Ceiling Demons: Behind the masks

The new year will see Ceiling Demons return to Leeds to perform at Hyde Park Book Club on January 2

Ceiling Demons

The band discussed their influences, thoughts and inspirations on their latest album Nil, and the venues and memories that have shaped their career to date.

You’ve previously said that artists like DJ Shadow, Mike Skinner and Saul Williams are influences and inspirations for your sound. The style of your work is a mix of rap and spoken word much like Saul Williams who worked with Nine Inch Nails on an album. If you could collaborate with an artist or producer who would be the dream team up?

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All the artists mentioned have made an impact on us as a collective and through various stages of our development. Certainly, at least in our earlier work, the verbal styles and production of The Streets and DJ Shadow are very much present – as is being able to identify with and draw comparisons to the art poet Saul Williams in more recent work. We admire artists who break down genre barriers and create art that evokes emotion. With this in mind, we’d love to collaborate with someone like Tricky, one of the most prolific and underrated UK greats in our opinion.

My local record store owner said that your latest release Nil will be the best album no one has heard of this year and he meant it in good terms. I feel anyone who does will really connect with it and find it personal to them so it’s like a best kept secret. To anyone who has yet to follow suit, how would you describe your work?

Poetry and cinematic sounds combining to make some obscure folk and alternative art-rap. Independent and under the underground of the cold, dark and occasionally barren northern countryside. Bleak, but always shedding a ray of hope through the heavily skies.

Also, a big shout-out to Wah Wah Records in Wakefield and Jumbo Records in Leeds for supporting and stocking the release in the region. Nowt but love!

I bought the album and immediately found comfort in your lyrics and style. There’s a Bowie lyric ‘oh no love, you’re not alone’ which I would attribute to how I felt when I heard your music. Does it feel empowering to know you are connecting with people who maybe feel lost or without a voice?

Firstly, thank you very much for picking up a copy of Nil and much gratitude for the wonderful compliment too, especially with the Bowie reference! We always feel very humbled and proud when our art connects to people. Music is a powerful creation and, for us, it’s an essential, therapeutic form of expression which helps to keep us sane. When it resonates with others it reaffirms the fact that we are not alone. Much like how we experience artists and songwriters who strike a similar chord in us, such as Leonard Cohen, Kate Tempest or Serengeti, they help channel a sense of empathy that creates worth and comfort. It gives a voice to the voiceless and that’s the most beautiful thing about music – when it hits the soul.

The deluxe version of the album comes with so many extras and Ceiling Demons paraphernalia. Is it important to offer more to fans and to reach out with things that are tangible in a world of digital downloads and streaming?

We’ve worked with two independent labels on this album, with Win Big Records initially releasing Nil on CD and cassette before teaming up with Butterfly Effect over the last year. It was Butterfly Effect’s idea to pack a punch on the deluxe vinyl version, throwing in a lyric sheet/poster, a signed photo, a download code, stickers, a cardboard mask and a bonus CD of our first EP with unreleased material as extras. Both labels believe that offering physical formats is a good thing in this modern digital age, and we agree. To be able to put out an album on CD, tape and vinyl has been the biggest blessing and marks a long-term goal achieved! With the vinyl resurgence in full flow and cassettes also receiving a new lease of life, particularity in DIY scenes, it’s been a good way for us to reach a new audience who like to “own” music. Big love to both the labels and all the people supporting them.

You were based in Leeds at one point, do you have any memories of playing there and what is in store for the gig in January?

Correct. The project started while we were living in Leeds, with the first proper show being at the legendary, but sadly deceased Cockpit back in summer 2013. Since then we’ve played at Richard Watson’s 360 club and Wharf Chambers, as well as the superb Brudenell Social Club, where we launched a single with the Leeds-based Come Play With Me label back in 2016. We’ve fond memories supporting some of our favourite artists such as Young Fathers, Busdriver and Buck 65 at various venues around the city. This time, we start a new year at the excellent Hyde Park Book Club along with a special live art show/exhibit from our very own ‘Art Demon’ – and long-time collaborator – Tim Coomber, aka We-Advance, who’s also a former Leeds inhabitant himself. The show is promoted by Jackofthearts, a DIY promoter who travels to the UK biannually from Brazil to put artists on in cities all over the UK. We’ll be joined by his own project, A Standard Model, as well as beautiful Scottish gem Hannan Slavin, alternative R&B act Unofficial M.I. and rural art pop maker Michael D Wynn.

What is the meaning behind the masks and the visual part of the band?

The use of masks in our imagery originally stemmed from wanting to project our sound with anonymity, believing that this would allow us to exercise both truths and demons without any prejudice, thereby giving us a comfortable platform for expression. Relating to this quote by Oscar Wilde - ‘Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth’, we built our first releases around videos and images that adopted this philosophy, and we developed this further by creating an ‘unmasking’ ritual in our live shows that’s gradually filtered down in our latest work, becoming more harnessed and raw as the mask gives way to reality.

I’d describe your sound as positively morose in so much as the themes are dark but offer solace at the same time. Would that be a fair analogy?

Absolutely. There is definitely a big theme of duality within our music. We like exploring dark topics in order to appreciate and understand the light that co-exists with them. It can be like going through the dark night of the soul before the break of dawn. We like to face fears and offer upliftment through our songs.

What are the future plans for the band and where are you taking the direction to next?

After a long campaign with Nil, we’re looking to retreat into our creative realm right now and work on some new material in 2019. We will also be booking some shows and performing at select dates to keep us up to scratch throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled.

If you could create your own festival with bands current or past who would you chose? Personally I’d like to see you on a bill with Burial and UNKLE as I believe you would all complement each other.

UNKLE and Burial are two artists we very admire and would be blessed to accompany on any bill! If we had the unlimited ability to create our very own festival bill of past and present artists, we could probably go on forever, but to name a small selection: The Pogues, Gang Starr, Nick Cave, Spiritualized, Nico, Cage, Joy Division, Lee Scratch Perry, Ceschi, Nujabes, The Black Sheep Frederick Dickens, Jimmy Cliff, Pat The Bunnyman, Billie Holiday, Serengeti, Leonard Cohen, The KLF, Bright Eyes, Roots Manuva, The Clash, Gil Scott-Heron, Bill Fay, Kate Tempest, Tricky and Johnny Cash.

Ceiling Demons play at Hyde Park Book Club on January 2. facebook.com/CeilingDemons/