Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities, ed. by Troy Southgate


Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities
Edited by Troy Southgate
200 pages, Black Front Press, $20

From the snow-covered environs of Norway and secluded graveyards of England to the dark forests of Germany and remote woodlands of Poland and Ukraine, an unstoppable Black Metal beast has dominated the extreme end of the musical scale for more than two decades.

Black Metal is an aesthetic, an emotion, an attitude and, for many, a way of life. Exposing the inner workings of your delicate eardrums to unbridled screams of primeval fury, an unending torrent of galloping rhythms and indomitable wall of buzzing guitars is like being thrown head-first into the whirling eye of a chthonic vortex. Black Metal can be disturbing, invigorating, provoking and empowering. One persistent and enduring image that is often associated with Black Metal is that of semi-comedic corpse-paint, futile church-burnings and Satanic ritual; but the genre itself can often take on a decidedly political and cultural form and many of its exponents have controversial views and opinions that are frequently overlooked by the commentators of the underground music industry.

We aim to examine some of those tendencies in Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities. Ever since Varg Vikernes was courting media headlines for all the wrong reasons, Black Metal – like a fine wine, perhaps – has matured a great deal. The steady process of counter-cultural ripening has led to the formation of various sub-genres, among them Viking Metal, Progressive Black Metal, Blackened Death Metal, Symphonic Black Metal and National Socialist Black Metal.

So whether you like your Black Metal traditional and ground-breaking like Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer; raw and brutal like Mayhem, Emperor and Immortal; slick and polished like Cradle of Filth, Dimmu Borgir and Old Man’s Child; or politically controversial like Graveland, Drudkh and Absurd; this book is for you.

Contributors include:

  • Troy Southgate
  • Tony ‘The Demolition Man’ Dolan (Venom/Atomkraft/M-Pire of Evil)
  • Jeff ‘Mantas’ Dunn (Venom/Mantas/M-Pire of Evil)
  • Hendrik Möbus (Absurd)
  • Alex Kurtagic (Supernal Records)
  • Jarl von Hagall (Der Stürmer)
  • Alexander Wieser (Uruk-Hai)
  • William Vithólf (Fanisk)
  • Gareth Giles (Hrafnblóð)
  • Matt Kay (Wodfreca Records)
  • Vijay Prozak/DeathMetal.org
  • Elena Semenyaka
  • Erik Proft
  • Smierc Polarstern
  • Neil Hiatt
  • Nils Wegner
  • Chris G. Hicks

Signed copies of Black Metal: European Roots & Musical Extremities are now available to pre-order. The book will be around 200 pages in length and costs just £15 with free postage to anywhere in the world. The Paypal address is:

No Comments

Interview: Jechael of Amon


Interview conducted by Max Bloodworth.

There has been a lot of interest surrounding the Hoffman brothers after their departure from Deicide. After some time under the radar, they reformed Amon with Jechael on bass and vocals to once again make death metal. Amon’s album, Liar in Wait, sounds like a mixture of old and later era Deicide with a different vocalist. Judging by how Deicide has pretty much rendered themselves irrelevant after the Hoffman’s departure, the potential for good death metal is in the Amon camp more than the Nu-Deicide camp. Below is an interview with Jechael, the bassist and vocalist of Amon.

(more…)

22 Comments

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thoughts On Bragason’s Málmhaus (2013)

malmhaus_grave

Article by David Rosales

I. Overview

While a hessian might rightful sneer at the mainstream idea of metal music being the result of unsatisfied teenagers, Ragnar Bragason has created in Málmhaus (Metalhead) an accurate depiction of the sad reality faced by many first-world kids that are emotionally neglected by their parents. It seems that there are two main elements needed to be present for an alienated teenager to turn to metal as a refuge under these conditions. The first is that metal music be available in his range of perception in one way or other. Secondly, and more often than not, the minds that are most receptive to this art of dark tones lean towards a romantic disposition1.

After portraying the death of main protagonist Hera’s older brother, Bragason proceeds to tell us how the girl takes refuge in adopting his image and diving head-first into his metal persona. As she grows into a young adult, Hera becomes increasingly conflictive, to the point that she goes out of her way to create trouble for its own sake. Most of the movie at this point is a big tantrum with a few scenes in which the main character is writing and recording some angsty rock with harsh vocals. Basically, for Bragason extreme underground metal is virtually indistinguishable from emo rock at its core and motivating sentiment.

Aside from these outsider misconceptions, Málmhaus is a pleasant movie to watch with patient pacing that does not drag, convincing acting and a desolate feeling that only Nordic (and perhaps Slavic) settings really produce and which is more than suitable as backdrop for a metal scenery. Furthermore, and unfortunately for the metal movement, this picture of the pseudo-metal emo-poser is not at odds with the reality of many would be musicians in the medium. In this respect, the movie is objectively deserving.

II. Against the Vulgarization of the Metal Ideal

You may be wondering what beef I would have with this idea if the movie is in fact revealing a truthful picture of the scene. The answer is that metal art that most accurately and authentically reflects transcendental metal ideals are those produced by strong minds with a realist mentality. The emo posers in question usually produce music that is a thin veneer of emotionally outspoken yet ultimately safe and empty hogwash. From the outside, the product of the poser mind is similar to that of the authentic metal artist, because the imitator will always try to look like their idols on the exterior, but without becoming a threat to the society it claims to oppose. A true metal artist, however, represents a threat.

True metal is not an agent of social change. It is a rejection of social norms. True metal is not protest music that seeks to “create conscience”. It is the proud sneering of nihilists who see above and beyond the trappings of human convention. However, metal does not seek to destroy traditions but rather to exalt their realist underpinnings. It is not about destroying what is, because metal is realism, but rather about getting rid of the meta-reality created by humans who need an illusion to feel safe. Safe from uncertainty, safe from evil, safe from death.

Those making deconstructionist garbage music with the excuse of “destroying conventions” miss the point altogether. Yes, metal has evolved through innovation, but in a natural away in which the newly created sound is a construction and a depuration, not a musical negation, which by definition cannot be about anything because it attempts to be about something that is not, a mere abstract and near all-encompassing generalization that can never attain a definite form. This is why metal today needs to stop trying to be new and different. This is why it also needs to stop being a mere superficial rehashing of past formulas.

To reject musical convention or imitate it has never been the point. Black Sabbath gave birth to new music as it painted a stark picture that opposed flower power through its own being, but they were not defined by the latter’s non-being. New musicians need to start creating tradition, instead of attempting to dissolve it or trying to be what something else is not. Moreover, metal today needs to continue classic metal tradition if it is to be metal at all. Rejecting said tradition would essentially imply not being metal.

Death and black metal were jewels of their own time, as movements they were one of a kind and today they are, for all intents and purposes, dead, as the conditions that created and propelled them are not present today2. This does not mean that a new generation metalheads cannot be inspired and learn from it, in fact, they should. But this is the same as being inspired by Mozart or Wagner: it never calls for a copy-paste application of their surface traits.

One could describe the climaxing trilogy of Burzum3 as a concoction of Tolkien-filtered Destruction and Dead Can Dance4. But we may clearly observe that Vikernes never sought to suppress these influences nor did he try to simply make updated versions of them; he created something completely new with ideas produced from his own digestion. Part of the beauty of Burzum is how self-contained it is despite its borrowings in technique and method. Vikernes’ successfully-achieved objective in Burzum was the mystical recreation of the experience of reaching out to the ancestral knowledge ingrained genetically within the unconscious.

Immolation may serve as a different kind of example as they come from a background in early U.S. death metal from the north-east. Some say that Immolation is deconstructionist, but this is based on superficial impressions of the music, which is mistakenly considered atonal by laymen (most metalheads) who have never even heard truly atonal music. Immolation’s music is modal, but heavily emphasizes dissonant intervals as well as diminished and augmented arpeggios. In the long haul, Immolation’s approach is pretty much standard and proper death metal5 with a very unique approach to melody and an exertion of crucial control in the rhythm section.

III. The “Understood” (Assimilated) Metalhead, the Eviscerated Soul

Towards the end of Málmhaus, Hera goes through a period of introspection and redefinition after which she is understood not only by her parents but also by her whole community. She even participates in the rebuilding the church that she burned down earlier in the movie. She is no longer a threat. She even plays an alternative rock version of her “black metal” demo for the people in her little town. The wolf has been turned into the whimpering dog.

One of the main problems faced by metal today is that it no longer boasts of the outsider status enjoyed by its predecessors. A condition that lent them a unique perspective is utterly missing from most of today’s circles. Today’s apparently most rebellious metalheads are best compared to gimmicky Marilyn Manson; those that express genuine anti-establishment ideas are ostracized by their own “fellow metalheads”. There is no extremism in extreme metal today.

Today’s metalheads conflate cowardice and sheepish compliance with maturity, while they indulge in childish vices as expressions of their “freedom”. Somewhere along the road, man-made law and society’s comforts became the reality of these assimilated metalheads, and their “rebellion” is today only an echo of leftist humanism while they support a hypocritical system that fights bigotry with bigotry while denying it. They are completely locked inside the fence–inside the cave, convinced that the shadows on the wall are real, and that Plato is talking nonsense. Only the shadows are objective, they say, the shadows we can see and measure, the “sun” that is “outside” is only an idea.

Those who wisely choose to isolate themselves from the distractions of the modern world, the banal entertainment and the “metal scene”‘s circle jerk are mockingly tagged as “kvlt” or “trve”. This in itself is a terrible sign that metal has been assimilated into a safe space that forces it to be politically correct in the worst cases and representing tongue-in-cheek darkness in the best of cases 6. Monastic devotion is ridiculed as strange fanaticism, while mediocre and inline thinking coupled with a superficial extroversion is expected. Metalheads are “normal” now. They have grown up into their accepted slavery.

The truth is that this is what lies at the root of modern metal’s sterility – its inability to produce a new tradition because its own values have been supplanted by those of an assimilated portion of the mainstream. That those creating meaningful metal are only a handful of exceptions in a time when there has never before been a larger number of self-identifying metalheads indicates that the movement is at a loss. There was promise in the idea of war metal, but with the exception of black metal – flavoured acts like Kaeck, it is largely a dead medium. Cóndor is virtually sui generis, and the likes of Graveland and Summoning are the sole survivors and curators of a dead tradition way past its heyday.

I hope you’ll excuse me for bringing Vikernes back into the conversation, but it seems to me that his movement away from metal aesthetics during the mid 1990s was only the escape of a clever sailor from a fast-sinking ship. Although we should not mix politics with the judgement of music quality, the observation that deliberate ideologies (or lack thereof, supposedly) directly affect the kind and quality of music that is produced is pretty obvious to anyone watching intently. It is therefore only honorable that Vikernes should wholly embrace the ambient aspect of his music, the side that has remained truly underground to this day.

Once black metal becomes the cash cow of sell-out clowns like Abbath or Ihsahn, it no longer represents, in the eyes of the world-perception, what Burzum was about. There is no boundlessness. There is no escape from the idiocy of modern society in black metal anymore. It is only a show, it is not dangerous because it is not real, actually, it is fun. It is obvious that there is no other option but to move away from the symbol that has become a sign for ridiculousness and poserism. A symbol is only as good as what it transmits, and an artist cannot be excluded from context as the dreamers within the ivory towers of academia think (and contradict by trying to insert politically-correct statements in their garbage modernist compositions which hold no meaning in themselves).

The solution to metal’s plight is that circles of metalheads arise who can truly think outside the constraints and mandates of what is considered “good” or “proper” by the status quo. How they achieve that is less important to metal itself than that they actually accomplish it. This is not rebelliousness for its own sake, though it could be mistaken for it, but the idea that nobody else should in control of your mind and thoughts, and that the only truth lies in our mortality, and in man’s natural multiplicity of mind which makes his reality material and psychic at once without either being more important than the other7.

It is important that metal stands outside any such constraints to be what it is, otherwise it is like a caged predator: it ceases to be one as soon as it is shackled. Furthermore, metal loses its edge if it is not under pressure, because that is its whole purpose, it is a counter culture. Without nothing to counter, it simply loses its essential raison d’être. Therefore, this is not a call to the comformist to accept extremism, to understand those few who actually step outside the bounds of what is permitted. This is an encouragement to those who would attain higher understanding and see metal come alive again to become extremist in thought themselves, because in a sick and decadent world, it is those who are healthy of mind who are willing to act insanely.


1 Anyone who is new to this idea might need some clarification here. By romantic we do not mean someone who is the perfect womanizer, but more of a neo-dark romanticist, a revivalist of 19th century romanticism with a Nietzschean twist. People in our society who are commonly referred to as such are usually not so much romantics as whiny weaklings who cannot face up to reality. Metalheads do not avoid reality, they reject the images created by the delusions of modern man, who conveniently assumes their truthfulness: his own refusal to accept life in its full-fledged manifestation and the place of MAN within it.

2 It is my contention that the capacity for almost complete isolation experienced by young musicians during the late eightees and early nineties is made void today by the effects of the Internet and inescapable (for those living in urban and suburban areas) fast-paced life.

3 Namely Det Som Engang Var, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss and Filosofem

4 The reader may refer to Destruction’s Infernal Overkill from 1985 and Dead Can Dance’s Within the Realm of a Dying Sun from 1987.

5 Both Immolation’s Close to a World Below and Obscura by Gorguts are outstanding examples of this. Also, seemingly unbeknownst to the masses, well-developed death metal falls into the category of properly progressive music, while so-called “progressive death metal” (a redundant term) outfits are surface-oriented bands that produce disparaged songs as a result of poor musical judgement. A painful example of this would be The Sound of Perseverance, Death’s final album and an awkward affair that would make anyone with ears for proper music cringe in empathic embarrassment.

6 There was tongue-in-cheekness in the past, even during the golden years, but you can trace a distinction between these clowns and the best bands who used imagery to drive points home in a non-ironic way. Sincere nihilism and non-pretentious occultism stared right out of the classic albums, while today, these concepts are flat images worn on the outside only, as musicians try to cash in on people’s expectations.

7 The young science of psychology approaches these conclusions even as its mainstream-dictated values orders it to not make these findings, to try to make void the importance of the unconscious and subjective perception and will.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYaYzIUH9yU

26 Comments

Tags: , , , , ,

Interview with D.X. Ferris, author of Slayer’s Reign in Blood (33 1/3)

dx_ferris-slayers_reign_in_blood

The second of May makes many of us uneasy because we remember the death of Jeff Hanneman, composer and architect of the Slayer approach to mythological alienation. The world isn’t the same without him, and many of us felt like we had lost a parent, since when adults refuse to grow up and speak honestly about life, children have to turn to other sources of information. Hanneman made sense of the modern world, no matter how apocalyptic the outlook ultimately turned out to be.

We are fortunate to get a few words in with D.X. Ferris, author of the books Slayer’s Reign in Blood (33 1/3) and Slayer 66 2/3: The Jeff & Dave Years. A Metal Band Biography. Ferris has spent the last several years writing about Slayer and understands the importance of this historic act not just to metal, but to the society around us all. Read on for the inner truths of writing about Slayer on this day we commemorate Hanneman’s life.

You’ve written two books on Slayer. What’s your relationship to Slayer? When did it begin?

My life is very clearly divided into Before Slayer and Since Slayer. I tell the story in my first book: Over the years, I had edged toward metal. I thought Metallica was as hard & heavy as it got. Then I read a review of Hell Awaits, and the review talked it up like a thrash masterpiece. So bought it. The first time I played it, it started with that big three-minute slow intro. I thought I had bought a bad album based on a bad review. But then the track kicked into the thrash part, and it was the universe cracked and a new dimension opened. And almost 30 years later, here I am, talking about Slayer.

Over the ’90s, I wasn’t as into metal as I was and am, but Slayer always stayed with me. My college notebooks are filled with Slayer lyrics and pentagrams. After college, when I’d sit in meetings, I looked like I was taking notes, but half the time, I was sketching Slayer logos — that’s one of the reasons why the new paperback looks like it does.

And the older I get, the more the band means to me. I think it’s curious how people get old and forget about metal. When you’re younger, metal is great music for when you’re pissed off. But when you get older and you have to deal with questionable coworkers and pinhead middle managers, that’s when you really need angry music. Slayer is always here for you!

How did you become a writer?

Writing is my one rare ability. I have tried doing literally everything else I though I could do: being a businessman in a suit, bartending, entering a doctoral program for corporate communication. Writing just keeps dragging me back to it. I wrote for school newspapers. I used the school newspaper as an outlet for record reviews. And gradually parlayed those clips into paying gigs as a writer.

Are you a metal fan “in general,” a Slayer fan or a writer who found this topic intriguing?

I primarily identify as A Metal Guy. I love a lot of other music. In high school, I was deeply into hardcore and punk, too. But I had long hair and the metal outfit: denim and some leather. In the picture I sent, that’s my same Anthrax back-patch from high school. The last three albums I bought were Triptykon, Behemoth, and High School Musical 2. Hey, I have kids. I could have scored free promo copies, but those dudes deserve my money.

What do you think is Slayer’s cultural impact?

