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In Words: Antiquus

- Andrew Bak - March 2007 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Andrew Bak - March 13th 2007 (by email)

The name Antiquus didn't ring a bell, but the album sounded interesting and so I was happy to do an interview to learn more about the Canadians. Thanks to drummer Andrew Bak to answer my questions and to shed a little light on Antiquus.

Why do you choose Antiquus as the band name? Any reason for using the Latin word for ancient? What does the name mean for you?

We were looking for a new name, some years ago – and I had just watched a movie, an adaptation of a play called Equus. I was struck by the lyrical quality of that title. The play, of course, didn't have anything to do with what we were doing musically, I was just quite taken with the sound of that particular word. Jesse, Scott and I are all interested in various periods in history, and we were writing material that was flavored with elements of ancient India, they were songs that would end up becoming Ramayana, our first album. With all of those things in mind, I came up with the word Antiquus. I didn't learn until some time later, after I had proposed that name to the guys in the band, that the word I thought I created, was actually the Latin word for 'ancient'. It was a coincidence, but rather a fortunate one for us. Knowing what the meaning of the word actually was, made it a better fit.

Tell us a bit about the beginning of Antiquus!

Scott and I go way back, almost 15 years now. He and I recorded an independent album that was never released, in a previous iteration of the band. We've been through a lot. At one point, there was just the two of us, writing and recording demos together. About 6 years ago, our guitar player at the time, Jeff Dormer, met Jesse at a party, and they talked about their mutual love of Iron Maiden. Jesse also had a self-produced album that he did, and was also involved in an Iron Maiden tribute. Jesse came down and auditioned, and we knew right away that he was the guy for us. The four of us began writing and recording demos immediately. We did our first live show on 9/11. We played to a completely empty club, it was horrible! But we knew that we were on to something good, so we stuck with it. About a year later, we finished writing the material that would become our first album. We recorded that album a little bit at a time, and it took more than a year to pull it together. It wasn't mixed until 2004. Toward the end of that process, Jeff Dormer decided that he was going to move to Toronto. The day he finished his guitar tracks, he packed up his stuff, and off he went. Our other guitarist, Dave, lost interest in the band, so he moved on. It was a few months after that we hooked up with Trevor, who had just moved to Vancouver from St.John's – which is on the other side of the country. He liked what we were doing, so he joined the band, and the three of us found Geoff a couple of months later. We released Ramayana, and the rest is history...

Does someone comes up with an ideas? Finished Song? Or is the music written by the band?

There's no specific process we follow – sometimes it starts with lyrics, sometimes it start with music. Occasionally, someone will bring a complete song to the band, sometimes it's just a riff or a chorus or whatever. We all get an opportunity to contribute ideas, and we try a lot of different arrangements, melodies, production ideas and whatnot. It means that writing takes a long time, but we think it's worth it in the end.

In case of the conceptual parts, is there the music first? Or the lyrics?

Each album is different. Ramayana was already a well-know story, we just had to adapt it to the kind of music we were writing. The conceptual songs on that record were written in basically the order they were recorded. It didn't take long to write, but it took forever to record. Eleutheria was very different. We started with music, and it actually took us a long time to pin the story down. Eleutheria is an original story, a product of our imaginations, and it changed quite a bit, over the course of its development. Once it was done, it only took 8 days over the course of a month to record and mix it.

As on the first album Ramayana you have Eleutheria splitted into a conceptual part and a non-conceptual. Any particular reason for this? Why not expand the concept? At least on Eleutheria, I can't speak about Ramayana, coz I don't know that album - I think the story has the potential....

We love doing the conceptual material, but we don't limit ourselves to it. It's very taxing to create and adapt these stories. We need to break it up with some different ideas every now and then. And having some non-conceptual material also gives us more options for playing live shows. We've considered doing a record that is completely conceptual, and we've also considered doing records that have no concept or overreaching lyrical theme at all. When it comes time to do the next album, who knows if it will be a completely conceptual record or not.

