Interview by Raymond Westland for Ghost Cult Mag, originally posted on June 7, 2013, here.
Botanist is a one man black metal project by the mysterious individual who calls himself Otrebor. With only a drum kit and a hammered dulcimer at his disposal his views on music and Mother Nature are far from ordinary. Ghost Cult delves inside his inarguably creative mind to see what’s lurking.
Nature seems to be an important theme in the records. What is the source of that inspiration?
I went for a walk yesterday in the woods. My vantage point became me as a small being dwarfed by a collective of trees. I stopped and looked at them. In life out there in the world of man, I am struck with the amount of complication and convolution we put on ourselves and others: manufactured pressure and manipulation to consume, pressure to move faster and do more in a shorter time, complicated rules in social hierarchies of who is doing whatever better than anyone else based on this stuff, and generally trying to be the omnipotent, all-knowing beings of the universe. This is all maddening. It is madness. Staring up at those trees, with them giving a truer perspective of my place as a human being within the greater scope of the universe, it was like a vista into a reality that allows for all that trumped up convolution to melt away; all that madness was revealed as idle bullshit, devices to keep us all occupied with meaningless busywork to keep a diseased machine turning. That is where I continually find the inspiration for Botanist.
Black metal seems to be removing itself from its satanic roots to more appreciation for nature-based themes. How do you see things?
Black metal has always been about opposition. The adversarial nature of that arose out of a real sense of antagonism against Christianity and its societal repression. While that feeling remains whole in the seminal works of groundbreaking artists, nowadays that standard shape of rebellion has become more often trite than true. I can’t necessarily speak for other artists who deal in Nature-based themes, but in Botanist’s case that re-interpretation of black metal’s spirit of opposition is refocused to bear on humanity’s repression of the environment. Compared to the now tame, lame Christian church, the notion of the impending doom of our race at our own hands is something that is mobilizing masses of people on a visceral, instinctive level. If there is not a more essential cause to focus opposition, is it not against the mindless destruction of the elements that most essentially make up every creature’s ability to live?
The music of Botanist revolves around drums and a hammered dulcimer. How do you go about it composing-wise?
It depends on the album. Orders are mixed up, different supporting instruments are incorporated, the delivery and voice of the core theme is remixed, re-imagined and re-interpreted, just like it is with the visual presentation. Nothing in Botanist turns out the way it’s intended to. That has come to be by design. Each album is begun with a set of rules and parameters, and then the album is allowed to go where it will. Decisions are made along the way, some based on the initial rules, others as surprise developments along the journey. Each album is treated as a living entity whose nature is slowly revealed until its final, mastered end.
Botanist is very much a one man project. What are the pros and cons of working on your own versus working in/with a complete band?
The pros are there is no one there to hold you up. A band can only move as fast as its slowest member. The emotional energy is more focused as less is spent on managing relationships and schedules, and more can be dedicated to creation. The cons are there is no one there to edit you. You have to be good at self-editing if you’re going to make music by yourself for public consumption. Even then, having someone there to say stuff like, “maybe that part goes on x times too long,” or, “you know, maybe those vocals aren’t such a good idea” can help even a good self-editor. Having people who are more talented than you at a specific task can yield potentially better results. Being able to let go of control and enjoy the feel of working together as a team and having the outcome be a surprise resulting from various members’ creative voices is lost.
Do you intend to do some touring as well? If so, where are you going to perform?
Botanist will soon be announcing its first shows for mid- to late-summer 2013. The live incarnation of the vengeful spirit of Nature will be composed of five individuals who will play selections from the first four full-length albums. For now, shows within California and perhaps up to the Pacific Northwest are in the works, but we are open to play anywhere in the world so long as we have the support.
What is your agenda like for the rest of the year?
Plans are set to finally release the split with Palace of Worms, another band on The Flenser. We’re talking about an October release on CD and LP, but nothing is official until the label makes an announcement. An exciting artist is on board for the visual design. I am thrilled to be working with him. More on that later. Finally, Botanist will be looking to play select concerts, and begin its plan to show the world that it is as remarkable an entity live as it is on record.