Many bands have found fertile ground in recent years for a return to the spotlight after a multi-year period of absence. One such case is that of the legendary CELESTIAL SEASON from the Netherlands. After winning fans of the Doom Death sound in the first half of the 90s, they had a complete style overhaul towards the turn of the century following a more Stoner path thus alienating a large chunk of their old fans. The band completed their musical career in the early 00s by releasing their last album in 2001. This year, the band returned with the impeccable “The Secret Teachings” which takes us back to the golden days of the atmospheric Doom Death Metal, making amends in a way for the disappointment they caused to their old fans at the time. The Gallery had the opportunity to speak recently with Jason Kohnen, the band’s founding member and drummer, on a variety of topics, from the symbolism of their music to his love for traditional Doom Metal and the influence of… magic mushrooms!
– Hi Jason. Congratulations for your new album which is absolutely incredible. All the fans of the genre have been blown away by the quality of the album. Especially coming completely out of the blue. No one was expecting it, or at least me! (laughs) So, how did it happen? It’s been 10 years since you kind of left the scene or broke up?
Jason Kohnen: Well, depending on how you look at the, let’s say, two entities of the band, yeah, the stoner part ended in 2011 I think or with the just one off playing at Roadburn. So basically, we’re calling this the Doom era period. Everything up till the “Solar Lovers” album. That’s 25 years this year, and that was also one of the reasons for joining or regrouping again. In a nutshell, that story went a bit like this. We’ve always kept in touch. I mean, with the huge amount of line-up changes there have been and everything, there’s never been any kind of animosity, really. So, you know, everyone kind of accepted and respected, the way the thing went, because if you look at the line-up of the last album the “Lunchbox Dialogues” compared to the “Forever Scarlet”, it’s two different bands. So, it’s quite funny.
– It’s only two members, I think, that kept going, right?
Jason Kohnen: Yeah, I played on “Orange” still, and I stopped after that. Then our sound man Jacques took over from when I stopped. So, for this Doom era, I’ll try and see if I can explain it to you in a coherent way. Because there’s a lot of factors which add up into the new album. So basically, we all stayed in touch with each other and Lucas, who plays the bass is married to my cousin. Which means, we are kind of family. And, you know, we’d meet up once in a while, and we’d always talk about the good old days of the band and the fun we had in the studio and everything. So, there was always this seed. Olly, who plays guitar, we used to go to high school together. So, we know each other since 1985. We’ve also played in some other metal bands before. So, there’s definitely a history of long friendships.
At one point, after me and Lucas met again, some kind of seed had been growing, especially when you get a bit older and you start looking back at periods in your life, which were very good and very emotional.
So, the seeds started growing a bit more, and I talked to Lucas and I said to him that it was quite inspiring to do this. But the most important part was, and maybe the only blemish on CELESTIAL SEASON, when “Solar Lovers” was recorded. When we went from “Solar Lovers” to “Orange”, obviously, it went from Stefan to Cyril on vocals. We were young, we were like 21, when “Solar Lovers” was recorded, and I kicked Stefan out of the band. I always regretted this a lot because it wasn’t done in a very good way. So, there was always something which I felt it needed to be repaired because we were an intense group and there was a lot of success and you know, you are growing musically, you’re maturing, and you’re evolving very quickly and learn. I don’t think you’re not mature enough to realise choices you make or analyse choices you make. So that was the only kind of blemish on the band. I hadn’t spoken to Stefan for 25 years. It’s not that we had an argument or anything, but just passing life. So, I phoned Olly and I asked him how he would feel restarting the doom era part but only if Stefan would be part of the group. I explained to Olly what my idea or concept which I would like to propose is: Imagine if we would have a time machine and we could go back to 1995 and we would have made the decision to make an album following “Solar Lovers” with the “Solar Lovers” or the doom era line-up instead of moving over to the stoner era. It’s like you see in films, you have timelines, waves, you know, if you make choice A you go there, and this branches out.
Olly was straight up for it, Pim as well and Lucas definitely in. So, I sent Stefan an email out of the blue, 25 years and I said, “Do you want to grab a cup of coffee because I’d like to talk with you?” First, it was to clear that situation of 25 years ago. Something I should have apologised for much earlier and that was done in five minutes and all was cool and then I asked him if he was up for continuing and making a new album. And he was up for it. So that was it. This energy of 1995 suddenly appeared. It just blossomed again. I had some rough ideas, I passed them to Olly, I passed them to Pim, and we all started working through the internet. Stefan hadn’t sung for 25 years! We had the whole outline of the album done maybe in a month and a half. It was as if the songs were waiting somewhere in the forest to be picked up, you know. And yet it was amazing! We had this amazing energy when composing the music. We wanted to continue this album, but we’ve grown. We’re older, we have family, we have children and everything. We’ve had a life experience. So, we wanted to take the concept of the Doom metal a bit more into the esoteric and into the spiritual instead of you know, the stereotypes of the skulls and the graves, which are still fun, but we wanted to kind of put this magic and obviously all the reading we’ve done and the influences we had which are clearly in this music. That’s basically how it started and oh yeah, we contacted Jiska. And she was in straight away as well. She was like “It’s amazing, you guys are back again!” So, yeah, that’s how it was done. We combined the best out of the two albums. Robert the guitarist, the brother of Stefan, he would have gladly participated had it not been that he hadn’t touched the guitar for 20 years. He was like, “It’s not doable for me to get that done”. So, that’s in a nutshell how it went.
