Serpentine Path interview: "Doom is just about slow heavy riffs and crushing morbid sounds"

09/10/2012 @ 13:03
Emerging from the ashes of the massive sludge symbols Unearthly Trance, Serpentine Path come to show the means to play relentlessly heavy and painfully slow. The self-titled debut is a fact, and despite the lack of innovation is perhaps the heaviest album of the year. A tribute to doom metal itself, created by four gifted musicians, who in their own way reformed the word 'heavy' in the last ten years. The leader of this heavy movement is, undoubtedly, Tim Bagshaw (ex-Ramesses, ex-Electric Wizard), who told us about the new circle that opens with the Serpentine Path, his departure from Ramesses and what 'heavy' means.

Hello Tim. Serpentine Path consists of a bunch of underground icons, but is a completely new band. Could you please introduce yourselves to the world?
Serpentine Path are- Ryan Lipynsky (vocals), Jay Newman (bass) and Darren Verni (drums) of Unearthly Trance and me (guitar). We have just recently welcomed a second guitarist into the mix, Stephen Flam of the legendary Doom band, Winter. The initial idea for Serpentine Path was to just do the heaviest and most morose record we could conjure.

How you and the former Unearthly Trance members meet and how did you decide to work together?
We met a long time ago on the 2002 Electric Wizard/Unearthly Trance tour and have been friends ever since. UT and Ramesses also went on several tours together over the years. I moved to New Jersey US a while ago now, (which is right next to NYC) and when that happened, we decided to jam and form a new band.

Serpentine PathI have listened to your 7” demo several months ago, but your full length debut turned out a lot doomier, heavier and slower than I expected. Was that something that came out naturally or did you intend it to come out that way?
This all came out very naturally. We didn’t really have any preconceived notions or plans, we just all knew exactly what we were going for, without having to talk and discuss it all. We all have a like-minded singular focus for this band, that being Heaviness! And this first record came out even better than we expected!

Is there a concept behind the album?
There is no actually unifying lyrical concept or theme, but the music is obviously conceptually bleak and overwhelmingly heavy.

Serpentine Path - Serpentine PathThe artwork is amazing and I think that whoever made it got inspired of Zdzisław Beksiński’s works. Are you a fan of Beksiński and why did you choose the particular painting?
The artwork was created by Orion Landau of Relapse Records. I agree that it is reminiscent of Beksinski but we had no intention of using him as an inspiration.

The album is absolutely crushing. I mean it’s beyond words how crushing and heavy it is. And you, particularly, have played with some of the heaviest bands ever set foot on this planet –Electric Wizard, Ramesses and now Serpentine Path- so, what is 'heavy' to you? Is it a natural impulse or a way of life?
Simple answer, writing and playing 'heavy' music has always been a natural impulse for me personally. It's a reflection and an expression of how disgusted i am with the world!

On what tone were you tuned when writing this record?
Standard A.

Serpentine PathJust after the release of your 7” demo, you signed with Relapse. What kind of opportunities are presenting when recording under such a great label?
Relapse has been great for us so far. They gave us a lot of freedom and trust in our process. They let us record the album ourselves and basically set our own deadline when the album was to be complete. Our bassist Jay Newman recorded and engineered the entire album, so it was really easy to go through the recording process with him, and ultimately avoid any outside influence. Relapse trusted us probably because of the guys in Unearthly Trance’s past experience with them. They recorded their last album "V" in the same manner. Relapse has amazing promotion and they really have given our debut album a great push.

I know that this might doesn’t concern you, but I’ll ask anyway. Why did the Unearthly Trance disbanded? Do the guys feel that there was nothing more to express under the Unearthly Trance name?
From what they guys have told me, they felt that 12 years was a good run for them and they felt it was just the right time to end it. It wasn’t for a lack of expression but rather circumstances surrounding the long time span of being in a hardworking underground band. I think they ended on a good note and they are all still obviously working with each other musically...

Tim Bagshaw (Serpentine Path)You are a currently active Ramesses member. Did you feel some kind of urge to do something else?
I actually left Ramesses some time ago. Things really changed a lot for me at the end of 2010 after some important life adjustments had to be made. And of course moving country has made it difficult and complicated to just carry on with that band. I do however wish them all the best for the future!

I got stunned recently by reading that you welcomed on the Serpentine Path team another underground veteran, Winter’s Stephen Flamm, as a second guitarist. How did that came up?
A while back Unearthly Trance did a Winter tribute split 7" with Volition. The guys had a mutual friend with the guys from Winter and actually sent them their tribute record to John and Stephen from Winter. Over time, when Winter reformed, Jay became friendly with the guys and even helped them out with gear for some live shows in NYC. Stephen eventually heard what we were doing with Serpentine Path and really liked it. He actually approached us and asked us if we were interested in having him join the band on second guitar. Of course we all instantly said yes. It’s a great honor and already a lot of fun to have him on board!

You used to be the bassist of Electric Wizard until 2002 and “Let Us Prey”. Do you mind to tell us why did you leave?
Well, after Mark Greening left the band i found the whole thing, mainly the jammed out aspect to be very different from what i was used to, and that was the part i really enjoyed, so i had to make a really tough decision about what i wanted to do.

Tim Bagshaw (Serpentine Path)I think doom metal has evolved greatly lately. Technology is evolving so most of the bands are trying to sound even heavier and gloomier while others are experimenting by combing numerous genres such us, heavy psychedelia, drone, noise and even black metal and hardcore. What do you think of this? Do you there is a limit to experimentation or sky is the limit even for doom metal?
I think Doom is a very loose genre. I mean there are many types and forms and version of doom that people endlessly debate and ague about. To me, it is just about slow heavy riffs and crushing morbid sounds. Obviously bands will experiment and that is all good and fine, but we only really concern ourselves with what we are doing and the sounds we are creating. The only thing I think is that it should be an honest form of expression for a band and not just some bandwagon hopping kind of thing.

Until the vinyl comes to my hands, I don’t know what the lyrics are about. If I had to make a guess that would be about pain and suffering but could you please be more specific?
The lyrics deal with the underlying warlike and animalistic nature of mankind, unknown mysterious forces, extreme suffering and the eventual extinction that looms ahead of us. You know, Doom...

Is there any tour planned? Is there any chance coming to Europe soon?
There is a chance, but we won’t be doing any extensive touring, more like just gigs we are all into doing that happen to come our way.

That’s it man. Thank you very much for your time. Hope to see you on the road. Doom on.