Paul Revenwood is the mastermind that stands behind both Twilight Fauna and Green Elder projects.
I had the great pleasure to have a chat with him (after I enjoyed his newest works) and I had him talking about his homeland, and how this place influences his music. He also introduced his latest albums and gave us some simple tips about promoting music.
Enjoy the reading!
SL: Hello Paul, welcome to The Somber Lane blog. Thanks for giving us the chance for this interview.
First of all would you please introduce yourself to our readers?
PR: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I’m Paul Ravenwood of Twilight Fauna and Green Elder. Twilight Fauna is atmospheric black metal that is deeply rooted in the folk traditions of the Appalachians Mountains where I live. Green Elder is more traditional, all acoustic neofolk. Since I either completely or at least have a hand in releasing a lot of my own material, I’ve also recently started up my own label called Ravenwood Recordings.
SL: I’m pretty curious to know more about the folk traditions of the Appalachians Mountains that influence you so much. What makes this place so special to you? Would you tell us something about the folk traditions you were talkin’ about? You know, here in Italy, we don’t know much about this area of the USA.
PR: Sure, the Appalachians are a mountain chain in the Eastern USA. My family immigrated there in the 1850s, it’s where I grew up and still live. When my ancestors first came, it was a very isolated place and still is in a lot of respects. There is a lot of poverty, but also a strong sense of taking care of yourself and your family. And of being self sufficient. Musically, the isolation of small mountain communities helped to shape the traditional folk music of the area. A lot of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and Germany brought the traditional music of their homelands and it all sort of merged into Appalachian folk and bluegrass. There is a honesty there in that people were singing about their lives, their hopes, dreams, and sorrows. That’s what I try to carry over into my music. I see it as an extension, a continuation of those traditions. I try to incorporate not only some of the instruments my ancestors used, but also the honesty and spirit they carried with them.
SL: Tell me more about the latest Twilight Fauna’s record.
PR: The newest Twilight Fauna release is called Shadows of Ancestors. It just came out a few weeks back. It’s very inspired by the beliefs my ancestors brought over with them. There is a lot of folk medicine and traditional healing beliefs that still exist in the area. A lot of settlers that came over from Europe did so to escape persecution for their beliefs so a lot of them ended up being herbalists or people with nontraditional religious beliefs, and many who got mislabelled as witches or heretics. This was especially true of the German settlers in the 1600 and 1700s. The people that settled here carried those beliefs into the isolation of the mountains where they could practice. You still find traces of it today such as people planting their gardens based on the phases of the moon. That was the biggest inspiration for the new album. I wanted to tell that story, and some of my own which always gets mixed in. My releases are always personal even when they seem to be about a different topic. There are large pieces of myself and my own story that I leave in every album.
SL: Personally I’m not a big fan of labels, but I noticed your music labelled as Atmospheric BM. When I played it for the first time I was expecting something really different. I mean, your sound is quite unique and somehow personal. How would you describe it to someone who never heard your music?
Where did you draw inspiration from?
PR: I have a hard time describing it to people myself. I doesn’t really fit into any specific box which I see as a good thing. There is definitely some atmospheric black metal sections but they fit equally alongside acoustic folk sections. And there are definitely sections with a heavy post rock or ambient feel. I never limit myself in terms of songwriting. I just write what feels honest in terms of my own feelings and the story I’m trying to tell. If someone asking I generally use the term “atmospheric metal” but that’s really inadequate in that it leaves out all the traditional folk instrumentation.
As far as inspiration, my influences are equally as broad. Musically, I usually split my time equally between listening to black metal, traditional folk, neofolk, and post rock. Lately I’ve found myself listening to the post rock band Mono quite a bit. There is plenty to learn from all of these genres and I guess the amalgamation of all those influences are what keeps Twilight Fauna continually evolving. Nonmusical influences, I do quite a bit of hiking, almost every weekend really. I also continually try to learn about the flora and fauna of the region as well its history.
SL: Since Twilight Fauna’s music contains a lot of folk elements, why did you decide to start a solely neofolk project, “Green Elder”?
