af­ter that, Evanes­cence’s Amy Lee re­veals why it was so im­por­tant to look back, be­fore mov­ing for­ward, on new al­bum Syn­the­sis


Kerrang! (UK) - - Contents - Words: SAM LAW pho­tos: PAUL BROWN, GETTY

The march of progress, they say, beats only to­wards the break of the world turns faster, artis­tic pros­per­ity seems judged on sheer vol­ume. It’s be­come a quick­en­ing cy­cle of fresh faces with bright ideas about new sounds just wait­ing to be chewed up and spat out by a planet with­out the pa­tience to let to­mor­row’s he­roes find foot­ing on solid ground.

Amy Lee, for­tu­nately, comes from an older school of thought. More than two decades into her ca­reer, the Evanes­cence icon knows a thing or two about break­ing into the pub­lic con­scious­ness and stay­ing there. More con­se­quen­tially, she knows that first-rate mu­sic, like fine wine, only grows more flavour­some with age.

Six years since Evanes­cence’s self-ti­tled last LP – and 14 since their world-beat­ing Fallen break­through in 2003 – con­ven­tional logic would dic­tate that it’s time to move on. In­stead of plough­ing for­ward, how­ever, amy has opted to jour­ney in­ward and rein­ves­ti­gate the spark at the cen­tre of some of her favourite songs. what be­gan as a nag­ging de­sire to high­light the con­tri­bu­tions of com­poser and long-time col­lab­o­ra­tor David Camp­bell “snow­balled” into an al­bum, Syn­the­sis, in which the Lit­tle Rock, arkansas quin­tet un­lock their cat­a­logue’s big emo­ do so, the project sees the band jet­ti­son guitars and con­ven­tional per­cus­sion in favour of part-or­ganic, part-syn­thetic or­ches­tral elec­tronic com­po­si­tion.

“It’s hard to ex­plain,” Amy laughs of her creative trip down mem­ory lane. “i ba­si­cally just strip away the rules and try to feel my way. I ask, ‘what do I want?’ or, ‘what’s go­ing to feel sat­is­fy­ing, cre­atively?’ But then, af­ter I’ve gone down all th­ese rab­bit holes, I have to start an­swer­ing ques­tions about why I did what I did. that’s re­ally hard. I think this is just a cool com­bi­na­tion of want­ing to ex­press some­thing new, where we are now, and a dif­fer­ent side of our mu­sic, with a re­turn to our roots.” How so? “This stuff has al­ways been part of Evanes­cence,” she ex­pands. “it’s just that it nor­mally ends up tak­ing a back seat. Be­neath that wall of dis­torted guitars there are ac­tu­ally very com­plex, in­tri­cate and thought­ful ar­range­ments.”

The elec­tronic el­e­ments, too, sit close to Amy’s heart. Pro­ducer Will Hunt (not to be con­fused with their drum­mer of the same name) has brought a syn­thetic struc­ture to the songs that take Amy back to her ear­li­est days in the band along­side found­ing gui­tarist Ben Moody.

“When we first started mak­ing mu­sic it was just the two of us sit­ting in front of what­ever de­vice we could af­ford,” she ex­plains. “it wasn’t much, nor­mally a 16-track recorder,

but we’d use it to layer sounds and beats along with chord pro­gres­sions.the idea of a full band play­ing th­ese songs was some­thing that only came along later. I still write that way – in front of my com­puter, just finding a drum loop and build­ing on top.”

As much about em­bel­lish­ment as dis­til­la­tion, Syn­the­sis pushed Amy and her band­mates far beyond their com­fort zones. Usu­ally, she and the band have a good idea where they’re headed.this time, how­ever, it was more of a mys­tery.

“A lot of the time, we know what’s next and we know what to do,” she ex­plains.“you’re mak­ing an Evanes­cence al­bum, you’re mak­ing a rock al­bum – you know how to do that al­ready! This one came from such a dif­fer­ent place.”

