Shredding in the Tomb of the Pharaohs: An Interview with Bonno Stobart of Tyrannos

I frst met Bonno Stobart a handful of years ago when he was just starting to pick up a guitar and read Lovecraftian horror. I probably shouldn’t even tell some of this, but being the horrible person that I am, I’m going to anyway. 🙂 He and I (and Victoria Snaith) had a brief chat about Lovecraft the day we met. I found out a few days later, that Bonno had taken our conversation quite seriously, and had gathered (additional, I believe) Lovecraft reading material and was already researching his first Lovecraft-influenced musical works. I don’t know what resulted from that directly, but I did receive from Bonno a “good luck charm” for my Ph.D. graduation that consisted of a sigil referencing Cthulhu, which I still carry with me everywhere (yep. I’m a geek like that. Never leave home without it… Thanks Bonno!)

I haven’t stayed in touch with Bonno as perhaps I would have liked, but recently I was graciously informed of his new release with his amazing solo project Tyrannos by his extremely supportive father. (Check it out now! Tyrannos on YouTube; Tyrannos on Facebook; and the Official Tyrannos website with music, new video, and more!) After giving it a listen, I not only immediately purchased a copy, but was ready for more and advocated for it to the director of Dread Falls Theatre, Victoria Snaith, metal music reviewer and former editor of Poland’s Folk Metal Magazine, Dorota Cieślikowska, and Epic Celtic Metal guitarist Jonathan Kershaw, among others, unsolicited, simply because this music is that good! And, of course, there’s a strong connection to Lovecraft… So I reached out to Bonno and asked if he would mind being interviewed for my humble blog, and luckily for us, he graciously conceded!

Bonno Stobart of Tyrannos

Bonno Stobart of Lovecraftian Extreme Metal band Tyrannos

As always, I ask my interviewees to start off telling us a little more about themselves. Bonno said this:

“My name’s Bonno, NOT named after the U2 frontman, but after a Dutch ancestor who lived around 400 years ago! I have played with several bands since around the age of ten, but up to now Tyrannos has developed as a solo effort, partly due to the lack of like-minded musicians nearby. [Seesar: most of us musical noise makers can relate to that!] I think this project is the one that has been most shaped by my upbringing, having a mother who is an archaeologist and a father who is an ethnomusicologist, not that their specific fields feature in my work yet. Still, both have influenced my interest in ancient history and world music, as I lived in Bolivia for around a year as a child, where I discovered my interest in both traditional Bolivian music and Metal.”

I wasted no time diving into the Lovecraftian madness. I wanted to know what got Bonno into HPL and how that related to the music of Tyrannos. Here’s what he says about being drawn to Lovecraft:

“From what I remember, as is the case with many, I saw a lot of references to Cthulhu in the arts, particularly Metal songs. Hearing so much about this titanic demon of the deep made me curious, so I delved in, started looking into Lovecraft and was soon after given a copy of the ‘Necronomicon’ compilation as a gift. A large part of the appeal of HPL’s work from my perspective is the combination of mysticism and impending doom. I have had a fascination with both of these elements and their accompanying aesthetics since childhood so it was inevitable that I’d discover Lovecraft.”

When asked what his favourite Lovecraftian story may be Bonno said, “That is a tricky one. I’d definitely say The Dunwich Horror is up there, with those bastard children of Yog-Sothoth, the incantations and the ancient ruins outside that troubled little village [Seesar: TDH is also the inspiration for my latest track coming out on Sombre Soniks this month, based directly on these elements.], even if the narrative is a bit softer than HP’s other stories. (Defeated antagonist?! Weak!) I also love the strange cosmic majesty of Beyond the Wall of Sleep and I couldn’t go without mentioning Imprisoned with the Pharaohs or The Rats in the Walls [Seesar: and again, the story from which I drew influence for my previous pieces for Dread Falls Theatre’s Father Dagon podcast reward tracks on Patreon…].”

I wanted to know how Lovecraft influences or inspired his composition, because we all know that it heavily influenced and even dictates, in some cases, my work. Bonno’s answer is different to what mine would be, but it is also clear, he is, in fact, a New Leader of the Eldritch Cult in his own way: “I wouldn’t say Lovecraft influences the music as such, but his stories often correlate with the atmosphere I often want to evoke. It’s that combination of something ominous and horrific with a sense of majesty and grandeur; almost like how I’d imagine Cthulhu rising up from R’lyeh, emerging from the ocean with his wings spread, ready to devour mankind.”

Tyrannos is definitively extreme metal and Bonno parallel’s the genre’s aesthetics with those of Lovecraftian horror, as I do with Seesar’s take on Futurist music. I asked about how Tyrannos’ music represents Lovecraftian horror sonically and Bonno said this: “Not that I’m the only one to have done it, but I think the genre and musical stylings on ‘Beneath the Pharaonic Necropolis’, such as the growls, vocoders, dissonance and Eastern scale on the title track seem to evoke the atmosphere you would imagine for a song about ‘Imprisoned with the Pharaohs’. I think Extreme Metal is the ideal genre for representing stories of this kind.”

