Mark Hensch ascends to interstellar majesty with Portland, Oregon's doom dreadnaughts Paranaut....and what questions he asks on the long, winding, and hypnotic cosmic freefall! Hop aboard and see what makes this band reach for the stars...
Thank you very kindly for conducting this interview with me...I've gotta say the only thing better than letting my mind wander through the valleys of your music is talking about how said valleys were forged! I'm very interested in hearing some of your answers....
HHH: First question...what exactly is a 'Paranaut?'
William: I don’t know, exactly. It is a name that we made up, rather than looked up. I think there is an actual word that has to do with skydiving, parachuting, and the like. I came up with a phrase, a word play of a sort, “Schizofraud Paranaut.” To make it more terse and easier to remember, we agreed to shorten it to just “Paranaut.” Later, I incorporated Schizofraud as a title for the business, promotional, and non-music aspects of Paranaut and contributing factions. For the record, even though the Black Sabbath ring was intentional, we didn’t name the band after a couple of Sabbath songs (Paranoid & Supernaut). I have heard that theory from people who were absolutely sure that that was the case.
HHH: Doom is one of the oldest, if not the absolute oldest forms of metal. How exactly do you feel Paranaut fits into this storied tradition of heavy music?
William: I would say that we are metal, and that we are music. Paul and Flex might even deny that we truly are “doom”. I would say that elementarily we were each individually influenced by the early masters: the heaviness of Sabbath, the groove of Zeppelin, the progressive and epic nature of Rush, and the dreamy psychedelia of Floyd. Of course, the music has progressed since then, and we’ve grown with it. Paul and I have taken influence from stoner rock, drone, and the modern progressives: Kyuss, Neurosis, Melvins, and Isis, to mention a few. Flex claims to be, simply, an adaptive musician; “Any instrument—any style.”
I believe that “doom” is a naturally occurring element of the universe. I don’t feel the need to scan paganist tomes or a satanic bible to find dark elements. Dread happens everyday. Heartbreak and tragedy happen everyday. Natural disasters happen everyday. Authors have taken inspiration from these very things for centuries. This is where I draw influence, and this is my kind of doom.
HHH: On that note, it is apparent you see your brand of doom as being somewhat progressive or experimental. What do you feel makes Paranaut so much more innovative than their peers?
William: I don’t necessarily think that we need to compare ourselves to or outdo any of our peers. I think the competition is more internal. We don’t want to make music that is boring or unfulfilling, and we get bored easily. We are constantly experimenting with different instruments, gear, techniques, etc. We even alter our songs for live performances. Between that and the improvisational nature that we all share, nearly every performance is unique… even if it is only slight. Some of our songs are loosely constructed on purpose, to allow for variations. “The Frog King” is the earliest example of this experimental turn. Shortly afterward, “Maelstrom” and “…Fallen” embraced this flexible style. They are rarely ever performed the same way twice.
HHH: A key part of the "Paranaut" sound in my opinion is a relative lack of vocals, and a greater emphasis on instrumental meanderings. Is this style done on purpose, in the belief that "music can speak louder than words" perhaps? If so, what exactly are you trying to convey?
William: Paul and I are both fans of instrumentals. After having done a lot of singing in our last band, Paul was happy to hand the mic over to me. I love screaming, but I’m no lyricist. From reading lyric sheets of artists like Helmet or, even more so with Melvins, I figured out that lyrics don’t have to make sense or rhyme or whatever. My lyrics have a theme or a feeling; they tend to “beat around the bush” and/or be indirect with regard to how they relate to the motive. I think Paul picked up on that, and we’ve had a lot of fun “noodling” around. I think of vocals as another musical instrument. It doesn’t matter what you’re saying, but how you say it and what emotion you put behind it. If you need a lyric sheet, you aren’t paying enough attention to the music. If you can’t feel what I mean, the lyrics aren’t going to help you.
HHH: There is something inherently unique about the way the guitars on The Hills Fell Silent turned out. How exactly did you get such lush, warm, and hollow sounding tones all at once? They are very difficult to describe!!!
