When most people think of Ireland, they probably conjure up mental images of verdant green fields and ever-flowing streams of whiskey, and if you think about folklore at all it’s probably all four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.
If that’s your picture of Ireland, then you really need to listen to From the Bogs of Aughiska, because Conchúir O’ Drona will definitely disables you of at least some of those romantic notions. Hailing from the Emerald Isle’s harsh western coastline, their third full-length Mineral Bearing Veins combines dark ambient, blackened noise, and lo-fi black metal into one engagingly harsh package, while the lyrics tell of Irish superstition, landscapes, and cursed fairy trees. It’s not quite like anything I’ve heard before, which is why I’m glad I got the chance to chat with O’ Drona about the places and legends that inspire his music. Pick up a copy of Mineral Bearing Veins from Apocalyptic Witchcraft Records here, and then check out our chat below.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey – so for starters, thanks for the interview. There are few things I appreciate more than an album that sends me down Internet research rabbit holes, and Mineral Bearing Veins more than fits the bill – so much so that I hardly know where to start. So why not start with the band’s name? I’ve attempted to look up Aughiska, which led me to Aughiska Beg, a tiny area near Ireland’s west-central coast whose name roughly translates from the Gaelic as ‘small field,’ and the equally tiny Aughiska More. I was not, however, able to find anything specifically relating to bogs in the area. You hail from Lisdoonvarna, a spa town to the east of Aughiska Beg. What’s the significance of Aughiska’s bogs? Is there any kind of folklore connected to them?
Conchúir O’ Drona: Aughiska More is the region I grew up in. It’s an area on the road to the Cliffs of Moher between Lisdoonvarna and Doolin in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland. When I was a child the place was a massive bogland (wetland created from a dead forest), but over the years the forest has been replanted and taken over the landscape. For such a small area it has so much interesting nature and has been a massive inspiration on my life. The word Aughiska (Each-Uisce / Aughisky) translates as ‘Water Horse,’ which is a malevolent supernatural water spirit in Irish mythology.
IMV: As I was preparing to write these questions, I listened through the entire From the Bogs of Aughiska discography, and heard how your sound has evolved over the last almost-decade. Your self-titled debut is on the dark ambient/drone end of the spectrum, and Roots of this Earth Within My Blood almost pushes into blackened noise territory at times (possibly the result of the guest appearance from Moires?). Mineral Bearing Veins, though, seems to have much more of a…’shape’ to it, if that makes any sense. It’s easily your most ‘black metal’ sounding record, but definitely not in any kind of straightforward way. How differently did you approach the songwriting process for this album compared to the previous two? Did you have an idea that you wanted to do something more overtly guitar-driven this time, or was that something that evolved as you were working on it?
CO’D: Mineral Bearing Veins is the first time I’ve worked with other musicians and the plan was always to push the dark ambient sound into black metal territory. The other guys have previously played in bands such as Altar of Plagues, Abigail Williams, For Ruin & Mortichnia and are masters of their craft, which made the transition easy.
IMV: Your last couple of albums have prominently featured storyteller Eddie Lenihan – “An Seanchaí” on Roots of this Earth uses dialogue from a short documentary called Tell Me a Story, and Mineral Bearing Veins incorporates a wonderful story about fairy bushes from another short documentary, The One Whitethorn Bush, in the song of the same name. How did you become familiar with Lenihan’s work? Have you talked to him about using his stories in your music? If so, I’m curious as to what he thought about it.
CO’D: Eddie performed as part of a town function in the Spa Wells, Lisdoonvarna when I was around five and I was captivated by his storytelling, which has stayed with me since then. When I first started writing music for FTBOA and wanted to add the storytelling aspect he was the only man for the job. Yes, we’ve talked to Eddie and he’s happy for us to use his work and we hope to work together a lot more in the future.
IMV: Speaking of Lenihan’s story, cursed trees seem to be one of the running themes on Mineral Bearing Veins, alongside other references to Irish folklore—like “Scuabtuinne,” which was the boat of the sea god Manannán mac Lir—geography, and the traditional Irish ballad “An Spealadoir.” In fact, in some ways the album feels a bit like an ethnography of the people of Co. Clare. It seems like all of The Bogs of Aughiska’s albums have broadly similar sorts of themes – what made you want to take that sort of thematic approach with the band? And how do these various elements tie in with the title Mineral Bearing Veins?
