Patrons of the Rotting Gate: The ToH Interview
Last year, a little known band called Patrons of the Rotting Gate dropped one of the best black metal releases of the year to significant critical acclaim. The Rose Coil was a harrowing, enthralling, and frankly ingenious declaration of dark grandeur. After I described the album as pure Lovecraftian beauty, the mastermind behind POTRG found his way to our humble bowl. I connected with Andrew Millar, and he was kind enough to grant me an interview and allow us a deeper look into the mystique of Patrons of the Rotting Gate.
Andrew, you’re the primary songwriter, performer, and driving force for Patrons of the Rotting Gate, correct? Do you prefer working alone? If so, why? How much does Adam Irwin contribute to the music?
Yep! And it’s probably going to stay that way. I think now that I’ve done one album pretty much myself, despite the additional work I have to put in, I have a taste of power and love being in control of absolutely everything, haha. Starting from scratch, thinking how you’ll turn the sound in your head into a 50 minute album, planning the flow of the album to the lyrical themes/art and what the mix should sound like, etc. is really inspiring. I do really like being in a band as well though. You have your part to play and can really zone in on your role and try to perfect your “piece of the puzzle”, I know I’m not finished with full bands or anything, but if anyone came in as guitarist or whatever to POTRG I’d probably be a dick to them and try and control everything.
It’s a small detail but Adam didn’t actually track any guitars on the first album, haha. He’s credited with additional guitars on The Rose Coil, and when the album was first released I didn’t think there would be as much interest in it as there has been, so I just left it in there. That’s not to say he didn’t have any influence or input though. He was the only person I let listen to the album before I put it out there.
I wanted his input on the guitar parts and for him to write a solo on “A Perfect Suicide” (which unfortunately didn’t happen due to our schedules, but he gave his thoughts on how to improve the guitars, which resulted in me going back and writing variations of riffs and 2nd guitar parts.
One example is at 1:49 in “Tři Závěti.” The panned left guitar part was my original, less interesting part, and panned right is what I wrote after talking to him. Panned right is much cooler and more fun to play, haha. Because what we talked about was primarily about the guitars, the additional guitar credit seemed appropriate. I now love writing two somewhat independent guitar lines hard panned..
I think it’s pretty evident in the flow of Rose Coil that you have a pretty unique vision. What art would you say has inspired your artistic vision?
Other people’s music is a big inspiration obviously, but I make a conscious effort to keep what I like to listen to and what I want to create separate when I’m actually writing. Hopefully this means when I look back in 10 years I won’t think “I was listening to a shitload of Deathspell before album #__”. I have a little bit of that now when I listen to “Pride In Descent” from TRC, with Der Weg Einer Freiheit’s latest album Unstille haha. I get a lot of ideas for riffs/atmospheres/sounds/concepts and stuff instantly from things like books, movie, art, and… life and quickly go home and stream of consciousness type in a text file so I remember.
A while back just looking at Zdzislaw Beksinski online stuff I got the vague concepts for albums 3, 4, and 5 and the good idea of how I want them to sound. As of now I know what I’m going to do for those albums (although for 4/5, I have to write more music than the few riffs I have, and there are about 30 minutes of stuff recorded for 3). I have that sort of vague outline for 6 and 7. I have a lot of catching up to do!
Ooh, I love Beksinski. I definitely find his brand of surrealism intriguing, so that’s cool to see the connection with your music. We covered you in a Lovecraftian piece, but that was just conjecture on my part. Any books or movies that have influenced your sound/lyrics?
Thanks again for that feature! Haha It was weird when I saw that because I can’t remember any obvious Lovecraft references in the lyrics but he’s definitely an influence. I’m especially guilty of including flowery and over the top descriptions in TRC. I haven’t been reading as much this past year but around the time of The Rose Coil It was Steppenwolf, Journey to the end of the Night, and The Stranger that influenced the lyrics quite a bit. I was also on A Clash of Kings, but I doubt it had much effect on the lyrics after I cut all the passages about food. I was watching the anime Monster as well which was great; it does away with a lot of the over the top supernatural elements that I dislike most of the time with anime. The working titles when I didn’t have lyrics were all references to it and the first 2 song titles were kept in the Czech language, primarily because I got used to the way they looked. I’m interested to reflect on the lyrics for albums 1 and 2 (after I finish the 2nd album), as I think the last book I finished was In the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco and I’ve been about a third of the way through Focault’s Pendulum for about 2 months now, so maybe my plagiarism of authors will be more subtle this time around.
