Hi guys, how is Minsk doing at the moment?
Minsk is doing very well, thanks. It feels good to have the new album out there in people's hands. We have some good tours coming up, and we're excited to get back on the road. Everyone is ready to keep moving and is well rested from a pretty extensive break. I think we've been home almost too long. Everyone has lost their mind being home all winter. We have played a couple of times in the last couple of months, and it felt really good to be starting back up with the live stuff.
Could you please introduce your band to the Dutch audience?
Yeah, my name is Timothy Mead. Minsk also includes Christopher Bennett, Sanford Parker, and Tony Wyioming. We're from Illinois in the United States.
Why name your band after a Belarusian city? History majors or what?
Ha ha…. Yeah, something like that. Our guitar player, Chris, is definitely the history buff of the band, and the name was his creation. The city has a history that we find to be pretty interesting and inspiring. Lots of invasions, destruction, and perseverance. We see it as a symbol of all of those things, and regrowth or rebuilding, and we like the mysterious aspect of its geographical location and culture. For us, living where we do in the world, it's a very distant and cold place.
The new record is amazing! What do you think yourselves is the biggest difference with the previous record?
Well, thank you for the compliment. I think that we think of this album as a natural progression from what we were trying to do with the last record. For one, this is the first album we've started and finished as a single cohesive unit, which feels really good. If pressed, I think we all agree that the new album is maybe more musical than the last, maybe less overtly barbaric. I think the lyrical themes and the musical motifs mesh together more seamlessly. I think the album as a whole is more of a single piece, and maybe the songwriting has matured since then. I don't exactly know how people removed from the project are going to see it, but that's sort of our opinion of it.
Was there a different approach while recording the album?
The approach was relatively similar, I think. We put this one together in much the same fashion as the last, except that we had a vision for the whole thing going in, which was something we didn't necessarily have last time around. With “Out of a Center…” we were going through member changes, rewriting songs in the studio, and trying to adjust to new relationships within the band. This time around, we started out saying that we had this batch of songs and, while we definitely experimented a lot in the studio, we saw that through in a more focused way. I think that's something we'll continue to try to improve upon, but this time around it felt to us like we captured more of a real album that worked together as a whole and reflected our vision more completely.
I think the album title fits perfectly with the songs on 'The Ritual Fires Of Abandonment', they have a very ritualistic, “cult” kind of atmosphere. Almost religious…do you agree?
Yeah, I'm glad that people are picking up on that. I think the title is very fitting with the themes and was birthed out of the lyrics and songs. We definitely wanted something that captured the human aspect of the music and the quasi-spiritual aspect of the emotions involved. The album isn't really “religious” in any way, but I think you hit on that side of what we're getting at. An embracing of or wondering about the mystery of our existence and our world is a very primal human experience, and we're no different. For us, this music is a seeking of sorts, an experimentation, and a wondering. The “ritual” theme seemed to capture that for us. It's not surprising to me that people could potentially identify with that experience, whatever spiritual path they're on, or lack thereof.
Being from Peoria, is the first thing you want to do as a band move to Chicago or is there a scene in the Illinois area as well?
No, none of us who are from Peoria really have a desire to move to Chicago. Some of us have lived there or do live there now, but those of us in Peoria are fine with being here now. This is where we grew up. This is where our friends are. This is where we met one another and started playing together. When we drive down country roads or see the Illinois River Valley, we feel at home. On the day the album came out, we watched the sunrise across the river valley, and felt a sense of accomplishment that we didn't have to leave home or move to a more saturated place to get someone to notice. I don't think any of us plan on being here forever, but for now it is home, and there's something to be said for that. Chicago is a great place to play, a great place to see great bands, and a world class city. But it's also dirty, expensive, and far removed from forests and ponds and the farmland that shaped who we are. As for music, there's always been underground music in Peoria and lots of amazing musicians here. Obviously, it's nothing compared to a city like Chicago, but it has its own charm that you probably had to grow up here to appreciate.
Is it right that Bruce Lamont of Yakuza plays saxophone again on the new record, as he did on the previous one? Are there more bands from the Chicago area with which you have a close relationship like that?