Great question. Early in the book, I say “This is Slayer’s world, and we’re just living in it.” Look around is: The Twilight series is a phenomenon. It’s about vampires. There are four vampire shows in primetime TV — well, three now that NBC canceled Dracula. Walking Dead is the most popular TV show with young audiences. Game of Thrones is the most popular HBO show since The Sopranos, and it is metal as hell. In fact, I write weekly Heavy Metal Reviews of it for a website called Diffuser.fm, where I evaluate how metal the episode was. Since the days of Hell Awaits, long hair, violence, the undead, and the supernatural have saturated society. And that’s just the fantasy aspect, not to mention the fact that we’ve been at war over a decade.

Can you trace all that directly to Slayer? Maybe not. But they sure were ahead of the curve.

Your first Slayer-themed book appears to be Slayer’s Reign in Blood (33 1/3). What can you tell us about this book, and how did you end up being the one to write it?

I was a fan of the series. Each book is by a different author, writing about a single classic album, from the Beach Boys to the Beastie Boys. And something about it just called me and made me think “Go write a Slayer book for it.” I would have liked to write the Beastie Boys one, but Dan LeRoy beat me to it. When I looked down the list, I saw there was no metal in the series. So I pitched Reign. I knew it was a stretch. But, one, I thought there should be some metal. Two, if you look at the people who made the record, the album is an intriguing nexus in the history of rock: It was produced by Rick Rubin, who was known strictly as a rap guy at the time. It was his first rock record. And he would go on to work with about 10% of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee groups. Engineer Andy Wallace mixed everybody, basically, from Nirvana to Guns ‘N Roses. It was released on the rap label Def Jam. So it was the perfect metal choice, because the album reaches beyond metal.

Did writing this book change how you viewed Slayer?

It did. With pretty much any group, when you really dig into the credits and start crunching numbers, you realize that your impressions of the band aren’t necessarily right. Like, there are a lot of Who fans who assume Roger Daltrey wrote the words, because he’s the singer. I thought I knew a lot about the band, but it was really interesting to see how the leadership roles changed over the years, and how the artistic division of labor changed over time. And with the splits between Dave Lombardo and the band… Well, when I started the second book, I was partial to one side of the division. And when I was done, I had switched sides.

Last year, you unveiled Slayer 66 2/3: The Jeff & Dave Years. A Metal Band Biography. This looks to be more of a historical book. How did you come up with material, and what’s in it?

It’s a combination of new research, material that was breaking news at the time, and great stuff that wouldn’t fit in the first book: They wanted 25,000 words, I wrote 67,000, and they took 42,000. The new book is 110,000 words, with 59 chapters, 33 photos, 3 indexes (2 in the paperback), and 400 footnotes. Its full title is Slayer 66 & 2/3: The Jeff & Dave Years, A Metal Band Biography. From Birth to Reborn, Including Slaytanic Profiles, a New History of the Thrash Kings’ Early Days, Reign in Blood Tours, a European Invasion, the Palladium Riot, the Seat Cushion Chaos Concert, the Whole Diabolical Discography, Newly Unearthed Details From Dave Lombardo’s Turbulent History With the Band, Artwork and Some Photos You’ve Probably Never Seen Before, Jeff Hanneman’s Hard Times, the Big Four’s Big Year, Lombardo’s Final Exit, the Top 11 Hanneman Tributes, the Mosh Memorial Service, Untold Stories, Updates, Relevant Digressions, and More Scenes From the Abyss.

What prompted you to write a second book on Slayer?

Lombardo left the band for the third, and finally final, time in February 2013. Well, he didn’t exactly leave. But he was gone. It was a fresh shock in the metal world. And it should have been. But Slayer fans who knew history knew he had left twice before. So I decided I would write a short e-book about his trouble with the band: He was never in step with the rest of them. The first time he quit was during the Reign in Blood tour. And their relationship never recovered.

I figured it would be a 12,000-word e-book. I wanted to have it out by the end of April. All spring long, I kept getting sick. If I wasn’t sick, one of my kids was. I just couldn’t get the book done. April ended, the book wasn’t out, and I was pissed. Furious. May 1, I was fuckin’ pissed. May 2, I was even more furious. Then the evening of May 2, word breaks that Jeff Hanneman died. And there I was, with a Slayer book halfway written. So for the rest of the year, as the story unfolded, it grew from a little project to a full-on rock biography. One thing after another stopped me from getting it done, and every time, the delays helped, until at the very end, famous metal photographer and musician Harald O found some amazing photos that he had totally forgotten about. And that’s where the cover came from.

What’s an interesting Slayer fact most people don’t know?

Man… They just split with Rick Rubin after almost 30 years. And they were his only client from the 1980s. I don’t know how many younger metal fans realize how influential Dave Lombardo was for all metal percussion. He gets respect in the metal world, but rock fans don’t realize he’s one of the all-time great drummers. When Lars Ulrich was sick and Lombardo played two songs with Metallica, Ulrich was actually nervous. He said something like, “You try sitting in a hospital bed while Dave Lombardo is playing with your band.”

Writing the second book, though, the biggest thing I learned was how little Slayer has toured over the years. I mean, they’re a regular presence on the touring world. But the South of Heaven tour was something like, if I remember right, 60 shows. They took a lot of time off.

Do you write on other things besides Slayer? If so, what and where do we find them? If anonymously, can you tell us why?

I transitioned from music writing to news journalism a few years back, and I won some awards for journalism. But lately, I mostly teach college. I write some popular-culture stuff for Diffuser and The AV Club. And I’m working on a couple non-fiction projects I can’t talk about yet; one is a collaboration, so it’s not mine to talk about. I write a terrible webcomic called Suburban Metal Dad that’s not as autobiographical as you’d think, for a website called Popdose.

Have you visited the “International Day of Slayer” website? What did you think of that?

International Day of Slayer organizers Dag Hansen and Jim Tate are great! Hansen is among the people I interviewed for the book. I just heard on the radio that today is actually the International Day of Prayer, which was the original inspiration for International Day of Slayer. Last year, I thought it was really something when Kerry King took time to acknowledge Slayer Day and talk about Jeff’s absence. As I discuss in the book, I think it’s about as emotional as we’ve ever seen him in public.

What do you think Slayer’s lasting influence on metal has been?

Like I said, Lombardo practically invented modern metal drumming. They’ve been the standard-bearers for thrash. Metallica are huge, but Slayer has been the Big Four band that stayed true to their original sound and style. They never tried to cash in or cross over. They’re the gold standard for a credible long-term metal career.

No Comments

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Interview: Bill Zebub (The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds)

Few people incite hilarity or rage like Bill Zebub of The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds, which is a magazine straddling the line between humor about death metal and information about death metal. We were lucky enough to catch Bill on his portable phone as he zoomed between appointments at West Hollywood coffeehouses.

What do you think separates a metal band from a mallcore band, in attitude, music and philosophy?

Mallcore? That is an absolutely hilarious word! I don’t actually know what mallcore is, but anything with “core” in it is guaranteed to be for blue collar mentalities and is generally a herd-type of music. Posermetal is for human cattle as well and it is just as fake. The worst sort of “core” music contains lyrics about society or government, yet the writer has no education.

Why should I care what an under-achiever thinks about a subject he knows nothing about? There is no philosophy in “core” music. Ridiculous opinionsshould never be confused with “philosophy”.

Do you think something needs to have value per se in order to be valuable? (Another way to ask: is context more important than construction to memes in a globally connected society)

It’s something I never really thought about. I suppose that forsome thing to be value-able it must have value, but does that imply an objective value, like “this gem has no flaw, therefore it has such-and-such market value”– or can value be subjective? If so, one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure. As for context being more important than construction, if I were to hide meaning in a simple sentence and then publish it on low-quality paper, does it have value because of my genius despite the cheap paper, and does the genius itself lose value if the reader cannot detect the meaning I have coded into the words?

The phrase sui generis is currently trendy among scenesters who like to describe why they like things which are at best trivially different from the other things around them. Do you think anything is sui generis (alone of its kind) or are all things influenced by what is around them in a continuous evolution? Do you think sui generis and the Christian concept of the soul are similar, or is sui generis something more natural only incidentally picked up by hipsters?

I have never heard that term,so I am removed from the scene a bit. William Blake said “There is nothing new under the sun” and there have been many times when I thought that I had an original idea, only to discover that my idea was formed long ago by someone else and that I just coincidentally dreamed up the same thing, or, if you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious, I just tuned into the data bank of the universe.

I don’t know what the Christian concept of the soul is. I think that Christians believe that you are on earth only once, but Christians are not aware that references to reincarnation were taken out of the gospels. Do you see a flaw in the belief of a soul only being incarnated once? How could a toddler who dies in acar crash possibly be judged worthy of entering the pearly gates when he/shehas not undergone the trials of adult life that could lead to indulging a sinful path and thereby meriting damnation, even though hell was really a codeword for an unclean area of Qumran which is very much on earth and not in the afterlife.

What do you like about video as opposed to radio?

You might also ask, if you were to lose a sense, would you rather lose hearing or sight? When I watch video it is usually to be entertained by a story, which I never use the radio for. Actually, I don’t ever listen to the radio. When I did listen to the radio a very long time ago it was because a local college station played underground music and that was my first taste of it. As I formed a particular taste, I found a lot of the metal programs to be composed mostly of fluff, and I noticed that most radio hosts tried to entertain the lowest common denominator, so they shyed away from playing long songs, doomy songs, or experimental songs. So an answer to your question can be that radio is far more superficial, and that with video I always have a choice and I am always in control. If you are asking which I would rather do, for I make videos and I am also a radio host, I don’t think I can choose one over the other because they both are outlets for me, and when I lose the chance to do one or the other I become very disappointed.

What got you into radio?

When I first heard that college radio show I actually planned to attend that college and get a show, which I accomplished. I don’t know anything about being a proper disc jockey — I never studied communication or broadcasting. The radio station was considered to be a club in the eyes of the college. But to me, it was my legacy.

What was the highest moment of realization that occurred to you while you were on the radio?

It may sound silly, but I realized that there is always a new listener every moment of the show. I just recently filled in for a talk show, and instead of playing music, I decided to play a joke on the usual host of that show and I pretended to be him, but without imitating his voice. I kept identifying myself as him, and I decided that I would be accepting calls if people had insults about Jesus, which the host would never do, and although there were callers who called me an impostor, many people were happy to call up and say that Jesus was a fag, and the following week all of the new listeners called up the real host and called HIM the impostor!

How often do you run afoul of the FCC?

I never break FCC rules. It would be foolish to irritate such a powerful organization.

What do you think of these radio personalities: Kasey Kasem, Howard Stern and Don Imus?

Of the three, I only heard Howard Stern, and there have been many times when I laughed out loud when I heard his show. But I never chose to listen to his show. I only heard it because someone else was playing it. If I am in my car I listen to cd’s. If I am at home relaxing, I listen to cd’s. I just think it’s funny that Howard Stern uses a pitch shifter to lower the pitch of his voice. I mean, everyone knows what he looks like, so the artificially deep voice isn’t fooling anyone.

If you could do an evangelical talk show, for which religion would you create it?

Ha! I once did such a show, but it was about Satan. I read things from the Satanic Bible, but in the enormously gay southern accent that I hate so much, and I irritated the hell out of everyone. Despite reading from the Satanic Bible, I talked about Satan as an actual being that exists, sort of like he is your best friend, which I am sure would piss of LaVeyans, but I was doing the show to be an asshole.

What do you think all religions have in common, if anything?

I saw a show in which some kid in Hawaii was really sick, and his mother was foolishly doing all of these silly religious things because Hawaii has some sort of silly primitive religion. But I have seen Christians do equally absurd things. I suppose the one thing that all religions that I know about have in common is that they provide a stupid way for a weak person to accept suffering. Just fuckin’ deal with it! What’s so hard about that? Or should I say, what’s so hard about realizing that you’re fucked? Why do you need to have grandiose delusions? Does it really make it easier?

Why do we call Christianity “western” religion if it originated in the Middle East?

Perhaps because Constantine stripped its origins and westernized it. By the way, he was never a believer. He remained a pagan until his death.

If you got a PSA for an Al-Qaeda recruitment drive, how would you embellish it?

You must have E.S.P. I made such a fake PSA, which did not go over very well. But if I ever had one that was real I probably wouldn’t need to embellish it because it would probably beloaded with enough juicy hot buttons. To take it one step further, I would honestly never read a real PSA like that because I would never want to be on an F.B.I. watch list. I don’t defy people who are in power.

Two wise men are sitting in a meadow. A leaf slowly falls from a tree. One says, “how appropriate.” The other says, “how natural.” Why are they both wrong?

If they are wise men, it is not for me to judge if they are wrong, for I am foolish.

What do you think is the ultimate solution to humanity’s wars and crises arising from religious, social, economic, racial, and intellectual inequalities?

Total death is the only way for us to be equal, for while we live there is no equality. There are retards and there are geniuses. Only an egalitarian would consider them equal. There are people who lack imagination, and there are people who are vastly creative. Which group has the advantage? There are intelligent people who have an emotional block — they can penetrate all other riddles yet they cannot see the idiocy of their beliefs. There will always be conflict as long as there is life.
do you think it is possible for christianity to have a secular component?

The only opinion that I really care to share about Christianity is that it is harmful to mankind.

If you were Osama Bin Laden and had to hide somewhere in NYC, where would you hide?

I am not very familiar with new york, but I would probably try out the idea that the bestplace to hide is in plain sight. I would probably pretend to be a homeless person and wash the windshields of cars and mutter incomprehensibly. No one wouldever suspect me even if I wore the usual bib-laden-actionwear.

Do you do any drugs?

No. I drink a lot of beer, and alcohol is a drug, but you probably meant illicit drugs, right?

Have you ever had sex with a non-human?

A non-lifeform, yes. I couldn’t help it. I had to try out a blow-up doll–and before you ask, yes, it was of a human girl.

Do you like any black metal bands? If so, which?

I’ve quite enjoyed Thy Primordial’s “Heresy of An Age of Reason” and I like certain songs by SadLegend, Immortal, Mayhem, Satyricon, and Darkthrone. I’m sure there are others. But that is not my usual fare. I only listen to that sort of stuff as a side dish.

Many say that goregrind – a fusion of simple death metal and violent grindcore – is overrated. What is your feeling on the subgenre?

I’m not sure if I ever heard such music. Maybe I have. I can’t see how anything with “grind” in it is over-rated because I have never seen or heard anyone raving about that stuff. My friends who are metal merchants stay clear of those albums, so it doesn’t seem to sell well, and if it doesn’t sell well then I can’t really think that it is over-rated. But then, it could very well be that I never actually heard a “goregrind” band. Did you make that up?

How many copies of The Grimoire do you distribute each month?

I don’t do it monthly. Quarterly I distribute 30,000 copies.

If you could be any metal musician for a day, who would you be? Would there be anything left of his or her career when you were done?

I would be Randy Rhoads and I would use all of my knowledge to record brutal songs and doomy songs, and then when I became Bill Zebub again I would add my vocals and become legendary.

Say nasty things about anus.com here.

The most nasty thing I can say is that I don’t know what anus.com is — you must be pretty popular, aye?

What languages do you speak besides English?

Czech, some Ukrainian, and some Slovak.

It is apparent you are educated enough to be cynical about “education.” Is this true? What experience brought on the cynicism?

Well, I have friends who are teachers who are forbidden to fail niggers because “it is traumatic for thechild to be held back” so there are sixth-graders who don’t know how to read. Wouldn’t that make you cynical? Also, for a point system for entry into a college, if you write a good essay on why you should be admitted, you get one point. If you are black, you get 20 points. I wonder if England is like that. I don’t think so, because the college students there can actually form a sentence.

Do you have a script for your radio shows, or are they improvisational?

They are always improvised. The only time there is any planning is when I have thought up an idea, like when I took over that talk show and decided to badmouth Jesus. But nothing about that was scripted. It’s fun to do things like that, but the danger in it is it could fail miserably. I suppose that a scripted show could fail too. Anyway, there have been numerous times when I ruined things. When I hear the tapes of those instances, I cringe. When I fail, I really go all the way.

What’s your favorite interview?

I don’t think that I have a favorite interview. But I do laugh every time I think about the last one I did with Malevolent Creation because Phil was trying to hint to me to stop making nigger jokes, and whenever I seemed to calm down I would always bring in a nigger joke out of nowhere and Phil was absolutely horrified. It was funny to hear his exasperatingly say “Here we go again” or “Dude, you need help!”

You recently crafted a movie. Do you see it as originating in the postmodern, idealist or modernist tradition?

I am not familiar with those terms. I never studied film. The only thing that I did study for this particular movie was the three-act structure of screenplays, and the reason that I studied that was because I have to learn the rules before I break them. I never did a full-length movie before. I had always just done 10-minute skits, or candid-camera stuff. So I read a book by Syd Field and I’m glad I did.

In this movie, do events move according to a script, or is it more of a cut-up format in the style of W.S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch?

