The latest album from Canadian doom/psychedelic rockers Blood Ceremony is The Old Ways Remain. Guitarist Sean Kennedy gives us the lowdown on the album, touring, his non-musical interests and more.
Chad Bowar: What led to the seven year gap between albums?
Sean Kennedy: A short spell of writer’s block followed by the plague. When it comes down to it, if we had to force ourselves to come up with new material, we probably wouldn’t have been very happy with it. We feel great about the new album, and it’s coming out at the right time for us.
How did the songwriting process for The Old Ways Remain compare to your other albums?
The songwriting process was more or less the same as with our previous albums, except for the addition of a cover song called “Mossy Wood,” which was written by Amy Bowles. It was originally written for a psychedelic band she and I previously played in called Hollow Earth. That group subsequently changed personnel, changed their name, and released a really good album. Lucas, Alia, Mike, and I thought “Mossy Wood” was a good fit for the album, and so we decided to include it on The Old Ways Remain.
What led you to self-produce the album, and how was the experience?
We originally planned to record in London at Toerag with Liam Watson, as we had recorded our previous album Lord of Misrule there and loved everything about the place. We were forced to cancel our original recording session at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, and the ensuing lockdowns made recording overseas a bit tricky to organize. After a while we realized we could just get on with it ourselves and started looking for a suitable studio at home. We enlisted the help of co-producer Paul Kehayas, who was a trusted set of ears during the session.
What was the most challenging part of recording The Old Ways Remain?
Once we got down to it things went fairly smoothly. Even with more time, I find recording always ends up being a race against the clock.
What inspired the album title?
It’s taken from a line in our song “Witchwood,” which is the opening track on The Eldritch Dark. It sums up the ethos of the band, as we’ve always drawn inspiration from the golden age of psychedelic hard rock, and lyrically we go back even further. After a few years without live music or touring, it also feels like a return to action for us. My first choice for the album title was Widdershins, but everyone agreed that The Old Ways Remain was a good statement for the band.
Did you struggle with track order?
Not really. It fell into place in a way that made sense once we had all the material.
How has your sound evolved from Lord Of Misrule?
I think we’re getting better at cutting out the fat and leaving out ideas that don’t improve the song. It’s hard to be objective about this stuff, but I think the songs are more concise on this one. We had a different approach to the mix, as well. There’s less reverb, a bit more clarity. We wanted to make a classic-sounding rock record.
What lyrical topics do you cover on this one?
Ancient sacrifices, Georgian hellfire clubs, modern sex cults, witchcraft, hauntings set in fictional Irish settings, and other curiosities.
You have a European tour in May. Do you have North American dates planned as well?
We don’t have any North American dates planned aside from Toronto and Montreal later this year. We love playing in the United States and I think a tour is long overdue.
With several albums under your belt, how do you put together a setlist for a tour, and does it change from show to show?
We usually stick to a chosen set list for a tour, with a few variations depending on the amount of time we get to play.
What’s the most unusual venue you’ve played?
Several years ago, we played at 6am in an abandoned brickworks factory in Toronto. It was a wild, all-night event with art installations and experimental music. I don’t think anyone bothered to get permission. We’re also really fond of Truckstop Alaska in Gothenburg. I think the venue shut its doors. That place had an incredible energy.
Your eclectic sound allows you to fit in with artists in many genres. Do you try to get on bills or festivals with artists of numerous styles to expose your music to different (non-metal) audiences?
We’re open to playing music festivals of all types. It doesn’t make sense to me to only play on genre-specific bills. If you look at the festivals from the late ‘60s and early ‘70s there was always an eclectic mix of groups from heavy rock to experimental to jazz. I think that’s the way to go. Something for everyone, and the opportunity to discover something new.
What are some of the most memorable places/attractions you’ve been able to visit while touring?
The great thing about Europe is that even when there’s no time to visit attractions you may just stumble upon historical monuments anyway. In Nijmegen, we played at a venue across from the Valkhof. We checked out the citadel after sound check and it was a trip thinking that Charlemagne had stood there and we’re playing a gig across the street! The furthest from home we’ve been is Moscow in 2014. We got day drunk on vodka, visited Red Square, saw St. Basil’s Cathedral, Lenin’s Tomb, and then wound up in a fast food restaurant all within the space of one confusing hour. I think the strangest place we saw in the U.S. was a monolithic dome society we randomly came across as we drove through rural Texas. There was no one about, so it felt like walking through a set from the Twilight Zone.
What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
I’m usually reading, watching old movies, exploring old buildings, finding decent vegetarian restaurants, or watching the Toronto Blue Jays.
What’s the best thing you’ve binge watched lately?
I watched the first season of Lockwood & Co. and thought it was really good. It’s set in London and involves occult detectives, so I couldn’t resist.
Anything else you’d like to mention/promote?
The Old Ways Remain drops May 5. Pick it up on vinyl, CD, or stream it out of the ether if you must… just give it a listen! Thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years. We’ve got some dates with Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Gaupa in May and we’re working on a weird new promo video for our song “Powers of Darkness.”
(interview published May 4, 2023)
Listen To Blood Ceremony – “Ipissimus”