And I agree (along with Lovecraftian Futurism, of course)… The new release, Beneath the Pharonic Necropolis, is clearly influenced by or, at least, related to Lovecraft’s  work Imprisioned with the Pharaohs co-authored with Harry Houdini, and probably other Egyptian-based stories featuring Nyralathotep, Nephrin Ka, et cetera (which, yet again, are in line with my influences, as I am working on a large scale set of pieces featuring these same characters, settings, and narratives. It’ll be a while before these are ready for human ears, though, so that’s just a tease on my part. Sorry! 🙂 ) I wanted to know how Bonno settled on employing these themes for the Tyrannos EP, wondering which came first, selecting the story and then writing music, or vice versa, with the music coming first and fitting that to the stories. Stobart said, ” I think it’s a bit of the latter, really. I have had an interest in the ancient Egyptian culture and its monuments for a long time and upon browsing the index of my copy of ‘Necronomicon’, I saw ‘Under the Pyramids’ (Working title for Imprisoned with the Pharaohs) listed and I was intrigued. Little did I know that I would be recording a song about it years later! ‘Cryptic Chaos’, however, has no reference to Egypt at all. That one’s based on ‘The Statement of Randolph Carter’, which I thought would be the perfect theme for a cheesy Old School Death Metal type song, with the references to the graveyard in Big Cypress Swamp (which just so happens to be in Death Metal’s home state!) and unknown monstrosities.”

Bonno confirmed that the music came first for these tracks: “The music came first with both. I built these songs up from a few riffs and slowly realised how perfectly those themes would tie in. Sometimes I write songs with an idea for the theme but it’s a 50/50 thing, really. Guitar always comes first because that’s my main instrument. Usually when I’ve written the parts out in Guitar Pro, I get really eager to get a feel for how the atmosphere/dynamics would be so I program provisional drums, then the last step is usually bass as I’m not that big on bass but I still try to do something interesting and tend to avoid just following the rhythm guitar. I do indeed write the lyrics myself and they often come in before or after the drums, it depends how inspired I am. I actually have some songs that are fully written instrumentally but have incomplete lyrics so it really does vary.”

Next, I wanted to hear about how the Tyrannos style developed. To my ears, I hear a lot of black technical metal and Polish metal bands I love, but Tyrannos definitely retains a unique combination of driving, straight forward structural elements within the blazing drums, simultaneous catchy and complex riffs, driving bass lines, and harsh vocals that, in my opinion, sets Tyrannos apart from other projects whose influence I percieve. Tyrannos’ music is not simple, yet it is still accessible, nor is it soft on any level, yet it is still inviting, and that’s a difficult balance to achieve.

Bonno: “Well, first off, thank you! That balance is something I have long worked towards achieving so I’m glad to hear it has come across that way. I like the idea of creating something slightly weird but not overly technical to the point that the average listener can’t connect to it. As far as the actual influences go, I’m a huge Morbid Angel fan [Seesar: as well you should be!] and they probably have the biggest influence on what I write, maybe in subtle ways but it’s certainly there. Dissection is also a big inspiration, as well as Alkaloid [Seesar: Another Lovecraft-influenced extreme metal band well-worth your time to check out if you haven’t yet!], Obscura [Seesar: Oh HEL yeah!], Kamelot [Seesar: Symphonic metal madness on Napalm Records], Blind Guardian [Seesar: Nice…], Emperor [Seesar: Of course!] and the list goes on!

Tyrannos Beneath the Pharonic Necropolis

Stobart plays a majority of the instruments on Beneath, but the Tyrannos EP features some guests, too: “Due to the limits of my schedule and budget at the time,” Bonno says,”the drums are all electronic. I would have preferred to have live drums but that will have to follow in the next release. When I had tracked all of the parts I realised the drums I initially programmed were a bit lacking. I realised “I’m not a drummer, I know who can do this better” and went straight to my friend Caio Alves for help. He plays drums in several bands in London, almost like the-go to for Extreme Metal at this stage but his ‘main’ band is a killer Black Metal band called Sufferer. Those guys have a lot of passion and energy and their EP ‘War on Life’, which they released a few months ago, goes hard. Definitely give that a listen. [Seesar: You can hear Sufferer on Bandcamp, or visit their Facebook page here.]

“The guest solo on the track ‘Cryptic Chaos’ was by Xander Bradley from Cryptic Shift. This effectively came about from wanting some really obnoxious shred to go with the OSDM theme of the song and knowing it just had to be him. I’ve been a big fan of Cryptic Shift since the release of their EP ‘Beyond the Celestial Realms’ so I was honoured that he accepted my invitation. The result matched my vision of a fast, loud and rude sonic warp that sounds like the bastard child of Trey Azagthoth and Erik Rutan! For more of that kind of stuff, give their latest single ‘Cosmic Dreams’ a listen and keep an eye out for next year’s release. It’s bound to be incredible.” [Seesar: You can hear Cryptic Shift on Bandcamp, or visit their Facebook page here.]