I don’t know what “Naked Lunch” is, but this movie was entirely scripted. I made some changes as we went along, but I did write and copyright a screenplay.

Do you have aspirations to direct “real” movies?

I have been reading a lot of tips from various internet sites and I found out that a lot of directors started out the way I am doing things. But I am doing this purely for personal enjoyment. I know that I have my own style. But I don’t know if it’s something that would merit anyone risking giving me a big budget. I am just now starting to learn about the financial and promotion side of the hobby, and I am sinking my own fortunes into these ventures. As I progress maybe I will have investors. But until then I’ll just keep shelling out cash and hoping that things take off. When I release a movie, I assume that it will flop and prepare myself for ruin. So any outcome is surely better than that, and that means that I am always happy with the results.

Do you see art as primarily reflective of the world around it, or as creating a force against that which exists so that a different or larger ideal can be pursued?

I am not a person who could comment on what art is. I am not an artist, I am a hobbyist. Humor is sometimes referred to as a social mirror. In my case, humor is a social circus-mirror. Does that answer your question?

Do you believe in good and evil?

No. I believe that thoughts and actions are sometimes positive and sometimes negative, and some good actions can have negative thoughts as the fuel. Most people experience metal illness at one point or another. That is the closest thing to evil. But evil, or good, are not very sophisticated concepts.

Do you like Mexican food?

Yes, I do. I find it to be very flavorful.

What’s your opinion of the average metal fan? Average black metal fan (fan of black metal)? Average metal lady? Average Grimoire reader?

This is a hard question to answer because I am not really connected to the metal scene, or to my readers. I only associate with a very select group of people, and I don’t think that they can be generalized to the whole metal scene. I guess you can say that I am acquainted with extremes, not the middle. I do know that ever since the Grimoire was no longer free, most of the idiotic mail has stopped. Yes, the web site is free, but I think that you have to be somewhat literate to navigate the internet and to deal with reading text on a screen. Then again, the most popular pages are the Grimoire Girl pages, but for some reason, the retards who picked up the printed version have not trickled over into the internet crowd. So the demographics are different now. The only people who own Grimoires now are people who understand the humor, or people who happened to like the girls in the issue. Anyway, to answer your question, I don’t really know the “average” kind of person from any group because I only care to deal with certain types of people, and they are not average by any means.

What are your intellectual and physical interests outside of metal?

I like psychoanalytical theory, lucid dreaming, out of body experiences, quantum reality, dark humor,dark poetry, dark opera, aiki jiu jutsu, and medieval fantasy.

Visit The Grimoire of Exalted Deeds or Bill Zebub productions.

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him — you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us — for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than the most distant stars — and yet they have done it themselves.”

– F.W. Nietsche, The Gay Science

No Comments

Interview: Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike)

People who come into a genre after its foundation often spend a good deal of time trying to find its roots. Because descent is not linear, but more resembles the roots of a tree converging on something that could later branch, there’s often a cloud of contributors from which this clarity emerges. In the early days of death metal, around 1982-1985, Master and Deathstrike took one approach to metal that combined Motorhead-style road metal with the insurgent political antagonist of anarchist punk music. The themes developed there reappear in both death metal and life at large. Mastermind Paul Speckmann was kind enough to answer a few questions for us on death metal, politics, art and the future.

You formed MASTER back in 1983, at a time when death metal wasn’t defined in most people’s minds. What led you to this style of music and when did you start calling it death metal?

I was playing in a band called Warcry playing sort of a Doom, Sabbathy kind of Heavy Metal. It was certainly before all these categories ever were pegged. We were just trying to be heavy, and in the end guys like Lee Dorrian from Cathedral have acknowledged bands like Warcry and Trouble also from Chicago as a major influence. This is actually quite a cool thing.

The original guitarist in Warcry, Marty Fitzgerald, turned me onto a seven-inch from the band Venom. At the time I was just starting to follow Lemmy and the career of Motorhead, but Venom was even more brutal for me. At this time the original drummer Bill Schmidt and I were also listening to GBH, The Exploited, Discharge, MDC and Batallion of Saints. The aggression of this music was very important to us. We decided that it was time to create our own music along these lines.

The term Death Metal was coined by the critics. I really just thought it was aggressive Metal, I never really thought of it as Death Metal. The bands Master and Deathstrike played music really geared toward an anti-Government stance as well as anti-religion, of course. I have always thought that belief in oneself is the most important thing in life. To create your own path and strike your idols down are the main things to mention here. This is the ideology I have always pursued personally, but people will and always have been led to the slaughter sacrificing their own free will. I refuse to do this.

Although band names have changed (ABOMINATION, SPECKMANN PROJECT, DEATH STRIKE, MASTER) you have consistently anchored each band and shaped the style of music, even as personnel have changed. How do you maintain this consistency yet keep developing with each album?

This is a rather difficult question, but let’s just say that I just write songs from the heart and try and capture what’s happening at the time in society as a whole. I guess I preach in some songs, people might say, but really it’s just my belief and maybe my beliefs are bit extreme for some at times. I really try to capture what I am feeling at a particular moment. Let’s face it, every album is not a success, and I have really had many failures, but this is of course from the perspective of the critics.

I put all my effort in each and every song, it’s just that at times the feelings are captured differently. Sometimes the produtions are shit or the budget is rather miniscule. But, since moving to the Czech Republic I have found professional studios, mainly Shaark Studios in Bzenec, and the engineers are more professional than most, and the rates are reasonable compared to the outrageous prices in America for mediocre studios. I mean why would anyone spend more than a few days in a studio. Either you can capture the music quickly or it’s worthless.

We usually record the tracks for an album in a few days. Slaves To Society had the drums and bass tracks finished in 6 hours complete. It took a few days for the guitars, but this is normal as I really concentrate on the guitarist’s playing during the process.

Reverence begins in a deep understanding of human limitations; from this grows the capacity to be in awe of whatever we believe lies outside of our control — God, truth, justice, nature, even death. The capacity for awe, as it grows, brings with it the capacity for respecting fellow human beings, flaws and all. This in turn fosters the ability to be ashamed when we show moral flaws exceeding the normal human allotment.

– Paul Woodruff, Reverence: A Forgotten Virtue

What distinguishes great music from bad? Can it be distilled into technique, or is it something less easily defined?

Feeling is certainly more important, because some of the most talented musicians in the world release shitty music for sure. Many bands today focus on how many riffs can be played per second and it’s rather silly if you ask me. I would rather listen to Saxon or old Judas Priest than any of the “New School Of Metal.” Back to basics I say. Sabbath, Deep Purple and Saxon are what it’s about.

I mean of course Beethoven and Bach were among the greatest composers without a doubt, but this is Metal we are talking about here. I am the first to say that I am not a fantastic bassist compared to the entire genre, but I know how to write great melodies and lyrics that say something and for me this is more important than technique. Lemmy for example is also a great songwriter, but he’s really a guitarist, not a bassist. Now Geezer on the otherhand is great at all he does. I of course respect both these Gods to the fullest.

Jim Morrison (THE DOORS) sang and wrote repeatedly of a “frontier,” or a chaotic no man’s land where danger was everywhere, but it was also possible to get away from rules and fears. How does this apply to music like death metal, which seems to accept death and disease as a normal part of life?

I suppose what you said about Morrison is true for him: it was an escape and then death was the next escape. He was a great lyricist of course, but a weakling in the end, but opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.

Death and disease are a part of everyone’s life of course. This is normal to look death in the face as we all live to die. Disease ravages people and countries every day; this is great food for thought for a writer. We are living on a disease-ridden planet and people are dropping dead while scientists play gods and help over-populate this god forsaken planet. Birth control is the key I suppose.

Are there any plans to release WAR CRY material on CD?

Original singer Rich Rozek has done this already; you can find the CD at his website, even though it was remastered and the thunderous bass was basically removed from the recording. Also Rich has re-recorded several tracks for your listening pleasure. I heard a clip of the re-recordings on myspace and thought it sucked. He never spoke with the original members including myself about the project, but this is water under the bridge and I wish him the best with his endeavor.

I really wish we could all get together and do a tour of this original legendary material, but this will unfortunately never happen as everyone hates each other. But I have no hard feelings and would be more than willing to tour with these guys for a few weeks in Europe. I still speak with Marty and have heard from Steve as well, but I really have no contact with Rich except for an argument on Blabbermouth some time back. I really wish everyone the best, no hard feelings. I am as busy as ever and everyone else has pretty much given up in the professional sense.

You maintain a relentless touring schedule and put on professional shows, even when facing adversity like no money and disorganized promoters. How do you do it?

It was never about the money. I always like sharing my musical vision with the world and continually do so. We will begin a tour of Europe on Friday the 23rd of January and finish March 1st, I then will join the tour with Waco Jesus for 26 dates as their merchandiser. I like to stay busy and this also keeps me in touch with the general public. I joined a company called Kraft Evention about six years ago and this has taken me on numerous tours with bands like Vital Remains, Benediction, Jungle Rot and Dissection with Watain. So, needless to say, I am quite busy every year and this works for me and helps support my art and life in general.

MASTER’s music shows the influences of not only NWOBHM and punk, but later aggressive bands like MOTORHEAD and VENOM, but there also seems to be an underlying influence from more idealistic 1960s rock, like a little bit of protest music in the mix. How do you feel this meshes with the blood ‘n’ gore themes of death metal?

I really am not interested in the blood and gore as you described so well. I realise that the gore and blood bands are making much more money than I, but fantasy is better left for books and imagination. I prefer to bring the truth as I see it to the music. Satan is also a great money maker for brainless kids that haven’t any direction in life. Religion has always been a great seller, and more power to these bands. If they can make a decent living, which many do, then good luck.

It’s really apparent that we are all being controlled by governments and we are all Slaves To Society, and the sooner the youth of today take a stand against this control the better. Forget the devil and concentrate on the liberation of the people. I think this is more important than Satan or other religious shit. You have to wonder what kind of God would just overlook this.

The idiots in the Middle East continually use their false Gods to terrorize and torture innocent people in the region. They need to learn to get along and accept the different ideologies and learn to forgive each other, and get on with the peace process. All the hatred must be squashed or the world will end over the next few years. These terrorists like Putin hoarding the natural gas, as the Eastern Europeans freeze to death, just to show how powerful Russia has become from all their corruption and greed.

You have to smile as all the people are complaining about the Israeli conquest in Gaza, when anyone with half an ounce of intelligence knows that the USA supplies the weapons and cash to these fanatics. Hell, the USA supplied the weapons for Afghanistan to fight off the Russians in the past and wonder why the region is so fucked up. It’s called creating your own enemies.

Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it.

– William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night

One thing that has always bowled me over about your outlook is that you never seem resentful — at all. You have spoken in the past about your contentment with day jobs, being glad to tour, and how to brush aside any things that went wrong in the past. Where do you get this inner strength and peace?

I believe in myself, and everyone knows that life is complicated for most and you just have to roll with the punches. Metal is not for everyone and I cherish the moments I have had over the years. It’s interesting to say the least that the band and I have been touring successfully since I moved to Europe in 2000. This was the best opportunity that ever arose for me. Now I am busy every year and Master has played more concerts in the last five years than we ever did before. I average roughly around 90 shows per year. Of course if we could play more I would, but you can only play the same regions so often unless you’re a supergroup, which is only a dream for most.

As for the day job, I work about an hour and a half per day about 8 hours per week when I’m not busy with the music, as an English conversationalist with some of the Directors of the biggest companies and their children in this region. This beats the hell out of moving furniture like in the past in the USA. It’s a bit funny as I am in demand and with all the touring the students are left wanting and anxious for my return to the lessons.

If sound is like paint, and we use different techniques and portray different things in our paintings, what does it say when a genre sounds similar and has similar topic matter and imagery? Can the genre be said to have a philosophy or culture of its own?

Yes, I suppose, there is no doubt that Metal is a culture within itself, and the governments of today could learn a few things from Metal-Heads. These people come from all backrounds, races, colors, creeds and get along fine at the concerts and festivals that are played every year across the globe. Only Metal matters at these festivals for example. One big family that eats, sleeps enjoys the music and shits together with only small problems like with any situation. Music is the main focus at these places and everyone leaves their problems behind them and looks to enjoy themselves. Isn’t this what life is about? Everyone needs an escape from the rigamorole of the every day grind, and what better way to escape then to go enjoy a great festival.

What do you think makes death metal separate from punk hardcore (THE EXPLOITED, DISCHARGE), heavy metal (IRON MAIDEN, MOTORHEAD) and speed metal (SLAYER, METALLICA)? Is it an entirely new genre, or an extension of previous genres?

Maybe this is true for some, but I personally try to incorporate many different aspects of these genres in my music. I like the different styles and try to be versatile in my writing. I would say this genre is just an extension of the original bands in my opinion. I rarely see anything new these days especially among the younger groups. I see nothing but rehashed riffs among the new generation, but I suppose it’s cool sometimes to recognise an old Slayer or Motorhead riff at a show played by someone else.

How did you approach learning to play the bass, and did you study music theory?

While in the band White Cross which was a cover band during my high school days I began to become fascinated with the bass and bought a cheap Epiphone, and taught myself to play it with long hours of practice. I began smoking more pot and ditching school in favor of practicing my bass in my bedroom. Finally my Dad said, “No School? Then it’s time to work; I want you pounding the pavement tomorrow morning!”

So after a few days of reading the paper, I began going back to bed after everyone left for school and work. Finally I found a shit job working for Chilton Research Services as a telephone interviwer, but this kept me around the house to practice more often. I had theory in school but after taking the class a second time because I was stoned the first time, I dropped out of school as I said earlier and really learned nothing about theory. Later I took a few lessons from a great bassist from the area called Jee Kapchek. After he couldn’t find the time to figure out the solo break in the song Killers, I figured it out myself that same day and said, I don’t need lessons, and the rest is history.

When the band HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. How do these themes influence your songwriting and imagery?

They are real, so these things influence the realities of song imagery, for myself and others to a great extent. There is nothing like the realities of life and death to stimulate the writing process.

A consistent theme in your lyrics has been how ideas like religion or politics can shape how we perceive the world and as a result can control us. What started you thinking along these lines?

When my grandmother died of cancer at the age of 72 and then my father died next of a brain tumor at 51, my eyes were opened. I wrote “Pay To Die” and “The Truth” shortly afterward. As for the governmental themes all anyone had to do was watch the news as I still do today to see how corrupt and hypocritical the world is. I remember standing next to my mother’s coffin a few years later as she died of cancer and the rest of my family was on the other side of the coffin as we didn’t agree on many issues about her death. I wrote “What Kind Of God” shortly after.

We have just returned the song to the set for the tour beginning this week, and it felt great to play this again at practice over this past weekend. It brought back many memories for me. I also remember watching Pastor Bartz arrive at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois, when my father used to make my brothers and I go, and he was in a beautiful white Cadillac dressed in his cowboy hat and I thought, “wow, he must be raking in the bucks.” This was from the followers of the church of course and then a few years later he also died of cancer rather quickly around his early fifties and I thought wow, this God acts in peculiar ways. This Pastor was struck down in the prime of his life due to his greed and corrupt values.

Your album Slaves to Society has just been re-released through John McEntee’s (INCANTATION) label Ibex Moon Records. What are you going to write about for your next album? How have people responded to Slaves to Society?

The album was reviewed and critically acclaimed in many magazines across the globe and sells still, so I am quite pleased about this. Ibex Moon has done a superb job with promoting the album and getting it to the right people, but as always sales could be better. But, with all the illegal downloading, it is hard to sell as many units as I did in the past.

The next CD will deal with the issues facing society at the particular moment I begin writing lyrics. At this moment I am busy throughout 2009 and will focus on this in the fall I suppose. I and guitarist Nejezchleba have fifteen tracks written already, so we will have to find the time to pick and choose later. For the moment the tours are the most important thing.

You recorded the first MASTER/DEATH STRIKE albums in 1985. The world has changed a lot since then. Has your vision changed? Has it needed to, or is the same process going on that was happening then, in the world?

Everything is still the same only worse in the world. I still write and create songs as in the past. I let the world dictate my writing. The tapestry of this planet is my muse.

A man who has blown all his options can’t afford the luxury of changing his ways. He has to capitalize on whatever he has left, and he can’t afford to admit — no matter how often he’s reminded of it — that every day of his life takes him farther and farther down a blind alley… Very few toads in this world are Prince Charmings in disguise. Most are simply toads… and they are going to stay that way… Toads don’t make laws or change any basic structures, but one or two rooty insights can work powerful changes in the way they get through life. A toad who believes he got a raw deal before he even knew who was dealing will usually be sympathetic to the mean, vindictive ignorance that colors the Hell’s Angels’ view of humanity. There is not much mental distance between a feeling of having been screwed and the ethic of total retaliation, or at least the random revenge that comes with outraging the public decency.

– Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

You must have a ton of stories stockpiled. Any plans to write a book?

I already have: it’s called “Speck Mann: Surviving the Underground”, but I have yet to find a serious publisher.

You’re touring the world through 2009. What’s happening after that? Any plans to re-release more older MASTER and DEATH STRIKE albums?

