An interview with Serocs
The year 2018 didn´t necessarily make it easy to clear the dense thicket of top notch TDM releases. Yet in late December a beacon was lit for affineurs of the genre. A beacon shaped as the multinational ensemble Serocs founded by the Mexican guitarist Antonio Freyre who on "The Phobos/Deimossuite" unleashed a true storm of exuberant creativity, instrumental furor and perceptive dichotomy. Elegantly forged into one unique piece with a production that grants excellent accessability to its inherent insanity.
So we wanted to find out more about a brain-hand coordination that would lead to a masterpiece of such both subtle yet destructive grandeur.
The stage is Freyre´s
Navigator: How would you describe to the listener rather unfamliar to the genre of TDM the overall listening impression of Serocs?
Antonio: I'd say "Imagine something really fast, full of notes everywhere, with low guitar tuning, aggressive distorted tones and crazy blasting drums. Now imagine that thing, but it's also catchy and you can hum the tune easily."
Navigator: And how in addition to that would you try to "dull down" the feeling of getting overrun by an express train while listening to your latest output?
Antonio: I'd say - Imagine a very detailed barroque or gothic church. If you see it from afar, it's still church-shaped. If you are close, you can see all the details, but it doesn't seem like a church. Same for this music. Don't focus on every individual note, trying to catch up with the song as it plays. It's too fast. Try to focus on groups of notes. 4 notes, 8 notes, even a full riff. Take it in as a whole and then the speed and intensity wont seem as an issue anymore. It will have the shape of a song and it will make sense. It's a journey.
Navigator: Chuck Schuldiner once said in the following of "The sound of perserverance" that he rather wanted to create an inspiratory piece of music than a record that was strictly limited to the "requirements" of Metal. How would you value the proportionality between the Metal enthusiast´s going for well-known standards such as brutality, speed, precision etc. and the writer´s desire to convey his personal musicality beyond the field of raised horns, chaos, sweat and turmoil?
Antonio: I do feel we need to steer towards conveying our personal musicality. All of these genre-standards first came from someone trying to convey their own feeling, so everyone else shouldn't be constricted to these tropes. If they fit with your vision, great. But don't be afraid to experiment.
Navigator: You once referred to Symphony X and Gorguts as some of your main influences which is remarkable since Michael Romeo and Luc Lemay appear to be grandmasters, if you will, in their fields not only in terms of artistic craftsmanship but compositional abilities as well. Could you define the importance of musical versatility and different musical preferences beyond the limits of TDM for creating music such as your own?
Antonio: I think versatility is key to creating good art. You have to take inspiration from not just many genres, but even different mediums as well. You can structure your songs like movies, draw inspiration from a book, mix in some powerprog metal into it, etc. The more art you consume, the more your horizons broaden and you are able to create something that feels fresh. I barely listen to TDM even. It's just that the mix of my personal influences results in TDM, but it wasn't my aim to create that genre initially.
Navigator: What apart from his obvious musical/artistic capabilities were the reasons for you to have Kevin Paradis participate in Serocs?
Antonio: Our previous drummer, Timo Hakkinen, was rehearsing a lot for his upcoming audition for Aeon. At the same time, the songs in TPDS required a different style of drumming, so Phil suggested we contact Kevin for it, who did an amazing job and is a total professional in how he works.
Navigator: The album´s cover art conveys let´s say a kind of seasoned morbidity even some kind of elegance but the moment you spin it a mechanized massacre scourges the ears of those who choose to subdue to it.
What inspired you to create such an antithetical ambivalence?
Antonio: I liked that art for precisely that. It takes a style as classic and elegant like a barroque portrait and just completely destroys it right in the face. TDM is no different. There are tons of classical and barroque influences that we take and melt to create that aggressive sound you hear on Phobos/Deimos.
Navigator: What is your driving force behind your desire to create music and having it recognized by many if that is achievable?
