Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Interview with Jean-Pierre Abboud (ex-Borrowed Time, current singer of Funeral Circle)

Live photo taken at Wings of Metal 2014 by Wayne William Archibald
Jean-Pierre is an American musician known for his involvement with the excellent heavy metallers Borrowed Time and more recently, the Canadian epic doomsters of Funeral Circle. I'm glad he took the time to answer these questions.

Metantoine's Magickal Realm: First of all, what's the situation with Borrowed Time? Is the band over? Their status has been mysterious for a while. If the band is done, is there any plans to come back to the heavy metal genre with some other people? I speak for myself here, but I totally adored the self titled full length! The band is without guitarists right now, maybe you're looking for new musicians?

Jean-Pierre Abboud: I stopped doing Borrowed Time as a choice. It was actually quite difficult to fulfill our show obligations at the end of 2013, but with the help of great guys and players like Derek DiBella, Justin Henry along with Matt Preston, we came out and did some great last few shows (one in Chicago with ZuuL and Dawnbringer another with Raven…), and recorded a cover of Savage Grace – Bound to be Free which appeared on a comp with Ostrogoth, Attacker, Jack Starr, Paradox, Satan’s Host and other old school killers. At times it’s my favorite recording ever done under the BT name. After all of that, Matt Preston moved to Pittsburgh for a job and although he gave me his blessing to continue, I decided it would be wise to look for something new. Matt did a TON of work on the self titled record, and I didn’t feel it would be right to continue without him. Things could have gone a lot more smoothly in 2013, but if you’re on a bad path, band politics can become implacable. I completely include myself in that statement. 

Borrowed Time's self titled album, released in 2013
MMR: What can you tell me about the inspiration behind the artwork of Borrowed Time? ( read my review of the album  There's this fantasy vibe but it's way more classy and less cheesy than most “sword & sorcery” metal bands. What's your process when dealing with artists and illustrators?

J-P: Paperback versions of LeGuin, Moorcock, airbrushed LP covers, 17th century pamphlet art and crazy convoluted images that I create in my head. The two artists Borrowed Time predominately worked with were Seth Bennett (who designed the logo, Fog in the Valley 7 inch and several shirts) and Tim Jenkins (Acid Witch, Shitfucker), who did the jacket for Black Olympia and the S/T as well as a logo update. At the very end the guy who did the art for Black Magic – Wizard’s Spell created a pretty rad shirt image as well. The demo release had these awesome skeleton clarinetists drawn by Mike Tuff (Acid Witch, Temple of Void) who played on the Fog in the Valley EP and was BT’s lead guitar player from 2010-2012. We kicked around the earliest versions of BT riffs in 2009.

MMR: You talked about moving to Montréal when we met, is there still some plans
concerning this? We definitely need more awesome trad metal musicians in the city! Based on your experiences, what's different here than in the US? What's better and what's worst?

J-P: Haha, thanks. It’s difficult, the way things can change. I know one of my main flaws as a person is that I can get really excited about an idea and just…live in it, for a while. Ya know? I really love Montreal Quebec at large because they function at a higher standard regarding their citizens than much of North America. You don’t find people forced to live like refugees, but I’m not ignorantly fluffing all of Canada here (Calgary, lookin’ at you!). I can see much more clearly why there are separatists in Quebec from my experience playing in and skulking around different cities across the continental span.

Jean-Pierre (Sarcofago shirt) with
Funeral Circle at Wings of Metal 2014 in Québec City.
Picture by Max Be Te
MMR: You played Wings of Metal (with Funeral Circle) but from a fan point of view, what was your most expected performance and what was the highlight of the festival for you? Are you attending this year?

J-P: DEFINITELY attending this year, got my tickets two months ago! My most anticipated performances were ADX and Dream Death. Trouble or The Skull were totally crushing the night before as well as Bolzer. Seeing Occultation again was a delight (they were a late addition); one of the best memories of our lives (and I can speak for all of us) was touring the west coast in 2013. We could have grown further from what was achieved on that tour, but aforementioned band politics were just rough.

MMR: Can you talk about your heritage? Jean-Pierre is a pretty French name for an American! Is it transposed into your lyrics and music, if so, in what manner? What are the other influences in your lyrics, I think they're particularly well written compared to most metal around!

J-P: I am an American of Semitic origin. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1986, at a time when it still kind of rocked. I am of Lebanese heritage, my French name and Arabic surname come from that. I had moved every year of my life all over the country (and once to Germany) before settling in Michigan at 17. Feeling like an alien, or feeling unable to relate to people and the anger or sadness that can come from that has followed me for a long time for various deep seated reasons. Dio was a huge, huge influence for me, and the lion’s share of his work was about real life. In his work, fantasy is an allegory for self-preservation and survival, for dealing with human emotions and social problems or speeding at night.