Yeah, Bruce contributed some saxophone again this time around. We really love working with him, and we'll probably always be bugging him to play on our records. There are lots of great bands from Chicago who we're friends with or that are doing some awesome stuff. There's Bible of the Devil, with whom we're doing a few shows this month, Sweet Cobra, Indian, Yakuza, Unfortunaut, Dark Fog, Pelican, American Heritage, Behold! The Living Corpse, Johnny Vomit, Lair of the Minotaur, Pines… almost too many to mention.
You just recently signed with Relapse after having been on At A Loss, which seems like the brooding place for a lot of great bands, Can you describe the differences between the two labels?
At A Loss was great to work with. Joshua puts out great bands that he really likes, and that is awesome to have been a part of that. He does things for the right reasons, and is more of a stand up guy than 99% of people in the music industry here. As for the differences, At A Loss is still a small enough label that he is hands on with everything. You deal with one or two people on everything, and you know exactly what to expect. But, he's the first to admit that with his size come limitations. He can only do so much. With Relapse, the biggest difference has been the sheer force of the label. They run a very tight ship, you know, it's a business. So far, working with them has been awesome, but on some level it's sad to lose the intensely personal bond of working with someone who you know is doing everything himself, working insane hours, simply because his label is a work of love and he believes in the bands enough to put up money out of his own pocket. That's probably the biggest difference. Obviously, the bigger label is going to have more resources and connections, and we've certainly benefited from those and will continue to, I'm sure. We're all very happy with the decision.
Being close to the underground metal scene as you guys are, can you predict which relatively unknown band will have their breakthrough in the next year? If not, can you name some bands who should?
You can never really predict who will break when, but my money for 2007 is on Baroness. They deserve everything they stand to gain this year, and I really hope they land the big contract and get huge. They're awesome guys with a great work ethic and loads of talent. There's also a band from Chicago called Russian Circles that I think a lot of people will be hearing about very soon. It is also well deserved.
On both the biography sheets of Rwake and Minsk it is mentioned that you two will be likely to do a European tour this fall, I am not speaking just for myself if I say that this would be absolutely awesome, but how realistic is it?
Well, the two bands are touring together this Spring here in the States, so I don't how likely it is that we'd be coming to Europe together, and I can't speak for Rwake. But speaking for us, it is very likely that we will be there before the year is up. I can't say too much now, because plans and talks have just begun, but a European tour is definitely on the short list of things we really hope to make happen by the fall.
You will do a SXSW showcase this year, how important is that for a band like Minsk do
Well, it's hard to say what actually gets accomplished at festivals like South by Southwest, but we always have fun playing. This is our 3rd year playing, and we always look forward to Austin. I guess it's important for us this year because of the new album and the new label. It'll be a chance for some people in the know to be able to check us out that might not get to otherwise. It's good for Relapse in that they get to showcase some new bands and have people like writers, publishers, other labels, and fans see what they've been working on. If you can get past the inflated egos and overall bullshit of the music industry stuff at SXSW, it can be a lot of fun. We had a lot of fun hanging out with the Relapse folks last year. We're really looking forward to playing the showcase as well as watching the largest urban bat colony in North America descend from underneath a bridge right in downtown Austin. It happens every night at dusk, millions and millions of bats coming out to feed in this black cloud of bats miles long. Unbelievable.
How important is the internet for your band do you think?
Well, we have both a Myspace and a regular website at thesoundofminsk.com. The regular website is pretty sub-par since none of us have any real skills at that sort of thing. But we're hoping to put something nicer together soon. You know of anyone who would want to build us a site in exchange for merch? Ha! The internet is hugely important these days. Myspace, as ridiculous as it is, is a really important networking tool, and so much business is handled now days through e-mail and the like. If it weren't for the internet, I'm sure a lot less people in your country would be interested in reading this interview.
What do you like more, touring or recording?
If you everybody in Minsk had to agree on one favorite band, which would it be?
It would never happen. But, I guess we could never disagree on the mighty Black Sabbath. Always common ground with Sabbath.
Any last words? This space is yours:
Thanks for taking the time to check this out. I hope people have a chance to pick up the new album or give us a listen on the web. We really really hope to be over your way before the end of the year, so watch the websites for announcements. We'll see you around.