I first heard of Woods Of Ypres when I started following David on Twitter, and when Earache announced they were going to release Woods 4 : The Green Album in the UK I had to check it out. You can see what I thought of it here. It’s a deep, sometimes bleak, work so I decided to get in touch with main man David Ypres to find out more about what lies behind this stunningly good album.
Some of David’s answers are as enigmatic as his music, so you can draw your own conclusions from his responses…
Woods of Ypres music seems to be described differently by each person who listens to it, how would you describe what you do ?
That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It means we’re doing something original? As reference points only, to categorize, I used to say black metal, then black and doom, then blackened doom and these days I like saying “true-doom”. I believe we’ve been around long enough to have earned the right to call ourselves true-doom and to know what we’re talking about. What we do now has the trueness of the black metal spirit and the maturity and acceptance of doom. We’re still as passionate as the early days but the doom helps keep us grounded and we like staying close to reality. We’re not a typical doom band, but we mean it.
Woods 4 is “The Green Album”, why green ?
Many reasons. Here’s four: Firstly, W4 was the first album to feature the Philadelphia brothers Evan Madden on drums and Shane Madden on bass, otherwise known from the metal act THE GREEN EVENING REQUIEM. Second, we were in a low and slow TYPE O NEGATIVE doom-like mood when creating this album, TYPE O, of whom the colour green was a constant trademark and who have obviously been a big influence on us. Third, we were green with efficiency, writing and recording a straightforward, stripped down album in a very short time. Lastly, her last name was Green, I was completely obsessed and this was the only album I knew how to make at the time. Any other title would not have been as true. Green is the heaviest word I know.
The subject matter is mostly loss, death and cheery stuff like that, never fancy writing something happy ?
I’d have to feel happy first, otherwise I highly doubt it would sound convincing. Actually, if I were to try to write a happy song, it might end up being the saddest thing we’ve ever done because everyone would be able to tell that it was false, and that I tried to fake a happy feeling. At least for now, people trust us to tell it like it really is. Besides, if I already knew those happy feelings, I probably wouldn’t be making music at all. It’s the bad feelings that inspire the music. Happy feelings let you relax and let your guard down. The bad feelings are a motivator that keep you alert and hard. Also, happy music is “group music” for when people are together and having a good time. WOODS OF YPRES is personal music intended to be listened to in solitude.
There is a story arc through the album involving loss and moving on to the next potential heartbreak. So there’s a sort of optimism there ?
This album needed to have some optimism as the journey within is basically a search for hope. As long as the potential for hope can exist, then the story can continue. Without optimism to find hope, this story could be told in just one song, rather than 16. The confusion, the mixed emotions, the uncertainty and the unknown keeps this album moving forward in those moments where just moving forward is a good enough reason to continue to exist. The optimism is actually hope for acceptance. The acceptance of your life and who you are will allow you some peace but the denial of the truth will tear you apart. The idea of “the next potential heartbreak” is healthy part of that acceptance in terms accepting that nothing is ever really yours and that there will be heartbreak. You can have and enjoy something for a time but you never really own anything. Nothing is ever really yours, nothing is forever, everything comes to an end and at that end, you will likely have to reinvent yourself and start all over again. If you can accept that, you are well prepared to go out there, take your chances, gain, maintain, lose and do it all over again. That’s sustainable living.
That song is actually about the most desperate and dangerous part of the album when you spend all your built up bad energy on a self-abusive, self-destructive rampage. If you can’t relate to it, don’t judge, but instead be thankful that you were never there, and be careful that you don’t speak too soon, just in case you might be next. “Wet Leather” is about the point when nothing matters anymore, at rock bottom, after you’ve exhausted your efforts and ended up with nothing, when everything is so crushingly depressing that you might just have to laugh because laughter is all you have left, that is, if you’re still capable of a sense of humour at all. Again, acceptance allows you to laugh, in retrospect at least, if likely not in the moment itself. The denial of reality is agonizing particularly when you are too stubborn to accept that your worst nightmares are true, when both you are your subconscious already know that they are. The most fun I have these days is usually always at my expense. I’ll read a horrible review of W4 out loud to the guys in the band, where the reviewer who very obviously couldn’t relate to the album, didn’t enjoy it, doesn’t like the band, goes on to insult us, make personal judgements about us, call our music shit, to which we laugh our faces off. Wet Leather is a terrible, embarrassing serious song, but it’s awesome for comic relief on that day when you’re at the end of your sanity and not one more single fuck could be given about it.
I have read reviews where people single out that track for special attention, are you worried that people don’t ‘get’ the irony ?
Sure, we have seen that, but what is there to be worried about? We saw that from the very first hour that song was first posted online, but what does it really matter and how would it change anything? That’s the song we wanted to write and that’s the song we wrote so people’s reactions to it won’t change anything. We the band, the people who get it and the those who don’t are all going to die someday, so it doesn’t matter. In the meantime, you can’t explain smart to stupid, and stupid speaks for itself. I’m just thankful that I believe to see a bigger picture where I appreciate those who enjoy the band and accept the people who loathe that song, or the band in general. We’re different, people, and that’s alright. Of course, it’s interesting to me when I see people publishing lengthy conclusions about the album and that song where the point was entirely overlooked. We just read one last night where someone said “This music is for people who hate their lives and would rather whine and complain than to do something constructive.”. I can agree with the first part somewhat, but not the second. In response to a hated life, in this particular example, I wrote one album, W4: The Green Album while I was drumming on another one, NECRAMYTH’s “Slaughter of the Seoul”, the Korean Death Metal band I drummed for while living in Seoul, South Korea 2007-2008. Both albums were released as a 2CD set independently on my Practical Art Records label in 2009. In my opinion, that is a perfect example of being successfully constructive in the face of adversity.