Work­ing with a full or­ches­tra, how­ever, left Amy with the kid-in-a-candy-shop co­nun­drum. She ended up with myr­iad op­tions cloud­ing the creative path.

“I kept ex­tend­ing the time in the stu­dio,” she laughs. “It got to the point where we had al­ready re­leased Bring Me To Life as an in­stant-grat track, but I was still in the stu­dio try­ing to per­fect ev­ery word, ev­ery part of the rest of the al­bum!”

If any­thing, the time away from the stu­dio was equally im­por­tant. Play­ing gigs served to in­ten­sify the sense of un­fin­ished – or rather, on­go­ing – busi­ness for Amy.

“Play­ing live was im­por­tant,” Amy nods.“songs have a life that goes far beyond those orig­i­nal record­ings, af­ter we’ve played them so many times. They change and grow. I wanted to record some of that growth for the peo­ple who might not be able to come to a per­for­mance.

“I went through our en­tire cat­a­logue look­ing for the lit­tle things I wanted to ac­cen­tu­ate, or that would fit into this world,” she en­thuses.“lacry­mosa was a su­per­ob­vi­ous choice, but there were oth­ers with th­ese epic mo­ments that I wanted to ex­pand on. Never Go Back was one of those, andy­our Star has that very clas­si­cal­lyin­spired pi­ano arpeg­gio that goes into this crazy place.”

Even fan-favourites, ap­par­ently, were over-ripe for a clas­si­cal re­vi­sion.

“The ver­sion of My Im­mor­tal that I hear the most in life is so old,” she laughs.“it’s a demo vo­cal, a MIDI pi­ano – not even a real pi­ano – and me singing it, aged 17, at the ra­dio sta­tion my dad would let us use when they’d fin­ished with it late at night. I hate that record­ing! Yes, it’s sweet be­cause I’m a kid just ex­per­i­ment­ing and try­ing to find my voice, but I wanted the chance to do that as a 35-year-old woman; as some­one who’s been singing that song and many oth­ers for years now. I had to do that for re­demp­tion’s sake. Hope­fully it goes to the top of the pile on Spo­tify so I don’t have to hear the old one any more!”

Hind­sight has more than artis­tic bear­ing, of course. Was there much of an im­pe­tus to de­tach th­ese songs from the tag of nu-metal, too?

“Ab­so­lutely,” comes the af­fir­ma­tion, sur­pris­ingly un­abashed.“orig­i­nally, my vi­sion for this band was about the com­bi­na­tion of clas­si­cal mu­sic and tra­di­tional [sound­track] scores with heavy rock. I hate to even use the word ‘metal’, but you can def­i­nitely hear the con­nec­tion be­tween heavy metal and in­tense clas­si­cal mu­sic.they’re the same on many lev­els. It’s awe­some shred­ding – just on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent in­stru­ment. It was al­ways about bring­ing some­thing clas­si­cal into a con­tem­po­rary place.”

There are two new songs on Syn­the­sis.‘we stand un­de­fined / Can’t be drawn with a straight line,’ rails Amy on Im­per­fec­tion, be­fore declar­ing,‘this will not be our end­ing / We are alive!’ It is a mag­nif­i­cent feat – ver­bal­is­ing Syn­the­sis’ mis­sion state­ment while de­liv­er­ing a po­tent, painfully-rel­e­vant plea against sui­cide. For the only re­cent, purely-orig­i­nal of­fer­ing of this cy­cle,amy wracked her deep­est psy­che.

“It was a hard song to write,” she ad­mits.“there was so much pres­sure. I chose all my favourite songs from through­out my ca­reer, put them all on one al­bum, then had to write a sin­gle to go on top of that. Ev­ery sin­gle word had to be so per­fect. It had to be about some­thing I re­ally truly felt.”

Un­for­tu­nately, tragic in­spi­ra­tion – the loss of too many he­roes – was close to Amy’s heart.

