Interview by Andrew Rothmund for Invisible Oranges, originally posted on October 27, 2020, here.

"Botanist, by now, has made an impact -- a real, measurable one, not only related to the genesis of "green metal" (whatever that is) but to the notion that you do not need distorted guitars to either be heavy or be metal. Or black metal, for that matter. And while what Botanist "is" is far less important a question than what Botanist "does," the fact that we ask ourselves these questions in the first place means that, just maybe, project mastermind Otrebor is onto something special.

Clearly he is, and has been. Last year's Ecosystem release showcased a Botanist brought full circle, enraptured in the prospects of the new but not absent-minded when it comes to prior material. This year'sPhotosynthesis release carries on in much the same vein, albeit with some differences that Otrebor goes into in our interview below. It is 100% Botanist, but the project's turn of late has involved a significant development in songwriting, production, and achieving that "full band" feel that so many solo projects aspire to obtain." -- Andrew Rothmund

How do you react to "black metal" versus "green metal" -- clearly Botanist's music is invested deeply in the natural world, does that investment also mean a change in style?

I don't know if "green metal" is the chicken, and if the Botanist recording EP3: Green Metal is the egg, or the other way around, but someone started calling what Botanist does "green metal" before we could publish the EP, which we wanted to publish long before anyone else started calling Botanist "green metal."

Botanist sounds like it does because it's primarily made with dulcimers instead of guitars, and secondarily because it's made with dulcimers that are written either by me, Otrebor, to drum tracks that either I or someone else wrote, or in a rare case, dulcimers written to drums that I wrote.

What about the dulcimer and its prominence in the music attracts you to the sound and experience it provides, especially as it relates to themes of Earth?

I play dulcimer because it's the easiest and most intuitive melodic instrument to transpose my skillset as a drummer onto. In the early days of Botanist's creation, the dulcimer worked super well with mirroring the way music formed in my head. Later, my personal relationship deepening with the hammered dulcimer showed me how it is the most intuitive conduit to my melodic creativity that I could ask for. That enabled me to branch out into other melodic instruments, including my voice, and develop those.

Do you envision or imagine your music in Botanist in terms of atmospherics? You mentioned melody – dulcimer as melody vis-à-vis percussion, even – and I wonder what relation melody has with Botanist’s atmosphere, especially as of late. Sometimes atmosphere is a byproduct, sometimes it’s intentional by the creator, and I’m sort of driving at that distinction perhaps. Atmosphere is often hard to describe, in any case.

I'm not sure I can answer your question in the way that will satisfy it. The most essential process of my part in Botanist is that it's specifically me that is taking part. That process is only partially understood, even by me. The part that can be explained in words is the one that I explained in your initial question, and that I've talked about in other interviews. The other, more mystical, spiritual part, is the one that emanates from me and that I am able to channel through me. That's the magic, the thing that creates Botanist. It's driven by volition, devotion, application, dedication, and love. Even I don't really understand it, and I don't aim to.

What also contributes to this duality of seeking answers that can't really be put into words is conflict of perspective. The audience necessarily has a unique role of interpretation of the creator's work. That's a beautiful and intrinsic relationship of an artist's decision to make his or her work available for an audience to consume. When it stems in curiosity of what's behind the work, that's a good thing, but it isn't always useful, or even possible to have that question answered in a way that satisfies any half of the creator/audience whole. And that's also beautiful.

I feel it's safe to say that notions of harmony and balance have fascinated me forever. The applications of those fascinations can be brought to their greatest level in Botanist because I direct the project -- they give me the opportunity to develop my interpretations of them in the best way I'm able at any given time. The perception of development by the audience of those notions may be an interpreter's view of how harmony and balance are developing and being refined as the project rolls on.

On your voice specifically, you mentioned using more cleans on Photosynthesis – was there an impetus behind this shift, even if subtle or unintended? It’s an interesting dynamic in Botanist, the harsh-versus-clean one – has one style been more difficult or trying than the other? You also mentioned working on your voice over time, those ventures seem to have been fruitful.

For the answer to the creative aspect of the question, please see above.

For the technical answer, I've been enjoying developing the expression and musicality of what my voice can provide, and also enjoying discovering where that development can go based on the limitations of my ability -- to maximize that limitation and further discover where the maximum can go. There have been thus far a handful of experiences that have inspired me to push. Some of those experiences are first hand, others are third hand. One of the third hand experiences was an interview I read decades ago. I remember it was with Ihsahn of Emperor, who discussed doing the variety of vocals he did in Emperor. I remember his describing all the vocals he did as coming from the same place, as being performable using the same techniques. Although in my body I wouldn't say Ihsahn's interpretation is universally true to me, it has been far more meaningful to discover how much his interpretation is true, and how much his words helped give me the inspiration to go from doubting I could do anything to using his words as a stone on the path to exploring and expanding what I could do.

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