The internet has allowed obscure and niche genres to flourish. It has allowed artists to get more exposure, more records to be sold and fans to bond over their favourite artists while discovering new ones. One artist that recently came to my attention was Lucidium, the brainchild of Dean Derron from Myopic Empire. Dean was a great interviewee, their answers were interesting and well structured. In our chat, we talked about the origins and influences of Lucidium, Dean’s musical beginnings, religion, being a studio project, and possible live plans.
Jack: Hi Dean, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Dean Derron: Not bad, thanks. The world’s a scary place, but I still exist. How are you?
Jack: I’m doing great. What was the first instrument you picked up?
Dean: I learned some piano as a child, but gave it up fairly early on. I was interested in theory but the music I was being taught was quite boring. I then bought a bass when I left school after reading a book about Sid Vicious. I thought that if he could make it as a bassist without being able to play a note, I’d probably be able to do it. Most people think of me as a bassist because that’s what I do in Myopic Empire, but I don’t really have a favourite instrument. They are all means to achieve an end.
Jack: What bands got you into music?
Dean: Well, I grew up listening to popular music, such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince. I always liked the over-the-top, theatrical music and have always looked for something bolder, brasher, louder, heavier. I got introduced to heavy music one summer night, sitting on a friend’s front lawn, listening to Soulfly and Marilyn Manson through a tape recorder. It was loud, in your face and theatrical, and naturally I was hooked.
Jack: What was the first metal album you bought?
Dean: That’ll be Soulfly’s self-titled album. I played that a lot. I loved the tribal elements and the raw energy of it. Before that, the heaviest album in my collection was probably something by The Prodigy, so you can see why it would have had such an effect on me.
Jack: Were you surrounded by music growing up?
Dean: Yeah, my Dad’s listening taste really influenced me, and I got bitten by the music bug early on. I would always rather listen to music than talk to people. I used to have a Walkman in my pocket pretty much constantly as a child, and my love for music has caused me trouble with at least two romantic relationships! Music has always come first.
Jack:What was the first band you were in?
Dean: Myopic Empire! I’ve been doing my own music for years, though. As a teenager, I produced trip-hop and rave music (none of which has seen the light of day), and was a fairly decent rapper. A friend and I used to DJ and MC in his bedroom and recorded hundreds of mixtapes. We did the occasional party but nobody really liked our heavy sounds – even when I listen to electronic music, it’s always the dark, menacing styles that I seek out. I think some metalheads would be surprised at how dark and heavy some drum and bass is, for example.
Jack: You’re currently in Essex doom warriors Myopic Empire, but you’ve gone solo for a project called Lucidium. Has going solo always been a dream?
Dean: I’m not sure, really. I have worked on solo material for years, but I didn’t join an actual band until a few years ago when we formed Myopic Empire. I did audition for an indie band at university, but I never heard back from them. I don’t think I was the right fit visually, with my platform boots and black hair… I think that some things are better done on my own, when I want to convey certain ideas. I’m sure there are suitable collaborators out there, but I quite like the control that comes with working alone on such a project. I’ve been working on this material for years on my own, and it seems logical to continue doing that. The first track that could have been called Lucidium was actually recorded 13 years ago, but it was pretty terrible. The ideas were there, but the production was terrible and I was an awful guitarist. I decided I would keep re-formulating ideas until I was skilled enough to do them justice.
Jack: Would you say playing in bands such as Myopic Empire has helped with Lucidium?
Dean: Definitely! I have learned a lot from playing with other musicians about what works and what doesn’t. Tom Weber [guitarist in Myopic Empire] and I have experimented with production together – we have identical home production setups and share ideas constantly. We recorded, produced and mixed the first two Myopic Empire releases ourselves, and I learned a lot through doing that. He has also improved my guitar technique. James Balcombe [Myopic Empire drummer] is a fountain of knowledge as well. He has a lot of experience with the music scene and both Myopic Empire and Lucidium have benefited from that.
Jack: What is behind the name Lucidium?
Dean: It’s based on the Latin word ‘lucidum’, which translates simply to lucid. I added the ‘i’ to make my own word – Lucidium is the noun I give to the feeling I had when I realised there was no God. For me, it was an awakening; a moment of clarity.
Jack: The album is called Centre for the Treatment of Religion and Other Mental Disorders. What is the meaning behind this title and what inspired it?
Dean: The Centre is a fictional place where people can go and get treatment for their religious beliefs. I have long had a disdain for religious belief. I find it astonishing that people afford it so much respect. It’s illogical that society is free to criticise philosophical and scientific ideas, but people will tell you that it’s wrong to criticise someone’s religious belief. I’m referring mainly to the Abrahamic religions here but if you say that there is a God that can hear your thoughts and manipulate reality, that is a pretty radical hypothesis. It’s more radical than the big bang theory, and look how thoroughly we are testing that – we built the large hadron collider! Why aren’t we testing and questioning the God hypothesis in the same way? As Richard Dawkins says, ‘if there is a God, that would be the single most important fact about the universe.” People need to let go of the God hypothesis. If a scientist held onto a theory for 4,000 years with no evidence to support it, they’d be kicked out of their profession, and religious belief should be held up to the same standards. The title also stems from the realisation that many mental health disorders have symptoms that sound very much like the kinds of things people ascribe to spiritual experiences, such as seeing visions and hearing voices. It occurred to me that you could categorise it as a mental health disorder. Of course, that would make half the world’s population mentally ill…
Jack: Is there a story or theme to the album?
