EMQs With Shroud of Despondency

EMQs With Shroud of Despondency

Hi everyone! Welcome to another EMQs interview, this time with USA Progressive Black Metallers, Shroud of Despondency. Huge thanks to their Multi-instrumentalist/ Clean Vocalist/ Lyricist, Rory Heikkila, for taking part. 

What is your name, what do you play and can you tell us a little bit about the history of the band?

My name is Rory Heikkila. I handle all the instruments, lyrics, programming, and clean singing. Ron Blemberg handles all the extreme vocals. We occasionally see it fitting to invite guests on to handle other things (extra leads, psychedelia, vox, etc). Shroud of Despondency was formed in the late 90s, but there have been many phases of the band, and every album is different. From raw primitive Black Metal to Progressive long form Black Metal, with every subgenre of Metal popping up in between, to Prog Rock, Neo-folk, Americana, etc. If I want to write, I write, and if it seems sufficiently focused on death, it becomes a Shroud of Despondency song/album. 

How did you come up with your band name?

I created the name in the late 1990s. It came to me after experiencing the suicide of a close friend while in high school. It seemed an appropriate moniker, considering I was, myself, dealing with alienation, self doubt, and sadness. The name has grown with me into adulthood. I sometimes wonder if it is at all still appropriate, as my lyrical themes have grown as I have grown, but even when dealing with more cosmic themes (as found on the upcoming split with Michigan’s LanzerRath) I tend to deal primarily with the so-called “negative” emotions.  

What Country / Region are you from and what is the Metal / Rock scene like there?

When I started the band I lived in a very small town in Upper Michigan. I have lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the last 20 years. An unpopular answer, but I don’t concern myself too much with scenes. I like what I like, my musical fixation spans many genres, but also am not into social obligation in the form of pretending to like something subjective (art) that I may not happen to enjoy.  Milwaukee and Michigan have had many bands that I find inspirational and that light a fire in my belly to create more, but I’ve also disliked many of the bands that gain hype in scenes. It is not my intent to name bands or anything, because I think that anywhere humans go there will be worthwhile art, but I also enjoy contrary opinions while viewing it all as quite meaningless in the face of actual creation. I would never have thought a split with LanzerRath was a good idea if I didn’t find value in their art. The same could be said of all of their side projects on Northern Spire Productions too, but I’d hardly say they are from where I’m from. There is a great deal of distance between my place in Milwaukee, Ron’s place in Upper Michigan, and the LanzerRath homebase in Lower Michigan.  

What is your latest release?

The aforementioned split release with LanzerRath. I have 2 songs across 20 minutes, they have one 20 minute song. I believe the 5 minute single edit of my song “The Source of Multiversal Degradation” has premiered in places. It can be heard on the Northern Spire Productions YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VbnkxqutMyw

Who have been your greatest influences?

I have an absurd list of influences and many of them appear contrary to one another.  In terms of Black Metal, I find a great amount of inspiration from Emperor, Enslaved (up to and including “Below The Lights” only), Sigh, Root, Abigor. However, the many phases of the band have also had many outside influences. From Death Metal (Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel, Immolation) to Prog Rock (King Crimson, Yes, Kate Bush, Genesis/Hackett) with some neofolk thrown in for good measure. 

What first got you into music?

I come from a very musical family.  I grew up having a father that exposed me to Classic Rock. My first real memories of music come from looking at his vinyl collection (a collection I now own). Looking at and eventually being allowed to listen to his vinyl (Beatles, Zappa, Jethro Tull, Elvis, etc) was a huge influence. My mom’s side of the family was more into Country music (of old), so I also got great inspiration from rhythm guitar playing that way. Each side of the family always had people who played guitar, and I told my mom I wanted to play when I was three. From there was a stretch of lessons, a period of boredom with lessons, and then the realization that I could write my own music.

If you could collaborate with a current band or musician who would it be?

Collaboration isn’t something that particularly interests me, but I do think I could make something cool with Devin Townsend, Adrian Belew, or Mirai Kawashima of Sigh! Probably wouldn’t be Black Metal though haha!

If you could play any festival in the world, which would you choose and why?

While I am not particularly into the idea of playing live, having never really found the release that others seem to get from it, I will have to admit that the idea of a larger outdoor festival seems like it could be fun. Playing live takes away from writing and writing is what keeps me sane, but I do love a good concert. 

What’s the weirdest gift you have ever received from a fan?

Money. Considering I charge very little, sometimes nothing at all, and have not been too successful with the PR campaign thing, I find it peculiar that every once in a while someone will buy my music.   I have also received handwritten letters thanking me for certain songs, some of the more emotional songs, and have even had people tell me one of my songs makes them cry. That is pretty neat. 

If you had one message for your fans, what would it be?

Stop it. 

If you could bring one rock star back from the dead, who would it be?

Frank Zappa, so I could hear his commentary on society.  I feel that most musicians who have died died at the right time.  My initial thought was Hendrix, but imagine a bloated radio rock version of that maniac.  I guess getting to hear Dio one more time might not be such a bad thing either.  I’d love some guitar lessons from Randy Rhoads.

What do you enjoy the most about being a musician? And what do you hate?

I love creating music. It keeps me sane. I hate scenes and herd mentality. 

If you could change one thing about the music industry, what would it be?

I’m not sure you want me answering this one. Outside of artists themselves, I don’t find too much of value in “the industry.”  I like music. A collection of rhythms, melodies, harmonies, and introspection are what interests me the most. 

Name one of your all-time favourite albums?

How about one hundred?!? As I type this, I am listening to “In the Court of the Crimson King” by King Crimson and I have its cover tattooed on my calf, so I guess that counts. This band have influenced literally every thought I’ve had about music since I heard this album in my late teens. The way King Crimson balances ugliness with beauty is incredible. 

What’s best? Vinyl, Cassettes, CD’s or Downloads?

I have them all and regularly buy them all.  All that matters is the music. 

What’s the best gig that you have played to date?

On a personal level, opening for Absu a couple times was cool. Opening for Desceased was cool.  Opening for Decide was cool.  A couple cool shows with Inter Arma. Mainly because I am a fan of those bands. However, I highly doubt Shroud of Despondency will ever be a live entity again. Our live period was from 2011-2014. It was killer, but I am not designed that way. 

If you weren’t a musician, what else would you be doing?

I have a very stressful and serious career and making music is my release from it. I do not view music as a career. 

Which five people would you invite to a dinner party?

Robert Fripp, Doug Stanhope, King Diamond, Ihsahn, Mirai Kawashima. It would be a bring your own meal affair and the conversation would, I’m sure, be riveting. 

What’s next for the band?

Business as usual. I will, I’m sure, at some point get an insurmountable urge to create some Progressive Black Metal in order to cope with this absurd planet.  Once that urge arises, I do not argue.  I only do as it instructs. 

What Social Media / Website links do you use to get your music out to people?

www.facebook.com/shroudofdespondency  and shroudofdespondency.bandcamp.com are the only pages I use. 

Time for a very British question now. As an alternative to the humble sandwich, is the correct name for a round piece of bread common in the UK either a Bap, a Barm (or Barm Cake), a Batch, a Bun, a Cob, a Muffin, a Roll or a Tea Cake?

Tell you what, we’ll meet in Upper Michigan over a cudighi pasty and some trenary toast and you can tell me the answer.

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Cheers! Thank you for your time. 

Disclaimer: This interview is solely the property of Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.