True metal quartet, DARK FOREST, recently released Oak, Ash & Thorn, an album as imbued with the band’s native British perspective as with the history of the land of their birth. Lord Randall recently sat down with founding songwriter/guitarist Christian Horton to discuss…

Interview with Christian Horton of DARK FOREST
Interview By: Lord Randall

Rebel Extravaganza: Back at the start (or your start with the band), did you have a vision of what you wanted DARK FOREST to become over time, and how does what it is today look back on what it was?

Christian Horton: In the very beginning the only aim was to play the kind of music that I was into and see where it led. I started writing songs before I could really play and learnt the guitar as I went along. I think that by the time we’d released our first album we’d started to secretly hope we might be able to one day make a living from the music, which shows the level of naivety we were still at.

RX: ‘The Midnight Folk’ is to me one of the heavier songs to come from DARK FOREST. How did that one come together? Are you normally presenting finished songs to the other guys, or have there been cases where songs turned out noticeably different after running through rehearsal?

CH: I quite often present the finished thing, yes, but then they will always give feedback and suggestions of how to improve or change parts. Other times Pat [Jenkins, guitars] and Josh [Winnard, vocals] will send over recordings of riffs and melodies for me to play around with and work into songs. They all tend to have a different colour and feel by the time we’re rehearsing them compared to the original home guitar recordings yeah. ‘The Midnight Folk’ started out as just the simple chorus riff with a vocal melody idea over the top. We knew it was going to end up being a catchy sort of song, and it was just the usual case of building the song up around that central tune, and making each section as strong as it could be without losing any coherence.

RX: Aside from ‘The Lore Of The Land’, the title track to Oak, Ash & Thorn is one of the most expansive in your catalog thus far. Do you think you would’ve had the confidence to take that second step with this song had you not already done so before?

CH: Yes I think so, I didn’t even realize how long that song was going to end up being as I was writing it. I never set out with a specific idea of song length, it happens naturally, you get a feeling of when a song is complete and when it’s asking for more to be added. We were all surprised when ‘Avalon Rising’ and ‘Relics’ both ended up being the length that they are, as when we play them, they only feel like 4 or 5 minute songs. Don’t forget that even on our debut album, ‘Excalibur’ was eight and a half minutes. We’ve always been comfortable with longer tracks.

RX: How important is the artwork when seen as part of an album? Does one lose something without the other, in your eyes, and do you ever see the day of the physical copy of an album going by the wayside? Myself, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to, say, Led Zeppelin – III or early Saxon, and looked through the liner notes for the hundredth time. There’s something magical there, right?

CH: It is important, or at least it should be. The art should be an extension of the music, part of the whole package and compliment one another. I know some bands might not put so much thought to it or maybe just come up something which they like the look of but we like it to have a deeper connection and be a real visual representation of the music. There have been concerns for a long time now about losing physical copies altogether, but I don’t see that happening. I think there will always be people who appreciate a proper album.

RX: Being born and having spent my younger years in the Southern US (traveled much since then), and being very proud of my Scottish and Irish heritage, there’s still a lot of baggage one has to deal with when writing about pride in heritage, and especially in a nation. Almost at the start, you’re branded nationalistic, backward-thinking, racist, any other one of a hundred terms and ideologies pushed on you, most of which couldn’t be further from the truth. Is it possible to celebrate heritage (which we, the living, admittedly had fuck all to do with the choice of) without embracing the darkness of the past?

CH: Yes, unfortunately these days there’s a lot of knee-jerk reactions to things like that from people who have poor understanding, or are in possession of extreme ideologies. For me, I’ve always had a great interest in our history, especially the social history of how people lived and thought in other times. I’ve never felt very happy with modern times. I’m not a fan of technology, I prefer the simpler, greener life. I think a lot of the problems in the world today are a result of people failing to integrate their own shadow side, preferring to try and push it out away from themselves only for it to manifest again elsewhere. I think this is a concept that we need to start understanding in order to grow.

RX: Beginning with an instrumental is daring in and of itself, but to close with one? Even understanding that there’s a theme – if not a defined concept – at work here, speaks to the level of confidence the band has in the material, I’d think.

CH: We are confident in the material of course, but I think ‘Heart Of The Rose’ just needed to go at the end somehow either way. Again, it’s just one of those senses you develop of how the album should flow and what works where regardless of the generally accepted formula. I consider that song to be probably the most musically powerful track on the album so that in itself was enough for it to be the closing number.

RX: Plans for the latter half of 2020? Seems for some time has dragged on due to the current pandemic situation, for some it seems it was February only yesterday for the same reason. Maybe it’s that, as in my case, been working from home since then, so not much change of event from day to day.

CH: Well I’ve been fortunate enough to have had nearly three months away from work which I’ve been using to write brand new material amongst other things so I think for the rest of the year we’re going to work on a new release which will hopefully not be as long in the making as Oak, Ash & Thorn!