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In Extremis

'The Music, The Trip & The Beyond': 11Paranoias Interviewed
Toby Cook , October 2nd, 2013 05:00

Toby Cook raises a claw to the magisterially heavy 11 Paranoias, formed from the embers of the dearly departed Ramesses, and speaks with the band's Adam Richardson about "being paranoid in all planes, spheres and dimensions simultaneously"

"Like a phoenix rising from the ashes" – a common, almost clichéd metaphor, used ceaselessly when one band emerges from the wreckage and rubble left by the dissolution of another. Sometimes of course it's appropriate; sometimes that phoenix is a Public Image Ltd, a Neu!, a High On Fire or a Jesu. Sometimes, however, it's a Wings (I mean, fucking Wings!?), and sometimes, just sometimes, it's not so much a phoenix as much as it is a monolithic, ram's headed demon-spawn of doom and psyche destroying dread; a droning, magickal phantasm spun from the toxic fibres of bad trips and the occult; a bestial bastard infected equally by Sabbath is it is Loop. Sometimes, it's 11Paranoias.

Formed a little over a year ago, after the untimely demise of one of the most criminally underappreciated doom bands in Britain, Ramesses, bassist Adam Richardson convened with Bong guitarist Mike Vest (who had at that time been filling in on guitar during Ramesses' live dates) and drummer Mark Greening (who has since departed to rejoin Electric Wizard, with the drum stool currently filled by Nathan Perrier, formerly of Labrat), with the aim of creating a warped sonic mêlée of psychedelic doom even freer of constraint than their previous endeavours.

In the wake of the release of their debut EP, Superunnatural, and with one claw semi-clinched in anticipation of its imminent follow-up, we caught up with Richardson to get the full story on the crippling phoenix that is 11 Paranoias, and to find out if he's yet found anyone "mad enough to have a permanent fucking black mass going on in their gallery space"…

So Adam, can you tell us a little bit about the formation of 11Paranoias - to what extent was it always the plan for it to turn into a full on new project?

AR: Yes, one of the reasons we formed 11Paranoias was to have a band that could actually be operational, a vehicle to continue 'the journey'; we were always serious about it once we got together and realised the potential of our insta-crushing-psych-punishment, we wanted to create a heavy psych band with the emphasis on heavy and psych! We still wanted to keep the 'jammed out insanity' of our previous bands and meld their very different approaches, whilst entering a new way of working or finding a new language to work in. We're very open to experimentation, and not afraid to cross any boundaries when the trip takes us.

'11Paranoias' is a pretty unusual name, what's the story there?

AR: Contrary to speculation that the name derives from the date of inception, it really is the other way round. After reading about the latest theories of quantum physics and mathematics back in 2011, it was generally thought that there are 11 dimensions – I love this idea (despite the fact this theory has already evolved to multiple infinite dimensions) – and furthering it into the wildly impossible, i.e. to be something in all dimensions at once, like paranoid… 11Paranoias equals: to be paranoid in all planes, spheres and dimensions simultaneously. There is a touch of 'pataphysics lurking inside this theory too, another recurring theme in this band.

Why did you decide not to carry on as Ramesses?

AR: It just became unworkable. Tim had moved to the US 18 months prior and although things started off ok – we had managed a UK and European tour, and me and Tim had almost finished writing the follow up to Possessed By The Rise of Magik – but it became difficult due to physical distance and we were never designed to work like that. He then pulled out of the next tour, our last, and shortly after quit the band, which is when we asked Mike to help us out on tour and later asked him to join as permanent guitarist. Soon after he had joined, though, Mark was asked to re-join Electric Wizard, and as such left Ramesses as well as 11Paranoias – there was no way in hell I was going to carry on as the only original member and keep flogging the Ramesses brand! Fuck that shit! Everyone knows that flogging a dead horse is the coward's way out. The only way forward was to turn over a new cathartic ganja leaf and birth a new entity.

I read an interview you did with one metal magazine where you said it was somewhat of a "relief" to play in 11Paranoias – can you elaborate a little on what you meant by that?

