|Interview by Burt Wolf with keyboardist & backing vocalist Rhiannon of SOMNUS.
Interview done on January 18th 2002.
TAKE US BACK TO THE BEGINNING OF WHEN SOMNUS WAS BEING BROUGHT INTO
Scott first created the concept for SOMNUS way back in '94. After being in a straight up Death Metal band for a
few years, he realized that he was more into stuff like MY DYING BRIDE, CANDLEMASS, DEAD CAN
DANCE, etc...He set out to find other musicians who wanted to do something melodic yet also very heavy, with
lots of atmosphere, keyboards & some doom elements. This is more along the lines of the European style of
music, so it was pretty difficult to find people in the Ohio area who wanted to do the same thing, which is why
the band didn't have a complete line up until early '96. I was the last member to join, after I met the rest of the
band at the legendary MORBID ANGEL-DISSECTION-AT THE GATES show. I was already into melodic
Black Metal & Death Metal (SAMAEL, EDGE OF SANITY, old THERION) so I was very excited to join
SOMNUS. I was actually a guitarist, but I thought that the early SOMNUS stuff was good that I switched to
playing keys in order to be a part of the project.
WHY WAS THE NAME SOMNUS CHOSEN FOR THE BAND?
SOMNUS is the Roman God Of Sleep, father of Morpheus, God Of Dreams. The name was chosen partly
because we are very interested in ancient times, mythology & legends, but also to embody the dark somber feel
that we try & create through our music.
THERE ARE A FEW STYLES OF MUSIC BLENDED TOGETHER TO CREATE YOUR SOUND. HOW
WOULD YOU BEST DESCRIBE SOMNUS' MUSIC?
Even though we've been playing this stuff for 6 years I still have a very tough time trying to describe it, haha!
Basically we blend orchestrated Black Metal with classical Death, Doom & Power Metal passages. We have so
many different Metal influences from Thrash to Doom to Death, so any one of these is liable to pop up some
where in our sound. Even from song to song our style changes quite a bit, but with the atmospheric it still sounds
like SOMNUS. Scott started out with mostly Black Metal vocals, he has been doing more Death growls & mid
ranged stuff lately, which makes things more interesting & more well rounded I think.
I'M SURE THERE ARE MANY GREAT
THINGS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED
YOU GUYS IN CREATING YOUR
SOUND. WHO OR WHAT ARE SOME
OF THOSE INFLUENCES?
Everything from myths, legends and
classical music to stuff like IRON
MAIDEN, KING DIAMOND, BLACK
TESTAMENT, RUSH, MORBID ANGEL,
the list goes on & on.
HOW DID YOU GET HOOKED UP
WITH ROOT OF ALL EVIL RECORDS
FOR YOUR DEBUT CD RELEASE OF
"AWAKENING THE CROWN"?
I had assisted the Chicago based Doom band AVERNUS with some backing vocals at the Milwaukee Metalfest,
to help them out & a guy who worked for ROOT approached me after the set, so I began telling him about &
until then we were thinking about releasing it ourselves. Luckily we didn't have to resort to that! Earl Root is the
nicest guy though, we're glad he's worked with us.
HOW HAS THE UNDERGROUND'S RESPONSE BEEN SO FAR TO THE CD?
I think it has been well received, we've had almost all positive reviews & we are still getting college radio airplay.
THE ROOT is still pressing copies after 2 years, that is always a good sign! And the new one "THROUGH
CREATION'S END" will be out soon! I can't wait to see how that does, we think it will do much better.
I HEAR QUITE A LOT OF DIFFERENCES FROM YOUR DEMO TO YOUR CD. HOW DO YOU FEEL
THE BAND HAS CHANGED & PROGRESSED?
And you'll hear even more progress from the 1st CD to this new one! Basically, the line up changes have been
the biggest push for change & improvement. From the demo to the CD we acquired a phenomenal drummer &
as you know, that makes all the difference in the world. And from the CD to now, we have a new lead guitarist
who is classically trained & VERY good, and new bass player who adds a lot of energy & heaviness to our
sound. Even Scott & myself have gotten to be much better players over the past few years & we're always
working on improving our vocals as well.
WHAT IS SOME OF THE LYRICAL CONTENT OF YOUR MUSIC?
Most of our lyrics relate to times long since past-legends & myths. Some of them are also inspired by Pagan &
Druid ways & the ancient Celtic culture. We are much more into exploring the realm of ancient fantasy than
realism, to give the listener something to think about & imagine.
