The Amenta's Tim Pope on retiring from live shows.

"In the same way that Darkthrone are not let down by playing live, I don’t think The Amenta in the long run will be."

The Amenta managed to shock the metal world late last year with their sudden announcement that they were to cease all live performances and go on an indefinite hiatus. All of which came off the back of their massively successful Flesh is Heir album released only a few months beforehand. To get to the bottom of this, Metal as Fuck spoke to band mastermind and programmer Tim Pope about just why retiring from the live circuit felt like the right move for them.

Let's get straight to the burning issue, just why is The Amenta hanging up the towel now of all times? "There are hundreds of reasons why. Some are smaller than others, but probably the biggest one is that playing live for me has never been the reason we do the band. We've always been into the recording and the writing and the creation of music rather than the re-creation of music. It's getting harder and more expensive to tour so it got to the point where [we asked] why are we destroying our lives to do this thing which isn't really the reason we're doing the band? That's one reason; the other is that [playing live] is not an important part of my appreciation of music. I don't go to a lot of gigs, I don't listen to music with people, it's something I do very privately and I think it's where our music works best, at least for me. That said, I want to stress that we've always poured 100% into our live shows and made sure they were something we can be proud of. We've never gone up there and just trod water, we've tried to make something new and exciting out of it, but it's just not the focus of the band at all."

It's surprising you say that, given that The Amenta is such a visual act. "One thing we've concentrated on is making sure that the live shows and the visual aspect matches the music. It's definitely who we are, but it's an amplified part of it. I think there's a lot more subtlety in our music than that visual element suggests. But it still is a very important part of the band, the packaging and the way it's presented. It just doesn't have to be onstage in a shitty little pub in front of a hundred people."

Would you say that this desire to retreat from the live sphere is based more on artistic reasons, rather than financial ones? "The writing side of the band has always been Erik [Miehs] and I, Erik being the guitar player. In the same way that [bands like] Darkthrone are not let down by playing live, I don't think The Amenta in the long run will be. It's something that forces people to focus on what's coming out of the band rather than this presentation of the band. People often see our live shows with us in makeup and it colours the idea of what's actually happening with the music. I think n0n is the perfect example; our vocalist at the time was a guy called Jarrod who looked like a hardcore guy, he had a lot of tattoos and the gauges in his ears and people began to assume that we were a hardcore band just because of the way the guy looked. so it's almost like, if you take away that aspect of presenting the band, you become purer. People can only judge it on how we're presenting it; we have 100% control of how the music is presented."

Was this hiatus something you anticipated when you were making the Flesh is Heir? "No, but it's something that we've discussed very few years. Either after or just before an album there's kinda been this suggestion of 'Well, what do we want to do? Do we want to keep doing this? How do we want to present this?' So it's always been an ongoing consideration, but we never sat down during the Flesh is Heir sessions and said 'Okay we're going to stop playing in January 2014'. [The timing] just seemed right. We could probably do a farewell tour and all that sort of stuff and it might go alright, but it would just be fake, it wouldn't seem honest."

There might have been a bit of confusion with the general public as to what this hiatus means for the future of The Amenta, is it safe to assume you will still be writing music in the future? "Erik and I have been writing music for the last six months or so, it's probably the most active we've been since 2008. The thing is, we're not sure what the music is going to be and how it's going to be presented. So I'm reasonably certain that The Amenta will release more in the future. I'm not sure if this stuff we're writing now is The Amenta, it very well might be, but at the moment we'd like to draw a line under that aspect of The Amenta and start working on something different. I think we deliberately made things ambiguous, because for one thing it's funny to watch how people misread communications on facebook and it's interesting to see how quickly explanations disappear. The basis of the band is Erik and I writing together . . . the music is still coming out of that partnership so I can guess you can say that The Amenta is still continuing. Whether it continues under that name is probably something that we'll work out in the next six months or so. But I suspect that whether we start working on other projects or not, there'll be other releases by The Amenta for certain. We've built up a strong band with very good people that we want to keep working with."

You said before that you're writing in free-form mode. Do you think removing the necessity of live performances has kind of freed your mind a bit when it comes to writing new music? "It's definitely freed our minds in the sense that we've got a lot more time. One of the issues we've always had with touring is that you can basically write off 18 months while you tour. We're not the kind of band that can write on a tour bus or in an airport lounge. We need to sit down and focus and spend a lot of time on it, so during that touring period we would be completely inactive as a writing band. So in that sense, we're going to have a hell of a lot more time to concentrate and hopefully we'll be a lot more prolific. I think that that's one of the problems we have with playing live, it's that everything became sort of a compromise. We create this thing that we're really proud of and that has a lot of subtle electronics which aren't really possible to get across live. We didn't have enough people. The n0n album in particular, we should have had two percussionists, but we couldn't, you can't tour with a band that big. So we were just constantly compromising and it just felt that it wasn't correct for the band we believed we were in."

So your last shows are for Heavyfest with Rotting Christ headlining. Was is a deliberate choice to finish with these shows and do you have anything special planned? "It was never really a deliberate choice. When we made this decision, we had all these shows booked, the decision was that we keep doing everything [we had booked]. It just sort of turned out that way because we were making sure to stick to our commitments. In terms of special things, all we're going to do is play it as hard as we can, we're not going to bring in a projector and do a This Is Your Life kind of presentation or anything, we're just going to be playing as hard as we can. We'll bring as much of our A-game as we can and we'll probably drink a hell of a lot more."

Any final words? "The only thing we can really do is thank all the people that helped us out in this situation and through our live career. Thank you to everyone for allowing us to do this for so long."