How does a Woods of Ypres track come together, do you write everything and hand it, more or less complete, to the band ?
Historically, yes, that’s how we’ve worked in order to record albums when we had the chance. The next album, W5 for Earache Records will be the first album that we will write collaboratively as a band. The main ideas will be generated the old way to shape the sound but we hope to have more jam room time in which to sculpt the songs this time around.
Al Dawson, A&R guy from Earache USA came out to our show in New York last year and approached us after the gig. We had been touring for about four weeks at that point, across Canada and the USA, having played a show nearly every day, so we were on fire on stage that night and thankfully had a great show with a very welcome audience response. Al talked to us that night and Earache offered us a deal shortly afterwards. I left to go work in Kuwait in August, taking the contract with me to consider. By October we had decided to sign, at which point I put my notice in at my job, told them that I was going home early. By the end of December I was back in Canada and back to work with WOODS OF YPRES. I thank Earache records for bringing me home from the desert and getting me back to working on what I really want to do. Otherwise, I may have stayed out there, or then gone somewhere else, and roamed out there forever.
Woods Of Ypres seem to produce the music they want to, with the style constantly evolving. Obviously there are big benefits to being signed but do you think your creative flexibility could be hampered by being signed to a label ?
Sure! There are certainly equal pros and cons to both sides, but there is also the right time in a career for both. We were an independent “underground” band for nearly nine years before finally signing to a label, Earache. On our own, I was most satisfied with our total freedom of artistic expression and being able to change our sound to fit however we were feeling at the time of each new album. Now, I think it’s understandable that we would be expected to focus more on refining our best ideas and shaping the best and most satisfying songs we can. We had nine years to make art, now we want to deliver the most satisfaction to the people, the label as well as ourselves at the same time. That then becomes the challenge, to achieve the best balance that pleases all and still allows us to push our sound forward. It’s not a simple assignment of course, but I believe it can be done and I believe we can do it. It’s the only way we’ll be successful actually. If and when a time comes when no one is invested in us anymore but people still give a shit about what we create, and if I can afford it of course, then, I would go back to making “art” for the sake of art. Until then, it’s business and we are working on something all the time, stopping only to eat and sleep. That’s the lifestyle, and it’s the only way of life I know how to remain dedicated to. In here, existence is easier.
The video for “I was buried in Mount Pleasant cemetery” has just been premiered. Reckon you’ll see it much on MTV ?
That would make me happy to see of course. I can only hope for heavy rotation somewhere and lots of people purchasing the music. Ask me again in a year from now and I’ll likely be able to tell you how it really works. By the way, I’m Canadian, so I grew up with Canada’s Much Music, though I know that Canada now has MTV, Canada. However, they don’t even show videos anymore, do they? I do reckon that the video will rack up quite a few thousand views from various online sources, or even simply just from my own YouTube page: www.youtube.com/DavidYpres. If the video did “go big”, even once, briefly, I can only hope that my hairstyle would become a popular trend amongst college aged metal kids who can grow full beards, at which point, I will conclude that the view got out there and did some damage.
Big decision to shave the beard ?
No. I’ve grown many big beards in my lifetime and will grow many more. I shaved that last one off in August and it has almost totally grown back. In fact, I started to grow this current beard when I was in Kuwait, so this is my first real Arab beard. Now, I’m working on growing the hair out again, back to 2007 “Woods III: Deepest Roots & Darkest Blues” standards. I’d like to be swinging more hair on stage again, as well as swinging my huge beard. At WOODS OF YPRES, we don’t ever get too comfortable, or too attached to things. We learned the hard way how to find excitement in frequent, unannounced, spontaneous and sometimes reckless, risky and dangerous change. As long you keep the body intact, let it roll. Beards grow back. Besides, that beard shaving was the most exciting one yet. I’d been staying in a downtown Toronto hotel for a few days prior to the capturing of that part of the video, where the hotel staff would, understandably, seem cautious of me. One day I left with my huge beard, shaved it off in the reflection of a black marble gravestone in the actual Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto and returned to the hotel only seemingly a new man, though the same guy of course. Where I was once greeted with “Yes?” had then changed to “Good morning sir, how can I help you?”. Society is still afraid of beards.
Rumour has it that Woods 5 is finished, when can we expect that to see the light of day ?
We wrote and recorded a spontaneous e.p. last August on our own, before the involvement of Earache and just before I moved to Kuwait to work for a few months. Inspired by the energies we were feeling after we got off tour, the e.p. sounds proud and brutal but also beaten down and crushingly sad. It was very much the kind of album we wanted to do at the time, again, while still being an independent band with the freedom to write, record and release whatever we wanted to our loyal underground supporters. I’m sure that it will see the light of day, eventually, in some way. For now, we’re focused on writing an entirely new full length album for Earache this year, that is scheduled to be released by the end of 2011. However, before any of that, W4: The GREEN album gets released worldwide via Earache on CD and double vinyl on March 22nd.