Shadowflag have some new stuff coming your way very soon – their third album which they’ll start work on shortly. Given that their first album was a 5000-word poem set against a backdrop of black metal, they could be one of the few acts around who can claim to have a genuine element of originality.
In his own words, JJ Flames (vocals and bass) tells us about the band…
We are based around the South West of the UK. We tend to consider Cheltenham to be the spiritual home of the band.
How did you meet?
We have all been friends for far longer than the existence of Shadowflag. That is one thing that makes this a great band and such a fulfilling experience. The dynamics that exist in a band where this is the case allow for greater understanding and unconstrained creativity. It can also cause frictions but these can be overcome where other bands may find them detrimental to their existence. Pre-Shadowflag, we met through a shared love of music, art and words.
How long have you been playing as a band?
Shadowflag was born in a conversation that Carps (guitars) and I had in a pub in 2013. We could still take you to the exact spot. From that moment, it is a journey that has never ceased. It was lying in wait for us and, at what can now be viewed as a highly appropriate moment, we discovered its beginnings. Jake (guitars) joined us in early 2014 and then Gray came into the fold a year later.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
At the time, I was writing an epic poem that became the backbone of our self-titled first album. Inspired by the themes of voyage and self-discovery, the poem detailed the quests of the Voyager as he travelled to the Dark Harbours where he would eventually find the object of his terrifying exploration – a ship named ‘Shadow Flag’. Carps suggested that this represented not only the journey of the voyager but also our own personal journeys. So we also named the band Shadowflag as this is our own journey of self-discovery. And, as I say, we are still discovering. In later times, we have lost the space in between the two words and this represents unity as our individual voyages as a band have drawn more closely aligned. It also has nothing to do with the same combination of words being used in the Pearl Jam song, “Garden” – we have been asked this and, in a world of coincidence, this is one.
What are your influences?
Our influences are varied – both individually and as a band. Standing on the same ground as us we would cite bands such as Woods of Ypres, Septicflesh, Satyricon, Darkthrone, Blut Aus Nord and Goatwhore. But our inspirations can be found far wider – from the words of Poe, the art of Goya or the novels of Vonnegut. We tend to interpret the insane and inexplicable predicament that every human being finds themselves in – and consider that everything around us is our greatest influence.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
We describe ourselves as being a poetic black metal band. Our first album was a 5000 word poem set against a backdrop of black metal. This is one event in the history of Shadowflag that can never change and makes us unique. We are proud of this aspect. Our second album The White Grave, released in 2015, focused more closely on the music but still contained spoken word sections. This is the beauty of black metal in its truest form – it is a liberating, non-conformist and evolving medium that allows such diverse creativity and interpretations.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
Each album we produce has a specific lyrical theme and musical journey. As I said, the first album centred on the journey of the Voyager. The White Grave allowed us to invest ourselves in the stories of the world’s most feral street children who have been forced to develop in their own environment without the help and guidance that so many take for granted. This has led them to create their own myths involving people and places, fears and mysteries. As a band, we found some of the stories that we shared utterly fascinating. For our third album (that we are currently recording) we have addressed our darkest theme yet – and I should tell you that we have all found it a very unsettling and dark journey. All will be revealed very soon.
What’s your live show like? How many shows have you played?
We have played many live shows and certainly take the view that this is one of the most important ways to convey your music to your audience. Our live shows are absorbing and mesmeric as they drift from black metal soundscapes through theatrical spoken word sections and into more directly heavy passages. Our audience take this journey with us and are an integral part of what Shadowflag shows are all about. We want it to be a challenging yet absolutely addictive experience. One of our long term aims would be to perform the whole of the first album in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern.
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
Our live shows are not ‘wild’ in, I guess, the reckless rock n’ roll kind of way. However, in the truest sense of the word ‘wild’ – they are isolating, barren and extreme. One of the greatest experiences that we can remember from any show was when we watched Behemoth and they blew huge clouds of dry ice at the crowd during “Oh Father, Oh Satan, Oh Son”. It was like being in a vortex and was exhilarating. To achieve that level of interaction is something that we continue to strive for.
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
Our stage set up is actually pretty simple. Although we record our albums using a live drummer – we continue to track our own soundscapes to take out on the road with us. It works well for us and gives us another very unique perspective on how we convey our creations. Guitar-wise, we use a range but ESP features highly.
What are your plans for the rest of 2016 / 2017?
We are about to go into the studio once again to record our third full length album. This should be mixed and mastered by the end of the year. We have some label interest already for this release. Then it will be all about getting the album out to as many people as possible and promoting it to the full. We all know that next year is going to be a massive year for Shadowflag!
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
I think we would all probably come up with different answers for this one. I guess if we were to address it as a band, then we would love to support Satyricon as we share a common love for their insanely consistent musical output and powerful live shows. And supporting us…. I would say it would have to be Stahlsarg (UK black metal). But we would see ourselves as equals with those guys. If we could play a load of shows then we would.
You can catch the band playing live in November:
- 18 November 2016 – The Fenton, Leeds – UK (with Aternum Vale, Petrichor and Forneus)
- 17 December 2016 – Scruffy Murphys, Birmingham – UK (with Verdelet and Wolfbastard)