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whispers in the shadow - Promo by Werner NowakInterview with

Ashley Dayour (vocals) from Whispers in the Shadow

Established in 1996, WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW hails from Austria, embracing the Gothic Rock genre. The band derives its name from H. P. Lovecraft’s intriguing tale, ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’. Their lyrical themes predominantly explore the realms of mysticism and the occult. Originally conceived as a solo endeavour, WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW came to life under the creative guidance of Ashley Dayour, a multi-talented artist.

In this insightful interview with WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW for Reflections of Darkness, Ashley delves into the enigmatic world of artistry, creativity, and the band’s latest album, ‘Ghosts’. Ashley reflects on the motivation behind his prolific songwriting and the importance of maintaining a sense of mystery in his work. ‘Ghosts’ is described as a departure from their previous sound, exploring darker themes and metaphors for contemporary demons. The essence and purpose of art are contemplated, with Ashley acknowledging that it can serve various purposes, including confronting challenging emotions… About the influence of emotions in today’s world and the need for people to confront them and more with Ashley Dayour

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Ashley, I’ve been closely following your career, both with WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW and THE DEVIL AND THE UNIVERSE. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing your performances, and I’ve always been intrigued to ask: What fuels your creativity? What drives you to invent and engage people through your artistry?
Ashley: That’s a good question and I keep asking that myself from time to time, especially now after all this time. If you count them all together, I’ve actually written hundreds of songs, and yet, there’s still a drive that keeps me going. For whatever reason I still have an urge to create and to express. To be honest it’s not getting easier with time. Especially the lyrical side. I’ve written about a lot of things and said a lot of things that needed to be said. But I’m not complaining. It’s just part of the work. Where does that urge to create come from? I don’t really know. It was always there, from an early age on. Actually, it does not really matter where and how. I’m just happy that it is still there and hope it will be still there a very long time from now.

RoD: WHISPERS IN THE SHADOW presents a distinct aesthetic and style compared to THE DEVIL AND THE UNIVERSE, yet it retains a dramatic and symbolic essence. Do you believe that contemporary audiences still possess the ability to decipher metaphorical elements?
Ashley: I’m sure they do, I mean look at what Taylor Swift does, her releases are full of riddles and Easter eggs which only fans can decipher. It’s a full-fledged world. Which is also the reason why she is so successful. It’s not really my kind of music, but yes there is still a need and appreciation for all that. And who am I to judge or to tell anyway. I’m not 23 and I don’t know a lot of people who are, so I really don’t know. Besides honestly, I wouldn’t call our audience contemporary. I don’t mean that as a bad thing, it’s just the way it is. A big part of our audience is around our age, and let’s face it, that’s not what one can call contemporary by any means.

RoD: Do you have a penchant for communicating through riddles?
Ashley: It’s important for me not to make things too obvious, if things are too much in your face, they tend to lose something, or worse, become pathetic. At least in my book. That doesn’t mean it’s all shrouded in mystery in Dayour-lyric-land though. Also, I don’t like to unveil all the details of the themes behind the songs. But that does depend on the song and the theme. Back in 2018 we released an album called ‘The Urgency Of Now’ which was very political and very much influenced about what happened from 2016 onwards. Which I would call the beginning of the decline we are facing now. Bowie’s death, Brexit, Trump, climate change realization, the new rise of the far right, etc. Back then I very much wanted people to understand what it is about, there was some sort of message, yes. On the new album everything is a bit more shrouded, maybe because some of the songs are also of a more personal nature and I wanted to hide behind the mystery, so to speak. Let’s see, maybe someday I will write an album which is totally in your face and personal at once. Who knows. But it wouldn’t have fitted ‘Ghosts’ anyway. The title alone suggests otherwise.

RoD: I’d love to learn more about your latest release, ‘Ghosts’. It’s been described as your heaviest and one of the darkest albums to date. What led you down this darker path, and what themes are explored on the album? Who are the intended recipients of these “toasts for the ghosts”?
Ashley: Our last album ‘Yesterday Is Forever’ was very kaleidoscopic, very colourful and at least in parts poppy. That was the idea behind it in the first place. So, doing sort of the opposite is a logical move in my world. We are still hungry to try new things and find new sounds and ways to express. Also, what is going on in the world might also have had an influence. I think a lot of what is called creativity is fuelled by what C.G. Jung called the collective unconsciousness, so even if you don’t know it you will be influenced by what is going on. I wouldn’t go that far and say GHOSTS is a concept album, but there are recurring themes. These ghostly themes are metaphors for demons we all know too well in this time and age. Personal and social, a trip through human and inhuman abysses. A communion with shadows and spirits. Demons such as addiction (‘A Haunting’), paranoia (‘Ghost Loop Remedy’), self-righteous ignorance (‘Totems Of Decline’) and chauvinism (‘Harpies’) are summoned.

whispersintheshadow byWernerNowak IT0A5475

RoD: It appears that, in your case, music and art serve as potent tools for conveying a message. I continually ponder this question: What, to you, is the essence and purpose of art?
Ashley: There of course is the theory that the real reason behind art is to create something which outlives oneself. To create something eternal, so the real drive behind all art is actually the fear of death. That is not entirely wrong. However maybe art does not have any purpose at all, maybe it’s just there to be there. Sometimes there might be a message, for some it is even therapeutic. It sure has a transcended quality and can be uplifting. As with all things in life there might be no simple answer for that. And again, I think it doesn’t really matter. For me personally I like it when art surprises me, and makes me think, or re-think and it has to transport me somewhere I haven’t been. Or somewhere I have been but makes me see it in a different light.

