Interviews > A Forest of Stars Interview
A Forest of Stars
Interview by Athena Schaffer

A Forest of Stars’ A Shadowplay For Yesterdays (Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) transcends time and consciousness to take us into a dark, hallucinogenic musical journey through the human psyche. Set in 1892 Victorian England, we are thrust into an exclusive “gentlemen’s club” where we witness a shadowplay that exposes the darkest reaches of the subconscious.

A Shadowplay For Yesterdays is a concept album following the story of a man at odds with himself, facing a choice of virtue or self-destruction. You can almost see the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other whispering to this dude. This entire journey feels laced with the opium or laudanum that was prevalent in the dark undercurrents of aristocracy at that time in history.

A Forest Of Stars is the name of the aforementioned vintage gentleman’s club, and has no connection with the science fiction book by the same name by Kevin J. Anderson. Called “glorious and decadent”, “eccentric and sinister”, and even pegged as “Psychedelic Black Metal”, this band is truly mysterious, without a band member’s line up anywhere on their official website nor anywhere else in cyberspace. Although we know they’re from the UK, we don’t know exactly where. They do exist, though; they’re not a figment of cd or mp3 imagination because they currently do have a handful of live shows booked in the UK. A Shadowplay For Yesterdays is their third album, but the first for Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions.

Why all the mystery? Why do you obscure band members’ images and names?

The Gentleman: Our real names are really of no interest to anyone, and serve to add nothing to the music. There is a tradition in Black Metal of pen names and alternative appellations, and in one sense we’re carrying on that little convention. You simply can’t be evil and called Kevin, it just doesn’t work (although, no offense to anyone called Kevin who is evil). And, of course, we’re not evil, just ugly. You might also say we change our names to protect the guilty parties (due to the flack we receive for our sub-par music), but mostly we did it for a laugh and because it looks cool. Actually, it doesn’t, so that backfired too. Ho hum. Unfortunately, there are images of us everywhere all over the place on the world wide web, including our very own website and album sleeves. I say unfortunately simply because we are not exactly the prettiest bunch of soporific reprobates and frequently break camera lenses. The trick is not to look directly into them, I think?

Curse: It's a bit like the Medusa, only less snake-related. One gaze into my eyeballs and the brown note is experienced in visual rather than audial form.

Who comprises your band’s line-up?

The Gentleman: You’ll need a deep breath for this one! There’s Curse, Henry Hyde Bronsdon, Katheryne Queen of the Ghosts, Mr Titus Lungbutter, Mr John “The Resurrectionist” Bishop and Gastrix Grimshaw. Oh and me, too. Between us we play and swap around a variety of instruments. Just not very well.

How did your deal with Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions come about?

The Gentleman: Actually, they approached us several times in the past, when we were with our previous label (Transcendental Creations), and in the end, they offered enough opiates and alcohol to sink a manowar, at which inebriated point we had no choice but to sign upon the dotted line. Not that we regret it for a second, of course. I don’t think there is a label we could be more pleased to be working with, they truly respect their artists and support them to a tremendous degree. We could not be happier!

Who does most of the song writing for the band?

The Gentleman: Musically, the initial versions of a lot of the songs for this latest album were written by myself and HH Bronsdon, but that’s not the full story, as after a certain point, everyone comes onboard and adds their own unique touch. There were significant contributions from the entire Club at one point or another.

Curse: Indeed – everyone had their input, with the overwhelming majority of the music written by Mr. Bronsdon and the Gentleman. Gastrix also stepped forward with a great selection of riffs which ended up forming the body of The Underside of Eden...

Do the lyrics come first? Does the music come first? What is the songwriting process like for you?

The Gentleman: The music usually comes first, and that then inspires Curse with the words. It’s a constant process and we are always improving, refining and removing the songs, we tend to write at least double the amount that appears on an album and ruthlessly discard the rest; if it isn’t working, it goes immediately.

Curse: I tend to write all the time, on and off – so I often have verses and sections written beforehand on the off-chance that I may be able to shoehorn the blighters into the songs as they take shape. I do quite often sit down with demo tracks and work to fit the so-called poetry in to the musical shapes presented therein.

