Two years after their strong debut record “Covenant of Teeth” (Alerta Antifascista, Chaos Rural Records, Halo Of Flies), British violin infused emo-crust / post metal collective MORROW have returned with a stunningly masterful follow-up LP called “Fallow”, released digitally in December 2017 and slated for a June vinyl release via Alerta Antifascista and Halo of Flies. We caught up with the band’s vocalist, illustrator, sculptor and author Alex CF to learn some details behind MORROW’s new work and his other passions.
Alex is a Bristol, UK based illustrator, author, and vocalist, who has been most notably known for his highly influential work with crust / dark post metal act FALL OF EFRAFA, whose lyrical content was built around the mythology created by Richard Adams in his 1972 adventure novel Watership Down. Alex’s rich artworks revolve around the world of the Orata, a fictional tale of animal mythology that defined the depths of the world created in his first book, ‘Seek The Throat From Which We Sing‘.
Alex is also the curator and custodian of the Merrylin Cryptid collection, the Merrylin Cryptid Museum of unique cryptozoological specimens, and owner of his own DIY clothing project called Animal Allies. He has illustrated numerous records, created engaging, poetic lyrics, and created a plethora of adventurous drawings and illustrations that could be easily revered as remarkable and spine-chilling masterpieces.
His personal illustration serves to expand upon the novel, by depicting both the earthen magic, animal cultures and symbolism contained within. A companion art book will be released later this year, to collect the drawings and paintings that he created whilst writing the first of the Orata series. His frenetic lines and beautiful depictions can be seen on band artwork, record labels and book covers alongside his own personal projects.
Morrow are a violin and cello driven atmospheric crust band, in the vein of Ictus, Fall of Efrafa and Remains of the day. They began their post civilisation odyssey in 2016’s “Covenant of Teeth” the somber string laden D-beat, seated in the forests and ice scapes of future primitive cultures. “Fallow” picks up where their debut ended; following the same protagonists as they leave the safety of the forests in search of knowledge amongst the sweltering, vibrant and violent carcass cities in the desert south. It is a far more raucous record; a pandemonium of drums and throaty cello as our characters face a chaotic, terrifying and majestic landscape, one of bared teeth amongst the sand storms and screaming voices. Fallow features guest vocals from members of Gattaca, Monachus, Autarch, Wildspeaker, Hyena, Sol and Fallof Efrafa.
Catch MORROW live at ALERTA ANTIFASCISTA DEATHFEST #14 in Hannover on June 6th, alongside ARCHIVIST (UK/AT), ICOS (SE), LAS CASAS VIEJAS (DE/AT), MORROW (UK/ES/AT), MONACHUS (SE), and BAESTIEN (CZ). More dates will be announced shortly.
MORROW is: David: Drums, Guitar; Alex: Vocals, art, lyrics; Jose: Guitar; Gerfried: Guitar; Alastair: Bass; Liam: Violin; Nicole: Cello. Guest appearances on ‘Fallow’: James of Autarch, Josh of Sol, Lada and Blum of Gattaca, Natalie of Wildspeaker, Victoria of Hyena, Oskar and Erik of Monachus, Mikey of Fall of Efrafa.
Alex, the last December brought the release of your outstanding second record from MORROW, exposing a plethora of the immersive qualities of your capabilities and powers. Congratulations on that! It’s intense, but it’s also bristling with life and I believe its contrasts make it such a great adventurous listen. What were your expectations towards this new creation and how do you view the final effect?
Glad you enjoyed the record! My part in Morrow is only one part of a whole, and much of the praise should go to Dave, who is the main song writer in the band. Morrow was very much a passion project for us both, and became an actual band over the last year with the inclusion of Jose and Gerfried on guitar, Alastair on bass and Liam on Violin. We were also accompanied by Nicole on Cello, who recorded in San Diego, and a host of lovely friends who donated their time and voices to the record. We didn’t really have any expectations beyond what we wanted this next album to feel like. Our previous record, Covenant of Teeth was a far more somber record, It takes place in pine forests and in the shadow of an ice shelf, so we wanted it to feel far more cold and mournful. Fallow is set in the deserts of the south and we wanted it to have a harsher, more chaotic sound. I think we accomplished that in some ways, and in doing so maybe realised a few things. These music projects are works in progress! We like the record a lot, which is all that really matters, Morrow is a project based around friendship and being creative, its a good way to spend time with friends who live in different cities and countries!
Compositional wise, since you’ve worked so many sides and shades of extreme music, what’s changed since you started down this path? What moods, styles and genres make you excited these days? Also, in what way did your experience with other acts impact ‘Fallow’?
