Paul Ravenwood (aka “Moonshine”) is the brains, brawn and everything in between behind Twilight Fauna, Green Elder and Arête. He’s also involved in a number of other projects. He’s a person that is inseparabely connected with the planet we live on and his music and personality mirror that connection to nature. Simply put, Paul is an excellent individual who makes beautiful music. You can follow Paul on Twitter and find him on Facebook. From the man himself:
Paul Ravenwood is the multi-instrumentalist and sole creator of the Appalachian atmospheric metal project, Twilight Fauna. In Twilight Fauna, Ravenwood uses a variety of traditional folk instruments alongside more conventional black metal guitar work and primitive drumming to create a unique blend of blackened folk music. Since forming in 2011, Ravenwood has released multiple full lengths, EPs, and splits. Most recently a split 7″ with Jennifer Christensen. In addition to Twilight Fauna, Ravenwood is also the musician behind the neofolk project, Green Elder, and handles vocals and folk instruments for Arête. Many of his albums are self released through his own label, Ravenwood Recordings.
How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
I grew up listening to music and going to concerts. My parents were huge music fans so picking up an instrument seemed like a natural fit. My parents bought me a bass with I was about 13 years old and it all just sort of grew from there.
As far as success, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to judge that. When I released the first Twilight Fauna album I made it in my house. I made it just for myself, and I didn’t think anyone else would care much. I did a couple of those that were sort of demos and then people started getting in touch about doing physical releases and it all just kind of developed. Things continue to grow for me slow and steady which is the way I prefer. In terms of what I hoped to achieve, I really just want to make music that helps me process things that happen in my life and to give voice to my own world. Outside of that, I’ll let everything else so itself out.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get Twilight Fauna onto a show with a band you love or into a magazine, blog or the like? If you don’t think of yourself as the debaser type, please tell us an embarrassing story involving a live performance.
I’ve never played live as Twilight Fauna, and I highly doubt I ever will so I’ve not really debased myself. I hate asking people for things so I do feel awkward sending out a bunch of promo emails, but it’s a necessary evil. I’m not sure if I would say it’s debasing but when I’ve sent out so many emails asking people to cover my material, or if I’m looking around at someone do a release and I reach out to a bunch of people asking for help, that’s not always the best feeling. I can feel a bit like begging at times. Luckily outside of a few bad experiences, as long as you’re up front and professional the majority of people are incredibly nice even when they can’t help. We’re all in this together in some sort of capacity.
You go for many a thought-provoking jaunt in the woods. How far do you hike at a time? How does this help you clear your mind and, how does it relate to your songwriting? How connected are you to nature?
Distance wise it varies tremendously because of the terrain here. Sometimes you can do 10 miles in a day through fields without a problem. Other times if you’re climbing up a mountain a few miles could take the better part of the day. On those hikes, the woods help me destress. I feel much more comfortable out there than I do in the modern world. It feels like I belong there. Things are much simpler in a sense, survival, food, water, navigation. There is nothing else necessary to think about in a forest.
All of this connects to my songwriting because being in nature frees up my mind to focus on creative ventures. If I wasn’t able to escape to nature when I needed it, I would probably be a big nervous mess and not be productive in much of anything. More directly, in my writing I often try to provide a soundtrack to those journeys. It’s a musical representation of what it’s like being out there with me.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music? (This question is especially appropriate for you since your music is quite an outlet for your physical and emotional pains).
That’s a tough question to answer because in my personal life I’m very politically minded and socially conscious but my music is so personal to me that I don’t knowingly interject those types of messages into it. I’m not out to convince anyone to hold a certain view. I’m sure there a messages in there here and there but it’s not to preach. It’s more about this is the reality of my life and the place that I live. I don’t think it really reaches the level of a conscious effort to interject societal level issues into my music. It’s much, much too personal for that.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? Do you play any instruments or are all your efforts poured directly into your vocal performances?
My parents were big southern rock fans so I always grew up listening to heavier, guitar based music but I guess my first introduction into metal would be Judas Priest. I head Sad Wings of Destiny when I was 11 or 12 and immediately fell in love. As far as black metal, a friend played me a cassette of Transylvanian Hunger when I was around 16 and it completely changed how I looked at music. I saw that music could be focused more in emotional content rather than standing up there playing riffs and impressing people. That changed my whole outlook in terms of what music is and could be.
In terms of instruments I play basically everything for both Twilight Fauna and my neofolk project Green Elder. Between the two, in addition to vocals, I play guitar, bass, drums, 6 string banjo, Appalachian dulcimer, wood flute, tin whistle, and a variety of percussion instruments and hand drums. I also do all the recording, mixing, and most of the mastering for my releases. Although here recently, I’ve found that handing over mastering duties to other people has been a big improvement because by that point I’ve listening to each note hundreds of time so it’s hard to be objective.
What’s the stickiest you have ever been?
I hate being sticky actually. If my hands get sticky I immediately have to stop what I’m doing and wash them. It’s almost to the point of being a phobia. I hate even thinking about it.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
I think taking more chances on smaller independent artists is a must. I realize that especially with a lot of larger publications how much people interact (click on a link) with a story and page views and all that is an issue, but in terms of the development of new music and moving things forward, a lot more good can be done by showing people new bands/projects they may not get exposed to otherwise. Sure you won’t get as many page views as an article about new Slipknot masks but in terms of helping build the community it would be much more meaningful to show people something new. And would mean much more to a hardworking musician who poured their heart into something that few people may ever hear.
I want to ask you about substances. You often mention Moonshine. Do you make your own moonshine or do you merely imbibe moonshine? Do you use substances in any way to assist in the artistic process?
Manny, you know me too well. I don’t make my own but I do enjoy it and respect it as part of my culture. It’s a part of traditional life here that has unfortunately become commercialized in the past few years. I guess that’s the nature of life these days. I was recently at a big commercial distillery meant for tourists and someone handed me a sample and said “this is East Tennessee in a glass.” I’m sure the guy says that to hundreds of people that come through there every day but I was really taken aback. The totality of my entire culture and that of my ancestors who have lived in the mountains for hundreds of years was being reduced to this one glass to sell a product. That’s not a good feeling.
That carries over into my music as well. I try to be cognizant of not reducing my music to a parody of living here. I want to represent modern and historical life here as something people can delve deeply into and not just be that guy that puts banjo in his black metal. Because it goes much deeper than that for me. I want it to go beyond the surface and be a true representation of life, the happiness, the sadness, the struggles, the many losses that seem to keep coming my way. I want it all in there. I don’t want to reduce whole lives down to a glass.
Finally, when you’re not listening to, writing or playing metal, what are some of you favorite albums to listen to currently?
I listen to a huge variety of music. Mostly a mix of metal, traditional folk, post rock, and sad acoustic music. Metal wise, lately new Dawn Ray’d album A Thorn A Blight has been on repeat. I can’t get enough of it. Traditional folk wise the new Clifton Hicks album Mexico. He is one of my all time favorite modern artists still carrying the torch for traditional folk. A great banjo player, and his voice is unparalleled. Acoustic music wise, everyone should give a listen to the new Arrowwood album Eye of Ivy, Thorn and Moss. It’s one of the most emotionally journeys you’ll have. I’ve also recently discovered Lucero’s acoustic material that has been filling my need for sad crying music. And as far as post rock, Mono and Endless Melancholy are pretty much my staples.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. And thank you to all that support what I do. -Ravenwood
A massive thank to Paul aka “Moonshine” for his time!