Interview with Natasian Brian Hensley

I was messaged by musician Natasian Brian Hensley about looking at his band 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep. What was originally meant to be a few questions about his band eventually turned into scheduling a phone interview. After some phone tag we got a hold of each other. Seeing as I can’t ask productive questions I prepared him for the dumbest and most inane questions possible. He kindly assured me he could soldier through them.

I asked him tell me a little bit about the band. “It started off as a solo project, um, a little story about that was I was in this band called Alternate Shadow with a buddy of mine back in probably around 2002. Well, you know when you have a band you’ve got different people trying to put their input into the whole band. I had a lot of ideas that at the time that my current band I was in wasn’t into but I kinda wanted to make them go into my little project, so I then I started 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep as my side project. The original plan wasn’t for it to be a solo project, but it evolved into a solo project. So now currently Bleu Joëlle is collaborating with me. We’ve yet to have any recordings for that, I think she’s still working on lyrics for that.”

When asked about his artistic influences Natasian said, “As far as what [are my] influences and my lyrical content [is influenced by] it has to do with a lot of things. Presence of darkness, the sound, the atmosphere, technicality with constructive purposes, positivity mixed with ideas of other worldly religions, all kinds of different things. So I guess a lot of my influences come from own ideas and the way I feel about things. Now as far as musical bands I listen to who influence me, I’d probably say along the lines of , you know, a lot of different kinds of stuff. Like if I was going to get into the heavy metal aspect bands like Hypocrisy, Gojira, DSI, there are so many of them really.” Natasian remarked as an aside, “I don’t base my style off of any other bands’ style. I don’t try to mimic any other band. I try to be unique.” He then continued citing other genres influence him too like swing, jazz, techno, and darkwave.

I took that opportunity to ask him about darkwave, as I’m an idiot who’s never heard of the genre. “When I think of darkwave it’s kind of a techno-ish with minor chords, minor notes, minor chord progressions…it’s kind of like techno with a sinister sound to it. You build upon it with lots of different drum patterns and change ups.”

Natasian and I wandered into a discussion of the variety of tools and instruments he worked with while recording and composing. He briefly mentioned how he combined software and how it works with his creative process. When he mentioned how that helped with his internet presence I asked him, since 13 PotES started around 2004, if he felt evolving his band with the internet served to his advantage. “Oh yeah, absolutely. In my current income bracket, given what the internet provides for me with a few programs to pretty much operate at a level that back in the 80’s or 90’s didn’t get to so easily. I mean, as far as reaching crowds of people, playing show after show, and get your demo circulated the internet helps to speed all that up. Where it used to take mailing lists where people would buy your demo or maybe your friends would pass it around and eventually you’d get around to a crowd, now you can post a song on facebook and within minutes a hundred people can already hear it.” He noted how when promoting himself he used free sites like YouTube and ReverbNation to upload his music and works in progress. I asked him since he found this advantageous if he agreed with people who say the music industry is changing into a cottage industry.

“Oh yeah, absolutely. One guy can do everything pretty much; from promoting the band, to writing the music, recording the music, as long as you’ve got the ability to play the music and write, I mean, one guy could do everything. The whole world back in the 80’s and 90’s where you had the record label construct bands based on what they thought was going to sell and then the smaller bands wouldn’t get any radio play, none of that is even viable anymore because with so many different kinds of people with different kinds of musical tastes out there right now. Any artist can pretty much stand up and say, ‘You know, I wanna play this kind of music and maybe not even put a label on it as far as genre,’ and just kinda do whatever you wanna do and still be successful at a certain kind of level (depending on what you consider successful).” He admitted it will be more challenging when he gets more of a band assembled and starts booking shows in addition to more promotion, all while keeping ticket prices at a minimum. “I’m not trying to get rich in 5 years off of a certain amount of shows. I just feel a little more personal about the music. I do it for fun. I enjoy doing it.”

