about, that we would like to do something with. So, it’s not over, but it certainly was funnier when I started Burn. Back then, there were less small labels doing stuff, and also less bands around. When I got my hands on this forgotten demo from an American doom metal band from 1998, it was all like: Oh fuck, a doom metal thing I don’t know about! I remember doing Oath Of Woe, and I sold like 100 cassettes in a week or ten days. Today, there are so many releases around. It’s all a bit oversaturated. People will not buy something if they are unsure of the quality of the music. The competition is simply too strong at the moment. I’ve heard about a lot of the labels that started out in the early 2000s that are now shutting off, because even if they are releasing killer stuff, it’s not enough. I don’t know what people want anymore. The best thing is probably to release a small amount of cassettes, seven inches or something else you know you can get rid of fast and get your money back as soon as possible.
As most of you are aware of, Felipe is involved in quite a few other acts, apart from Procession. What’s the status of Destroyer 666, Nifelheim, Capilla Ardiente and Vein?
– Vein is over. That was basically me experimenting with Jonas. He had these songs that didn’t really fit the Procession-sound, and we thought we should try to record them ourselves and since my label, Burn, was a bit more active back then, it was mostly about trying out how it would be to work together in a studio situation. Under the same conditions we did the “Death And Judgement” 10 inch with Procession. It was like a second try out; let’s check Procession-songs now, if we can record them as well and make it sound good. But then, since Jonas started composing and sending ideas for Procession, it didn’t make any sense to have Vein active anymore. Vein was always supposed to be Jonas’ stuff, and since he is producing music all the time, maybe he will continue doing Vein now on his own. With Capilla Ardiente, I am not too involved in the musical process, since the band is based in Chile, but we are working on an album now, I am going to sing on it again, and it’s supposed to be recorded next year.
The last one was quite good, I think.
– Yeah, I like I too, and now we have this second guitarist as well, Igor. He was a killer addition, when he came into the band some years ago. The songs are longer and so intense, it’s just like a very fucked up version of Solitude Aeturnus. The songs are all Claudios stories. It will take some time to complete everything since they don’t work too fast down there, but there is something like half an album written already. It will probably be released in 2019. The other bands, are acts I’ve always loved, bands that are not doom or heavy metal. I am involved in Nifelheim as a guitarist, we did this mini-LP some years ago, and we are working on an album now, finally. With Destroyer 666 we are doing an EP. We saw it as a live thing only some years ago, but now I would like to stay as a member. The only reason I moved to Europe was to play metal, you know, and I am lucky enough that in both bands, and also in Capilla Ardiente, the ambition doesn’t rely on how much money we can earn, or how known we can get. It’s only about doing things we can be proud of. That’s why it takes so much time. It’s like fishing. Its not about the size of the fish, you rather have a fish that you like to eat. For instance, this tour with Epitaph we’re doing with Procession… We didn’t try to get a tour with any of the old doom metal bands doing big tours in Europe, but wanted to make something with a band that for us is cooler than anybody else. Epitaph was doing things when no one gave a fuck, and they’re doing things now without giving a fuck. I think that there’s true power in that.
I really need to catch Procession live again soon, I haven’t seen you since you played at Metal Merchants in Oslo some years ago.
– Oh fuck! Next year we need to do some Scandinavian dates, because on this tour we are not playing Sweden, Finland or Norway, and only have this one gig in Denmark. It depends a lot on how this tour goes though. If we make all of our investment back, then we have a reason to go on another one straight away.
I am pretty sure “Doom Decimation” will feature very high on my best of list for 2017. What are some of your fave metal releases from the year we soon have finished?
– Actually I listened to the new Sorcerer-album for the first time earlier today. It’s fucking killer, much better than the first one. More emotion is put in the right spots. It’s not as dynamic as the one before, but it really flows perfect, from the very first to the last song. I am really looking forward to the Solstice-abum. I have heard three or four songs and it’s another vision of doom. The new Epitaph is killer as well, quite unconventional. It has this bizarre vibe and is very representative of what Italy is about when it comes to doom. Besides those, I have listened a lot to Outrage from Germany. Their latest album is amazing. I just discovered hem two or three years ago. Even though I enjoyed the latest Venom or Sodom, I enjoy this one more. It’s got the fucking balls, pure German thrash black or whatever. Another one I am still waiting for is Dead Head, the Dutch thrash metal band. I heard it once the other day, it’s so fucking violent. An anti-everything album!