The Sibylline Age – Jason Schultz
Art: Mark Erskine
Idol Throne typically writes about fantasy topics and fantasy worlds. The music lends itself to this type of imagery. Although the other lyricists in the band and I have written about self-reflective and personal topics in other bands/projects, the lyrical push here has remained story based. Usually, we conceptualise a lyrical idea around the vibe of the music, and then whoever has a strong idea takes the reigns for the song and begins developing their idea and theme. Every song on ‘The Sibylline Age’ has some overarching story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. As fans of progressive metal and rock, we greatly appreciate musical storytelling. With that said, not all Idol Throne lyrics need to be sword and sorcery affairs, and we have several songs that present a fictional topic with a more contemporary twist, such as the horror-tinged ‘Raven’s Blade’. I would anticipate that future releases will continue to move in this anything-goes direction.
My creative process is very insular and ‘inside my head’. I believe the creative process comes back to the individual’s imagination and how they can visualise and internalise what they feel they need to say or create. I can hear a complete piece of music before playing a note on my instrument. This, coupled with a visual sense of imagery, helps conceptualise artwork and even directs where musical ideas will go. I always liken it to scoring a movie that doesn’t exist, and this keeps ideas organised and helps the band and I achieve what we set out to do with a piece. I like to go where ideas flow and harness whatever I can, organising these raw ideas later during the writing and arranging process.
If I had to generalise and distil the band’s creative philosophy, I would say that it all stems from a desire to please ourselves and write music that excites and fulfils us. We call this genuine and have our sense of artistic integrity, driven by the love of playing music and telling stories. We are not guided by religion, philosophy, or any third-party entity. Still, more by a passion and need to create music as an outlet and a release for pent-up energy that exists for us individually and collectively.
I think that is an interesting premise to posit. Heavy Metal is at once so individual but also so driven by group mentality and stylistic similarities (and differences). I was drawn into metal from punk rock, and the aggressive but articulate sounds that hooked me quite literally ‘flipped a switch’ in my life, before metal and after. The music radiated beauty and a sense of ‘home’ that is hard to describe to someone who doesn’t have the same connection to the music that I, and other metalheads, have. I very much dove headfirst into the classic, guitar-centric thrash metal albums of the late 80s and early 90s, which led to progressive metal and the wider rabbit hole of styles from death, black, industrial and all points in between. This stylistic openness inspired my then-nascent guitar playing in immeasurable ways and helped shape my compositional style. I can’t speak for them, but I am sure the other guys in the band had similar experiences getting into metal.
I tend to be very obsessive about the project, be it an EP, an album, a tour, etc. Once the fire is lit, I typically hyper-fixate and hyperfocus on the music, the performance, the themes, and the presentation, which can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this helps keep focus and helps to ensure that the project is eventually completed, as ideas among band members are constantly flowing and due to the number of writers, there are always interesting ideas to develop. On the other hand, stepping back or away from the project becomes hard, and it is sometimes difficult to focus on different aspects of life. Maintaining a balance is important for a healthy creative output, as moving too far in one direction or the other is usually counterproductive for me. A lingering sense of perfectionism and being our own worst critics further drive our pursuit of pushing our boundaries and limitations.
I have always had an affinity for filmmakers, specifically filmmakers that operate visually to tell their stories. Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro, Denis Villeneuve, and Terence Malick are a few that come to mind, but I have always had a fascination with the idea of ‘creating’ a world from nothing and seeing a vision realised in this way. I think that some of this ethos comes through in the music we try to create, or at the very least, some of this philosophy/approach has rubbed off on the creative process. In terms of the music scene, I admire artists who have a vision and execute that vision. Personally, Steven Wilson has always been someone that I have admired based on his approach and his stylistic versatility. On the guitar front, I enjoy players that encapsulate their voice on the instrument through their approach or phrasing. Though still a technique-based player, I gravitate towards exciting soundscapes and melodic variation over bombast these days. Not that bombast can’t be fun and used for effect when done well and in moderation.
Music is extremely important to me because it is the medium through which I can best express myself. It is also one of the few things that I feel is effortless in terms of being an extension of myself and this expression. I tend to think of music in a very serious way, and I elevate it beyond entertainment. Music certainly can be entertaining and viewed in more commercial terms as a product to be sold. When done right, however, I believe it can be a deep and unifying force connecting individuals and reaching for deeper levels of personal and interpersonal understanding.
Every member of our band is very open to enjoying various music, art, film, and literature genres. I wouldn’t say that anyone closes themselves off to different experiences in the art based on taste, and I know that I like to listen to and view different styles to inform whatever I work on next. I always return to metal and rock as home base, but I enjoy the 70s and 80s pop music for the production and songwriting aspect and jazz fusion for the technique and unorthodox approach to structure and harmonic choices. Similarly, I sometimes enjoy abrasive, aggressive, or experimental cinema for many of the same reasons; to observe how the status quo and different forms can be tweaked and upended.