An Interview With JOEL VIOLETTE Of THRAWSUNBLAT

joel violette 2Joel Violette, a man I admire. A man with intellect, talent and a desire to continue on after hard times. Joel is the main writer of the Canadian Blackened Folk band “Thrawsunblat” and ex-lead guitarist of Woods of Ypres. Now focusing on Thrawsunblat, we’re going to be seeing new music and much more coming from this band in the near future. I had a couple of questions for Joel and I enjoyed what he had to say. So sit back, relax and enjoy the deep responses this man gives.

Listen to Canada 2010 while you read this. Enjoy.

So thank you for taking the time with me to do this! How has your holiday season been?

No problem at all! Looking forward to this. My holiday has been busy, busy, busy. I think anyone bored during the holidays must have done it incredibly wrong––or maybe incredibly right.

Where are you guys at in terms of having Thrawsunblat II: Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings finished?

We’re very close! Brendan Hayter sent in his bass tracks, so he’s completely done. Rae Amitay’s drums are done, and she just recorded vocals for an appearance on two tracks. For Jeff Mott, all the fiddles are recorded. For me, all the guitars and solos are done, and I just finished the vocals Wednesday. Let the mixing begin.

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Are there any plans for a NA tour at all?

There has been a lot of interest, which is quite humbling. I would love nothing more than to do a NA tour! However, at this point in the band’s existence, all the decisions I’ve made have been with the firm and sole purpose of getting Wanderer recorded and released. If the album explodes, and the demand is there for a NA tour, then I will (very gladly) sit down and reassess things and make that happen.

Is there a theme or story within Thrawsunblat II?

Yes. TII is actually a concept album. The first album,TI: Canada 2010,I suppose, had a few recurring themes, but had nothing resembling story or character. It was a collection of songs with a common colour to them, but no plot, character, or environment within which it happens to link them. Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings has these. It draws heavily from Joseph Campbell’s work on mythology, namely The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Are you familiar with his work?

No, I am not.

Basically, Campbell studied the myths of all cultures and found beneath them a universally common narrative structure, as well as universally common archetypical characters. It’s a set of motifs and characters built into our subconscious minds, and told, in limitless vivid variations, since time immemorial.

The gist of Campbell’s monomyth: along the journey, the hero must leave his/her home, encounter trials, overcome them––first with the help of ally and mentor figures, then ultimately on his/her own––and then return with a great prize, whether a physical one or a philosophical one.

So this album is the story of a Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings, with the Continent of Saplings as a sort of parable of North America in these modern times.

You write what you know, so for the trials I used what I’ve experienced this past year or so. For the prizes along the road, I admit I never had the fortune to stumble across a series of increasingly difficult villains, so they are more spiritual / philosophical in nature. I somehow don’t think Thrawsunblat would be Thrawsunblat if I wrote about winning magical swords and slaying things with them. Maybe a side project though, hah!

But for now, Thrawsunblat is rooted in this world. I like to explore solutions to real shit that real people face. I noticed that mythologies/religions (religions are just disagreeing mythologies) also provide answers to this sort of thing. It’s interesting that, while every mythology does provide such answers, a mythology must, in order to be accepted both consciously and subconsciously, agree with the current accepted truths of the universe. In these modern times, not much fits that bill. (This could incidentally be why we love sci-fi / fantasy so much: the rich mythos always agrees with the workings of its universe…). And taking from the past year or so, the Wanderer story is perhaps my way of gathering the solutions I’ve found for such problems, in the hope that maybe my own trials will help someone else deal with similar ones. Even myself––the lyrics I wrote last June and earlier, while reflecting on 2011, are actually providing me solace right now, as I deal with the recent passing of my grandmother.

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What has been inspiring you throughout the recording process of this record?

Atmospherically, the album is inspired by the landscapes across North America. I was lucky enough to experience some unbelievable scenery in my travels with Woods. The Rockies are unreal. The cold forests of Northern Ontario. The drive down the West Coast. Misty (and often frozen) New Brunswick. This North American landscape is sort of the environment within which the album resides.

Lyrically, I wanted to deliver a cohesive story. And one that actually said something. As the concept began to form, I drew a lot from Joseph Campbell’s monomyth for both structure and subject matter. I drew from Nietzsche’s work on the affirmation and celebration of the creative spirit and of always pushing oneself to more. And I even drew a wee bit from Frank Herbert.