– How long ago was it when you first contacted Olly and talk about getting the band back together?
Jason Kohnen: This was probably around October last year, October-November. So, it’s a year ago now basically.
– One year exactly! Let’s go back in time a bit now. Many people were surprised that you changed your sound from Doom Death to Stoner. I was quite disappointed when I was younger. I was like “Why did they do that?” But now when I listen to your old albums again, I can hear in them some groovy and stoner elements, even in “Solar Lovers”. The song “Solar Child” for example has a very groovy rhythm in it. So, what happened? How did you decide to change the sound of the band? Within just one year?
Jason Kohnen: The answer is quite easy. I can give you one word. It is called mushrooms. (big laughs)
– Okay, that explains a lot (laughs).
Jason Kohnen: It fundamentally is probably the biggest reason for this change. I mean, you know, psychedelics was really the thing which amplified the kind of groove and this a bit of the psychedelia we already had in “Solar Lovers”. I think it’s like the summer of 95 or 96, there was this huge mushroom fest which also affected us. And obviously, you had bands coming out… we were all listening a lot to THE OBSESSED, “The Church Within” album, which is very groovy, and was a big influence on the album. ST. VITUS also, which is a bit more groovy as well as Doom in parts. I think it was a bit of a natural switch, which was happening at that time. Also, the bands we listened to, bands like KYUSS for example. But “Solar Child” that you mentioned, isn’t influenced as much from KYUSS as it is from THE OBSESSED. And yeah, I think having played, you know, the slow stuff since like, 91 to 95, and as you’re maturing and growing up you want to challenge yourself more. I think I definitely would have done it differently if something would have been enough or if the mushrooms wouldn’t have been in the picture that much, then it would have been different. Then with “Orange” afterwards, you know, when I left the band, the psychedelia became a bit less and then the other guys, especially Olly, Pim and Cyril, ventured more into the kind of Stoner Grunge thing, so then it evolved a bit more.
– Yeah, listening to these albums again, I can also hear some stuff like QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE. But back then, not many metal fans were listening to that kind of music.
Jason Kohnen: Yeah, they didn’t exist. I think the first album is what like, 97 or something.
Yeah, it’s late 90s. But I’m talking more about the “Lunchbox Dialogues” album.
By the way, did the band break up after this album?
Jason Kohnen: No, they just stopped. As far as I know, it’s that they had their goals and creatively they reached their goals. Obviously, you know, if you don’t break past a specific point where you are financially independent and can do more stuff then you have to work. So, as far as I know, they were happy, and they reached these specific creative goals they wanted to do. Everyone had their work, you know, Rob the drummer, is the husband of Anneke of THE GATHERING and she was getting successful. Jacques was and still is a very good sound guy. I think Olly afterwards or just before he played in… No, that was Jacques and Rob played together with John Garcia in John Garcia’s KYUSS. I think for a tour. So, they carried on. Cyril, I think started his own band wanting to go even more kind of a bit singer and songwriter. So, I think for that point here CELESTIAL reached the things they wanted to do for that line-up.
– I see. In 2011 you released “Decamerone” as a single. Was this a move to test the waters and see how things are?
Jason Kohnen: As far as I can remember, because I remember Olly contacting me at that time if I was interested in participating because I had other musical projects, but I told him I have no intention in that part of my musical career that I was to kind of start a tribute band. And the reason they recorded “Decamerone” is I think because Walter of Roadburn invited them to perform “Solar Lovers” in its entirety. This why I think they released “Decamerone”. As far as I know the intention was absolutely not there to record a new album, it was purely for doing a tour, doing the Roadburn and you know, having a bit of fun in between that. So, everything is cool with CELESTIAL SEASON. I personally wouldn’t have made that choice. And that’s what I communicated to the guys, but, you know, “Decamerone” is the song I wrote so I gave them the absolute okay to record it.
