The first half of the interview by Brian Krasman for Meat Mead Metal. Original posting here.
I remember the first time I heard Botanist’s bizarre debut album I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead. I didn’t know what the hell I was hearing, what was going on, how to digest the unconventional sounds. But it sunk in, and soon I was hooked. I’d never heard anything like this, both musically and philosophically, and the double-album ended up making our top 40 records of 2011.
The creation of Otrebor, a one-man band who handles drums, hammered dulcimer and vocals – the only instruments that embodied his first transmissions – Botanist’s music wasn’t just a collection of 40 songs, most of which were fast and over quickly. They were the start of Armageddon, the end of humanity. But that end of humankind wasn’t going to come at the hands of other humans, wouldn’t be sparked by a nuclear war, would not be delivered by a super virus. Instead, that path to destruction would be brought on by the character the Botanist, a crazed man of science who isolated himself in the Verdant Realm, away from the toxic machinations of mankind as he awaited the end.
Now, we’re greeted with the next chapter of the story, III: Doom in Bloom, an album (scheduled out on Totalrust) that not only extends the plot further but also finds Otrebor branching out his compositions. The songs are longer, more plodding, more musical. It’s an impressive, riveting, terrifying continuation of the Botanist’s quest (and we get to understand more about the voice feeding him the plot), and it’s bound to surprise the hell out of you if you’re already familiar with Botanist’s music.
Otrebor, who I’ve gotten to converse with a bit over the last 12 months, is a thought-provoking, passionate individual when it comes to his craft and this tale, and we are beyond thrilled and honored to be the first place to present “Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II),”the opening track from “III: Doom in Bloom,” in its glorious entirety. My jaw dropped the first time I heard this song, and I’ve gone back over it repeatedly and a bit obsessively. Check out this incredible epic for yourself, then read what Otrebor himself had to say about the song and how it fits into whole picture. And come back tomorrow as we debut the first song from the accompanying “Allies” disc. That one will knock you on your ass, too.
Meat Mead Metal: You’ve chosen to reveal the song “Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II).” It’s also the opening cut on III: Doom in Bloom. Why did you decide to pick this song as the first track people would hear? Is it as simple as it’s the first track on the album?
Otrebor: Sure, it’s partially as simple as it being the first track, but it’s the first track for a reason.
“Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II)” is the track that best exemplifies the spirit and intent of III overall in terms of sound, mood, and story. Most immediately, it presents the stylistic and sonic direction that III took: long-format songs, slow tempos, heavy drumming, and blown-out acoustic instrumentation. You’ll get a sense of that within the first 30 seconds. I also like how the song resolves. Although it’s the longest track on the album, it sets the mood for what succeeds it.
Thematically, “Rhododendoom II” is the most representative of the album, sort of like the title track, as it further develops the character alluded to in “Rhododendoom I,” namely the demon Azalea. Azalea is portrayed as the entity that speaks to The Botanist and directs him on how to help bring about the fall of mankind and the rise of the Plantae Kingdom. These directions and the portrayal of Azalea’s character can be seen in any number of contexts: fantastical, literal, metaphorical, magickal, schizophrenic… the interpretation is up to the listener. The whispered parts on the song (and largely on any Botanist song in general) represent Azalea’s directions, about how The Botanist is to go about his mission of helping to bring about the floral apocalypse, how he will be the last of humanity to be erased, but rather than be extinguished, how he will be incorporated into the overall energetic pool of all floral entities, known as the Chlorophyllic Continuum, in which The Botanist will essentially be transformed into a plant, his ultimate reward.
MMM: How does the new album carry over from parts I and II. How is it a continuation of the story/mission?
Otrebor: All Botanist songs will forever be primarily about the glorification of the Plantae Kingdom. Whether the tone be more vitriolic, more mystic, more poetic, or merely a chronicling of floral form and function, that core mission will be unchanged. The main development of the universe of this project has been talked about in the previous question, but I can add here that the cover art is MS Waldron’s depiction of Azalea speaking to The Botanist. More developments are scheduled in albums to come.
III’s sonic continuation, or better put, progression, is more remarkable. We talked about that in the previous question. The small but important point about the progression is that the form of III is not to be construed as Botanist’s “new direction,” but rather the direction that III went in. Each Botanist release is what it is, and of course similarities in style and sound will inevitably be apparent the more albums are released, but the intent with this project is to make works that have something importantly distinct from one another, while still maintaining the unalterable, core ground rules of botanical-themed music driven by hammered dulcimer and drums.