Antonio: My main driving force is just getting the riffs out of my head. I get lots of months of "calm" in my mind, but once the spark gets there, it's just a nonstop of riffs and song ideas. So this type of creative outlet is more of a personal therapy than anything. It lets me be calm again, after I've released all of that. I do love that it's picking up and more people are listening to it, but if I wanted millions of listeners, this wouldn't be the genre I'd be doing!
Navigator: How do you value the responsibility of those creating music for conveying something of palplable substantiality?
Antonio: I wouldn't say people creating music are responsible for anything. Ultimately, it's fine if people want to make music for any purpose (ego, commercial, creative outlet, social, etc). It's up to us as consumers to just choose which we want to hear. There's space in the internet for everyone.
Navigator: In the light of organisational incertainties due to a band the members of which all live on different continents, how likely is the prospect of live appearances on European stages in the nearer future?
Antonio: It's not as unlikely as you'd think! For the previous album, I only played shows in Mexico. However, since TPDS got popular, we are looking at the possibility of playing other countries. More news soon.
Navigator: Is there something you could say the fans will never hear on a Serocs record?
Antonio: Djent riffs. I just can't stand that thing. They made a whole genre out of 1 riff. Anything else is fair game, although we'll obviously won't stray far from our current path. We do have some interesting ideas for the next album, whenever that is.
Navigator: One aspect that distinguishes "The Phobos/Deimos suite" severely from many contemporary outputs is the production. You have that "castle ultimate" approach of precise transparency and instrumental balance which lead to auditability on the one hand and on the other the wide strechted, modern approach which focusses on sheer heavyness, brutality and overwhelming tonal violence, thereby completely leaving aside that no band is in fact capable of reproducing this kind of sound live.
How come you prioritized authenticity instead so passionately? Although this kind of "larger than life" productions serve as a respectable reason to buy for the kids nowadays?
Do you choose music that stands for itself for what it is over music that is pushed to matter by the way it is presented soundwise?
Antonio: One of the first ideas I had for Serocs was that, since the albums were going to be made over the internet, we had to sound as "real" as possible. It really had to feel like we all rehearsed in the same space. That has been my approach to working with our different sound engineers over the years. It has been integral and it's very noticeable on "And When The Sky..." and "The Next". You can even hear some tiny mistakes or string scrapes on my guitar tracks. It had to sound raw. I've never liked the sterile sound most tech bands get. They all sound the same.
For TPDS, we were lucky enough to work with Hugues Deslauriers, who is an absolute master and managed to give us the perfect mix between raw/live and super professional and powerful. It sounds modern, but it doesn't sound edited or quantized or compressed. It can compete with all the current modern metal productions but you can still feel that raw power of each performance. You can tell Phil and I play guitar differently, from example. You can hear the bass but it doesn't sound like farts. You have all the little snare ghost notes. I really attribute a lot of this album's success to Hugues masterful work.
I do like music that is authentic. I'm not all the way "anti trigger" and all that, and I certainly record my guitars in multiple takes, but some bands go all the way to the most sterile, fake sound possible as an artistic choice and that doesn't appeal to me.
Navigator: What is your latest favorite record in the field of TDM?
Antonio: Not as new, but the latest two that really stuck with me were Dasein by First fragment and Intransigence by Abhorrent. I also enjoyed Tomb Mold last year, although it's not exactly the same thing.
Navigator: If you had to lay down your headstone´s epigraph right now, what would it say and how would you want to change the inscription over the years if you had the chance to redoe it?
Antonio: That's a brutal question! Honestly I'd put in some of the lyrics Laurent wrote for this album. The themes of each song were very personal for me and about halfway through recording, I had some rough personal issues that limited my time working on the lyrics, so Laurent stepped up and understood exactly what I wanted to communicate. I'd say what he wrote as the last part of "Being" is my favorite verse ever on anything, so I'd put it on my headstone.
Navigator: Thank you so much
Interview by Kim