Rory Conder

Lunar Mantra

LUNAR MANTRA are a black metal trio coming from the city of Glasgow in Scotland and they have been active now since 2013. In 2015, they released their first EP named GENESIS which was certainly an album full of diversity with instrumentation, experimental processes and produced very well as there is an ambient feel to this EP. They also released a single called DROLMẨ in 2017, but they came back with another EP called PSYCHOSOMATIKA released through the record label INVICTUS PRODUCTIONS (based in Dublin, Ireland). The album was scheduled to be released in 2020 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic that had swept through the world by storm, the band had to delay this until 2021. Since their last release of course, I have now had the chance to talk to Rory Conder, who is their guitarist and very much a big part of the band's direction and I am asking him how the band got through Covid-19, whether they have any new music on the way, what inspired the band to create their music and where they are now in terms of their music as to the next step for LUNAR MANTRA.
May 23, 2023
Lunar Mantra's Rory Conder: "We are definitely in the process of writing and getting this new release solidified
Welcome Rory Conder from the band LUNAR MANTRA and of course, thank you for taking the time to talk to join me of course, with this interview, with myself, Andrew from Metal Temple magazine!

Rory - Thank you for showing interest and using this platform to extend a bit of promotion and mabe raise a bit of awareness, who knows, we will see what happens.

I will start by asking how the band formed as it has actually been 10 years since you formed(believe it or not)?

Rory - Yeah you can't overstate how surprising that is for myself. I guess we started the band in 2013. It was a case of trying to find the right members, and when that slotted into place, it was a case of the bass player at the time having been jamming with this guy down south of England and met his drummer. Asked him if he would be interested in doing a project together, I have always wanted to do a black/death metal project with some ambient overtones. He was interested in the lyrical themes, the sort of sound aesthetic (we had) so he joined so it just kept going from there. We did have quite a big hiatus during Covid so it got pushed back from everyone's priorities. It was difficult because people were living so far apart from each other. It's strange looking back, it doesn't feel like 10 years because it's not been 10 years of active work.

Your band's style of course is black metal mixed with death metal and ambiance, would you say this has changed at all along the way or have you very much stuck with this same style?

Rory - The thing is it definitely evolved much over the years, with the Genesis EP it was very like traditional riffs and a lot of atmosphere coming from the guitar passages themselves. We have had a couple of ambient tracks on that like an intro and outro. But where all the form of riff playing composition and sonority was definitely more of a traditional palette whereas I would say we are taking more of death metal riff and orientated approach these days with Psychosomatika EP. We also did like a little "Drolma" sort of single which was a purely ambient release in between times. So experimenting with different kinds of concepts to deal with how music relates to these sort of altered states of consciousness like the dark and like the shadow side of these kinds of darker conscious ideas that are in the lyrical themes.

So I would say the ambient has always had a place there to try and immerse the listener into a sort of trance like more deeper like an oneiros which is Greek for a dream so it's kind of like a lot of the lyrics came from these either dream like states or like actual dreaming in the first place. I always wanted to kind of have an angle there in terms of the music but the atmosphere of black metal and the energy of death metal, I had always wanted to solidify together as a nice style which can present these different kinds of themes and concepts so yeah it has definitely become more energetic.

We have changed the tunings down over the years as well. I think we have been playing more C standard than when we originally started in E. So it is definitely getting heavier and darker, a little bit less traditional and more like technical as well to a degree but the ambiance is becoming more like ethnic sounding with different soundscapes orientated than traditional like a collective style of dark ambient using synths and bass played with cello, chanting and throat singing. It's definitely evolved naturally organically.

Your band of course comes from Glasgow in Scotland, has the city always been familiar with black metal even before the band got together?

Rory - I mean I am not traditionally from Glasgow, I am from the Northeast of Scotland but there are a lot of bands coming up and playing, there was definitely much more death metal and thrash from the city itself, or up from the Northeast playing. And when I was down here there weren't really that many gigs at all, Edinburgh has got more of a repertoire of black metal bands like HAAR, BARSHASKETH and UIR. I have done a few different projects down here as well like MONAD but traditionally when we started playing in LUNAR MANTRA in Glasgow. It was always getting bands over from Ireland or down south from England even from Spain. We did a concert with THIRTEENTH MOON and there were some doom bands from Edinburgh that expressed interest in playing live with us as well but we have not actually collaborated with many local bands. There wasn't much happening really for years between 2010 and 2015, there really weren't that many bands where as we did have WATAIN doing some of their tour here but that would be about it. But it was definitely a bit more vibrant, but still more bands coming than actually residing here.

