Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
I first discovered Louisiana’s Forming The Void back when they shared their official video for ‘Three Eyed Gazelle‘ a couple of years ago. The video and the band’s style of vastly exploratory, experimentally progressive metal made me an instant convert to the FTV camp. The album that the video hailed from, ‘Skyward‘, racked up some respectable reverence for the band.
That was back in 2015, so I – along with countless others – awaited with restless anxiety for any further developments from Forming The Void. It was about six months ago that news began to trickle forth that a new album was in the works and nearing its completion. With reactivated excitement beginning to bubble again, it wasn’t too long before the official announcements came that confirmed our hopes. Forming The Void was indeed at it again.
Now here we are just a handful of weeks since the release of their latest effort, ‘Relic‘, and Forming The Void are all over the place. Accolades for the new release have rampantly raged forth from everyone that hears the new opus, all sharing the universal oneness of admiration for the album.
Guitarist/vocalist James Marshall and I had previously discussed doing an interview at some point. Joining James in Forming The Void are guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Luke Baker and drummer Jordan Boyd. Together, the quartet is riding high on the resounding support for the new record. Progressive, experimental, transcendental… these are all proper descriptions for ‘Relic” and the music of Forming The Void itself.
I recently fired some questions to the guys and guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa saw fit to reply to them, our exchange is below. I present you Riff Relevant‘s Interview with Forming The Void!
RR – Forming The Void is in its infancy so to speak, starting in 2013. How did the band first get started and who would you all cite as your own primary influences?
FTV – James and I have been friends for years and years (and years). We went to college together, worked out together, did all kind of things together, except for music, ironically. We both knew that the other was a serious musician, but nothing ever happened between us until the winter of 2012, when James showed me a demo he had been working on.
It made me eager to play with him and he soon enlisted Jordan (drums), from another project they were in. We struggled through several temporary bassists before finally convincing Luke to join, and then the rest was history. I think our deep background as friends has been an invaluable asset in helping us weather the ugly parts of being a band… so it’s probably good that it took us as long as it did to get started.
As far as our primary influences go, you will get a different answer from every member of the band. We all have different musical backgrounds, ranging as far as Jazz, Death Metal, and traditional Middle Eastern music, but our unifying element is everyone’s love for the timeless bands such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Black Sabbath and the modern bands leading the way in our vein like Mastodon, Conan, Torche, etc.
RR – 2015’s Skyward and the just-released (by this time) Relic have garnered immense acclaim and praise from journalists and fans alike…how do such results resonate with the band?
FTV – The positive attention we’ve received has been mind-boggling! It’s both incredible and humbling to see so many people take notice of and enjoy our music. We’ve certainly paid some dues and it is rewarding to see the outcome of being persistent.
RR – Walk us through FTV’s actual songwriting process a bit. Who does what and when? Where does the lyrical inspiration come from?
FTV – We’ve all become versed in complementing each other’s writing styles. James might show me some riffs he’s been working on, and I’ll just hear some ideas in my head that go well with them…fast forward an hour and we’ve got the framework for maybe 3 or 4 songs. Sometimes a spontaneous moment happens in the ‘jam room’ and we go back and make a song out of it. Sometimes somebody will bring the framework of a song mostly figured out, but what I love about this band is how much everyone has a hand in the creation of our songs.
Marshall draws a lot of his lyrical influence from many of the grand works of mythology and fantasy. He’s also a sucker for Mark Twain and ‘The Cosmos’.
RR – There seem to be clearly defined mystical elements in the music. If you agree, where do you attribute this influence coming from?
FTV – I guess the combination of our life and musical experiences has just made us a bunch of mystical dudes. I am heavily influenced by Sufi music, and Marshall is big on exploring the ideas of death, enlightenment and reincarnation in his lyrics. Several of us have grown up playing spiritual music in churches. It was just a meeting of mystical minds. A perfect mystical storm.
RR – Two Words: Why Kashmir?
FTV – We had been exploring the idea of a cover for some time. A song that represented our collective musical identity, that we could get creative with. One night we were driving home from a show, and I blurted out to the guys “We should cover Kashmir. In Drop A. Way slower.” Some eyebrows were raised, and we just about had the basic arrangement figured out by the time we got home. It was a good ride.
RR – One of the most intriguing aspects of FTV is the band’s official videos. How involved with making them are you all? Do you all come up with basic ideas or other elements in helping to bring them to life? Personally, I think it would be cool to see some thematically connecting ties in the visual side of FTV… perhaps a film short or something. Ideas?
FTV – For our first two videos, we worked closely with a good friend, Dave Rabalais of Randy Diddly studios. We had the basic ideas and he fleshed them out greatly with his gifted camerawork and directing abilities. ‘Unto the Smoke’ was made by an artist who goes by ‘Gryphus’ and he used a lot of footage from the movie ‘The Fog’ (1980). We didn’t really have any input beyond what the music inspired him to create but the results were awesome. There’s plenty of visual ideas floating around.
RR – I know you all play in your regional vicinity regularly… have you all toured much/any on a larger scale (and if no, any plans to)? In fact, hypothetically, if FTV could tour with any three bands past or present, who would they be and why?
FTV – We’re hitting up the Houston/New Orléans stretch as much as our humble non-rockstar lives will allow, and we have some plans to reach out a little further this year. We’re also striving to play in more music festivals around the nation.
If FTV could tour with any 3 bands from any era It would probably have to be Mastodon, Alice in Chains, and Pink Floyd.
RR – With the release of Relic imminent, what is next for FTV in 2017? How did the band’s partnership with Argonauta Records come about? (Relic has since been released and has astounded people everywhere. – Pat Riot)
FTV – We were connected to Argonauta by our good friend and label mate Jason Ogle who plays in ‘Electric Age’. Currently we are well underway on the next record. Looking forward to finishing with that and hitting the region hard with shows this summer.
RR – I have a tradition of closing things with the interviewees’ having the last word… anything to share, state, rant about, whatever… now is your opportunity.
FTV – Thanks to all our supporters and friends. Stay tuned for the year of the Void!
In my opinion, the Forming The Void crew are selling themselves short by expecting merely “the Year of The Void” to be at hand. Sure, we all know what they mean – but dare I say – and certainly hope, that we have many years of Forming The Void to look forward to. After all, the guys have only been active since 2013 and have already released two albums that have set music journalists on their ears and astounded every soul that’s heard them.
This band is the total package and then some! Their music entertains and amazes, their videos enthrall and astound and I hear their live shows are an experience all unto themselves. I am determined to see one as soon as I possibly get the chance. Until that does arrive, we have the phenomenal recorded output that is… Forming The Void!
— Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker