Interview - Most of Moonlight - "Paganism is my way of life"

 Moss of Moonlight is an american duo, founded in 2010 in Bellingham. They have only two releases on their account so far, yet the last EP "Winterwheel" is already a good piece of music - an interesting mix of black/folk metal with ritualistic attitude. Some people says that there are no good pagan metal bands in USA - Moss of Moonlight defenitely give the lie to it! Check out what Jenn and Cavan have to say about their creativeness, Old English language and some other things.

1. Hello there! First of all congratulation - your EP "Winterwheel" makes a really great impression. How fans reacted on your last realease? You get many support from countries beside US?
Jenn: Thank you! We've received excellent support from people across the globe. (Much gratitude to everyone!)

2. Your music is being labeled here and there as a black/folk metal, but you defenitely don't sound like  a typical representative of this subgenre. It can be heard that you two are inspired by many different things. Can you tell me about your musical inspirations - not only this metal, but also folk?
Cavan: We certainly don’t limit the music that inspires us. There’s an array of music we take from; it all depends on what feels appropriate for what we are trying to convey. Often times, it’s not so much a particular band influencing us, but perhaps an instrument and the history and meaning behind that instrument. For instance, Hraefne was deeply inspired by the cow horn played in the song. You can hear all the grittiness and grooves of even just the horn's physicality, and that texture and viscera adds an extra layer of feral honesty to the song.

3. To be honest I haven't listen to your debut album "Seed". Can you tell  how different it is comparing to your last EP?
Jenn: Hm. Perhaps a little more frenetic, and a bit less focused?  More epic, and powerful in a bombastic sense, certainly.  We were more focused on spilling our guts into our music, so I think there's a different sort of gutteral honesty present in it, that's more subtle in Winterwheel (which is a tighter bound album—cyclic, you could call it - that focuses on learning and paying homage).

4. "Winterwheel" has a very ritualistic attitutude - it sounds like a soundtrack for wandering alone in some misty mountains. That was the main goal you wanted to achieve? I must admit that I am impressed when those neofolk influences take up. I mean especially the last track, highly influenced by that kind of playing.
Jenn:  Again, thank you. Creating a ritual was certainly the goal, to create a musical winterscape, a reflection of the progress and decline of the cold season throughout the whole of the year. It seemed only appropriate for it to be imbued with a dark neofolk backbone.

5. By the way - do you like trips to the mountains, haha?
Jenn: Of course, ha. You can't truly write about the mountains without going into them.

6. Many parts of vocals seem to be inspired by Wardruna. I simply ask: what do you find the most special in this band? And how did you enjoy their last album "Runaljod - Yggdrasil"?
Cavan: Runaljod was a pleasant addition to my music collection. Wardruna really captures the essence of the old ways, and it’s a breath of fresh air for those of us who seek the gods through music, as sort of a modern skaldic practice of Paganism. 

7. How looks your composing process? While writing new music, are you more focused on improvising and flow or is it more a matter of deliberated concept for each song?
Cavan: There are certainly melodies that begin as improvisations, but evolve into something more.  I'll sit down and hack out a whole song, sometimes in one sitting, then have Jenn listen to it (and rip it apart, oftentimes).  She'll begin working on drum parts and lyrics once the song's basic structure is laid out, and she's satisfied with the direction things are headed in.  But even after we've moved past that more fluid stage of songwriting, where you're just playing and writing more than thinking, we still strive to maintain the flow of a song—we never want to bore the listener.
One thing we pay special attention is a certain tightness that binds all the song of an album together—you could call it theme, or concept, or narrative, I suppose (depending on the album, and what we're trying to accomplish).  An album should have no weak songs, everything should be woven together.  No song is ever truly finished until the album's concept is finalized, and the song has been carved properly by that concept. 

8. Are you currently working on new material? What musical areas do you want to explore in the future?
Jenn: We're working very slowly, and mindfully, on our next album. Thus far, we've turned our gaze back home (stepping away from Anglo Saxon paganism, for now), to this story we want to tell, about a wandering warrior-bard returning to her seaside home.  There's actually a lot of research to be done for us to tell the tale properly (reading and experiencing things like biodynamics, wildcrafting, and permaculture), so we're taking our time. We have a a couple songs written/half-finished, and a definite album title, but everything else is still underground.

9. I must admit that as for totally underground band you've achieved very good sound for "Winterwheel". Can you tell me how was the recording session? It was hard to achieve such a good production?
Cavan: The recording for this album went quite well. Our first album taught us a lot (since we did all the engineering ourselves, at a recording studio at Jenn's college), so keeping those lessons in mind, Winterwheel was very fluid. It was still a lot of work, however, since it’s just me and Jenn playing all the instruments ourselves.   But our life was made much easier, since most of the audio engineering was conducted by Jimmy Hill at Amplified Wax, in Spokane, Washington—he's a great guy, and really knows how to keep things relaxed during a recording session. We had a vision, and as an engineer who understands metal, he really helped us capture what we wanted.