Obviously you include ambient sound effects, as you mentioned before, in your music, how do you feel this impacted your music and what actually inspired you to use these sound effects?

Rory - I think I got into ambient and specifically dark and kind of ritualistic ambient around about the same time as I got into black metal. I always wanted to entwine the two but there is like a meditative quality to this it's obviously also quite anxiety driving and more of a like fierce inducing states of perception can be like awoken from listening to dark textures of synths and drones, again like esoteric vocal styles a lot different like jarring percussion. I just allowed the mould to be transient because when you are playing traditional based music, you can kind of find yourself stuck in a loop where you're not sure if what you're doing is expressing what your intention is. I feel that whenever we played live, we played some of these ambient mixes of what we have recorded in the studio through the PA like song intros.

Then as interludes we would include bass like the cello playing loads of reverb going around and some interesting tribal drumming. I think it has definitely added impact to what we are trying to present, what we were trying to present really is an occult framework for spiritual experiences to challenge the comfort zone of your day to day waking existing  reality. This is known as alpha state consciousness or beta state consciousness where you are constantly active and making decisions whereas alpha is where you are relaxed and absorbing or keep reading, when you go into a border between alpha and beta, it is where it starts to go down but it's almost impossible to get into that when you're listening to blast beats and metal riffs.

But if you have got these ambient overtones and textures, you can find yourself phasing in and out of reality when you are experiencing the music itself. Obviously in a live context with Psychosomatika we did that "Aghora" song as third track but more like a outro but it was a twelve minute long song in its own right and I feel really like albums like TRIANGLE by SCHAMMASCH and maybe some of the DEATHSPELL OMEGA. The way they interplay their songs, they kind of merge their songs, it's almost creating a journey between tracks, I find myself more inspired by that style of composition overall. I think it's a more effective medium to use in order to create the sonic experience that we ourselves as a band are trying to tune into if that makes sense.

Listening to Genesis, your first EP, there are certainly a lot of ambient sound effects, does this represent any sort of theme or concept in the EP?

Rory - So 7 or 8 years ago the path I have decided to or rather become more drawn to was a little bit different to what it was then, then it was much more to do with opening up a more traditional style ritual. The discomfort of beyond your usual awareness and merging with potentially malevolent beings that aren't over the threshold of consciousness, you can argue at length this isn't a full philosophy podcast but you can argue at length the subjective quality of these things. Obviously art and music itself is a very subjective thing but I was wanting to create a channel which people can absorb but I don't know how effective this was in the end.

A passageway into the songs themselves almost as psalms, two different aspects of these sublinear vistas, where you are going into two different parts of your mind, some of them are part of the collective unconscious and some parts are of the subjective deciphering of what is being perceived. The songs are an attempt, crude or otherwise, to express the gravitas of that and the feelings or emotional qualities of those places within yourself. Then the egress, the final track of an ambient outro is definitely meant to end it starts off with dark and discord. But it ends with a monotonous bass line that is quite light and uplifting, it's more coming back into your body and into your usual state of awareness and seeing it through like finishing a cycle.

Since the band formed 10 years ago, has the lineup changed along the way or has it been the same?

Rory - The bass player actually left in 2017/18, as I am also bass player myself, I am likely to write all of that and basically find a session player for live stuff so we are still on the lookout for someone to confirm and make that happen. The bass player just didn't have any interest in playing live anymore so he was interested in the music he just didn't want to actually commit to being a live member whereas we wanted to do more live performances.

I understand from an interview you did back in 2020, you said you guys have your own studio, is this an advantage to you guys and if so, would you recommend this to any new upcoming bands?

Rory - Look it would have been an advantage if we didn't live so apart, it was difficult for us as a band to actually get together in the studio, me and the guitarist spent a lot of time in there tracking stuff as we didn't get many opportunities to rehearse or do full band stuff there. I would say it is definitely an advantage if you have got a lot of work and you don't need to pay per hour so that means you can record and demo a lot of ideas, it gives you a lot of physical sanctuary where you can flip into band mode. A lot of ideas that are formed there, it is quite easy to get back into that headspace so it definitely is an advantage but logistically it didn't really work for us. The drummer now lives in the south of England and the guitarist lives in the southern highlands of Scotland so during Covid I got rid of the studio just cause I wasn't using it. Subsequently we got together in different rehearsal spaces, so it's swings and roundabouts really, the band is busy and I would suggest it is useful.

You have now released two EP's in 2015 with Genesis and 2020 with Psychosomatika, the second which I remember reviewing myself and very much enjoyed, are there any plans now for new music?