– Okay, back to the album now. As I’m listening to it, I have to say that you have captured the atmosphere of the mid 90s Doom Death sound. At the same time, you don’t sound outdated, you sound fresh. You have stuff to say and, in a way, you can show how the sound can evolve into new paths. I think you told me that this came out naturally once you got back together, right?
JasonKohnen: Absolutely! We obviously had some discussions, as it was an incredibly big challenge. It wasn’t just recording an album. I mean, let’s say we had like two or three goals. One was to, like I said, make this album as if it would have been 1996 or so. So obviously the sound had to be a bit similar to that period, because if we go to like a full-on high tech clean, you know, 21st century production, it would be too different. So, we had to kind of step it back a notch and let’s say in quotation marks “under produce” it because we had to make it you know, a follow up and in between. We’ve had a bit of criticism about this which I understand but the people didn’t really understand the concept because it’s like “oh, the production sounds like if it’s still from the 90s…” That was the point.
– To me that’s what makes it so good.
Jason Kohnen: Obviously, you can never please everyone. We didn’t put this in, which maybe we should have put it in the press statement that the goal was not like we’re just going to release a new album. No. We’re going to pay a tribute firstly to our old fans for the amazing support we’ve always had and how they valued our music. So yeah, the goal number one was making an album for the fans who were disappointed after “Solar Lovers” and then the rest would be a bonus you know and take it as close as the sound as it was then obviously with the new techniques and make it a bit fresher. So, a balance.
– Right. Who is the main composer of the songs? Or is it a group effort?
Jason Kohnen: I do write most of the songs also from “Solar Lovers” as well. I think on this album, I probably wrote around 60% of the songs and then Olly probably around 25-30% and then the rest together so that’s a bit of the balance and also how it was a bit on “Solar Lovers”. Maybe on “Solar Lovers” I composed a bit more.
– Compared to those days, how are things different now in terms of recording music and writing music? Or is it the same for you?
Jason Kohnen: I mean, is completely different. With “Solar Lovers” we were in the studio old school style for a week, you know, and trying to avoid getting drunk and all that young guy shenanigans. Now with being able to record at home and to produce everything at home firstly, it saves a lot of money because we have had zero budget for this album. And that’s maybe what some people who review the album don’t see, but we had absolutely zero euro for a budget. We invested some stuff ourselves and Burning World covered the mastering costs for James Plotkin. But for the rest I think the whole budget of the album is probably like 500 euros or something. So that’s the advantage of being able to record at home. I think maybe if we continue in the future, it would be interesting to maybe work with a producer because I produced the album myself and I’ve produced music, but never a metal album. So, it was a bit of a baptism by fire as well to produce a metal album and then also having to try and make it sound like if it was kind of recorded in in the late 90s. That was quite a challenge. But yeah, it turned out well. We’re incredibly happy with how it went. The reactions have been just amazing and that’s the best.
– You know, that was going to be my next question. How have the responses been? I know it’s still early though, as how long ago was it released? Two weeks?
Jason Kohnen: Two weeks. I think the reviews started coming out around mid-October. Obviously at the beginning of October we also had the fans ordering the album. And that was the most important, when we saw that the people who were fans of the old music really liked it. That they were really joyous. It was incredibly heart-warming. I did feel really warm for a couple of days because, you know, that was the goal. We managed to give something back after all those years and it’s also something that gave us a feeling that everything is possible. Maybe it’s not possible to be young again or go back in time, but you can still make people feel for a moment like if they were back. And we had some great reactions from people who were, you know guys in their 40s who were feeling like they were 18 again, remembering their first girlfriends and all this is really beautiful. It’s heart-warming. It’s the period we were going through as well, and we didn’t realise how many spirits were linked and feeling similar kinds of stuff. We were all you know late teenagers in our early 20s, going through the basic romantic dramas of life and feeling very sad for ourselves and all that amazing stuff. So, yeah, that was great and obviously with a touch of maturity now. Going back to the reviews, I think 90 plus percent have been really good eights and nines. There’s always one or two people who have a different taste and opinion and that’s fine. I don’t mind you know a bit of criticism. It helps you keep your feet on the earth.
– I agree. If someone had told me that you were coming back, this record is exactly what I would have in mind from you guys. That’s the sound that I love. The sound that brings all the memories back. And you have achieved that. It’s amazing! When you hear the first note of the first song it takes you straightaway back. When the bass drums kick in, I’m like “here we are.” So well done! I’m also nearly 40, I’m 39! (laughs)
Now, you said that Burning World is your new record company. I have to be honest, I’m not very familiar with it. Is it a new company?
Well, it’s basically run by Jurgen who used to be part of the Roadburn Festival.
