Power of Metal.dk Interview

Interview with Clayton Bartholomew (guitars+keys) - Secrets of the Sky, October 2012


With an impressive debut disc out on the market right now, US Doom metal merchants SECRETS OF THE SKY are ready and set to go big. Guitarist Clayton answers questions from the Power Of Metal.dk’s Thomas about the lesson in diverse, modern and potent doom metal called ‘To Sail Black Waters’.

POM: Good day to you, Clayton. Please tell our readers a bit about the history of Secrets of the Sky.

Clayton: Hi Thomas, thanks for your interest and kind words in your review of the album. Secrets of the Sky was formed by myself and Chris Anderson (guitar, keys) back in 2010. We are old friends and were bored, so we started working on song ideas together. We came up with something we thought was interesting and began to develop it. After a year or so, we found the rest of the guys and recorded the album.

POM: Your debut album has made a big impression on yours truly! I trust that I’m not the only one who’s graced ‘To Sail Black Waters’ with a positive response?

Clayton: Thanks so much for that… we really didn’t know what to expect in response to the record because I think we knew we weren’t falling into traditional doom… or prog… or black metal. We were told a few times early on that the record wouldn’t succeed because it was too far removed from the origins of those genres. But I don’t think we cared, we wrote the record for ourselves and we were all happy with it. To be honest, we didn’t even consider genres and shit like that during the writing. But to answer your question, the response has been really positive as it turns out! Other folks like Metal Sucks, Decibel, Metal Injection, Metal Hammer, Rock Hard, etc. have been praising the record. It is unexpected and humbling!

POM: Which sources of inspiration would you regard as being your primary ones? I can hear influences from both newer bands like Isis and Opeth, but also Anathema, My Dying Bride and Type O Negative?

Clayton: I think we all have very different influences individually speaking. The ones you mentioned are certainly present. Musically, I think we considered Pink Floyd quite a bit while writing… though everyone is influenced by Floyd more or less, including all of the comparisons you and everyone else has made. We also had horror movie soundtracks in mind while writing… we wanted to make something more than just a collection of songs.

POM: The titles of the four songs of the album are very short (Winter/Decline/Sunrise/Black Waters), which, one could argue, is a stark contrast to the length of the tunes. Is there a point to be made from this or was that just the way it turned out?

Clayton: Hmmm, not sure it was planned although from an aesthetic standpoint it works quite well I think. Pioneering post metal bands like Red Sparrows, etc. tend to have these long drawn out song titles, so we may have been subconsciously avoiding that cliché.

POM: What’s the song writing process like in Secrets of the Sky? Is there a main song writer?

Clayton: I think Chris and I tend to come to the table with most of the riffs and song structures and then we flesh out the arrangements as a band. Garett is responsible for all of the vocal and lyrical content, though I like to think the rest of us contribute to the overall thematic concept.

POM: Juan Urteaga (Machine Head, Testament) produced the album. What made you choose him, and what did he add to the Secrets of the Sky sound?

Clayton: We have all known Juan for years and have recorded with him for past projects. I think if we would have gone with an engineer/producer who is known for post-metal or whatever, we wouldn’t have gotten the uniqueness we achieved with this album. Again, we really didn’t want to just go with the status quo. So I would say he had a lot to do with the record being as clean and modern sounding as it is… almost European in a way. We are perfectionists when writing and playing live and I think Juan captured that, while leaving enough of the organic sound of the drums, guitars and vocals to allow people to still feel it.  

POM: Will you be touring on the back of ‘To Sail Black Waters’? Perhaps even visit Europe?

Clayton: Yes. We just got back from a 10 date tour to coincide with the album release… western US states. We are playing the “I’m On A Boat Music Festival” next month on the famously haunted Queen Mary ocean liner… November 16. We are also busy lining up a full US tour for early 2014. We would LOVE to do some European shows as well before recording the next album, which is almost completely written.

POM: The cover artwork for the album is absolutely amazing! How did that come about?

Clayton: An artist by the name of Michael Reynolds from Australia did the cover painting. We were looking through artwork on some art website and came across his piece. It was so fitting for the album, just so perfect. So we asked him if we could use it and he was gracious enough to accept.

POM: ‘To Sail Black Waters’ came out on Kolony Records. I honestly can’t say I can recall having seen the label name before. Do you run all marketing of the band yourself like many other bands, or do you get backing from the label?

Clayton: Kolony is an Italian label formed in 2008. The label has excellent worldwide distribution and work with SureShotWorx for Europe and Earsplit PR in North and South America for press and marketing. The label has done quite a bit in terms of press work and advertising, so that has been hugely helpful.

POM: At what age did you begin to play guitar and who inspired you to do so?

Clayton: I guess around 12 or 13 years old. I was (and still am) influenced by Jimmy Page, Hendrix, Jeff Beck, etc. Classic stuff mostly.

POM: If you stranded on a desert island, which five albums would you hope would be on your iPod?

Clayton: Hmm. 1. Robin Trower, Bridge Of Sighs. 2. Pink Floyd, The Wall 3. Dead Kennedys, Frankenchrist. 4. Crowbar, Self-titled. 5. Bolt Thrower, For Victory

POM: Thanks a million for answering my question, Clayton! Any last rants for our readers?

Clayton: No problem! No rants really, though we would like for folks to check out our video for the song “Decline” on youtube:

Also, drop us a line at www.facebook.com/secretsofthesky and let us know what you think of the record. Many thanks to all who might be reading this!

Secrets of the Sky - To Sail Black Waters 

Label: Kolony Records


Garett Gazay - Vocals
Clayton Bartholomew - Guitars & keys
Chris Anderso - Guitars & keys
Ryan Healy - Bass
Lance Lea - Drums

To Sail Black Waters (2013)


Interviewed by Thomas Nielsen