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CVLT Nation Interviews: Pharaoh

“Life is full of bullshit and unfortunate events that happen every second of every day all over the world, but the real aim of these types of reflections is to relay the idea that things can always be better. “

This is Rich, I play guitar and sing in Pharaoh. Thanks for contacting us for this interview. We really appreciate it and are glad to do it. So …

 

Can you tell us how Pharaoh came to be and the story so far? Wasn’t the band born from the ashes of The Banner?

Pharaoh actually came together after our last band, Chokepoint, stopped playing in mid to late 2008. It was a hardcore band with 90s style influences. I (Rich) filled in on guitar for The Banner from about mid 2007 to late 2008, and that’s about it, so both bands are pretty far removed from one another at the end of the day. In February 2009, we decided to continue on as a three piece. We knew we just wanted to play heavy music, so we began just writing for fun while demoing some riffs and song ideas. The first song we wrote and recorded was “I, Murderer, I.” All we knew at the time was that we wanted it to sound extremely heavy.

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Which albums by The Banner did you play on?

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I played minimally on the Frailty record as the writing process was mostly spearheaded by Joey SS. I think he already knew what direction he wanted the record to go in, so I helped write and record some material, but the rest of the duties were handled and delegated by JSS. He’s very driven with The Banner, as it really is his brainchild.

 

Who are your primary sources of inspiration in Pharaoh’s music?

Frank: If that doesn’t necessarily mean musical influences, a lot of our songs during the writing process get rewritten so many times that many things tend to creep in. Movies, usually disturbing ones, as well as disturbing news, books, and experiences, are a part of it. Musically, there’s actually a lot of our parents’ music. Moody Blues, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young – that’s all our early adolescent influence, so they’re definitely there. Musically, we come from hardcore and punk rock. There’s a huge spectrum of tastes there, but Black Sabbath, Botch, Vision of Disorder, Deftones and Acid Bath are some examples of bands that probably drew us to start playing together and eventually in this style.

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Rich: Variations and color to the music when writing. On tour we were listening to everything from Bill Withers, Blue Cheer, Talking Heads, Moody Blues, Neil Young to bands like Murder City Devils, Neil Young, SunnO))), Black Sabbath, Porcupine Tree, Butthole Surfers and so on. It really could go on for days. We love the simplicity and rawness of artists such as Neil Young, but also those that carry with them an integrity and attention to detail that goes into their songwriting. It’s all about viewing music from every angle and really listening as close as possible to continue evolving the way we approach our craft.

 

pharoah

 

Can you tell us how this “depressive hardcore” genre you invented and are currently playing happened? How did you come up with such an unusual formula?

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This is the first we’ve heard of inventing anything, but hardcore is in our roots and so whatever style we play in – a lot of times we just call it doom, or metal – is always going to have a hardcore influence. And it will probably also be depressing.

 

The result is something close to doom and sludge… do you agree or is that just a coincidence in pace and atmosphere? Is doom a source of inspiration?

Frank: Those influences are definitely there. To be honest, as I go through these questions I’m realizing that most of our influences can be represented by Beavis and Butthead’s music video viewing and opinions. And a lot of that was very heavy and slow. Slow, and fat.

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Rich: As stated in the previous question, yes doom and sludge are huge influences. We live to vamp on things that work, and that is what tends to carry our songs; being able to lean into a good riff or arrangement for a while without it becoming boring or stale, because simplicity and being straightforward has always been a staple of our work ethic when it comes to jamming and writing. That is what doom is and that is how we are able to create layers and atmosphere that, while at first listen, may seem very simple, our songs really are amalgamations of atmosphere, song structure and damn good riffs that repeatedly hit you in the gut.

 

Pharaoh

 

Is the band’s music pretty much all about depression?

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Frank: Usually the songs are about some occurrence in our lives, either experienced or observed. Other times it’s some abstract weird THING we just thought of. To be honest we didn’t set out to make the lyrical content ridden with despair – it just is.

Rich: Our lyrics really don’t have much to do with depression or sadness at all, as much the music may lend to such an impression, but we totally understand how that can be perceived when we listen back to our own songs. Francis and I take care of the lyrics, sometimes collaborating as well as independently bringing lyrics and ideas to the table when it comes to subject matter. Some songs are written with the intent of being ambiguous, which allows the listener to determine the underlying meaning for themselves. Others are indeed reflections on social occurrences as well as things we see in our own lives, or really just stuff we think is cool to write and scream bloody murder about.

 

How did the deal with A389 happen?

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A good friend of mine, Steve Belmont, runs a label out of NJ called FreeCake. He was tight with Dom from A389 and would regularly trade records with him between labels. After we recorded our first demo for what would become our s/t 7″, Steve sent it to Dom and he loved it. He then approached us asking if he could release it on A389. We said hell yes, and the rest is history.