Jurgen and Walter worked together for years and years also as journalists and
at one point, Walter, if I’m not mistaken continued with Roadburn Festival -Jurgen
was part of that as well – and then Jurgen started a label which is Burning
World. He also has Roadburn Records. So, all the live Roadburn recordings I’ve
done have been a part of this entity. He also does all the European
distribution for Southern Lord records. The thing is we’ve known Walter and
Jurgen from the mid early 90s. With CELESTIAL SEASON we performed on the first Roadburn
in what was it? 94. So, you know, there’s always been a great connection with
them guys and to be honest the only thing we wanted to do when we recorded the
album was just to release it on LP. To have a distribution. We had no idea about
anything else. Well, we knew one thing; we didn’t have any money. So that was
one thing. But we were also too busy to contact labels and making contracts and
deals. The fact is that we knew Jurgen pretty long. We knew that he has a solid
distribution, distributing all of the Southern Lord stuff and the Roadburn stuff.
He’s in Amsterdam. And he’s a very
trustworthy guy. He does his job well. So, we basically contacted Juergen and
we said “Jurgen, we have a new CELESTIAL SEASON album. Here it is. We’d like to
release it. Would you like to do it?” So, he listened. He said, “Yes”, we had a
talk, he said, “Why not? Let’s repress the two old ones, a trinity, with new
designs and everything.” So, it was done!
We’ve heard from people, “Why didn’t you release it by Century Media or Season of Mist or whatever.” I mean I wouldn’t even know who to contact or whatever. But this is absolutely fine. We would just be happy if maybe you know 50 people, old fans, would have liked it but it’s become a bit bigger and expanded than we thought. It’s selling amazingly. I think the album is at home. It’s where it belongs, where it should be released. You know, maybe Burning World isn’t that well known to people, but the release is treated with the loving respect it deserves from someone who knows who we are. Someone who knows the concept behind the album, who supports this completely and, you know, who supports releasing the music in its most respectful way. That’s the most important thing for me.
– The company sounds the perfect match for yourselves. So, it was a really good choice. But you also have another album out. The compilation “The Merciful”.
Jason Kohnen: We’ve completely forgotten about this. I should give credits to Roel of Vic Records because two years ago he contacted me or one and a half years ago, saying that he’d like to release the demos. If you know Vic Records, it’s a cool little label who releases lots of Dutch bands, the demos, and the unreleased stuff. Roel is an incredibly passionate and loving man for the music but as he has his kids and all his work, the release moved incredibly slow. It was supposed to be released first in March of this year but due to the COVID and everything it was delayed as well as him having other stuff to do. So, it came out basically on the same day of the album unfortunately. He knew the new album was coming up and I also told him, “Maybe it’s best to wait a bit longer. Because this release is going to disappear under the radar as all this press is going to go to the new album.” I mean, I don’t think we’ve even had time yet to promote this on our own page. By the way, I will have to do this so it’s good you reminded me. I think Roel had maybe subconsciously something to do with the restarting of the band. I was pushing to release the “Promises” demo and the 1994 demo and that’s also where the kind of the revamping of the first demo artwork started which was probably the spark for the style of the new album and the other re-releases, so he definitely deserves some credit as well.
– And that leads us to my next question. The artwork of the new album as well as the artwork of the re-releases. They all have this minimalistic and symbolic approach. What can you tell us about it?
Jason Kohnen: I designed them myself. There’s a strong concept behind them and I was really happy the other guys agreed and gave me the green light to do this. So basically, you have three albums. You have “Forever Scarlet Passion”, “Solar Lovers” and then “The Secret Teachings”. It’s like the Holy Trinity; The mind, the body, and the soul. “Forever Scarlet” is red, “Solar Lovers” is blue and “The Secret Teachings” is beige and yellow. So, we have the three primary colours. In “Forever Scarlet Passion” there is an abstract flower with a forest behind and that represents the square. “Solar Lovers” has the circles of the duality of the snakes which is the circle, and then “The Secret Teachings” you have the pyramid of the shining light which is the triangle. So, then you have the three primal Pythagorean forms as well. That’s basically the importance. They’re linked together. You have the primary colours; you have the primary solids – the Pythagorean solids. Then “The Secret teachings” has the dodecahedron which is the most important Platonic solid. The sacred geometry sign which represents the universe. There is a heart inside of it and you also have the rays of enlightenment and the rays of knowledge. So, that also symbolises the mind, the body and the soul unified into that album. “The Secret Teachings” is based upon the book of this esoteric writer called Manly P Hall (he shows me the book “The Secret Teachings of all the Ages”) which is basically my bible and was an immense inspiration, among others. This one especially though, I tried to take everything, all this knowledge and tried to put this in the album. This also influenced me to try and reinvent what you had when you were young, and you were listening to music. For example, we all listened to Iron Maiden and we all saw the album covers with Eddie which was you know fantastic. Obviously, we were all eighteen-nineteen and were full into fantasy and the focus goes on something else. What I’m hoping now and what some people in reviews caught up is the symbolism. There’s a lot of symbolism in the artwork but there is also more information in the album titles. If you google them, you will find the meaning and there’s a different meaning behind each one. Some are existing passages or existing combinations of words or whatever, which will hopefully give the listener you know some interesting paths to explore. Some people might be interested in this book. Or the song “White Lotus Day” for example, is a Memorial Day for this occult esoteric writer called Madame Helena Blavatsky, who was one of the pioneers of theosophy, a specific form of esoteric writing. So, there’s a lot of little hints here and there. I was really happy because the mysteries and all these kind of occult societies of knowledge of the past age, they always shared the information through symbolism, and it was always for the curious people. The ones who would say, “Hey, there’s something interesting going on here” and it’s like if you look further you will always find more interesting things. Obviously, it’s nothing intensely deep like these books but there are little bits and pieces there which hopefully could bring some interesting stuff to the listener.
