Canis Dirus – Wolves among the sheep…

CD_headerCanis Dirus is a US black metal band that has produced 2 well written albums (A Somber Wind from a Distant Shore and Anden Om Norr) while enduring the hurdles that come from both of its members living in 2 different states and rolling with the nightmares that befall us all while going through this life. In spite of the challenge, Ohioan RH and Minnesota native TMP have persevered and harnessed all their past experiences/hardships to weave them into the melancholic and introspective sounds that make up Canis Dirus. With ties musically to older Burzum and other melodic/dissonant vices that can be felt throughout decades of black metal evolution, the band has learned and managed their influences to arrive at a very mature and powerful statement with their latest release, Anden Om Norr. This album is quite violent at times and consistently a depressive glimpse into its creators thoughts as the songs dynamically flow between harsh aggression and an almost folk-like sense of centered tranquility. Recorded solely by the band, Anden Om Norr comes across as a very personal endeavor that stands out as a pure statement from these 2 proud upholders of USBM. Both members of Canis Dirus recently took the time to answer our inquiries into the workings of this musical pursuit. -Marty

Worm Gear: US black metal has always had a harder time proving itself it seems on a global market due to the intense popularity of European and Scandinavian bands, not to mention the US bands often different take on the overall sound. How has the response been to both Canis Dirus albums and where do you think this band sits with all of this and with fans of the genre? Is the thought of an “American scene” even that important anymore as artistic globalization has obscured borders thanks to the internet?

RH: the response to our first album was pretty positive in terms of the reviews I’ve seen. Our second release, Anden Om Norr, has only been out a couple months and I have yet to see any reviews for it. I’m hoping that will change soon but I’m guessing promotion isn’t a priority this time around for the Moribund war machine. In terms of the scene, I can’t really tell you where we do or do not fit in. We’ve got our friends, contacts and supporters but, being a studio project, we don’t have the opportunity to play out and gauge responses from people we don’t know, so it’s hard to say. I personally don’t care how the American scene is viewed and find it a little ridiculous that such prejudices (for lack of a better term) still exist. There has been some killer music created here and the fact that American Black Metal bands have some sort of stigma attached to them (us?) is pretty fucking sad. There are some really great bands and some really shitty bands emerging from just about every shadow on the planet. I could probably carry on about this for hours but there’s not much point in doing so. We’re not here to be a part of any scene or to prove anything to anyone anywhere. We’re doing something we enjoy and that we’re pretty proud of. If people are as concerned with a bands origin as they are its music, they need to be doing something else.

WG: Canis Dirus burst onto the scene in 2009 with your debut release, A Somber Wind from a Distant Shore. This turned out to be a really mature and atmospheric release in spite of the band bypassing the demo stage. How was the sound and style of this band developed since an often important development stage has been avoided? Was this level of rapid growth more difficult with yourself and TMP living in different states? What gave you 2 the idea to create this project and how did it all come together?

RH: TMP has been writing music for many years with ties to a few other projects (Uvall and Dormant to name a few –ed) and I think the Canis Dirus material is a natural extension of what he had been doing, and it all just came together. He approached me about doing vocals for a project and sent me some of the tracks. I thought they were great so we started talking and Canis Dirus was born. The only real issue we had/have living in different states is that it’s difficult for me to be as active in the creative process as I would like to be and recording has been difficult with scheduling trips to MN etc.

TMP: As far as Canis Dirus is concerned I don’t really feel that a demo stage was necessary. I’ve had a few other music projects in the past and in terms of black metal I released two full length albums on Blackmetal.com under the Uvall banner. While those cd’s were full length albums in their own right, I guess one could consider those ‘demos’ for Canis Dirus. There are similarities with both projects, particularly the slower tempos but I felt that in order to further the quality and overall feel of the music of Uvall it was absolutely imperative that I recruit somebody else to handle the vocals. Rob and I had been throwing around the idea of starting a project together and in the end I just thought it would be better for the both of us to just start a whole new project, thus Canis Dirus was birthed.

canis dirus somberWG: Anden Om Norr has built upon the bleak atmosphere of the debut with more of a harsh and intense fire, yet hasn’t lost sight of where it all started. If anything, influences like Burzum (especially with your insane vocals) and Drudkh arise even more from the material. Would you agree that your bands evolution has benefited from the dark past of the black metal genre? How do you feel that both albums compare and where do you see this band going?