AR: I mean playing in 11Paranoias is more exciting and exploratory – there are even less rules than in Ramesses. There are no tensions, just the music, the trip and the beyond… 11Paranoias is fresh and has a new disease-free body, that shimmers with a silvery light… beautifully impossible!

I don't want to get too bogged down talking about Ramesses, but since you split I've noticed just from speaking in passing conversation that a lot of people (myself included) are genuinely pretty gutted – does the level of retrospective appreciation and respect surprise you?

AR: Yes, it is surprising. Most of the time it felt like we were the bastard child of doom or whatever 'the scene' is called, and we were definitely outsiders. We didn't like most of the bands we played with, The Electric Wizard Widow's Club hated us, and we were too something-or-other for most others. It seemed like we attracted a pretty specific type of freak, we were always doing our own thing in our own Omniverse – "heads down, no talking", as Tim often quipped – just locked in our cave conjuring and jamming, oblivious to all else. We enjoyed being individual, not fitting in and always doing everything our own way in our own time (to the point of self destruction). That fierce individuality was always an essential trait, a trait that has carried over into 11Paranoias, too.

It seems that it's not just Ramesses either. 20-25 years ago bands like Cathedral couldn't get arrested and Saint Vitus were playing biker bars in Germany, and yet now doom seems to be one of metal's most popular sub-genres – why do you think that might be? Does it surprise you?

AR: Sort of, although a lot of great doom bands do tend to hide awesome, visionary musicians, so in that sense I'm not surprised. Nor in the way that black metal became so popular and trendy, anything grim and 'outré' is perpetually lapped up by pop culture and the fashionista as a badge of 'realness', and the trend has moved away from the likes of pop bands wearing an occasional Iron Maiden tee to 'unless you wear a Darkthrone or Burzum tee you are no longer fashionable'. What surprises me more is how bands like The Attack never got the recognition they deserved, either in the late 60s or today! Check out their classic 'Strange House'.

11Paranoias are ludicrously heavy, but the sound is pretty different from your previous projects. Was that always the plan? How did your sound develop – it sounds almost like the product of an involuntary, organic summoning or something!

AR: Yes, we were pretty shocked as to how heavy a lot of stuff was turning out, I think songs like 'Ossuaries' go further beyond 'the edge of heavy' than even Ramesses. A lot of that was down to Mark who played the slowest and heaviest I have ever heard from him – in any band he has played in – absolutely inspirational.

Me and Mike are the driving and writing force of the band, and we have been using quite a few unconventional methods in automatic writing and recording; the recording and overdubbing process is very creative, and has drastically changed the fate of several of the original 11 tracks we recorded – four appear on Superunnatural, five are on the follow up to be released later this year, and two have been buried in a lead box for 11 years… To be continued…

The record actually took quite a while to make, as I did it myself and it was my first foray into fully producing a record from start to finish. I love the process and am now fully immersed in that side of the music.

Is it fair to say that 11Paranoias is musically a bit less restrictive that some of your previous bands? I mean, there's a Loop cover at the end of Superunnatural. (Not that there's anything wrong with that, Loop are great!)

AR: Most definitely - there are no rules in 11Paranoias! There is a savage respect and lust for Loop in 11Paranoias, they are one of mine and Mike's favourite bands, and our 'cover 'of 'Black Sun' by Loop was, well, very medicated but great fun.

There is more of a feeling and expectation of exploration with 11Paranoias, a far bigger and more expansive journey than previously embarked on; a true base station for inner and outer space exploration. Our sound is quite different from anything else we have done and already we have, for example, produced a remix of 'Hello Wendy' for Sam Willis, and have a few more surprising collaborations up our sleeve.

To me there is something almost transcendental about Superunnatural. It's a very immersive record, especially 'Deceiver Of The Deep'. I remember when we spoke a few years back after the release of Possessed By The Rise Of Magik you told me how you'd been utilising a trance-like state to communicate with the spirit of Austin Osman Spare – is that an approach you're also utilising in any way with 11Paranoias?