I am very intrigued now. I’m going to do a lot of Google research tonight.
So, the album covers are connected. What about the songs? There’s a song in the new album called “Lunar Child” and you have a song in “Solar Lovers” called “Solar Child”. Is there any connection?
Jason Kohnen: I think that’s probably the easiest one we could do there. It was also the duality you know. It’s definitely a reference. We did want to have some, let’s say, maybe a bit of tongue in cheek tribute to ourselves. Obviously, we had some ideas for the new album, but it wasn’t just composing new music. It was also thinking about what the fans want to hear. We had to make sure that we kept this kind of trademark sound that we had. “Solar Child” needed a worthy companion and that was “Lunar Child”.
– Does this mean we are going to expect a third song with the word child in the title, in the next album? (laughs)
Jason Kohnen: Yeah, what can we think? We can do “Saturn’s Child” or “Jupiter’s Child” or something like that. We still got some options left over there in the solar system. (laughs)
– You got back together, and you made this album. Have you talked about the future of the band after that?
Jason Kohnen: Yes, we have. Firstly, the goal was just to do this album. No shows. Just do this as a one-off project. But we didn’t imagine the interaction and the energy would be so good. So, we’ve decided to continue. I think the goal for the future now, for the following album, it will be to develop this old CELESTIAL sound. The challenge now is not to be stuck completely in that 90s sound. We have to kind of redevelop this 90s sound. The jump is going to be big. We have to grow again, as CELESTIAL SEASON always does. But we know now which elements we need to keep in the music. We’re not going to make the same mistake again when we were young. We really cherish this a lot but obviously we have to make it fresh and make it challenging for ourselves and offer something. We have already started composing new songs and we have a song coming out on the Decibel magazine Flexi disc. It’s for December and it’s a track that Olly has written. If I may say, I think it is absolutely by far the best CELESTIAL track so far. It is an incredibly great track and it’s a good example to show how the sound has developed. It’s become a bit more solid, a bit less rough and a bit more polished in a good way. I’m incredibly proud of, of this song.
Cool. Thanks for letting us know. I will try and order it as soon as possible.
In the album you are covering TYPE O NEGATIVE. Is this band an influence for your music?
Jason Kohnen: Yeah, absolutely from the very start. When the first TYPE O album came out, we were all amazing fans, and we were even fans of Pete Steele before when he was in CARNIVORE. The man is a legend. The music is absolutely fantastic, and it does not age. It is timeless music and it’s under as much as TYPE O NEGATIVE can be undervalued. I think it’s still undervalued as not even getting more credit for this being incredibly good. It was heart-breaking when Pete Steele died. I mean maybe it’s for the best as he left some incredible music, and some people are meant to become iconic. So, in that sense, we are left with the iconic images of him which he deserves. It was easy for us to do a cover, as we have done the Vienna” ULTRAVOX cover in the past. It was just so a bit of a joke, like, okay, we’ll have to put on a cover as well just because it’s necessary. We were a bit in doubt if we should put it on because we had some criticism that the album is very long, which it is, but we were like, you know, fuck it, it’s been 25 years, maybe we’ll never make an album again so the last thing we’re going to argue about is if the album is going to be 20 minutes too long. Who cares! Kitty the singer is someone we know from her amazing TYPE O covers. So, we felt it was a good idea just to add something different, give it a different style, and also to give as much respect to a Pete Steel’s piece and his vocal harmony.