 

“Negative Everything” – that’s a strong and loaded title. In detail, why this title and what are the lyrics about or the album’s themes?

My personal take on the title is that it is always easy to reflect on the negatives in life. Life is full of bullshit and unfortunate events that happen every second of every day all over the world, but the real aim of these types of reflections is to relay the idea that things can always be better. I kind of feel that the lyrics are a cry for things to turn out better than they were before, and that you have to make that happen. Some lyrics just deal with dark imagery because we have a general interest in that type of stuff anyway. We always liked the dark, weird and macabre, as well as things that just make people feel uncomfortable as opposed to simply being offensive. If the lyrics make you think and really get your mind going, then the goal of writing all those words down has been reached. Everyone has a different take on the same set of lyrics and that is one of the best parts of being in a band and writing music. It carries and projects raw power.

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“Negative Everything” also has some pretty interesting artwork, what’s the story there?

It was done by a friend and artist, Andy Paerels. I liked and followed her scratchy and almost early era Black Flag style of drawing for a bit before we asked her to do the art. At first, we just threw around ideas and nothing was coming together as we wanted. We then thought of a base idea of something relative, which turned out to be a combination of this weird moon design from a Japanese Hokusai painting called “The Waterfall” and a scary looking neighborhood street. After some drafts and refinements back and forth between band and artist, the final cover art was born. Francis thought of the humanoids climbing into the picturesque framing of a blacked out ghost-town road. We love the final product.

 

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Now that it’s out, are there any things about “Negative Everything” you would go back and change if you could? Or no second thoughts?

I don’t think we would change anything about the final product, because we love how it came out in the end and how much positive feedback we have been getting about it. I think the painstaking process over the two years prior to its release makes the end result that much more rewarding. We battled unforgiving circumstances while recording and mixing in a tiny room that was not at all ideal for such an undertaking. We did everything ourselves besides mastering. I think overcoming those obstacles and learning a ton from them helped make the album better in the end, and will only allow us to make music in the future that will probably blow any previous stuff away. Isn’t that the whole idea? To evolve, adapt and improve? We think so.

 

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Can you tell us the genesis of the album – from writing all the way to recording – and how you guys pulled it off so well?

Some songs we already had written as much as a year prior to deciding to put out an album. We continued to play shows and write in 2012 while trying to hone in on the overall scope of the record. It was still a broad scope at the time, but we knew it would come together. We began recording some time later that year and were still writing for the album simultaneously, so we literally took on every possible role we could at that time and the agony of all the work we put in comes through in those eight songs. We spared plenty of sleep and time in order to make sure we wrote, recorded and mixed this album to be the best it could be with what was available to us. There was the gap of about a year or so from when we were 90% done mixing the record to when it actually came out, but the wait was totally worth it and the stars aligned in our favor.

 

Does the band have a primary songwriter or is everyone involved?

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We tend to write better when there’s two in the room, but we all bring ideas to the table; whether it starts with a riff or a simple beat or even a loose reference to another song or body of work, we can feed off of as inspiration. We are all equally involved in how the songs are written. It is rare that one person writes a whole tune. That is what we believe makes our songs unique to us.

 

Pharaoh (Full Set) from hate5six on Vimeo.

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Which were your favorite albums of 2014? And your favorite bands these days?

I can honestly say I have been so out of the loop with new music coming out the last couple years because I have been so preoccupied with writing my/our own music. I have no idea what came out this year. It was never deliberate. I just felt like I always needed to be creating instead of ingesting so I didn’t pay much attention this year. There were a couple records that came out, though, that I did take the time to listen to and that I loved, such as Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden / Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron / Homewrecker – Circle of Death / Holy Sons – The Fact Facer / Nothing – Guilty of Everything / Monolord – Empress Rising. I can’t think of anything else honestly, though I do know there are a lot of good releases out there from the past year, I just have to dig them up.

 

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What plans do you have for the future?

We definitely want to tour more, so strategic planning and money saving will be crucial to do so, seeing as we all have jobs and I have a house to make sure I have some cash to pay for. We definitely want to hit some spots around the US we did not get the chance to see on our last tour, as well as hopefully getting to Europe. I built a recording studio in my basement complete with a live and control room, so I hope to make it a regular thing to have bands who come touring through this area to stop by to hang out and lay down tracks.

 

Thanks for your time, please feel free to add anything you want!

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Thanks a ton to you, Mattia, for conducting this interview and for reaching out to us. I’d also like to rattle off a few bands people should check out because they are the real deal in regards to what they do: Razorheads (New Jersey), Homewrecker (Ohio), Sick/Tired, Ghast, Monolord, Nothing, Seven Sisters of Sleep and Ilsa just to name a few.

— Rich

 

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