Upon each new release from Canada’s Thrawsunblat, the band are no strangers to multiple coverage opportunities and for good reason; their output is always top-notch. For their latest, IV: Great Brunswick Forest, we recently featured an interview of the band (spoiler: the answers were as wildly entertaining as the surprising acoustic direction of said album) and are still spinning IV regularly around these halls. Joel Violette was kind enough to return once more to answer our set of Profile questions in which we dive into beginnings, Bandcamp, positivity, new material and so much more. If you haven’t heard the album yet, hit the embedded stream and by all means click the links below to get a copy of this album in your hands. Without further delay, head inside to see what Joel had to say.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
By being absolutely unable to do anything else until I’d figured out exactly what the hell was going on in the Master of Puppets instrumental section and how the melodies went. I learned instruments simply because you can’t sing both a bass line and melody line at once. As far as success: I was hoping to be Hansi Kursch, but I realized the job had already been taken.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
Signed up for a Facebook account. Of all debasements, I consider this the most wide-ranging, complete, and constant.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
The great things: first the affordability and ubiquity of good recording rigs. Anyone with melodies in their mind can, with not too much effort, get their ideas recorded and, with a little more effort, make them sound good enough to release at least a demo. Someone with music exploding out of them with no means to record makes quite a tragic figure. Someone with the means to record (or to pay someone to record) and nothing of value to bring to the world makes boring albums and likely irritates the hell out of everyone promoting them. The second great thing: Bandcamp — an incredible platform that levels the playing field in much the same way. It provides a medium for anyone and everyone to release their music and, most importantly, have it judged solely on musical merit.
The worst things: seeing record labels using stereotypical metal tropes to pump out overdone, overused, boring songs and to flood the world with stale, flat, irritating, pointless albums all for the purposes of lining their pockets with a few bucks.
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?
I think people need to consume less and create more. You are good enough. You are. It’s okay to turn off the screen for a minute and create something, anything. Music, drawings, sketch comedy, entire mythologies. Sure, the first few might be garbage — you should see my attempts at landscape sketches or violin — but you develop a style. This is to say you start to notice things, small things at first, that you like in your work. Then you slowly but surely cultivate these more and more in your work. Soon — sooner that you might expect — you have something of value that you — yes, you — created. And you also have a rudimentary process through which to create new things that leap to mind.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
Children of Bodom’s Lake Bodom guitar pro tab. I was 14 and I was thrown onto an ice floe with other outcasts from my Canadian village and left to die of exposure.
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?
First of all, ask questions like this one. Try to figure out the musician’s perspective. Try to figure out what they were trying to do with the album. Sit with it. Let it fester. Let it surprise you. It may not be your cup of tea, at all, and that’s awesome! At least you’ve seen the intentions in the music and lyrics. It’s like a travel writer visiting Canada and being cold and miserable the entire time, yet seeing what a skier might enjoy here, and writing about that.
A lot of reviewers try to shove albums into their own frame of reference and then proceed to dump all over albums for failing to live up to these preconceived expectations. The entire point of an album is to go somewhere new musically. If, as a critic or outlet, you’re only interested in hearing what you like and are never interested in challenging your tastes and limits as a listener, then you’re likely in the wrong business and should perhaps instead consider a career in corporate marketing.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
We’re interested mainly in the melody market. I would like, ideally, to stock as many as we can and sell them at reasonable prices to anyone who’s interested in making an Atlantic Canadian folk metal album but without having to muck about in all the stress, frustration, and vulnerability to criticism involved in the actual writing.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
I tend to live in the musical past. However, once I’ve seen the lay of the land of the previous year in metal, I’ll tackle it till I drop. That way, although I’m left well behind in the past, I’m tackling a finite entity. I wonder if I might do things this way because in this scenario I’m hunting out valued albums rather than having new albums thrown at my face. Currently enjoying Rome’s Masse Mensche Material, the energetic Gilbert Becaud, Rick Wakeman, the new Skálmöld, the new Soilwork, Grieg’s piano concertos, the new Cor Scorpii, and Bach’s Brandenburgs.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
Release of Thrawsunblat IV: Great Brunswick Forest was on October 19, 2018. Then hopefully by October 2019, a heavy version of a few songs from that, entirely acoustic, album. Knowing Tblat, in the meantime there might be another EP of speculatively functional instrumentation.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Joel and Thrawsunblat for their time!