Simon Matravers is a name carved in stone.
the voice behind two of the most important Epic Doom Metal releases ("Lamentations" 1994 and "Halcyon" 1996).
After having been away from the scene for a period of about 20 years, what have you been doing all these years and what brings you back to the world of Doom Metal?
Yes, nearly a tombstone! I've never really understood how significant those releases were, or indeed how my contribution has influenced other musicians. In 1995 my Dad was terminally ill with cancer, and before being admitted into a hospice a few weeks before his death my Mum and I were caring for him 24/7. That coincided with the recording of Halcyon and following shows, which was incredibly difficult to cope with. I started drinking very heavily and found myself fading away - I couldn't perform well musically and the day came when I'd just had enough. The first signs of dissonance had crept in during the last days of the European tour as we all felt that we weren't being allowed to assume more comprehensive roles in the band - I don't blame Rich for wanting to protect his "baby" but things never felt quite right after that. Arguments continued sporadically, and got quite daft at one point when we fell out over our t-shirts not being black enough due to over-washing. I never gave the guys in SOLSTICE a chance to discuss things before I departed, although I got the impression that my cries for help would have fallen on deaf ears - I was full of anger and wanted to hurt them, but I only succeeded in hurting myself. It was a very lonely time. A couple of terrible years went by while I dealt with my drinking, after that I decided to go to university as I'd chosen not to pursue education when I was younger. Shortly after gaining my post grad in 2001 I found myself suffering from near constant stomach pain - a hospital visit later confirmed that I had developed pancreatic cancer. I've been fighting it ever since, although I came horrifically close to losing the battle around 2004-5. Through the love and care shown to me by my wife and family I gave up conventional treatment in favour of alternative remedies in 2006 and have made somewhat of a recovery. I happily left London for Devon in 2003 and got married to my soul mate - we had a daughter in 2006 and she gives me the best reason to continue the fight I could wish for. After coming out of the shadows I was surprised, and somewhat jealous, to discover many of my old friends were still making music - great music. SOLSTICE have gone from strength to strength despite themselves, albeit in a different direction, and I guess I felt I still had unfinished business and a point to prove. It's been very difficult, I'm not really any kind of musician at all.
Looking back on your SOLSTICE times what experiences and memories would you like to share with your Fans?
Traveling up to Yorkshire for the first time since I'd left the Army in 1989 was a real culture shock and something of a leap of faith. Rich had written to me and invited me to join the band but I was very uncertain about it. Gian talked me round with the assistance of copious ale, but I remember waiting outside the house in Ravensthorpe in the freezing rain for what seemed like hours for Rich to get home and let me in. I started to think it was all a terrible mistake - the first rehearsal in a freezing cold brick and stone basement was quite surreal. I never really felt comfortable, despite Rich and Chaz' best efforts. Recording in a studio for the first time was quite terrifying. I had no idea what I was doing and my voice wasn't responding well to the cold and damp! We didn't have much time to record and I think both releases suffered for it. However, by some miracle they have stood the test of time. High points? Sharing a stage with Rich, full of passion and such a consummate performer, always a privilege. A couple of outstanding moments - being mobbed in Poland by fans who probably mistook us for someone famous, and later in Lithuania at the Death Comes festival where we really blew everyone away - at least that's how I remember it! Touring with COUNT RAVEN was amazing, they're such a great bunch of guys. Same goes for Anathema, although I don't think they were too pleased with us stealing all their beer.
How important is Albion for Simon Matravers and how does it influence MATRAVIAN?
Albion represents an ideal, a time long lost where our kinship gave us strength and a solid identity. The modern Western world finds this concept unacceptable and I hope in some small way I can contribute to finding a path back to those times. Realistically though I feel the battle is already lost. To me, the Anglo-Saxon period defined the English people, we were not the same before and have not been since. Our birthright has been perverted and stolen, and our beliefs consigned to the realm of myth and legend to be usurped by a foreign religion, to be ridiculed by the uneducated and poorly informed. Despite having much in common with the Norse peoples we stand alone, it is this that creates the North/South divide in my country and a point of view that I respect. We may be cousins but our differences set us far apart - they are, after all, late invaders to our land.
In your opinion how different is the Metal scene today from the 90s, what has significanly changed during those years?
I've never been engaged with the "scene", never made music with an audience in mind or gone out to please any one group of people. I was quite obsessed with Purple/Sabbath/Dio/Iron Maiden/Rainbow etc back in the 90s and couldn't really see past that. I find it quite annoying to be pigeon-holed musically - genres only serve to constrain and handicap. My voice isn't really suited to Heavy Metal as such - trying to imitate Tony Martin in the bath doesn't qualify me to do the same on a recording haha! I found my own voice, with all its limitations, and struggle for it to be heard. Doom is an interesting sub-genre as it can be interpreted many different ways - the variety of sound and approach from bands today is staggering, but it's always got to be clean vocals for me. Guys like Rob Lowe, Messiah Marcolin and lately Michael Stavrakakis of DOOMOCRACY and Rich McCoy of MAJESTY IN RUIN really set the bar very high, and although emulating them is beyond my ability I still feel I have something to contribute. Also the Internet and new technology has changed everything, it simply wouldn't have been possible for me to write and record music individually back then.
If you were to express the work of MATRAVIAN in a different form of art, which would you choose and why?
I'm massively inspired by other solo artists, role-playing games, comics, fantasy literature and old British war films (they represent an idealised version of my country that I desperately crave due to being blessed with parents who hail from that era). The Matravian concept is quite nebulous but is gaining it's own identity as I progress musically. I've been writing a novel for over twenty years concerning many of the themes touched upon by my music, so I would have to say that the written word is very important to me. It has a kind of permanence that is generally unaffected by trends or fashion. Generally speaking music is suffering terribly under the burden of being freely obtainable to anyone with a computer and an Internet connection. Music is not free, respect the hard work of artists who create the soundtracks to soothe our lives!
What are Simon Matravers's future projects and plans?
To be a much better musician! I haven't been playing guitar for very long and I can't afford decent kit, but I think I'm progressing quite quickly for an old dude hehe!. It's so frustrating to have a mind full of ideas that I can't translate into musical reality. I'm currently writing tracks for an EP to be released this year, and then well, who knows? I'd like to release a full album at some point but the amount of work involved means that it is unlikely for the moment - I'm not really committing myself to anything that ambitious with any certainty. My greatest wish is to get back to playing live, but as a solo artist that will be difficult. If I could find the right people I might consider getting a band together but it's hard to commit when my health is so unreliable. Besides, I've come to enjoy working on my own.
To you the final word.
It's been a strange and wonderful year, so much has happened so quickly and I'm still trying to catch up with everything that's happened while I've been away. I've been shocked and overwhelmed with the positive feedback I've received following the CD release, I'm the first to admit that the quality is not there yet but it seems to have affected people very positively regardless. As much as I'd like to take all the credit for what has resulted from my decision to re-ignite my musical desires, a great deal of respect and gratitude is due to a certain Mr Castaldini of Envoy of Death Records who has shown incredible faith, determination and passion, not to mention entrusting his own money into giving me an outlet for my music. He believes so strongly in what he does that I can only kneel in awe and pay homage to his extraordinary dedication. I firmly believe 2015 heralds great things for MATRAVIAN and doom in general.
IN FATUM VERITAS - BIBAMUS, MORIENDUM EST
("In doom there is truth - let us drink, for we must die")