#SimonBibby (#ThyListlessHeart) 🇬🇧 #Interview

7 min read

I need to say this: the first time I listened to “The Precipice” by Thy Listless Heart I was deeply touched. It was the first song released from their debut album, “Pilgrims on the Path of no Return”. The kind of music knocking out my feelings and my senses, too good, deeply emotional. As it is said in their Bandcamp site: it’s “an epic soundtrack of sorrow and longing as we journey into the unknown. Sorrow, pain, yearning and hope all wrapped up in a solo Doom Metal project by Simon Bibby”. I contacted Simon for an interview with Blessed Altar Zine, in order to know more about his project and also about himself. And here are his words.

Hi Simon, and thank you for doing this interview. How happy are you with the release of “Pilgrims on the Path of no Return”?

Simon: Hi Sílvia – thanks so much for your interest in Thy Listless Heart!!

To be honest, I’m very happy with how the album has turned out – this is unusual for me as I’m normally very critical of my music, but on this occasion I’m able to see beyond the little bits that I think could be better.

When did you start with Thy Listless Heart as your solo project, and how has it been the journey so far?

Simon: I’ve wanted to have a go at writing and recording a solo project for a long time but I only started to take the idea seriously about 3 years ago. I suppose the fact that I was approaching 50 years old made me get my arse and my head into gear. And then Covid struck, which made me more determined to complete it….you never know when your time’s up!!

The journey has been pretty crazy so far. I really never thought it would get the attention of a label like Hammerheart. I didn’t ever get as far as having a plan for the release – I was just focusing on completing the recordings and expected it to be a digital only self release so anything more than that is a bonus.

Your music is like a lament, sad and emotional. What about the lyrics, can you tell our readers what they talk about? And what inspires you to write them?

Simon: In order for music to be truly emotive and powerful I believe that the lyrics need to have a certain honesty and vulnerability to them. The lyrics cover a variety of subjects such as suicide (The Precipice), losing someone to dementia (Yearning), and even the unpleasant legacy of the British Empire (Confessions). But within all of the lyrics there is an underlying theme of sorrow and struggle and pain and our desire to find a way through.

I suppose the lyrics are also influenced by my day job – I’ve spent the last 30 years working with and supporting people with significant problems and struggles with mental health. Sadness has become an integral part of my life and maybe producing music is my way of processing that.

Besides doing vocals, which instruments do you play?

Simon: I played everything on the album apart from the drums, wind instruments and the vocal parts I asked the guest musicians to do.

Which other musicians are involved in this album?

Simon: The drums were played by my old friend Ben Griffiths, who lives pretty close to me. The wind instruments (low whistles, recorders and uilleann pipes) were played by Ella Zlotos who lives in Germany and is in a Dark Folk band called Ephemeral. Vocal contributions were made by Greg Chandler (Esoteric), Ian Arkley (Seventh Angel / My Silent Wake), Sergio Gonzalez Catalan (Rise to the Sky), Paul Jones (Enchantment) and lastly my daughter, Alana who sings with me on a song called ‘Aefnian’.

The cover art for “Pilgrims on the Path of no Return” is a fantastic painting, full of a bleak atmosphere. Who painted it?

Simon: The album cover art was painted by Mariusz Lewandowski, who very sadly passed away in July this year. I was already a big fan of his art – especially his painting for the album ‘Mirror Reaper’ by Bell Witch. The painting for ‘Pilgrims on the Path of No Return’ was one he’d completed in 2016 and I thought it fit perfectly with the feel and atmosphere of the album and so I emailed him in April 2022 to arrange licensing.

Is there any vocalist that you consider an inspiration or an influence for you?

Simon: I remember being completely blown away when I heard the album “Nightfall” by Candlemass. Messiah Marcolin’s vocals were incredible and I became pretty obsessed with that album for a few years. I even took the album into school as the subject of my English oral exam in 1988!!

There are so many great vocalists out there, but the ones that are able to carry the weight of emotion of a song are the ones who create the longest lasting impression on me.

Are you thinking of gathering some other musicians in order to do live gigs with Thy Listless Heart?

Simon: The short answer to that question is ‘no’. My intention was, and still is to keep ‘Thy Listless Heart’ as a studio project. It is possible that I could change my mind but I would prefer to use the limited free time I have to maybe write and record another album.

Now, let’s go with a few more personal questions. At what age did you start listening to Metal? And what band first got you into this kind of music?

Simon: I started listening to a radio show called The Friday Rock Show hosted by Tommy Vance when I was about 14/15 years old. It opened my eyes to a whole new world as it was way before the internet and before I had money for magazines. That show introduced me to metal – I remember listening through headphones at 11:00pm with my finger hovering over the record button of my tape deck!

I don’t remember a particular first band. I do remember first hearing Brain Death by Nuclear Assault and it blowing my mind!!

Which bands were you listening to as a young metalhead? Are you still listening to them nowadays?

Simon: Well I’ve already mentioned Candlemass and Nuclear Assault. Trouble were another big influence and I also loved Celtic Frost – Into the Pandemonium, Savatage – Hall of the Mountain King and Crimson Glory from that time. And yes – I still listen to those albums from time to time.

When did you start playing music, and which was the first band you were in?

Simon: I bought a guitar when I was about 16 but never really did anything to learn. I then met Ian Arkley from Seventh Angel when I was 17. He played me their demo and asked if I played an instrument. I said that I didn’t play but wanted to learn. Ian then passed me a really terrible bass guitar and asked me if I wanted to join Seventh Angel, to which I answered ‘yes’. Ian then told me to learn quick as the first gig was booked for 6 weeks time!

Are you currently in any other band(s)?

Simon: Well technically, Seventh Angel hasn’t disbanded so that’s always something we can come back to. I’m also a member of My Silent Wake, which once again sees me working alongside Ian Arkley, but this time on keyboards.

How do you see the underground Metal scene nowadays?

Simon: I guess I’ve always been on the edge of the metal scene really, and I spent a number of years away from music entirely. Since starting to work on Thy Listless Heart I’ve made a real effort to engage with the online metal community, especially through Instagram and it’s been a really positive experience. There’s so much great music out there and the internet makes it possible to find and link up with people (like yourself) and bands from all over the world. Sergio, who does the growled vocals on ‘The Precipice’ lives in Santiago, Chile. I’m never likely to meet him but he’s on my album – how great is that!!

Can you name a song that you consider really special, with a strong emotional meaning for you?

Simon: There are so many songs…. Lost Reflection by Crimson Glory still makes every hair on my body stand on end and even makes my eyes water – not because it makes me sad but because it’s like a sensory overload for me for some reason.
I have a strong emotional connection to a lot of Anathema’s albums.

Do you have any “musical guilty pleasure” you can confess?

Simon: Haha – well I do listen to music other than metal but I don’t feel guilty about it!! There’s a band called Hammock that I like – they create beautiful ambient and quite sorrowful music.
I also like Lana Del Rey’s music.

What does Metal music mean to you in your life?

Simon: It means a lot – it allows me to express myself better than I can put into words and it also acts as my therapist!

Many thanks for your time, Simon, wishing you best things with Thy Listless Heart. Is there anything you want to add?

Simon: Thank YOU Sílvia!! Nothing to add….just deep gratitude for your support!

Interview by Sílvia

Check out this song by Thy Listless Heart and if you like it, check the entire album ‘cause it won’t leave you indifferent. Support the underground.

Thy Listless Heart

Hammerheart Records

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