A FOREST OF STARS "A World Whirled and Whipped"

By: Lord Randall

The UK’s A FOREST OF STARS have, since their 2007 birth in Leeds, operated just outside the consciousness of mainstream extremity (can there be such?!), yet have created a trinity of forward-thinking, yet engaging albums shakily existing within the realms inhabited by Victorian fashion and vitriolic black-ish metal. Lord Randall shares an opium pipe with keyboardist The Gentleman and vocalist Mister Curse…

Wormwood Chronicles: I’ve always held the belief that it’s a band’s third album which gives the listening public the truest impression of a band’s heart – of their utmost capabilities and most accurate direction. To that end, what has transpired in the smoky back room of the Gentlemen’s Club between "Opportunistic Thieves Of Spring" and your newest epistle?

THE GENTLEMAN: Quite a lot, as it turns out. One departed member and three new ones to consolidate the ranks, for a start. And it was time for a change, musically as well – we’ve done the extra long songs and now it was time to move on and try something different. I honestly think that this album (as you say) represents a more true direction of where we are heading, and the band feels more settled, but you honestly never know, we get fidgety rather quick and follow our hearts when it comes to composing!  

WC: With the title "A Shadowplay For Yesterdays", it’s clear that you’re in no wise stepping forward in time. How does one in your position stay immersed aesthetically in the Victorian era, yet remain able to move your musical expression forward with each release?

G: There is so much to explore in the Victorian era, we could throw darts at it and hit something new every time for a hundred albums. We feel there’s absolutely no restriction there at all (more fool us, one supposes!) As our love, appreciation and fascination with the era grows, so equally, does our music.

MR. CURSE:  I can see no reason why we would be restricted by our choice of period trappings – as far as we are concerned, pretty much anything goes as regards our music and lyrics, so I can't see the Victorian aspect becoming a hindrance at any point...

WC: At the start, AFOS was seen by some as mere modern throwbacks, harking to a time of merrie olde England – yet there was a darkness impenetrable during those times too. The Whitechapel murders, Springheel Jack, the Dickens and Blake-penned harangues against the treatment of the poor class and their children. How has AFOS kept that balance in its music?

G:  I think simply because it is in our hearts, and the style in which we write is influenced by it. The darkness of human nature is a fascinating subject and can be richly mined. That aside, you have to have perspective and balance. If all you have is darkness, it would be simply too monotonous – there would be nothing to compare it against. By having both light and shade – in effect, dynamics – each one is more greatly pronounced and lends a greater impact. At least, that’s the idea…

MC: Indeed – to paraphrase the great Dax Riggs, ‘You can't kill the light, you would lose all the shadows!’ For every smile there is a sorrow just around the corner. We try to keep this interplay evident in our music always.

WC: With your albums often being conceptual in theme, what steps do you take to insure that you’ve not become “slaves to the concept” in the writing stages? Or is the goal to immerse yourself in the concept to begin with?

G:  Most definitely the latter. It became quite the obsession to work it all out and piece it together. And if you’re writing musically and telling a story, you have to be very careful how to plan an album so that it flows properly with a beginning, middle and end. It certainly makes it difficult, but equally a rather inspiring challenge that keeps you on your toes!

MC:  This time around, I was most definitely a slave to the concept! Although there are certain songs that can be taken outside of the overarching concept, the intention was to create a flowing story, and I think that I did perhaps boggle my brain somewhat along the way in trying to forge a beginning, middle and end without a) disappearing completely up my own arse and b) going mad myself!

WC: "A Shadowplay…" deals with a man in the grip of his own passions, both light and dark, and his struggles against and for both. Is this album, then, the inmost heart of AFOS? The most personal missive thus far?

MC:  I did originally start out with the intention of making the lyrics to this album less personal – and whilst the songs overall are not entirely personal by any means, there are sections and phrases contained within that are extremely personal. As it stands, everything I write is tied in somewhere with life experience, so it is all personal to quite a high degree. Perhaps sections of this album expose my own bruised spirit a little more, rather than simply my fury at the injustices of the world and its inhabitants...