10. OK, now let's talk about lyrics. Your debut album "Seed" was considering a concept of Cascadia. Can you tell me more about it? It seems that it is some kind of world that you've invented for musical purposes?
Jenn: Cascadia in and of itself is very much a real place (a bioregion), but yes, the Cascadia of SEED was more speculative in nature. It had to be, because we were telling the story about a rebellion that had yet to occur, a rebellion that (hypothetically) creatures an independant nation called Cascadia.

11. Your second release, "Winterwheel", is focused more  on the old anglo-saxon paganism. Can you tell me something more about it - why have you chosen such topic, and what story is hidden behind each song? Or maybe it's a conceptual album?
Cavan: We find much spirituality within our homeland, Cascadia. But for this EP, we wanted to turn inwards and explore Paganism and spirituality on another level. We wanted to focus on one aspect of our heritage and the Anglo-Saxons were a nice crossover between us. Though there is much Old English literature which still survives, it does not pertain (or has been altered to the point that it doesn't pertain)  to the old Pagan ways. In one regard, this is disappointing because of the lost knowledge, but on the other hand, it allows for much needed exploration. Each song on Winterwheel was meant as an offering to an individual god: Thunor, Hretha, Freya, and Woden, repectively. The stories for each song are rooted in the lore associate with each deity. Some lore was reconstructed using surviving Teutonic literature, while some was developed along the way.

12. There are many verses written in old English. Do you both study this subject?
 Cavan: I have studied Old English in a classroom setting in the past, and still continue my learning as a sort of hobby. Being a linguist, it’s a nice way to utilize my knowledge and challenge myself.  In the context of the album, the Old English was used as a means of strengthening our connection with the gods, and speaking a language once more familiar to them.
Jenn: Alas, I have not studied Old English beyond the bounds of this album, and apologize for my (hopefully not too terrible) mispronunciations.

13. How serious is this whole pagan thing in your case? Do you treat it in some religious way, or as some kind of worldview and wisdom of forefathers? Or maybe it inspires you only as a kind of literature?
Jenn: For me, my paganism is wild. I don't really believe in gods or goddesses as real entities, but rather as a way to delineate the forces of chaos and the cosmos.  Their stories and distilled natures are like interpreters for me—but then again, I use science, science fiction and fantasy literature, drumming, and storytelling as interpretation, too.  At it's core, my spirituality comes from my love of the cosmos, nature, the unknown .  I'm Pagan, yes, but unexpectedly and weirdly so.
Cavan: Paganism is my way of life.

14. OK, back to the band. You released "Winterwheel" by yourself, while your debut was realeased be Cascadian Alliance. Yet as far as I know this label belongs to you. Why did you decide to work for your own?
Cavan: Actually, the EP was a Cascadian Alliance release, as well. We probably just haven’t updated the website, haha. We wanted to start the band off as independent artists, not bound to the expectations of a record label, so that we could look at what we’ve done and know that the concepts and creativity were purely our own.

15. OK, at the end I'd like to ask you some short, random questions, starting with the letter "m" (like Moss of Moonlight). What do you think about:
- modern folk metal scene?
 Jenn: Some good, some bad. Could do with some innovation.

- mead?
Jenn: Mead? Meh. This is a terrible thing for a fan (and musician) of folk metal to admit, but I dislike booze.  Bread (or, in the case of mead, honey) is for eating, not drinking!
Cavan: I have to disagree with Jenn on this one. There are a great many meads and beers out there worth celebrating, and Cascadia boasts of a plethera of distinguished microbreweries.

- metal fans in general?
Jenn: Some are assholes, some are lovely specimens of lung-possessing hunks of carbon. Really, we're just human beings like everyone else- maybe a little more obsessive than usual, but still. Human. Personally, I love a good show not only for the music, but because I feel at home. I'm with my people.

16. Before we end, please share with us your plans for the future.
Jenn: At the moment, band shirts! We just sent in an order for a new design (by yours truly) for Winterwheel of an elk with roots-for-hooves (in honor of our interpretation of the Anglo Saxon goddess Hretha).  A contest may be in the works to win the original artwork. And, of course, we're working slowly (very slowly), steadily, on our next full length album.

17. That's everything from my side. Thank you very much for your time, last word traditionally belongs to you. Cheers!
Cavan: Yeah, pick up a copy of Winterwheel if you haven’t already and experience the ritual with us. Also, be on the look out for Moss of Moonlight in 2014, because there’s gonna be a full length album that takes it even further! Thanks for letting us be a part of your Heathen website!

Single from "Winterwheel":

Photos: band's archieve.
Interview by Vladyka 2013. Please do not copy this interview without HA'Z permission. Respect the copyrights!

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