Back in March of this year, Lisburn’s The Crawling dropped one of this years standout releases in the shape of The Anatomy Of Loss. An album which manages to be crushingly oppressive as well as displaying a fragile side – due in part to the personal nature of the lyrics – that is so often missing from death/doom metal.
With this in mind we thought it would be rude not to have a chinwag with vocalist/guitarist Andy Clarke and, luckily for us, Andy was in a talkative mood and answered all our questions graciously, whilst not skimping on detail.
Any budding young musicians out there may find it interesting at the amount of hard work and dedication required to survive in the cut throat world of the music business.
How would you describe your sound to someone who has not heard the band before?
Andy Clarke: “Simply put, The Crawling is a combination of death and doom metal. We combine the melancholy of doom, through lyrics, imagery and melody, along with the heavy guitars and double bass drums of death metal.”
Had you known each other previously to the band forming in 2014?
Andy Clarke: “We’ve all known each other previously, although hadn’t been in a band together. Northern Ireland is a small place anyway, as a result the metal community is even smaller so everyone more or less knows everyone else. I’ve known Stuart since I was a teenager, we moved in the same circles as we both lived in Lisburn. We had been out of touch for years and then the Facebook explosion happened and everyone started to get together again. I didn’t know Gary until later, when the bands we were playing in started playing the same clubs and venues. He played drums for my brothers band so i got to know him pretty well.”
What are your musical backgrounds? Is this your first ‘serious’ band?
Andy Clarke: “No, it’s certainly not the first serious effort but has become the most serious if you follow me. The three of us have been playing in bands for years and made various efforts at fame and fortune! Ha Ha! I played guitar and attempted a clean vocal in Honey For Christ in the late 90’s and continued for over ten years. We did ok but it was a different time, although we did manage a Bloodstock appearance and some European shows. It was an amazing adventure and taught me a lot about how to make a band work or what not to do.
Stuart was in Severance in the early 90’s and a couple of other bands since. Severance were one of the biggest death metal bands at the time, at a local level. I was a huge fan before I really knew the guys, everyone loved the band back in the day.
Gary started in Overoth and played a tobe of shows with the band and then moved on to Zombified which he still continues to do. Both bands toured extensively and without a doubt he has the most live experience.
All our previous efforts were 100% serious at the time but I think that we all realise that The Crawling is moving at a different pace to anything we’ve been involved in before. It’s a pretty exciting experience.”
Anatomy Of Loss was recorded in your own studio. How much pressure was there on the band to make a great album or did having your own studio mean you could relax and take your time to make the songs as good as possible?
Andy Clarke: “The pressure was immense. Being so close to the thing made it almost impossible to be impartial and as a result made it very difficult. Of course, as it was my studio I was able to spend longer getting things right but sometimes you just need to get on with it and without financial or time contraints I perhaps spent too long on certain things. I wanted the album to be perfect and that was my focus but it did blind me on occassion. All I know is it was very hard fucking work.”
How much time was spent working on the album?
Andy Clarke: “Too much! It took about two years writing the songs and playing them live to get them ready to record. The actual recording process took about four months, some of which was literally 24/7. It was a very difficult process as I recorded, mixed and mastered the album alone. It was not a clever thing to do,the thought of doing it again terrifies me! But with each passing month I remember less and less about the nightmare and start to look forward to the next album… I think, ha ha!”
There are some quite personal songs on the album, was it hard to write about those subjects or did it act as a cathartic release?
Andy Clarke: “Yeah, the entire album is very personal and the majority of the lyrical content is from personal experience. The writing process is ok, I don’t think too much about it at the time; it just sort of falls out and before I know it lyrics are written and songs are taking shape. Listening back over it, or re-reading my lyrics can be an odd experience. Playing them luve is great with all the music and atmosphere happening simultaneously but I don’t like to read the lyrics in isolation.
I think it’s a release to some degree but I would say it all ended once the album was complete. Many of the topics inthe album still annoy my brain more often than I would like.”
When family or friends heard the songs for the first time what was their reaction to them?
