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Black Orchid Empire are a London based trio whose debut “Archetype” was highly acclaimed. Now its follow-up “Yugen” is about to be unleashed via Long Branch Records. Here’s their conversation with Metal Imperium.


M.I. - Who is Black Orchid Empire? Tell us about the band and its members.

Black Orchid Empire is the three of us – Paul Visser (vocals, guitars), Dave Ferguson (bass and vocals) and Billy Freedom (drums). We've been playing together for many years in different projects as well as working together as producers at our studio. Whilst we've all lived in London for a long time Dave is originally from New Zealand and Billy is from the USA. I think that gives us a uniquely varied perspective.


M.I. - Why the name Black Orchid Empire? Are you fascinated by the Japanese culture?

No one seems to be able to remember how the name came about or who thought of it! We all just liked the combination of images.


M.I. - What is the main difference between your debut “Archetype” and the new album “Yugen”?

“Yugen” completely eclipses “Archetype” in terms of musical progression and sonics. We self-record, produce and mix so the evolution of the sounds on the album is really important to us. There are some great songs on our first album but we're very confident that we're pushing forward a long way with this release. Tonally it's rawer, bigger and harder, with chunkier riffs and deeper lyrical content.


M.I. - Why have you chosen “Yugen”, a concept in Japanese aesthetics, as title for the album?

We were drawn to the concept of understanding the size and depth of the universe and your own lack of significance in real terms. The fact that there is a one-word term in Japanese for a whole complex idea seemed really cool to us.


M.I. - Your debut album “Archetype” was critically-acclaimed and received widespread media attention… did this put extra pressure on your shoulders when you were recording and producing its follow-up?

Whilst we're glad people loved the debut record, it never occurred to us that we were making “Yugen” for anyone except ourselves. We're our own harshest judges!


M.I. - The cover for “Yugen” was designed by Dave based on a photo taken in Japan. Does it capture the essence of the album?

It's a really cool shot taken by our friend Si Jones – we just used part of a larger picture. We have an obsession with symmetry and strong images – the triangle and the power of three is important for us as a trio. I suppose the subtle grace of the image is itself an example of “Yugen”.


M.I. - The lyrics are based on your personal experiences and life. How complicated/easy is it writing about such personal stuff? Does it help you deal with things better? Is it some sort of “therapy”?

Lyric-writing is inherently cathartic, although I never think of it that way consciously. I just write about the things I see or experience, and it's all personal to me in some way. Even if I'm talking about semi-fictional ideas, it's all done through the lens of my own experiential understanding of the world. So, no – I don't find it difficult for that reason – although coming up with lyrics I'm happy with can be really challenging!


M.I. - What’s the connection between the title and the lyrics?

The album title describes an aesthetic idea, whereas the lyrics are all based on different things, so there's no direct link. Just in the sense that life is made up of experiences, and moments of “Yugen” are a way of trying to define those experiences in a way that recognizes the impossibility of reconciling the personal and the vast.


M.I. - The track “Mouth Of The Wolf” was written before the release of “Archetype”… why didn’t you include it in that album?

We like to road-test songs extensively before recording them, and it hadn't really been through that process when “Archetype” came out. Also, a lot of the first record was recorded a long time before release and before we wrote MOTW, including the drums.


M.I. - The band have been playing around Europe… when will the Portuguese audience have the pleasure of seeing you live?

Great question! We are starting with Germany and the UK but will definitely come to other parts of Europe too – would love to play Portugal!


M.I. - Black Orchid Empire have played alongside heavyweights such as Biffy Clyro, Editors and Skunk Anansie. How was it playing with them? Were you nervous? Did you ever expect it to happen?

We're all experienced enough to know that every big band is just made up of normal people – Billy toured with Marilyn Manson, Deftones and Incubus when he was in Queen Adreena for example. It never bothers us – the bigger the show, the better we play usually!


M.I. - How did it make you feel to receive compliments from some of your favourite bands, especially Skunk Anansie?

Skin was in our studio complex when we were mixing down “Archetype” – she just put her head round the door and demanded to know what the music was! It was great seeing how much she was digging what we were doing. It was awesome! I sent her a copy of “Yugen” early to check out too.


M.I. - What would the dream tour for Black Orchid Empire be like? Where would you play? Which venues? Which bands would you invite to play with you?

We'd love to do a big worldwide arena tour with someone like Biffy or Deftones. Karnivool would be a huge deal for us, as would Tool or A Perfect Circle. We'd love to play with Queens Of The Stone Age someday too!


M.I. - “Black Orchid Empire create dense, powerful rock music that combines fearless complexity, aggressive heaviness and beautiful, hook-laden melody.” Was this your intention from the day you started or did it just happen?

We just jammed until we came up with music we loved! No more thought than that. It's the combination of all our influences I guess.


M.I. - You recently signed a deal with German label Long Branch Records. What do you expect of it? More and better promotion? More touring?

They've already been amazing and helped us up our game significantly in terms of reach and bigger touring. Great dudes.


M.I. - Please share a message with Metal Imperium’s readers.

We hope you guys like what you hear – much love from BOE! We'll see in Portugal!


For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca