Bezaelith: From around the promotional time of Gramarye onward, we've been focused on assembling a team that would enable a composer representing each instrument on the album to have a voice in how each instrument plays into both composition and mixing aspects of the final piece. For the first two albums, most of the time was spent for me in my studio composing guitars, synths, vocal lines and deciding the lyrical and thematic material that would be conveyed over pre-recorded drums. The choices as to what would or would not be on the record melodically were mine to make, and while that's a good kind of autonomy for everyone to have for a while, it gets dull, because when you work with someone who inspires you and challenges you to stretch in new ways, that gives you a million more iterations and directions to explore. This was a dynamic I've wanted for a long time in terms of composition in the band, and I'm stoked to hear how that bond sounds on record.
2.In 2020 you have a new album coming out, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
Bezaelith: Oresteia is different because it tells a story and represents the work of five composers and players. Previously, our releases were composed primarily by myself over pre-recorded drums that for the most part, remained unchanged between rough and final drafts. For Oresteia, we wanted to have a live player representing each instrument in both composition and execution. We also wanted to move from primarily philosophical texts to the telling of a narrative. People are obsessed with narrative and story, so instead of philosophy like Rervm, or texts themed in sorcery like Gramarye, we really wanted there to be a sense of being taken somewhere from the first to the last track and for us, a story provided that
3.Over the years you have had lyrics inspired by the writings of Aeschylus, Homer, Lucretius, Greek and Roman Mythology, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in those topics?
Bezaelith: I've been a teacher for over a decade, specializing in English, but History is a huge component of the content taught on any given day in class, because it's the context of human rationalization and our world at any given moment in time. History gives us the "why" we do what we do, but with the 20/20 hindsight to know how wise those decisions and reactions were in time - what caused a war, what created an Empire, what killed or saved thousands? Mythology is cool because it's how people fantasized thousands of years ago. It's the cartoon caricatures of their dreams and hopes, their stories that gave explanations where science had not yet provided answers. It's a window into beliefs that have changed like watching the same place in a river. The river is still there, but everything is different. At least in the past version, we have the "why" most of the time, and the perspective to learn from it.
4.In the past you also have touched on Aleister Crowley, and Occultism, how did you get interested in the more esoteric point of views?
Bezaelith: I grew up in the church, and was not given a choice about attending church until after I was confirmed. I started to feel what Stephen Fry would later put so eloquently into words probably around first grade, when I was sat down with a group of Sunday School children and shown an 80's video (this was in the 80's, speaking of ancient history) of these teenagers who had been in a theoretical tragic car accident. The teenagers are all dead, but they get split up. The ones who were "confirmed" went in an elevator to "heaven". The ones who were not were placed in a red fiery elevator to "hell". The whole thing's presided over by some dude in a suit looking like a stockbroker. I think it was in this moment that my child brain called "bullshit". From that moment on I decided that if I had no power to leave the classes or the ceremonial stuff that I would challenge myself to explore new modes of thought and belief. The first book I stole was Stephen King's "Pet Sematary". I understood that this was not a religious book, but when I asked if I could read it and was told no, this was also unacceptable to my child brain, so I read it, sex scene and all, during elementary school (it was rad.) Here I was presented with a horror story, not necessarily religious in nature, but it was a different perspective of everything: from life and death, to whether animals have souls, to the fears that scar us. I had just lost my little sister to pneumonia and so there was a lot of patronizing sounding rhetoric at church that I didn't think was the full story. I understood the regular people's fears in that horror novel better than I understood condemning others to eternal suffering for not being confirmed in a belief system, and the funny thing was both of these sources ultimately read like fiction to me - everyone loves a good story. From there I attended Temple with some of my Jewish friends, hung out with the witches, dubbed "Wiccans" by the 90's teen years, and found myself asking questions to members of all religions.
Occultism fascinated me because it gives the practicioner the sense of being the pilot in the situation - some things are under your control, a lot is not but some things really are. Whether this is all illusory depends on each person, but in terms of the belief system, one is not helpless, one is not a sheep, one is not oblidged to tithe their body and soul and children to be in the club. You are not on your knees in a building with the masses of predominantly poor and uneducated. There's no altar boys to abuse. There's just you. You are totally alone like everyone else who is alone in nature, feeling alone and wanting answers, with some control. Occultism was the reverse pole to consumer-believer-culture. For once I wanted to put that rebellion and freedom into sound. For Gramarye I wanted to capture that freeze-frame in my exploration where I felt for just a bit that I could suspend the disbelief etched in my brain since that church basement film where I had that "One Born Every Day" moment. I wanted to suspend that moment of for once believing in something, as I could suspend perhaps a memory of myself walking on a mountain trail and imagining that I could hear the songs on the record being given to me by those mountains. It was a beautiful exercise in mental magic, and I guess it worked, and maybe there is a case of the occultism direction then. I think all of our life is exploring something, learning lessons somehow. Gramarye was the words of 5 sorcery-themed texts, and the sounds that I found up in the hills.
