Immolated moTh is the project of Thom Bleasdale, a musician and artist who has had to suffer from a rare disorder known as Fibromyalgia. An artist unafraid to veer from the self-imposed genre templates so many bands saddle themselves with, Thom’s work is informed by his condition (one which he describes here in harrowing detail) and, for those familiar with the EP, there is no question that the music is shot through with a layer of darkness that few, if any of us, will ever have to experience. ‘This Broken Mind’ is far from hopeless, however, and there is great strength in Thom’s work, not least stemming from the sheer physical effort he had to expend in order to develop this record.
Having reviewed the EP (you can read our article here), we very much wanted to know about its troubled inception, and jumped at the opportunity to speak to Thom about his struggle to develop the sound, an issue compounded by his decision to play all the instruments himself. The resultant EP is a considerable feat in the face of great adversity and ‘this broken mind’ is, hopefully, the first work of many from an artist who has much to offer.
First of all, could you tell us a little about the concept behind the name Immolated moth – what drew you to that image?
My name is Thom, and moTh is obviously an anagram of that, and I used to do graffiti art under that name also. I chose “immolated” because the imagery of sacrifice by fire felt appropriate. I have several distinct music projects using variations on this; Heavy moTh, LunamoTh, and Sunlit moTh. I also like the image of the moth as kind of misunderstood and shunned, next to the pretty and glamorous butterflies.
Most musicians describe recording an EP/ Album a challenge, but for you the development of the EP, I believe, had to be fitted in around your health issues – how long did it take to develop ‘this broken mind’.
Yes, it’s not easy at the best of times, having been in bands my whole life I know how long and challenging the process can be, but with fibromyalgia, it’s a whole new battle. Fibromyalgia is a disease of the nerve endings, they don’t communicate with the brain properly so it feels like you have been dropped onto concrete from a large height repeatedly, while having the flu but without the coughing and sneezing. It is brutal. As a result there is real pain in every damn note of this thing, because, as you know metal is one of the most physically and technically demanding genres to write and play. I really struggled with a lot of aspects of this project. I had to use a pick on my bass for 2 tracks, before I was ill my stamina was nearly up to that of Steve Harris but it’s nowhere near that level now. Many days I couldn’t play fast enough to record, and many days I couldn’t play at all as it just hurt too much to try and press the strings. Recording the drums was a real battle, and I used more pain killers than I care to admit to get through that. Not being able to record the drum tracks is what held me up the most with this. I won’t pretend I could play any of my tracks on drums all the way through, not with this illness, and I had to loop the bass drums, but I at least recorded all the loops myself. My legs are one of my weakest parts now, and the pain just to get the few bars I need to loop was immense. Each track would take me around 2 weeks to write and record.
When developing the EP, the sound is certainly cohesive, are the lyrics also built around a coherent conceptual framework, or is each song stand alone?
Each track stands alone, I think, but they do all have a connected theme of pain, isolation, suffering, anger and fear. I listen to quite a bit of death metal and as much as I love it, there is not much I can directly relate to, having to live the way I do. All the bands I love are all so powerful, brave, strong and tough, and I’m brave and tough as fuck too, but I’m also fucking terrified, alone almost all the time, and in pain and feeling like death, and I am not afraid to admit it. I thought there was a gap for me to make my voice heard in this genre. I know there are many others suffering like I do and worse, and to have someone to relate to, someone that truly understands as they are in that bad place themselves, can be helpful. I want those who are suffering like I do and worse than me to know they are not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I know many other metal musicians have suffered tragedy, loss, and illness, but I just wanted to use my experience of beating death several times, losing my career and social life and living with a hellish illness, as the source of my music. That’s why it’s pretty dark.
There’s a strong jazz influence in the music which pulls the tracks in often unexpected directions, particularly ‘insignificant me’. Is it important to you to draw upon a variety of influences in composition?