– He’s a legend indeed. Apart from TYPE O NEGATIVE then what other bands were your influences in the early 90s?
ason Kohnen: For me it was two bands, CATHEDRAL and ST VITUS. The first CATHEDRAL album “Forest of Equilibrium” I think that’s by far, and it will for me remain THE Doom Metal album of Doom Metal. It is an absolute classic and for me it even outshines any BLACK SABBATH album. It might be blasphemy for others but when you talk about Doom Metal and melancholy and misery then these two guitar parts from Adam and Gary, they created this incredibly sombre, bittersweet, miserable, dark, and doomy music. It’s unparalleled for me. There’s some that are close in a different way. For example, something like WINTER is an incredibly powerful Doom Metal band but that has more of a monotony to it, which you know is great. But CATHEDRAL also have that magic with the artwork. It’s everything! So yeah, I find this to be a magical album. Then ST VITUS is on number two. Especially ST VITUS with Wino. Then comes a whole list of Doom Metal bands. There’s a lot of bands which don’t get enough credit. I really loved bands like PENNANCE, or the bands from the Hellhound Records, you know, COUNT RAVEN, REVELATION… What else do we have? WRETCHED and stuff like this. People are always like, “You sound like the Peaceville three!” Obviously, I understand why they say this, but I find it a bit simple and a bit disrespectful to the other Doom Metal bands there were there. Maybe they weren’t part of the Death Doom, but bands like PENANCE are incredibly underrated. If you listen to their second album, it is marvellous! It’s just amazing! We kind of released our music as well, more or less, at the same time as ANATHEMA and MY DYING BRIDE. Obviously, Paradise Lost was first, as they were one of the leaders of the Death Doom. But yeah, we as firstly a Dutch band, but also because we weren’t signed on a big label, we didn’t get anywhere near the press the other bands got. If I’m not mistaken, I think our “Promises” demo was released at the same time as the first ANATHEMA demo. We just had to wait longer till our album was released. The distribution is way slower and the press the same. So, we started the same time with most of these bands, but they were already 10 steps ahead of us. And then you catch up and people say that you sound like these other bands. That’s something around that time which was a bit difficult for some of the Dutch bands as Scandinavian, English and American bands had a definite easiest step forward of getting a record deal and being taken seriously. I think probably PESTILENCE, and maybe later ASPHYX were the only two Dutch bands, THE GATHERING obviously later, but in the beginning, PESTILENCE was probably the only band who really was able to compete with the European bands. Clearly, THE GATHERING was also able too, but they were on a league of their own, especially when Anneke joined the band. They created a whole genre.
– That’s very true. Still in the 90s, have you got any memories from that time that are still stuck with you?
Jason Kohnen: We had one tour with CELESTIAL SEASON. One European tour with SADNESS from Switzerland and NIGHTFALL from Greece. And that was amazing! I can’t even remember how many shows we did. There were not too many, like eight or nine, and it was just an alcohol fest. We were all young kids. I think our Paris show is online but apart from that I can’t remember any other shows we played… We were too drunk and then just wasted. They were really busy you know. This Paris show, there’s people stage diving! I looked at the film not too long ago and it’s incredible. There was also a show in Germany in Cologne, and our show was cancelled because the management who was organizing the tour, it was a disaster. It was like Spinal Tap versus Anvil in one together. (laughs) So since the show was cancelled, we were walking in the street in the afternoon and probably getting drunk and then we bumped into CATHEDRAL who were playing the same night as a support act for BLACK SABBATH! And we knew them a bit through, you know, tape trading stuff and they put us on the guest list! So, we were hanging out with Lee Dorian backstage and BLACK SABBATH. Ozzy wasn’t playing with them at that time, but I saw Tony Iommi probably like 50 metres walking away to his dressing room. It was amazing to get to hang out with the CATHEDRAL guys and have an adventure and some amazing gigs. Obviously, if we would have continued after “Solar Lovers” we would have done real tours. I think this was 94, just before “Solar Lovers” came out. And we had a lot of shows in Holland which were very memorable as we were playing with CARCASS and MY DYING BRIDE and THE GATHERING!
