Arctic Sleep Interview

Atmospheric, melancholic, distinctive. Inspiring, contemplating, desolating, Arctic Sleep’s music is always bringing coziness and sweet pain at once, with its slow soundscapes and “beautiful stargazing and infinite, hypnotic loudness”. Ghosts, nature and cosmos… “songs about light and shadow, life and death, beauty and sadness.” 

Now, on the threshold of Arctic Sleep’s upcoming album, we dragged out from the studio the band’s mastermind Keith D in order to share briefly with us details on what’s going around the band, his inspirations, the work around the new “Kindred Spirits” album and the running of his Kickstarter campaign.

– Hello, Keith! Welcome to Blessed Altar Zine! It is pleasure for me! 13 years doing fantastic music till now, could you please tell us more about the road went down and your Arctic Sleep project? 
– Thanks!  There has been a lot of twists and turns, it’s been a bumpy road.  But, this project has always been my baby and it will be around as long as I am.  I’ve kept it going against all odds, through all kinds of lineup changes and whatnot.  I’ve never given up on it.

– What is Arctic Sleep? What do we dream during an arctic sleep?
– I don’t remember how I came up with the name.  I wish I had something deep to say.  It just sounded cool.  

– Can you tell us about your personal story with music? What drives you to do what you do and what are your inspirations?
– Dude, music has been my passion ever since I was a toddler.  For real.  I’ve always been fascinated by it and it’s one of the only things I give a shit about.  Life would be completely meaningless without it.  All I care about is guitars, drums, and rock music.  I’m kind of a loner, socially awkward, I don’t always get along with people.  Music is how I can connect with people, and how I can do something meaningful.

– What about nature’s influence inspires your music?
– The general atmosphere of my music and lyrics are heavily influenced by nature.  My whole outlook on life changed the first time I visited the redwood forests in Northern California 15 years ago.  I’ve always wanted to make music that sounds like that place made me feel.  The big awesome trees, the forests like cathedrals, the wild ocean.  You’ll find a lot of references to the ocean on the new album.  

– It seems you are never out of ideas… You combine and incorporate gorgeously elements and styles into your tunes, but how would YOU describe Arctic Sleep stylistically?
– It is a real mishmosh of styles.  I like heavy metal quite a bit, but I listen to tons of other genres as well.  I love 80’s metal, power metal, grindcore, bluegrass, trip-hop, progressive rock, shoegaze, folk, soul, new wave, classical, the list goes on.  I wanted to do something that was heavy and powerful, but could also be dynamic and progressive as well.  I guess it’s somehow influenced by all that stuff in some way or another.  I am definitely not adhering to any genre guidelines with Arctic Sleep… it’s straight from the heart.

– You have always released your albums independently. Why did you decide to go this way instead of looking for opportunities to work with labels?
– Well, it began out of necessity.  I have always had a DIY philosophy and I like to do things on my own terms.  I’ve received offers from a few labels, including one you may be familiar with, but the offers were total garbage so I turned them down.  They want everything from you, and offer little in return.  I’d rather stay true to myself and the fans than let anyone take advantage of me with some deal that leaves me fucked.

– Your compositions so far have been brilliant in terms of composing, mixing, performing, but tell us more about your upcoming “Kindred Spirits” album – the recording, the musicians and artists you are working with…What can we expect in it? New epicness and dreamlands to lose ourselves in?
– It’s mostly a whole new recipe with this album.  I have guest backing vocals from two awesome singers.  In the past, I’ve kept the bass playing very subdued on our albums, but on this new one there is a couple songs where I really tear it up!  There is a few songs on here that are kind of “outside the box” for Arctic Sleep, so I hope people will appreciate me taking a few risks here and there.

– How long have you been working on this brand new material?
– For almost two years now.  I spent a year writing the music with my best friend Yoda The Cat at my side.  He’d be sitting on my desk or on a chair next to me, and I’d be putting the music together while we just, like, looked at each other.  I feel like his energy is in the music in some way because of that.  As soon as I finished writing the music for the album, he passed away.  I was fucking crushed, I still am, I’ll never get over it.  After he died, I set to work writing the lyrics.  So the lyrics are all influenced from both  the experience of losing him, and also the memory of our eternal bond.     

– What’s different now in comparison to the previous albums of the band?
– There is actually quite a bit that is different, mostly in terms of production style.  For the first time in ten years, I decided to record at a different studio and with a different producer.  So yes, this album will sound a little different.  I felt like I needed a break from the overblown sound of our last four albums.  For this one, I wanted more honest and natural production, a more balanced and organic sound.  There’s a lot less processing on the drums and vocals in particular.  We went for a more “live” drum sound, so you can hear all the nuances of Nick’s awesome drumming… and dude… he really tears it up on this record!  It sounds more like you are right there in the room with a band playing right in front of you.  It’s more dynamic, more real, more balanced, easier on the ears, and in my opinion it’s a total breath of fresh air.  I like our previous albums just fine, but I just felt it was time for a change.  Maybe not everyone will appreciate the change, but I sure do. 

– You are about to enter into a Kickstarter campaign about your upcoming “Kindred Spirits”. Tell us more details about this decision.
– Well, we did this Kickstarter thing for our last albums and it was a good experience.  It connected us directly with the fans, let them be a part of the process, and allowed us to offer something unique.  

– What’s the plan and what are the goodies taking part in the campaign?
– Dude, there’s coffee!  My favorite local coffee roaster here in Milwaukee, Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co, is going to be bagging up a special roast as part of the album pre-sale packages.  I am really pumped about this.  Also the vinyl is going to have some of the sweetest packaging you’ve ever seen thanks to some incredible artwork by Jennifer Weiler.  

– Very cool stuff indeed! When is the album actually planned for release?
– I’m hoping for April of 2019, but we’ll see.  

– I guess it’s early to ask you about touring plans after the release of the new album. Or will you stick to your decision to release studio albums only?
– I’m mostly just a recording artist these days.  I love making albums.  I love playing live too, but I’ve found it to be damn near impossible to find the right people to play in the band.  Everyone wants to be in a band, but when it comes time to put in the actual work, learn the set list, and actually show up for rehearsals, they don’t take it seriously and flake out.  I have an insane work ethic and I never do anything half-assed, so that type of shit drives me nuts.  I’m not going to take it on the road unless I have a proper show for you.  I’d rather invest my time and money in creating albums that you can enjoy every day.

– OK, a side question if you allow – what’s going on with Unearthed Elf? Shall we expect new music here as well?
– Funny you mention it… I’ve been having urges to make another Unearthed Elf record.  It’s too early to say if that will actually happen, but I keep having new ideas for it.  I really love that album.  Out of all the records I’ve ever done, that’s my favorite one to listen to.  It was a lot of fun to make, I’m really proud of it, and I still have a blast listening to it.  But, we’ll see.  Shit is expensive to do.

– Is there anything else important that we need to mention here now?
– There is only 2 more weeks to get in on the Kickstarter pre-order.  Do it now!

– Great! We’ll be looking forward to “Kindred Spirit” release. It will be great to have the possibility to review and present the album to our readers in advance or when it’s out, so you can count on our support! Good luck with the Kickstarter campaign and let’s talk again after the release of the new album! Thank you once again for your time for this interview!

Interview by Count Vlad

Check Arctic Sleep’s Kickstarter campaign here and support the release of the new album.

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