Exclusive Interview: Cyclops Cataract talk writing, recording and signing to Planet K Records!
Last month saw one of the finest Avant Garde Black Metal albums of the year arrive from Scottish residents Cyclops Cataract in the form of debut album “The Bestiary” via Planet K Records. Fuelling the fire of the atmosphere of the record with a phycological and slightly disturbing black and white music video for “Devil Of TheSea” that echoes what might have happened in the minds of those subjected to LSD trials in the 1950’s, it’s one that simply has to be heard to be believed. We had the pleasure of speaking to Scott Hogg (Guitar, Keyboard), James Dron (Guitar) and Mark Robertson (Bass) about what went on behind the scenes…
What did you learn from the recording of “Swallow The World” that you took into writing “The Beastiary“?
Scott: “I think I should have used more reverb on the drums. Also, I don’t think the ambient sections fitted as well with our first EP. However, I’m still quite happy with how it sounds”
James: “For me it is that nothing is too much; or at least that trying it isn’t too much. Take it to that OTT point that might sound like it is too out there/busy and persevere and listen to it over and over to decide if stuff is there for the sake of it or if it works. I tend to listen to (and write) stuff that is quite stripped down and raw, so having all of these additional arrangements has been refreshing”
How does the writing process of a new Cyclops Cataract track start? Melody, riff or rhythm first?
James: “For the riffs I offered up, I just need a window in terms of number of bars, time signature, tempo and I can construct from there. I’ll take into consideration the rest of the sections of the song so far (if applicable) and tailor my note choices to that. Any additional layers were then put on after the riff was down.”
Scott: “I write quite a large amount of the music, however I don’t think the songs are finished unless all the guys add they’re sections and ideas. James is great at expanding on my ideas and turning them into more complex sections. It’s great because he’s a much more technically proficient guitar player than I am. Most songs are from a library of riffs ideas that I keep stored on my computer. It’s so important to have the computer on all the time so when I have an idea, I can record it there and then, just as a rough sketch sort of thing”
How have your writing sessions taken shape? Have you spent time in the same room throwing ideas at each other or has it been more of a case of file trading parts to get from start to finish?
Mark: “File trading for sure. Scott would provide a rough song and then we would start to record our own parts”
For us gear nerds out there, can you tell us what you’re using gear wise (pedals, strings, drums etc) to get your sound?
James: “Because of lockdown restrictions preventing access to studios etc. this is the first time I’ve ever recorded anything without using my ‘real’ amps. Everything has previously been recorded with either an ENGL E670 SE EL34, Mesa Mark V or Marshall JCM800, but for Cyclops Cataract it has all been digital. On ‘Swallow The World’ I used a Fractal Audio Axe-FX II. For ‘The Bestiary’ I have exclusively used STL ToneHub, specifically the Josh Middleton pack. The range of tones on there is great and very complimentary to everything else that is going on. It has also been very convenient as it has meant that I’ve been able to record everything in my living room without waking the kids or neighbours! As far as the rest of my setup it has been really stripped down this time as I’ve kept the guitar quite tame in terms of effects: LTD Kirk Hammett Ouija Purple Sparkle (with a Seymour Duncan Mick Thomson EMTY at the bridge position) for all of my rhythm parts – when recording the main rhythm tracks I usually prefer mahogany bodies for that extra ‘chunk’ but as a lot of my rhythm tracks for Cyclops Cataract are embellishing sections by harmonising etc. I like to use alder bodied guitars to cut a little more. For all of the lead parts I used my 1997 Jackson USA RR1 with Fishman Fluence Moderns – it was just a little brighter than what I was getting from the Ouija, due to both the pickups and the ‘snap’ from the ebony board. Effects-wise I only used a Dunlop Crybaby From Hell for one of the solos, otherwise I was direct. Strings for both guitars are D’Addario 10-46 with the 46 replaced by a 52”
Mark: “I use a Geoff Gould Pulse5 bass with single EMG pickup and EMG Preamp tuned up a step to C standard D’addario strings Dark glass B7K, though for convenience I used the Neural DSP plug in rather than my physical unit for consistency”
Given how free flowing and dynamic your sound is, do you record parts to a metronome or click track or do you favour the more volatile approach?
Scott: “We mostly use a click to try and keep things as tight as we can. Craig doesn’t use the click when recording his vocals as he finds it quite off putting”
What difference would it make to you as a band if you could land an endorsement from a gear manufacturer?
James: “It is something I’ve always loved the idea of – though I wouldn’t want to take on an endorsement from a brand for the sake of having an endorsement, it would have to be something I either already use or would have good reason to use instead (maybe that I just haven’t discovered them yet). A signature ESP guitar would be the dream though; they’ve been my favourite (and most often used) brand since 2003 when I got my first custom shop model. Some association with D’Addario would be great too as I use their strings on all of my guitars, and all my leads (instrument, speaker, microphone etc.) and accessories (string winders, neck stands etc.) are all Planet Waves”
Mark: “I think I’d be interested in an amp endorsement as it would make touring easier – being able to pick up an amp anywhere in the world and not having to lug amp/cab/convertors etc about on a plane inevitably getting them damaged or destroyed”
Scott: “I quite like the look of Solar guitars (hint hint). An endorsement would be pretty cool. I also exclusively use Neural plug-ins for album work. It would be great if I could work with them to create a signature plug-in. Mark and James would deserve an endorsement more than myself because they’re the proper gear addicts in the band”
You inked a deal with Planet K Records (Kneel, Hadal, Devastating Light) for your debut album; how did that come about and how have you found working with them?
Scott: “I sent a few songs to Manuel from Planet K as they’re a label with some really fantastic bands. It means a lot to us that the label has faith in our music and vision as a band. Manuel has also been great at promoting us properly. I hope that we work together on more releases”
“The Beastiary” by Cyclops Cataract is out now via Planet K Records and is available over at bandcamp.