RH: there are things about both records I would like to change, especially with the vocals. With the first album, all vocals were completed in one night and for the most part in one take. This was after driving all that day from Ohio to Minnesota and the recording itself took place while I was consuming a decent amount of Jack Daniels. I was pretty well exhausted and my voice didn’t hold up as well as I had hoped. We were smarter the second time around and it paid off vocally. I think the overall sound is a little harsher due to the life experiences that lead up to and through the composition of these tracks. Todd writes all of the material but, when he’s writing, he’s constantly sending samples and we’re in contact frequently where I provide feedback and any ideas I may have. While I feel the first album had a more morose vibe to it, the second had more energy tied to it. Whether that was positive or negative energy, we were both experiencing some pretty significant situations in our lives and I think that comes across in the material. Where we’re headed is up in the air at this point. We both know we want to do more with Canis Dirus but when that is and what that means remains to be seen. Above all else, we’re good friends so it could be a decade from now, when our kids are older and things are a little more settled, before the next activity. I certainly hope that’s not the case, but it was nearly three years between the first two, so you never know.

WG: The meaning of black metal is often debated by its artists and fans alike. What makes it “black Metal” to you? Is it indeed defined by ideology, or overall sound? Does this even matter anymore now that the genre has become so popular and in a lot of ways fashionable?

RH: Black Metal, to me, is a very personal thing and is more about the sound and the feeling than it is the ideology of the artist. There are a lot of people out there who would disagree with me and insist that it’s only Black Metal if it’s in league with Satan. I understand this argument and can see where they are coming from. For me, Black Metal is a very primal experience and one that I use to escape from the shit I have to deal with in the real world; whether that is some vile piece of shit I had to deal with at work or my own thoughts constantly fucking with my head. It’s a beautiful, majestic and almost spiritual vehicle that is a source of strength and inspiration for me.

WG: Where does Canis Dirus stand with all of this? Is ideology an important part in the message you are conveying with this band? I realize this is often a personal exploration, but could you share what goes into your lyrics and what people can expect from your message?

RH: there are no lyrics for our music. When we were working on the first album, I tried to write lyrics but nothing really clicked and it seemed insincere to me. There was something very personal about the material and I wanted to keep that vibe with the vocals if at all possible. I decided to go in to the recording session with ideas for lyrics but I wanted to improvise and go with thoughts and emotions that were there in the moment. It ended up being a fantastic experience for me and one that brought a great deal of emotion to the recording and gave it very genuine tones as far as I’m concerned. After that experience, there was no question that the second album would be handled the same way. In terms of an ideology, we’ve never discussed anything like that and there’s no real message we’re trying to push. We’re certainly not Satanists or political in any way. With that being said, we do have many similar…concerns with the way society in general handles itself, and the shit we’re doing to the planet. My personal beliefs aren’t important to me in terms of passing them along to a Canis Dirus listener. When they plug in to one of the albums, I want it to connect with them on some base level that helps them escape from life for a while and maybe feel something…anger, peace, joy, sadness, whatever. It sounds cliché as fuck, but that is what I look for when I am listening to music. If we can help someone else achieve that, that’s pretty damn cool.

WG: Yourself and TMP are both family men on top of all the other things you do/have anden_om_norr_cover_imagealready done in the underground metal scene. Has having children over the years affected your thoughts on the world, spirituality, and black metal/the desire to create it? I know for myself personally, having a child has calmed some of the fires I used to have burning within… have you possibly shared in this experience and if so, how will that affect your writing in the future?

