interview by Joshua Decker for Grindthieves. Original posting June 24, 2012.
"It’s not too often an artist emerges from the actual underground on their own accord, let alone with something that is far outside of the framework within whatever scene they operate. To be feared and mocked, in such instances, is to be expected. To be praised and heralded in them is far too often not the case.
While it can’t be said that there was not a single naysayer in the bunch, it’s safe to say that, by and large, the response to Botanist really hitting the black metal / whatever scene last year with his I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead was a resounding success and benchmark for what the black metal sound and aesthetic could be. In an era where DIY cassette labels are barely keeping their heads above water trying to give a nod to the oldschool and countless more artists & labels are jumping on the digital bandwagon, here we have this forward thinking and boundary erasing artist calling himself Botanist who slowly and suddenly bubbled to the surface of the internet airwaves and beyond with a tale of retreat into nature and the shedding of human and societal skins.
We rated him rather highly in 2011, to be certain, featuring his effort from that year on our annual year end list, saying the following:
'Easily the most peculiar and bizarre release I stumbled upon this year, Botanist is a one man black metal band which relies heavily – solely, at many times – on a hammered dulcimer for both its percussion and its melody. Coupled with the familiar but entirely unique gurgling squeal of vocals and other sparse and scarce elements, this album has created controversy within and caught the attention of the greater black metal scene. And for good reason. 2 full length CDs of this shit and it being a sort of plant worship conceptual project, it’s pretty out there. But it’s absolutely incredible, as well. Get it from tUMULt.'
As I’m sure you’ve gathered by now, this far into this entry, Botanist is back once again. Bringing with him another fat stack of sound for you to wrap your brain around and get lost within. This time in the form of III: Doom In Bloom.
Picking up where his previous effort left off, Botanist takes the hammered dulcimer black metal sound into new yet familiar territory. Somewhere between black metal and doom metal, hanging like the leaves of a spider lily plant. Rooted deeply in both of those sonic soils while reaching out into new territory that only it can inhabit, III: Doom In Bloom is a many splendid thing. Where his earlier work felt more charismatic, in terms of text book definitions, Doom In Bloom adheres more, even if only slightly so, to the tried and true definitions of what doom metal is considered to be. There’s a new sonic warmth and presence in the production for this release, as well, where I and II seemed more vacuous, even though the actual elements left less negative sonic space to fill.
Dissonant melody alongside the harmony of dulcimer and drum are set to a more traditional doom metal tempo and the gurgling screech prevalent on I and II makes way for a more middle of the ground black/doom metal growl and scream. There seem to be a couple more actual elements to the recipe compared to last time around, wherein it was strictly drums, hammered dulcimer, and vocals. Sometimes reminiscent of more straightforward guitar chords, and other times sounding as though they may have been released from a circuit bent Casio keyboard from the 80s or haunted piano relic; never overbearing or the focal point, merely a subtle and welcome addition to the sphere of sound. Altogether, more inviting and uncomfortable than the best doom metal record around.
As an added bonus, there’s a part II disc to Doom In Bloom that consists of tracks created and curated by friends and associates of Botanist. Apparently he handed over the drum tracks for some of his work and let them have their way with them, so long as the outcome was somehow related to or representative of nature. As a thing, as some of the tracks would suggest, or as an idea, as others songs might insinuate, you’re given an extra seven tracks of pure awesomeness ranging from Botanist project Ophidian Forest with some true cult black metal to the more ambient and drone meanderings of Matrushka and the epic gothic metal of Bestiary. Throw a few more noteworthy additions into the mix to top it off and you’ve got a whole other disc of supreme listening material.
If my words and ideas about Botanist’s new album aren’t enough to entice you – and I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t be, despite being inadequate as far as descriptions of brilliance go – Grindthieves is truly honored to share with you all an interview we had the privilege of doing with the man behind Botanist.
He shares some personal insight to the Botanist concept, himself, future Botanist projects, and quite a bit about his new record, III: Doom In Bloom. So read on.
Massive thanks to both Otrebor/Botanist and the Total Rust records label." -- Joshua Decker
For the uninitiated, please shed a little light on who Botanist is.
The songs of Botanist are told from the perspective of The Botanist, a crazed man of science who lives in self-imposed exile, as far away from Humanity and its crimes against Nature as possible. In his sanctuary of fantasy and wonder, which he calls the Verdant Realm, he surrounds himself with plants and flowers, finding solace in the company of the Natural world, and envisioning the destruction of man. There, seated upon his throne of Veltheimia, The Botanist awaits the day when humans will either die or kill each other off, which will allow plants to make the Earth green once again.
How did the concept and subsequent output for Botanist come to be?
Botanist arose from a need to create music at my own pace. I’d been in bands that did little to nothing for years, and rather than become pointlessly frustrated and irritated at those people, I decided to do it myself. Now I can make 10 albums in a year and there’s no one that will get in my way.
The specific concept arose from my fascination with the natural world and the strong sense of the unnamably sacred that it gives me — a sense of serenity, of humility, of groundedness, of perspective of my place and importance as a human in the larger existence of all that is.
Are you Botanist, or is Botanist a character you portray?
Both yes and no to each of your questions. The Botanist is indeed the persona through which the chronicling of the central character, Nature, is perceived. That persona is the one who has shunned humanity, who wishes for the world to be able to heal itself with the extinction of mankind.
