Black Orchid Empire New Album: Yugen Released Date: 25/05/18
London based three piece Black Orchid Empire released their new album Yugen earlier this year, which is their first release through Long Branch Records. This album shows their raw talent with a complete package which follows up their critically acclaimed debut album Archetype. Since the release, Yugen has been receiving great reactions everywhere. The band have created a luxuriant and powerful rock music with fearless complexity, aggressive heaviness with beautiful hook-laden melodies and authentic vocals.
The trio toured tirelessly towards and around the album’s release. During the band’s tour with InMe in May this year, we had a chance to meet up with them in Bristol, and they sat down and talked at great length and in depth and with a great deal of humour. Enjoy the first half of the exclusive interview!
Black Orchid Empire are - Paul Visser – Vocals/Guitars Dave Ferguson – Bass/Vocals Billy Freedom - Drums
How long have you guys been a band?
Ooh that’s a good question. This band 5 years, this is quite a new thing, only 5 years. But all three of us have been in a band for a lot longer than that, as we were in the same band before.
OK. So like a re-brand sort of thing?
It was a little bit. It was a band called Cape Fear. It was cool, we did some wicked touring, we played with Feeder, did the Roundhouse and some good stuff. And then the guitarist left. We started jamming as a 3 piece while we were trying to find a replacement and ended up accidentally realising we were much happier as a 3 piece and writing loads of new material. So, we started off basically jamming new stuff, and then realised it was a whole new vamp.
So… basically, the other one kind of deceased, and we started making new tunes and calling it Black Orchid Empire.
That was 5 years ago.
Cool, so why Black Orchid Empire?
I can’t actually remember, it was some bizarre reason.
I will tell you the real reason, I will give you an exact explanation of how it came about. It’s a group of ex Moss Sides??? It’s in Hollywood, Beverley Hills that specialise in getting rid of unwanted In-laws. Or if you are a poor boyfriend, or a black boyfriend and you go to a Jewish girl who is rich, you will be visited by the Black Orchid Empire.
And what they do is they will call your house in the middle of the night or call all your friends and get all your back records or phone records and say “Oh he’s a drug dealer” or “He’s a killer”, or anything to discredit you, so that’s what they are a life destroying organisation. If you meet a rich girl in Hollywood and you are poor, you will get a visit … if the dad doesn’t like you!
That’s from an ex Moss side agent! Think of that what you will, include or do not include as you see fit.
Yeah, ok, thanks for sharing! Amazing!
It’s a cool story!
How many like bad shows have you done? What makes a bad show for you guys?
Oh my god, I mean, we have a really high bar for ourselves. I think way higher than anybody else, because we make records all the time, and it’s really important for us for things to be right. So, I think a lot of the time we play, and we are not happy for some reason, but everyone else is like that was fine and don’t get it. But in terms of actually shockers…
Well, I don’t think we have a bad show because it depends on what your perception is of a bad show.
I’ve had a f**ing bad show!
I mean we have played a show to zero people before, and that still wasn’t the worst show we have ever done because we just turned it into a positive, a posh rehearsal or whatever.
We care more about our own performance than something like the situation.
Year exactly. You play every show like you own Wembley.
Yeah you have to.
We can have technical issues, that doesn’t make it a bad show, just a more challenging show.
Do you remember Planet Rock Stock?
Err yeah, that wasn’t a bad show, that was an anxiety trip.
You just had a horrible 30 seconds.
Yeah, I was quite ill and my voice was cracking because it was the end of our headline tour for our album launch, and we had done like a couple of weeks. And about, I don’t know…, half way through the set I started playing Come In, and there is a big section where I am just playing on my own, and I just started to realise that my voice was going and then, kinda blanked and literally it was like shreds, it was just like -(Paul makes some noise)- and these two just looked at each other and went … oh! I just couldn’t remember any of the chords or anything, so they just started playing the next part of the song and eh, I don’t think anyone noticed! (laughs)
So, that was wicked.
But no, to be honest with you, we haven’t really had any shockers. I guess some people would think like that a show with a poor attendance or something wasn’t cool or like a show where they messed up or whatever, it’s a bit like, it just depends on your definition. Because for us, we love playing, so we don’t care about if we are playing to one person or a 1000 people. It’s the same for us.
But, yeah man, it’s just about making it work. We used to actually more think before. Sometimes you learn as you become like more pro, quicker the show happening, that you just have to get the show out there.
And there is always a way, there is always a way, saved a lot of shows.
Yeah. Obviously you don’t just come out swinging, you’ve obviously had to build up a reputation over time. What advice would you give to bands starting out?
Don’t record 12 terrible songs on a demo. Record one instead, and make it amazing!
Yeah, like make a single that is a killer for the same budget you just spent on a shit album.
Practice like crazy, practice like an idiot!
Yeah (everyone echos with laugh)
And then, like the thing that gets told to everybody and it’s always true, but you never want to believe it’s true. If you are really good and you work really hard, people start to come to you instead of you seeking them out. I’m not saying you don’t have to approach anybody. You should always network, you should always talk to everybody, but you have to build a real network of real people that really engage with you, and they really like you, not just fans but the industry as well. But the thing is if you just cold email a bunch of people like ‘I’m in a band, can you check my stuff out?’ They will literally… well you will be even lucky to bet them to open the email never mind respond.