I don’t think my tastes have changed a whole lot since I got involved in bands, perhaps encountering new genres or sounds, I have added to it for sure, and those new sounds inspire me to create new musical projects, I never stray too far from the sounds that have always effected me the most, which is why Morrow sounds so familiar to some! My role in compositions is usually colours and moods, which the lyrics convey, I will describe the story to the other band members and to some extent the rhythms and tempos reflect that. I think the music I have been a part of always has a similar feel to it, mainly due to shared members and interests and often this singular goal. All the bands I have been involved in have always been for the same reasons, I am still excited to be a part of making music, to spend time with friends, being constructive, and I love writing lyrics and drawing. I have never set out for music to be anything more than exercising ideas, and to tell stories. I have some super talented friends who I have the pleasure of sharing these experiences with. A broader perspective is how we encounter music these days, has changed almost entirely, when I was younger, bands were more remote, it took effort to find the bands, the internet was far more basic 15-20 years ago, and there wasn’t this constant instant access. I wonder how that has altered how genres form or die, how scenes form. I have very fond memories of discovering specific bands, from places I’d never been. There were certain bands that etched themselves into me, and I am still infatuated with those bands, and still inspired to make music that follows those threads. I usually get involved or start projects because I still feel an excitement to capture ideas and sounds. Just the other day I was walking to my studio listening to “silence” by From Ashes Rise, and I thought, “damn i want to do a band like this!” sometimes its just as simple as that! Morrow is a chance to play emo-crust again, the music I have a quiet obsession with. For me, Fallow was the result of that.
As with all your artworks, the it seems like most of them are connected, and could easily work together to create a larger narrative. Both in the creative phase and looking at the final effect of your works, do you see them as being part of the same world?
Again I guess there are always going to be recurring themes and my style of art is quite homogenous, I think when I start music projects the aesthetic of the records are always just as important, But in regards to shared narratives, Morrow and Archivist for sure, and to a lesser extent Anopheli. Morrow and Archivist exist at opposite ends of a story and will finish when they meet in the middle, on the next record. Morrow has other stories to tell after this, what we do with archivist is unknown at this stage. I guess when I started writing Morrow it was an interesting idea for two separate bands to share a story and I didn’t see any reason why not, so I asked all of the other members and they liked the idea. The connection is there if people want to find it, but they can also exist as separate things. There are definitely shared themes throughout the stuff I write about but then again, these are just things I am interested in and they will pop up again and again – nature, duality, perception, religion, destruction. I have a lot of environmental anxieties, so these themes are definitely repeated. Fall of Efrafa and Light Bearer were just love letters to my favourite books, but I guess again, there were themes in the those books we gravitated towards.
Allegories are often intended to make a comment on current world affairs, social, and political issues, or even teach moral lessons. We’ve seen dozens of amazing well-thought lyrics and records that turned out to be very revealing. What were your inspirations for the lyrical content of Fallow and how much do you try to link your stories to the real world struggles? How much do you try to reflect our current reality?
I wanted to imagine a world that had shed itself of most of humanity, and whatever was left had somehow subconsciously realised the errors of dominion, that over thousands of years had formed symbiotic relationships with the natural world. That for them, civilisation was the gnarled and rusted metal buried beneath moss and lichen. I wanted to create belief systems based around nature worship. The protagonists in Morrow worship various deities linked to their food and water, to their primal respect for the land around them. But also how easy we might slip back into bad habits, and how some might worship at the altar of industry, despite its devastating effects. In the same light, set thousands of years before, Archivist is about how technology is misused and how it might irrevocably change our world, its also about the right to personhood, if we were to create sentient synthetic life, it is by default that we bestow the right to their own bodies. I guess that also ties into my feeling on animal rights, the idea that we take away the right for an animal to own its own body. That also plays into how I feel about myself, about mortality, about how humans view themselves. Some of the bands i have been in don’t need stories, but I guess those themes are more obvious.
Why do you enjoy writing fiction?
I love the idea of building universes. When I was very young, my step mum showed me a copy of ‘The world of the Dark Crystal’ – the illustrative design work created by Brian Froud, for the Jim Henson film, The Dark Crystal. Froud had invented an ecology, and a belief system that spanned an entire planet. It was profound, how the natural history of a make believe place could be so intricate. That book obviously had a deep effect on me and there are definitely some deliberate nods to that in my own work. Its the idea of continually adding to that world, to flesh out every nook and cranny. I used to write comic books, and my first foray into world building was a comic called “wilderemere’ – kind of dystopian victorian science fiction meets body horror. I created this self contained city, and obsessed over the ecology and political system and beliefs. I never finished it, and perhaps might revisit it one day! My museum, The Merrylin Collection was a great opportunity to delve into speculative realities and alternative histories, and realise the work of an elusive 19th century naturalist and his bizarre collection of specimens. When I finally decided to write a book, I knew I wanted it to be something I could continue to add to for the rest of my life, so I built a mythology, and a natural history. I was inspired by my love of animal fantasy novels, the books that I grew up with, allegories of human society played out through the lives of non human animals. Mixed with my somewhat misanthropic view of humans as an adult, I guess it was always going to fall on the darker side of things!
Are there any fantasy or (sci)fiction stories you find yourself being drawn to again and again? Can you recommend some cool reads for dark winter evenings?