The first two releases from Master were re-issued on Displeased Records Holland in 2008 with bonus DVDs and Collection of Souls will be re-issued in March. Deathstrike may be re-issued along with Funeral Bitch on Ibex Moon early summer. It’s a chance to bring the releases to next generation of Metal-Heads.

Although your music is of the death metal generation, you are of the same age as the METALLICA/MEGADETH generation. Do you think this gives you an outlook others in death metal did not have?

Probably, I am older and more experienced and have seen many more things happen than the newer kids.

The author Kurt Vonnegut famously referred to art as a canary in a coal mine, or a warning signal for society. Other artists have claimed that art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Which among these describe your music?

The celebration of life and death are more important I believe.

Who cares about the artist?

“Insanity twisted the mind of the pigeon, reality clouded the eyes of decision.” – Paul Speckmann (2000)

Most bands we’ve talked to recognize MASTER and DEATH STRIKE as early influences. What do you think are your most significant contributions to death metal?

I think the riffs on the albums and the lyrics speak for themselves and I am happy that I was a part of the inception of the genre even if the money never arrived. At least I can go to bed with a clear conscience at night knowing I was an originator not a follower or copycat as many of the success stories in this genre are.

2 Comments

Interview: Jon Konrath (writer)

What does it mean for you, to be a writer? Do you consider yourself in this position?

It’s a tough call – I mean, I put the profession of writer on my tax return, and that’s what I do for a living. But I think a lot of people expect a writer to be something different, some kind of Stephen King character, or a celebrity that publishes millions of books and appears on Charlie Rose and stuff. I’m far from that, because I really avoid the classes and readings and events – I’m not interested in the business of publishing or books, and I find most writers to be far too aggressive and egotistical. Most of my coworkers don’t even know that I write books. My parents don’t even know I write books. Writing in this day and age is considered strange, but I see it as a necessary evil.

What has been different about writing your second book than the writing of the first?

Summer Rain, my first book, was very linear. It was based on reality, and it followed an outline that I carefully managed. There were things that completely didn’t happen, but much of it could have occured during your typical summer on campus in 1992.

Rumored to Exist, on the other hand, is completely random. It’s the literary equivalent of Kentucky Fried Movie, a bunch of pieces put together to form feeling, terror and energy rather than emotion. It involves a lot more research, reading stuff to get ideas for bits and pieces. And a lot more stuff comes to me spontaneously, and ends up on scraps of paper and backs of envelopes before it is developed further. It’s not about character development and fleshing out a huge outline like Summer Rain. It’s a lot more the way I like to write, and it’s closer to my voice. But it’s much harder to do. The two are very different.

Both of your books have been print-on-demand, and you’ve been doing web-based writing for over a decade. Do you use these technologies to avoid conventional publishers, or do they have other advantages?

iUniverse and print-on-demand happened at the perfect time, just as I finished a draft of Summer Rain and really wanted to print a few hundred copies for fans and maybe to sell online. I looked at printing companies that could do 500 or 1000 books for several thousand dollars, and didn’t have any way to put that much into a book. And I was certain publishers weren’t going to even answer my mail if I sent them a thousand-page coming-of-age tale set in Indiana. Then I found iUniverse, and within six months, had this first novel sitting on my shelf and sitting on Amazon and other stores ready for purchase.

PoD is really analogous to the web’s model of letting anyone publish. When I first did zines online, I was able to avoid dealing with jerkoffs at Hit Parader or Metal Edge and write my own reviews for anyone to see. Later, I wrote fiction, and did a literary zine called Air in the Paragraph Line without dealing with any of the pretentious people that usually run small literary journals. Print-on-demand let me take the same style of writing and move it to paper without dealing with the logistical problems of storing a bunch of paper copies, going to the post office every day, cashing rubber checks for $3, and so on.

With Rumored, the decision for iUniverse was a tough one, because I really wanted to find a publisher. But I know a lot of former publishers here in New York that are begging for spare change, and nobody’s doing anything adventurous now that the entire economy is collapsing. And I didn’t want to deal with a bunch of agents or publishers that would look down their nose at a book that advocated sex with sheep and spends page after page talking about the Satanic anti-Christian holocaust or whatever. Also, I just wanted it DONE, and in paper. So it’s out now, and I’m sure it will sell less copies, but it’s out and I didn’t have to deal with anybody to print it.

Do you do any graphical or layout design besides what’s on the book? if so, which do you think will be more important as a stressed aspect of any new design, during the next two decades: perspective, color contrast, impact fonts or religious icons?

I do a limited amount of web page work, and I do some layout stuff for my day job, but it’s not my specialty. I’ve also been experimenting with some fake porn stuff lately, putting people’s heads on naked people’s bodies – I think this is one of the most underrated art forms out there.

I think perspective has the most subliminal impact on any layout, at least the ratio of everything in the layout. The golden ratio has always been a strange constant in nature and in classic art, and it’s amazing that you can still see it in most modern movies. I had an old roommate doing a thesis on the films of Stanley Kubrick and the use of the golden number in how he framed his shots and arranged some stuff during editing. I thought it was total bullshit, and then he brought me to The Shining in a big-screen movie theatre, and every fucking shot was perfectly framed that way. I did a lot of reading about film a few years back and I realized that every aspect of film editing has to do with this – make a plane come into a shot one way and it’s beautiful, but the other way is threatening. I think the way people are drawn to a web page, to a subway ad – it’s the biggest aspect of anything.

Color contrast – that’s a fad. In a few years, it will be something else. My mom used to be an interior decorator, and used to go to these big conventions and they would basically say “this will be the next color”. One year, she came home and told us that small appliances and electronics would be coming out in pastel colors, and I thought she was smoking crack. Next Christmas, every store was selling pink jamboxes and baby blue telephones. Much later, we had the iMac and all of the clear plastic, clear color stuff. Who knows what will be next.

It’s weird that you say religious icons, because I don’t see them in ads much, but then think of what icons have replaced religious ones in our culture: Coca-Cola, Microsoft, AOL, Britney Spears, MTV. You see Pepsi billboards more than you’d see large crosses in towns a hundred years ago. The Nike swoosh is probably more recognizable than the crucifix. And there are billboards with just that swoosh. Not a picture of the shoe, not a description of how much it costs or what its value is over other shoes. Just the fucking swoosh, and maybe a slogan that sounds more like a self-help mantra. I’ve never created any layout that has to do with that, but seeing as I spend a lot of time on the subway, I see it constantly.

When you describe the writing of Summer Rain, is this close to the William S Burroughs cutup technique, or that of oral literature? How similar do you suppose this process is to the means by which death metal bands compose technical masterpieces by collecting riffs and shaping them recombinantly into narrative?

It’s funny you should mention that, because I’ve been talking to Ray Miller (creator of Metal Curse zine and the death metal band Adversary) about how he should start writing a book. He worked for years in an indie record store, and every shift there was some strange, weird story. It could be like that book High Fidelity, but much more underground or strange. And in talking to him about how to get started, I mentioned the analogy of a death metal band creating an album. Instead of starting at page one and telling the story, sometimes it’s helpful to write these “riffs” and collect them, and later put them in place, like how you’d write songs. Rumored to Exist happened very much like that. So did Summer Rain, but it’s much less apparent because it’s a linear story. Rumored prospered from this lack of concentration on my part. It also made things much more difficult to edit.

And from what I’ve heard, that’s how Burroughs got Naked Lunch together, as opposed to the Kerouac straight-narrative, typing on rolls of paper approach, which would drive me nuts.

Do you find that being a writer makes you more prone to socialize, or more paranoid?

I wouldn’t say I’m paranoid, but I’m not a social diva, either. I’ve generally kept to myself, partially because I spend a lot of my time chained to the computer, but also because there aren’t many social outlets for writers that aren’t swimming with writers that have severe ego problems. I don’t like classes or workshops because I usually end up getting in fistfights with diva writers who think they are the next Michael Crichton or something. That said, New York is a decent place to be as a writer, especially if you work the corporate office environment. I know a lot of people who are aspiring actors, or long-time musicians, or occasional standup comedians, or wannabe screenwriters, or part-time directors, or something. So there can sometimes be some support from these people, so that’s cool. But most of the time, I socialize and don’t talk about the book, because I don’t want to be like those Amway people, always trying to push their product on everyone.

When you sit down to write, do you have an outline in front of you or in your head? how much of your work is improvisational? how many times do you edit and, what intoxicants are required to begin the editing process?

It depends on the book, of course. My first one, Summer Rain, was very outlined and regimented – I had to plan out with a calendar what would happen and I vaguely followed what really happened to me that year. But Rumored was more like playing with legos, because of the nonlinear format. At first, I simply wrote bits and pieces that gelled into segments. Later, I had a lot of trouble balancing this out – some things were a line long, others were the size of a short story. So I had to do a certain amount of planning on paper to balance things, move things around, and give the whole thing a feeling of continuity.

Most of Rumored was born from ideas I’d get anywhere – while in the shower, while reading a book, a web page, watching a movie. I wrote ideas, phrases, bits of dialog on scraps of paper, notepads, spiral notebooks, and in a slush file in emacs. Bits and pieces got moved around, and improv had a large amount to do with how to place those ideas and actually turn them into readable pieces of text. My best writing was when an idea came to mind and had enough inertia to pull out a very energetic piece without much thought. When I had a good night, it was much more like channeling than actual writing.

Of course, this left a very fucked up and uneven manuscript that required a lot of editing. And edits actually rewrote the entire book several times over. There were seven major versions of the book, with each one comprising of sometimes more than a dozen paper edits. Even with this, I know there are still mistakes in there. But the other problem with a book like this is that it’s hard to say when it’s done. I can’t just say, “the good guy beat the bad guy and got the princess, so I guess it’s done.” It took a lot of work just to put the fucking thing down and concede that it wouldn’t get any better.

As far as substances, the drug for this trip was caffiene, with some ephedrine thrown in for good measure. Anything else would slow me down or change the tone. I still don’t see how Bukowski or Hemingway or whoever could load up on booze and write. And I’m not into any other drugs. I even quit caffeiene during the final editing of the book, and it made the work in the last stretch twice as hard.

Who are your favorite postmodern writers?

I’ve always thought the phrase “postmodern” was too vague and gimmicky in categorizing writers, kindof like how “open standard” in the computer world doesn’t really describe anything. But I guess Mark Leyner would be at the top of the heap, and Raymond Federman. I’ve read a lot of Burroughs, although I like the story of his life more than I like his actual work. Naked Lunch is a landmark book, but I’d rather read interviews with WSB where he’s rambling on about Mayans and Yage and Control and everything else. His theories are incredible, and I wish I could live a life a percent as interesting as his.

Do you believe that postmodernism – the concept of linear rationality being dead and supplanted with the world of subconscious imagery – in literature has place, or is merely a deviation soon to be forgotten by history?

I think it has more of a place than people realize, now that everyone’s using the web, and that’s the biggest mess of nonlinear shit out there. It’s only a matter of time before people write good nonlinear books of pieces of imagery cataloged by link instead of linear pages, and people will be able to parse it perfectly. I don’t think that the human mind thinks in a straghtforward way, and it’s just a limitation of technology that presents literature in a straightforward way. If they ever start injecting works of art into peoples’ brains like a drug, the linear story will be the one that is forgotten by history.

Some people claim to remember stories and ideas visually, like William Gibson’s concept of cyberspace, but others describe a non- linear structural memory. Is this because events, actions, objects have internal mechanisms that describe their function in a unified external reality, or because of our tendency to associate ideas with other ideas for the purposes of contexting?

The original concept of Rumored to Exist was that each section would be a part of a person’s brain or memory, and at that time, I did a lot of reading and research on human memory to see if this was true or if I was just making it up. And human memory isn’t linear, it is organized chronologically or in neat pieces like an MP3 library or something. It’s easy to see when you look at stroke victims, and how they selectively remember things, but because other organic parts of their brain were destroyed, other parts are gone. So after a stroke, you might not remember how to speak, or butter a piece of bread, or operate a microwave oven. And it’s sometimes possible for these people to re-learn these skills using free memory in other parts of the brain. That makes me think the mind is more like a hard drive with a bunch of loose inodes and a file allocation table, and the importance or relevance of different things determines how well that information is kept. That’s why you can’t remember the songs a band played at a show, but you remember the way the beer tasted.

To answer your question, I think this is a feature and limitation of our organic brain. I think the way we group disparate parts and pieces of our external reality into events and stories and nightmares and memories is how the software works for this hardware.

But it was a particularly unlucky star for the Italian painters of genius in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries that, in the narrow sphere to which they were arbitrarily referred for the choice of subjects, they had to resort to miserable wretches of every kind. For the New Testament, as regards its historical part, is almost more unfavourable to painting than is the Old, and the subsequent history of martyrs and doctors of the Church is a very unfortunate subject. Yet we have to distinguish very carefully between those pictures whose subject is the historical or mythological one of Judaism and Christianity, and those in which the real, i.e., the ethical, spirit of Christianity is revealed for perception by the presentation of persons full of this spirit. These presentations are in fact the highest and most admirable achievements of the art of painting, and only the greatest masters of this art succeeded in producing them, in particular Raphael and Correggio, the latter especially in his earlier pictures. Paintings of this kind are really not to be numbered among the historical, for often they do not depict any event or action, but are mere groups of saints with the Saviour himself, often still as a child with his mother, angels, and so on. In their countenances, especially in their eyes, we see the expression, the reflection, of the most perfect knowledge, that knowledge namely which is not directed to particular things, but which has fully grasped the Ideas, and hence the whole inner nature of the world and of life. This knowledge in them, reacting on the will, does not, like that other knowledge, furnish motives for the will, but on the contrary has become a quieter of all willing. From this has resulted perfect resignation, which is the innermost spirit of Christianity as of Indian wisdom, the giving up of all willing, turning back, abolition of the will and with it of the whole inner being of this world, and hence salvation. Therefore, those eternally praiseworthy masters of art expressed the highest wisdom perceptibly in their works. Here is the summit of all art that has followed the will in its adequate objectivity, namely in the Ideas, through all the grades, from the lowest where it is affected, and its nature is unfolded, by causes, then where it is similarly affected by stimuli, and finally by motives. And now art ends by presenting the free self-abolition of the will through the one great quieter that dawns on it from the most perfect keowledge of its own nature.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

If there is an afterlife, what do you think it would be?

I don’t think there is an afterlife, so I try not to speculate about it. I think the afterlife is the carrot on a stick that leads the religious to do really stupid things and waste their lives. People should stop thinking they are one of the chosen few that will go on to a better place and actually do something with their lives that will make this world a better place.

Are you following the growing penetration of drugs into American society? From where do you think this originates? What is the significance of drugs – altered perception – in the time after perception was considered inherently faulty?

Let me hijack this question and answer it in a different order. First, drugs are omnipresent in American society because any highly industrialized nation doesn’t utilize its population efficiently. Back in the old days, people spent all of their cycles hunting game, planting gardens, making quilts, raising babies, building log cabins, and tending fires because they had to, to survive. There wasn’t much leisure time, and it was used by religion. There was little free will – you either hauled water from the well a mile away, or you died. Humanity doesn’t always have things easy now, but it’s not hard to get an easy job at McDonalds or a factory, pay your rent, never break a sweat, and have 128 of your 168 hours a week free to your own devices.

Now some people use that time in a cool way. They go to school, they create cool web pages, they climb mountains, they work on their car. But many people don’t know what to do with their time. They feel a need to belong, this tribal instinct. They watch sports, they drink beer, they become xenophobic, they develop ulcers, they try to keep up with the Jonses. Most of the ailments of the late 20th century have to do with people who have too much free time on their hands, from corporate corruption to gangs to religion. This isn’t a new theory; even though he is legally considered criminally insane, this is the logic the Unabomber was laying down.

Okay, so you have this straight man’s culture, where you’re expected to buy into the white picket fence thing, and have kids, and buy a sports utility vehicle and play golf. And more and more people think this is a crock of shit. And they get high. They find out that controlled substances make them forget about this void in life. And it might even make then enter a new subculture with other stoners, where these rules don’t exist.

I’m not a drug user, except for the occasional beer with friends, so I don’t know if I really buy either side of it. I’m not the kind of person to hang onto either extreme and consider it right, so I’d rather sit in the middle, or not even participate. I write about drugs a lot, though, because this culture interests me. It’s something that hasn’t been touched in a creative way, something to be explored.

I thought Naked Lunch was pretty creative, but the reams of drug fiction following were mostly social irresponsibility pornography. If you were going to write with drugs as your topic, what might you create?

I think the best way to write about drugs would be to have them an integral part of the story, but not be in the forefront. Drugs are just a chemical; any real story is about humanity, and any compelling story about drugs would have to describe the human condition in a compelling way. Drugs are usually used in a plotline as an evil, or an excuse. Like, a guy robs a bank because he’s on drugs. Occasionally, someone writes about drugs as a catalyst, a conduit to action, like in most crime films where mobsters have a shitload of cocaine and that temporarly reverses things so they are on the heavy side of the law, and there’s no way the cops could win. Think about movies like The French Connection, where these guys with a fuckload of heroin were above the law. That’s about as far as most books and movies really go with it.