Where is, if you just start to make a kind of impression on your own, people do come to you. You never want to believe that and it’s what everyone says when they have already made it. But that’s the one piece of advice that is definitely true that nobody believes, and they really should.
Yeah, people are more concerned with the cosmetic and the saga, not the real true guts and when you rip the top of it, there is no substance underneath.
True. You have to believe in what you are doing, like in terms of our actual music, one of the reasons we started this thing, we were just having fun, jamming, doing riffs we liked and not having any kind of preconceptions of how it was going to be received. As soon as you start something like to make stuff for a certain audience or make stuff for a certain demographic or how will people think about this, then you start to go on the wrong path.
If you believe in what you are doing a 100%, then actually it doesn’t matter what you are doing. Someone else will relate to it, because they can relate to your passion.
That all is.
It’s been like James Toseland recently who’s come out about the motor cycle world and decided to do music…
Yeah, I heard about that!
… and instead of singing about like drugs and sex…
He’s singing about motorbikes?
Yeah, singing about the thrill of riding motorbikes and people can relate to that.
It’s his truth right!
Yeah exactly, I think a lot of bands tend to perceive themselves differently and believe that they have to sing about or write music about something that isn’t them.
Yeah, chasing trends is probably about the biggest mistake.
You cannot chase a trend, because by the time you release something, it has already finished. Unless it’s such a long term trend, then in that case you don’t need to chase it.
Yeah something is trending now that was created a year ago.
Yeah, it’s pointless, then you have to wait a year until your stuff is out and you are always 2 years behind.
You hear a lot of bands now that are still in the kind of Appetite For Destruction era in terms of their lyrical content and stuff, and I’m like come on, you must feel something, just talk about that whatever it is, you can sing about how you are really mad at your mum for not getting an allowance or something, that’s fine, but who you actually are.
Yeah, but the whole thing like ‘I’m so bad I’m an animal’(imitates), it’s like oh man! You see a lot of that stuff. But that’s fine that stuff was amazing in like 1984 and it doesn’t need to have to happen again. We can put that behind us now.
Leave it to the tribute bands.
OK, so what’s the biggest struggle you have found, being a modern band in the digital age, because obviously indie were like riding the wave just before everything kind of went to shit, so they had album sales and everything.
It’s a weird one though, because obviously we are quite involved in the music industry as producers as well as artists, and people talk about records sales as this thing that was this permanent believable thing that wasn’t anymore. But actually it was a flash in a pan in the first place because recorded music didn’t exist until maybe 60-70 years ago if you’re being really generous, you could d sell the recording of music for the first time, so that became this big thing, everyone was like, wicked I can buy recordings of music, really cool instead of just paying for experiences which is what we used to do going to see live performances before. Then that snowballed through like, vinyl, cassettes, CDs, that kind of thing and then it shifted again and suddenly that has stopped. So now you can definitely get money for streaming stuff and you can definitely get money for playing live, but you can’t get money for selling a recording of some audio in the same way, and that’s fine because it’s just the way it happened. It didn’t happen for like all of human evolution, it happened from 1960 to about 2010 and then it stopped. It’s not like a huge thing that happened for all time and suddenly stopped. I think that’s the thing that people don’t understand a lot of the time.
The key piece of advice is to just try and take advantage of every single thing that is available now. Loads of people going “In 1998 I could have made loads of money from this”, so what’s the relevance of that?
Yeah, and it would cost you a 100 grand to make the record as well.
That’s really a good point, you could make a record now in a studio like ours, for a tiny budget compared to what bands used to do or even at home, you can make great demos at home. A lot of bands write track stuff at home then come and record drums, and the quality of that is like ridiculous compared to what people used to be able to do for like tens of thousands of pounds, so we should just be so grateful for all the tools we have. The digital marketing tools, that are out there are insane. You could not get anyone to listen to your music unless you were in front of them personally or on a major radio station or in a shop or whatever.
You can access like anyone at any point.
Yeah. The really important thing which is the most pressing point for all of us is that big global trends don’t happen anymore, it’s tiny niches and if you want to go and listen to some Polish Black Metal, you can. If you want to go and listen to Katy Perry, you can, and everything in between. Like earlier we were listening to Plini, which is the instrumental fusion and that is just insane, something like that can be that popular now. But of course it can, because anyone that’s into that kind of thing can go and find it.
And I think that is so powerful. I don’t know man, people that were in the middle of that whole period and their career spanned the analogue and digital era if you like, I guess that could be a hard transition, but for us we’ve never made a living from that before so we are just carving one now. So, I guess it’s a different approach. That’s not to say it’s not hard, it’s different in any industry, books, what are they? Journalism on paper, all that stuff. Amazon doesn’t even have people now it’s all bloody robots.
The same way with what’s happening in the audio industry with Spotify and streaming, it already happened in the TV industry and it created a golden era for TV. So how come the film and television world can embrace it and make it work and everyone in music seems to be going, but I don’t make enough money as I used to. See what’s happened here, your entire machinery is not moving fast enough.
Having worked in like music retail you guys know how far behind.
Yeah like 1952 basically.
Right! Stop there a sec, it’s really nice to actually speak to a band that is intelligent! (lots of laughter) I can tell you that now.
Ha ha we can tone this shit down!
– continues in the next article
*Interviewer: Harley Watson (R X P T R S)
*Photographers: Dave Doherty and BTNB