Devolution caught up with Max Rael, Daniel Vincent, and Howard Gardner of Decommissioned Forests. The self-described ‘dream technicians’ from Londonas an introductory piece to our readers. We discussed how this year has treated the band, the plight of choosing between a label deal or censorship, an insight into up-and-coming video projects, and recently playing a live show in a Mexican Restaurant.
Introduce the band in your own words…
MAX: Hello. We are Decommissioned Forests, and we died a long, long time ago.
Tell our readers about your current album.
MAX: We’ve just released our third album, ‘Chemistry.’ Lyrically I’m looking at antidepressants, neurochemistry, cosmetics, identity, and trauma. I’m always fascinated with mental health and society. The lead single is ‘Black River Falls’ which has a video on YouTube.
Who would you say you sound most like?
DAN: We’re fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have a pretty diverse catalogue already, having dabbled in modern classical, neo folk, post-industrial electronics, and experimentation. The various projects of Trent Reznor – NIN, the soundtrack stuff, HDTA – definitely inhabit the same places as our music, but that’s possibly because we’ve been influenced by the same musicians from a generation before.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
DAN: The whole post-industrial scene: Throbbing Gristle, Coil, Psychic TV, Current 93, and Nurse With Wound, are obvious candidates, but living in the times we do we are bombarded by other influences these days.
Describe your band members and what each person brings to the table.
HOWARD: Daniel does the majority of our song arranging, he comes from a well-grounded background of musical tinkering with The Resonance Association and knows his way around Ableton. We used a whole bunch of his hardware synths on the last album. Max writes the lyrics and does the vocals; he’s already known for his work with History Of Guns, although Decommissioned Forests is the first band to date where he’s been the frontman. I create sound textures using sampling and a bunch of strange, esoteric synth gadgetry as well as handling much of the video-related work.
What have you been up to this year?
DAN: It’s been a flurry of writing, recording, making videos and artwork, and keeping everything outside of Decommissioned Forests ticking along.
How do you maintain interaction with your fans?
HOWARD: Of late it’s largely been through social media. Our Facebook, YouTube and Instagram accounts are busy places!
Did you manage to record a video or release any material in the last ten months?
HOWARD: Oh yes, 2023 has been a great year for all of those things! November has seen the launch of ‘Chemistry,’ which has been a massive deal for us. And we’ve been very busy with the video promotion for the new songs. Already we’ve premiered the video for ‘Black River Falls,’ the lead single off the album. I shot that with Max down by the ruined foundations of the Crystal Palace and spent quite some time adding CGI hellscape visuals to it. We basically took a nice public space on a sunny day and turned it into a vision from Dante’s imagination. And then Dan made a video too for ‘Eel Tank,’ which is pretty amazing, it incorporates endoscope footage from inside his own body and that really underscores the claustrophobic body horror of the song’s lyrics. We have a number of other videos waiting in the wings, which we look forward to releasing shortly. I worked on one for ‘Another Version of You’ and I have another (all animated!) video almost finished for ‘Bread To The Ducks.’ Which will be absolutely unmissable, I promise. I know the others have also been busy with video-making. We’re quite a multimedia band.
Do you have a band joker? If so who and what’s the dumbest prank they’ve pulled?
HOWARD: I have a strange tendency to keep putting sphinxes in all our videos that I direct. Even I don’t know what that’s all about, but if I frame it in the right kind of way it sounds like maybe some high-brow pranking.
Do you argue over what music gets played on the way to a gig? Who wins and what’s the most popular choice?
MAX: So far, I’ve travelled to our gigs separately. Not because of my monstrous ego, but just I live on the other side of London to the other two.
Pick your dream band line up. Each band member selecting a corresponding musician who may be dead or still very much living.
MAX: I’ll throw in Alan Wilder
HOWARD: I’d have Chris Carter from Throbbing Gristle. I’m sure he’d bring something interesting to the stage.
And if he couldn’t find it, he’d probably get out his soldering iron and build it.
DAN: I saw CC when he was promoting Chemistry Lessons Vol 1 – it was a great show.
If you were marooned on a desert island which band member would be eaten first and why?
MAX: Me. I’d volunteer.
What’s the funniest thing that’s ever happened to you while you were on stage?
MAX: We played a gig with Dead Blood Cells a few weeks back in Kent. And it was a great little venue and also a Mexican restaurant! My words are semi-improvised in that I have a rough framework and sometimes a couple of different story direction choices, but I like to be able to react and respond to things live in the room. In the middle of the performance someone sitting near the fronts’ dinner arrived. I was transfixed watching it. Though sadly the unexpected arrival of a burrito or chimichanga didn’t inspire a new lyrical tangent.
