Louder Noise recently interviewed Biff Byford, the long working frontman of the famous NWOBHM band Saxon, about his opinions on how heavy metal music has changed since his band’s commercial peak in the early-mid 1980s. Some of his insights are fairly obvious (the return of vinyl, fashion trends have changed, new genres); although others are more interesting – for instance, he mentions that Saxon experimented with early digital recording methods even earlier in their career. Building off the previous interview we linked featuring Steve Wilson, you could begin to make a case that many professional, successful metal musicians are particularly interested in keeping abreast of aesthetic trends in the genre. You’d need more evidence to back that up properly, but the local corollary that applies is that the composition process need not change as much with time.No Comments
We all know the score in entertainment: 90% of the people are full-tilt Left-leaning, and the remaining 10% have to hide their views until they are too big and too old to fear repercussions. A Swedish folk-rock duo named Lilou & John have launched a website, Belzebubbles, to feature Right-leaning bands who have been censored or ignored by the entertainment establishment.59 Comments
Longstanding US speed metal/death metal band Deceased has completed work on its upcoming two-disc album of covers, Cadaver Traditions, which will be coming out on Hells Headbangers Records this summer.
Cadaver Traditions will include 53 tracks in total, with two of those being brand-new recently written Deceased songs which had previously been released on vinyl. Judging from the wide range of influences on this disc, it will not only be fun for Deceased fans but for metal historians looking for the roots of early death metal.
53 tracks in all 2 cd set… look for it this summer on hells headbagers ‘cadaver traditions’. cover song mania and the 2 newest deceased songs finally on cd. up til now it was only vinyl.
- Black Metal (Venom Cover)
- Deathrider (Anthrax Cover)
- Corporate Death Burger (MDC Cover)
- Dis-Organ-Ized (Impetigo Cover)
- Right Brigade (Bad Brains Cover)
- VoiVod (VoiVod Cover)
- Doomed By The Living Dead (Mercyful Fate Cover)
- California Uber Alles (Dead Kennedys Cover)
- Wrathchild (Iron Maiden Cover)
- Here To Stay (Sheer Terror Cover)
- Headhunter (Krokus Cover)
- SATO (Ozzy Osbourne Cover)
- Do Or Die (Znöwhite Cover)
- Violent World (45 Grave Cover)
- World Peace (Cro-Mags Cover)
- Eliminator (Agnostic Front Cover)
- Die By The Sword (Slayer Cover)
- Witching Metal (Sodom Cover)
- Social Security (Excel Cover)
- Violence And Force (Exciter Cover)
- The KKK Took My Baby Away (Ramones Cover)
- No Compromise (Xentrix cover)
- Chemical Warfare (Slayer Cover)
- Bodies (Sex Pistols Cover)
- Not To Touch The Earth (The Doors Cover)
- Reaganomics (D.R.I. Cover)
- Torn apart by werewolves (Deceased )
- Mad Man (D.R.I. Cover)
- Fire In The Sky (Saxon Cover)
- 2 Minutes To Midnight (Iron Maiden Cover)
- Die Hard (Venom Cover)
- V.A. Rocks Your Liver (Verbal Abuse Cover)
- Blower (Voivod Cover)
- Wiped Out (Raven Cover)
- Stay Clean (Motörhead Cover)
- Tormentor (Kreator Cover)
- Nuns Have No Fun (Mercyful Fate Cover)
- Agents Of Steel (Agent Steel Cover)
- State Oppression (Raw Power Cover)
- Bombs Of Death (Hirax Cover)
- New Age Of Total Warfare (Warfare Cover)
- Metal Church (Metal Church Cover)
- Subliminal (Suicidal Tendencies cover)
- Zombie Attack (Tankard Cover)
- You Stupid Jerk (Angry Samoans Cover)
- I’m Not Jesus (Ramones Cover)
- Nothing (Plasmatics Cover)
- Iron Heads (Running Wild Cover)
- Stand Up And Shout (Dio Cover)
- False Profit (English Dogs Cover)
- Ultra Violent (N.O.T.A. Cover)
- The Ballad of Harry Warden (My Bloody Valentine soundtrack cover)
- Luck of the corpse (Deceased)
Sadistic Metal Reviews started sometime in the early 00s in tribute to the reviews of fanzines from earlier eras, in which a single sentence correctly categorized a band as the type of useless filler it was and dispatched it to the cut-out sale bins of history.
