Kyle Alexander McDonald Talks to Us About Zaum’s New Album
Dip back into time and lore and the world feels fantastical to the mind. Concepts and perceptions spin fables of mysticism and ancient mythical stories that spark imagination. Zaum’s dream state expressions explore the depth and premise of a mystical time and place, held by ritual and an expansion into the recesses of the mind. This is the world of Zaum.
This visual dreamworld adventure continues with the doom laden Divination on Listenable Records. Composed by Kyle Alexander McDonald (vocals, bass, and textures) and Christopher Lewis (drums and percussion), the two added visual performance artist Nawal Doucette to help tell the story of consciousness and mystical reality. As the band continues to metamorphose from their previous releases, the premise to Divination is expected. It’s up to the listener to breathe life into the undercurrent of Zaum’s ancient world.
We spoke with Kyle to give us more insight into how an album like and its thematic approach becomes a reality.
While many bands utilize expansive song lengths to act like mini aural novellas, what I like about Divination is all three songs serve a thematic purpose. Was that the initial intention going into writing this release or did it naturally progress in this state based on the musical lore developed?
The album was most definitely approached with a theme in mind which was developed before the songs were written.
What challenges, if any, did you face when recording this album? Is it difficult to transfer the emotion of how these songs are played into a digitally produced realm that acts like a snapshot of something that is easy to morph and expand differently each time?
The challenge I would say is more in the mixing than it is in the recording. It’s a very touchy process and since these songs were written and recorded with the idea to put the listener into a transcendent state of sorts, it was incredibly tough to keep focused and to be quite honest, a total challenge to not entirely zone out and lose focus and time. This was substantially quite difficult hurdle – much moreso with this album than any prior.
What was it about ancient Burma that attracted you to wrap it around the concept of Divination? And, how important was it to blur the lines between a psychotropic dream state and doom laden metal riffage in this context? The sonic effects of this album are sometimes hypnotic and sometimes frightening.
Thanks for the depth of focus you’ve clearly put into this record. Ancient Burma and the concept of Shamanism and early tribal nature based religions were a massive point of influence for me and felt natural as a progression to touch a story within a point in time in the region, within the world of ZAUM. You’re spot on, blurring those lines of the dream state and doom metal/riffs was truly the idea and challenge with respect to the writing, recording and mixing. I feel really great about the result where it feels like a totally natural blend of both aspects. Sometimes I question whether the equal blend could take away in a sense since neither truly take the forefront – but then I realize I have to turn my mind away from those sorts of concerns and simply focus on what feels most natural in the moment to best fit the vision.
Tell me more about the cover art?
The cover art was designed by Carter Doody of Port Elgin, NB, Canada. He designed our two prior album covers as well. This album cover presents a moment prior to the start of the album. I don’t like to get into too much detail beyond that as I relish the fact the listener can figure things out on their own in a sense – but maybe this is enough of a hint to answer the question 🙂
How is something like this going to transfer to the stage?
Near identically – only that we’ll have Nawal Doucette re-enacting parts of the story, and we’ll have projections as well which will add to the experience of what is unfolding.
Looking back to the beginning, how do you balance a philosophy of mantra versus progression?
The best way I can explain is it – just for it to feel natural and non-contrived or forced. For progression to unveil itself in an almost mystical sort of way where it’s brought on by a greater power source of some kind.
In forming Zaum, what inspired you to develop the ideas that are now instilled in the Zaum psyche?
The idea was to create a world for ourselves to exist and create within. Said creations would be stories or “re-enactments” (in a sense) of how some things played out. The idea was inspired by the mystical, supernatural, historical, and physical realities of this world – something far bigger and deeper than the earthly things we as average humans typically think and focus on in every day modern life.
Zaum: The Enlightenment (Part I), Official Video
Tell me about adding Nawal Doucette to the band?
Nawal approached us in 2014 with interest to perform along with ZAUM. She is visual/physical artisan, self-proclaimed evil-queen – and true professional within her field of work. In or around the 3rdquarter of 2017 she reached back out to us and the conversation continued and an opportunity for her to perform with us presented itself in Dec 2017 for a series of four Canadian shows we titled ZAUM : The Ritual Experience. The results were so overwhelming we opted to move forward to Europe and beyond with this newfound live ritual experience being an inclusive part of seeing ZAUM perform live. Her performance with us is entirely created and directed by solely herself without any hand of ours, and this is an incredible opportunity for her to be next level creative within her field of focus, and thus far things have gone swimmingly.
What can our present day world understand and gain about ancient civilization?
I think a deep understanding of the array of cultures that exist in the present world (let alone in ancient times) is a massive key of wisdom. Reading and conversing about these realities and the challenges people and societies faced (on multiple levels) and how they fell or overcome said hurdles can directly help people understand and ascend much of what we are focused or dealing with now in the present day life – and the ways in which we can avoid or better approach things moving forward.
What do you have planned for the rest of 2019?
We will likely do some writing this summer, then a UK/EU tour which will be revealed later this week. This winter we may do some American shows and some more pre-production for the next album. Spring and Summer 2020 will be very much packed with European touring and festivals which we’re quite well looking forward to. We also have our sights set for Australia and Japan at some point in later 2020 or early 2021.
Thanks to you for the interest in ZAUM, you can support us directly by purchasing merch at http://zaum.bandcamp.com or by spreading the thought of ZAUM within your circle of friends. Best to you all!