Taking influences from a myriad of genres including post-metal, doom, and progressive rock, sci-fi loving UK outfit, Dvne recently dropped their huge sounding new album, Etemen Ænka, via Metal Blade Records. Following the release of the record, we spoke to guitarist Daniel Barter about the music, his introduction to sci-fi, and to which period in time he would most like to travel.
Hey Dan, how are you?
Daniel Barter: “Not too bad.”
So, how’s life treating you at the moment?
“Not too badly. I mean, obviously, stuff is starting to open up a bit where I am, Leeds. The rest of the band are based in Scotland, but I moved back here last September.”
How difficult has it been with the band in Scotland going up and down from Yorkshire?
“It’s not too bad. I mean, I was up for practice a couple of weekends ago. So it’s not too bad. It’s about three or four hours or so to get there.”
Could you just give us a quick story of the band, how you got together?
“I met (singer and guitarist) Victor (Vikart) when I was in Edinburgh. I played in a band at the time called Roll On Three who a good friend of mine knew. He was in a band called Atregon and we ended up sharing quite a few stages. One day, he told me they’d got this new guitarist who was French and he’d got the most doom metal name that we’d ever heard. He’s called Victor Vikart. So we ended up in a few more gigs together and basically, we ended up having a chat. One day after I’d seen one of the very early DVNE gigs, we were having a chat and they were looking for a second guitarist to take up the vocals. So that’s where I stepped in. Then it started up properly with Victor and (drummer) Dudley (Tait) started properly playing together for the first time.
I mean, at that point, I think they’d written I think most of Progenitor which was the first EP. I’d been in the band for about a month by the time we’ve got into the studio to record that. That’s seven, eight years ago now. Obviously, the last year has not been great but we have just steadily got ourselves out on a few tours, had quite a few tours with the French bands again, through Victor’s connections, which has always been dead handy, just building it up slowly over the last five, six years.”
One of the things Victor is quoted as saying about the new record is he hopes it will encourage the listener to explore a universe created around it. Could you expand on that a bit and the bit about that universe and what his kind of thought is?
“Yeah, I think what he’s getting at is that we tend to, with the whole universe thing, it’s a similar to the one in Asheran, it’s based in a similar universe as the storyline in that was. The new album was set as a precursor to the events in that, seeing where civilizations in Asheran came from and how they got to the points that we’re talking about the societal ideologies that this album brings up and points out. It’s things like we never like to explain it too much, I think was the point he was getting at. It’s always nice to see how people interpret the lyrics or interpret the artwork, or interpret the ideas going on.
There’s an article I was ready last week that a guy wrote that was almost an essay-like thesis going into all the different track names and what the different lyrics or different references are. So yeah, that thing is really cool. I think that’s what Victor is getting at. I think as well, it adds a bit to the music and to that whole majesty and almost mysterious feel for people to explore and find their own ideas from.”
Yeah, I was going to say, it’s a very kind of multi-layered sound. How does the writing process work? How does it kind of all come together?
“So for this album, what we’ve done for this album is that the majority of the stuff is written guitar/drum/bass thing first, and then we will generally have an idea of what the narrative is going to be, or the themes of what we’re looking at. But the actual writing like all the lyrics tends to come after we’ve gotten a better idea of the tracks and the order the tracks are in. So the music influences the lyric writing and vice versa. So, for this album, we’ve given ourselves quite a bit more time in the studio, just to have more time to play around with any composition and ideas, guitar-wise, and even though that a lot of that was down beforehand. The main one this time, though, was recording all the synths in the studio. We had a couple of ideas for the synths but it wasn’t really recorded until we got in the studio and had spent a week or two tracking all the drums, guitar and bass.
The majority were written by Victor and we had a helping hand off Graeme (Young), our producer, who pulled out about three or four different synths. Victor is also a classically trained violinist, which very much helps with that thing. I think he spent three or four days, mainly just writing things like the synth overlays and everything like that. I think it was good that we’d given ourselves the time for that as well. I think next time probably going with a lot more or that written, but obviously, I think Victor has already bought like two or three synths since writing the album.”
You’ve already touched on the last twelve months. Did that give you a chance to kind of explore the sound and the kind of concept to the record a bit more?
“Yeah, especially from a prospect of playing some of it live because we did find with Asheron that there were parts of it that there are certain songs that we legitimately can’t play because of the way they were written in the studio. We could play but they would not be what we’d want to do with. Especially with the time we’ve had over the last twelve months we very much looked at how to do what we wanted because part of it was to have multiple synth players which we can’t have as that takes three hands. So, we looked at how we were going to do this with two hands and then the interludes, working out how they’re going to work live. A lot of them are written to be able to play but it’s nice to have the time to define what we want to do with them.”
In terms of the live shows, if money was no object, what would your kind of vision be for transforming it into a real spectacle?
“Oh, visuals. If money was no object it would probably go on visual quite heavily. Have some lasers. The visual stuff is something we’ve always had in mind, but it seems like, with the budget, we’re restricted. There’s been a few shows where we have managed to have projections or some video backdrop, but, as you said, it is just a matter of getting money to do that and also time because it’s the work beforehand and mapping out a projector for an hour-long set.”