WC: Musically, the avant-garde spirit the Club has come to be known for is prevalent as ever, yet there seems to be “more” of the outer elements than before. “More” crushing, plodding riffs. “More” early GENESIS/KING CRIMSON flourishes. AFOS remains quintessentially British, yet their own entity. Though beholden to the past, is AFOS willing to move the sometime stagnant British music scene as a whole forward?

G:  I wouldn’t say that… we’re far too unknown and uncared for to move any scene forward, you need leaders to do that, not the minions! We just plow our own small furrow and do precisely what we please; our progression is natural, unforced and on our own terms, but we’re doing it selfishly – for our own pleasure – rather than for any greater cause. Otherwise, it would be a) frustrating and b) pissing in the wind!

WC: Lyrically, there’s a more overt religious (and anti-religious) tack you’re on overall. What do you think it is that makes our passions – Christian or atheist, pagan or Papist – run so deeply in matters of the spiritual?

MC:  I wouldn't necessarily say that – I'm sure that I have always gobbed considerable amounts of bile at organised religion and the concept of moron-herding in general. I think perhaps the content could be perceived as a little more 'offensive' this time around, though having said that, ‘Raven's Eye View’ wasn't exactly clean, and ‘Microcosm’ had a fair go, too! But, then again, perhaps the concept of grinding priests into dust and snorting them may not go down too well at Sunday mass, nor the thought of eating your 'god' fresh from the barbecue before having a nice draught of his urine to wash it all down..?

WC: How does the admittedly involved writing/recording process work within the framework of AFOS? With so many thumbs in the pie, who most often pulls out the plum? Reveals the singing blackbirds?

G: We all contribute in different ways, but it would be impossible to have us in the same room at the same time trying to write a song – it would come out as an incomprehensible mess at best and nothing would get done. For this album, myself and H.H. Bronsdon wrote the majority of the basic songs, and then everyone else built on top of that with their own, unique stamp. It is definitely an organic process, but it has to be tightly regulated, or we’d never get anywhere! For the next album, who knows? We’ll take it one step at a time.

MC:  Up to this point I have been responsible for all of the lyrics on each record. As regards the musical side of things, I do of course have my input, but fully trust the others to come up with the finished songs once we've all put our input in and muddied the creative waters!

WC: Though held seemingly in perpetuity in the past, The Gentlemen’s Club has quite an in-depth, informative and – yes – entertaining website. Is this seeming time-travel just another aspect of the occult knowledge put forth in the music?

G: Thank you for the compliment! Occult knowledge is secret, and flash/html programming is one confusingly sophisticated part of that; I do not even slightly pretend to know what that’s all about! Time travel makes me queasy so I tend to just keep my eyes shut and my head down. That apparently works, although the long term effects are still uncertain…

WC: AFOS has recently put forth their first filmed document for the song ‘Gatherer Of The Pure’. Having viewed the evidence firsthand, what can you (and can’t you) tell us about the eerie events that transpired during its filming?

G:  Oh goodness me. A lot of caffeine, a lot of sleepless nights, an incredible amount of arguments and an unhealthy dose of stress went into the making of that over about 14 months. But no magic; just grueling hard work! It was worth it. I think…

WC: What comes next for the Club? Live recitals? A journey across the ocean to the Americas, mayhaps?

G: We’ll go wherever we’re invited and gatecrash wherever we’re not, funds permitting. No more proper touring for this year due to time (or lack thereof), but nothing is out of the question as far as next year is concerned and I truly hope to visit the former colonies at some point, if only to see how you’re faring under a system of government that doesn’t have a monarchy at its head. Madness…!

MC: Who knows what the future holds? I for one will be simply closing my eyes and putting my fingers in my ears in preparation!