Paul Groundwell (Thine) interviewed
** UK dark rockers Thine have a new full-length out. The Dead City Blueprint is probably an album not on your radar, unless you’ve followed the group since A Town like This back in the late ’90s. Should it be on your radar? Yes, if dark, melodic, melancholic, honest metal-infused rock is in your wheelhouse. Who do Thine sound like? Possibly somewhere between Riverside, newer Katatonia, and pre-Weather Systems Anathema. Don’t trust us? Stream two album tracks below, courtesy of Peaceville Records.
Holy gaps between albums! Is Thine the same band after 12 years between full-lengths?
Paul Groundwell: Well, in a literal sense only the bassist has changed since the last album, In Therapy. Person/band evolution-wise we’re probably much more refined. All a bit older (no stopping that one!), questionably wiser, few more tales to tell and scars to show for it. [Laughs] But really, it hasn’t felt like that many years, and had still been a productive period in the creative sense, but developing behind the scenes instead of in the spotlight, so to speak. The first track (“Brave Young Assassin”) was actually first made in 2003, so that’s the fossil of the album. But yeah, a long time overall. Lots happened. Best not to think about it actually. [Laughs]
How are the songs generally started? On guitar first? A particular melody line that starts things off?
Paul Groundwell: Usually, I’ll get a short melodic passage or a few important/poignant words in mind and build it from that. Sometimes I’ll just sing and record ideas ‘a capella’ and make the guitar melody to that, or play a simple rhythm and work out the progressions as it develops. Then, when recording the rough demos at home I always pile on the guitar layers, and see which mesh together best. Vocals are the main thing though. In the earlier days (demos and first album) it used to be more riff-based fragmented composition. Now it is a flowing whole. Difficult to fully tell where it all comes from. I know one song on this album started from overhearing a very short section (maybe 3 or 4 seconds) of a Kate Bush track, and just 2 or 3 notes on there got the imagination flowing. Mainly, it’s just trying to capture the essence of the moment though, before it fades.
This album was for the most part written in seven months. What happened to Thine during those seven months that sparked such a creative outburst?
Paul Groundwell: Nothing happened to Thine apart from us building some momentum with recent studio demo recordings, but it was a dark time for me, so in the scenario of sink or swim, it is better to immerse yourself in something constructive, and channel things in that way. The perfect catalyst. So, it is essentially a diary of a strange period with a sense of resolve through deconstruction and turmoil. But life is all about the journey and going with the tides; embracing both positives and negatives, because that’s what makes us.
“Flame of the Oak” has gotten a lot of attention. Why do you think this song has resonated so strongly with people?
Paul Groundwell: They probably hear an Opeth vibe and like it. [Laughs] But actually when first coming up with that one, the only thing I can really think of which I might consider as a slight influence on any of it was “Black Winter Day” by Amorphis, but not sure if that gets picked up on. It has a very poignant story behind that song, and is not an ode to a pyromaniac or anything. [Laughs] It is a piece about passing, and a lasting reminder of certain destructive forces which had been foretold but not foreseen. We weren’t really aware that Flame had been getting lots of attention, but nice to hear if that’s the case. I know that’s a favorite for some people.
There’s darkness to Thine. Where does that come from these days?
Paul Groundwell: Have always had a certain view of the world and people anyway, and I’m sure we’re all constantly shaped by our evolving experiences and observations. Some I think is from the underlying sense of emptiness and confusion we all feel within, to varying extents, from comprehending our real (lack of) fundamental purpose, to growing accustomed to who we actually are—strangers in our own shells, and the perpetual ticking of the clock. I think it is only natural to wonder what we’re sticking around for, no matter how many distractions we surround ourselves with. It’s a big burden, and since there are no true goals or guidelines on how to exist, that’s a huge weight on our shoulders in regard to retaining mental fortitude and resilience instead of caving in or turning to certain addictions or religion. We have to construct a reality around ourselves, but life is a worthwhile voyage of self-discovery nevertheless. A glorious triumph of engineering, yet all we are here for is seemingly to spread ourselves so that our traces live on—like any other virus. We’re a race in constant need of answers and reassurance, especially regarding what lies beyond, because we are generally ego-driven (or deluded). So ‘keep doubting’ (OK, that seems random, but much respect to any of you who know which great horror film that quote is from the end of, without Googling). So, the short answer to your question is, it’s always been there, just manifesting differently. But might as well make the most of your time, folks, or at least get acquainted with yourselves.
