Mare Cognitum is a solo black metal band hailing from a small planet called Earth, and just recently released its third full-length album "Phobos Monolith." Below we have an illuminating interview with the man behind the band, Jacob Buczarski:
Apteronotus: For starters, and as an introduction for anyone unfamiliar with your work, what musical projects have you been involved with? What made you create Mare Cognitum and how was that project born?
Jacob Buczarski: I’ve been in numerous short-lived projects for about 8 years now, most of which will have no evidence of ever existing. This was the very problem that prompted me to start Mare Cognitum – I was dumping effort into project after project that simply fell apart due to some reason or another outside of my control. If I took everything into my own hands, success wouldn’t be determined by so many uncontrollable variables.
Apteronotus: It is probably very safe to say that space is an important theme in your music and its imagery. What is it about space that draws your attention? Beyond space having an artistic importance to you, do you have an interest in astronomy?
Jacob Buczarski: I have been interested in astronomy since an early age, and although I think my knowledge of it is really not at any sort of impressive level I find it very easy to draw inspiration from it – even the scientific side rather than simply photography. My music often tries to be overwhelmingly majestic and it’s easy to do that when you are trying to illustrate something like a grand cosmic event. So, when I need inspiration, I need only to briefly read on a subject in astronomy or astrophysics and my mind begins to fill with imagery.
Apteronotus: What was your motivation in creating Phobos Monolith, and was it a different process compared to your other releases?
Jacob Buczarski: I had a great excitement after creating the Spectral Lore split, “Sol”, because I felt that the work was far more progressive than anything I had ever attempted, particularly in aspects like structure and layering of the compositions. This drove me to explore these developments further in full album format, to sort of “flesh out” the details of the techniques I had honed. And when I say excited, I mean that the composition of the album began before Sol was even released, so there was definitely a huge draw for me to continue on. However, besides the new development in songwriting techniques, the process was largely the same, and consisted of typical recording in my home.
Apteronotus: At this point in your music career you have self-released music under your label Lunar Meadows Records and worked with Milam records and now I, Voidhanger. What kinds of things have you learned about releasing, distributing, and promoting music from these experiences?
Jacob Buczarski: Self-releasing music is difficult, but rewarding! In retrospect, my release of An Extraconscious Lucidity was perfectly timed and opened up several doors, including the split with Spectral Lore and the subsequent signing with I, Voidhanger. Now that my reputation has grown considerably, I cannot imagine self-releasing at the quality and quantity I currently do without sacrificing the rate and quality at which I release music. It simply doesn’t seem feasible! The run of 150 was just right for me to be able to manage, and that was just a simple cardboard case design. So I suppose what I’ve learned is that while self-releasing serves a big purpose in small bands, there comes a certain point in a band’s lifespan (especially one-man bands) where you need at least a little help!
Apteronotus: The Mare Cognitum/Spectral Lore split has a high degree of cohesion, with the third track being a joint creation. How did the split come to be and what was the creative process like?
Jacob Buczarski: Ayloss approached me some time after the release of An Extraconscious Lucidity simply with kind words and an interest in what I was doing. After some communication back and forth we found out that our thoughts on music and creativity were extremely similar and it sort of was evident to both of us that if we collaborated, we could create something great. So we laid a groundwork from the start that this would not simply be a split where two bands bring leftover songs together, but something where each piece of it is extremely intentional and calculated between each side. Aside from this, we both agreed to scathingly criticize the other’s work to hone the release to perfection. This resulted in several versions and alterations over a long period of time, a grueling process really. Admittedly, Ayloss did more criticizing of my work than I had to do to his (with good reason!), but I’m honestly grateful this is the case. His suggestions helped guide me into a new way of thinking about composition and this is really the foundation for what you hear today on Phobos Monolith.
Apteronotus: How has the reception been for your work in Spirit Lapse?
