Interview by J. Coleman for Louder Than Hell. Original posting here.
The doom of mankind is coming soon. The Mayan calendar may not have nailed it spot on, but it’s coming, and it’s in the form of pissed off kudzu, at least if the Botanist has anything to do with it.
The Botanist will retake his domain over earth with his kin of the plant world, or that’s the idea anyway. The Botanist is the musical project of main man and sole member, Otrebor. Created out of the need for nihilistic expression, The Botanist exists as something unique in the “extreme metal” world. It is a unique black lotus of sorts. Otrebor utilizes a Hammer Dulcimer as his primary instrument of creation, or destruction. His latest outing "III: Doom in Bloom" offers some of the most unique, and haunting baroque style of anti social expression put to record. Otrebor explains more on world domination and his kingdom of the Verdant realm. -- J. Coleman
LTH: Greetings, Otrebor, Where did the idea to create The Botanist first come from?
Otrebor: Botanist arose as a project to satisfy my personal need for creation. There was something important that needed to be expressed, and it needed to be done immediately. I felt that reliance on others was ultimately causing more obstacles than assistance, and so I undertook the project alone.
LTH: Do you have a personal viewpoint of nihility or hermetic feelings that are amplified through the voice of The Botanist?
Otrebor: I do and I don’t. I do in that since the music of Botanist comes from somewhere within me, it necessarily must be a window to some part of my soul. Where that soul emanates from or leads to is not apparent, and this has led me to believe that emanation comes from an alternate entity. That entity has come to be known as The Botanist, the project’s titular character from whose perspective all the songs are written from. I am not he, but he exists within me. I don’t in that I, Otrebor, am my own person, and my being has many different facets than the entity that speaks in Botanist. Some of those facets may be congruent with what you might expect, while others may be incongruent. Whatever they are, they are immaterial to the discussion of Botanist, as Botanist isn’t about me, it’s about Botanist: the music, the content, the theme, the underlying message.
That message is this. It is a simple message, but like the plants the songs can be about, the content and makeup of that thing can get more complicated as layers are peeled off and the inner workings are examined.Botanist is about plants, specifically the glorification of the Plantae Kingdom, and of its individual members’ forms and functions. This is a positive, life-affirming statement. Within that positive statement, there is a negative spin, that being that the chronicling of said plants is done from the perspective of The Botanist, the hermetic, titular character who lives in self-imposed exile, far from the world of man and its callous crimes against Nature, as The Botanist sees them. There, in his world of fantasy and wonder, which he calls The Verdant Realm; he surrounds himself with the Natural world, and awaits mankind’s self-eradication. The Botanist is guided in part by his own convictions, and in part by the voices he hears from the floral demon Azalea, who focuses his plans and actions. This is a misanthropic, life-denying statement.
Within that negative statement, there is a positive one. It is the notion that although mankind is destroying the Earth’s natural environment, humanity cannot destroy Nature permanently. Humanity can destroy Nature only for humanity, meaning that even if all life, including humanity, has been eradicated, Nature will bounce back. Something will exist out of nothing, just as it always has, and that something will exist whether humanity is a part of it or not. This is a positive, life-affirming statement. While it doesn’t necessarily include humanity, it is one of hope, of faith in the power of the Natural balance. The underlying message of all this is again a simple one: The world is the most valuable thing in the world. The most essential thing. The world, as we know it, is divine. This unnamable, unknowable divinity’s existence is reflected through our natural environment. If we, as humans, want to enjoy this world, to venerate it, to thrive within it, we must respect it; we must protect it, even if it’s only for our personal benefit. If we don’t, if we annoy the Earth enough, the Earth will kill us and move on. The life-affirming or life-denying aspect of Botanist’s statement as a whole is thus entirely up to humanity at large.
LTH: Why does The Botanist use the Hammer Dulcimer as its primary tool of sonic creation?