"A Shadowplay For Yesterdays" is a concept album? Explain more.

The Gentleman: Musically, I wanted to create a proper concept album, not just a story that was recited over a random collection of songs. So there are reoccurring themes and melodies (some obvious, some not so much) throughout to link the whole together and give a sense of continuation and completeness to it. The album can be viewed as either an entire piece of music or individual songs, depending on what you want from it.

Curse: Lyrically, without saying too much, (I like to leave the listener to interpret the songs as they see fit – I'd feel like I was spoiling things if I explained too explicitly) the record is the story of a man tormented by madness and prey to desires that are at odds with and unacceptable to the rest of so-called society. The record charts his progress from his birth into the gutters of the world through his rise to pious preacher, bilious blasphemour, necrophile, magus and society photographer. We follow him through a comedy of errors in to his ultimate self inflicted (though ably assisted) demise.

Was the aristocrats’ use of opium and/or laudanum in the time frame have anything to do with the story?

Curse: Most certainly. I myself was dependent upon synthetic opiates (via pain medication) throughout the writing process of this album, and it has certainly rubbed off on the proceedings as a whole!

What dark faery tale is "Directionless Resurrectionalist" guiding us into?

Curse: I have basically answered this question above, so shall not bore you further here!

"A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh" is the most complex song on the album. Can you tell us more about this song?

The Gentleman: I don’t really know what to say. I had rattling around my head the second half of the song and the vocal melodies for a long time, but not how to bridge the gap; it felt like the second half of something, and I couldn’t come up with anything to connect it to. Then, while sat at the piano, I accidentally wrote the opening part, I then nicked the verses from another piece of music I was working on and it all sort of fell into place. There’s nothing special about it, really, anyone could probably do the same! It’s very simple music, when you break it down.

Curse: Lyrically the basic premise is one of distrust and hatred for organised religion, culminating in the conflagration of a Sunday service and of taking the opportunity to nasally consume the ashes of the priest during the aftermath...

Who did the female vocals in "A Prophet For A Pound Of Flesh"?

Gentleman: That would be Katheryne, the esteemed female member of the group; unless, of course, there’s something she’s not telling us. Erk.

What’s your personal favorite song on the new album?

Gentleman: Actually, I’m really proud of "Dead Love" (the bonus track), it’s rather different to the rest of the album (hence why it was left off), but in terms of ripping off Angelo Badalamenti/Mazzy Star/Trespassers William, it wasn’t too shoddy, I suppose. I love slinky 3 o’clock in the morning music and this was my appalling attempt to emulate that. Curse: I have to say I have a soft spot for them all. If pushed, it's a toss up between "Prey Tell of the Church Fate", "A Prophet for a Pound of Flesh", "Gatherer of the Pure", and "Underside of Eden". All of it really. This is intended without any form of arrogance, just that the story flows in its own way, and it is hard to pick one from another.

For readers who aren’t familiar with the art, could you explain Shadowplays?

The Gentlemen: First you get some very talented puppeteers. Then you design and construct two dimensional, multi-hinged puppets and animals and backgrounds, or whatever you desire to tell the story. Then you hide behind a translucent screen, backlit by candles. Then the puppets appear as shadows which can be manipulated by the artists. It’s a very, very, very old technique and it exudes a wonderful, spooky atmosphere with disjointed rhythms and angular, animated creatures of a fantastical nature, which enables you to tell wonderful tales limited only by the imagination of the writer/creator. There’s something tremendously mystical and otherworldly about it.

Any video plans for any songs?

The Gentleman: We actually have two. One for our last album (the song Raven’s Eye View) and one for this, (Gatherer of the Pure). The latest video is intended to represent one version of the story surrounding the concept of the album. If the lyrics tell the story from a neutral, third person point of view, the video tells it from the protagonist’s (Mr Carrion Crow) and the artbook version of the album contains a full fairytale story book that takes the lady’s perspective. Each of them differ and cross paths and I’ve no idea which is the real story, indeed it’s quite likely that none of them are, and only a patchwork of fragments from each of the three can say. Or not.