There’s a fabulous video out, too, as part of the EP’s launch, which strongly reminds me of some of Hate’s “lyric videos” for Napalm. The video was put together by Scott Rudd Film and here’s what Bonno had to say about it: “Ah yes, Scott did a fantastic job on the title track clip. I first came across his work when he did a lyric video for Reprisal’s song ‘Atomic Tectonics’. [Seesar: Visit Reprisal’s Facebook page here] I haven’t seen many lyric video creators who are on par with his work so when I was in the market for a lyric video, I got in touch and well, you’ve seen the result!
I didn’t really direct the video, to be honest. I sent Scott the track with its accompanying materials and expected a ‘zoom in and out on the artwork’ kind of job so when he sent me the first draft with all the 3D animations, I was blown away. I love how he engaged with the theming and made it so cohesive with the music.”

Tentacles, Deep Ones, and True Cultists know that Seesar is a bit of a geek and there’s nothing quite as refreshing as a wee bit of gear chat, so, of course, I asked Bonno about the Tyrannos recording process and instrumentation, including what axes may lie ahead for Tyrannos: “In terms of recording Beneath the Pharaonic Necropolis, I tracked everything by myself at home and then sent all the stems on to Jack Helliwell (JRH Productions) for him to reamp, mix and master. I think he did a brilliant job of that. He’s a great engineer and a pleasure to work with.

“I used two 6 string guitars on BTPN. One Jackson RR24 (The original version with the one EMG 81 pickup) and an Ibanez RGD2120z with the bridge pickup swapped out for a Dimarzio Evolution. Due to doing the project online, I couldn’t use my own amp (Diezel Einstein) so Jack reamped the dry guitar tracks with a Bogner Uberschall Kemper profile, as far as I remember. The bass I used was an LTD Surveyor (4 string) with flat-wound Rotosound strings.

“In terms of gear I’d like to use in the future, I have an Ibanez Universe ‘green dot’ 7 string that I’d be interested in using for something in the future because while I don’t think Extreme Metal should depend on them, seven strings have a very cool effect in my opinion. [Seesar: That’s the guitar (or rather the guitar upon which the Universe was designed) that Steve Vai played with Frank Zappa on albums like Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch and many Whitesnake releases…]

The Ibenez Universe 7-String Guitar.

What else is in store for Tyrannos and us fans out here in Lovecraftian Metal Land? “I would absolutely love to have plans for touring but alas, there’s nothing set in stone as Tyrannos is not yet a full band. I aim to change this next year but cannot confirm anything at the moment. In regards to labels or remaining independent, it would be great to have a label backing a Tyrannos release but I am not searching for one because I do not think the time is right and I feel that a band is only ready for a label when the label sees enough strength in the project that they initiate contact. There has to be something in it for both parties. [Seesar: Extremely intelligent music business advice, budding artists! Don’t give up, don’t stagnate, but don’t rush into a search for a label or tour support until you are ready to provide something for both parties. It is a business, after all, even if it is one that’s amazing and exciting and allows you to do what you love. And be sure you know what it is very specifically that you want as a musical project and a business before approaching a label, too. You’ll be much more certain to get what you want that way… Okay! Back to Bonno and Tyrannos! 🙂 ]

At the moment, the only merchandise available is ‘The Pharaonic Package’ (Available from the Tyrannos Bandcamp store), which includes a promotional poster, badges and stickers. T-Shirts are in the works at the moment. I will update the website and Facebook page when they’re ready. Licensing tracks to films would be splendid, [too], especially if someone decided to an Egyptian equivalent to Apocalypto! I have a substantial amount of material already written but similarly to my answer about Tyrannos live, there are no concrete plans in terms of recording for similar reasons but I definitely want to get more material out, ready for headbangers everywhere. Maybe not quite an album, but something longer than the debut.

As will all my interviewees whom I think are appropriate and possibly interested, I asked the selfish question of would Tyrannos possibly be up for a collaboration of some sort (I was thinking along the lines of my work with Timur Iskandarov and Tamaerlan), and i got the asnwer I wanted: “I think it would be killer to collaborate with one of your projects. There are some Metal tracks I’ve heard with strange shamanistic chanting/singing, such as Rotting Christ’s ‘In Yumen – Xibalba’ so I think strange, Eldritch noises could merge well with Extreme Metal. Let’s plan something!”

My plan right now, though, is to rattle my roof beams with the new Tyrannos EP again, which is what I suggest all Seesar’s Tentacles and Cultists do when you’re in need of a Lovecraftian extreme metal kick in eye stalks! You can check out more about Tyrannos here, like the Facebook page, or just go buy the EP and rock out with your gills out!

Thanks to Bonno Stobart and all hail Tyrannos! \m/

Tyrannos Official

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