Interview with Mouth Of The Architect keyboardist/vocalist Jason Watkins
By Tim Anderl | Photo by Vadim Aleksensky
For over a decade, Ohio’s Mouth Of The Architect have created dark and atmospheric post-metal that has established the band as a frontrunner in the genre. Despite lineup changes including a rotating cast of bassists, guitarists, and vocalists, keyboardist and vocalist Jason Watkins and drummer Dave Mann—formerly of Twelve Tribes and Rune—have remained the backbone of the quintet, pushing the band toward dizzying experimental heights.
Their forthcoming LP, The Path of Eight—which includes contributions from current guitarist Steve Brooks, bassist Evan Danielson, and recent addition, guitarist and vocalist John Lakes—is their fourth studio album for Translation Loss and another in a series of fruitful and organic collaborations by the group. It was released on Oct. 7.
“The Path of Eight is a story about dying and then traveling into other dimensions, killing the gods and returning to the nothingness from which we came,” Watkins explains. “As far as songwriting, it has been a very different approach for us. We’ve always had a prog element to this band, but we never really explored it as much as with The Path of Eight. It was our way of incorporating those Yes [and] Rush freak-out moments into our songs.”
“We began laying the groundwork for the songs in September of 2015.We just took the idea, hit record, and kept playing, letting songs flesh themselves out naturally,” Watkins adds. “Then, we would edit what we had been working on, cutting the fat so to speak. Mouth Of The Architect has always been a very collaborative environment.”
The band recorded the album themselves in Dayton, Ohio, with Brooks and Lakes, who are also recording engineers, at the helm. “We set up something like 20 mics in the room and played the entire record start to finish several times,” Watkins recalls. “Basically, we did this album entirely live. It was written to be listened to as one continuous narrative. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. Then, we sent it off to our good friend, Chris Common, who mixed and mastered it for us.”
In addition to exploring their prog tendencies and ability to balance performance and production duties, the band—who have collaborated with members of Mastodon, Le Butcherettes, Russian Circles, and Intronaut on previous records—found a new collaborator for The Path of Eight in vocalist Shannon Watkins, whose devastating vocal performance on “Priestess” marks a high point on the record.
“Shannon is my wife,” Watkins explains. “She and I have always worked on songs together. We have a band in Cincinnati with our good friend, Todd McHenry, called Hidden Mothers. I was playing one of the songs Hidden Mothers had been working on for the rest of [Mouth Of The Architect], and the response was, ‘Um, so, does Shannon wanna sing on our new record?’ So, we collaborated on lyrics, and she stopped in and recorded some vocals.”
To coincide with the albums Oct. 7 release, the band hit the road for a 10-day run through the East Coast and the South. They will return to Europe next year. “I’m very proud of the whole thing,” Watkins confesses. “It all feels very exciting and brand new to me.”