Rory - Cheers, yes I guess I could drop the title of the album that is underway, which is going to be called The Unfoldment. We are looking at different options for album work and we have got our eyes set on a recording studio to use, it is going to be seven metal tracks long and probably four ambient excerpts in amongst it all weaving the whole thing together. It's definitely a step up from what we physically have written in the past, generally speaking I wrote the guitar, bass then we took it to the studio and got the drums and tempo mapping done then solidified. Then we throw a few vocal ideas in and structure that then we will record everything, in the past I have mixed and mastered material, but we are definitely keen to get it done professionally.

We have Javi Bastard who did TEITANBLOOD from Madrid, he did the mixing and mastering for Psychosomatika, I find that a pretty good experience but it is quite hard to switch off from your own creative process when you're mixing. It is hard to walk away from it as well when someone else is actually getting commissioned, they have got a nice outsider's perspective. He is very accommodating working through different ideas and making edits for us so we would potentially go with him again. Some of the songs that we are releasing on The Unfoldment were written in 2017, other ones were first demoed in 2021 whereas others are coming together this year.

But everything has been updated, we haven't really been able to do much with the band for the last three years because of Covid lockdowns, people working away and there were just some personal problems within our own lives we had to take care of first. But now we are in a good position to strive forwards and make this a reality so it's all written essentially we just have to put the finishing touches and get it recorded, so hopefully this year or by the end of it, we will have something mixed and mastered.

I also understand you studied sound engineering/production, did this play apart in your band's recording process and perhaps made your music stand out more?

Rory - Well I mean I certainly recorded all of the instruments for the previous two EP's and the singles but like I said before your ability to walk away from a piece of work that you are emotionally invested in is not usually the premise of a sound engineer. A sound engineer is getting commissioned to make something work based on a brief but if your brief is your own emotional context it's very vague and you don't know when to switch off and stop editing things, stop changing things. So I actually found over time it was more advantageous to work on this music with LUNAR MANTRA as a musician, as a composer and as a band member then give it away to a sound engineer to finalise rather than being both. I found it got very like a grey area in my mind, I wasn't sure if I was producing this or composing because I was doing both, it was  very difficult to settle on something. So I think with bands it's really easy , but as you can see with LUNAR MANTRA, several years have passed by with no progress in terms of output, the only advantage is to get a professional to help you along the way. I am not saying I am not a professional but it is different when you are working on your own music (haha)otherwise things can be delayed a lot.

As we have now passed the long pandemic that is Covid-19, do you feel you are now writing more music or touring a lot more or both?

Rory - We are definitely in the process of writing and getting this new release solidified, we do have a gig lined up in Bristol at the end of September, that will be the first thing we have done live in the last few years. Just to get back into it, playing these songs in a row in a stress free environment and refine ourselves as a collective working on our aesthetic and solidify something we can actually use going forward then we do plan on doing some tours when the album comes out. I think the whole Covid thing was claustrophobic, a lot of people didn't want to go back to live bands and gigs even afterwards they just got used to being in the house listening to records and drinking beer at home and actively being in a social environment wasn't for them anymore.

Yeah it's crazy how life can be turned around by protocol and your ability to make decisions is impacted, so yeah I find myself writing music a lot more, I have done a hell of a lot of things since all of this went down, I went back to university to do my honours degree in sound production. I have done a lot of special audio work and I am doing more exhibition type of things, but I have been doing a lot of writing outside of the band as we were waiting to reform. But now that we're back together again it's all focused on getting this album then we will be looking at some live stuff after.

So you have already mentioned a gig that is coming up so will there ever be a tour then?

Rory - Yeah of course, it really depends on when we get a bass player sorted out and also getting these songs live ready, then we will probably do a tour, I have had some ideas in the past but I am not going to give anything away.

Finally where can fans find you online, maybe social media or a website?

Rory - We have a bandcamp, we also have a facebook but we don't have anything else other than that.

So that concludes the interview and all my questions for you, I would like to say thank you again for taking the time to talk to me and I look forward to hearing more music from you and the band. I will certainly keep an eye out if you do intend on maybe coming to Dublin, Ireland where I am, so I finish by saying the very best of luck to you and Lunar Mantra with any future plans and thank you so much!

Rory - Yeah you are most welcome, we have played in Dublin a couple of times before and the last time was a while ago now, it was with SLATER and some local doom band I can't actually remember who it was, but it would be good to come back. Yeah sure keep an eye out when this album is done I think there would be a lot more growth and a lot more to look forward to with opportunities for us to play live and connect with fans.

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Interview by Andrew Harvey

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