MMRWhat's the future for Funeral Circle? I recently learned that Matthew Barzegar (lead guitar) has sadly left the band. Will you continue with the other members under the same name? Your performance with the band at Wings of Metal was awesome and it would be a shame to end the whole thing. Your voice was a great fit to the epic doom genre!

J-P: Yeah, we have no intention of stopping right now, especially with show obligations like Covenant, stuff in August and Hammer of Doom in November. Matthew Barzegar’s decision was tough, and we all discussed how to continue forward. I am a full time member of Funeral Circle, along with Graham McGee (lead and rhythm guitar), Matthew Kaufhold (bass guitar) and Phil Fiess (drums). In 2014 we got together, rehearsed for a couple weeks and toured across Canada. Enthusiasm and precision are character to each individual within the band. We developed natural chemistry and we get along well, so this year will definitely see more 
classic and dirty FC Doom.

Funeral Circle/Gatekeeper split, to be released soon.
MMR: There's a split with Gatekeeper coming up, what can you tell me about it? Artwork, lyrics, music...

J-P: The new split features our song “Hades Triumphant,” which we performed last year. The lyrics and vocal lines were collaboration between myself and Matthew and the artwork is another rad piece by Karamazid. Phil and Matt K are entirely responsible for the churning rhythm section that in my opinion makes this particular track. Not to mention the Gatekeeper song (“Bell of Tarantia”) completely kicks ass and comes from the same sessions as their split with Eternal Champion.

Listen to "Hades Triumphant"

: You recently wrote a short story called “
Journey in Somnamblia“for the Swords and Sorcery book alongside Howie Bentley and Byron A. Roberts. I have yet to read it, I need to get my hands on this book! Do you plan to publish some more stories or even novels anytime soon?

Mataera Nom, character
from J-P's short story.
Illustration by
Eva Flora Glackman-Bapst
J-P: I would love to, but I’m taking it slow! Back in the roaring nineties, I was published at a very young age and from there on I had a pretty spotty track record in dealing with artistic discouragement. I would say this lasted until about age 22. But last year, getting in contact with Dave Ritzlin (DMR Books) and hearing his idea to create a 70’s style swords and sorcery anthology with Metal musicians-- it blew my mind. I wrote “Journey in Somnamblia” on tour last year; currently, I’m writing the next chapter to my story concerning the self-exiled warrior Mataera Nom, set to appear in the upcoming second edition of “Swords of Steel”. This next one contains more exposition along with an inward narrative, with heightened action compared to the first.

MMR: What are the bands, movies, TV series, books or anything else that are inspiring you these days? Do you still feel deeply linked with the metal culture?

J-P: Well, my fiancée and I live Metal every day. We both have working class jobs taking care of the developmentally disabled (who I tend to like a lot more than the empty corporatist yuppies they tell you to worship on TV or in blog content aggregation). We live in a vainglorious metal castle of our own in a post-industrial butcher town disguised by a university and deplorable state politicians. These days I’m always feeling inspired to sing (on a recording or all day really) as well as playing piano, acoustic, electric guitar and bass just to play or to come up with ideas. There is a love in my life where, at this point I’ve watched this person stick by me through some murky times. With the same eyes that haven’t changed, a change I’ve seen before and know too well; it’s something one can’t let go. “Can’t let go” and “Nothing to lose” are both great cliché song titles, these days I prefer the first.

Listening-wise, Dio’s extremely underrated Tracy G/Jeff Pilson era, early Solstice, Russ Ballard, Strawbs (thanks to Barzegar!), Samael, TNT, Thin Lizzy/Lynott/Grand Slamm, Solitude Aeturnus, old Blind Guardian, My Dying Bride, Golden Earring, BOC, Savatage, City Boy, Zep, Fates Warning…

MMR: Are you looking forward to something in the future? Gigs, etc..

J-P: Going nowhere (to stay Metal) and everywhere (to make Metal). I may be joining one of my favorite classic acts, but even if that doesn’t work out, a more migratory existence is in order. Absolutely can’t wait for Covenant fest and Hammer of Doom. Going back to what you said about feeling ‘deeply linked,’ honestly – more than ever!! The grindstone is our (heavy metal) hamster wheel. I don’t understand why people decide the establishment will suddenly be there for them, but all I can say is good luck and hello China.

MMR: Anything else you want to add?
J-P: I am deeply grateful to everyone I’ve gotten to work with and share experiences, good or bad. The sum of events and the resulting education negates any moral qualifiers – this is the real world. Can’t wait to jam with my mates in Funeral Circle, leaving nine days from now!


Pentagram or Saint Vitus
Pentagram, but I really love them both
Iron Maiden or Judas Priest
Priest, and same
Angel Witch or Satan
Satan, and yep
Beer or wine
Lovecraft or Tolkien
Star Wars or Star Trek
Warp Drive >>>>>>>>>>>>> “light speed”

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