RH: needless to say, having children changed me quite a bit. Prior to my children, I couldn’t have cared any less about what people thought of me. As they have grown, I’ve come to realize that the way I am viewed by parents, teachers, etc. can have a very significant impact on the way my kids are treated. Right or wrong, it’s a fact of life. The biggest challenge for me is being social with the other parents when at a school function or a birthday party. My natural tendency is to avoid contact with them but, with some conditioning, I’ve learned to engage them a little. It’s uncomfortable for me but that little bit of pain goes a long way for the kids socially. Aside from essentially getting the green light to hang with the other kids, it also sets an example for my children. If there’s one thing I DON’T want for my boys, it’s for them to be burdened with my antisocial tendencies. In terms of the music, my fire burns as bright, if not brighter, than ever before. I’ve been a fan of heavy music since the early 70’s when my best friend’s brothers did nothing but play Kiss records all day. I’m now 41 and metal is more important to me than ever…whether it be as a fan, a member of Canis Dirus or running Ars Magna. Metal has always been in my life and it will always be in my life.

TMP: Well Marty, as you know my first son was just born in October of 2012 so other than extreme lack of sleep not a whole lot has changed for me. If anything I think those fires that you speak might just start to burn even brighter for me. Black metal to me has always stood for a complete non-conformist attitude and, for lack of a better term a big ‘fuck you’ to society in general so as the father of a newborn the general idea from society as a whole would be that the expectation is that it’s now time for me to ‘grow up’ but that very concept speaks to the ignorance our society as a whole.

WG: Awareness for nature is seeing a bit of a revival in this modern day and age with more people returning to the woods, or even being conscious of the products they buy, the cars they drive, or the companies they support. What are your thoughts on this? As a pessimist myself, I see this as coming far too late as mankind has been inadvertently destroying earth with our ways and “advancements”. Would you agree that the impending climate change is the Earth’s last best way of cleansing itself of the infection?

RH: I have mixed feelings on this topic. I’m certainly glad that more and more people/corporations/governments are trying to implement change but, as you stated, I feel it’s too little, too late. That’s not to say I think it’s pointless and that we should all give up; it’s just sad that mankind took so long to figure out that we were going about things in the wrong fashion. A species will try to make the most of its situation, and that’s what we did. Unfortunately, it came at a great cost and those who had the knowledge and power to enact change decades ago didn’t do so…they kept it hidden and/or buried in so many varying accounts and contradictory data that no one knew what to believe and so we forged forward; advancements in technology and comfort at the expense of countless lives and the future of the planet. Hell, we know what’s happening and they are still doing it today.

WG: You have created your own studio over the years and have produced a good handful of releases yourself. For the gear heads out there, what are some of the tools you use to write and record with?

TMP: Honestly my setup is quite archaic in comparison to what I’m sure most bands / projects use today. Essentially I use a 16 track Tascam digital recorder for multi-tracking. I don’t use any sort of ProTools rig or anything like that. I do however use an old (by today’s standards) sequencing program called Acid Pro that I use for things like drum patterns or ambient beds that I’ve created with keyboards and then import them into Acid. For us it works pretty well because I can throw together an idea or even record a full song and then render it as an mp3 to send to RH for him to review. If he has any input I can then go back and change or edit the track fairly easily so it makes the both of us living in different states a bit easier in terms of the creative process.

WG: I am especially impressed with your use of synthetic drums. Most people in a situation similar to yours use this amazing tool, but try to bury the drums in the mix to mask the imperfections in the tone, or lifeless limitations in hope of fooling the listener. On both of your albums, you don’t hide the drums at all, in fact there are several times that you have them playing by themselves which sounds very authentic and “human”. What are your thoughts on programmed or sequenced drums, not only in what you do, but when listening to them in other people’s music? And if I may, what software/machines do you use?

TMP: The drums for Canis Dirus are in fact human drums. However, they are recorded as patterns based on what I need for the particular songs and then turned into .wav files that can easily be imported into the Acid program that I spoke of before. It works great for us. The guy who records them for me lives in the Chicago area but doesn’t really wish to be named so that’s why we just used his first initial, A when we gave him credit for session drums on the album. As far as how other bands or projects use synthetic drums, I’ve honestly never thought much about it.

CD_promo_pic_1WG: Both of you have bled a considerable amount of money and dedication into your own respected underground record labels (Ars Magna Recordings and God is Myth). What have been your proudest moments as label bosses? Through the years of supporting extreme metal behind the scenes so to speak, how have you noticed things changing? Have sales found a sense of normalcy since the Gov’t has shut down file share sites like Megaupload?