Jacob Buczarski: Hah, I am sort of in disbelief that you dug that name up. I don’t have any involvement with that project anymore and I’m not sure it is even active anymore. I was more helping out and acting as a producer for someone else’s creative work, recording songs and doing backup instrumentation. I suppose it was received well in the small circles it was exposed to. You might see the name come up again but I will not be involved.
Apteronotus: What has made you choose to have Mare Cognitum be a solo project so far? Do you balance writing the music for each instrument or is there one that you tend to focus on more so than others?
Jacob Buczarski: Like I mentioned earlier I needed the assurance that my work would not go to waste which is why I began the project solo. And it was actually the very fact that I could give each instrument the proper attention that made me know it was possible. I have extremely high standards to what I record and it must be absolutely perfect or it is redone. This is the case for every element. Down to single drum hits and note bends and single vocal phrases, I will tweak and adjust until it is exactly as I envisioned. Clearly the band is extremely guitar driven but the project would be worthless without a perfect foundation.
Apteronotus: In the past you have done remixes of your music based on fan requests, how important are mixing and mastering to you?
Jacob Buczarski: I place an extremely high value on the production quality of Mare Cognitum. While black metal is famous for raw, unrefined recordings, I spend a great deal of time tweaking and equalizing every element to be exact. This process is almost an equal half of the work when compared with the composing side of things. Extremely important! With a weak production, this sort of music simply would not work.
Apteronotus: Did you have a favorite band when you were first getting into music? How did you start getting into metal?
Jacob Buczarski: I remember listening to a lot of hardcore bands when I was young, anything with a heavy guitar sound really. This was actually the first music I had an authentic interest in. I started developing a refined taste by high school, listening to lots of death metal, thrash, and still maintaining that interest in hardcore, as that scene thrived during that time. I definitely always had this focus on really melodic bands. Black Metal came at the tail end of this when I overcame the stigma of the genre and found out that it was capable of so much more in terms of atmosphere and melody than genres like melodic death metal offered. As I started exploring the genre it was clearly the most open ended creatively and I was hooked from there.
Apteronotus: Are there any particular bands that have captured your attention lately? Any local bands?
Jacob Buczarski: In recent black metal, I’ve been digging the bands Bolzer, Thantifaxath, Sun Worship, Manetheren and Cult of Fire. I’ve also been spinning other stuff like Nails, Mammoth Grinder, Midnight, and Revenge. The newest Electric Wizard and Eyehategod albums have caught my attention as well. I could go on. Lots of great music right now! As for my local scene, well… not exactly much going on that I know of to be honest. Does Orange County have black metal shows?
Apteronotus: Where do you write and record your music, what does the setup look like?
Jacob Buczarski: Extremely simple. It’s actually the simplest it’s ever been, I don’t even have my studio monitors set up right now! Picture a really small bedroom with a computer, guitar, bass, keyboard, and an Agalloch poster on the wall, and you’ve pretty much got it.
Apteronotus: You are watching television and suddenly realize that there is a wasp on your arm. What do you do?
Jacob Buczarski: Shit, I have never been stung by a wasp or bee so I have this fear that I am horribly allergic and would instantly die the day I am stung by one. I would probably spasm and run out of the room like a little kid. I wouldn’t be crying, I swear…
Apteronotus: In another interview you mentioned that you are a hardcore craft beer elitist, do you have any preferred brews or breweries that you'd recommend? Do you have a favorite style of beer?
Jacob Buczarski: Yes! I love beer. I frequent a lot of local and semi-local breweries: The Bruery, Valiant Brewing, Noble Aleworks, Left Coast, Belching Beaver, Stone… All great! I know I’m forgetting some other good ones too. My favorite beers are dark, porters and stouts, that sort of thing. And I’m a big fan of the bourbon barrel aged trend happening, especially the stuff the Bruery does. Damn, time to drink a beer.
Apteronotus: Thank you for doing this interview, do you have any final comments?
Jacob Buczarski: Thanks for your interest in me and my music! I have the best and most supportive fans, so I’ll not be stopping anytime soon. Cheers!