During the lull I back tracked to ask him how he met Bleu Joëlle and began collaborating with her. “We first met through Craigslist. I don’t quite remember if I saw her ad she posted or if she saw mine. I think we both were posting ads trying to find new musicians to get together and, you know, jam with and, you know, try to get something rolling. We were both living in Indianapolis […] then right around the same time I had some other musicians that I had met and some that I had already known for a while, Billy Miller, he was in Alternate Shadow back in the day before I started 13 Palaces […] the first time we jammed we set up a meeting to meet this guy called Tom Fox, who was in a band called Blood Drive. He lives out in Plainfield which is out by Bleu Joëlle, and I guessed they talked about getting together jamming out before I knew either one of them. But I guess it never work out, and what we ended up planning was that me and Billy would come pick up Bleu Joëlle, and then we went to Tom’s and just kind of jammed out […] and what has happened with that situation, though, it never formed into anything permanent. Me and Bleu Joëlle are still continuing to collaborate, I’m still talking to Tom, and I still talk to Billy and everything.” Natasian divulged his future plans to work again with Tom and Billy in another band, and would love to include other artists. “I might be pulling them into 13 Palaces, and eventually I’m willing to juggle both of them [the other band and 13 Palaces] back and forth, and Bleu Joëlle is definitely going to be on 13 Palaces. She’s got some lyrics written for a few of my songs that I’ve put together, we’ve yet to get any kind of recordings yet, like I said, but I’m anxious to hear what she’s got working. She’s a very versatile musician. She definitely speaks French, and I don’t speak French, but I think it’s kinda cool to hear some other languages in the lyrics. The accents brings a different vibe to the music, and it opens up to another audience too.”

Since he mentioned other projects and songs I asked if he was going to release an album or future songs anytime soon. While he has uploaded more songs as of this publication he did answer about the album. “Well, I’m definitely looking at putting an album together as soon as we can get the recording together. I mean, I already have some albums. It’s a matter of which songs will go on which albums. One album is ‘Dark Palaces United’, which is my second album actually. My first album is ‘Skeleton Fool’, and the third album is ‘Face in Green Blood’. I’ve really got albums together but as far as on the internet you don’t really get them by album, you get them by individual songs […] But all those are pretty much already on album […] I pretty much have enough written for about 8 albums already. They’re pretty much written, they’re going to be demo albums. As far as professional albums, that’s definitely what I want to work for towards the future. But there’s a lot of things that has to happen in my life as far as getting financing [and] to get the artists I really need.” As he described the challenges of finding an artist he’s looking for I asked him if he felt finding compatible artists was harder thanks to the way music has changed or if it’s not any harder, just more noticeable.

“The whole fact that you don’t have to fit a certain style anymore in order to be successful or at least be in a working band or anything…people are more willing to be like, ‘OK, this person isn’t willing to play what I’m willing to play, so we’ll just kind of not jam with them and go off to do whatever I want to do by myself. Back in the day there weren’t as many musicians as there are now. There are so many musicians…” We joked about how everyone’s a musician now (even if you exclude a certain ocarina player), then discussed the sheer volume of musicians producing content on the internet. We noted how it was easier to mark the evolution of music in general and jamming with people who work with different genres.

I wrapped up the interview and thanked him for being patient with me and my stupid questions. I told him I’d try to get the interview posted in the next few days, and we chatted about composing music. This wandered into instruments we study. When we discovered we were both self studies we discussed the instruments where I admitted my fingering was terrible. He remarked with something I found inspiring. “To be honest I understand exactly what you mean because back when– I’m 34 years old now – when I was first learning guitar there was no internet. I mean, there might have been an internet in California because they’re 5 to 10 years ahead of us here but I didn’t have internet. I didn’t even know what [the] internet was. I had a few tablature books, you know. The only way I knew how to read that stuff was because I read an article in Guitar World or something where they had little lessons on how to read tablature or something. Really, I started playing by ear […] I have my own tuning that I figured out over the years that [proper tuning] doesn’t really matter, you know [..] It’s kind of something you have to experience.”

Natasian Brian Hensley’s work with 13 Palaces ov the Earthen Sleep is available on facebook as well as soundcloud.

CORRECTION: Apparently I need to fire my sound engineer because I totally misheard a couple of band names.  The band named as “Alternate Shadow” is a misprint and should be noted as Altered Shadow.  The other band named as “Blood Drive” is actually Blood Tribe.

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