The grim fact is that as in nature, in heavy metal there are a few winners, and everyone else fails. This isn’t because they are fated to do so, but because they made the wrong choices. Usually, they have no actual artistic motivation, and so are imitating other successful acts for chicks, beer, prestige, an excuse for being stoned in the basement for a decade, whatever.
A band may have spent years learning its instruments, rehearsed for months, hired a good studio, taken all the right notes and had all the right parts, but something didn’t add up. This band had nothing to say, and so no one should listen.
The guiding principle of Sadistic Metal Reviews is that no amount of surface aesthetic can cover up a lack of conviction, content and motivation within. No one can paint-by-numbers imitate, or its cousin the recombining of known styles, and hope to get anything but a polite nod and “It’s OK, I guess, if you like that kind of thing.”
With this edition, SMR takes on the retro phenomenon. Every seven years like clockwork the great factory of wannabes runs out of “new” (usually basic math, like adding two genres together and getting a mystery) ideas and decides that ripping off the past is the safest path to fame and riches.
Hence these imitators are on the altar of sacrifice, awaiting our Sadistic Metal Writers for today’s edition of SMR, which tackles possibly the worst form of retro ever… the wannabe be 1991 Swedish death metal retro.
Our writers, from left to right: Daniel Rodriguez, Cory van der Pol, Max Bloodworth and Jon Wild.
Despite being disguised in every “Swedish death metal” cliche known to man, Repugnant appears to be a retro-thrash band that re-purposes early Entombed lyrics for ironic comic book appeal. This vapid gimmickry with a glossy coat betrays the similarity between this band and Ghost, with whom it shares personnel. Why not try the same shallow stunt, but dress it up as old Entombed for extra clueless metal tourist nu-fan dollars?
This album of Carnage riffs played backward between stolen Nihilist d-beats feels like a flowchart experiment in paint-by-numbers Swedish death metal cliches, with added groove so that even lobotomy patients can tap their feet to it. Entrails lay claim to the early Swe-death scene, but even a blatant clone band can be aim for higher than almost passable. If you take away the buzz-saw distortion, these are just old Saxon tunes sped up with more howling.
Why do bands constantly recreate Slaughter of the Soul? Perhaps because it’s so easy to do. Evocation make forgettable muzak by giving laundry detergent commercial jingles the mid-90s Swe-death post-Deliverance-style rape treatment. This pop muzak sounds every bit as bittersweet as a sad Blink 182 song but in disguise as mid 90s Scandinavian metal to allow Century Media to market it to metalcore kids on Youtube. More “another day at the office” unremarkable mellow-deaf who are given more legitimacy than the other bands for being around in the early 90s. It’s still butt rock with polka drumming and laryngitis vocals.
What most people got out of Swedish death metal was a certain guitar tone and vocal delivery. Complex riff arrangements, time signatures, melodies? Over their heads. So why burden the little dears with something they can’t understand? Instead, take the same music that bad Exodus clones were making in 1987 and dress it up in a “Sexy Swedish Slut Death Metal” Halloween costume. The only people who fall asleep when listening are the smart ones, and we should probably shoot them anyway.
Classic death metal is hard. What’s easy? Metalcore, which is any variation of metal where you use hardcore songwriting with metal riffs. Don’t worry about making the riffs make sense, just have the song go from one ludicrous riff to the next as if they were connected. Then have a mosh part. Hail of Bullets is aggressive like old school death metal turned up to ten, but disorganized so you hear mostly noise.
Remember all those Swedish bands who were almost up there with Entombed, but then dropped out? They dropped out because “not good enough” doesn’t mean you missed good by a hair, but a mile. Kaamos is reconstituted from also-rans in the Swedish scene and it sounds like it. These two chord riffs have zero personality mainly because their creators are obsessed with sounding Swedish. If this band were honest, Samba music would come out of the speakers instead.
