The Whipping Post presents...

Sympathy Interview - Added 08/09/04

One of the most brutal new bands in music today is the band Sympathy. Orignally from Canada, this band (comprised of only one person!) has now relocated to Arizona in the U.S. Read along as I talk with lone member Derek From. (A much smaller version of this interview originally appeared in HM Magazine issue #108. This is the full interview.)

Whipping Post: Well, it’s great to get to interview you again Derek. It’s been a while since we talked about your, then new release, Invocation. Looking back, how do you feel things went with Invocation? What are some positives and negatives that you took from that album and its release?

Derek From: Invocation was a great learning experience for me. It took a lot of effort: it was the culmination of about 3 years of work. But when I started recording the disc in the summer of 2001, I was using a software/hardware system with which I was unfamiliar. It turns out that the hardware on the system wasn’t really that great, so the overall sound of the disc reflects that. Luckily for me, most people were able to overlook that flaw. Looking back now, I still think that the songs on Invocation were strong and that most of that album’s flaws were production related. That is one of the reasons that I re-recorded a track off of Invocation for Arcane Path: it will help listeners to hear one of the old tracks with good production.

WP: Invocation was given a look by both the Christian press and the secular press. What were the differences in opinions you heard between the two? Was there a particular review that stuck out to you as the one that defined Invocation better than any other?

DF: I guess it should be of no surprise, but the Christian media was very concerned about the lyrics on Invocation. I don’t mean that anyone was upset, but rather that it was something that the Christian media found important. I don’t think that the non-Christian media even mentioned lyrical content once. Some Christian reviewers were a little distraught that not all the lyrics for Invocation were in the CD booklet, but no one, to my recollection, jumped to the conclusion that either myself or Fear Dark was hiding anything.  BW & BK had a nice review, and Metal Maniacs mentioned Invocation in their “Reader’s Album of the Year” column for 2002. But one of the reviews that really stuck with me was in a European zine that placed a very positive review of Invocation right beside a review of Immolation’s Unholy Cult. I thought that was pretty cool: I was getting reviewed and placed alongside musicians that I admired. It was honoring. Also, I must say that HM has been very supportive. I have really appreciated every chance that I have gotten to be involved with the magazine. HM is playing an important role these days in the Christian metal scene since there is really no other publication that has any interest in our small, very spread-out scene.

WP: Arcane Path is the title of your new album and this is your second time around with Fear Dark Records. How did you feel that they did with your first album and what are the plans this time around?

DF: Fear Dark is a small record company. They are great to work with. They took a huge chance on me when they decided to release Invocation, and they were pleased enough with their results that they have decided to do it again with Arcane Path. How could I complain about that?  If you are trying to sell discs, it is exposure and distribution that 
accomplish that goal. Fear Dark’s distribution is a lot stronger now than it was a year or two ago. And lately, they have been working on larger distribution deals for Europe and North America, so the exposure that both Sympathy and Fear Dark get should expand in the near future. At this point, Fear Dark has worked out distro or licensing deals for some of their products with Displeased, Deadsun, Megarock, and Facedown, to name a few, and I am sure that the list will continue to grow in the next few months.

WP: Have you had any interest from any “bigger” labels than Fear Dark…particularly secular labels?

DF: There has been some interest from other labels, but “interest” hasn’t turned into anything yet. As soon as there is something to say about this topic, I will let you know Matt. :)

WP: Now that you’ve had time to digest your new album, compare it to Invocation. In your honest opinion, how much better is this album?

DF: Well, production-wise, Arcane Path is light-years ahead of Invocation. I really can’t think of any musical element that doesn’t sound better this time around. But is the new disc better musically speaking? I still write in the same style. The riffs on Arcane Path all sound like they are in the same style that Invocation was. I think that I did improve some of my riff-writing skills, but it is still obviously me playing and writing. Perhaps the drumming is a little more solid this time. Interesting to note, Shannon Frye, from Avenger of Blood (ex-Vengeance Rising, ex-Tortured Conscience), was going to drum for Arcane Path, but things just never really worked out for that to happen. Too bad, I think that would have been great. In the end, I think that Arcane Path is definitely a better disc, but if Invocation had the production of Arcane Path ? . . . I am not sure what I would say in that case. I think that I will re-record all the material off of Invocation eventually just to give it the sound that it needs to have the power that Arcane Path has.