Ultimately, I left occultism in my readings, and passed through Buddhism and Taoism, and then backwards in time in to ancient philosophies. Nowadays I read mostly fantasy and sci-fi, some horror. I decided that human faith is best as an exploration than a singular destination, and so I can't brand myself as a member of any belief club. Occultism was the most fun for sure, Taoism the most peaceful, Buddhism filled with light, but in the end I had unanswered questions for them all. At least I have Gramarye as a memory of that place in the river for me.
5.What is the meaning and inspiration behind the name 'Lotus Thief'?
Bezaelith: I'm the kid that stole the Stephen King book. I wanted to know what the adults loved and feared about it. I wanted to know everything. I think every kid has some kind of memory of a time they deviated from the norm, broke the rules for the sake of learning something. Sometimes those broken rules are like a game of chutes and ladders. Break a rule and touch the oven and learn a fast lesson about fire. Break a rule and join a fight to kick the ass of a bully, and learn a fast lesson about friendship and not really mind the principle's office. Somehow, each of our journeys are our own. Knowledge is not to be begged for, or paid for: it's to be taken. Across the world, the lotus is most often a symbol of enlightenment through learning and the gift of knowledge. Throughout our lives, we seek knowledge, and sometimes the most treasured things we come to know are the lessons we have taken without asking. Lotus Thief was something that I created from almost a kneejerk reaction, in that it was just the right time in my life to generate this material that seemed to come from someplace other than myself. A lot of artists I know often feel like transmitters, as opposed to sources. To me, Lotus Thief, more than any band I've ever participated in or composed for, is a transmitter experience, and through that experience, I feel I have gained so much knowledge about myself and the universe I am in.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
Bezaelith: this is personally my favorite cover so far in it's simplicity. The Rervm and Gramarye covers have who Alex Trinkl over at Irrwisch ArtDesign calls "The Thief" character - which I love. But I wanted Orestiea to represent a strong directional change both in its building blocks and even in its cover image (you can see Thiefy inside). The flower spurting blood is a strong image, it's' violent but beautiful at the same time, and these were the feelings that the album conveys. Oresteia as a narrative work is centered on bloodshed and its aftermath. We needed a cover that told that story, from a male and female perspective, because the play is also from both sexes. This was the beautiful and brutal thing that ended up being a perfect symbol for our work on this piece.
7.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
Tal R’eb: It was an honor and privilege to play Prophecy Fest in Balve. We had a nice serendipitous moment where our video projection displayed “The End.” right as our set ended. Everyone seemed attentive and I’m grateful we were able to present our music in such a unique space. I try my best to disconnect consciously from my stage performance, since I don’t think I perform as well if I’m thinking about my physical movements. I try to actively listen and observe what’s happening around me and let my muscle memory guide me. Overall, if I’m able to form an intuitive connection with the music and the audience, I feel more satisfied.
8.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
Bezaelith: Yes. We have a record release show coming up in SF on Friday January 17th at Bottom of the Hill with two local bands I love, Older Sun and Brume. Brume's just released an awesome album in 2019, so it will be great to have both our new pieces up for the show. Lotus Thief is a big band to move around, and our performances are not a simple blues set. There's a lot of tech stuff, and a lot of equipment. We will be periodically doing tours when we get the right offers for fests and shows that give us good reason to pack up and present our work.
9.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black, doom and post metal?
Bezaelith: I think this can be best illustrated on the "press" page on lotusthief.com. People think our music is its own creature, and it strikes many listeners differently. One of the best thing this band has given me is the chance to have random email conversations with the listeners who reach out to talk about the music. Sometimes they hear something I did not, sometimes we are on the identical wavelength. One writer wrote to me about listening to a song before going under for surgery, and this may have been the greatest honor of my life, that someone admired what I did enough to take the risk that this could be the last thing they heard in this life. Even those who have hated the music have given me something to think about - like the guy who fantasized about being a Unicorn and shitting out Rervm in a stream of rainbow (you bet I kept that on the press page). If anything, LT seems to give people something to explore that isn't a fast food music option. That we did that is a lifetime achievement goal upon itself for us. But that 100% of the conversations I have had with listeners and reviewers have been amazing makes this a worthy exploration.
10.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
Tal R’eb: We’ve largely composed the next record and we hope to incorporate more instrumental texture, particularly acoustic guitars, into our sound on that piece. I think the next record is a little darker and more sinister in tone, with some nods to classical music (particularly in the Romantic era) as well as 80's music.
Bezaelith: Ascalaphus and I are also in a side project which will be announcing a signing in the next few weeks/months. Expect another beautiful and extremely dark album to be in the release gears very soon, of a different flavor than Lotus Thief. We're super excited about that.
11.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence on your newer music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
Tal R’eb: I’m not sure if the influences are immediately apparent, but Agalloch, Krallice, King Crimson and Fennesz were some of the artists I drew inspiration from during the last album process. Some recent musical dives have been with Slow (the Belgian doom band), Thergothon, Erik Satie and Mgła.
12.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
Tal R'eb: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview us. We’re deeply grateful for everyone who’s taken an interest in our works and the buzz around the latest album. We also want to thank the Prophecy team for helping and supporting us. Oresteia comes out 1/10/2020 - please visit our website (lotusthief.com) or Prophecy’s website for more information. We’re all extremely excited to release this album and art book and hope the music can be meaningful to others.