Interview: Werewolves in Siberia

For those of you who follow my Twitter, you have probably heard that lately I’ve been enjoying the hell out of an 80s-inspired synth rock project called Werewolves in Siberia.

It’s dark, contemplative, and delightfully evocative. You can definitely hear the 80s inspiration in the music as well; if you close your eyes you can practically feel the VHS player humming in the background. Still, it has a modern touch, with a clean sound and rock/metal inspired drums. For me, it’s perfect music for things like driving and writing: when I need something to set the mood, but doesn’t have distracting lyrics either. (I like to sing, what can I say.) What’s more, the project has a new album coming soon, so I got in touch with Chris Cavoretto, the man behind it all, to talk about Werewolves in Siberia.

Lycanthropology 101: I’ve seen you say that the name Werewolves in Siberia stemmed from Destination Truth’s search for yetis in Siberia. Where did the werewolves half come from? Lucky accident?

Chris Cavoretto: Haha… It was probably the same night that the Siberia part came about. I was trying to make the Mexican folklore version of a werewolf, el lobizon, work somewhere for a band name at one point. That was another of my favorite Destination Truth episodes, by the way. When I came up with the Siberia part, “lobizons” really just didn’t have the same ring to it as “werewolves”.

The whole thing is pretty dorky, really. But hey, that’s where it came from. Just kicking back, drinking a couple beers and having a little DT marathon at home.

On a side note, I think the Siberia part also really fit to me because most people don’t even know where Idaho is. Outside of the Boise area, it’s pretty much like Siberia out there. There just isn’t anything for hours.

You’ve mentioned on your Facebook page that Werewolves in Siberia started by accident, as a result of wanting a break from metal/hardcore music. What made you decide to start experimenting with synth rock, then? Those genres are pretty different.

Cavoretto: It was pretty much just the fact that I had the means to record it, myself, from home at that point. From the first time I heard, Zombi, I thought it would be really cool to do a project similar to that. Instrumental, weird, horror soundtrack-y, fun. I figured if I ever had the means to do everything myself, one day I might give it a shot.

After several years and a few bands, I’d kind of given up on the idea of being in a band again. The older I get, the less interested in scheduling practices and giving everyone their say in what happens. I might sound like a jerk saying that, but when I’ve got a musical vision, I know what I want and I don’t want to have to worry about two or three other guys’ opinions on it.

So, I was just getting going with a solo acoustic thing. I got to the recording part of it and it was going really well but the writing part wasn’t quite as fun as I was hoping it would be. I seemed to be messing around with covers more than anything and originals just weren’t coming to me. I started just screwing around with the recording software and thought to myself, hey, why not try out that synth thing I was thinking about?

The first night, I had a really good start to The Rising and, I think everything being so new and different, things just clicked. I was learning how to record and really how to play a different style and a different instrument altogether. It was just so much more fun than I’d had playing any music in a long time.

What are some of the projects you’ve been a part of prior to Werewolves in Siberia? How have they helped you to create the unique Werewolves in Siberia sound?

Cavoretto: Saturnine was my first band.  It was my high school metal band.  My first trek into hardcore was with a band called Brawl where I learned a lot about things to do and things not to do.  I started a band called Stakt that was really my most successful band.  It was kind of a hardcore/metal/nu metal hybrid band.  I learned how much I hated the music industry by the time that band was done.  We recorded at Indigo Ranch Studios in Malibu, my best musical experience, as well as playing a showcase for 9 major labels at the Whisky which was my worst musical experience.

Since Stakt broke up in ’02, I tried to just do fun, no pressure projects.  A death metal/hardcore hybrid called Cry Havoc was the first thing after Stakt.  I ran my own label for a couple years and moved on to my last hardcore band, Enzugri.  I think, musically, I had finally started playing what felt totally right but I was tired of going to practices and figuring out everyone’s schedules for shows and everything.

I think, really, a lot of these bands ended up shaping the overall feel for the sort of unconventional style of drums I tend to use.  Unconventional for synth, anyway.  I think that sort of makes it stand out amongst other retro synth stuff.  After so many highs and lows with these old bands, I really came to know what I want out of playing music now.