WP: Is there any theme to the lyrics on Arcane Path?

DF: Yes, there are actually a few themes. The major theme running through the disc is that of a person coming to faith in Christ and then living the life of faith after that experience. I believe in the power of God to change lives and hearts, and I wanted to describe that in the lyrics of Arcane Path.

WP: Seeing as how you’re a one-man band and all the ideas come from you, do you feel like you’re close to reaching your “limit” with taking Sympathy to that next level? Or do you look to the future and feel that this band has its greatest moments still ahead?

DF: I haven’t yet felt any limits, but I do realize that I may not have all the artistic insights or skills necessary to make a song develop as it should. One of the main reasons I love working on my own is because I have total artistic control: I don’t have to run every artistic idea passed “the rest of the band” before I record it. But on the other hand, I would really like to take Sympathy on the road someday, and for that I may need to make some sacrifices. I would like to think that the greatest moments are yet to come. But hey, only God knows at this point. . .

WP: Kris Verwimp did the artwork for Arcane Path. How pleased are you with it and will you use him again?

DF: I am very pleased with Kris’s work. I think that he did a great job of depicting what I asked him to do. The great thing is that he even improved upon my ideas and my vision for the cover art. The “arcane path” is a metaphor for the life of faith that believers are called to embark upon. I really like how Kris portrayed the path as being composed of dead believers from years and centuries gone by to show that our faith has been passed onto us by previous generations. It was a great insight. I would be happy to work with him again.

WP: So, what do you have planned next for Sympathy? Have you begun work on your next album yet? Will the direction be any different this time around?

DF: Yes, I have started working on a new Sympathy project. It isn’t quite large enough to be considered an album though. And as for expectations, I would say to expect much the same as the previous two releases: fast, heavy, and atmospheric. My goal, when I write Sympathy songs, is for them to sound like an onslaught of barely controlled chaos. I really like taking things in that musical direction, and I don’t have any plans to change that.

WP: You’re moving from Canada to Arizona here very shortly. Do you plan on searching for other band members in Arizona, or are you just resigned to the idea of being a one-man band for good.

DF: My eyes are always open for other musicians. Wouldn’t you know it, just when I am about to leave the school where I teach, I meet someone who is capable and willing to play in Sympathy with me. Too bad for me. I am sure that AZ will be fertile ground for meeting other musicians, at least compared to Saskatchewan. I wouldn’t mind either expanding Sympathy or joining another band myself and then keeping Sympathy as a side project. Both are viable options, I think.

WP: Over the past year, what are the top 5 albums that have received the most play by you in your spare time?

DF: (1) Sonata Arctica - Winterheart’s Guild (2003) (2) The Legion - Unseen To Creation (2003) (3) Carcass - Heartwork (1993) (4) Dimmu Borgir - Death Cult Armageddon (2003) (5) Bloodbath - Resurrection Through Carnage (2002)

WP: Has God been doing anything exciting in your life or has He taught you anything in the last few months that you’d like to share with the readers?

DF: God has been teaching me patience. I don’t like having to be patient. I tend to have difficulty learning these types of lessons because I tend to miss the point quite easily, but some of the circumstances that I have found myself in this year have required that I just trust God to work things out. That is very hard for me because I tend to be a problem-solver, so those times when you actually can take no course of action and must rely on God are very stressful for me.

WP: Any final comments?

DF: Strive for excellence in everything that you do. If you are a musician, practice hard and keep a journal of what you work on; and always make sure that you are practicing with a metronome.