I really like how you’ve kept the tempo moving. There’s the moody, slow parts, but then there are songs where the tempo jumps. Like on “To the Precipice”. I gather that was necessary to give the album a bit more dynamism, correct?
Paul Groundwell: Yes, thanks, I hope this dynamic comes across, as the song order is arranged to try and keep things flowing in that regard, mainly the placement of the more up-tempo numbers. The dynamic did shift quite a lot though, as we originally had 14 songs, so 4 fell by the wayside quite far into the recording process. Three of these were more mid to up-tempo numbers too, and so we had to try and re-arrange things a little so as not to have too many prolonged periods of melancholy. Running time would’ve been over 70 minutes if all 14 were included, which was way too long and the album would have suffered as a result.
Is “The Beacon” a tribute to Peaceville’s doom roots?
Paul Groundwell: [Laughs] No, but it certainly has some doomy moments, and I know that when it came to recording the drum parts for that song, Dan had been rehearsing with My Dying Bride perhaps just the night before and was in doom-mode, and so ‘did an MDB’ on that song, as he said. [Laughs] Turned out well. The actual closest thing to an influence in regard to the feel when I came up with that song was Nirvana, on the chorus, though I think that might have just been coincidental come to think of it. Oh, and a feeling of nostalgia from an ‘80s TV comedy set in Spain for some reason. I don’t think anybody has deciphered the ending of that song yet either. People with knowledge of the Hellraiser 2 soundtrack might get an idea, to be all cryptic.
What’s happening lyrically? The Dead City Blueprint reads ominous.
Paul Groundwell: Sure does. Songs of loss, death, isolation, longing, perception, introspection, retrospection, detachment, numbness, destruction, brainwashing, inherited traits, sheep mentality, urban decay, devolution, transmissions, environmental/circumstantial long-term effects in childhood, change, renewal. There’s an exploration of mortality (even morality it could be argued), increasing isolation through virtual existence. Many themes throughout.
The cover also conveys foreboding. Where did the idea for the cover come from?
Paul Groundwell: Many years ago the idea for this album, conceptually (well, in regard to intended overall ambience), was ‘ghosts’ and ‘water’. Was thinking in the ethereal sense, the representation of slow motion silhouettes through liquid, and had made a few rough sketches of this underwater city filled with the ghosts of all inhabitants (all of us). Numb and in a state of limbo and perpetual routine. Then when it got to the time of recording this album the idea became more one of contrasting movement, turmoil, deterioration and evaporation, and so the city on the cover is evaporating. So it represents all you have built up around yourself through the years just fading away. That was the origin of the cover. Then the tree was added which is almost a shrine here, central, surrounded by flame. Lots of symbolism in there, with fire replacing water to represent the destructive force alluded to earlier. People can interpret it in various ways though—hopefully. There was actually another unused cover (and an entire booklet layout) all centered around transmissions, which was another theme which came along. Some of that has remained though, with the special coded messages in the booklet. And on “The Beacon”.
Thine’s struggled to find a spot. Where it belongs, actually. Does it belong in any particular genre?
Paul Groundwell:It seems difficult to belong, yes, but it has always seemed that way for us. At least it means we stand irrespective of popular genre or trend and just do our own thing, but sure, there are detrimental effects to that. At present we’d be seen as progressive-melancholy-rock or something I guess. [Laughs] We were toying with the tag of ‘post-doom’ at one point to try and define how we felt we were sounding. All just labels though. I think we’ve had problems with exposure, or at least in conveying to people what we are. We’re not a flavor of the month band and so I don’t think the general press get so swept up in acts like us on the build up to a release, naturally, and we’re not in a position to wave around too much marketing budget to make as big a difference there either, but when they hear it they seem to be impressed for the most part (can’t resonate with everyone though, perfectly understandable). Something I’ve observed from the reaction of this album is that the album is not as immediate as I expected. Takes a lot of digesting to truly get under the skin and uncover what it is about. Can get a good impression from reading some of the reviews how much investment has been made in the album by the listener. But that is fair enough. Time is short for everyone and precious to all. The reward for the listener investing time and effort on this album seems to be paying off for many people though. The rest? Up to them as to what speaks loud and clear to them, as with all music.
** Thine’s Dead City Blueprint is out now on Peaceville Records. It’s available HERE from Burning Shed. Fans of dark, melodic, melancholic metalish rock are well advised to check it out.