I think Hunter S. Thompson did some great work beyond Burroughs in this area, but I also think if he wasn’t taking a drug store full of junk when he was in Las Vegas, he would have written a book just as entertaining as Fear and Loathing. But it’s a book about excesses, and the writing and the search for humanity is what makes it for me.

Do you see writing in this time period as democratic, or elitist?

It’s probably more elitist. Most writing in this country is actually the production of “media” by “media figures” who are pop stars known for their name instead of their craft. It’s nice that technologies like Print on Demand and the Internet are making it easier for anyone with skill to create art, but I don’t see much of a community surrounding this. I’m hoping we’re at a crossroads where the truly intelligent will realize that writing for fame and fortune is futile, and it’s better to write for yourself and put it out there, even if only a dozen people see it on the web or in a zine or whatever. And then those intelligent will congeal and find each others’ work and form an unstoppable movement of real work, rather than the imitation writing that marketers present to us in book stores.

This seems to be the same problem faced by aging death metal bands however. At some point, having a day job to write books or death metal music reviews all night becomes tedious, and one wishes to be supported by the primary labor of life, writing. How does this fit into ideological niche marketing as you describe?

It doesn’t fit, and that’s the catch. You can’t support yourself selling twelve copies of your work a year. And there are other forms of support, like grants or communes, or scholarships, or universities, but they all dilute you into something else just as much as a day job. Like, I went to an art museum once, and there was an exhibit that was a bunch of hay and horse shit on a floor, and a bunch of Macintosh computers showing bitmapped animated pictures of Planet of the Apes. Was that art? I’m not sure. But the grant application that paid for all of that hay and shit was probably incredible art. And if you want to do that all day, and you are good at it, that’s great. But it probably means you aren’t producing art like you originally wanted.

When did you first decide to be a writer? If a role model, what qualified that person as insurmountable by their world?

I’ve always been able to write to a certain extent, but I got more involved with computers as a kid, and during school, so I always thought that was my destiny. I thought I had a book in me, but I was more concerned with learning how to hack and program. I eventually hit a wall in my formal CS training, around the time I also got dumped by this girl I was dating. I was going through a serious “what should I do with my life” phase, and didn’t entirely know what I wanted to do. I’d been working on a few Death Metal zines and I enjoyed the journalism and writing, but didn’t know if I could become a “serious” writer.

So the writers that got me started were guys who were not pretentious, and made it look easy. I liked the spoken word of Henry Rollins, and it got me into writing in a journal every day, and observing things around me. Charles Bukowski made me look at autobiographical fiction and consider it easy. So did Henry Miller, but Bukowski’s work had a certain sense of truth to it, and showed me that it wasn’t what you were writing about as much as how you wrote it. That got me started on short stories, and eventually Summer Rain.

Should writers stay celibate?

Not really, or at least not by choice. Granted, it’s hard to write on a daily basis and maintain any kind of relationship. I can’t write as well when I take off Friday and Saturday to spend time with a girlfriend or cruise around looking for one. Those are the days I write most, so my stretches of not getting any also tend to be when my writing volume increases. But interacting with people is – well, it’s not essential to writing, but it helps.

This seems to me why ancient religions and cultures recommended a studied celibacy for men. It seems that one workaround to this would be a more anti-social culture, where fewer people attempt the emotional interdependency that works well to glue society together like plywood, in which a relationship offered briefer, more passionate encounters with a significant other living in a close but separate location.

Do you see there being any humor in that being hard makes it hard to write?

There are a lot of strange catch-22s in our society like this. For example, most people that teach acting are not good actors, because if they were, they’d be getting parts, not teaching. If you’re teaching any practical field, like business, you can’t be working in that field, unless you are doing a half-ass, part-time consulting job or whatever. Very few people can pull it off, but many don’t, so it makes you wonder how the hell people figure this stuff out.

Writing is the same because writing involves translation of the human element into word. And to be a specialist in the human experience, you’re going to date people and be married, and go to parties, and have a family, and travel all over, and do all of this stuff. But if you did all of this, you wouldn’t be able to write! And I always wonder if my writing would be better or worse if I was hidden away at my ranch in Colorado all year around, where the nearest living person is ten miles away. I also wonder what would happen if I simply went full-tilt wife-hunting and gave up everything to get married and settle down. I wonder if I did that if I would ever write again.

On the other hand, it’s no coincidence that when I’m not in a relationship and I want to be in one, I tend to write more vividly about the situation. Summer Rain was started after a horrible breakup back in college, one that probably wasn’t that horrible at all, but I just couldn’t kick it. That kind of pain gives you motivation to do more, so I can ultimately appreciate the cruel irony of the whole thing.

How do you feel about Christian presence in American politics?

It’s sickening. There’s supposed to be a freedom of religion, and a freedom FROM religion, but look at any piece of American money and tell me that this is nothing except a joke. Christians funnel serious money into American politics, and this won’t change. I wish someone would get in the primaries to have some visibility, and then just get up during a speech and say “If you believe in God, go FUCK yourself.” Until then, we have politicians pandering to these idiots. It’s scary stuff

Do you think psychology as a science is unduly influenced by Judeo-Christian values?

It depends on the brand of psychology. When a lot of people go to a shrink after they get dumped or someone dies or whatever, they usually get this fast-track band-aid treatment that involves spilling out your problems and reassuring you that it will be better, but not actually offering any “reprogramming” or heavy understanding of what possible psycho-somatic issues could be causing your problems. That dovetails nicely with the christian belief that if you have problems, you just pray to Jesus and it will all be better. Both are simply a distraction, and that works for a lot of people, but I’m the kind of guy who wants to know what the hell is really going on. I mean, as a kid, every toy I was given was taken apart as soon as I learned where to dig up a phillips screwdriver. So when I was in high school, college, and I wanted to go to a shrink and really pull apart my head and find what was defective and either comment it out or replace it with a new subroutine, I was always running into these shake-and-bake therapists that just wanted me to tell them what was wrong in sixteen one-hour sessions, maybe give me some pills, and it was better. And it wasn’t!

There’s a smaller, but more focused area of psychology that focuses on finding the basis of problems, realizing that your actions and reactions shape the way you see the world and eventually how well you work with it. This is called NLP, and it’s more analogous to debugging a computer program than praying to Jesus, which is why it’s interested me. It’s also more expensive, harder to find, and takes a much longer time to work through, which is why I’m currently not working on it.

What do you think in the same context as Christian political presence about Muslims? About Jews?

There’s less of a Jewish presence in politics, although you see it here in New York. If anything, it’s refreshing to go from Indiana, which is 107% fundamentalist Christian, to New York City, where there are enough Jews that a fundie probably couldn’t run for office without some flak. I don’t even know much about the Muslim influence, and I’m not up on the Middle East, so I’ll leave it at that.

According to the doctrines of Buddhism, the world came into being as the result of some inexplicable disturbance in the heavenly calm of Nirvana, that blessed state obtained by expiation, which had endured so long a time – the change taking place by a kind of fatality. This explanation must be understood as having at bottom some moral bearing; although it is illustrated by an exactly parallel theory in the domain of physical science, which places the origin of the sun in a primitive streak of mist, formed one knows not how. Subsequently, by a series of moral errors, the world became gradually worse and worse – true of the physical orders as well – until it assumed the dismal aspect it wears today. Excellent! The Greeks looked upon the world and the gods as the work of an inscrutable necessity. A passable explanation: we may be content with it until we can get a better. Again, Ormuzd and Ahriman are rival powers, continually at war. This is not bad. But that a God like Jehovah should have created this world of misery and woe, out of sheer caprice, and because he enjoyed doing it, and should then have clapped his hands in praise of his own work, and declared everything to be very good – this will not do at all! In its explanation of the origin of the world, Judaism is inferior to any other form of religious doctrine professed by a civilized nation; and it is quite in keeping with this that it is the only one which presents no trace whatever of any belief in the immortality of the soul.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Sufferings of the World

It seems to me the only difference between fundamentalist Christians and Jews is that Judaism is a materialistic religion with a racial xenophobia, while Christianity is a pseudo-idealist religion with a xenophobia of abstract orthodoxy. In many ways, that last phrase could describe what happened to European intellectualism, with a few bright exceptions, after Christianity arrived. What are your thoughts on these provocations?

I don’t know. To me, I see the main difference is that Christianity has sought to grow by being a very inclusionary religon. That means if you aren’t Christian, you can always be saved and sign on the dotted line and give us money and all will be well. That’s why if you sat in a bus station in Indianapolis on the average Tuesday, someone is going to try to convert you to Christianity about every twenty minutes. And that’s why Christianity is such a basic, dumbed- down religion, with very little orthodoxy. There aren’t a lot of rules to learn or classes to take (unless you’re Catholic) and you can even get an illustrated kiddie bible to read if the King James is too tough for you. Everyone’s invited, and that’s why their numbers grow.

On the other hand, I see Judaism as a very exclusionary religion. Jewish singles are taught to date only partners who are also Jewish. It’s very hard to convert to Judaism. It’s all protected by a very complicated and orthodox system of language, rules, calendar, holiday, diet, and everything else. But that means it’s kept pure.

I think both methods are inherently wrong, though. Any religion stresses that its members are the chosen one, and that other people are pieces of shit. Otherwise, religion would be universal, and individual churches wouldn’t have a way to make money anymore.

Which would you kick out of bed more quickly, Janet Reno or Keanu Reeves?

I think if you had an amateur porn of yourself fucking Janet Reno, it would be pretty much the ultimate party conversation item. And you know I’d go for the ass, as a little Waco retribution.

Speaking of Waco, what is the function of government?

Good question. I’m far more socialist than liberitarian in that I think the government should provide the functions that a free market economy can’t or won’t provide. In the old model, that’s stuff like roads and healthcare, retirement and men on the moon. There’s also protection and enforcement, from jails to armies. You could argue that any of these things could be done better by private companies, but corporations might not want to do them if there’s no bottom line for them. If a company is paid a billion dollars to build a one billion dollar university, they don’t have any motivation to do it, unless the company is a Christian-run shell corporation that wants to ram religion down the students’ throats, or unless Microsoft wants to build the school and brainwash the kids into using their crap. That’s why in theory a government would get involved – to make sure the alterior motives are decided by the people instead of some marketers.

In my perfect world, peoples’ greed and stupidity wouldn’t come in the way of advancement of society, and government projects like space exploration, computing, scientific research, and healthcare would actually be progressing instead of just being a sick joke. The problem is that people are too greedy, and want to know what’s in it for them. We haven’t found the cure to cancer because the top research scientists are figuring out how to make Sports Utility Vehicles even bigger, because that’s where the money is.

Does this imply that all governmental systems share common functions of both socialist and capitalist behavior? Would it be possible play with words and call socialism “social behavior” governmental theory, and call capitalism simply “competitive behavior” theory? One is implicit centralization; the other abstract. In this view, it might be possible that capitalism is closer to the anti-democratic social ideals I have interpreted from some of your statements above. If competitive rather than capitalism were seen as an American value, how do you think our social outlook might change? Would there be a blurring between the “public fiction” and “private truth” of various economic, social, governmental enterprises?

Socialist socieites also work for a collective goal by the nature of social behavior, but libertarian societies expand social behavior to include as a basic value an indifference to collectivism. Is this true in your view?

It’s true, and I think it’s an inherent flaw of most libertarian systems. For one, I think collectivism is a basic human instinct – one that can be unlearned and avoided – but it’s normal, and something the sheep out there understand. Also, I don’t think everyone can be the center of their universe; I mean, I can’t cook well, I can’t run a nuclear reactor, I don’t want to be the one to clean my septic tank, and I have to rely on doctors, lawyers, grocers, farmers, and many others to survive. A system of collectivism is supposed to provide a method to have those people help each other, while benefitting the most from it. I’m not saying our current system works, but only so many people can vanish from society and hide out in Idaho with their guns and dogs before things fall apart.

Do you believe in conspiracies?

Hell yeah. But I find the myth of conspiracies far more interesting than the conspiracies themselves. I’m writing about them a lot in Rumored, in a very playful and mocking sort of way. I don’t necessarily believe in aliens or whatever, but the Area 51 shit is great. Every society has its own myths and mytholgies, and centuries from now, people are going to be studying the X-Files like we now study Thor and Zeus.

I do seriously believe in a lot of government conspiracy. I seriously think the CIA has its hands in many evil plans, and I know billions of tax dollars go toward creating craft like Aurora, the next-generation hypersonic spy plane. I think a lot of the UFO sightings out there are probably Lockheed test craft operating at night. I know if I would’ve seen a stealth fighter in 1977, I would’ve thought the Martians were coming, too.

Jon Konrath on Death Metal

I know you’ve been a big metal and death metal listener for years. What are you hearing these days?

I actually listen to more stuff in the “prog-metal” genre these days, like Dream Theater, Fates Warning, Queensryche, Joe Satriani, etc. When I put on an “old” CD, it’s more likely going to be an old-old band like Saxon, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, SOD, or Anthrax. When I do have some 90s-era Death going, it’s usually Dismember, Macabre, Carcass, or Entombed.

Pick five of the most important metal bands in history and give a brief rundown on each one and why it necessarily fits into the history of metal music.

Metallica – Kill Em All: Although the band later became butt-pirates, this album was practically an anthem to millions of metalheads, and acted like a gateway drug for virtually everyone that went out and started a band or got involved with heavier metal.


Motorhead – No Remorse: With their wide appeal and universal mythology, Motorhead became almost a meta-band that everyone respected as the loudest, rawest, and coolest. It’s hard to pick just one of their albums, so I chose their ubiquitous double-album compilation, filled with a little bit of everything from their early career.

 

Queensryche – Operation : Mindcrime: This obscure group of Seattle prog-rockers put their mark on the world with what’s possibly the best concept album ever.

 

 

Entombed – Left Hand Path: This immaculate work filled with unprecedented heaviness but yet an incredible depth and complexity was the high water mark for the early 1990s Swedish Death Metal genre, and in my opinion, was never topped.

 

Slayer – Reign in Blood: Although their earlier work was just as impressive, this album defined how fast metal would be played for years, and also got Slayer kicked off of Sony.

 

Do you consume any mainstream media?

I meet a lot of people in New York who either think they are bohemian or think they are upper-class and say “Oh, I don’t have a TV” or “I don’t watch movies” or whatever. In general, I find that these people are more fake and uninteresting than the people I know who spend their Saturday on the couch with a beer watching NASCAR. I’ve found that a lot of people that purposely don’t watch TV are still living a fantasyland existance, even without the sitcoms and John Hughes films. They’re still told what to do, and they still obey. It’s not a coincidence they all go to the Hamptons or all pierce their eyebrow or all dye their hair the same way. It doesn’t make them any better than me.

I admit, I do watch TV and I do go to movies and I buy DVDs and play video games. I don’t have cable TV, and I have pretty much given up on newspapers and magazines, although I might flip through whatever’s in the doctor’s waiting room. I enjoy it, but I don’t let it run my life. I think there’s a difference between watching TV and believing in it. If you believe in TV, the ads will lower your self esteem, and make you think you’re a loser because you can’t own a new Oldsmobile or land a chick like one in a Revlon ad or beer commercial. And when your esteem is low, you’re hit with the food ads – 50 grams of cheese fat stuffed in a pizza crust, a bunch of sugar and desserts, and high-fat snack chips that will make everyone happy. It’s no wonder America is obese these days. But I don’t think you need to buy into this to enjoy TV, and I think there are movies that are good entertainment, and just that. It’s just important to remember not to compromise your own life because what you see on TV is neat.

How controlled do you believe the US media to be?

Everyone should read Ben Bagdikian or the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) stuff, or at least listen to Jello Biafra rant about it. Pretty much everything we read or hear is controlled by a couple of huge corporations. And many smaller outlets for news and information become available, like the internet, but as the big companies get bigger, it seems like less and less people get involved with underground sources. And most people don’t believe stuff on the internet, because it’s diluted by so much shit. I mean, there are some great web sites out there with conspiracy theories, investigative reporting, and stuff like Slashdot, tech news, but there’s so much spam and make.money.fast and urban legends, that it’s hard to believe anything you read anymore. But to answer the question, yes the US media is controlled. And being controlled by big money is worse than being controlled by the government, like it was in old Communist countries. Because you can overthrow a government or vote out a leader, but you have no recourse against GE or Newscorp. You could stop buying their stuff or watching their shows, but that won’t hurt them much – many more sheep will continue to keep them in business.

But here steps in Satan, the eternal rebel, the first free-thinker and emancipator of worlds. He makes man ashamed of his bestial ignorance and obedience; he emancipates him, stamps upon his brow the seal of liberty and humanity, in urging him to disobey and eat of the fruit of knowledge.

– Mikhail A. Bakunin

It seems to me that evolution is a nihilistic thing, meaning it has no morals or concerns for outcomes. Thus when a society is built that values competitiveness at the expense of social logic, and you get the most fascist possible outcomes disguised as the most empowering, convenient, financially beneficial to the individual. Is this a virus humanity will shake? Is there any way out of the big money media control mess?