What were some of your favorite albums of 2012?

Wintersun – Time, finally. Enslaved – RIITIIR. Winterfylleth – Threnody of Triumph. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die.

Since I’m a gaming nerd I have to ask this. Do you play video games and if so, what have you been enjoying these days?

Oh how I wish! I haven’t had the time since the Wanderer process began in May. But I love me a good video game. Fallout 3 took over my life a couple years ago, as did Oblivion. So, naturally, I’m painfully drawn to playing Skyrim. But I haven’t yet; I’m saving it. I’d wager Skyrim is the most up-my-alley game that has ever existed, and will ever exist. Once things quiet down at Thrawsunblat HQ I’m going to dive in I think. Right now though it’s every minute spent at video games is a minute not spent at music and promotion.

Have any record labels reached out to you at all?

No, none yet. Though I haven’t been actively looking. From the start I just assumed I’d be doing everything myself, so I’ve based my decisions for the album on this assumption. Where Thrawsunblat is right now, if I am able to release an album by myself, then I’m going to do that. However, that’s not to say if a label contacted me with the right offer, that I would be unreceptive…

For all of the Ypres fans out there wondering, will there another tribute show?

Oh man! I’ve been so immersed in the album that I’ve been out of the loop. There will be another tribute show, at some point. The atmosphere, camaraderie, and overall quality of the previous tribute shows will ensure that. There was talk of putting on an outdoor summer fest on DG’s birthday in June, which would be unreal. There was a lot of interest in that idea. I would hope to hear the entirety of Woods II played live at such a sunny festival.

Thrawsunblat merch: where can the fans purchase physical media and shirts?

Right now it’s all via the band, and sort of centered around the Thrawsunblat facebook page FB.com/thrawsunblat. Thrawsunblat II shirts are coming in February. T1: Canada 2010 will also be available in physical form February 13, 2013 this way. Pre-order has already begun. I’m exploring other options for merch sales as well.

What the hell does Thrawsunblat mean?

Hah! Great question. I ask myself sometimes. Well, first, it’s a David word—it’s ridiculously creative, yet it’s cool and has an edge to it. And second, I can only describe it like David described it.

He said something like this: “look at it this way— when Canadians listen to Northern European metal, anything we write and play will be a bastardized version of European metal. And at the same time, Thrawsunblat, is like one of us, in a bastardized version of a European language, saying the phrase “Thrash and blast.” Like a great big metal dude going “Jaaa! Thraws und Blat! Ha ha ha!”.

Hahaha! 

Another selling point was that it has the words “raw”, “sun”, and almost “blast” in it. I was sold. So it sort of means bastardized European metal, from Canada. And the word itself kind of means nothing, yet it holds a lot of meaning.

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Your take on blackened folk metal is incredibly enchanting and very well written. When did you know that you had the chops to write this style and pursue it?

Well shit. Thanks, Merginator! I appreciate it. This is the type of music that resonates with me to the deepest parts of my existence. Folk melodies set to a raw and savage medium. This genre of music does thingsto me. So when I started writing my own riffs, I don’t think it could have been anything else that came out. I feel quite lucky— I obviously enjoy the riffs I’ve written, and so I feel terribly fortunate that some others seem to as well, as it gives me the opportunity to create more.

Your kickstarter project thing that wasn’t kickstarter at all, how’d that work out for you? Were you able to get the ball moving with the help you received?

The Thrawfundraiser was fantastic. Way past expectations. We set the goal at the bare minimum $2800 so that we’d at least raise recording costs. I expected that I’d throw in a few hundred of my own on the last day just to make it. I put my touring guitar in as an incentive, hoping it would go, but not really expecting it to.

After day 1, the guitar was gone, and we’d raised $1500, with a couple unbelievably generous donations. By our end-date, Nov 5, we had raised $4500, which blew my mind. This is definitely enough to get the ball rolling. We’ve covered recording costs, incentive costs, and have enough left over for a solid pressing of T2. We’re deeply grateful to everyone who supported us. I wish there was more I could do to thank them. If they all lived in New Brunswick, I would bake them things.

For those of us in anticipation, when can we expect the new album?

We have an official announcement coming up soon… so I don’t want to give anything away just yet. But it will be before April. Oh, and after February.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with me and may your future endeavors be successful and safe! Take care!

Thank you, it was my pleasure. Best of luck! Cheers!