Oh yeah! Of course! How can I forget this? The best story! It was in 93. I think we had just released “Forever Scarlet Passion” and ST VITUS were playing in Amsterdam in the Milky Way -one of the best venues- and we were shitting bricks because we were going to play with the idols of idols. Our equipment was terrible you know. We didn’t have a practice room, we had cymbals that were broken, broken amps etc We were poor students. So, we went to the venue, set up and started sound checking with incredibly shitty material. And then the guys of ST VITUS came in, standing there with their leather jackets, looking at us. They were like in mid late 30s and we were these kids of like 19-20. I was so incredibly nervous and scared. Then I remember Dave Chandler, the guitarist, he was like “What’s up? Guys stop!” These guys were like bikers, you know, rough, rough guys. And we were like, “oh shit, okay, they are probably going to ask us to go and not play because it’s sounding so shit.” And then he says, “okay guys, take up all your gear. You can use our equipment and that’s no problem. We were like “Wow!” We got really good Marshall amps and good drums. It was so good and then they had a smile on their face. At that time, I think we were paid like a crate of beer to play something and 25 euros for gas money, but wow, we were on the poster with VITUS! We also didn’t have any money to eat because you know we were poor students and everything, so we were there in the restaurant and the guys of ST VITUS were sitting there eating, and they’re like, “Yo guys! Come here, you can sit with us.” And we said “Thanks, but we we’re not getting any meal tickets.” And he was like, “What! You’re not eating?” So, they went to the kitchen and they said “We want these guys to have a decent meal as well! They’re going to work and whatever.” So, there I was, sitting next to Dave Chandler, who is my hero, and he says to me, “Okay listen. I’ll give you one piece of advice. How old are you now?” 19 to 20 I replied. He continued “Okay, well, finish your school. You don’t to end up like us!” (laughs)
After we did the show, they invited us to the dressing room. We drank whiskey and beer with them, and we got drunk. Of course, it was a kind of generation gap and we were just treated like you know the nephews who came on family visit and the uncles took care of them. That left me a huge impression so the week after that, I tattooed two ST VITUS logos as a souvenir to remind me that if I ever would become popular as a musician or whatever that I shouldn’t forget that; If you meet young musicians at the start of their career, always stay humble and always stay helpful because this is how you make the right catalyst for making humble people in music and to break down the ego. This is something that stayed with me since then.
Years later, in 2014 or 15, I had this solo project, and I was performing at this big festival in Germany called Fusion festival. It’s like 40-50,000 people over a weekend and ST VITUS was performing there as well on a Sunday. I was performing on Saturday night, so I was like, “Okay, I’m going to stay because I want to see them play”. So, I bought the album and went backstage so they could sign it for me as I was still a fanboy. I found Dave Chandler and I said “Dave, can you sign the album?” and he was like “Yeah, sure” and I asked him “Can you maybe remember, I performed with you with CELESTIAL SEASON back in 93?”, and he’s like “Oh shit!” and then he shouts to the bassist (Mark Adams) and says “Yo, these are the guys from CELESTIAL! We played with them in the Milky Way in Amsterdam…” He remembered everything! I was like “Fucking hell!!!” So, I got a picture taken with him, both much older now and, yeah, that’s an experience I will never forget.
– That’s a great story and a priceless memory.
Thank you for sharing this with us.
Back to the modern times now. Do you listen to any newer bands from the last 10-20 years?
Jason Kohnen: Well not really. That’s maybe a nice
thing for the album sounding so different because we are absolutely not aware
of how Doom Metal developed over the years. I mean, obviously I know the bands.
I keep an eye out, but it’s not like you
know I listened to them intensely. For example, some band like YOB which is now
one of the better Doom bands. I think I’ve heard a song of them once, but I
wouldn’t be able to recognise it if it were played for. So, that’s maybe a positive
thing. We have our own influences. Olly listens to a lot of blues and heavy
rock and stuff like that, so the influences are different. But there is some
good stuff out there today. I’m a big fan of the… I don’t know how to call it,
female Doom? I’m a huge fan of Emma Ruth Rundle. She released this new EP with
THOU which is incredible. Chelsea Wolfe, you know I love that as well. Maybe
not guitar Doom but I like Anna von Hausswolff as well. She just released her
new record on Southern Lord. It’s like witchery. I find it way more interesting
than other stuff. I mean I’ve heard all the ELECTRIC WIZARD clones and I’m like
guys, challenge yourself a bit more you know do something different. And it’s
the ladies who have managed to give Doom Metal maybe the female touch it
finally needed. Their approach to it is just extraordinary. I like my Doom
Metal now more with a twist. I’m an amazing fan of OM for example. So, if I do
go and dive into Doom, it’s either the old stuff, or I do want to find my Doom
which takes different pathways. I have no interest in, a clone of something
which made a good album already 20 years ago. If I’m going to listen to
anything sludgy, nothing beats ELECTRIC WIZARD! I put on “Come My Fanatics”
which is my favourite return trip and I know I am good. I’ve my free dose of
acid for 15 minutes. (laughs)
Obviously, there will be good new other bands as well and young kids who rediscovered through other stuff. For me though, I’m a bit traditional or a bit older, but I like to stick to the stuff which is good you know and if there’s something new, which is good, it will always pop up over the grapevine. You’ll always get hold of good music. It finds its way to people, that’s what I always say.
– That’s true. And it’s funny I was talking to the singer from GREEN CARNATION, who is probably in the same age group with you and he said that he’s also impressed by these female singers like Chelsea Wolf and Emma Ruth Rundle. So that must mean something, right?
