Interview with Tony Thomas of Dawn of Ouroboros

It hurts to update this intro after the departure of Master of Muppets from these hallowed halls, but I wish my furry friend the very best in his quest for wellness and in all of his future — and I’m sure successful — endeavors. He’s a great dude and wanted this interview to see the light of day so the band could get a little more exposure. Back in May, Muppet covered the debut record from Oakland, California-based progressive black/death metal band, Dawn of Ouroboros. The Master used the review to profess his love for the band’s stylistic approach, as well as to utter some disparaging remarks against one of his incredibly talented and extremely likable friends, whom I shall not name here. While Muppet was holding court in the comments, he suddenly found himself addressing the band themselves, and that fortuitous interaction led to this interview. If you don’t stop reading right now, you just might find out what it says.


Muppet: Before I start demanding answers and all that, I’d just like to say thanks again for taking the time to talk with me! The Art of Morphology was such a neat personal find. Thanks for reading my Muppety nonsense about it and for offering to do this interview in the first place!

Tony: You’re welcome! We’ve read many of your reviews and interviews, and have always found them well written and thoughtful. We were genuinely excited to find out you were going to give our album a review given the circumstances of how you discovered it.

And of course! we’re always happy to give interviews and interact with any listeners. Given we’re such a new band, the fact that people are listening, wanting to interview, and learn more about us is beyond anything we could have expected.

Muppet: The fact that Dawn of Ouroboros are such a new band is actually kind of baffling in and of itself. I understand that everyone in the band has performed in additional acts as well, yet this particular entity/lineup is quite young; The Art of Morphology has a decidedly steady hand on every twist and turn it takes, belying the erratic misdirection one might typically expect from a fledgling act comprising musicians with such disparate backgrounds… how did you all manage to pull that off?? More specifically, how were you able to balance out everyone’s varying influences and styles into such a cohesive and kickass album, instead of creating a chaotic mess of mismatched subgenres?

Tony: We really appreciate that assessment. For our song writing approach, it was pretty free range, and [we] didn’t have a plan for how we wanted them to turn out in the end. We just tried to write songs we enjoyed, without thinking how it should sound or what genre it should fit into; we didn’t think about if we were switching up styles in any given moment.

For this album, the general approach in the song writing process was I would program some drums, improvise with my guitar over different sections until something stood out to me, add in synths and guitar leads. The synths are usually just chord compliments, and I prefer to improvise the leads as much as I can.

From there I would send the song out to David (bass) and Chelsea and really just say ‘Do whatever you feel is right as your first instinct,’ and we would go with that 90% of the time without revisions. Since this was originally meant to be a studio project, Ron’s contributions to the drums were mainly done in the recording process; he is, however, much more involved in the song writing for the next album.

Muppet: Interesting, so each song is essentially constructed around a main riff or melody, as opposed to composing music to fit with predetermined lyrics or something. Having seen what this approach has brought the band with The Art of Morphology, do you expect to maintain this method of songwriting as The Way of DoO, so to speak? You already mentioned your drummer adopting a greater writing role on future albums; do you expect the whole songwriting process to continue to adapt as the band itself collectively grows and matures, or does the Morphology methodology maybe feel something along the lines of you having already figured out the trick to making DoO work?

Tony: I am constantly writing music in my free time, be it for DoO, or another project I may be working on. So it’s likely to be a mix of me continuing to create songs alone, and others starting with a drum arrangement from Ron. Like I previously stated, I rely heavily on improvisation for coming up with ideas so I work best with jamming over a drum arrangement and building on that. Having said that, Chelsea has expressed great interest in having a larger role in the song writing aside from her writing her harsh and melodic vocals. Overall, it’s really a free environment and everyone can bring any ideas they have, and if we all agree it’s something worth pursuing we’ll expand on it. This band is really about any one of us contributing what we can, and then doing our best to write for our respective roles in the framework of the idea.

Muppet: Oh man, I’d be particularly interested in hearing songs that Chelsea was more directly involved in writing; obviously I dig the band in its entirety, I would just be really curious to hear music written for that voice by that voice.

It seems like you have a relatively straightforward approach to songwriting, yet the lyrics hardly adhere to any kind of straightforward theme or trend. From what I can gather, it seems as though pretty much anything was up for grabs regarding the album’s lyrical concepts. I understand that the vocals were crafted around the music, but was there anything that was always gonna end up on the album, no matter what? For instance, the band’s ‘favorite horror manga series’ is cited as lyrical inspiration on Bandcamp; was it ever important that things like that made it onto the album, or are such topical oddities more the kind of happy accidents that naturally occur in the absence of rules and thematic restrictions?