I think the real question to ask is, “will this virus kill itself?” Enron and WorldCom both died; this week I heard QWEST said they “accidentally” underreported a bajillion dollars of profits, and Ziff- Davis might file Chapter 11 this week. It’s not good news to our economy that these companies are falling, but it’s a demonstration that even the biggest corporations will eventually fail.

Do you think civilization often hides ugly truths behind social behavior?

I’m not sure what you’re getting at – does civilization hide truths with behavior? I think so, but it also has the ability to modify society so that the lies become the truth. That’s part of religion – a while ago, half of the kids born wouldn’t live to see their first birthday. So the churches told people to fuck like bunnies, so they’d have more customers. Now, almost all kids survive, so the world is overcrowded. And we certainly look away from problems and are drawn to others, but that’s more of a problem with capitalism. Everybody talks about school vouchers and keeping porn off the Internet this election, but nobody really gives a fuck about their kids. They never talk to them and treat them like animals. It’s all very silly.

My question might be phrased thus: does civilization have a public justification for a hidden agenda, although not necessarily an articulated and conspiratorial one, which disguises some “private” and/or unpleasant truths?

Just a stab in the dark on this: the human is the only animal that has an inherent double-standard to its nature. I mean, dogs shit on the ground, they fuck each other whenever the need arises, they dig through garbage, and they don’t think twice. But humans are more sophisticated, so there’s this whole obvious-but-secret life to everyone. Everyone has sex (well, I haven’t lately, but that’s another topic) but there is a strong taboo about sex. The same with bodily functions and death and sin and a bunch of other things. Now, I’m not saying we should all run around naked and shit in the streets. But what I am saying is maybe the human mind has this unconscious desire to have these double standards, these things that keep everything running that nobody talks about. Because if you live in an ultra-rich environment, you don’t clean your toilets. You don’t even talk about them; you pay someone else to do it. That sets up this strange double-standard, and that breeds similar things in business and politics, in the guise that it makes us “more sophisticated.”

What do you think makes us greedy, evolutionary mechanism out of control or social conditioning? Or is it possible that the former would naturally check itself eventually, but the later “justifies” it somehow to our symbolic and rational mind?

There’s a lot of social conditioning in our world that we don’t even see. There may be a primal base of darwinism, but the virus of advertizing and marketing tells us we are not complete unless we own a car with leather seats and 7-speaker CD sound system, and it puts off a huge spiral of related stuff. I also think when you don’t get the big things, you overindulge in the small. So when you see that TV commercial of a happy family and you are alone, and then the next commercial comes on and it’s for the new Pizza Hut Pizza with ten pounds of heart-clogging cheese per slice, you pick up the phone and order the pizza and eat the whole fucking thing. There’s this combination of greed and a desire for more mixed with a despiration to fill your life with something, and it’s injected into you pretty much from birth.

It is one of my theories that Christianity isolates the individual by forcing the individual into moral self-comparison with the holy deity, “God.” This causes people to think strictly in terms of their own prospects, and to lose sense of social hierarchy and collective goals. Where do you see this as converging with your own beliefs?

I would agree, although I don’t know if I would call it self- comparison as much as fear of failure. God is like a parent figure, more than a parent because he’s all-knowing, and people don’t want to disappoint their parent, especially if they will get an ass-beating over it. The strange thing is, in a theoretical sense, that would mean people would do unto others, create communities, and help the needy. But I think when you have the Christianity mixed with the unchecked greed, you get this horrible mutation of Christianity that most people in the USA preach, the kind where they think everyone is going to hell but them, but they are also really shitty to others.

Sometimes it seems as if humanity has justified this expansion using warmed-over Renaissance feeling coupled with a Christian ethos of dominating nature (which is “evil”). Do you think there’s any truth to this?

Oh, sure. Corporate branding is a billion-dollar industry, and they grab onto any emotion then can find. The Christian thing is a popular one, but throw in the “it’s for the children” and “it will make people like you”, and you’ve got a good start.

Most American kids feel neglected in the areas that are most intangible, such as time spent, value in the family unit, and that ephemeral “love,” for the third or fourth generation now. Is this a product of industrial society? Did people once treat their kids with more care, and have a collective interest in childrearing as near the top of their hierarchy of demands from a civilization?

It’s tough to say, especially now that single-parent families have been a regular way of life for over 30 years now. I think our industrial society makes it harder for parents to spend time with their children, but I also think people want immediate results, so they aren’t willing to invest time in childrearing. I mean, everyone *thinks* they do, but so many parents rush their kids into Ritalin or other drugs, and they also think they can buy parenting. I grew up in a somewhat affluent suburb where good parenting meant buying your kids the right clothes and buying them a car in high school. It’s much more than a material thing, and not many people realize that. But, I do know some people that are very good with their kids and they still work long hours at shitty jobs but are able to make it work, so not all hope is lost.

Do supermodels shit?

If they do eat at all, I’m certain they just puke it back up, but maybe some of them are addicted to laxatives. The whole thing scares me – I work in Manhattan and I’m amazed at the overabundance of phenomenally skinny women. I mean, everyone I see is six feet tall and 110 pounds, and I know that going to the gym for 5 hours a day doesn’t do that. Either they are coke fiends, or completely anorexic, or both. I’m not too into that, so it freaks me out more than anything else.

Why does death metal seem politically relevant to the end of the 20th century, to you?

Okay, so you’ve got mainstream music, however you define that. And if you’re not a sheep, and you feel a need to be different, you follow another path. In the past, that might have been punk rock, or hardcore rap, or metal, or electronic music. Well, in the interest of marketing, all of these things have been crossbred and watered down and turned into viable commercial product. So depending on what part of the country you live in, mainstream music is now either “alternative” punk music, or “R&B” rap music, or “Electronica” disco- type dance music.

So the true underground is Death Metal. And every effort to market this has failed, because if you remove the gore and the raw power and the Satanism, you’re left with something remarkably stupid that won’t market to the average record-buying sheep, and won’t have enough balls to interest metalheads. Because Sony and BMG can’t sell it or get MTV to play it, they ignore it, and the essential culture of Death Metal survives. It survives because of tape traders (and now MP3 traders) and small distros selling 20 copies of a CD and zines and fans. It means that only selling 1000 copies of an album is considered wildly successful, but it also means that album is going to be evil and aggressive and memorable and pure energy. It means that bands get to dictate what goes on an album, and gets to write songs that are sick or intelligent or protestful or Satanic or whatever. In a sense, it is a far more pure element of democracy, because it isn’t subverted by money. And it’s a form of socialism, at least in the sense that the community keeps itself afloat. You can’t just go to the average Musicland and buy good Death Metal; it’s your job to seek out this stuff by getting on the web or reading zines or talking to others.

But aside from my rambling, the importance of this politically is that the Death Metal community isn’t supported by a government, and it isn’t run by a corporation. And it doesn’t have a massively widespread impact on society, but it’s an interesting pocket of culture that sustains itself. And those things interest me, because if I could find them outside of music – if I could find a community similar to this that would feed me or clothe me or shelter me in exchange for the work I put in, it would be an interesting political experiment.

If you could say one thing to Jesus Christ, what would that be?

I’d probably tell him I was sorry for what his followers did with his message. I don’t believe in God – I’m an Atheist – but I do believe that a man named Jesus Christ walked the earth 2000 years ago, and I believe his followers wrote a book and started a church. I’m guessing the water-to-wine, rose-from-the-dead-on-the-third-day stuff is probably metaphorical, but I do think he was a charismatic man who had some ideas and told them to many people. And in the most basic of senses, Christianity has some good tenets – don’t fuck with people, don’t lie, be honest, do unto others, and so on. I’m probably far more Christian in that sense than most so-called religious people out there. But unfortunately, all of this was distorted over time, and turned into a profitable business, and a powerful tool of government. And I’m sure that if big J walked the Earth today, he’d be pretty pissed at how his vision was warped into what it is today. I’d also ask him his opinion of The Last Temptation of Christ, since I think it’s a pretty cool film.

When Christianity came into being, the craving for suicide was immense—and Christianity turned it into a lever of its power. It allowed only two kinds of suicide, dressed them up with the highest dignity and the highest hopes, and forbade all others in a terrifying manner. Only martyrdom and the ascetic’s slow destruction of his body were permitted.

What is now decisive against Christianity is our taste, no longer our reasons.

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Gay Science

I’m certain of the possibility of UFOs, and the probability of their existence, but I fear the “UFO community” because of its continual anonymity, broad claims and paucity of consistent evidence except for the generalized existence of flying metallic objects on planet earth. To me, it seems that any government is going to hide most of its budget to work on secret evil shit to do to other people, in case one’s role suddenly becomes being the recipient of the “unto you.” What sort of stuff do you think’s brewing now? Do you give any credence to conspiracy theories about AIDS or the West Nile virus, or do you think these are simply a consequence of commercial exploitation of deep forest areas (thus bringing previously undiscovered satanic microbes to the public eye)?

I predict that the threats will all be real things, but the reactions by the government is fucked up. Take the West Nile virus here in New York City. It’s a real virus, mosquitos are a real problem, but most of the people that would die from it are old and half-dead anyway. So the best reaction would have been a good public awareness campaign about mosquitos, along with patrols that cleaned out cesspools and whatnot.

Instead, Guiliani sprayed this incredibly evil chemical all over the place. They were not supposed to spray it on food, but videos came out later with them spraying it right on open fruit stands, and I’d bet anything that the food was sold later to unsuspecting people.

A lot of bad shit could happen in the near future, and it’s not a conspiracy theory. Think about Gulf War syndrome, smallpox, or e coli – that Fast Food Nation book told unspeakable horrors about how understaffed and inconsequential the USDA is about meat inspections, and now there’s a beef recall going on in Colorado as we speak. And remember last fall when everyone and their brother was finding Anthrax in the US mails? None of these are conspiracies like saying that the CIA invented AIDS. (Although I think the CIA made crack cocaine popular,) but the government’s piss-poor reaction to these problems are veiled in mystery.

If your options were an eternal existence for human populations or total destruction of earth, including all humans, which would you pick?

I’m going to read a bit too much into this to support an answer. I think, given the rate of human growth, that it would not be possible for an eternal existence on our one small planet, at least given our current technological infrastructure. Many people (Greenpeace et al) think that in order to sidestep this, we need to avoid using the Earth as a natural resource, or at least avoid destroying it. But a minority of people think that the solution is to create a larger infrastructure – hydrogen cars, solar power, fusion power, synthetic nutrients instead of laborious farming and inefficient slaughterhouses. And people themselves have problems that prevent an eternal lifespan – medicine can only do so much, and you’d need genetic engineering orders of magnitude better, to essentially slow or stop aging and repair genetic disorders. And eventually, you’d run out of room – you’d need to move to other planets, other moons, spacestations to support the population. And you’d need to slow down the growth of population, too.

This all sounds great to me, but I think population has lost faith in the idea of space exploration. Even with people living full-time in the ISS, there’s no public interest in taking the next step. A few people on the internet, like the Artemis project, and people who have been reading Kim Stanley Robinson for too long (like me) want to see someone win the X-Prize and put private space travel on the map, but too many people are more interested in the new Britney Spears video. There are also too many serious issues, mostly related to obsolete tenets of religion, that prevent any scientific progress on ideas like cloning, stem cell treatment, genetics, population control, longevity enhancement, or anything else. Of course, as Bill Hicks pointed out and as I found while reading a Gideon’s Bible in a Las Vegas hotel room a few weeks ago (I’m not a fan of the work, except as an interesting fictional treatise, and sometimes to throw back at people to prove a point) but in the bible, Adam and Eve were supposed to live forever. They were supposed to never produce. They were supposed to live a utopian paradise and they fucked it all up. Now, this is just a fairy tale, but I see nothing wrong with pursuing this in the future, in creating our own garden of eden.

Could one construe all of civilization except for its pure pragmatics as a death realization avoidance cult?

It’s more than a death realization avoidance cult; you need to add to that all of the building empire people do, like having kids and buying crap they don’t need in order to have the most, even after they die.

Jon Konrath
www.rumored.com

No Comments

Interview: Vidar Vaaer (Ildjarn)

We caught up with Ildjarn via email to discuss the sudden release of earlier works, “Son of the Northstar” on Fullmoon Records, and the impetus behind his unusual art form. Taking black metal a step closer to the ambient, Ildjarn has with his self-titled unit and project Sort Vokter shaped metal into an atmospheric, spontaneous and subtly structured art form.

Do you see art as having a goal, or being pure aesthetics? Some would argue that art deliberately communicates an idea(s) or changes the listener through experience, where others claim that art is an experience unrelated to the thoughts and beliefs of the artists?

Well, I don’t know about art, and I don’t give a shit about art no matter what it is. I’m just doing what comes natural, and I’ve never thought about it as art. The things I do are for me, I’ve never done music for no one but me. Still, I think it’s satisfying to know that the truly dedicated out there find something in what I do.

What to you is most inspiring in nature?

To take a walk in the mountains, especially the highlands called Hardanger highlands, Norway (of course).

Do you see anything natural about human society, including its technology?

I try to mingle as little as possible with people and society in general. I find more pleasure in entering my own world.

Do you find it amazing that you seem to have discovered an infinite source of small patterns in your art form?

As I said, about art, others have to decide if what I do is art. About your question, I’m not sure what you mean…

When people say, “does art emulate life, or life emulate art,” do they mean life as human life, or natural life? If so, how could trees/birds/etc. emulate art unless there was a preexisting commonality between art and natural life?

I don’t have a fuckin’ idea.

On the Sort Vokter album Folkloric Necro Metal there is a statement about the drug THC. What does this drug mean to you, and how do you see drug use as fitting in with your beliefs?

I never use drugs, actually I never touch alcohol either. I want my senses to experience things in a natural way. I was the only one on the album not using drugs during the recording process.

You briefly played bass for Emperor; what do you see as the differences in approach between your art and that of Emperor?

Emperor have to make a lot of compromises, being a band, whereas I don’t have to. I’m my own master, I do what I feel like, and I never ask anyone if they like it. If I like it myself, that’s enough. Also, my music is more improvised at times, being the only one in the making of the music.

While many artists consider improvisation a key to perfection of idea, in your case it seems as if perfection is not the goal as much as setting a glimpse of man + nature into music. Do you think there is any truth to this statement?

If you had to name recent bands from the metal or ambient genres that had impressed you, could you list any? If so, what are they?

I really like Biosphere from Norway, it’s the ultimate ambient feeling. I think there’s a lot of crap bands these days, and I really wouldn’t know which ones to mention.

What seems amazing about Biosphere is the way that radically different, small parts are woven together to produce a feeling of immersion that to me most “sounds like” connections between ideas across time. Do any of these concepts influence your music?

I don’t know. It’s hard for me to tell, because I just do what comes natural. It may be that I’ve been influenced, but I wouldn’t know.

Some people view violence as inherently evil. as a naturalist, what do you feel is the role of violence?

It’s natural in nature. It’s not evil in my eyes. Evil is beyond all this, something only one can know oneself. If you stab someone for no reason and laughs about it afterwards, you’re not necessarily evil. You might have had a bad childhood or whatever. As for myself, I despise my own race. I don’tsee this as evil, I just don’t think humans are worthy of living. When I take a walk up in the mountains, I always hope I won’t meet someone. Animals, on the other hand, have my total respect and admiration.

There is a hypothesis that the earth is a living organism, called by some “Gaia.” In this hypothesis creatures are cells in a much larger interactive life form which regulates itself and develops for some reason known only to it. If you were/are a believer in this theory, what would be the role of humans in Gaia?

This is so far from my beliefs that I don’t know how to answer this one.

Let us admit to ourselves, without trying to be considerate, how every higher culture on earth so far has begun. Human beings whose nature was still natural, barbarians in every terrible sense of the word, men of prey who were still in possession of unbroken strength of will and lust for power, hurled themselves upon weaker, more civilized, more peaceful races, perhaps traders or cattle raisers, or upon mellow old cultures whose last vitality was even then flaring up in splendid fireworks of spirit and corruption. In the beginning, the noble caste was always the barbarian caste: their predominance did not lie mainly in physical strength but in strength of the soul–they were more whole human beings (which also means, at every level, “more whole beasts”).

– F.W. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

In death metal and black metal, there is a heritage of both fantasy (metal) and pragmatic, hard-hitting politics of an anarchistic nature (hardcore). Do you feel this is true? If so, where do your beliefs influence your music in terms of these two extremes?

I don’t think these combine. As for my own music, my intention is to capture the feelings I have, call it evil or whatever, and in order to do this the music has to be capable of doing this.

What was the impetus for you to switch to keyboards on Landscapes, and what prompted the unusual decision to forego harmonic depth for a trueness to the form you established with guitars?

