Interview: Vox Empirea

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Vox Empirea website

This interview with Rob Leydon, frontman of the London project Red Sun Revival, honors the pages of Vox Empirea. I and the readers give you a warm welcome!

> Thank you Maxymox, and thanks also to your readers, I’m happy for the opportunity to answer your questions and to talk to you about Red Sun Revival.

Rob, in your opinion, which special particularities characterize the Red Sun Revival from the past experiences you have lived with the gothic-projects Voices Of Masada, Nosferatu and The Eden House?

> In Voices of Masada, I played an important role in song-writing and in the production of the material, and so there will be inevitable similarities with Red Sun Revival and Voices of Masada. In Nosferatu and The Eden House, I was purely a session musician and had no involvement with the creative processes within these bands, and so there are likely to be fewer similarities. The music of Red Sun Revival can be characterised a bit differently to that of the other bands I’ve been involved with. The songs are all based on orchestral sound-scapes which I write using virtual instruments to create sweeping violin sections, layers of cellos, and incidental percussion. These orchestral soundscapes are then decorated with guitar, bass, piano, and live violin, such as to add to the growing tapestry, but not obscure the initial piece. Finally deep vocals float over the top. It is the melodic interplay between the traditional goth-rock instrumentation, with the orchestral instruments, and in particular the live violin, that defines our sound.

Identically to you, every member of the band comes from different experiences developed in various projects: how has been established between you an artistic harmony so perfect, efficacious and exciting?

> After finishing draft versions of all of the songs, I decided to start looking for musicians who could complete the live line-up, and also contribute musically on the album. I was fortunate enough to meet a group of dynamic and talented musicians in Matt, Panos, and Christina. Guitarist Matt Helm was recommended to me by Tim Chandler, of Pretentious, Moi?, who I’ve known for years. I met Matt for the first time at WGW in 2010 and then again in early 2011 for an audition. I knew Christina from the alternative scene some years before the material was completed and we had discussed the idea of forming a band many times. I knew that Christina was a violinist and because of the way the material was starting to develop, it seemed like an excellent idea to have a live violinist, given the importance of this instrument in so many of the compositions. I found Panos through an advert online that I’d placed in the early part of 2011. All three musicians bring their own unique skills into the band and into the live sound and have added their own personal touches to the material.

The gothic is not only a kind of music but also a way to interpret the thoughts, feelings, clothing, behavior and the environments of the daily lives, a way of life in fact. It’s the same for you too?

> I have quite a broad range of music tastes, and although goth/alternative rock is a very important component of the music that has inspired me, it is by no means a genre that I belong to exclusively. That said, when I go out at the weekend, it’s usually within the alternative scene, and so most of my friends also come from the scene. I think this is probably a consequence of having been involved in alternative music in one way or another for quite a few years. It’s just a sort of comfortable space to inhabit for me, even if it’s not exactly a way of life. I suppose there are certain tastes that I have which other people in the goth scene share, but I’ve alway considered goth to be a bit of an umbrella term to encompass a range of things that had not necessarily set out with the intention of being goth to start with. I think goths adopt their music, fashion, etc according to what suits the aspects of that genre.

Since its creation which took place in the 80’s, the British gothic-rock lived until today ascents and declines. Currently, what is the level of appreciation of this music genre in Europe and in the world?

> I think British gothic-rock may be enjoying a small revival at the moment, but the overall trend continues to favour dance-based, electro music, such as EBM, industrial, etc. Those of us that still prefer the more traditional alternative stuff tend to be getting a bit older now, although there are of course exceptions. Music never stands still and it will always develop and change form. Sometimes we don’t like the new form music has taken, but there is nothing we can do to alter the process, other than to continue writing in the styles that we ourselves want to hear. That’s what I’ll keep doing, not to say that I won’t experiment with new ideas and incorporate contemporary influences, but rather that the songs I write will continue to reflect my own tastes.

Exactly, which sensations do you perceive through the genre that you compose? What’s so magical in the gothic/rock?

> I think gothic/rock provides opportunities to explore more introspective and reflective ideas, although there are other genres in which this is also possible. Perhaps gothic/rock is a particularly suitable style for expressing the melancholy we all sometimes experience, or for dealing with questions of mortality. There are so many sub-genres of goth though, and adherents to each will all have their own interpretations. From my point of view, I want to transmit something of my own experiences to the listener, rather than attempting to deliver any particular message, wherever political, religious or otherwise. The songs I write are narratives, sometimes fictional and sometimes based upon real events, and it is the feelings which these narratives impart to me that I want to communicate in the music I compose.

