Dawn Ray'd: An Interview

Dawn Ray'd have released a new song... well, two new songs actually.

This month saw the release of a new two track release of two very different versions of the same song from Dawn Ray'd called Wild Fire. Maybe "versions" is too much... listened to back to back, these are more like variations on a theme. We had a chance to chat recently about the release and how the band's approach merges the sounds of different musical worlds.

Weirding: Your work, and maybe most compellingly the recent single, poses an interesting angle on a question that pops up from time to time: Is black metal a form of folk music?

Simon: That's a really interesting question, I think it also brings up how loose and fluid the boundaries between genres are too. I guess folk music was music that was played by working class people — it is never viewed as intellectual or high brow. But it is incredibly important and also is a way to record and remember radical histories and stories of resistance. I guess that is something we have tried to emulate in Dawn Ray'd, the idea of working class stories of struggle as a way to preserve these ideas.

Weirding: Yeah, I think this is also a way of asking how you think of and value folk music as a band.

Simon: I like the idea of folk traditions being things anyone can participate in. Anyone can sing or play simple percussion — it doesn't have to be the music of the moneyed classes. 

People over-romanticize the past, but there has never been a point where music has stood still. It is always evolving, and there is no clear cut-off between the past and the present. Therefore black metal is a different evolution of music to folk music, but they ultimately stem from the same place — as all music does, I think.

Weirding: And this expresses itself very clearly on the new release.

Simon: I grew up playing folk music and it has just always been a part of my life, so it felt obvious or natural that we would incorporate it into our records. 

Weirding: I love the sparse set up in the video for 'Wild Fire'. The camera work is fantastic and movie-like. I also like that you can clearly see all the equipment. Something about the juxtaposition of those old stained glass windows and the modern amps is really striking. How did the video come to happen?

Simon: Matt knows Tom from Hohme Recordings who records bands there. It's still a functioning church, but Tom has a deal with them where he is allowed to use the space. 

It just seemed like a cool opportunity, and its actually really hard to find a venue to film things like this in. It was a really awesome feeling singing the folk song and looking up at the roof and hearing the natural reverb in a place that grand. 

I'm no fan of the church, but their buildings and graveyards are an undeniable part of the aesthetic of heavy metal! We also knew Jake Owens, the videographer, from his work with our friends in Venom Prison. And he is amazing to work with.

Weirding: And, Fabian, as a guitarist seeing those big Matamps, I can't help but ask a gear question. What is your set up now? Are you running straight into that stereo pair of amps? And what are those heads?

Fabian: I use a guitar amp and a bass amp simultaneously. The guitar setup currently for touring and live shows is a Quilter tone block going in to two Matamp 4x12s — each with a different speaker configuration. And then I combine this with a clean signal through an octave pedal and some reverb. That goes into an Ashdown AL-500h bass amp with a Matamp 8x10. 

For recording we’ll go back to more boutique valve amps, but for touring this set-up has proven bullet proof. The quality of the Quilter amps has been astounding, I’m definitely a convert. 

Weirding: Talk to me about songwriting. What does the process look like? Take the new single as an example. How did each version come to be?

Simon: When we are writing, Fabian will write a rough structure for the song and I write the lyrics separately. Then the three of us come together and jam it out together. 

We are quite organized in our writing. I guess we try to be very deliberate in the writing — nothing is done on the fly. We will play each song over and over and redraft it until it's done. Because we write the songs together and are playing them properly constantly it means our live show is super tight once the songs are released.

With these new songs, I wrote the synth part at the start and gave it to Fabian. He used that as a starting point. 

Weirding: And was the intention from the beginning to have two versions?

Simon: I honestly don't remember how we decided on the two versions, but it was really fun — almost like covering our own song. That was a new thing for us and was super satisfying. I guess we are always looking to do new things and push ourselves to improve.

Weirding: Last thing, what are you reading currently and what would you recommend? What's some good stuff to help us get through the current state of things? 

Simon: I read Desert and Blessed Is The Flame over lockdown for the first time. Although they were written over ten years ago, they are still a really fresh take on the climate crisis. Desert really lays out how actually fucked the environment is — and that we have passed a number of important milestones from which we can't return. But nevertheless, there is reason to not despair — and there is still reason to resist and feel alive. Those books really deconstructed and then reconstructed the idea of revolution and radical action for me — and what those things mean for our lives.

I'm also really into poetry which helps me write lyrics. I'm reading John Burnside, Eva H.D, and Will Harris at the moment. I'm obsessed with John Burnside — I've heard he is an anarchist too.

If you are wanting to find a way into anarchism at the moment look for a video called 'To Change Everything' by SubMedia, it is life changing.


"DAWN RAY’D return with Wild Fire... Featuring two versions of the same song, constructed with alternative compositions and evoking different atmospheres, Wild Fire showcases the many facets of DAWN RAY’D." — Prosthetic Records



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