Any stories behind the cover art?

The Gentleman: Without going into too much detail to spoil the fun, the album cover is an amalgamation of all the lyrics and various stories contained with the concept of the album. Almost everything is there, squirreled away in one corner or another! We thought it might be fun to look at and distract from the music. Apologies if not.

Curse: There is nothing I can add to the above!

I know you have some UK shows coming up, but what about more extensive travel plans?

The Gentleman: We have no concrete plans at present, but there are many in the working as we speak; sadly, we can’t reveal anything at this early stage. It is our aim to visit anywhere we can (so long as people want us) and we have had many, many requests on that front. We shall try our best, and hopefully people won’t be too disappointed.

What is your live show like?

The Gentleman: A glorious mess. Lots of smoke, light and mirrors to distract you from the music, fancy costumes that cause us to faint due to the excessive heat and generally an air of energy masking fear of failure on our part. I’m constantly and genuinely amazed anyone turns up at all! Not to mention grateful...

Curse: Basically, it is a bunch of somnambulists attempting to blind with science whilst farcically fluffing their lines, sweating like pigs in a slaughter queue, breaking wind and equipment and looking decidedly dubious into the bargain!

Does your live set list contain mostly songs from your new album, or your other albums?

The Gentleman: It is at present weighted in favour of the new album, yes, but we always try to include earlier things whenever we can and there are certain favourites we would be lynched if we didn’t play. Or indeed, lynched when do play them (badly).

What kinds of merch are you bringing with you this time?

The Gentleman: The usual: Pocket watches, sword canes, pieces of the True Cross, our own brands of opium and claret (hint: don’t bother), elephant foot umbrella stands (they go down a treat in the current weather), rat poison, gas lamps, reins for horses, saddles for horses, blinkers for horses, shoes for horses, brushes for horses, horses, monocles, portraits of the queen, evening wear for both the discerning gentleman and lady, tickets for the orient express (murder not included), jam preserves, various shades of tea, cucumber sandwiches, jewellery (stolen), bone china crockery sets (some assembly required – oops), silverware (again, stolen) and a slightly soiled collapsible gazebo (don’t know if that was bought or stolen, sorry). I may have made up one or two of those, thinking about it in retrospect.

Curse: I have been working on a particularly violent home brew suppository, the spiked outer casing of which is branded with our monogram, and should certainly give the user something to write a strongly worded letter of complaint to us about in retrospect. So far the law have not become involved, but I am certainly not holding my breath!

What do you do on your “down-time” on the road? Do you bring movies or videogames? If so, which ones?

The Gentleman: Sleep, read books, drink tea, eat food, listen to lots of Nick Cave (at present) and practice. And sleep. You can never get enough sleep. This may explain why my answers are a little jittery. I hope.

Curse: I stare into the middle distance, occasionally dribbling upon my lapel. Every once in a while I will launch in to a stream of aggressive invective, not unlike a certain Father Jack from a cinematic production of the far future...

Any long-form DVD plans?

The Gentleman: Not at present. I think we need a few more albums and a lot more experience under our belt before we do something like that. Also, it would have to be something super special, not just a normal live set, and we don’t have time to think about, let alone undertake something like that at present. One day, I can definitely see it happening, though.

How Hands-On are you with your Website, Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace pages?

The Gentleman: There’s never enough time, but we try our absolute best to respond to people. After all, they have taken the time to ask questions and thank us, it is the very least we can do in return. Our label has minions to do all the more rudimentary promotional stuff, and they’re happy to do that, so fair play to them; they’re more than welcome to.

Is there anything that I didn’t ask that you want to tell our readers?

The Gentleman: I really don’t know... I think we’ve bored everyone to death already, so I’ll just say thank you for taking the time to interview us and leave it at that!

Curse: Apologies for the lightness of heart present in the answers to this interview – we have just returned from a lengthy trip on the road, and I believe that this may have somewhat warped our abilities to not only make sense, but also to be sensible for even one lonely second. Sorry about that!