PR: Traditional folk music is what I grew up hearing, it’s the sound of my ancestors and of the mountains so an all-acoustic project was a very organic extension of who I am. There is some overlap between the projects. Both are extremely emotional, and tend to be atmospheric. But whereas Twilight Fauna encompasses a lot of different topics, Green Elder is solely my own personal story. It’s also very much nature based. Because it’s all acoustic sometimes people make the mistake in believing Green Elder is a light hearted listen. That isn’t always the case. There is some happiness to be found there, but some of the tracks are also incredibly personal and profoundly painful. Regardless of whether it’s Twilight Fauna or Green Elder, I try to include the entire range of the human experience in my songs. So in both projects, you’ll find both triumphs and sorrow. Above all I try to make honest music. I don’t leave anything out even when it’s incredibly painful to share. Listening to my music is like opening up a window into my life. I see it as a communal experience which is why I’m so appreciative that people take the time to experience and understand that.
SL: You’ve recently released new albums with both your projects. How has been the audience response so far? Did it meet your expectations?
PR: I’m always blown away anytime someone takes time to check out my work but the last couple releases have been overwhelming in terms of response especially the Green Elder EP. I self-released that as a 7″ vinyl. I didn’t ask anyone for help with the release because it was the first time I had tried a Green Elder release that large and I had no idea what the response would actually be. Honestly, money wasn’t a huge factor in the equation. Those songs were very meaningful to me and I just wanted to do it for myself. I pressed 250 copies on mixed color vinyl and people really came out in support of it. I ended up shipping copies all over the world and still have a few left over on the Green Elder Bandcamp. It was really eye opening and showed me that Green Elder also means a lot to more people than just myself. So that release has really opened the door for larger Green Elder releases that I’m currently working on for down the road.
Twilight Fauna wise, there has also been a lot of great support for Shadows of Ancestors. With Twilight Fauna releases, there is a huge variance in terms of what the physical releases that are planned for each and how much build up goes into each. Sometimes, especially if it’s a vinyl release, there will be a lot of promo stuff done beforehand, other times, if it’s digital only there will be no press whatsoever. Shadows of Ancestors was very much the latter. There was no build up, it was merely a collection of music I wanted people to hear so I put it up on Bandcamp with a new t-shirt and people really spread it around through word of mouth.
In terms of promotion and release format, I’ve found I really need both. I very much enjoy planning physical releases because the artwork, even the format itself, is an extension of the music. So it adds another layer to the story and the communion between myself and those that listen. But there are other times where I crave the simplicity of putting something up digitally without all the red tape involved in getting physical releases out. There are definitely some major physical releases being planned with both projects that I hope to be able to officially announce in the coming months. There is always a lot going on behind the scenes.
SL: Seems like the latest Green Elder has been a huge success then! So, tell me Paul, how the hell did you manage to make people fall in love with this album?
Of course “Offering” is a great record, but I’ve seen too many great records sinking into the oblivion, what is your magic trick for promotion? Anything you could suggest to all the wannabe musicians outta here?
PR: I don’t think there is really any magic trick for promotion. A lot of bands seem to get caught up in how many twitter or Facebook likes they have, but in the end those are just numbers. What really matters is the relationships you form. So my suggestion is to find people who dig your music and really connect with them. And try to be supportive of likeminded bands in your community. Everything else will work itself out.
SL: What do you do when you’re not playing music? Do you have any other hobby, job or interest besides music?
PR: I do a lot of hiking and exploring the mountains. Most weekends you can find me out on a trail somewhere. I write a lot of my songs, especially for Green Elder, in a completely natural setting. Just about all of the samples you’ll hear in both bands are taken during those trips. It’s my way of opening up that part of my life and including it in my music. Listening to a Green Elder track, you’ll notice a lot of ambient sounds, birds chirping, the sound of the wind. Those tracks are very much a small window into those journeys.
SL: I’ll go on with this interview for hours, but unfortunately we’re done here. If you want to add something or if there’s anything you’d like to say to our readers this space is all yours.
Thanks a lot for your time, Paul. Hope we can host you again on our pages.
PR: Thank you for the taking the time to speak with me and for everyone who takes the time to check out my work. There is some exciting releases coming up so stay in touch.