Your debut EP The Rising was recorded in two weeks. Can you tell us about that process? Where was it recorded? Was it mixed and mastered on your own?

The Rising—Werewolves in Siberia

Cavoretto: I recorded and mixed it all at home. Again, it was so new and exciting for me that I was just powering through it. Writing and recording stuff every spare minute I had. Things were just coming to me left and right.

When it came time to make sure the mix was good, I would take it to the garage and give every song the, now sort of famous, “car test”. You know what music sounds like in your car so bands like to take the music out there and see what needs to be tweaked. That’s how I could tell when a mix was right.

It was funny. My wife would come home sometimes and I’d just be sitting in my car studying my mixes. Luckily, she knows I’m a bit of a weirdo.

When it came to the mastering, a friend of mine, Mad Maddox, did that. I’ve known him for years and played in several bands with him. He’s got a great home studio where he’s recorded some really hu

ge sounding albums with other bands. I didn’t have what I needed to master it myself and knew he’d give me what I wanted from it.

 You have a new album set to drop very soon, Beyond the City of the Dead. How has it been received thus far?

Cavoretto: So far, it’s exceeded my expectations. I’ve received some really good reviews on it. Some of the people that reviewed The Rising and really liked that one say this one blows it out of the water.

It’s really cool to hear because I inadvertently grew musically. I was slowly writing songs from almost the day The Rising was out but I wasn’t in any rush to get a bunch of stuff done. I wasn’t going to work on it every waking minute like The Rising. That was just exhausting.

Basically, I had a bunch of new material and I was just going with the flow of everything. When I realized I was pretty close to having enough for a full new album, I listened to both together and realized how different they were. It worried me because when you make something that people really like, if you change it too much, a lot of those people lose interest.

So many bands have that one magic album where everything fell into place. Then, the follow up just doesn’t have the same feeling and the band fades out of your regular rotation. You might listen to that one album still, but that’s the only one. I knew I really liked what I had done but I was worried that, with the writing being a bit more expansive, it was going to be something people who already like WIS wouldn’t be into.

Fortunately, every person I’ve talked to or that has reviewed it has said it was a great step forward. It means a lot to me that people are really into this. I worked pretty damn hard on it and it’s something that I’m really proud of.

Where was Beyond the City of the Dead recorded? What was the difference between recording The Rising and Beyond the City of the Dead?

Cavoretto: Beyond was recorded exactly the same way and with exactly the same stuff. I think knowing what I was doing a little more this time around made for an easier time writing and that helped the song structures evolve more.

How do you think your sound has evolved between your debut EP and your full-length? What sort of imagery does your new album evoke that may be different from The Rising?

Cavoretto: What it comes down to is that the songs are maybe just structured a little better, in general. I think the style I set with The Rising is there in every sense. It’s just a little more of everything.

As far as imagery goes, when I wrote The Rising, I had zombies on the brain. I try to let the music move me to a concept instead of going from a concept to writing the song. As much as I didn’t mean to expand the sound, I did really want to have something that was broader as far as the imagery it painted.

What I ended up with something with more pieces that could be pulled out and stuck in a much wider range of horror movies for a soundtrack. I think that’s the one big difference in the imagery. I had werewolves, ghouls, slashers and post-apocalypse in mind on top of zombies this time.

Can you describe your song-writing process for us? Do you rehearse the songs before you begin recording them, or are they written and recorded on the spur of the moment?

Cavoretto: 100% spur of the moment. I really try to shut off my brain and go. Once I get a melody, I may have to play it a hundred times before I get it right, but I’m recording it as soon as that melody pops in my head. Sometimes it’s just the magic of chance that something works. Sometimes I have a sound or melody in my head that I just lay down to build around and sometimes I’m just screwing around and stumble into something I like.

Both The Rising and Beyond the City of the Dead have quite a few bonus remixes on them. What’s it like working with these different artists?

Cavoretto: It’s really cool. I’ve known Ghastworks and Mad Maddox for years and played music with them both in the past. It’s cool knowing I can give something to old friends and they can put their own spin on it.

