Strange Aeons is the brainchild of Steve Lines, and here Jim Xavier interviews him to try and find out more about Strange Aeons.
Jim: We'll start with the obvious question first. What gave you the idea for Strange Aeons?
Steve: It was while I was working on the songs for the third Stormclouds album Sleep No More. I had decided that I wanted the lyrics to the songs on Sleep to have a literary/fantasy flavour and I began writing material influenced and inspired by my favourite books and authors. This included a couple of songs inspired by H. P. Lovecraft. At the same time I'd decided that I wanted Sleep to sound different to the previous album Nightmares in the Sky so I wrote to a guitarist friend of mine, who goes under the name Childe Roland, asking him if he'd play lead guitar on the album. He agreed and during the course of working on the songs for Sleep I began to formulate the idea of an album devoted entirely to Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos. I knew that I could write lyrics for Childe Roland to work on and that whatever songs he came up with would form a nice contrast to whatever Stormclouds material I might write. So there it was, the idea for Strange Aeons was born!
Jim: What were your aims with Strange Aeons?
Steve: Firstly it gave me the opportunity to try something that I'd always wanted to do - a project that blended the underground music scene with the small press scene. I've long been an active member of both and felt that they seemed to exist entirely separate from each other with very little cross over. Secondly I've been a fan of Lovecraft from the early 70's when I first read his stuff in the Panther paperback editions and I've always wanted to add something of my own to the body of work inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos.
Jim: So, how did you start on the project?
Steve: Well first I began by writing a few more songs for Stormclouds to record and then I wrote the lyrics to The Hounds of Tindalos and The Necronomicon and sent them down to Bath for Childe Roland to write the music and record them in his Aeon 7 Studios. Within a few months I had a handful of songs and the album began to take shape. I decided that I wanted to include writers and poets on the album and that the sequence of tracks would be poem, song, poem, song. I obviously needed some material and some people to read the poetry. I wanted the spoken poetry/prose pieces to be similar in style to those on the Fungi From Yuggoth tape with the voices backed up with suitable eerie and strange sound effects and music.
Jim: How did you get the big names to contribute?
Steve: I'd mentioned the project to John B. Ford and he was the first to send me a tape of himself reading some of his own work. He'd also mentioned the project to Simon Clark, who wrote and offered to contribute to the project as well. Heartened by this I decided to write to Ramsey Campbell and ask if he'd be interested in reading a piece or two. To my delight he agreed and sent three pieces. Slowly word began to get around because both Tim Lebbon and Joel Lane wrote and asked to be included. Then I decided I'd write to Robert M. Price because I wanted to try and get as many of the major Lovecraftian authors as I could and try to make Strange Aeons the definitive Lovecraftian album. I heard back from Bob who also agreed to read for the album and a week or so later I also heard from Joseph S. Pulver, Sr. offering his services. Bob had passed my letter on to him. Within a month or so Joe sent me a tape of ten or twelve pieces of Lovecraftain poetry recorded at his 'nightmarium' which featured the voices of Joe Pulver, Bob Price Michael Cisco and Susan McAdam, reading the works of Richard L. Tierney, Ann K. Schwader, Lovecraft, Lin Carter, F. B. Long and others. The tape was marvellous and contains much which wouldn't fit on to Strange Aeons but will appear if ever there is a Volume Two. Now I had almost everybody I wanted, except one: Brian Lumley. I wrote to Brian outlining the project and he agreed to contribute two poems to the project. It all went very well and everybody who contributed did so without reservation and with enthusiasm.
Jim: What about all the other bands on the album? Was it the same process?
Steve: Pretty much. I picked a few bands with whom I'd been in contact and whose music I was a fan of and wrote asking if they'd be interested in doing a song for the project. I would write the lyrics and they would write and record the song in whatever style they felt suited. In this way I got excellent material from The Petals, Fireaxe, Astral Weeks and Rod Goodway.
Jim: And what of the other bands involved?
Steve: I've tried to get as many friends included on the project as I can. Both my son Matt Woodward and nephew Danny Maisey play backwards guitar. My girlfriend Lorretta Mansell reads one of the poems, as does Kevin Broxton, a long-time Stormclouds fan, Lovecraft fan and thoroughly nice bloke. As you know a lot of the other bands are in fact invented names, and many of them are my own side-projects. Here's a quick run down of my pseudonyms: Black Monolith, The Gugs, The Zoogs, Thunderhead, Lewis Carter, Bradley Dexter, Randolph Evans, Lucy Francis, Holly Hudson, Ken Malone, Poppy Peterson, Mark Phillips, Stephen Whately, Emily Zann and Steven Zann. All the other names are real, honest!
Jim: How did you go about recording the spoken pieces?
Steve: I was sent tapes of the various authors reading their work. These were of varying quality - some had a lot of tape hiss and some were very well recorded. I then put these onto my Porta-studio and added various FX and guitar and keyboard sounds. I took a lot of weird noises from horror films and used keyboard effects and lots of backwards stuff which I recorded behind the vocals. The wind effect was used a lot for two reasons: one it provides atmosphere and two it helps to cover up the tape hiss!
Jim: You've included a bonus CD with the album which contains demos and extra tracks, why?
Steve: Strange Aeons was originally planned as a double vinyl album as well as a double CD, but due to the fact that most people don’t buy vinyl nowadays, I decided to drop the vinyl idea and stick to a double CD. The idea was that the vinyl album would be on CD#1 and CD#2 would include extra tracks, different mixes, alternate versions and demos. Also it gives people a chance to hear and see how the album was built up. Sometimes demos capture something which is lost when the song is re-recorded.
Jim: How long did the cover artwork take?
Steve: It didn't take too long, about two or three weeks (remember I have a full time job!) I enjoyed working on some full colour Lovecraftian paintings and I wish I had the opportunity to do more!