Let’s talk about your debut album: I listened carefully to “Running From The Dawn” reviewing it with enthusiasm. In my opinion, you have finalized a release really excellent, among the best I’ve ever heard in the gothic-oriented area. All songs possess an importance and communicability that makes them true masterpieces. If I were to select the most captivating track, my choice would highlight “Miracles”: I find that it’s able to fill the soul with its deep intensity, with its decadent atmosphere…

> Thank you very much for your kind words about the album, both in your review, and again here! I’ve been very pleased with the very positive reception ‘Running from the Dawn’ has generated so far, and it has been particularly nice to learn that so many different listeners have different favourites from it. Often when albums are released, one or two songs stand out, so it’s great to know that so many of the songs we’ve made have become someone or others favourite. Miracles is a song I am particularly fond of, it was written in 2009 and is about my experience of evangelical Christianity as a young person, which I found very difficult to reconcile. It is not intended as a criticism of people’s beliefs but rather as a way of expressing my own feelings regarding faith and the ways in which it can be used to manipulate the vulnerable.

Steve Carey, Louis DeWray, Andy Jackson…for planning “Running From The Dawn” you’ve have assembled a very respectable team…

> Luckily I’ve had the privilege of working with some very talent artists in the past and was in the position to approach some of the very best people to assist with the recording, mixing and mastering of the album. Credit must be given to the fantastic work that those individuals you have mentioned contributed. The album would not have sounded the same without their invaluable input. I’ve know Steve for a few years and have worked with him in Adoration and also The Eden House. Knowing the quality of Steve’s work as a mixing engineer, it was a very straightforward choice to ask him, and one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Louis of Nosfertatu is also a very talented engineer and after hearing his work I decided to record my vocals at his studio. Andy Jackson was recommended to me by Steve as he also plays in the Eden House. I was aware of Andy’s work before that with Pink Floyd and FotN so this was another very easy choice. I’m delighted with everything these guys have done.

I find that your voice internalizes a great expressiveness, especially in its accents so passionate and adapted with great naturalness to the musics. Moreover, the gothic aura that surrounds the tones makes your chant as an element integrally connected to the structures, but at the same time independent from the rest of the instruments. Do you agree with my consideration?

> Thank you again, these are great compliments! I would love to agree with you but I think this might be a little immodest so I’ll instead leave it to the listeners to decide. I do try to genuinely express my feelings about the lyrics through my voice, such as to convey joy, pain, sadness, hope, and so in, in the tones of each word. An important factor here is that all of the songs began with nothing more than a vocal melody. I consider this aspect of the song to be the most important. Once the vocal melody is established, even without lyrics, the rest of the song can be constructed around it such as to support it entirely.

Although recently published, the album was conceived and completed between 2008 and 2010. During its long realizing, have you maintained invariably the same inspiring line or there have been several stages in this sense?

> Each song was a creative concept in it’s own right, and there was never really an attempt to link them together. However, I think this may have happened in any case, as the songs essentially form a sort of diary of my thoughts over those three years. There are some themes which occur a number of times and others which occur only once. The songs reflect my particular circumstances at the times when they were composed, even if the events described are from much longer ago.

Which argument do you introduce more frequently in your lyrics? Have the texts you write a point of contact that joins them together or every song is different from each other?

> Yes, a lot of my lyrics deal with fear of mortality and the frustration I once felt at the complete absence of any religious experiences in my entire life which might have given my cause for some hope of an afterlife. “Miracles”, “Forgive Us Now”, and “Wide Awake” all address these matters to some extent, although the main focus is different in each case. There are other themes too, which were the product of events that occurred over those three years, for instance, “Running From The Dawn” (the song) was composed when I met someone I thought was the love of my life…I’m afraid I’m a hopeless romantic! When that relationship came to and end, it seemed irreplaceable, and so I wrote “Last Chance” to describe my feelings of grief at the time.

And again, what feelings want you to evoke in the listener by your sound and the words that surround it?

> I’d like to evoke the same feelings of love, hope, sadness, despair, joy, elation and triumph which I experienced in differing amounts in the creation of each and every song, as though each were a means of conveying something absent in language.

The live activity is doubtless one of your strong points: can you tell us which gig has particularly pleased you by the number and enthusiasm of its audience?

> The last gig we did in London was fantastic, and was actually our first appearance there. I was astonished by the numbers of people that came to see us and in the overwhelmingly positive reception we received. It was a short gig, but an emotional and exciting one. It was great to see so many friends who I’d been talking to for years about this project finally listening and watching in the audience, a very validating experience I suppose.

Rob, Vox Empirea thanks you wishing to Red Sun Revival a future full of success, hoping to listen as soon as possible to a forthcoming album as wonderful as the debut. What do you want to say to our readers saluting them?…

> Thank you very much for the wishes and thanks also to your readers, I hope they’ll have found my answers somewhat interesting and that they will get the opportunity to see us perform live very soon. All the best.

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