CO’D: I’m from a very unique and interesting part of the world which I think is massively overlooked, and my way of making people take notice to it is by writing music about the various legends, characters and landscape. The title Mineral Bearing Veins is a reference to The Burren, which is a beautiful but desolate region dominated by glaciated karst in North Clare.
An army officer during Oliver Cromwell’s campaign of persecution throughout Ireland is quoted as saying “There isn’t a tree to hang a man, water to drown a man, nor soil to bury a man” when describing The Burren.
IMV: With as densely textured and layered as From the Bogs of Aughiska’s music is, I imagine that your recording process must be pretty meticulous, lest the finished product ends up sounding like an impenetrable mass of sound. What’s that process like? Did you record Mineral Bearing Veins in a studio, or are you a DIY kind of band?
CO’D: Regarding the creation process, we are very DIY and have yet to record in a proper studio. I record the dark ambient parts using basic computer software and add field recordings to the audio, which is usually taken directly from the videotapes of the footage we use when we perform. I tend to mix this all in stereo to give it a cinematic feel, and then send my parts to the other lads who layer it with guitar, drums & vocals.
IMV: I noticed that Ken Sorceron, who also made a guest appearance on your last album Roots of this Earth Within My Blood, mastered Mineral Bearing Veins. As much as I dig Abigail Williams, on paper that’s not the most obvious of pairings. How did you first cross paths with Sorceron, and then how did you come to work with him on the new album?
CO’D: Long story short – I used to live in England and worked for Candlelight Records through which I met him and became very good friends with him. A few years later, Abigail Williams needed a bassist and I put Bryan (FTBOA, ex-Altar of Plagues) forward and they became good pals as well. When it came to getting MBVmastered, he was the first person I had in mind for the album.
IMV: Ken Coleman, who’s also done covers for Warfather and Morbid Angel, did the cover art for Mineral Bearing Veins. How closely did you work with him on the concept for the art? Can you unpack the image a bit? The rock formations look a lot like Stonehenge, but I’m not sure what the stag-like creatures are supposed to be. Something related to Cernunnos?
CO’D: I meet Ken when I lived and studies in Limerick in an infamous rock pub called ‘The Highstool’ around 15 years ago through a mutual friend in death metallers Zealot Cult. When I moved away from Limerick we lost contact, but I kept up with Ken’s work online and through the Terrorizermagazine CD covers he designed. I was blown away by the art he created called ‘Ancient Munster,’ and some years later we meet again, this time at the Siege of Limerick festival in Limerick’s Dolans’ where FTBOA were performing, and he agreed to do the artwork for Mineral Bearing Veins.I gave Ken a brief outline of what I wanted and he came up with some excellent art for the cover. The rock formation is the portal tomb Poulnabrone Dolmen, which is found in The Burren. The stag-like creatures are symbolising the ancient spirits of the land.
IMV: From the Bogs of Aughiska has a reputation as a fierce live band, but as I was looking for live footage on YouTube I stumbled across a mini-documentary from Fractured: Four in which you actually talk about your dislike of playing live. Has your opinion of gigging changed at all since then? What do you see as some of the biggest challenges in terms of translating your sound to the stage?
CO’D: I love the aspect of touring that involves travel, meeting new people and exploring new places, but oddly enough not so much the being on stage and performing part. My favourite part of a FTBOA gig is when the last note is played and we get to walk off stage. Regardless of my dislike for performing live, I also try to make each FTBOA performance as intense as possible and we do this by affecting every sense by incorporating visuals, the smell of incense, low-frequency sub basses and by wearing balaclavas, which help distance the performer from the music. The biggest challenge we have playing live is getting our visuals to work and having to work with DIY setups. In the future, I hope we can start playing more venues where a projector and screen are already set up.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the final word to the artists – is there anything else you’d like to add?
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