From the covers you’ve done, it seems like Gorguts, Deathspell Omega, and Ulver have been big influences too. Are there any other bands that have been critical to how you play?
Yeah man those bands are massive influences, especially the albums Obscura and Fas (and Nattens Madrigal for the more true black metal stuff)! There are too many bands that influence me in terms of songwriting and structure to list; I try and absorb that sort of thing without overthinking it. In terms of how I play guitar I’d say THE Adam Irwin , Stephen Jarrett, Steeve Hurdle, Hasjarl, and – because Meshuggah permeate everything I write -Thordendal/Hagstrom.
Because I’m really into lists: For drums: Elliott Hoffman, , John Longstreth, Jamie Saint Merat, and Mike Heller. Favourite vocalists are probably Travis Ryan and Steve Marois. I feel the vocals on The Rose Coil where really restrained, and if I’m honest, a little boring at times. I’m planning on experimenting vocally more on the next album, I’ve been doing lows/growls for a long time and pretty content with using them less frequently, but I want to “black metal” up some of the highs; I’m a bit happier with how they sound on the Deathspell Omega and Ulver covers than The Rose Coil.
But now you’ve got me intrigued regarding the upcoming albums. You’ve got seven planned?!? Would you care to explain the loose concept a bit or describe where the music is going?
Seven currently that I have solid ideas for. But I’ve gotta release at least 10, a nice round number before killing myself to increase my fame. About 6 months ago I had ideas for the 4th album, but now it’s being pushed back to album 6. I’ve decided to get the albums lyrically about religion/faith out of the way in one go (albums 2,3,4, and possibly 5). Oh I know. Religion trilogy, haha. I have 2 different options for album 5 concept wise, one of which is a continuation of the faith thing, which I might be really bored of 3 albums on. I’m looking forward to doing it musically because it’s going to be interesting to write at least (and hopefully to listen to). I had a dream of what a future POTRG album sounded like, and when I woke up I wrote a bunch of stuff down. I’m gonna try and follow my “just woken up typing into text edit” instructions and see what happens. The dream was described as “The colour red/the most evilestt shit ever/but kind of sexy”. (Direct copy/paste). If album 5 turns out to be a flop you now know why. Album 6 has been pushed back because I decided on the rough concept a while ago and it would be the most personal, dealing with death/loss etc. I may be delaying the album that would be most therapeutic to write, haha. It’s planned to be the least “evil” sounding POTRG which is why it’s been pushed back to be beside 7. 7 has the least amount of ideas at the minute, just a lyrical theme and a couple of riffs that don’t fit in 2/3/4/5.
Album #2 has been extremely fun but challenging to write lyrically because it’s about the loss of faith, which was never a problem for me. My Dad’s side of the family is predominantly atheist, and I don’t really remember believing in god. Lyrics are almost finished and I hope to track the vocals in a week and a half (around the start of August). Instead of condemning religion (which is fun), the idea is for the lyrics to be tragic, and the main nameless protagonist to be somewhat endearing. Also I got a couple of guest vocalists lined up for this album which I’m excited about! Musically, it’s a lot harder on guitar, the tech death influence is much more prominent on a couple of tracks, and more clean vocals scattered throughout.
Album #3 was originally going to be one big song, now it is 2 big songs (that still flow together). Each half will probably be split into more song-y sections a la Catch 33. It includes my favourite riff I have ever written (so far) using the 8 string – but don’t worry it doesn’t really djent. The album is much darker than TRC or #2; listen to “Carnassial” and imagine it not being 50% chugs, haha. The lyrics I have written so far are more direct, a bit more in your face anti-religious which has been super fun and a lot easier to write than album #2. Each half (song) is from a different perspective which also continues with Album #4 – 3 big songs, and I think it will actually stay as just 3 roughly 15 minute songs.
I think it will be interesting to see how all those influences play out. I’m intrigued by what you said about the lyrics for album 2 regarding challenging yourself. Do you enjoy writing lyrics that seem to go against your own beliefs? Do you ever get writer’s block and just scrap whole songs?
Definitely, one reason is I don’t want to be writing about similar subjects with my own slant ad nauseam by album number 10. It’s wouldn’t be very interesting to listen to or write. Another reason is that it’s healthy to try and see any issue from every perspective just in general. It’s been really fun writing the album #2 lyrics and trying to keep a lot of my own bias out of it.