RoD: ‘Ghosts’ indeed carries a substantial emotional weight. Do you believe that in contemporary times, people tend to shy away from confronting challenging emotions?
Ashley: Given the current state of the world I think individual and unchecked emotions are the main fuel and the main problem of what we are going through. Individual emotions are more important to people than reason or a common goal. When the occultists and later the hippies talked about the age of Aquarius, meaning the age of emotions, they thought it would be a good thing. Well, look at us now. But I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom here. There is opportunity in all this, but I’m not very optimistic to be honest. One can just try to be a better person than one has been yesterday. Be more kind to each other, take care for each other, show patience and don’t let the bastards grind you down. I mean we are living on a ball with melted metal inside, racing through a vast dark and absolute hostile universe some 76.000 miles per hour. How fantastic is all that? But we’ve been arguing about the same stupid things for thousands of years. It makes your head explode if you think about it.

RoD: If you were to single out the most personal song from the album, which one would it be and why?
Ashley: Properly ‘Ghost Loop Remedy’, but also ‘Majesty & Torment’ because these deal with certain experiences I had some time ago. However, since they are very personal, I will not go into details, sorry.

RoD: Looking back, what initially inspired you to pursue music, and what continues to motivate you? What drives you to craft lyrics, compose music, and create visuals for your performances?
Ashley: In a nutshell life itself. It can be everything, something someone said, a movie, a book, a documentary I saw, or a line in a newspaper, some experience, traveling the world. Inspiration is everywhere and it is part of my job to be on the lookout all the time to be inspired. Sometimes it just comes out of nothing, sometimes it was something from a dream.  I also wrote songs which I don’t have an idea what they are about, I just start writing and see what happens. Sort of an automatic writing. So, the approach is always different. It has to. I need to keep it exciting.

RoD: Could you shed light on the collaborators who contributed to the creation of the video for ‘A Haunting’?
Ashley: The video was directed by Edie Calie, she also is responsible for all THE DEVIL & THE UNIVERSE videos, but also camera man Andreas Horvat had a lot to do with how it turned out. We always wanted to do a one-shot video. And apart from one cut at the end when it goes from the theatrical part into the performance part, it is a one shot. It took very precise perpetration and some rehearsing’s but the actual shooting went very fast. I’m very happy with how it all turned out. It’s our most artistic video and we got a lot of great feedback for it. Which I wasn’t sure of though.

RoD: Do you have plans to promote ‘Ghosts’ through live performances? What can we anticipate from you in the upcoming months? Any live shows on the horizon?
Ashley: We did a very successful show at Amphi Festival in August, and another festival show at These Days Festival a couple of weeks ago. There’s one more coming up at Autumn Moon Festival. After that we will see. We have a few things in the pipeline for 2024.

RoD: With your extensive experience as a performer, what impact do you strive to achieve with your audience? When you’re on stage, do you sense that the audience is emotionally connected to your performance?
Ashley: It depends. Sometimes I come on a stage and after the very first minutes I already feel a connection and I don’t have to work for it, which are the best shows really. But sometimes you have to work for it, it’s not granted. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If it still isn’t there at the last third of the set, I usually stop trying to get that certain connection and tend to play just for myself. Which surprisingly most of the time makes for a fantastic ending. Sometimes not so much. It’s still a challenge, but one I really love. I still love playing live. Now after the pandemic even more so. We did some really, really good shows since we are touring again and I honestly think the band sounds and plays very good at the moment. Especially these new songs are such a delight to play live.

RoD: Having listened to your music and witnessed your performances, it’s clear that you wholeheartedly dedicate yourself to your art. Your voice exudes profound emotion, regardless of whether the music is harsh or lighter in tone. What ultimate goal do you aim to achieve through your art?
Ashley: To keep surprising myself, to have satisfaction with the result and to have as much joy and passion as possible on the way to get there. Which actually might be the sense of life anyway, if you think about it. I’m very happy we are still able to doing this and thankful to everyone who listens, especially to those who are with us for a long time. It’s incredible that there are people out there who actually listen to our stuff since we released our very first album, 27 odd years ago. That’s not something I take for granted.

RoD: I want to express my sincere appreciation for granting me this opportunity.
Ashley: You are most welcome; it’s been a pleasure. Until next time, I dare say.

Pictures by Werner Nowak

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