Andy Clarke: “Our friends and families really liked the album but they are extremely supportive of the band and as a result it’s hard to gauge the reaction sometimes. Those closest to us had to put up with the whole process; the many, many mixes and variations on the finished product. I’m sure they’re sick of hearing it!”
Despite only existing for three years and having only just released your debut album, you’ve already played Bloodstock and the Inferno Festival and you’ve just played Metal Days. How did these opportunities come about, through sheer hard work and determination presumably?
Andy Clarke: “A combination of factors, but I would say yes to hard work and determination as a major player. When The Crawling started, I commitred myself entirely. I decided that if I was going to do the band thing again, I was going to do it right. To me that means the highest quality output possible on every level. To maintain a high standard is hard work and certainly requires dedication. I’ve had to learn a lot to keep it up; music production, photoshop, video editing software, PR, social media – the list goes on. All these things are relative but I would say we operate constantly whilst facilitating family and work life.
Ultimately it comes down to the music but I do believe any band has to work hard to get themselves heard. I actually got chatting with the guy that selected us to play Inferno – he just really loved our EP and picked us. It sounds simple but there was a lot of work to make the E.P sound as well as it did, get the artwork sorted, photographs, press release, submission info; all presented in a professional format for one of the most prestigious festivals to even consider us, nevermind actually offer us a slot.
Bloodstock was achieved through the Metal 2 The Masses competition run by Bloodstock themselves. Again, we were simply picked by the crowd and judges as the band of the night during the heats and then Simon Hall selected us to play Bloodstock. We rehearsed meticulously to click tracks, got our gear sorted 100%, got our own lighting effects and samples to create atmosphere, really defined our guitar tones to make sure it worked as well as it possibly could and presented the music as it should be. Again, its all simple stuff but it all added to ensure our live show was as good as it can be.
Metal Days was part of the Metal 2 The Masses initiative as well. Every year one of the completion bands that plays the New Blood Stage at Bloodstock is selected to play Metal Days; right place, right time, who knows; but I do know we made sure we played well at Bloodstock and had everything in place to be as good as we could be.”
Do you think coming from somewhere like Lisburn has helped shape the bands sound?
Andy Clarke: “I’m sure it had. I mean, there’s nothing particular about the city that is featured in the music but it’s a small claustrophobic place; so i guess that filters into the mood of the music to a degree. The metal scene in Lisburn is tiny, so we tend to migrate towards Belfast for gigs and that. Belfast can be a bleak place too but it’s slowly but surely becoming a brighter place.”
Who are your main influences?
Andy Clarke: “My Dying Bride, Katatonia and Anathema would be my biggest influence musically but I get inspiration from a lot of different bands. I really lke PJ Harvey; some of her lyrics are brilliant and she’s very inspirational. I listen to primarily heavy metal, although many different bands from Motley Crue to Burzum. When I have my iPod on shuffle I get influences from many places.”
Going back to The Anatomy Of Loss, it has been very well received by the metal press, it must be a great feeling to have all the hard work that went into the album appreciated?
Andy Clarke: “The response has been excellent pretty much across the board. I have to admit it’s a phenominal feeling. Of course, you always want people to like your music, but because we’d put so much fucking work into the thing I really needed some positive feedback to make me believe that I hadn’t wasted the last two years of my life.”
After the gigs over the summer, have you any plans for further touring or is there thoughts of new music?
Andy Clarke: “Always lots of plans in my head, it’s just not that simple to bring them to fruition. We have a couple of UK dates in August, some southern Irish shows in September and a Belfast show around November time. No big tours as yet but we have been trying to get sone euro dates – although that’s proving trick. There are only so many shows at our level and it can be hard to book venues, not to mention larger gigs happening which can ruin any chance of us lesser known acts getting a crowd. It’s a tough world out there.
New music is underway. I’d written a few songs but only one has made it to the rehearsal space and become a finalised track. It’s sounding really good and I’m thrilled to get back to writing again. I don’t totally enjoy the writing process, it’s a bit stressful but I love when the completed song captures everything I was trying to achieve.”
The Crawling’s debut album, The Anatomy Of Loss, is available now! Get it here!