Tony: Yes, I am very much looking forward to hearing what we can come up with together as far as instrumental arrangements are concerned. For the lyrics, the themes were generally based around what visualizations were created by her imagination after listening to the instrumental songs. The only theme that was planned prior was for “Spiral of Hypnotism,” which is very loosely based on the cosmic horror manga Uzumaki, for which she tried to capture the essence of the story in her writing. Other than that, we try to keep it open and stay away from restrictions with lyrical themes.

Muppet: That definitely stands to reason – your music isn’t confined to any one particular sound or style, so why should your lyrics be any different?

Speaking of being confined, I have to ask: how is the band handling the Coronapocalypse? No one’s really able to tour at the moment, and normally one might expect something like this to kill a band’s career before it’s even begun, but then again not every band’s debut is received with the widespread warmth that Morphology has enjoyed… Has this shitshow gotten in the way of DoO’s trajectory at all, or do you feel like you’ve been able to make the most of the situation somehow?

Tony: The COVID-19 outbreak definitely affected us, our release date March 30th was right in the middle of when most countries were going into some sort of a lock down. This delayed our label and us from receiving the physical copies of the album, thus delaying us from getting it out to those who ordered. Thankfully, everyone has been very understanding. We also had a western United States tour planned for around June with some friends, this will likely be cancelled for this year, or at the very best rescheduled to this fall depending on how things progress. As far as music is concerned, we’ve maintained being productive as a band. We’re about halfway through writing what will eventually be the material for the next album, and Chelsea and I are also involved in a few other collaborations that will hopefully have releases some time this year.

Muppet: Well damn, getting right at it I see. Is there anything in particular that you’re specifically hoping to achieve or explore this time around? Additionally, piggybacking on the notion of normalcy inevitably reigning once again some day: once tours and festivals are a thing again, are there any bands that you would particularly love to play alongside? What would the dream roster for a DoO headline tour with up to 3 other bands look like?

Tony: For the next album we are playing around with more variation in song lengths, greater usage of odd time signatures, and probably more of an emphasis on the style we developed in some of the more standout tracks (music videos songs.) Of course we will still maintain the mix of styles we did on The Art of Morphology, but hopefully in a more refined way. As for bands we love, since we listen to so many different bands across the many types of metal and even other genres, it can be difficult to really choose an accurate dream roster for a tour. I will say these days we are listening to a lot of post metal with some of our favorites being Heretoir, Lantlôs, and Kauan among many others.

Muppet: There’s never a wrong time for Heretoir! Are you familiar with Nathanael’s solo project, Bonjour Tristesse? Basically the blacker side of that same sonic coin, I can’t praise that band enough – clearly!

To that end, I’m not at all surprised to learn that you are fans of such atmospheric material as the music of Heretoir or Kuaun. Atmosphere and shifting yet balanced dynamics are decidedly important components of DoO, and one can easily hear that the band has learned a lot about attaining and maintaining these things from all across metal, as you said; on the other hand, are there any bands in particular whose music compelled you to explore the more riff-centric, head-banging side of DoO? Not so much regarding a certain sound or style of influence, but are there any bands or artists in particular who made you wish to wield the power of the Almighty Riff?

Tony: Yes, Heretoir is fantastic, I just recently found The Circle at a reasonable price on vinyl so I am looking forward to that arriving. For their other projects I have heard of King Apathy, but not Bonjour Tristesse. I am listening to them now and it sounds pretty good so far.

For more riff-centric favorites, I’d say it’s still all over the place. This could be bands such as Archspire, Between the Buried and Me, Der Weg einer Freiheit, Meshuggah, and even Spiritbox. There is probably also a subtle late 90s, early 2000s metal influence on the song writing as well, having been a big fan of bands like Death, Cynic, Theory in Practice, Quo Vadis, and Necrophagist around that time. Despite these influences, we still wanted to keep the riffs relativity straight forward and have the more black metal sounds be the focus.

Muppet: Now you’re speaking my language: powered by black metal, inspired by all. With such varying inspirational foundations, what is it about black metal that essentially pulls DoO all together? As you say, your influences are all over the place, so why is a black metal sound ultimately the focus?

Tony: For me black metal is what really got me into extreme metal. Bands like Mayhem, Emperor, Darkthrone, or even Lord Belial were a big part of my listening experience as a teenager. It still sticks with me as I always found it to have a greater emotional intensity and atmosphere than the other sub-genres. While I did learn to appreciate everything else, I always come back to some type of black metal as a listener eventually. I know the same can be said for our bassist David, who has his own post-black band, Deliria, where he is the main writer. For Chelsea, she had never actually explored the genre until we decided to start DoO. After several months of listening she fell in love with it, and it’s now what she listens to most regularly. However, our drummer Ron, is very much a prog guy as a music fan, [though he] enjoys expanding on his skills whenever possible.