Dean: This is more of a demo of what’s to come from Lucidium. The songs all have the same anti-religious theme, but there isn’t really a narrative running through it. I do like to write stories that run through my albums, but that didn’t happen here.
Jack: What makes religion so attractive to write about?
Dean: I’ve heard some people will say that religion has been overdone in metal, but there’s a reason so many people want to write about it, and the reason is that it affects so much around us. People say it’s a ‘private belief,’ but that’s bullshit. Look at anti-abortion laws in Ireland, anti-gay laws in Uganda and Russia, creationist teaching in American schools and the oppression of people in theocratic states like Saudi Arabia. It affects millions of people every day. I also think that religion makes the human race arrogant. If you think the world and its inhabitants were created for us as some kind of gift, how are you ever going to respect the planet? We don’t respect the planet, and I blame the kind of anthropocentric thinking that is typified by religion.
Jack: I love the bass tone on the album, what bass did you use?
Dean: I have an Ibanez BTB770. I had to go and look that up, as I don’t know much about guitars. I tend to just find one that’s nice to play and stick with it, although this one was attractive as the tone was incredibly punchy. It has active pickups and I think that helps. I use a tiny bit of overdrive and drop the treble to give it even more punch.
Jack: Do you record all the album by yourself or did any guest musicians appear on the album?
Dean: Nope, it’s all me. I might get guests to help in the future, if a need arises. Sometimes other musicians can add texture, but I do like the undistilled anger that comes through when it’s just me. I enjoy working with others in Myopic Empire, but it’s a nice change to do something different.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Dean: Oh my, was it stressful. I spent ages fussing over guitar tones and vocal styles. Even when I was done recording, the mixing was really hard. I’m learning all the time, and one thing I’ve learned recently is that if you fix one part of the mix, everything else will be affected, so I was constantly adjusting levels. I don’t know what it sounds like to new listeners, since I’ve heard these songs so many times by now that I was starting to go a bit mad. If you look at the Facebook page, you can see how many times I’ve pushed back the release date. I don’t know why, but I found this much harder to get right than anything else I’ve done. I have recorded all instruments through a Line6 interface that can simulate amplifiers and effects, so I just plug my guitars straight in. I don’t even have an amplifier in the studio. I’m not a traditionalist. I do like ‘analogue’ music, but the tools I have allow me create the things I want and I am happy with that. The final sound is all that matters.
Jack: I detect a strong industrial influence in Lucidium. Would you class Lucidium as an industrial project?
Dean: I’d never really considered that before. Now you say that, I hear what you mean, with the way I play guitar. When I started, I was inspired by Axis of Perdition – a black metal/industrial/ambient band, but I’d actually forgotten that until you just asked me. I reckon I had their album Deleted Scenes from The Transition Hospital in mind when I came up with the concept for this demo. That album has sections of dissonant black metal interspersed with echoing ambient pieces. The track ‘Case Number 312’ was also inspired by an artist called T.O.M.B., who makes dark ambient using sounds recorded in the real world, such as abandoned hospitals. I have always liked industrial, such as Marilyn Manson, Pitchshifter, Fear Factory, NIN, Laibach and so on, and that probably comes through in what I write. I do love a good palm-muted, stomping riff.
Jack: What are the main influences of Lucidium?
Dean: You’ve got me thinking now. I am heavily influenced by Triptykon. What Tom G. Warrior does is incredible. The darkness is almost tangible when you listen to those records. The despair that is in his voice and in the guitars is absolutely over-powering and I love that. My head is full of despair and it’s great to hear someone put that to music. Other inspirations are Blut Aus Nord, Bloodbath, Dissection, Opeth and Monolithe. I’m staring at my music collection now and it’s probably all inspired me in one way or another, but those, along with Marilyn Manson and Fear Factory are the ones that are most in my mind as I record Lucidium.
Jack: Lots of industrial influences acts such as Misery Loves Co. and Kill II This have reformed lately. Do you think there is an industrial revival ocuring?
Dean: I’m probably not the one to ask about that. I keep hearing about revivals of various scenes but I don’t really know what I’m supposed to read into it. Dark music has always been pretty underground or niche and it will probably stay that way. That said, if there is more industrial to get my teeth into, I’ll be happy. I saw an act called Hate Vessel the other day in Southend, and they were incredible, so if they are part of a revival, then give me more revival!
Jack: Are there any plans to take Lucidium live?
Dean: I have been toying with it in my head, but I don’t know what that would look like. Perhaps I could do it alone, but there could be musicians out there who would want to take part. I’ll have to think about it.
Jack: Is it too soon to start planning a follow up?
Dean: Definitely not! A concept album has already been sketched out and there are some musical ideas kicking around my hard drive, but I just need to find the right frame of mind to get down and do more.
Jack: What other plans are there for you musically?
Dean: I have quite a few projects on the go – Ordus, Torgelleth, Kethicus and, of course Myopic Empire. Myopic are working on an album right now, so that takes priority, but I am also halfway through a Torgelleth album. Torgelleth is an ambient/drone/doom project that’s inspired by the mysteries of space. It’s heavy, but in a different way to my other work.
Jack: Finally, what album would you say has been the most important for you as a musician?
Dean: Oh my… do you know how many times I’ve tried to even write a top 10 album list? It’s so hard. It’s probably Marilyn Manson – Antichrist Superstar. I had to buy a new copy of the CD of that as I wore the first one out. It taught me that it’s good to let the darkness out, that anger can be a useful tool and that art should never be compromised.