The Last Surrealist is a solo project of Chris Romans based out of Easton, Pennsylvania. The music creates spans a multitude of genres, from electronic and trance to black metal, post rock, neo-folk and others. In culmination, he calls his music “post life music” because while there is much diversity to be had throughout his tracks, the music is tied together by the theme of love, death, nihilism, depression, and a desire for rebirth into something better. In 2013 he released his three song EP entitled VOID, and is now back in July 2014 with the release of his first full length album POST LIFE MUSIC.
Metal Empire: Hey, thank you for speaking to Metal Empire today. How are you?
The Last Surrealist: I am well. Currently conversing with my cat. He talks back, but not in English. He’s kind of like a foreign gentleman. I think he wants to take me back to his house under the couch…
Metal Empire: The Last Surrealist is an interesting name, how did it come about? Is there a story or meaning behind it?
The Last Surrealist: I have an affection for surrealistic art, and frequently find myself in a dream-like state throughout the day. On the surface, you could say I daydream a lot, though that is a gross simplification; and the name is meant to evoke that I am constantly utilizing a number of thought processes at once and am not willing to isolate myself from my dream states.
Of course, at the end of the day, The Last Surrealist as a name is somewhat arbitrary as well. I wanted a name that wouldn’t confine me to heavily to a specific genre of music, and this is becoming far more clear since the development and release of Post Life Music.
Metal Empire: Can you tell us a little about your music and what you do?
The Last Surrealist: The music I have created over the years, and particularly on this new release, is complex to describe without sounding pretentious, redundant, or ridiculously angst ridden. But, I’ll say what I can. I have begun to call the music I create “post life music.” Call this a genre tag or something like it, but it’s far better than saying I make “electronic/trance, soundtrack/ambient, orchestral, post rock, neo-folk, black metal” music. The genre classifications are silly, but I really would like people to acknowledge that music on a record like Post Life Music can be diverse, spanning moments of abrasive black metal yet paired with more structured tracks that have pop music sensibilities and lighter tones. For myself, all of the music ties together by the theme. “Post life music” is the exploration of love, death, and the potential for an after life or rebirth. That latter element is fundamentally surreal to me.
Metal Empire: What are you up to at the moment? Is there something you’re working on currently?
The Last Surrealist: I am spending some time relaxing and clearing my mind as I’ve pumped a lot of effort and energy into the production of Post Life Music over the past year. I am beginning to tinker with the idea of developing a few solo acoustic tracks as well, but we’ll see how that goes.
Metal Empire: Seeing as you’ve just released a new album called Post Life Music, can you tell us a little bit more about it?
The Last Surrealist: Post Life Music is a culmination of my intellectual, emotional, and artistic growth. I’ve been creating music for quite some time now, and have worked under different names such as The Horizon of a Dream and Ethereal Morning Rise; only to find myself at this point as The Last Surrealist feeling far more confident and mature in my musical sensibilities. With previous album releases, I’ve always felt that there were some rough patches, moments of weakness, lackluster tracks, and so forth; mainly as a result of my production skills not being up to par with the ideas in my head. While I do not think Post Life Music is perfect by any stretch, it is far easier on the ears, which certainly will help it reach an audience. The diversity of sound on the album will likely lead to some divisiveness.
Metal Empire: You mentioned you used a lot of different genres in creating this record, how did that come about, what was the influence behind your decision?
The Last Surrealist: Since I started exploring music in my teenage years, I’ve found myself enjoying different styles of music more and more. I’ve gone through the silly phases. For a while I was addicted to listening to black metal. I would listen to it non-stop and read up on the history. Taking in the theatrical sights and acquiring interest in Satanism like every metalhead should. Then I grew out of it and found myself dabbling into neo-folk. It was a lighter style of music but had a lot of similar thematic ideas. The more I listened and narrowed myself to a singular musical world view, the more I ended up just getting bored. At some point in all this I started listening to New Age and classical music like Yanni, and it took my breath away, while simultaneously contradicting all of the things I originally thought about music having come from a background in dark and depressing forms of metal and folk.
I now realize that genre classifications are fundamentally meaningless if we wish to truly convey a range of emotions and experiences. So many artists offer up a one dimensional viewpoint of the world. By working with multiple genres it makes the creation of music more interesting for me, and allows me to make art on my own terms.
Metal Empire: What would you say the main focus of your music is?
The Last Surrealist: On the surface, I make music for myself. I know this is an old cliche many artists will inundate interviewers with, but for myself it is a reality. I mean, I listen to my own music religiously. With the production of Post Life Music, this has been even more dramatically realized as I haven’t really explored much new music in the past few months outside of a few choice records like An Autumn For Crippled Children’s Try Not to Destroy Everything and Vindensang’s Alpha.
Aside from this, I like having the opportunity to speak candidly with myself and potentially an audience (if they want to hear it) about personal things going on inside my head. A lot of the music on this record emphasizes death, depression, and suicidally that has stemmed from seeing my sister die when I was younger. While most will not be able to relate to this particular event, I imagine these feelings pent up inside can be relatable, which is why I find music as a social construct to be useful, even if most people are looking to music as a means to escape into some sort of happy state of mind. I’d like to think that sometimes the best way to enlightenment or “happiness” is by going through the dark, dank tunnel system. Like boarding the subway in NYC. It’s dirty and their are homeless people all around, but I get off at the Upper East Side.
Metal Empire: Can you talk about your production process? How do you go about writing new material?