Jason Kohnen: I think so. It’s touching a chord, definitely. I think it also has to do a bit with the sign of the times. And this goes for CELESTIAL as well. It would be strange if you can’t recognise that maybe the last five years people are becoming a bit more spiritual. It’s a wide word and it can be a bit cringy sometimes, but I mean that people are becoming a bit more aware of things in a different way. I’m not talking about your yoga and your lentil eating hippies or stuff. People are becoming a bit more conscious and it’s translating more in the music and people are more in touch with spirituality. Chelsea Wolfe, it’s like a form of paganism. She has this kind of mystic witchy sound. It’s like the siren and it’s pure. It’s not like you know back in the day where you would just put an image of a skull and some demon thing where it would be the imagery. I think now you have people who are really practising what’s going on and what they are trying to discover in the music, not all of course. But that’s adding something that is magical to some of this music.
– I agree. You said before that you weren’t planning to do any touring for this album. But since the reviews are really good and the feedback is great, if someone suggested “let’s do a tour”, would you be able to do it?
Jason Kohnen: I think probably we would be able to be convinced. If we could find the time you know with the families, the jobs, the kids and everything. Then it wouldn’t be a long tour, maybe like two weeks maximum. I mean, the touring wouldn’t be a problem but it’s more the rehearsing and practising. We haven’t practised together because of technology we’re able to record everything separately. We had the luxury to record parts of songs when we wanted and not like back in the day when you had to remember the whole song and play it. You become a bit lazy with the technology now. But yeah, it would be a challenge. I’m a bit hesitant as I haven’t played drums live for such a long time. I think my condition is okay and mentally and physically I am all right but. We’re not afraid or though. The thing is we’re not like all the other bands like PARADISE LOST or MY DYING BRIDE or whatever. I mean these bands have been continuously performing for 20 years. It’s like for example football. We’ll learn how to play football again, but it doesn’t mean that after two months of playing football we’ll be on the level of competing with these guys who’ve been playing for years on and off. So, we have to make sure we don’t want to make fools of ourselves and that’s probably the biggest thing. We don’t want people looking at us and say “Look at these grandparents! Look at his granddad here playing drums!” (laughs)
– Well, it if it ever comes to touring, just make sure you come to Greece. You got many fans here!
Jason Kohnen: Definitely.
– If you had to write music for a film, what kind of film would that be? A horror movie? A more philosophical drama?
Jason Kohnen: Yes, it would probably be a more of an
arthouse film. Well, to be honest, I was sent two films to watch last week. Because
it’s so fucking hard to find good new films these days. But this friend of mine,
she sent me two films that were a must watch. The first one was November, which
is an Estonian art house film. It’s amazing! It was like poetry. Magical and mystical.
So incredibly good. I don’t know who wrote the music there, but that would be a
challenge. The other film I watch which I also found amazing was Mandy with
Nicolas Cage. It was like I took acid, LSD and mushrooms! The last time, I tripped
my balls off must have been like 25 years ago, probably, just before or after
“Orange”. So, I was watching Mandy and I was like, “Holy shit! How can these
guys manage to create these colours and imagery which you can only experience
when you’ve tripped your balls off?” And we’re talking about tripping with the
colours only without the imagery. It’s so incredibly spot-on. Nicolas Cage is
just an absolute legend in that film. It is so uncomfortable though; it’s
bordering on a bad trip. I wouldn’t want to dream taking acid on and watching
that film. I think experiencing both, it would be game over.
So, composing music, it probably leans more towards art house kind of films which, you know, are intense. I like stuff from Tarkovsky or Stanley Kubrick, but I mean most of these films already have incredible music. I don’t even think we’d be able to come close to the incredible musicianship which is put in there by the composer. I think if you take the music as CELESTIAL SEASON, it would probably be a film like Mandy or maybe something from Jodorowsky. It would fit more, I think, with our music, than an arthouse film which is a bit more ambient.
– Great. I think that’s almost everything for me.
Thank you very much for your time and the interview, I really enjoyed it.
Jason Kohnen: You’re welcome. I ramble on, I do. Usually, it can be longer once I get started. I know I can carry on. (laughs)
– I wish you all the best for the band and I hope we’re going to hear more from you in the next couple of years.
Jason Kohnen: Thank you for your time as well and thanks to everyone for their support. And yeah, maybe hopefully we’ll get to play one day in Greece!
Interview: Dimitris Benetatos
Translation/Rendering in English: Dimitris Benetatos
Cover Artwork: Giorgos Tsiliggaridis
Design & Editing: Alexandros Soultatos
Photography: Mike Redman, Jan Willem Steenmeijer, Bastiaan Fronik, J.W.Steenmeijer
Date: March 7th, 2021
External Link: CELESTIAL SEASON – Facebook Page
Copyright © 2021 by THEGALLERY.GR