RH: I’m pretty damn proud of everything I’ve done with Ars Magna. There are a shitload of things I wish I had done differently from an administrative standpoint but, in terms of releases, I have no regrets whatsoever. If I had to pick one thing that stands above everything else, it would be the friendships I’ve developed. Most of the people I’ve worked with still keep in touch with me fairly regularly and were pleased with their experience with AMR. I haven’t created the biggest or the best label by any means, but I’ve stayed true to what I set out to do; release music I enjoy, regardless of current trends, and to do it honestly to the benefit of the artist. The biggest changes I’ve seen through the years are the ability to record a goddamned symphony from your closet and make it sound like a million bucks and the slow death of physical media. I could discuss both of those topics for hours, as well, so I’ll leave that until our next interview!

TMP: I concur with Rob as far as being pretty much proud of everything I’ve done with God is Myth Records. Most specifically I would say the H.P. Lovecraft Series that I came up with is of particular importance to me. I can’t really speak to sales over the past couple of years because GIM has been dormant for quite some time now but that soon will change.

WG: Ars Magna and God is Myth will be combining businesses here in the near future. How do you see this affecting sales and what you both do for your bands? Both labels share a similar style of music, but are unique personalities reflecting the people behind each label. Will this union change the style of bands you look to work with? Pros and cons?

TMP: Well, this is probably the first time this news has gone public so I can’t think of a better platform to announce it that with Worm Gear. Yes, Ars Magna Recordings and God is Myth Records are merging, so to speak. Essentially Rob will be taking over all of the God is Myth titles as well as all of the mailorder stock that I had accumulated over the past 10 years. I’m very excited about this. It will allow the God is Myth name to live on while at the same time allow Ars Magna to distribute / promote the God is Myth catalog which will ultimately create a pretty damn diverse roster of bands / releases.

RH: I don’t see any changes to the style of projects we work with and the only con I see to this unholy union is that it should have been done years ago!

WG: Getting back to Canis Dirus… life has gotten quite busy for both of you this past year. I am wondering how this will change what you do with this musical project? Is another album even in the cards for you? Will the style of music change to suit your recording situation? What will the future hold?

RH: I don’t think either of us wants Canis Dirus to end now because we’ve still got those fires burning and more ideas floating around. Anden Om Norr gave us a better idea of what we can do and everything really started to gel. On the other hand, life is life. Like you said, we both have families, homes and jobs that have to come first. If we do resurface again, it will most likely be down the road quite a bit and the style of music will reveal itself when/if writing begins.

TMP: I couldn’t have said it better myself. The thing that I love about this project is that there is no pressure. Even with the contract that we were under with Moribund Records there was no pressure in terms of getting an album out. We were totally left to our own schedules and timelines. I do not want this to end any time soon. However, we both live in two different states and we are family men. So time will tell when the next Canis Dirus record will surface but suffice it to say you have not heard the last from us.

WG: The final thoughts are left with you! Thank you or your time and interest in being a part of the Worm Gear community.

RH: thanks to everyone who has supported Canis Dirus or Ars Magna in any way! Continued thanks to Odin/Moribund and thank you Marty for the interview and the support! WORMGEAR RULES! Yury Arkadin kicks ass. To everyone reading this…buy shit from bands and small labels! Get out to shows! If you can’t make a show, buy a cd or something from the band’s website and spread the word. Every little bit helps!!! Did I forget anything?!?!? Oh, right…SUPPORT THE FUCKING SCENE!!!

TMP: Thanks Marty / Worm Gear for the opportunity. Your continued support and love for underground music is unparalleled and I salute you. Until next time…..

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~ by martyworm on March 6, 2013.

3 Responses to “Canis Dirus – Wolves among the sheep…”

  1. Excellent interview. This band kicks ass…and they’re great guys. I hope they continue to produce music for a long time to come.

  2. Indeed, excellent interview. Listening to some of their tracks now, they tickle my Burzum/Drudkh soft spot. I think I’ll be visiting the Moribiund store soon.

  3. It’s encouraging to watch 2 piece bands gain attention for great music in this scene. Hails Canus Dirus!!

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