AR: Mr Spare is never too far from my thoughts! He has in fact pushed the title 'Stealing Fire From Heaven' into my consciousness recently, so that will be a title of something forthcoming. There have not been any mind melds with him or anyone else so far with 11Paranoias, but the creation of the visuals/incantations/spells/poems/lyrics always happens automatically – as in automatic writing and drawing, which belongs to Austin Osman Spare, so there are always trance-states going on behind the scenes as a method of attack, and as such always a link with A.O.S. It's only a matter of time before I'll be knocking on the tomb door of another great dead inspiration!

I understand that it's very much a total DIY project too – recording, production, artwork – was that a conscious decision from the start; what was the reasoning behind it? And what are the advantages?

AR: Yes, I really wanted this to be from the heart, and it was a conscious decision by me and Mike to make this all our own magik. I wanted to make everything as in-house as possible, and managed to do the whole thing that way. After the initial 'louder than the roar of outer space' recording and wrestling with a non-conformist way of working in the studio (see Dinos Chapman) I have worked out an antiquated system of working with modern technology that is yielding the desired effects, and once we were happy with my mixing and mastering, I set about the design of the record – it got to the point where I wanted to put more into this record than I ever had into anything, and I did it. After designing the cover I realised it had to be screen printed, and there was no way I was going to let anyone get their hands on our newborn at this stage, so I did that as well – the first pressing of 100 numbered 12"s sold out super fast, so then we did another 250 with a different colour, most of which have also now sold out.

The image on the cover of Superunnatural is particularly striking – where did that come from?

AR: I designed it. It's a physical montage (i.e. Xerox machine, scalpel and glue – not on a computer) of old anatomical woodcut images interlaced and altered, then I drew over a lot of the image with pen and ink. It's an impossible beast, as is the title of the band! Completely Superunnatural, Stag vs. Prehistoric Bird vs. Human… Bestial Extinction Suffocating Humanity... Anthropomorphic Anomalies... Skinless Taxidermy… Faceless Horror…. Impossible Existence… Memento Mori… Deathless Dislocation… Ghosts and Invisibility… Paranoia and Hallucination…

Speaking of artwork - the last time you spoke to the Quietus you were threatening to put on an exhibition of your own art, how is that coming a long? Did it happen, or is it something you are still planning on doing? I think you mentioned that you just needed to find "someone mad enough to have a permanent fucking black mass going on with fire and ridiculous amounts of sound going on in their in gallery space", which, if I'm honest, sounded like it'd be amazing.

AR: I am glad you brought that up. The exhibition is still fermenting and I am still keen to put it on, but I feel no hurry whatsoever, I still haven't found anyone mad enough to let me break that many health & safety laws under one roof! But I've also been busy making Superunnatural and its sequel, as well as doing a lot of screen printing and mastering of other bands' albums, like Haikai No Ku and Bong, which has been very involved and great fun. I am still painting canvasses, though, and have recently finished 'Ascension Of Isis' as well as some of my other canvasses and artwork.

Back to the band quickly – how far advanced are your plans for a full album?

AR: I have nearly finished mixing LP2, just got a few vocals to add and another sax track. Yes, there's sax on three of the five new songs on the next LP! It'll be out this year on Ritual Productions and will feature hand silk-screened cover and labels just like Superunnatural. We are also currently writing new material with Nathan for a full length release next year, which we are already excited about… so pretty busy!

And how about live dates? You recently played the Supernormal festival and you're due to play Roadburn next year, which must be an honour – can we expect to see any UK shows before then?

AR: Yes! We are planning some live rituals later this year. Supernormal was a great first gig, and that is the coolest and best festival in this country nowadays. We're planning something special for Roadburn, and are of course honoured to be asked to play and announced so early on, but the cherry on the icing is that we are playing with Loop. It doesn't get any better than that mate. Knowing we are such big fans, Walter made sure that we're playing on the same day as them, and we are extremely honoured and grateful.

11Paranoias' current EP Superunnatural is available now via Ritual Productions.