I’ve had these overwhelming feelings towards Norwegian nature for many years, so I just had to record some stuff. The two discs are composed and recorded during two nights only, and it’s 90% improvised. The feelings expressed here are a bit different from that of my metal releases, but also some of my metal tunes, I think, capture some of the same feelings, even though they’re expressed differently.

In your process of creation, what is the seed of the songwriting process? In other words, what is the first piece of any song around which you build the rest?

I’ve usually had the song inside my head, and then I first record the drums.

It’s very difficult to record the guitars first, because then you don’t have the same feeling of rhythm. All my stuff is recorded on a 4-tracker, so it was tricky to get the mike in the right place, but I don’t think that my music could have been made in a studio. I have to be alone when I make my music. I’ve also done all engineering and production myself. The 4-tracker is now destroyed, so I can never make any more Ildjarn music. The sound would not be the one I’m after.

Ancient Hindu mythos used the Age of Kali (a goddess of death, destruction, absorption) to characterize an age of great instability and apocalyptic outcome. How far away do you think the Age of Kali is?

It’s coming very soon, and I’ll welcome it with all my heart.

Are you familiar with Godflesh – Streetcleaner? It seems to have some similar aspirations in songwriting, and some stuff that is vestigial from the former generation of metal.

I can’t really compare my stuff with other bands. I don’t care about other bands, so I’m not capable of doing a comparison.

Nidhogg listened a lot to Industrial many years ago, and he had all Godflesh recordings. I discovered some elements of aggression in them, but I don’t think I’ve been influenced by them. I was at a concert in Kristiansand, Norway, many years ago, Godflesh being the headliner. Nidhogg, of course, had to drag me along. Actually I was bored the whole time. I’ve never liked gigs, they just don’t give me that feeling I get when listening to music all by myself.

In the newspapers today, in America, the following snippet of text appeared in an article entitled “survey finds few in U.S. understand science.” What do you think is the intent of this article?

The scientific validity of astrology — the belief that an alignment of the planets can affect events on Earth — is rejected by 60 percent of Americans, as is the idea that some numbers are lucky while others are not. But 43 percent say they still read the astrology charts at least occasionally in the newspaper.

Seventy-seven percent of those surveyed believe in the theory of global warming, that the planet is being heated by an excess of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of those surveyed, 86 percent said global warming is a serious or “somewhat serious” problem. (Source)

I think people are too stupid and ignorant to really understand this topic.

Who is your favorite world leader from all of history? Would you ever aspire to a leadership role?

Leaders appear just because people are so weak, stupid and follow in each other’s footsteps. I’m my own leader, in my own world. I don’t have any interest in leading anyone.

Your misanthropy is legendary. What is it about humans that makes them detestable in contrast to ideologically silent plants and animals?

Humans are weak, always have to act contrary to what they really want, and they have also destroyed an entire planet. In short, they don’t live in allegiance with themselves and I will always hate my own race.

What do you think of vegetarians and recycling? Some say they are sell-outs for picking intermediate steps when much more radical action is required.

I’m a vegan myself. I became vegan when I was 17, I’m now 30. I never touch anything with milk in it, meat, fish, whatever. I respect animals, and consider them worthy of life. Humans, on the other hand… I think my misanthropy is to a large extent a result of the disrespect towards animals seen among filth of the human race. Still, of course I hate them for other reasons as well. I’m not one of those who hate just because of a bad childhood. I had the perfect childhood, being very often on my own, exploring. I also had many friends being a child, but at some time I realized that friendship actually doesn’t exist. Sure, you can respect someone, but friendship? I don’t think so. About recycling, I’m careful about littering, but it’s just because of the animals. I actually don’t care about the planet, animals are in hell, anyway. I confess that I’m a bit confused as to how I should explain this. Anyway, I follow my conscience, which is my guiding star through life and, eventually, death.

If you could change one aspect of your artistic career, what would it be?

I never regret anything. What’s done is done, it’s a part of the process. I’ve also never progressed in any way with my music, I think, and that’s important in it. The feelings have always been the same.

Do you think there is a “purpose,” or ongoing overall goal, to the process of life?

We’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully I’ll be dead in a few years time (5 years, tops), and I really look forward to it. Although I find great pleasure in observing nature, I welcome death even more.

Are there any theories or mythos of the creation of the universe to which you subscribe?

No, I have my own thoughts. Too fuckin’ weird to mention, too extensive. (I’m afraid I’ll get “mouse disease” from this interview.)

I have seen statements attributed to you which say, in effect, that you record on a whim with a portable recorder. Is this still true? Do you have any plans for further musical releases?

This is described above. I used the same 4-tracker that was used for the Emperor demo, but I arranged the sound differently. I will make no new music, but I feel that some of my songs are redundant, so I’ll maybe release an album with what I regard as my best songs.

What is the history behind the Son of the Northstar CD that full moon productions is selling as a full-length?

It was intended to be released 6-7 years ago. I actually sent the guys a DAT with a couple of songs to be released as a 7″ EP. I didn’t know anything about this until a week ago. In the writing moment I actually don’t have any copy myself. It’s a possibility that Fullmoon will release the CD I mentioned above.

What aspects of the metal underground would you change, if possible, and how would you change them?

I know only of a very few people dedicated to the underground, so I don’t know.

Scientists believe they have identified an “expansive force” which separates galaxies from one another with ever-increasing speed, as a counterpart to the gravity which is drawing the universe toward compaction. Does it seem natural that such a dualistic force would exist?

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has spotted a burst of light from an exploding star located much farther from Earth than any previously seen – a supernova blast in the early Universe that is casting light on a mystery of truly cosmic scale. This stellar explosion is extraordinary not only because of its tremendous distance — 10 billion light-years from our planet — but also because it greatly bolsters the case for the existence of a mysterious form of “dark energy” pervading the cosmos. (Source)

We would never know. It’s only after death that we’ll know the true meaning, if any.

Which thinkers, writers, artists and musicians have most influenced your learning?

Musicwise, I’ve listened to black metal since 1983, but I don’t know how much it has influenced me. I don’t care about thinkers, writers etc. I don’t need them.

If you could become a state of mind for eternity, which state of mind would it be?

My biggest fear is to live for eternity, either in mind or as something else.

Who was “Nidhogg” of the Ildjarn-Nidhogg split? By reputation, it is someone from the industrial/ambient band Dagda Mor (apologies for incorrect spelling); how did you meet this person and using what principles did you achieve collaboration?

We’ve known each other for 13 years, through music and ideas. It’s not the same Nidhogg as the one you mentioned, that’s just a bad copy.

Will those who appreciate your music be hearing more from Ildjarn, Sort Vokter or your other side projects? If so, please let us know by names which ones are to be ongoing.

The only thing would be the “Hardanger highlands” CD; it’s already recorded, but we haven’t thought of releasing it yet. It was finished in 1997, and it actually took us 3 years to do it. It’s kind of like “Landscapes”, only at least 10 times better.

This sounds amazing. I liked Landscapes and found its moments of intensity to be revealing of something spirited in existence itself. Can I ask who “we” are? Is this less improvised? Does improvisation bring out ideas hidden within the subconscious, or does it force them to be created through lack of time? It seems like a natural method to use stress to induce variation.

“We” are me and Nidhogg. The recording is one hour, and it took a lot of mental energy to do it. It’s not improvised at all. The compositions are exactly that; compositions, whereas “Landscapes” was more or less improvised during two nights. As I’ve said, being two in the process of making music, there have to be some compromises, and we’ve done all of them. The result, however, we both find pleasing, although some people may believe Ildjarn has become a fuckin pussy, after hearing it. What’s important in this respect is to understand that it’s all about nature. And I admit, I’m totally engulfed in Norwegian nature. It’s a hymn to this grand nature, and the music has nothing to do with love in the ordinary sense. We plan to release it before I enter the kingdom of death, but we don’t know exactly when.

For reviews of Ildjarn’s music, please check here.

But it is the will of the individual that sets in motion the whole mechanism, in that it urges the intellect, in accordance with the interest, i.e., the man’s individual aims, to produce for its present representations those closely related thereto logically, analogically or by proximity in space and time. But here the will’s activity is so direct that we often are not clearly conscious thereof. It is so rapid that at times we are not even conscious of the occasions for a representation that is thus brought about. Here it seems as though something quite unconnected with anything else has entered our consciousness. That this, however, cannot occur, is, as I have said, precisely the root of the principle of sufficient reason, and has been discussed more fully in the above-quoted chapted of my chief work. Every picture or image that is suddenly presented to our imagination, also every judgement that does not follow its previously existing ground or reason, must be produced by an act of will which has a motive, although such motive is often not perceived because it is insignificant, and the act of will is frequently not noticed because its fulfilment is so easy that this and the wish are simultaneous.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, The Fourfold Root

8 Comments

Interview: King Fowley (Deceased)

Deceased are an incredibly longstanding band from Virginia, US. They’ve run full-circle in their career, from over-the-top metal and hardcore of the mid 1980s (Discharge, Voivod, Slayer, Sodom) later merged with the energy of emerging death metal in the late eighties/early nineties and back again to rediscover themselves in the context of their heavy metal forebears. King Fowley, whose enthusiasm for the music he plays and what it represents seethes through everything he does, has lead the band’s charge since their inception.

Originally for Heidenlarm e-zine #5.

Cursed productions recently issued The Radiation Years, a collection of early demos. Is this the complete deceased pre-label discography?

Actually it’s not! ‘The evil side of religion’ our first demo still needs to surface complete. And will very soon! Probably on Cursed Productions as well. Actually in all honesty there was a home studio demo before ‘luck of the corpse’ l.p was recorded. With ‘Fading Survival’, ‘Terrifying Spectres’, ‘Industrial Tumor’, and ‘Psychedelic Warriors’ that is ‘lost’ to me and the band. The master was lost in my pile of cassette tape hell, that is my collection. I only know one guy who may have it and it’s a guy named Yoshio Cain who plays for the Japanese band Shadow now! He was a die-hard Deceased freak and i sent it only out to him back in 1989! I hope it is ‘found’ one day! It’s got some wild stuff on it :)

Other then that, only rehearsals and stuff like that is floating in ‘the vaults’ :)

When you started out as a band, it seemed you were one of the first to bring technical and speed metal elements, like Voivod and Razor (?) influences, to the music. was this a planned decision, or a natural culmination in the ways metal was being made at the time?

We were so fucking high on any drug we could get our hands on we were off in ‘freakout’ zone. We were honestly just trying to be the most ‘over the top’ band ever. We were taking speed from Sodom, Slayer, DRI, punk, thrash, etc. And mixing it with distorted styled lyrics of dread and death ala ‘War and Pain’ era Voivod, and Venom, Blessed Death, etc. Then ‘attempting’ to put in some Voivod weirdness guitar chords, and some Mercyful Fate ‘evil’, just all of it on hand! We had no idea where it would take us! It was very straight forward and insane! It was basically just a bunch of long- haired teenagers in Slayer and Venom shirts going nuts for metal and aggresson in 1985!

The first Deceased I ever heard, Luck of the Corpse, had tight and fast rhythmic arrangements and workout drumming; what atmosphere were you intending on that album? How did it turn out relative to your expectations?

Well ‘Luck..’ was an experience! I got good and bad memories of that ‘era’ of Deceased. Original guitarist Doug Souther and me were completely on different levels as to where the band needed to go both musically and personality wise at that junction in the bands life. So it ‘clashed’! Neither of us was right or wrong. Just ‘different’ in our beliefs! I think the other guys (Mark and Les) wanted to go with my ‘angle’ more so, and Doug took offense. He was really ready to move on and away from the band. So recording that record had it’s ‘negativity’ to it. Musically it’s just too fast for it’s own good! Trying to still live up to our ‘faster then you’ attitdues and trying to release something ‘good’ for death metal fanatics the world over to bite into. Everythnig was ‘rushed’ and in the end it sits a bit ‘dissapointing’. I loved the songs and I loved the chance to release a record with Relapse and be thought of as ‘competent’ enough to record and be on a record label. That was great! It was ‘neat’ to see your face and music on a cd and vinyl, cassette. It felt ‘good’! We were ‘growing up’ a bit and we had to start somewhere ‘fresh’ as a band.

When you think of the people who enjoy your music, is there anything they have in common (besides enjoying Deceased)?

I’m sure there is! I personally like to call Deceased music supporters, ‘friends’! I don’t like the word ‘fans’. Makes you think you are ‘better’ then them! We are all ‘even steven’ in my eyes. We all get up out of bed, eat, drink, sleep, love music, got our hobbies, families, etc. That’s all it is to me. ‘Seperation’ between bands and their music supporters is pretty ‘high ego’ to me. No need! Let’s all just have fun and keep on laughing through as many good times as we can!!! Look out for each other and keep on keeping on!

People sometimes ask me if I feel I’m being disrespectful to the dead by celebrating morbidity through music. What do you think about this question?

Hmmm — good question! Morbidity through music. I don’t personally see any disresect in it. Death is imminent to all and we all have to challenge it daily, every day on earth. No one knows the exact moment they will leave this place and move on to life beyond. Is there life beyond? Is it peace? Is it despair that awaits? No one truly knows. It’s life’s biggest mystery!

As soon as you’re born you’re dying. I talk about it and ‘subject’ it cuz it too intrigues me as a human being. That’s why ‘deceased’ was such th eperfect name for our band. Being the lyricist of the band i know in my heart how i feel and what my words are being meant when i write them. I am a very ‘up’ guy in my living personality. But death is always looming in the back of my brain for sure. It’s just something that truly intrigues me! Death to some is sadness. To others it’s joy, a time of celebration. To me it’s just ‘death’ and it’s unknown what will be ‘next’!

Metal has gone through huge changes since the middle 1990s. With the internet and the personal computer, it now seems everyone has a label or a zine or a band, and there’s tons and tons of metal “information” with perhaps very little data. What do you think the next stage will be?

Well it is always ‘evolving’ with the times and technology. Some for the better some for worse. But that’s ‘life’! I appreciate anyone who sincerely sits down to write an article or passes on msic to a friend to possibly enjoy. It’s ‘word of mouth’ to me that still runs the metal ‘underground’. I dont like label created ‘hype’ and ‘buzz’, never did! Let the music do the talking is my motto. Too many people sadly fall into the ‘live for the press’ mentality. Bad reviews send off interest to some people. While a ‘shining’ review makes them instantly ‘love’ it. Too weird to me!

I got my own mind, and I think and choose for myself what works for me musically as a music supporter! Sure, take all ‘aspects’ into consideration. Cuz a review can ‘help’ in your selection, but in the end let it be no one but you who decides what ‘you’ like! As for ‘next stages’, hmmm?! It’s hard to say! The internet/computer is definitely running the show now. It’s quick, updated at any given time, right there for anyone to take in! I say that will run the gament for some time still!

I was talking with Ray Miller of Adversary, a band from Indiana, and I said that in many ways I respect most the styles from when the styles we have today were newly forming. He suggested I listen to early Deceased, and I did and heard many influences in the music. What do you think each style of metal (heavy metal, melodic heavy metal, speed metal, death metal, and crossovers like hardcore, etc) represented to the generation that produced it, in terms of both music and attitude? When you brought together these styles, could you recognize each distinct impulse in your work, or did they gel into a new language?

Well i’ve always loved music. I mean anything and everythnig that got me ‘going’ i loved! It is my life’s greatest ecstasy. Early on I fell in love with the Beatles,. I was literaly 3-4 year sold. The choruses… the ‘greatness’ was quite easy to understand to me. Then I got into the ‘hoopla’ of Kiss. The blood of Simmons on the covers, the ‘image’ and visuals. It’s perfect for an 8 year old to sink his/her teeth into! It got me into wanting and craving more outlandish and more ‘over the top’ music. Trying to conquer the ‘extreme’! What is now tediously ‘mellow’ in music standards of today (Van Halen, Ted Nugent, Heart, Benatar, etc.) was once ‘over the top’ and pretty darn ‘heavy’ stuff! I just kept poking my head around in mags, record stores, all of it to ‘find’ something to fix my craving. This got me to the ‘gory’ Eddie and Maiden, razor blade through fingers artwork of Priest, the ‘devils and witches’ of Sabbath! All of it! Which in turn got me to Motorhead, Ramones, Plasmatics, Venom, etc.
It’s all a big ‘turn of the screw’! It just continues to move on and no one can slow it down. So when i got into deceased and we formed the band we knew deep down all of us had a common bond for ‘muis’c first and formost. Sure, we were ‘caught up’ in th eheavy metal mania of the times. We died for sodom, exciter, venom, fate, manaowar, all of it! But we still had our ‘elders’ of musical uprise (The Cars, Kiss, Journey, Blondie, Foreigner, etc) in our hearts as well.

We were living the life style of ‘full blown heavy metal’ but we had our hearts set in music!

So when we started writing we just blew it out as fast and furious as we could. Beyond “caught up” in the times of aggression and drug- fed energy. The ‘attitude’ you speak of was just 100% ‘us’! It was ‘Deceased’! We just got in and ‘did it’! We took all of the aspects of music we loved, speed of hardcore and thrash, melody of traditional heavy metal, choruses and ‘structures’ of traditional kiss styled rock n roll, and the ‘zaniness’ and off kilter of punk and the ilk.