It’s also cool working with some guys I have never actually met, in person, but whom I have a lot of respect for. Tommy Creep, Vector Sector and Ghoulshow are all guys I started talking with online, I think through things going on with Graveyard Calling in some way or another. I think we all have a huge mutual respect for each others’ work so it’s cool to get them involved.

Right after The Rising was released, Ghastworks asked me if he could remix a couple songs. I jumped at the chance to be able to do something like that. When I was finishing everything up with Beyond, I asked all five of those guys if they’d like to do the remixes without hearing the song put together. I figured it would really allow them to put their own spin on it without preconceived notions of how the song goes. They were really into the idea.

It’s cool because, even though we’re not in the same places, we’re working on something together on our own time. It also introduces me to more of their audiences and, in turn, them to more of my audience. It’s just really cool all around.

Your record label, Graveyard Calling, is unique in that they work only with digital and cassette albums. Cassettes are something of a rarity these days. Can you tell us some about how you came to work with them?

Cavoretto: I had a lot of interest from people about having WIS on vinyl and cassette so I was looking into it a bit. Vinyl was way too expensive but cassettes seemed pretty affordable and really fun. While I was starting to get some numbers on costs, Graveyard Calling popped up and almost immediately asked about doing WIS cassettes. That’s pretty much how it started. Above all, they’re easy to work with. That’s one of the biggest things for me. It’s completely stress free and we’re working toward the same goal of getting some fun horror music out there for people.

They’re constantly getting more and more artists together for compilations. The last one had 31 bands or artists on it and really hit a wide range of horror music genres. And another great thing is that the cost to the people buying the product is about as low as they can go. They’re not trying to scam people out of money but they’re still putting out a quality cassette in every sense.

If you could pick one track from the new album that you’d call your favorite, which would it be? What inspired it? 

Cavoretto: I think Lycanthropic Dreamscape. Something about it sort of reminds me of John Harrison’s main theme from Day of the Dead… only something about it screams that it’s a song about werewolves instead of zombies. When I finished it, I immediately thought I couldn’t outdo that one with anything I do with WIS in the future. I hope I can but if not, as long as I can make music consistent with the music on this album, I’ll be happy with it.

Can we expect to see Werewolves in Siberia live at any point?

Cavoretto: I’d love to do live shows at some point. I always prided myself on putting everything I had into a live show when I was in bands. It doesn’t matter what people thought of the music. They could hate it, but they could never say I didn’t rock out as hard as I possibly could. It’s the main thing I miss about playing in bands.

My initial thought is that, being a one man project, it might be boring. Boring doesn’t work for me at all. So, I started brainstorming and have some great ideas on how to put on a really fun show. At this point, to make this happen, I have to get a lot of things I don’t have available to me though; sort of to aid with the fact that I’m just one person. I wouldn’t want to watch one guy dork around with a synth and I don’t think anyone else should suffer through a boring performance. I’d like to say it’s on the horizon but it’s a matter of getting everything in order… and there’s a lot to get in order.

I’m at an age where I know what I do isn’t for everyone. It isn’t for most people, in fact. And there are plenty of people that won’t like what I’m doing and that’s totally fine. But if I’m going to go out there and put on a show. I don’t care if it’s just me, it’s going to be a show. I don’t want to half-ass it. At least, then, people could say they got an experience out of it, regardless of how they felt about the music.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’d just like to thank you for helping spread the word and thank everyone out there who has supported me since starting Werewolves in Siberia. It’s been a year and I’m putting out the second album. It’s been a hell of a lot of fun and totally rewarding getting some people behind it.

Beyond the City of the Dead is due out April 1, 2014. Digital preorders can be placed here, and will come with bonus remixes from Tommy Creep, Vector Sector, Ghastworks, Mad Maddox, and Ghoulshow. Graveyard Calling has also opened preorders for the very limited run of cassette copies of Beyond the City of the Dead here. Unlike the digital album, all cassette orders, even post-release orders, will come with a digital download of the entire album plus the bonus remixes. Werewolves in Siberia can also be found elsewhere on the web here:

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