William: Paul is a great all around musician and songwriter. He has been recording himself for over 15 years and has a pretty good idea of how to create the sound he wants. Guitar is his favorite instrument, and he excels at defining and re-defining his sound. Also, I think the semi-hollow body electric 12-string (featured in about half of our songs) contributes a lot to the particular sound of which you referred.
HHH: Seeing as you formed in only 2004, yours is a very young band. What is Paranaut planning in the future and what can we listeners come to expect?
William: I think our general plan is to get a label interested, work towards a tour or two, and see where that takes us. Hopefully, the listeners can expect a dynamic, ever- changing sound. The day our songs all start sounding the same, we should call it quits. That’s one bittersweet thing I remember about hearing that Kyuss broke up, back in ’97. I remember thinking how much it sucked that I never got to see them live; but then, I realized that they didn’t make a single song that sucked. As we have seen with so many bands; if they are around long enough, they’ll sell a turd or two.
HHH: What bands have inspired all of you the most?
William: Paul and I have known each other for about 6 and ½ years. I turned him on to Kyuss and the Melvins. He turned me on to Neurosis, Isis, and Sleep. We’ve also shared common interests in some of the more conventional classics like Robin Trower, Rush, Pink Floyd, and Gordon Lightfoot.
I am also quite fond of Baroque, Classical, and modern symphonic and chamber music; Bluegrass and certain forms of Jazz. I am also influenced by Harvey Milk, Pelican, Dead Horse, Obituary, and early Butthole Surfers. Though I’m fairly new to the Doom/Sludge/Drone genre, I’m really into bands like Earth, Boris, High on Fire, Roanoke, Aldebaran, and Warhorse. As I get older, I embrace mellower music such as Mogwai, Amber Asylum, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, and Tom Waits (all of which Paul turned me on to).
Paul is very fond of Godspeedyoublackemperor!, Mastodon, Converge, Mono (Japan), Genesis, Godflesh, Down, and many more.
Flex, being the eccentric one, is mainly into Led Zeppelin, Sammy Davis Jr., James Brown, Leo Sayer, Billy Squier, Boston, and Journey.
On the whole, I think we could all agree that Rush is a common ground…and who doesn’t like Black Sabbath (early Ozzy years)?
HHH: Few things are better for a band's mettle than playing live shows. How often do you guys hit the stage and what exactly is the typical Paranaut show like?
William: I truly wish we could have captured the raw energy of a live show on “THFS”. Live is where we shine. The sound fills the space; we dance on thick, murky vibrations from the amps. Flex gets that adrenaline boost and flutters like a mean (and loud) butterfly. Paul instinctually knows where it should all fall and creates a wall of both thick sludge and bright lightning. My job is simple: “Fuzz and Feedback.” Whenever I’m not thumping away on meaty riffs, I’m trying my hardest to create “Mind-bending noise.” I’ve been told that the shedr emotion that we exude transfers directly to the audience. It is virtually a spiritual awakening. We have probably averaged 1-2 shows a month over our two year existence. Last month (December), we played 4, and I expect we will be playing more frequently this year.
HHH: I personally find your music to be either inspiring or hopeful. Perhaps this is just my mistake haha, but why do you think such an aura would pervade your music so strongly?
William: It gets my rocks off! If you can feel what I’m feeling, through the music, why wouldn’t you like it? I could honestly say that it brings me great pleasure. On occasions, I’ve encountered, in our creative process, music that has actually spooked me to the soul. Scary, thrilling, exciting… it is similar to riding a roller coaster. Hopeful, inspiring… I have goodness in my heart, and I can’t hide it. It may be the only thing I have to share with everyone. I guess that’s the whole point.
HHH: Last one folks...if you as a band could say anything to the world at large now, what would it be? This is your chance to be heard!
William: Buy cds and vinyl. Don’t download music. Support music that you believe in.
Life is full of misery, everyday; find something to live for.