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INTERVIEW: Botanist's Otrebor
Toby Cook , September 26th, 2017 13:47

With Botanist touring Europe for the first time in two years, we catch up with the project's frontman Otrebor to discuss tour complications and recording a new album with a full band

American ‘green metal’ originators, and long-time Quietus favourites, Botanist, kicked off their first European tour in two years earlier this week and will hit London tomorrow (September 27) with a show at the Windmill Brixton.

Primarily the solo project of drummer and dulcimer player ‘Otrebor’, Botanist has previously involved a revolving collective of musicians for touring purposes, but the release earlier this month of new LP Collective: The Shape Of He To Come represents the first time a full band has been involved in recording too.

Being such fans of their earthy and ethereal black metal we briefly caught up with the Otrebor ahead of their London gig to talk about the new record and EU tour.

Botanist play Brixton's Windmill with support from Bast and Sūrya, and you can find out more details on the show, and get tickets, here.

Botanist have just started their first European tour in two years – how’s it been going so far?

Otrebor: We love touring in Europe! And our biggest fanbase is likely the UK, so we're particularly excited to return to Britain. The London show in 2015 in particular was epic!

The tour nearly didn’t happen at all, as I understand it – it must be somewhat of a relief to finally be on the road?

O: The scene: San Francisco International Airport check-in. First bag weighed: the dulcimer in a flight case. "We're sorry, sir, this item is 1.8kg over the legal limit. It cannot be taken on the plane under any circumstances, nor for any amount of money." Apparently baggage handlers have some preternaturally sensitive ability to discern the exact weight of bags. With the tour and my bank account savings going down the tubes flashing before my eyes, we rushed back to the practice space to get a lighter, softer case and rushed back to the airport to initiate plan B. "Also, we close in an hour," the check in counter informed us. By the grace of the plant god, here we are.

You just released and new album too – Collective: The Shape Of He To Come – which you recorded with a full band for the first time. Why did you make the decision to involve other musicians on this release in particular? How did that impact the writing of the record?

O: Including all the people who were a part of the live band from its inception in 2013 through 2016 was primarily meant as a sort of homage, a thank you to the work put in by the six individuals who were along for that chapter of the journey. It was also a means to make art within the Botanist universe that would have its own voice and sound that would and could not be produced again.

The unfortunate part of this particular chapter is that none of the people, other than me (and remember, my duties on stage are different than my contributions to the record), are present in the live band, and thus none of the material will be played on stage, probably ever. However, I hope that plans to make another ‘Collective’ album with the current line-up will result in something that can be played, and ideally in its entirety, the next time we tour.

And by the way, there's a second Collective album already released: Setlist 2017, which is the [current touring] line-up playing all the songs we’ve learned for this tour. It's a studio recording that's on pro cassette format, and also available for download on our href=“”target=”out”>bandcamp site and of course for sale at our shows.

What does the title of the new record refer to? And how does Collective… fit into the existing Botanist oeuvre? Is Botanist a ‘band’ now, or do you envisage recording as essentially as solo artist in the future?

O: Botanist will continue to be a one-man recording act... most of the time. The one-man records will continue to be labelled with Roman numerals (in the case of full-lengths) and Arabic numerals for the EPs. Further Collective records will denote writing and recording as a band, and will be done primarily to release albums to financially support tours.

The Shape of He to Come is Botanist's strongest, most concentrated foray to date into something of an orthodox "green" metal territory. The songs aren't specifically about plants, but rather develop a prophetic, apocalyptic, philosophical, pseudo-religious tone within the Verdant Realm universe. The "he" to "come" is the harbinger of this apocalypse, the Budding Dawn, where the end of humanity will usher in an age of utopia where Nature can re-establish a perfect symbiotic balance.

The environment and climate change in particular are very much part of the global conversation at the moment, largely for the wrong reasons (I’m loath to mention Donald Trump). What is Botanist’s take on the situation? Has the sudden regressive attitude towards global warming, environmental destruction etc. impacted on your new Music? Or is Botanist more about an exploration of the natural world, rather than a comment on it?

O: The music of Botanist is both about an exploration of the Natural world and a comment on it. It's as much about my deep admiration for classical botanical art as it is for my sense of purpose to make a positive impact in a cause I feel is fundamental: the respect and preservation of the natural world. The spiritual power and quietude felt while being alone in nature bridges those two motivations. Any current events are not affecting this mission at all – rather, the mission has been as strong since its inception. And are we witnessing an ever-accelerating doom of the human race? Perhaps. On the bright side, the onset of the Budding Dawn is an event to celebrate... even if none of us can be present to witness it.