China Mieville, and his Bas Lag novels – Perdido Street Station, The Scar and The Iron Council. An incredible writer. I enjoy his work outside of this particular universe but these were again, a very well realised world. I just read The Bees by Laline Paull, which was also some wonderful world building, based within a Bee Hive.
You’ve released your first novel last year. How do you feel about it now that it’s finally released after all these years in the making? Please tell me about this project and the path that led you to writing ‘Seek The Throat From Which We Sing’.
After being involved in a number of bands paying homage to my favourite authors, I thought it was time to write my own book! The path began many years before when I lived in Brighton in the United Kingdom, I would watch the flock of Starlings that lived on the pier at the sea front, and imagined their culture, their battles and beliefs. It wasn’t until many years later that I had moved to London and had the fortune of finding the green spaces between the sprawling concrete, imagined the creatures that might dwell there. After a chat with a close friend about creating an animal mythology of my own, I remembered this fleeting idea by the sea and began to write about the animal cultures living in the shadow of humans, I wanted to create a world which I would be able to revisit from different angles for years to come, both grounded in our world, albeit from the animals perspective, how they live in the cities, always fleeing the cruelties of humanity. But also have a deeper more fantastical element, linked their collective religions. I spent about a year procrastinating and then eventually found a quiet place to write, and after about two years of writing and a year of editing the book was finished. Its the first part in a series and I have begun work on the sequel, and I am also creating a companion illustrated encyclopaedia to expand the universe within the book.
Drawing wise, how do you feel your work has evolved over the years? Are you still able to go beyond your previous schemes and learn new techniques?
I’m always trying to become a better illustrator, I definitely made a lot more time for drawing over the last four years. For a decade I worked almost exclusively on the Merrylin Cryptid Collection so its only been of late that I have given time to explore my illustration, but I am happy to have that time! For me its all about technique, improving animal anatomy, and realising ideas. I love drawing because its one of the few things I do that i find truly relaxing!
What to you do to keep your juices flowing and where do you find your inspirations from?
I always have a number of different projects on the go that will often take years to finish, so I guess I set goals and aim to at least attempt to achieve those. I am currently running the Merrylin Museum, an animal rights fund-raising project called Animal Allies, i’m writing the sequel to my novel and working on the illustrated companion book. Each project get a bit of time most days. Inspiration comes from lots of places. The best place for me is taking a walk somewhere quiet, figuring out ideas, and making a note of them as i have a terrible memory. Its the eureka moments you don’t write down that always evaporate!
Have you recently experienced some constructive criticism of your work that allowed you to grow as an artist?
My work is probably an acquired taste and I am happy to just keep doing what I do. If people like it thats great, and if they don’t, thats cool too! I think I am also my own greatest critic. the pile of scrapped drawings is evidence of this!
Why is there a deliberate absence of people in the majority of your works?
I don’t think thats strictly true, all of the illustration work I do for Morrow is based around people. But most of my personal drawing is based around the Orata mythology, which has very few people in it! I’m also not so great at drawing people.
Haha, fair enough. When did you first realise you wanted to be an illustrator?
I have been drawing since I was a kid, and its always been my greatest joy. Made sense I guess!
What’s your take on the practice of digital manipulation? Please tell us about your creative process and what tools do you use to create your prints, illustrations, and music artworks.
I draw mostly with a pencil, and I paint with water colours. I used some photoshop painting for pencil illustrations I don’t want to destroy with paint, but my computer skills aren’t brilliant. I’ve started to learn to model in 3D as I would like to start working on action figures again, I have made some hand cast resin toys in the past and this is something I would like to explore in the future for sure.
Do you think the new digital era signals the death of authorship and creates the new page in art history where it is often disembodied from its maker?
I think there is room for both. I imagine digital art will become far more elaborate and create whole new facets of art and expression. I think I am overwhelmed by the talent around me, so in some ways, I think you just cut yourself out a little corner, keep making and doing, and hope someone likes it!
Ok Alex, so finally, both music and art wise, can you reveal anything about your next projects?
Worst Witch, a hardcore band I am in has a new EP to listen to, and the physical LP of Fallow, the new Morrow record will be out in June. I have ideas for a musical project based around my books but that is still some time of. Archivist has one more record, Triumvirate, which we will record in a year or so, and some ideas for another band with friends from other countries. Art/ writing wise, I will continue to work on my encyclopaedia, and the next book in the Orata series, which is titled “Wretched is the husk,’ and I am also working on a book about the Merrylin Museum, which may take a very long time to finish!
Apart from this year’s Alerta Antifascista Deathfest #14 , can we expect some more live dates from MORROW this year?
Yes, for sure, we have a few lined up in the summer! We shall post about those nearer the time!
Lastly, this is obviously an inevitable question, has there been some official talks about a possible FALL OF EFRAFA reunion?
No, and I don’t think there will ever be one. I would love the opportunity to play those songs again, but if we’re not all on board, I don’t think its possible.
Alex, thanks so much for your time and insightful answers. It’s been a pleasure. Good luck for your future projects and take care buddy. Keep up your great work! Cheers from Warsaw! The last words are yours.