COULD YOU GIVE SOME OF THE MEANING BEHIND THE "AWAKENING THE CROWN" CD
The cover is related to the song "Unfulfilled Prophecy", where a forest king reigns in his triple moon goddess
throne, but may soon be usurped by a dark mysterious figure in the background. The Raven on his throne is a
sign of what might be to come. Or will the current king successfully defeat the dark figure? It is completely open
WHICH OF YOUR SONGS IS YOUR FAVORITE & WHY?
It's really hard to pick a favorite because our songs are so different from one to the
next. Off of "AWAKENING THE CROWN", I like "Forever The Serpent". It is a set
with it & Dennis does this epic guitar solo at the end which wasn't on the CD.
WHO DOES THE MAJORITY OF THE SONG WRITING OR IS IT A WHOLE
It's pretty much a whole band deal. Maybe I'll come up with a few riffs, or Dennis
will, but then everyone else adds their ideas until the song is done. Same with the
lyrics, actually all five of us have written lyrics for the band.
HAVE ANY OF THE MEMBERS OF SOMNUS BEEN IN OTHER BANDS
BEFORE? IF SO, WHICH ONES?
Scott was a founding member of the Death Metal band ODIOUS SANCTION,
Dennis & Steve were both in the melodic Black Metal band SANCTORUM, Chris
was in a California Progressive Death Metal band called THANATOPSIS & I was in
my friends garage playing guitar.
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF GREAT BANDS COME OUT OF THE OHIO
DEATH SCENE. WHAT IS THE SCENE LIKE THERE? WHO ARE SOME
OF THE BETTER ZINES, BANDS, LABELS, ETC...?
There aren't too many labels that I know of around here, but the scene is pretty
strong. It has it's ups & downs like anywhere else, but bands tell me that they
almost always like to play Ohio & that the crowds are sick. There are a lot of
great bands in Ohio too. ESTUARY OF CALAMITY & THORNS OF
CARRION from Cincinnati, ACHERON from Columbus & from Cleveland we
have MYTH (Black Folk Metal), DEAD OF NIGHT (ex-FROM THE DEPTHS),
NUNSLAUGHTER, SOULLESS, ALL THAT IS EVIL, SPAWN OF SATAN, the
list of good bands goes on & on! Cleveland is still a big Hardcore town though...&
I'm not much into that scene, but I hear there are some great Hardcore bands from
SOMNUS HAS A MIDEAVAL/FANTSY TYPE FEEL TO THE MUSIC. DOES
YOUR STAGE SHOW REFLECT THIS IN ANY WAY?
Due to lack of time & resources, we never really get to do the kind of stage show
that we want. We want burning torches & elaborately painted amp covers & stuff
like that. But we usually have candles & even candelabras up on stage, along with
fog & dim red lights. As far as performance, we wear all black, nothing too fancy,
but we just try to really get into our stuff & headbang & try to be entertaining to
watch. We've done fire blowing a few times too, some clubs won't let us do that.
WHERE & WITH WHOM ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE SHOWS
We got to play with MY DYING BRIDE in Cleveland, that was pretty phenomenal.
We also played the Cleveland Metalfest right before KING DIAMOND on a huge
stage 2 years ago, which was a very good show for us. A great crowd & getting to
play on KING's stage! Some of the Milwaukee Metalfests have been very good for
us as well, we meet so many cool people at those.
WHAT DO THE MEMBERS OF SOMNUS DO WHEN NOT DOING WORK
FOR THE BAND?
We all have to work pretty hard, haha! After going for my masters in Geography, I
am now a Cartographer (I make maps) for a company in Ohio that does aerial
photography. I love what I do, I knew I wasn't going to make money in Metal so I
made sure I got college degrees! Scott does electrical work (he is good with his
hands, haha!), while Dennis was a lawn care specialist, Steve is a union bricklayer
& Chris works in special education with disabled or troubled kids & at a radio
station part time. We are quite a divers bunch of fools!
ARE YOU INTO ANY OTHER STYLES OF MUSIC BESIDES WHAT YOU
PLAY? WHO ARE SOME OF THE BANDS YOU'RE CURRENTLY INTO?
I really love melodic or atmospheric sounding Metal & it is mostly what I listen to.