“I couldn’t deny all of the loss all around us. I re­alised I was think­ing about that, strug­gling with it ev­ery day,” Amy con­tin­ues.“we meet fans be­fore ev­ery show, and many of them have ex­pe­ri­ences and scars, where they’ve been af­fected by sui­cide and de­pres­sion, loss and griev­ing. It’s so hard to get through ev­ery day in life feel­ing this in­tense pain. Step one is ad­mit­ting it’s re­ally hard – the pain is real. Step two is re­al­is­ing your life is worth liv­ing, that you never know what’s com­ing next, and that we need each other deeply. I hope that that’s what peo­ple take away: don’t give up the fight – life and love are worth it.”

It’s a song re­flec­tive of the record’s tonal de­liv­ery, from darkness into light.

“The con­cept of the al­bum, and th­ese songs, ba­si­cally ex­plores the themes through­out Evanes­cence’s whole his­tory,” she ex­plains.“it’s about pro­cess­ing the pain, con­fess­ing the pain and work­ing through it. That is the essence of Evanes­cence.”

For the band’s other play­ers – afore­men­tioned sticks­man Will, bassist Tim Mccord, lead gui­tarist/ back­ing vo­cal­ist Troy Mclawhorn and gui­tarist Jen Ma­jura – the re-jigged, ex­panded set-up took some pro­cess­ing, too.

“I think it’s both chal­leng­ing and lib­er­at­ing,” reck­ons the front­woman.“it’s def­i­nitely a chal­lenge in that they had to find a way to fit into a world where we we’re do­ing some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent.they were ex­per­i­ment­ing with ef­fects ped­als and dif­fer­ent gear, tak­ing their in­stru­ments to the limit in see­ing the sounds they could make. Even if it re­quires tak­ing a lit­tle bit of a back seat, it’s ex­cit­ing to get into this world with so many in­cred­i­bly tal­ented mu­si­cians!”

The ul­ti­mate re­al­i­sa­tion of that ex­cite­ment, we’re promised, will come with the im­mi­nent Syn­the­sis live shows – hit­ting th­ese shores, or­ches­tra in tow, with two nights at Lon­don’s Royal Fes­ti­val Hall next March. So, what ra­tio of sym­phony to metal can we ex­pect?

“Things you’ve seen, like [Me­tal­lica’s] S&M shows, re­sem­ble what we al­ready were – the big string ar­range­ments around the full power of the band,” Amy en­thuses.“this had to be sub­trac­tive in or­der to be some­thing truly unique – for us, and in gen­eral. Rather than a band with an or­ches­tra, we will all be one.we’ll be seated with the or­ches­tra.the drum­mer will be in the back with an elec­tronic kit. It will be one fluid thing, like a new ver­sion of an or­ches­tra, of which we’re part.”

As spec­tac­u­lar as those shows sound, our ap­petite for a full serv­ing of new ma­te­rial re­mains un­sated. In part­ing,amy as­sures us we’ll get our fill be­fore long.

“I’d ex­pect we’ll be head­ing into the stu­dio later next year,” she con­firms.“i know we’ve got a good hand­ful of songs to start with al­ that, Syn­the­sis isn’t any in­di­ca­tion of where we’re go­ing. I like con­trast. In my life I don’t go for that much drama, so I wanted to play this up and re­ally go crazy with the or­ches­tra. But, if any­thing, this could be the op­po­site of what the next al­bum might sound like. It might be re­ally nice to go raw on the next al­bum, to [fo­cus on] the band again.

“Right now, though,” she flashes, an­tic­i­pat­ing grand evenings on the nearer hori­zon,“i’m fo­cused on Syn­the­sis’ live rep­re­sen­ta­tion.”

A glim­mer of that 17-year-old, with her un­com­pli­cated ex­cite­ment, peeks through.

“It’s go­ing to be pretty spe­cial.”


Evanes­cence p24 The band came ex­tremely un­der-dressed for their pho­to­shoot

Amy acted non­cha­lant as she pre­tended the re­mote hadn’t been lost down the side of the sofa

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