I am not he, but he exists within me. The lyrics and compositions are from his perspective, and when I (Otrebor) record material for Botanist, I am in part doing so by summoning that persona. When you read any interview or message with “Botanist,” you are in fact getting it from me, Otrebor. The Botanist never speaks in these situations, as he would have nothing to do with mankind. He speaks only through the albums.
The music of “I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead” was far more sparse and charismatic than that on “III: Doom In Bloom”; was that a conscious effort or has there been a natural progression? I can see it being part of the story of Botanist – growing, changing, adapting much like plant life. Is this the case?
The aim is to make each successive Botanist full-length the inversion or antithesis of the previous one in some way, while still retaining some core element of Botanist-ness that ties them all together. This is partially because I have a hard time doing the same thing twice, and partially because I make a lot of records, and I feel that if more than one album is going to be released a year, there really had better be something that sets them apart. I have a series of inversions planned well into the future. If I want to explore the same thing again, I’ll do it on an EP. That is the rule I have set for Botanist at this time.
The interpretation of the story is up to you.
You collaborated with several names on the new record, can you provide some insight into who these people are?
All are friends of mine, and many of them are people who had been in some band with me that never went anywhere. Matt Harper and Alex Lindo (Cult of Linnaeus) are half of an ugly, monolithic, jagged, heavy band called Nero Order. They made a full-length, “The Tower,” a couple years ago that most people like to compare to Neurosis in basic stylistic approach. They disagree. We were very briefly putting together a black metal band called Bruxia that managed to eke out a rehearsal recording before it fell apart. Maybe that will see the light of day after they find my corpse and the hard drive containing all the unreleased recordings on it.
Max Doyle (Bestiary) is the guitarist of Grayceon, one of the most interesting and atypical heavy bands out there, being cello/guitar/drums/vocals (and who also happen to be one of the Bay Area metal bands that records at The Atomic Garden.)
Jack Shirley (Arborist) runs The Atomic Garden, and is one of the guitarists in the highly successful indie screamo band Comadre.
Beth Gladding (Lotus Thief) and I have known each other for years. She used to play bass with me in a thrashy band that made a demo and never went anywhere. She’s currently got a rock project that I just engineered the drums for.
Nathan Berlinguette (Bestiary) has made a lot of music, but his most famous endeavors are being in The Human Quena Orchestra, 5/5/2000 and a stint playing bass in Creation is Crucifixion.
Shondra Paulson (Bestiary) is a classically trained vocalist from the Boston Conservatory. She did the vocals on a power/progressive metal album (under the name of Rubicon) that I played on in 2008 that will likely never be released.
Bastiaan de Vries (Matrushka) has a functionally creative part in Botanist, having designed the band logo and website. His Matrushka project has released albums in some form.
Finally, Zaragil and Amalgamoth are my bandmates in Ophidian Forest, which has recorded three full-lengths (of which two have been released, and a third maybe being released within the next year) and two EPs (one having been released, and the other to be released as soon as soon comes).
What, if any, are the plans for the next Botanist record?
It’s too soon to let the cat out of the bag in terms of the sound, but suffice to say that it will be as different as “III” is to “I/II.” I will reveal that it will largely be a concept album about the alchemical creation of Mandrakes and the specific application of such to the Botanist world. As is the intention with each successive record, it will endeavor to mark a new chapter in Botanist’s movement of works. Much of that material is in the conceptual phase only, but you can be sure that there will be plenty of new Botanist material for the next couple years at least. The next album is to be released by Flenser, who is intending to also press vinyl.
Can we expect to see Botanist playing any live gigs soon?
Sadly, no. Though I am open to the idea, much needs to happen — the project will have to get a lot more popular and have the backing of a powerful enough label to organize solid and worthwhile enough tours to warrant having to hire/pay the way for live musicians. Perhaps some day.
Are you actively involved with any other art/music/etc projects fans of Botanist should look into?
I already mentioned Ophidian Forest, but I’ll go into more detail here. We’ve released two full-lengths, “Redbad” (2009) and “Plains” (2010), and recorded a third, “Susurrus,” that we are talking to a label about releasing. We’ve also made a split CD with Pyrifleyethon, called “Summoning of the Igneous,” that was released in 2011 by Le Crépuscule du Soir. We are currently awaiting another split, this time with Haeresiarchs of Dis, to be released by UW Records. You can hear some samples of various records at our bandcamp at ophidianforest.bandcamp.com.
The only other project on the burner now involves the session drum work I did for the second Ordo Obsidium record. The first, “Orbis Tertius,” was released in 2011 on Eisenwald. The new one is in the mixing stage and is remarkably different from the first. The cover art is done and it’s pretty great. I think Flenser is going to release it. Maybe this year? Maybe next?
Is there anything we missed that you feel is important to mention?
Thank you, Decker, for your time and attention. At the time of this posting, some copies of the current album, “III: Doom in Bloom,” are still available at verdantrealm-botanist.bandcamp.com, as well as from the first album, “I: The Suicide Tree / II: A Rose From the Dead.” Downloads are always available. Thank you all who have supported and will support the project in the future. Studio time is not free, and thanks to the success of the sales of the albums, I’ve been able to recover the cost of recording, which greatly facilitates the production of more albums. Thank you as well to all those who post, positively as well as negatively, about the band. You are all spreading the word of The Verdant Realm.