Right now I'm into the new SUMMONING, SOILWORK, TRISTANIA, DIMMU,
all of Dan Swano's projects, CHILDREN OF BODOM, EMPEROR, BAL
SAGOTH, etc... I hear the new BORKNAGAR is really good. I want to check that
WHAT IS THE BEST & WORST THING ABOUT BEING IN A BAND & THE
The best thing about being in a band for me, at least, is playing live. There is nothing
as intense & fulfilling as getting on stage with your band mates & playing music that
YOU created & having people get into it along with you! I think the worst thing is
how much money it costs to be in a band, with equipment & recording & travel
expenses & all that. It really adds up & we never make much. There is so much
more that we would like to do with the band & so many more places we'd like to
play if we only had the money. And as far as the scene, I only wish that we had
more people in it to enjoy all this good music that is always coming out & really
support the bands so that they can continue to keep Metal alive & well.
WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE FOLLOWING TOPICS: SEX, DRUGS, RELIGION, POLITICS,
VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS & THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Well, I can't speak for the whole band, but here are my views. Sex-VERY GOOD. Drugs-most drugs are for
pussies who can't deal with life. Religion-VERY, VERY BAD. Religion is a waste of time better spent on money
& that is it. Violence-violence is the only thing that some people understand. Look at how Christians have tried to
take over the world, not only through some false God, but also through mass murders, torture & violence.
Christians are more demented & sick than Satanists, writing a bible full of mostly made up stories that millions
of people are manipulated by & crusaders killing for one God supposedly born form a women, but by no man
(whatever). I wish mankind would get smart & quit believing that nonsense, but obviously in 2000 years it still
hasn't happened. Get in touch with yourself & your heritage & not some kind of God. I think people are scared
that they won't go to heaven (as if there is such a place) & that is why they believe in God. Seek power not
from above, but from within! As far as violence in schools goes, I think it has to do with the American society.
We have the media telling us that we NEED the latest technology & all kinds of cars, gizmos & gadgets just to
survive! So in some cases both parents are working 2 jobs or more & no one is home with the kids. It is no
wonder they are violent in schools & the poor teachers have to try & be mom & dad to our misguided youth. It
is a shame & I wish things would change for kids because they are our future. I wish more kids stopped
listening to crappy Nu-Metal & started listening to some good stuff already! It will make the world a better place.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHERE YOU WERE & WHAT YOU WERE DOING WHEN YOU 1ST HEARD
ABOUT THE WORLD TRADE CENTER ATTACK ON 9-11-01 IN NEW YORK? ANY THOUGHTS ON
When I first heard about the attacks I was at work & the reality of the whole thing didn't really hit me until later
on that day. Then I just thought, damn, where next will tragedy strike? Is this the start of WWIII? I really feel
awful for those who have lost family & friends in any of the attacks. My thoughts are this, the U.S. needs to
carefully re-evaluate foreign policies, because although I am proud to be an American, a lot of times we act in
ways that cause lots of problems in other parts of the world & we're generally not too sympathetic unless there
are resources we can exploit or some big hand feeding us. We have been over here sitting pretty, while most of
us don't care what's going on in the world around us & this was a rude awakening. We're not untouchable as
we've so painfully learned. Time to pull our money & men out of places where we don't belong & try & take
care of our problems at home & rebuild our military & intelligence & be the power we should be.
DO YOU FEEL THAT BEING A FEMALE MUSICIAN IN THIS STYLE OF MUSIC, THAT IT'S HARDER
OR EASIER FOR PEOPLE TO TAKE YOU SERIOUSLY AS A GREAT MUSICIAN?
For the most part, when I'm up on stage headbanging & pounding on the keyboard, people can pretty much tell
that I love Metal & love what I do & they respect that. The thing that bothers me is that some guys don't realize
that I write a lot of our music...they think that just because I am female I can't write heavy stuff! They have
even asked whether or not I write my own keyboard parts! That is pretty insulting, but I can't get too mad,
because a lot of these guys are used to seeing bands who get any chick to join their band just to get more people
at their shows or try & be "different". I like to see females in Metal as long as they are talented & many are, but
I don't buy into gimmicks.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM SOMNUS NEXT?
You can always expect more Metal! Our current line-up is really solid & the material keeps getting better, with a
LOT more guitar work, more intricate playing from all the members & unique percussive elements. Hopefully
you can expect to hear & see a lot more of us when the new CD comes out & we start to do more out of town
WELL, THAT'S ALL THE QUESTIONS I HAVE. THANX A LOT FOR TAKING THE TIME TO
ANSWER THIS INTERVIEW. WOULD YOU LIKE TO ADD ANYTHING ELSE TO CLOSE OUT?
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