My playing style is a little unconventional, although I don’t listen to a lot of jazz, I was heavily influenced by Vernon Reid from Living Colour when I was first learning guitar, so my soloing style can be very odd to some, and yes, seeing as he was also a jazz man, that would explain that. I have always been a huge Primus fan also, and I love Larry Lalonde’s style, again, many find it odd and unusual, but I love it so I probably adopted some traits of his subconsciously. At least I hope I have. I have always loved many different genres of music and I like pretty much everything except techno and housey stuff. I have been in bands playing blues, operatic synth based doom rock, hardcore rock, Reggae, punk, and I was a reasonably successful instrumental hip-hop musician back in the late 90’s, so a lot of influences naturally come through in my work, I like to think. It makes the process more interesting for me, and also I think it makes my sound a little bit different to anything else currently out there. A lot of death metal can sound quite samey, and at the moment there are a lot of bands with a very similar sound, most likely because it sells, but I just want to sound a bit different. However, I really could use a good producer to help me mix this stuff.
Does the extremity of the music on the EP represent a style you wanted to engage in or was it influenced by the diagnosis and subsequent issues of Fibromyalgia?
Before I was ill I wasn’t into death metal. That came along with being ill for so long. I had a severe yeast overgrowth in my stomach and small intestine, and it was misdiagnosed and mistreated for 3 years. This mistreatment should have killed me, but miraculously I survived and was left with these conditions. During this time, I was watching a lot of CZW wrestling, and some of the wrestlers were using death metal songs as intro music, and this is what got me first interested in the more brutal styles of metal. My love of death metal has grown in direct relation to my illness worsening. I am so frustrated and angry, in so much pain and so lonely, and as I’m sure you know good metal really can help you release anger without killing anyone. The title is a reference to myself, living with this illness, losing everything I have and being so isolated has affected me mentally, I spent six years too ill to go out, and that does affect you, so yes, this is all connected to that, as is the album. It all just came together.
Given that ‘this broken mind’ seems to have already met with a good deal of critical acclaim, are you planning a follow-up?
This E.P is made of 3 tracks that I picked out of a 10 month writing and recording project which produced 14 finished tracks, 12 of which I am using. So yes, I have a nine track, nearly hour long album, which I am doing overdubs on and mixing now. The styles are quite diverse again, ranging from tech-metal, death metal, grindcore, and touches of black metal, and I hope people will like it. I’ve started writing a second album.
The EP has a very strong visual identity with the dark, obscure cover image – have you plans to develop the aesthetics further with a video clip or any other more visual elements?
I have tried to make a video, but due to my health problems I am struggling to put the footage together. It could be pretty cool, if I can get it done. Part of the problem is I have so little time where I feel well enough to do anything productive, and when I do feel well enough I tend to gravitate to actually creating music, which is what I love most. I don’t mind the artwork as I have always been a visual artist (www.bleasdalephoto.com), but I really struggle with the admin stuff, I’m an aspie (Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism) and I get overwhelmed really easily when trying to deal with people, companies and emails, I’m often misunderstood and I often misunderstand others, and I wish I had someone else to do it all for me to be honest. But I will try and get a video put together at some point if I can just get my head round the software!
The EP production is very raw, which I think lends the music more power, could you tell us a little about how the EP was put together and what was used?
I find a lot of music these days sounds too precise, almost like it may as well be programmed, and I like music that has hair on its balls you know? I recorded everything using Ableton live on a mac, and I use a lot of Waves plug-ins, and a lot of what I used is based on 60s and 70’s studio hardware. I used a 6 string bass, 8 string guitar, standard tunings, and a Roland V-drums drum kit. I don’t like to do too many takes, I like to keep it sounding kind of ‘live’ if I can. I think the drums are the weakest aspect of the whole project, but I put that down to my physical weakness. I mean it’s decent, I have heard worse many times, but I’m no George Kolias, hahaha! Also this is my first time producing death metal, and I know it would benefit from the ears of a good producer in the mixing process, although I used to work at Abbey road studios before I was ill, I never made metal back then so as fa as production goes it is all new to me. I’m just trying to make sure it sounds mean as fuck, my guitars are intended to sound like Satan is puking out of your speakers, and although it won’t, I want people to be concerned that it might break their speakers too.
Any final words?
I’d like to thank those who have bought my E.P, and I want to thank Sonic Abuse for the review, and for this opportunity. Please, check out my music at http://immolatedmoth.bandcamp.com or on spotify, itunes, googleplay, Amazon, or wherever and if you like it, follow me on facebook too. Once again, thank you.