Writers block is my least favourite thing the world, haha. It usually happens at different times for music and writing lyrics though, which is a silver lining, so I can write lyrics when I can’t write anything decent musically.
I try not to scrap things completely. Twice when frustrated I’ve deleted lyrics and demos from my computer and instantly regretted it. I tend to just put ideas to one side for future use when they aren’t going anywhere. Some of the lyrics and songs for the 2nd album were written pre-Rose Coil and are just “finding their place” now. Although 2 songs worth of those riffs are now probably gonna be in the 4th album. I think a big reason I tend to plan so far ahead when I am “in the zone” is so that if I get a horrible creative block, I still have some stuff to chip away at and refine.
Now that you’ve got so much material either finished or in varying steps, do you have any grand plans for bringing these concepts to life in a live setting?
Yeah man, it’s always in the back of my mind. I even have 2 playlists in iTunes which are set lists for when the time comes. At the minute it’s just about finding the time. I still want Adam to be the 2nd live guitarist but we’re also trying to finish a couple of albums to get a couple of other projects off the ground while working and studying. If I wasn’t in Uni, and was living back in Belfast I’d probably already have a line-up, as I’m friendly with more musicians back home than in London. I haven’t played a real gig in about 3-4 years, and that was on drums so I’m itching to get out there. I’m hoping this year to make some progress in putting a full line up together, and if all goes well at a couple of shows next summer at the latest.
Care to drop any hints on those other projects you alluded to? Also, when can we hear the new album?
There are quite a few that won’t see the light of day for some time, but I’m excited about all of them. The closest to being completed (closer than Patrons #2) is a death metal project called Lalartu with Adam, which we started when we were getting burnt out writing serious stuff/were unemployed/drinking a lot. The music is taken somewhat seriously but the lyrics, not so much. “The Molestation of Dr. Pterodactyl” is one title. 2 of the songs on the first album (a 2nd one has all been demo-d as well) have lyrics made from one of those online generator websites, haha. I finished off the vocals a couple of weeks ago, Adam just needs to re-record a couple of tracks then just the mixing and artwork to finish off.
Our “main” project is called The Acrolith, and we’ve been working on it since our old band Espial split up. It’s somewhat similar to Espial but more technical, and the songwriting is a lot more streamlined, most songs are around 4-5 minutes long. I’d say it sounds kind of like a really technical Porcupine Tree. The first album has been 99% finished for years now, so I’m itching to get drums recorded for it.
I have another one man project in the works, haha. I started writing POTRG album #3, and it somehow became “Malignancy meets Car Bomb” with some industrial elements, so it’ll be done under a different name. About half the album is written at the minute.
Adam has written a tech death album which is pretty much Necrophagist but more technical. I’m probably going to be doing vocals/drums but it’s not the top priority at the minute for either of us.
Adam and I have one other Blotted Science-y sounding metal project but I’m not quite sure what’s happening with it. I have 2 albums worth of quite poppy electronic stuff, but I have no idea when I’m gonna get to work on it. Also an album of ambient stuff that has the ideas there, but needs a lot of refining.
My brother has been writing a proggy/post-y metal album; it’s sounding a bit like Opeth/Isis/Cynic at the minute, I’ll probably be doing vocals/production and maybe some other things for it. He’s got a lot of cool stuff roughly written but again, we live in different places, and he has a kid now, so it’s hard to find the time.
As for the 2nd Patrons album, I’m not 100% sure. I’ll be tracking vocals soon, and then I have to find a new place to live in London before I can get an e-kit to “record” the drums. I’m hoping all the music/recording will be done before the end of October, then finish mixing it after that. I still have to do the art; I haven’t worked on it since some rough sketches/ideas back in March. But hopefully the recording/mixing/artwork will be happening somewhat simultaneously. After that, it’s just sorting out the actual release of it, which is a process I still don’t know a whole lot about or how long it’ll take, haha. Some samples or “studio” footage will probably be uploaded before that though.
Awesome! I can’t wait to hear what you’re cooking up. I guess we can wrap this up. Thanks again for answering all my questions. Anything else you’d like to share with us?
Thanks for the opportunity man! Not much else to say other than you can get The Rose Coil from my bandcamp / The Path Less Traveled Records bandcamp (physical copies available from there) and the covers EP from mine only. Like the Facebook page/share stuff/send me hate mail / nude pics or whatever.
Thanks again to Andrew for taking the time to do this. Let’s show him some love.