If you could bring back one music personality, who would it be and why? You get one, but this is a group decision.
MAX: I’d love to spend some time with Jhonn Balance.
You’re stuck on a night off mid tour with just a games console and a handful of games for company. Which games do you choose to play? or do you just raid the mini bar?
HOWARD: I’m rubbish at playing most games and if anything holds my attention it’s usually one with mysteries or puzzles to solve. Or yeah, the mini bar.
If the band got offered an amazing major label deal but it meant a change of image to something, you are uncomfortable with, and censorship of lyrics would you take the deal or walk?
MAX: I like to think I’d find a way to make it work. I’m very against censorship, but then it forces creativity to go in a different direction. If I couldn’t say what I want to say directly then I’d then I’d move into metaphor and allegory and like to think I’d be able to communicate what I was trying to say. So, I’d take the deal and I’d believe I could keep my inner-self pure. Though down the line I’d inevitably become a bitter self-hating sell-out and curse myself for my own naivety.
In the event of the end of the world what’s the first song on your post-apocalypse playlist?
MAX: ‘Riders on the Storm’ – The Doors
HOWARD: Funeral Music for Queen Mary, the electronic rework by Wendy Carlos
Describe the local music scene of your hometown and how you fit into that as a band?
MAX: Hertford is pretty decent; they do a magical mystery tour every August bank holiday in loads of venues across town. I’m not sure what they’d make of Decommissioned Forests, but it’ll be fun to find out.
When writing new music is it a collaborative effort or is there a main song writer?
MAX: Generally, I write words. Howard makes experimental noises. Daniel creates the music and brings it all together and mixes it.
Some bands have goals for albums, the UK Subs for example recorded an album for every letter of the alphabet. Do you have any goals for future albums?
MAX: Yes… our first album was called, ‘Forestry,’ second album was ‘Industry’… our third album just released is called, ‘Chemistry’… There’s a definite flow and progression…
In the modern on-demand music scene is the concept album dead or do you feel there’s still room for them?
DAN: It comes quite naturally for us to string together a strong selection of songs into a narrative, possibly other more indulgent influences from the 60s and 70s creeping in there. There is still space for long form and conceptual music, for sure.
HOWARD: I still love the idea. I know the way the public consumes music has changed but albums still exist, and I think we should all do more to get creative leverage from that.
The hardest step for any band today is going full time, is this something you envisage being able to do in the future?
DAN: Unlikely, we’ve seen how little many of our teenage heroes are making now. It feels like a short term and unsustainable career for most.
How important is the local music scene to you as a band?
MAX: It’s incredibly important to support the local live music scene, otherwise it dies.
With everything being so digital and run predominantly through social media what is your view on the importance of regional and national print press?
HOWARD: I still buy magazines when I can. I particularly like collecting really old school looking fanzines that look like they’ve been knocked together using a photocopier, I think that shows some real passion for the scene, but that’s my age showing. Of course, growing up and producing professional-looking magazines shows passion too. Probably more so.
What are the band goals for the remainder of 2023 – with just a few months left of the year are there any important goals or milestones to be reached?
HOWARD: There’s always more we can do with the remaining weeks. Actually, it’s been a prolific year already, we could always end it by releasing a ten-CD boxset of brand-new material.
If you could choose to play any UK festival for 2024 – which one, would it be and why?
MAX: I went to every Glastonbury festival from 1994 until 2008 so it’ll always have a soft spot in my heart… but honestly, I’m happy to go wherever we’re wanted.
As a band who have been working hard to get yourselves out there in the live circuit and industry – what do you hope will have changed for unsigned and independent bands once this year ends?
MAX: I hope they all give up and get proper jobs allowing more room for us to succeed.
If you could be endorsed by any companies, who would they be and why?
MAX: I really like the nacho cheese sauce they have at Odeon cinemas… otherwise, I could really do with some new synthesizers! I have a soft spot for Moog having a Prodigy I’ve had since I was a teenager.
If you could play God for a day – who would you make an angel and who would you send to hell? And why?
MAX: Hmmm we’d need to define what we mean by angels and hell… I’ll send the sociopaths and psychopaths that tend to end up in a position of power and running most things to hell, and the rest of us will all be angels on earth with a basic living wage and freedom to explore knowledge, the arts, even sports if we want to.
Do you have a message for fans of your music?
MAX: Embrace your shadow.
How would you describe 2023 so far?
MAX: Another tough year with a lot of painful lessons that I think I have just about survived (so far).
HOWARD: Better than the previous two years. It’s been a tough ride for us all.