Tim Yatras is one of our favourite musicians here at The Monolith. Or at least, he’s one of mine. The newest album from his project Germ made my Top Albums of 2013 list (as well as Milena’s), and his work with Austere still blows me away every time. So when our newest writer Warunki and I got the chance to put our heads together and conduct an interview with him, we were absolutely thrilled. The multi-instrumentalist was more than happy to answer our questions, for which we are grateful. Turns out he’s also one of the nicest dudes you could talk to. Check below for his thoughts on Germ, updates on new projects, and reflections on being a musician!
Congratulations on releasing Grief! It’s received excellent reviews across the board, including from us at The Monolith. How does it feel?
I suppose it feels OK. I’ve never really been concerned with the reception of anything I do, it’s more important to me that I am happy, and proud of, what I release. I’m not 100% happy with ‘Grief’, as with any album, looking back there are things I would have changed/done differently, but I guess I’m not ashamed of it, so that’s the main thing, right?!
That’s true. What would you change about Grief if you could?
It’s hard to narrow it down. Production wise I would have done things a little differently. Possibly added a few extra guitar bits here and there, maybe re-write an entire song or two (laughs), it’s always like this in hindsight. But that’s what drives me to better myself on the next album.
We noticed that Germ recently began playing live shows. What is the most difficult aspect of taking Germ to the stage? Any chance there might be an international tour on the cards?
The most difficult aspect I would say was actually finding the musicians to play with. I didn’t want to just settle for any old person who could play the songs, I wanted to find people who would also feel the emotion in the songs while playing them. It was important that the live show felt like a genuine display of the music, and not something phony…
And how did you find them? Were they musicians you’ve previously worked with?
Some of them I had worked with in the past, and some I knew, but had never played with before. There were no “strangers” who came on board, only people I already knew and trusted.
As far as an international tour goes – well, Europe is on the cards. Probably not this year, but it’s a possibility in the future, depending on what happens. Beyond that, I don’t really know what else we’ll be able to do. I said when I first put together the Germ live band that this would not be an ongoing thing, there would be an end point where Germ would return to being a studio only project. I don’t know where that point is yet, but after only a handful of shows, it already seems not that far away…
That doesn’t sound too positive! Why doesn’t it seem too far away?
I just think Germ isn’t really a live band. Don’t get me wrong, the shows have been good, but what is special for me is creating new songs, not playing the same old ones over and over again. There are a few more things I’d like to do before it all ends on the live front, but after they are done I don’t really see the point in continuing on with it.
That’s understandable. Could you tell us a little about the lyrical and musical influences for Grief?
The lyrics are pretty much the same old miserable shit I’ve been doing for years now, (laughs). Honestly they are not anything amazing, I’ve never been good with words, but I got out what I wanted to say with them, so that’s what matters most.
As for musical influences, there’s not really that much stuff that has a direct influence on what I do in Germ. Of course, there’s been the odd tip of the hat to Jean Michel Jarre, and I’m always trying to create an atmosphere, in the same way as Varg did on Filosofem. It’s been almost two years now since I wrote most of those songs, so I guess I was influenced in one way or another by what I was listening to at that time, whatever that was. Probably Noel Gallagher’s album haha.
That’s a wide range of artists there.Oasis may surprise some fans! How do you go about channeling that pop influence into something that’s so dark and extreme?
Oasis are one of my all time favorite bands! Well, I should back track and say that Noel doesn’t DIRECTLY influence Germ, but I guess if you listen close, it’s there… Does it work? I don’t know (laughs).
You exist in an ever-changing landscape of musical projects – how do you juggle so many different endeavours and projects?
I don’t know, really. I guess it’s different for me than someone looking in from outside. I just do what feels right, and I don’t force anything. For example, I started recording the first Germ album in 2009, actually it was pretty close to finished back then, but I didn’t end up finishing it until late 2011. I just wasn’t feeling inspired to work on it during that time, and so I didn’t. I suppose it ends up being quite easy, knowing what to focus on, etc.
Considering all of the projects of your own that you do, as well as your work playing drums in several others, have you managed to maintain a full-time music career from it all?
The short answer is no. I do a bit of session drumming work here and there, and we have actually been selling an OK amount of CDs the last couple of years, but it’s not enough to live off. I do, however, have a couple of other things I do in addition to this, which means I don’t have to work a standard 9-5 job.
How do you decide when to put one of your projects to rest and move onto something new?
Honestly, it’s never been a problem knowing when something is over. There is a feeling you get when you know in your heart it’s just not right anymore.
I heard that plans for a full length Grey Waters album was shelved? What are the chances of it ever seeing the light of day and what were the circumstances behind its shelving?
I think the chance of it ever seeing the light of day, at least in full and as a Grey Waters album, would be somewhere around 0% (laughs). That said, “My Only Hope” from Loss was originally the first track on the GW album. I think a few may surface here and there over time.
As for the circumstances involved, I don’t really want to get into it too much. We were really fucking close to having it done, but it just wasn’t feeling right to force myself to finish it. People can speculate if they want, I’m not saying any more (laughs).
Your music and lyrics often evoke images of solitude, loneliness, hopelessness, desolation, and despair – yet you’re a (happily) married man. How does that work?
(Laughs.) Who said anything about happily!?
