Torsten Kinsella (God Is An Astronaut): „When style is considered above or equal to the content, music is listened to in a very unhealthy way”

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God Is An Astronaut is a consecrated name in the international post-rock scene, and therefore many words about its history would be preposterous. The band is working on releasing a new album, called „Epitaph”, in 27 April 2018, via Napalm Records, their new record company. Listening to their new singles already published on the Internet, we noticed a massive change in their stylistic sound, mainly because of a real tragedy translated into musical notes. „Epitaph” is a new chapter in their career, which gave us a chance to talk more with Torsten Kinsella, the guitarist and the vocalist of God Is An Astronaut, to find out more about this future release.

 Hi there, and thanks very much for this interview. For the beginning, I would like to congratulate you for your new album, “Epitaph”, which will be released at the end of this month, via Napalm Records. Since it wasn’t released officially, what should your listeners definitely expect from your future seven songs?

This album is written in memory of our 7-year-old cousin whose life was tragically taken. It’s our way to say goodbye and come to terms with this tragic incomprehensible loss. The songs were mainly written in the immediate aftermath and deals with feelings of helplessness, despair, dread and anguish.

From hearing your new songs, I remarked that developed your orientation, but stylistically you have remained true to your personal sound. From your perspective, what are the new elements that you have implemented in your music that helped you manage a different approach?

We introduced a doom-laden guitar sound in sections (tuned to drop A) but with a twist, an Earthquaker Rainbow pedal was used on my guitar which warbles the tuning in and out of tune, that combination really captures the dread and ugliness that some of music was conveying. Rob and Conor (Xenon Field) helped us a lot with post production and sound design. We wanted the sounds to reflect the subject matter by making them more imperfect.

We put the sounds through various tape devices with bad tracking, the notes warbled in and out of tune, which helped it feel more haunted. Lots of tape saturation was used to make the sounds more stressed.

The piano for example was processed in a way to sound far more vintage and broken, we recorded it onto an old 4 track Akai recorder and some even onto Ferric tape. They were further processed through a tape echo unit. We wanted the sounds to morph and develop and not be stagnant, the piano to moves sonically throughout the different parts of Epitaph using distortion and filters etc…

We worked tirelessly on the textures using devices like the Niio Iotine Core, Mutronics Mutator and Snazzy FX Tracer City to give the sounds a real Analog flavour. Experimental plugins liked unfiltered audio Spec Ops were used to make the textures unusual and unique to this record. Lots of live amps were also used on this record, amp simulation equipment didn’t quite fit the style, it had to be raw. Jimmy Scanlon who owns Jimi’s music store helped me out by supplying lots of vintage amps and also played on our record. Analog mastering was used, we made sure the album was not brick-walled and over enhanced, choosing to ignore the trend of bright and schmaltzy records in favour of something more authentic.

I read in the press material that in “Epitaph” you introduced feelings like “pain and loss”, and also your last track, “Oisín” is dedicated to a close person. Usually, there are many bands that use music to express their tragic inner demons, like Solstafir in “Necrologue” or Alice In Chains in “Black Gives Way to Blue”, and your song could be listed with them. Therefore, if you do not mind, could you tell the story of this song and how did you manage to translate it into music?

 I won’t go into any detail of the events themselves but Oisín was written on the day we received the tragic news of his death, it’s captures his innocence, his dreams, now forever taken away, it reminisces on the happy memories too. I had so much emotion that I needed an immediate outlet. I sat behind the piano and the music just poured out. Once I’d written the first few notes, it was as if the music had been written before and I had to now search the darkness to finish the missing parts.

Also, I felt that in the second part of your album changes direction slightly and the atmospheric influences appear. They are not new, so do you feel that in the future to base your music solely on them?

I think Medea has broken new territory musically and stylistically for us. Never have we written something as dark before, its discordant notations capture the true darkness of a disturbed Mother who committed filicide. Its sounds are mainly created with my voice, including what sounds like keyboards, it’s all my voice. The doom low heavy section is certainly new for us too. Oisín and Komorebi are not really about reinventing the wheel but to convey our most honest and heartfelt emotions. There are never any set directions for the future, we will have to wait and see.

Is there any connection between the artwork and the music from “Epitaph”? I would say it is a strong interpretation of some feelings there…

We gave Fursy Teyssier a few songs and he came back with something that I knew was straight from his heart, it immediately resonated with us as it captured the sentiment of this album. I really do not know his personal interpretation for it.

In your opinion, what affirmation do you think is true and why: are the story concepts building the Post-rock genre or the post-rock genre is building story concepts? I ask you this because there are so many concepts explored and still to be explored in Post-rock and you have such a huge experience collected in this particular genre and you could provide us a answer.

Post-Rock or any genre is a non-factor full stop. We don’t make music for the sake of the Post-Rock genre, there would be no integrity in that at all, why would anybody write music just to be a part of a style or genre instead of writing for themselves. Style should never be a factor for building a story concept, real life events are our only real inspiration. When style is considered above or equal to the content, music is listened to in a very unhealthy way. It’s really insignificant to the larger picture which is real people with real emotions expressing themselves.

Your journey in Romania is quite spectacular: you had some sold-out shows in Bucharest and Cluj-Napoca, and you also appeared at Electric Castle Festival. What is the feedback received from here, taking into the consideration the fact that there is a strong fan base in our country?

It’s always a pleasure playing in Romania and the Electric Castle festival was monumental, the audience was so diverse. I remember reading a review which rated us in the top 5 for the festival which was a great achievement.

What are future plans, after the release of your new album?

Our plans are to support this album by touring over the next 2 years, beyond that we will really have to wait and see. Thanks for the interview.

Photo credits: Stuart Wood

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