The second half of MMM's coverage. Original posting here.
Yesterday, we brought you “Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II),” the first track off the new Botanist album III: Doom in Bloom. It marked a new chapter in the story of the Botanist, who is influenced more aggressively by Azalea to bring on the end of mankind. We also got the first taste of the approach to this new opus, which is longer songs, slower tempos, more eeriness, and spacious Apocalypse. It’s quite astonishing and moving.
Today we have yet another new step for Otrebor, the man behind Botanist. Without going into too much detail now – he explains it thoroughly in the interview below – there were some ideas left over, and he decided to collaborate with some other like-minded musicians on a companion disc called Allies. So yes, the title is pretty self-explanatory. But unlike Botanist’s normal drums/hammered dulcimer formula, these are full-band compositions that put a totally different spin on Otrebor’s work. And just like the first cut from III, prepare to be blown away.
Below, check out the cut “The War of All Against All” from the group dubbed Cult of Linnaeus, a moniker that is fully explained below. This song is pulverizing, unsettling, and as raucous, and even having heard the song many times myself, I still keep finding fresh pockets of wonder and explosive majesty every time I go back. Hear it for yourself, and read what Otrebor has to say about the Allies disc.
Meat Mead Metal: Allies is the companion disc to III. Talk about how this collection of songs came to be.
Otrebor: III: Doom in Bloom’s story starts in spring of 2008, when the drums were recorded. Although the idea that eventually would become Botanist had already been conceived, this recording pre-dates the inception of the project proper — the drums were intended for a doom project that never happened. However, the drum recordings were real, as was the money paid for the drum recordings… so instead of eating it all, I saw it as a great opportunity to make a unique chapter in Botanist’s discography, and a cool progression from the tone of I and II.
Even before I and II were made, friends of mine had expressed enthusiasm to record to the kind of drums recorded during that session in 2008. Considering there were way more drum tracks recorded than I needed for a full-length album, I invited those initial friends to make a song around drums from what would become the III sessions. The music could be in any style, and the drums could be chopped up and manipulated in any way of their choosing. The only rule would be that their songs had to be somehow related to the Natural world. This became more and more of an interesting idea that it seemed mandatory to release these songs along with III, and so I recruited more people to make music so there would be as many tracks on the Botanist side as there on the Allies side.
MMM: How does this disc work in companion with III philosophically? Was it important to play with other people tuned into your mission?
Otrebor: I see the result of Allies via a variety of perspectives: One is that the songs are vistas into alternate universes of what Botanist could sound like if it were an actual band made up of more than one person playing the industry standard guitar/bass/drums… with a few oddities thrown in. Like a saw.
Another is that Allies is like a “remix” album that transcends the notion what “remix” means — instead of manipulating compositions that already exist, alternate reality compositions are made. If Botanist is the Bizarro version of extreme metal, then Allies is the Bizarro version of Botanist.
Another shade of perspective is that the Allies songs are kind of like cover songs, except the covers in this case are originals. Maybe. Or maybe they are alternate originals that float out there, tied to the main project via one set of drum recordings. You be the judge.
MMM: “Cult of Linnaeus: The War Against All” is being premiered today. Why have you chosen this song to introduce to the world?
Otrebor: Cult of Linnaeus was the first group of people to express interest in recording to the III drums. Their name and concept came much later, but what did come helped to capture the interest in Botanist (even if that perception largely came from misunderstanding — Botanist has never written anything about Carl Linnaeus). Even now I get fan mail recommending books about Linnaeus. I think it’s great, and I hope that Cult of Linnaeus helps Matt Harper and Alex Lindo promote their main project, Nero Order. Their track was the first to be completed, and it kicks ass.
While we’re name dropping, I’ll also list the other Allies who are in/have been in established projects: Max Doyle from Grayceon and Walken, Jack Shirley from Comadre, Zaragil and Amalgamoth from Ophidian Forest (another band I’m in… appearing on Allies as Ophidian Forest), and Nathan Berlinguette from Creation Is Crucifixion, 5/5/2000, and a bunch of other projects. I can’t keep up with that guy.
MMM: With this full-band presentation, could we possibly see more compositions like these on future albums?
Otrebor: Probably not. But I won’t say never.