In all seriousness, though, my music and lyrics are very personal, it’s my inner feelings, fears, etc. I guess you could say it’s who I am. I’ve never been an overly happy person. I guess if you talked to my wife she’d probably tell you I’m a nightmare to live with most of the time (laughs)! But I also realise that at some point you have to get on with life. I didn’t want to be alone and 40 years old living in a shitty apartment somewhere – I tried to create some sort of life. It’s hard, especially being a miserable fuck like I am, but maybe it’s made possible due to the fact that I can release a lot of this negativity through music!?
You appeared as a guest vocalist on Thy Light‘s most recent album – is this something you’d like to do more of? What about producing other bands?
No, I don’t really want to do more of it. I did Thy Light because Paolo (Bruno) is a good friend, and I really enjoy his music, but I’m not about to go and do guest vocals on 20 more albums or anything. I think the odd one here and there is cool, though.
On the other hand, producing other bands is definitely something I hope to get into some day in the future.
Do you know of any up and coming bands from Australia that you would recommend?
I always dread this question, cos I can never really think of an answer… But here’s one – Rise of Avernus. It’s orchestral doom type stuff. Quite good. They’ve just signed with Aural Music, too, so hopefully some more worldwide exposure is coming for them.
Your vocals are extremely unique to the genre, is that something you had to work for, or does it come naturally to you?
It came completely naturally. I’ve got demos from when I was 16 years old screaming vocals like that. It’s always come naturally to me. Actually, I just never thought they sounded very good! When Austere came out and people liked the vocals, I was surprised!
You have a number of projects incoming, including Autumn’s Dawn (which also features Anguish from Troldhaugen), and Rise Of Avernus. One song has been released so far, what can you tell us about the album?
That came about as a bit of an accident. Anguish has been playing live guitar for Germ, and last year he sent me some ideas he’d been working on. I thought they were great, and sent him a few I had, that I didn’t think would work for Germ. He liked them, and in the space of 48 hours we had around 40 mins of demo material together. We decided because the project came about so quickly, it would be best to stay true to it and record the songs quickly, leave mistakes or sloppy playing in there, and try to keep it as ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ as possible. Unfortunately a couple of things have haltered us completing the album, but it should be done very soon, and we will hopefully see a release in the first half of the year.
We also heard that you’re working with Audrey Sylvain again, on a completely new project. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Yes, we’re working on an EP at the moment. So far I think it’ll be 4 songs. I guess we’ll see how that goes and then maybe begin a full length toward the end of the year. I’m really happy to be working with Audrey, she’s a great friend and an amazing musician and singer.
Black metal is obviously your main sonic focus, but you also have a power metal band called Ilium, who have recently recruited the legendary Lance King (Avian, Pyramaze et al) for vocals, and we believe you have a new album in the works?
I’ve only ever done paid session work for Ilium. I’ve never been a member of the band. Actually I don’t even really like the music (laughs)! It was just a pay check for me. I do think they are working on a new album at the moment, but I won’t be playing on it, and I don’t really know anything about it.
That’s fair enough! Speaking of bands you no longer work with, why did you stop working with Woods Of Desolation?
When D. asked me to help him with Torn Beyond Reason I said yes. We were quite close at the time, and were working on Grey Waters together, so of course I agreed to help him. I did, however, only agree to do that one album. With Austere having just ended, Grey Waters working on an album, and the Germ album half finished, I didn’t want to commit to any more than that. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we made, what is in my opinion, a really good album with Torn Beyond Reason. I’m very proud of what we did on that album!
By the time it was released, though, there were already problems with the Grey Waters album, and D. and I had some disagreements over various things. I won’t go any deeper here, because these things are best left private, but basically, at the end of the day, I only ever planned to do one album with Woods of Desolation , and we did that. He has new musicians in the band now, and I have my own stuff going on, it’s all fine now!
Have you heard the new Woods Of Desolation album? If so, what did you think?
Yeah, I’ve listened to it a couple of times. It’s definitely good, for sure. Is it great? I dunno, it’s hard to be objective. I like the rawer sound, and D. has some excellent riffs like always. I don’t like the vocals… Can I say that without sounding like a cunt? (laughs)
Do you have any good advice for musicians looking to make music on their own?
(Laughs.) Fuck! I don’t really know. Maybe if I did have some ‘good’ advice to give I’d be playing in a million selling band now, (laughs)?! I guess the best thing I can say is to just follow your heart and stay true to yourself. Make music that means something to YOU.
Who would you say your top 3 influences as both a composer, and a drummer are?
Difficult…. I don’t really have a ‘top 3’ of anything, especially drummers (laughs)! I mean, I like some of the crazy virtuoso guys like Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang, etc, but I don’t take much influence from them, as it’s not really something that interests me playing like that. I do love Yoshiki from X Japan’s drumming. He’s not the most technical or fastest or anything, but he beats the shit out of the drums, and has a certain ‘emotion’ in his performances which not many other drummers have.
Composers, there’s a lot. We could talk about this all day (laughs)! Here’s three that come to mind instantly. Jean Michel Jarre, Noel Gallagher, Robert Smith.
Interesting! Any plans or inclinations for doing a new age or pop music album in the near future?
Maybe… I’ve got maybe 60 – 70 songs laying around either finished, half finished or just ideas. A lot of them are in a pure pop style. At the moment I can’t really be arsed doing anything with them, though (laughs)! I think I’ll try to do an orchestral thing before that.
Thanks for the interview Tim! Do you have any final words for our readers?
Thanks to everyone out there who takes the time to read this interview, listen to my music, etc. I hope the new projects will be of interest. And thanks to you guys for the great interview!
Germ’s newest album, Grief, is out now via Eisenwald Records.