Who's coming up with the stories? The lyrics?

Jesse writes all of the lyrics and vocal melodies, and allows us to offer suggestions. He's very open to ideas from both a musical point of view, but also from a production point of view. There's a lot of give and take, it's very iterative, especially with Eleutheria. Sometimes some of his vocal and lyrical ideas will inspire us musically, sometimes it's the opposite.

Why you chose Eleutheria as the title for this album? Is it a reference to the Greek Goddess of freedom? Or to the asteroid named after her? I guess it ain't related to Beckett's play or Wilde's short story, right?

I actually didn't know there was an asteroid named Eleutheria – had we known that, maybe we would have woven that into the story! It is a reference to freedom. We wanted to try to paint a picture of an idyllic place, an idyllic state of mind.

In a review to Eleutheria I read that the story is about the captain of a spaceship... In others there was just mentioned that your lyrics deal with sci-fi topics. What is it about? Please enlighten us!

We wanted to paint a picture, lyrically, of an Old World explorer, sailing the seas, looking for a New World to discover. In particular, we wanted to examine just how far our Captain would go, in the name of duty and progress. Like so many times before, history is repeated, and our Captain inadvertently destroys the world he discovers by not accepting it for what it really was. Once we set out that idea, we pull the rug out from under the listener, and we show them that out story is actually set in the future, and not in the past. Our captain explores with a space ship, and not a sailing vessel – but the mistakes that he makes are the same as the mistakes that we have made in our history.

What is KT Event about? Mechanismo?

KT Event and Mechanismo are similar in that, they explore what the world might be like if mankind were not evolved the way we see ourselves today. The KT Event was a catastrophe that is connected to the extinction of the dinosaurs. It was a huge evolutionary change, especially for birds. Mechanismo talks about how machines might feel, if they could feel.

I think you already got the first reaction about Eleutheria, are you satisfied?

We're pleased with how Eleutheria turned out, but of course – if had a little more time and a little more money, we know it could be even better. Everybody did the best job they could have, both musically and technically, and that is satisfying. And, of course, we're encouraged by the very positive reactions we've received from fans and the press about the album. I think a big part of that was the support we got from our label. They gave us complete artistic latitude, and that takes guts. They had faith in us, and we wanted to do a good job for them. Not many labels will take that kind of risk.

Internet is getting more and more important. I know that you have a MySpace site. Do you think that the internet can help a young band? Or due to the possibilities the internet gives there are too many bands? That it gets harder?

The internet has been very, very good to us. It has given us a chance to connect to audiences that wouldn't be able to reach under any other circumstance. It's true that there is a lot of competition. But in the end, even with a strong online presence, if you don't have memorable material, you won't succeed. Websites don't last - music does. We love the connectivity that the internet offers, but it doesn't come close to being able to connect with people in a live setting. If you aren't engaging to a live audience, a great website won't be enough to save you.

I know you played a few shows in Canada between the album releases... How were the reactions?

We toured across most of the country last year, and we play shows around Vancouver, when the right opportunities present themselves. We've had some great shows opening for Sonata Arctica, Infernal Majesty and Into Eternity. We also headlined some shows of our own, and fans have been very good to us. For me at least, doing live shows is what it's all about. We have a great time recording, but nothing beats the energy of performing for a live audience.

Any plans to tour? Any chances that we'll see you in Europe? Germany? Or is it too early to tell?

We desperately want to get over to Europe this year. If there is anyone that can help us do that, we'd love to hear from them! The agent we were working with left the business last year, so we are open to working with someone new. So, if there is an agent that would like to take us on, or a band that would like to bring us along as an opener, we would be thrilled to take on the challenge! We'd love to play some of the festivals that we have heard so much about, especially in Germany, so someone, please – get us over there!

Let's hope that they get the chance to tour outside Canada, but albums have to be sold to convince people to book them, so if you are into power metal with some progressive elements, then get yourself a copy of Eleutheria!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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