Dream Theater have been at the top of the game for such a long time …
If you thought lockdown was bad where you are, spare a thought for Martín Méndez. The White Stones founder had just completed and released his project’s debut album when Spain was hurled into one of the toughest lockdowns in the world.
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“The beginning was really strict,” he says. “You could only go out to buy food and essentials.”
Best known as the bassist with Opeth since 1997, Méndez used his time well.
“I started writing this album right away when the first album was released, which was, I think, the first week of the lockdown over here. I knew I would be home for a while so I took advantage of the time and started writing straight away.”
Dancing Into Oblivion is the second release from White Stones, which first came together as an outlet for Méndez between tours with his main band. The first album Kuarahy wasn’t intended to be anything more than a personal piece for Méndez, who at the time was facing a year off in the wake of Opeth’s monstrous Sorceress tour.
“Usually we take a year off and I started writing music,” he says. “I always do that, but this time I had the idea to finish it, because usually I never finish it and it lives on the hard drive, or something. But this time I decided to finish it, and record it and mix it, and I did that. I did six songs and I showed it to some people and I got the offer from Nuclear Blast and everything got a bit serious. In the beginning, the idea wasn’t to release it, it was just for me to do something in between times when I was off tours.”
With Kuarahy, White Stones became the first Spanish act to be signed to Nuclear Blast. The pandemic gave Méndez the opportunity to immediately pursue a follow-up.
It definitely was an inspiration. I took advantage of the feelings I got in the beginning. I was scared, I didn’t know what was going on because the news was terrible at first. That helped me to create this music, and that’s a good thing because I like music when it gets dark and this kind of feeling comes through. The pandemic was a help in a way for me to express that.
[ Martin Méndez ]
As suggested by its title, Dancing Into Oblivion is thematically much darker than its predecessor, with inspiration coming from the descent of the virus.
“It definitely was an inspiration. I took advantage of the feelings I got in the beginning. I was scared, I didn’t know what was going on because the news was terrible at first. That helped me to create this music, and that’s a good thing because I like music when it gets dark and this kind of feeling comes through. The pandemic was a help in a way for me to express that.”
The name White Stones is a tribute to a neighbourhood in Uruguay where Méndez lived as a child, the barrio of Piedras Blancas in Montevideo.
“That’s where I grew up, and when I started this project, and it came to finding a name I found myself feeling nostalgic, I think, so I wanted to pay tribute to those years in that place where I grew up. But that was the first album. This new one has nothing to do with that! It’s completely different, this one!”
Primarily a solo project, White Stones is completed by drummer Jordi Farré and vocalist Eloi Boucherie, both of Spanish black metal act Vidres a la Sang, with Méndez playing bass and guitar. The live line-up adds two guitarists, but the band has yet to play a show. Méndez has been at home for a year and a half, he says, since coming off the road with Opeth, who should have been on tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of Blackwater Park right about now.
“The idea was to do a few tours for that album, and for 30 years of the band, as well,” he says. “I don’t know if we will do it next year, if that’s possible. Now it will be 21 years, not 20!”
While he hasn’t been able to perform live at all, he’s still doing well – unlike a lot of others. The pandemic may have inspired Martín Méndez, but like all of us, he wants to be rid of it.
“I am very lucky because I am financially ok so far. But I know a lot of people who aren’t in the same situation, and it really sucks. I can’t wait to get out again and start rolling. It helps to have the time to create new stuff, but it will be very nice to come back to normality again soon.”