The Last Surrealist: The production process is a real headache. I work by myself with very limited feedback from friends. I am self-taught in all aspects of music. From learning how to play instruments to navigating DAW’s and sequencers, I do everything by myself for the most part. The struggle is that I have mediocre equipment, and it is constantly breaking down or otherwise failing me. So a simple recording session that should take 5 minutes turns into an hour long headache. But, I like the end result, it feels borderline orgasmic. It’s almost like I’m getting into a sadomasochistic relationship with my musical equipment, and I suppose that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s just bad when an SM57 starts to look more and more phallic and the mic stand like a person wanting to go to town on me.
I mainly write material through tablature, then overlay sequenced segments and on more than a few occasions play improvised lines. This is most notable on “Love is Subservient to Death” which showcases an acoustic bass throughout that is entirely improvised.
Metal Empire: What and who are some of your major influences? Please give a few details about what you enjoy about creating music and what inspires you to make it.
The Last Surrealist: I am influenced by a number of things. I really enjoy musicians that break away from the norm in some way. Bands like Agalloch, Vindensang, A Silver Mt. Zion, Nature & Organisation, Current 93, Cold Body Radiation, Clams Casino and Keaton Henson really get to me. It’s all sort of emotionally complex and theatrical in one way or another. On that latter point, I also draw much influence from film. Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain is a major influence because of it’s story of love, death, and the desire for rebirth paired with the beautiful imagery and score. I also like absurdity and surrealism (which I tend to think go hand in hand), and dig people who talk about such things. Also: nihilism and the prospect of love in spite of it.
I enjoy creating music because I think it is able to capture thoughts in a complex way. Good music to me doesn’t capture a singular moment or idea, but a multitude of them all at once. When I listen to one of my tracks, it is as if all of these ideas have been assembled into a 4 or 10 minute piece in the form of layers. To some, it sounds nonsensical. Like the sound of a crowded building with many people talking. Each instrument speaks. Each synthetic texture says something. And sometimes my own voice steps out with pointed lyrics directed mainly towards myself, but on occasion towards the prospect of death, my disdain for religion and political establishments, and my desire for love even though I hardly believe in it at all.
Music is a constant conflict. It’s chaotic. At the moments when it makes the least sense to me. When I can’t understand how to produce a track consisting of 30 layered instruments. I just sit and feel the tactile stimulation of my guitar strings on my callused finger tips in a hot and humid room at my house.
Metal Empire: Is there anything else in life that drives you beside music?
The Last Surrealist: Sure. I have a number of motivating things in my life. I wake up mostly because my long term girlfriend is there. In truth, while my music may be rather melancholy and somber, a majority of the things I do, I do for the sake of humor. Albeit my dark sense of humor, but humor none the less. In fact, I like telling people that I want “I did it for the LOL’s” placed on my gravestone when I am dead and gone. Everything is a joke.
Metal Empire: Does your music have any political messages that you feel the world should be aware of?
The Last Surrealist: I try to be apolitical. Politics is a game of bullshit, whichever side you are on. Occasionally my music dabbles into topics like religion and war, but never really in a manner wherein I am attempting to say one thing is better than another thing. My own thoughts on most topics are contradictory in and of themselves and empathetic towards all involved. With war for instance, I’d rather not see people fight as I tend to be a kind person in real life. I don’t put up this front that I am some hardcore, aggressive, and violent person. But, on the flipside, I view the end of all things as being equivalent to nothingness. Everything lacks meaning and value. If people want to fight for their countries, kings, lovers, etc. then by all means go ahead. I’d just prefer that if I’m going to take a bullet to the head, I’m the one putting it there.
Metal Empire: Is there any band or artist you would give anything to play a show with? If so, who are they and why?
The Last Surrealist: You actually touch on a good point with this question. I don’t intend to play any shows. I find my music to be too complicated to strip down, and I generally don’t like being around people all that much. Plus, I feel live music often ruins the feeling of an album of work. That’s not to say I’ve completely ruled it out in the future, but I’m not overly inclined to work with others. That said, if given the chance I’d play alongside Vindensang or Current 93 because our music works off of similar atmospheres and themes.
Metal Empire: What are you hopes for the future? Where do you see yourself as an artist this time next year or the year after?
The Last Surrealist: I try not to get too ahead of myself. I like to live for the moment. I am thinking about writing an album of predominately acoustic neo-folk styled music, but we will see.
Metal Empire: Where can fans get their hands on a copy of your new record?
The Last Surrealist: Currently Post Life Music is only available in digital format via Our Bandcamp. If there is enough interest and donations, I will print physical copies and look into other marketing outlets.
Metal Empire: If you could have any musician from history feature on your next record who would you choose and why?
The Last Surrealist: I’d have to go with Antony Hegarty because of his beautiful vocal vibrato. It makes me feel gay inside. And that is okay.
Metal Empire: What’s your favourite TV Show?
The Last Surrealist: I only watch pornography and videos of people being murdered. I’m only kind of joking. At this point, I’d be inclined to say that The Flight of the Concords is one of the better shows I’ve watched.
Metal Empire: If you had one wish in the world what would it be, and why?
The Last Surrealist: I wish we could all die together in one uniform push by the universe.
Metal Empire: Thank you for taking the time to speak to Metal Empire about what you do. Do you have any final words, or anything you would like to add?
The Last Surrealist: I appreciate the opportunity and hope this interview isn’t too sardonic for your readers. If anyone would like to check out Post Life Music, go to www.thelastsurrealist.bandcamp.
from Metal Empire http://www.metalempire.co.uk/2014/07/interview-with-the-last-surrealist/