Are you the kind of band that would do fewer shows but made them more of a spectacle rather than go and say, like a 30-day tour? Would you rather do so five shows and make them a big spectacle?
“I mean, there’s certainly an argument for doing something we love. We love to tour and can’t wait to get back to tour. We’re talking probably many, many dates next year, which should be fantastic. But I think like, but the tour set, that’s not necessarily what we do for one-offs. Say, for something like, for instance, Roadburn, where it’s more of a curated thing and bands doing the one-off sets, for that we would probably definitely look at it and play either the full album set and get in like, Lissa (Robertson), who did the guest vocals on two or three of the tracks. Obviously, she wouldn’t usually be on tour with us so that influences what things we can pick that way.
But yeah, for the one-offs and the festivals or the sorts of bigger shows, we’d definitely look into how we can change up that gig, whether it be from the set we’re doing, or from say, I’d maybe add a bit more to that visual element.”
One of the things you’ve obviously talked about classic Sci-Fi. Obviously, it’s a huge influence but, aside from Dune, are there any particular classics that you’re inspired by?
“I grew up reading Ian Banks, Alastair Reynolds, Philip K. Dick. For the albums as well, it’s quite interesting because, as well as the classic stuff is that there will usually be something at least one of us is reading at the time. So, I think for Asheron, it was Children of Time by Tchaikovsky, Adrian Tchaikovsky which has a more natural feel to it. For Etemen Ænka it was Terminal by Alastair Reynolds, and then that influenced a few of the themes of the album and stuff as well. But, yeah, from books to film, it’s always been a mainstay of myself.”
What was your first foray into sci-fi when you were a kid?
“That’s a good question. Potentially Logan’s Run, or Silent Running. Or maybe 2001 Space Odyssey. My dad used to have a bookshelf full of like Ian Banks and Michael Creighton and things like that which we could never pick up until I was older. He also had that loads of old VHS tapes in these bookbindings which he just had loads of old sci-fi stuff taped on them. It could even have been Star Wars or like one of the original Star Trek films? I just remember a lot of VHS with slightly wavering sound and things going wrong with people in space and that really clicked with me for some reason.”
You talked about one of you reading a particular book and then coming in? Is that where the concept starts? Or do you have a rough of idea where you’re going with the next record? Or does somebody just come in and say, “I’ve been reading this particular book and I think we should do a concept based around this?”
“Yeah, I mean, it’s usually a someone, usually come up with an initial idea or a rough idea. Then we’ll go away and have an initial chat about how we could do it. Usually then Victor will go off, do a little bit of cultural deep dive and then over time, get that down into a more specific idea of what we want to do. I think Etemen Ænka, from an early point, we were quite sure we wanted to tie it into Asheron rather than create sort the same universe but elsewhere, or what we ended up doing was just it being set, beforehand in the timeline. For the next one, I’m not 100 percent. We’ve discussed a couple of things but we’ve not finalized any ideas for that around the concept yet.”
One of the things you talked about is how the kind of story for the record follows civilization through the centuries. If you could travel back to a particular period of time or civilization, where would you go back to and why?
“The 6 year old me wants to say, like the Jurassic period, but I don’t think would survive at all. So, maybe classical Greece or something would be quite nice. The weather would be nice and generally your outlook is alright as long as the Spartans keep their distance.”
On the flip side of that, the last twelve months have seen huge changes across the planet. What do you hope this generation has learned from the last twelve months?
“How to wash your hands, I guess? Yeah. It’s been an interesting one. I mean, there’s been some upsides. I mean, when you look at things from say, an environmental point of view, you can see pollution levels going down, things like that, which has been nice to see. Obviously, hopefully, long term, we’ll learn a bit from that.
On the music side of things, it’s been great to see the uptake of how much people have adapted to doing stuff online and the live streams or putting stuff up. Obviously, it’d be interesting to see quite how much that continues one of gigs are back I think, I think it will do in quite a way because it’s obviously a very good way to reach an audience outside your gig circuit as well. The one thing is this lots of a few venues in the UK thing as you’re probably no doubt be aware of. Hopefully, people just won’t take that for granted when they reopen and make sure they get down and support local venues and stuff.”
On that note, what are your plans for the remainder of the year?
“We’ve got Damnation in November, which is which cool. That’s going to be my first time at Damnation, which to say as someone from Leeds is a bit of a disgraceful thing. I’ve lived in Scotland for 15 years so that’s my excuse. We’ve got a UK tour lined up with BossK in December which is about seven or eight dates.
Other than that, we’re just looking at stuff for Europe for this Summer or Autumn time, we’ve got dates in mind but can’t say much as everything is still up in the air. Obviously, with everything that’s happening with the vaccine rollout, and usually it’s multiple countries, which you then have to take into account. You have to consider who is at what point with vaccines and things like that. Hopefully, we’ll go to actual mainland Europe this year. If not, then I see no reason why things shouldn’t be at least getting slightly back to normal next year.”
Perfec. Thanks for your time and good luck with the album; hopefully, we’ll get to catch up for a chat at Damnation…
“No problem, thanks for your time, enjoy the rest of your evening.”