It ‘worked’ for us! Sure some ‘genres’ worked better for us. But it was still all just a big band blender and we kept feeding it with more musical vegetables :)

It seems to me much of the metal from 1978 onward would have lost impetus and extremity if it weren’t for the influence of hardcore music. How do you think on this issue?

Yeah, I can see that indeed! ‘Extreme’ standards have gone ‘haywire’ n the last 20 odd years. It is the ‘way of the world’ on all accounts. Everything is faster paced in the world. More ‘raw’ and much less ‘polished’. No one has time to ‘stop’ anymore. Alot less ‘love’ in the world, sadly so much hate and destruction. A total ‘kill or be killed’ mentality!

No one has time to ‘relax’. It’s just ‘go go go’! So obviously the people creating the music are gonna ‘release’ it in the same way. It’s all humans jsut ‘being human’! That’s just how it is!

Do you read any zines or websites today?

All the time! I’m always taking in the words and wisdom of others. Knowledge is man’s greatest gift, and at times our worse enemy.
But it to me is food for thought and impossible to not ingest.

As I said anyone who sincerely takes time to put up a musical related site or a fanzine, magazine and you read it and instantly fall in love with their ‘personality’ or the ‘charm’ of the crafted entity, that’s just a great feeling! More power to ya’! I know i’ll be reading and searching it all out.

Do you think the political climate in the USA will be more or less tolerant of death metal in five years?

I say it’ll be the same as of today. It seems to ‘stay’ under the radar al lthe time. It seems no one’s minding the ‘smaller’ people of the earth and globe right now, music or non music related. But i see a slow but steady ‘rising’ of this around the world and in time it will outnumber or truly challenge the ‘theories’ and practices and beliefs of alot of the world. Geesh remember when Dee Snider was ‘sooooooooooooo bad’ in the governments eyes?! Wow! How far we’ve come in 20 years!

Around Fearless Undead Machines, it seemed to me that your style as a band shifted from aspiring to a death metallish sound to more of what you were doing with Doomstone’s first album, namely making heavy metal using some of the techniques from death metal. Rhis to me was a brilliant move, as it put you closer in touch with your roots, aspirations and musical loves. How is it that you as a band can pull something like that off, and Immortal could, but virtually every other musician appears mediocre when they attempt something like that?

Well, that’s some nice words coming from you, and we truly appreciate it! All I can say about that ‘time’ is that we as a band had decided we needed to complelty build on our ‘musical strengths’! To sincerely cut the ‘fat’ and ‘extras’ of our sound up to then (‘Blueprints..’ l.p was very bizzare and ‘all over the place’ musically) and do what 100% worked for us! We were still ‘searching’ for our ‘perfect identity’ in music and we at that time, I beleive, found it! Guitarist Mike Smith came forth and said ‘i write guitar riffs this way and this is what i want to write in this band’. I took it into consideration as the band’s ‘arranger’ of songs. Mark and Les (guitar and bass) also put their ideas and words into persepctive and it really felt ‘right’. It was a sincere ‘bonding’ of the band both musically and spiritualy! We ‘got on wth it’ and delivered our finest record up to that point in our eyes. It was very well recieved by the industry and that felt good to us. Doing it completely ‘our way’ and being accepted for it! From there it’s all just ‘fell into place’ since.

I’m told that King Fowley is still a very active tape trader. How do you find the time? And what do you trade?

Well tapes are now cd’rs in our ‘technologically advanced’ world! Haha

I love to ‘pass on’ the music to others who care to listen!. I trade with anyone that wants to spend the time to burn and learn as much as I do. I got so much music I can not afford to buy at this time sadly. And I got tons of music I have collected through my many, many years in the music field in return.

There’s no greater feeling then passing over a Demon Flight cd burn to a friend and watching them get the same smile I got when i first heard it! Or the ‘cheer’ from the guy who says ‘man that fucking Griffin you sent me is bad ass’! It just feels ‘right’ and makes me smile every damn time. I find the time cuz there’ s always time for things you love to do. That’s one of my personal ‘life’ ways of the world!

Were there any other Deceased side-projects besides Doomstone?

Well, Deceased-related, no not really! Unless you count a few ‘one off’ sessions with silly named ‘projects’ me and Mark have done like ‘Masbah’, our tribute to Japan’s Casbah and early Master from Chicago. It was a jam session and we just went ‘silly’ haha. I got that on tape somewhere, and i believe that was 1991. Also there’s ‘talk ‘of me and Mark doing ‘rock brigade’ an all 80’s rock thing where we cover Aldo Nova, Gary Moore, Fist, and Triumph songs, etc.! Les Snyder was/is in Doomstone along with me and that was fun. Doomstone has gone all over the place using ‘session ‘guys and just ‘mixing it up’ to confuse us as well as others. Now I do have a side band called October 31. It’s not Deceased-related outside of me being part of it, but i really enjoy the times and music that band has created! ‘Traditional’ heavy metal is what we file that under!

Does metal exist in the mainstream any longer?

It doesn’t matter to me. The music is the same to my ears! The identity of the ‘captivating’ audience has long gone back to the ‘die hards’. And that’s how I personally see it fit. It’s not for everyone and it’s really by it’s own ‘musical law’ not to be concieved as very ‘commercially viable’. It has it’s ‘surges’ and it’s a rollercoaster love affair to some. But to me it’s just music and it’s always gonna be there for those who want it! I know i always will!!!!!!

What do you make of this hip-hop influence in nu-metal – artistic advancement, or tool of the labels to make music more like that which they have trained the sheep to buy?

Wow man! I really am the wrong guy to ‘invite’ this into metal music. That ‘style’ of art never did a damn thing for me. Outside or inside the genre of metal music. Just does’t ‘click’ for me in the least! Some took to it instantly, others it ‘grew on’. To me it just does not work!!! It tries to break down the ‘barriers’ that as I mentioned metal music kinda set its self in firmly many, many years ago! The ‘funkiness’ of it isn’t needed for metal. The ‘ghetto’ vibe is just so ‘out of place’ in the metal genre. Let it be its own ‘entity’ and stop trying to ‘heap’ it in with the trappings and undying spirit of heavy metal music and it wont be a problem with me!

Old metal records seemed to me to be a brilliant project, because each generation of metalheads ages and then the music they found meaningful, especially the rarities, is forgotten and all we know of that time are the bands with excellent advertising budgets. Is there a way to combat this generational loss in metal?

Well, I tried! Sadly human nature came into play again. And what was once a great dream and ambition of mine became tarnished with false promises and greedy people pretty quick. I tried in vain to keep the label going forward from day one. But too many ‘ex band members’ forgot what it was to play and record music and let it be heard by any and all they could. They wanted all of ‘this’ and all of ‘that’. Like I was to reimburse them for being shit on by their record labels of years ago. I’m just a dude into heavy metal music and I was doing all I could to ‘better’ the cult past by re-reelasing and upgrading formats of their music from a time ago. I’d get old band members of bands I loved names out of phone books and call them up and talk about putting their stuff out again. Some instantly ‘clicked’ with me and my ideas and some past and we went our own ways without a problem. But it was the empty promises and sudden changes of thought half wa through projects that got me ‘down’ on it all. I’d press a bands c.d and then they’d ‘change’ their mind. Or something or someone would surface with a not as enthusiastic feeling for the event!

You know if I was to please every person in every band I was in touch with I’d never have released jack shit! Every band has ‘differences’ and years later some could ‘give a shit’ and some don’t wanna know at all. It got old and I just tried to put it to rest. The label’s still around in small spurts but it’s never to be the same. Some bands appreciated my sincerity, and we still remain great friends, while others now knock me in their ‘revival’ interviews from nostalgic metal, retro- mags etc.

It hurts to see that sometimes, but I know what I did and how I approached it. And i can 100% always live with myself for that!

Is it true that most metalheads quit at 30?

Probably! Some call it ‘the music of youngsters’! And 30 seems to stop the youngster ball rolling for some. Not me! Gonna be 35 in a few months. And I find it healthy, life giving, and still 100% a part of every day I exist on! To me, it’s all in the way you look at things.

Do you think paranoia in this time of history is warranted on the part of the citizen?

Yes! Too many croonies and back stabbers, fakes, cheats, liars, out there. Who sleeps with their windows open anymore at night!? Sad isn’t it! Laziness, greed, the need to ‘stay up’ with another persons fortunes plays evil tricks on the mind of many. The ‘whoever dies with th emost toys wins’ mentality is fucking pathetic! I say take what you got and build on it. Some obviously have it easier in their means/ways to ‘survive’. Some deserve it, some don’t!

But the cards are drawn, make your own dreams! Paranoia is indeed ‘needed’ at this point in life. From this horribly, crummy war, to the indecencies and anger that most of the free world puts on each other daily. It’s fucking sad! Human beings, a dying breed! One day…extinction!

While your early material was urgent, it seems your newer work is more medium paced. What caused this change, in your view?

Urgent was the drugs and the ‘need’ to stay up with the speed factor. Our mentality was speed is ‘extreme’ and we were wanting to be part of the ‘extreme’! We don’t feel that ‘urgency’ in that way anymore! We love fast! Trust me im’ a hyper spazz ‘fast’ guy! Haha

But it’s now ‘called for’ when needed! I do say ‘its alive’ off our lastest e.p is still pretty frantic and indeed ‘fast’!

It’s all in the song and emotion of the day!

How did creating the Doomstone album For Those Whom Satan Hath Joined influence your outlook on songwriting in deceased?

In no real way really! It was just a project that took off in a real bigggg way for awhile. People really liked the ‘Sabbath edge’! The darker substance. The slower ‘brooding’ of the pace of the songs for the most part!

It’s got a great place in metal music. Cuz so many who listen to this genre have that ‘twisted’ underframe.

But as far as Deceased goes, it didn’t really influence me or the band in the least!

Do you listen to any black metal besides Venom?

Well what’s ‘black metal’ anymore? The gurggling, non heavy, non catchy crud of something like Darkthrone? I despise that horrible shit! To me it has to ‘brood’ it has to ‘lurk’ it has to create the ‘dark’ side of things in both atmosphere and personality. That fast insane blast, garage punk/electric shaver styled guitar, and unimpressive or convincing vocals stuff don’t so it for me! I just prefer the ‘trappings’ of a Venom ‘Sacrifice’ or a Mercyful Fate’s ‘Into the Coven’ anyday! I listen to tons of the newer stuff out there and often ‘hyped’ up. And I hope to hear something i can grab onto. But sadly it get sput to the side and discarded over time. Cuz it don’t have depth or stayin gpower for my tastes in music. I think the last great ‘black metal’ record I heard and sincerely appreciated was ‘Ritual’ by Master’s Hammer! And that’s at least 10 years old now! I’m still waiting and hoping for more ‘darkness’ to surface.

What were the handful of most influential bands during the 1980s? 1990s?

Do you mean for me??? Voivod, Venom, Fate, Slayer, Maiden, Queensryche, Motorhead, were big ones for my Deceased musical ‘ideas’ in the 80’s!

The 90’s brought me fewer bands cuz my seeds were set!

I wasn’t as ‘keen’ on ‘influential’ bands like Fear Factory or Deicide or that type!

I am set in the 80s for sure! Though I love tons of music made in the 90’s as well! Just not as ‘influenced’ by it as a player! One band I truly admire from the “90’s” is The Gathering. Beautiful people and gifted as hell musicians and song-writers!

Did these bands differ markedly from the bands of the 1970s?

For me it sure did! Cuz the 70s belonged to the radio for me as a kid! By the time I was into less known ‘album tracks’ by radio artists of my ‘childhood’ it was almost 1980! I was the ‘hit song’ guy! But I quickly learned there’s tons of songs the radio doesn’t play that really got my goose :)

What do you think bands in the 2010 decade will be like? Will there be a resolution to mainstream versus underground, black versus death, funk beats versus metal beats, etc?

Who really knows? I just keep watching this ‘segregation’ unfold from the sidelines and some of it is justified while some is just plain silliness. I really don’t care where it goes really. As i said earlier music is… Music!!! You like something, like it to death! Who’s up who’s down, who’s got the upper hand!

My advice is to just play from the heart with all that you’ve got inside cuz that’s all you have at the end of the day!

Referencing the previous question, it seems to me that metal uses percussion differently than most mainstream music: where mainstream music creates a bounce and an expectation of its fulfillment, metal creates a driving structure which encloses change in harmonic/melodic patterns (by other instruments). What ideas differ between these two groups?

Metal music is known as a driving force so you will find it staying on tap and ‘in the pocket’ most of the time! Metal has a great love for dynamics in the traditional sense ala Maiden or say early Queensryche! But i’d like to see more ’emotion’ in metal music myself! I love to feel and live the song. The ups and downs of the music. Th topics and choice of ideas could be so widely expanded on in music and tempos and all! Mercyful Fate in the early days were masters of this. The percussion of metal also leaves alot ot be desired at times for me as a listener. That’s why me as a drummer go to a Phil Erhart of kansas or a Carl Palmer of elp for my ‘identity’. Cuz that’s more ‘me’ as a player and where I ‘inspire’ from. Sure you got the influences of dave lombardo or a kim ruzz as well. But it’s sadly less common to see really ‘brilliant’ creators in percussion in more ‘extreme’ metal music!

Hope to see that change in the future!

What non-metal makes your playlists these days?

Well 10 things ‘non metal’ I’ve played alot lately include the new Guano Apes record, any and all No Doubt, Benatar, Berlin’s latest record, early The Fixx, Oingo Boingo, Planet P, Laibach, Einsturzende Nuebauten, and some Switchblade Symphony!

Tons of bands I been cranking lately! I’m all over the place for ‘listening’ pleasures! Haha just me being zany I guess!

If you could wish positive things for metal in these areas, what would they be:

A. Bands: to drop the egos alot of them have and be musicians first and formost! Erase the egos pleaseeeeee! To really cherish and hold in heart the honor of playing music!
B. Labels: to be more respectful to your artists. Treat them as hmans and not business cattle. We are all in this together so even up the angle already!
C. Journalism: to write from the heart and always call it the way you see it!
D. Philosophy: to learn by your mistakes, grow everyday, and challenge ‘challenge’ on every occasion!

It seems to me there are now several live Deceased releases, including a few that didn’t make massive distribution. which is your favorite?

There are? I only know of one! ‘Up the tombstones’ live from Thrash Corner! Unless you count the old cassettes we made in the later 80’s! :) I’m confused here. Or drawing a blank! You decide! Haha We are gonna have some live tracks surfacing soon though! As bonus songs for cd releases! :) As for ‘up the tombstones’, I love the live c.d! It’s ‘us’! It’s the energy, live attitude, and songs we played of that time! Thanks to ray at thrash corner for releasing it and ‘phantasmagoria’ club for having us!

Will Deceased ever do a massive tour?

It’s unknown to me truly! Jobs and home security come first with us. Family, rent, etc.

Yeah all bands on some level deal with it. But we are us and we gotta look out for us first off! If we can ‘arrange’ it then ‘yes’ we will indeed be there! Time off from work aint easy to some of the guys. And I sincerely respect that and understand tenfold. I know if we can we willlllllllllllll!

Mr Fowley, I have heard you are recovering from lung troubles that mean you cannot assume your customary position behind the kit. Will this ever change?

It’s doubtful! We have a new drummer in Dave ‘Scarface’ Castillo and to tell you the truth, he’s just perfect for the band and we will carry on with him as brother, family, and friend! It’s the ‘end of an era’ and the beginning of another! Chapter 1 complete! Now onto chapter 2! Wish us luck! We rise from the grave come midnight!
since you gentlemen have survived this long, where most metalheads are in their teens, do you have any advice about “growing up” and “life and how to live it”?
Do your best to keep your head about you! Have your spirit in hand at all time, wear your heart on your sleeve, and keep your elders’ good ways within you. Never look back and never give in! I wish everyone well in their journey!

How would you have me killed for asking so many questions? Or, more apropos to the interview: is there anything else I forgot that should be answered?

Great interview! It came from the heart and so did my answers! Thnaks for caring long enough to type this and i wish you only the best! Check out the website…

(official) Up the Tombstones

And email me at kingsley22@starpower.net for any info, etc. you may need!

Long live the loud!

Thanks a million and one
King Fowley 3/20/03

The normal question, the first question is, are these cannibals? No, they are not. Cannibalism in the true sense of the word implies an interspecies activity. These creatures cannot be considered human. They prey on humans. They do not prey on each other, that’s the difference. They attack and they feed only on warm flesh. Intelligence? Seemingly no reasoning ability, but basic skills remain from a remembered everyday life. There have been reports of these creatures using tools. But even these are the most basic, the use of tools as bludgeons and so forth. I might point out that even animals have been known to adopt the use of tools in this manner. These creatures are nothing but pure, motorized instinct. We must not be lulled by the concept that they are our family members or our friends. They are not. They will not respond to such emotions. They must be destroyed on sight!

– Dr. Millard, Dawn of the Dead (1978)

No Comments

Tags: , ,