Muppet: God what I wouldn’t give to relive falling in love with black metal, and I can only imagine what an experience it must be to discover that whole soundscape at the same time that your band is starting up and taking off.

To that end, DoO have enjoyed a pretty enthusiastic reception into the metalverse. Critics and commenters alike have been quick to commend Morphology for many reasons; from your own findings in reviews all across the interwebz, does there seem to be any particular component to the band or album around which listeners are more or less united in their love? You’re definitely doing something right, yo, what do you think that might be?

Tony: Yeah, it can be a great experience. It did take her a while, first starting with bands such as Deafheaven and Alcest, who are more on the edge of it. However, she kept exploring, until she became immersed in the genre fully in all its many forms.

As for how we are being received, we are really taken aback by the response we have been getting. Originally this was supposed to be just a fun studio project to experiment with ideas and have no real restrictions. We never could have expected to be getting the response that we are from critics and listeners. For what we believe people are responding to the most, clearly people are united around Chelsea’s voice, and rightfully so. Having been in several bands over the years, I have never worked with a vocalist who takes his or her job as seriously, with such passion and a desire to constantly improve and experiment. For example, she had never tried to do clean singing before this project, but just decided to give it a shot, and I believe it worked out wonderfully and will only improve with time. For our music, what aspects we feel people are most resonating with are; our coherent use of sonic variability, our desire and ability to put genuine emotion in our music, and perhaps that our music can conjure up visualizations almost in a cinematic way, which we try to capture in our music videos.

Muppet: I’d say that that checks out, pretty much touched on what I love about the album anyway. For the next album, is there anything you feel you may have learned *not* to do, i.e. has your experience with Morphology made you rethink any particular parts of the writing process, album promotion, fan interaction, etc?

Tony: Thanks for taking the time for this discussion! I think for the next album (which is already well underway) we don’t want to go into it with the idea that we have to meet a certain expectation people may have about our music. When we were writing The Art of Morphology we were really just writing music for ourselves. We feel we just want to go into it with the same mind set and hope people enjoy just as much. Really the only thing that will change about the writing process is to have everyone involved in the overall construction of the songs, to potentially let everyone have more of a stylistic influence on our sound. For album promotions, we do wish we had planned the release a little better, but we didn’t really have experience in that regard and it went over pretty well. So with that in mind, we do hope we can promote the next album a bit more effectively. As for fans, we are just happy people are listening so we try to interact with any and every fan as much as we can.

Muppet: Given what I’ve seen and heard of other debuts over the years, it certainly seems like things have been working out for the best so far anyway. Honesty, I could see the overall reception of Morphology making its successor a daunting prospect, expectations and all, but if nothing else I feel like you all are more than capable of meeting your own challenge. I’m excited to hear the follow up to Morphology, and I’m happy to wait as long as it takes for that to happen.

Well, I’m pretty much out of any Ouroboric questions, though while I’m on the record I’d like to reiterate that Chelsea should feel bad for being so damn good, or at the very least for making me feel bad for her contemporaries/competition. That’s just uncalled for, yo.

Before I get outta your hair and back to anxiously awaiting Chapter 2 of the DoO saga, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers? Don’t worry if it’s ‘Fvck you, you elitist shits!’ most of them can’t read, anyway, and the ones who can know their place.

Tony: Yes, ultimately we started this band and made this album, because it was something we found enjoyable. Since this was the first band — for Chelsea and I at least — that we started from the ground up really, that allowed us the freedom to explore aspects of our creativity [which] we had not before. We do hope people respond well to the follow up, and it would be great if people enjoy it even more. However, if not, we’ll keep doing what we do and keep DoO going as long as we can.

Thanks again for taking the time, and I have been telling Chelsea for years how good she is. She has only gotten better since we’ve been working together and I expect her to keep growing as a vocalist.

For your readers: thanks for listening to the music we created! If you have the interest to, check out our other projects: David has his post-black metal Deliria, which should have their second album out some time this year. Ron and I play in a progressive metal band called Sentient Ignition, and you’ll also hear us both on the next Botanist Collective album. There is also a possibility Chelsea and I will have two different un-announced side-project albums out in the near future. Anyway, thanks so much for your time, and for listening to our creations!

Muppet: Likewise, thanks so much for putting up with me, and for sharing your music with the world! I can’t wait to see and hear the future of DoO!!!

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