Otrebor: The music of Botanist is intended to represent the floral universe, and the voice on the recordings is meant to represent The Botanist within that universe. This sonic presentation is one that is being ever strengthened with each passing Botanist recording, and the hammer dulcimer is an ideal conduit to the musical side of that.
LTH: "IV:Mandragora" is scheduled for release on Feb 19, 2013. What formats will this be released on?
Otrebor: All-cardboard digi-file CD and single-disk LP, both released through The Flenser. All visual art will again be handled by M.S. Waldron.
LTH: Where was the album recorded and how long did the process take?
Otrebor: All sounds were recorded in The Verdant Realm from May-November, 2010. All mixing and mastering took place over the course of a month or two at The Atomic Garden.
LTH: What is the writing ritual like for The Botanist?
Otrebor: Each successive Botanist full-length is intended to be different from those before, while still adhering to the core rules that all Botanist albums must follow to be included in the project’s canon. Prior to recording each album, a set of ground rules is likewise set in achieving a sound/theme through instrumentation, layering, vocal approach, and lyrical content. After all those are set, it is a question of channeling the particular essence of the natural world as seen from the perspective of the project’s titular character, and allowing the unexpected to happen.
LTH: There is definitely a progression and confidence in the musicianship, which obviously starts at I and II and really expands on III: Doom in Bloom, which almost feels like the most organic release thus far. Do you feel IV: Mandragora carries on in this manner? It almost seems like the project itself is photosynthesizing.
Otrebor: Continuing the statement from the previous question, IV: Mandragora, in its own way, endeavors to mark a stark departure from its predecessors. I’ll let the music tell the ultimate truth on that.
LTH: Do you feel the message of The Botanist has become more focused and potent with each release? The first record was very direct. It seems like the emotion and message of The Botanist has been tempered to a finer edge with each successive release.
Otrebor: Yes to all your questions and statements. I: The Suicide Tree/II: A Rose From the Dead are integral, essential works to the whole as they established the project’s basic sonic and conceptual theme. From there, that core theme will be constantly re-imagined and re-created.
LTH: The Botanist seems to me like a modern day “Grendel” type character. A being born into a world he loathes to exist in. However, without it, he would have no sense of purpose. What would the Botanist do without Man?
Otrebor: The Botanist’s plan, or rather, the plan laid out for him by Azalea is clear. Mankind will destroy itself or be destroyed by its own actions, and The Botanist is to facilitate that upheaval as he can. When the rest of mankind has been definitively erased, its only remaining vestige will be The Botanist himself, who must in turn be erased in order to bring about The Budding Dawn, which will triumphantly mark the return of The Plantae Kingdom to its full potential. But rather than become dust, The Botanist has been promised a place in The Chlorophyllic Continuum, the all-encompassing body of energy that incorporates all plant life, so that he may live eternally blissful as part of this harmony; to essentially become a plant himself. This plan is detailed in the lyrics for “Quoth Azalea, the Demon (Rhododendoom II).”
LTH: What literature has inspired you, Otrebor, in creation of the ideology of Botanist?
Otrebor: I recently talked a good amount about the work of William Blake. I admire and resonate with the work and world view of the poets of the Romantic period in general, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge being another stand-out. Though the movie "Fight Club" is one of my favorites in how it speaks to me in its critique of modern consumerist society, it was the book that most firmly helped to solidify, in its own way, my sense of what Botanist was trying to say. However, I read Fight Club years after I started writing and recording Botanist, so Palahniuk’s work is more of a strengthener, a confirmation of a part of Botanist’s pre-existing resolve.
LTH: It's been written in other interviews you don't foresee Botanist playing live any time soon. If Botanist was to perform the Dies Irae, what would be the proper venue and what musicians would you have help channel this music?
Otrebor: The vision for what a Botanist live performance would look like is either clear or on its way to being so. All that I can say at this time is that it is being worked on.
LTH: Besides releasing IV: Mandragora, what else can we expect from Botanist in 2013?
Otrebor: The Flenser intends to release the successive full-length to IV. There should also be an EP split with Palace of Worms. More details forthcoming . . .