Henry Derek Elis talks influences and guests on new solo album (stream it here)
Henry Derek Elis previously fronted the metal bands Scar the Martyr and Thrown Into Exile, and currently fronts the supergroup Act of Defiance (which also includes two former Megadeth members), and he also makes creepy, gothic folk music under his own name. His new solo album The Devil Is My Friend comes out this Friday (10/26) (pre-order), and it features a few exciting guest vocalists: Jarboe, Sera Timms (Black Mare, Ides of Gemini), and Tara Vanflower (of darkwave vets Lycia who also have a new album out the same day). Ahead of the album’s release, we’re premiering the full stream and we asked Henry to tell us a bit about those guest vocalists and the other collaborators he chose for this album, and about some of the album’s influences. Read on under the stream:
Henry chose to highlight five albums that are important to him, including ones by Ulver, Willie Nelson, Jarboe-era Swans, Burzum, and Vic Chesnutt. Take it away, Henry:
Musically, I’m influenced by all sorts of sounds. Of course, film and literature is a big deal for me. But, initially when I started recording the album, I was really focused on creating a mood, building the songs dynamically, experimenting with various instrumentation and not really paying too much attention to outside influences. Especially singer-songwriter stuff. I didn’t want to be too precious about doing one thing specifically. I knew that all of my influences would creep into play, even the rock stuff. Anyway, I did however eventually return to a few albums that helped shape my taste. Here are a few of them:
1. Ulver – Kveldssanger: A powerful album. It’s organic and raw, but not without its flaws. Those always seem to become my favorites.
I referenced this record a lot when it came time to track the classical guitar parts.
2. Willie Nelson – Red Headed Stranger: A genuine masterpiece. Willie captured the kind of “country” that a lot of folks wanted to hear. A concept album that was way ahead of it’s time. It’s a go to record for sure.
3. Swans – Soundtracks For The Blind: A difficult album to rank in their discography for me, but one of the most important. It’s
just a beast in every way. Between the collage of samples and the overall wall of sound, it’s had an everlasting impression on me.
4. Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss: Undoubtedly a classic within the genre and certainly an overwhelming influence
for many. Not so much stylistically for me, but I’ve always admired the special charm and rebellion that the Norwegian bands had around
that time. The atmospheric quality of this record is exquisite.
5. Vic Chesnutt – North Star Deserter: His best album in my opinion, with one of the best bands to boot. Lyrically and sonically,
this album has a lot of substance. I always thought Vic’s songwriting was somewhat of the “southern gothic” style. He had a cryptic way of writing at times and his voice matched the tone of the words perfectly in my mind. Forever underrated.
I was most definitely fortunate enough to to have a lot of wonderfully talented musicians on my record. It kind of started with John Schreffler Jr (Shooter Jennings). I wanted to have a lot of pedal steel on the album. It’s by far one of my favorite instruments and John just killed it!
I guess some people might be turned by off by the twang, but I’ve always wanted to incorporate the pedal steel into big rock arrangements
as well. Another huge part of the puzzle for me was Kaitlin Wolfberg, Aubrey Richmond & Christopher Edward Brown who played strings on the record. Not cutting any corners, I wanted to have real instruments. That’s the vibe you know. That required a lot of sessions to really get the overall sound I was looking for.
When it came time to track vocals, I knew that I wanted a strong female presence on the album. Even though they might be in the background, it just adds so much depth to the songs. Jarboe was a first choice. She’s always been a huge inspiration and good friend. Almost like a mother to me really. Ever since we met, I’ve felt a strong kinship with her and I’m happy that she could be a part of the album. Sera Timms (Black Mare) and Tara Vanflower (Lycia) are two of my fave vocalists, so having them on board was a pleasure as well.
My friend Neal Tiemann from DevilDriver, I kind of hit up late in the game. I figured it would be cool to have at least one guest guitar lead. Playing most of the instruments myself, I just wanted to make it fun and have people I like be involved. Just seems more special in that way.
Stream the album above.