What happens if you dress up Def Leppard in Swedish buzz-saw distortion and death metal tempo? I don’t know, because this isn’t as good as Def Leppard. It is however candy heavy metal with every third riff an AOR melodic transition but put into typical Swe-deth(tm) packaging, including Sunlight Studios (Boss Heavy Metal pedal dimed) production, wacky energetic drumming, and barfing pit bull vocals. But once you look below the surface, it’s a power ballad.
Bloodbath is just a bunch of jaded guys from whine rock bands (Katatonia and Opeth) making a parody out of death metal by throwing backwards Dismember riffs into a blender alongside Pantera groove metal riffs. For credibility they add the tremolo riff from Morbid Angel’s “Dawn of the Angry” to be a sufficiently quirky lifestyle product for people who ironically wear Entombed trucker hats and talk wistfully of the early 1990s, when they were four.
This all-star band with Scott Carlsson (Repulsion) and Nicke Andersson (Entombed) applies the Clandestine model of pairing up horror movie motifs on guitar with d-beats. Using a rhythmic approach that alternates between Repulsion’s high-intensity riding blast and a Motorhead-derived groove, this band is competent but formulaic. It escapes the rancor derived at its genre-mates for being what seems like something closer to an honest effort.
Morbus Chron suffers from flowchart death metal syndrome: play d-beat punk played on down-tuned guitars like the old school bands, toss in a stolen Sabbath riffs to remind people of the obligatory Autopsy influence, then maybe inject a zany Demilich/Cadaver “wacky sounding” riff to come off as “outside the box” and “original.” It feels like Entombed met up with a focus group who accidentally purchased a bunch of Oxycontin and tried to replicate Autopsy’s Acts of the Unspeakable.6 Comments
An eruption has occurred within death metal over the past years where bands have been attracted to the linear phrasal riffing of old Incantation, Demoncy and Havohej and have hybridized it with the ripping war metal of Angelcorpse, Conqueror and Perdition Temple, producing a sound like the roar of battle from within a cavern.
Leading this charge is New Zealand’s Heresiarch, whose Hammer of Intransigence introduced a stunned world to this new assault two years ago. Currently, the band prepares to release its Waelwulf EP and embark on a new series of combative adventures to further saturate the world in its violence.
With this in mind, we pitched NH of Heresiarch a few questions about the band, its direction, and the volatile ferment of motivic forces that provide a warlike impetus that is able to avoid destroying itself. His answers, which demonstrate the raw visceral approach of both this style and its existential attitude, follow.
What made you choose to make the style of metal that you did?
It was the sound that resonated most with me and reflected what I wanted to present effectively.
Why was your US tour recently canceled?
Line-up issues have plagued the progress and possibilities of Heresiarch since the beginning and this was no exception.
The main priority currently is completing the album writing and then preparation for recording, touring will be re-addressed when it’s pertinent to.
You say that Heresiarch is “esoteric leaning.” What does that mean?
Heresiarch takes influence from several esoteric paths, the most noticeable being from Indo-European branches; the upcoming Waelwulf EP is heavily influenced by Anglo-Saxon and Germanic literature, warfare, symbolism and worldviews with my own interpretations.
How do you compose?
Central to Heresiarch are visions of war, death and victory, on a grand apocalyptic scale with the aim to reflect the dread, violence and atmosphere attributed to such themes.
There is minimal melodic motivation behind any of the writing and writing generally consists of bludgeoning the guitar to the aforementioned themes, from there the songs and riffs are refined and eventually materializes the atmosphere I aim to convey. If the song or the riffs do not reflect this they are discarded.
Do you write on guitar, bass or vocals?
Composition is primarily done with guitar but always with an idea of how everything else should go with it; drums, bass and both guitars are written close together to compliment and reinforce each other.
Vocals and lyrics are generally the last thing to come since the content is already decided on within the writing process.
Will you be recording more material as Heresiarch?
The Waelwulf EP has been recorded, I am yet to finish the vocals but it should be done in its entirety by the end of October.
I have been working on a full length which will be released by Dark Descent records; around 25 minutes of the album is written to date. The theme, composition and the general layout have been completed and it will be the most “complete” release from us.
In your view, what are the bands today to watch in the underground, meaning the people who produce interesting music (who cares if it’s “commercially successful”)?
Besides the obvious ones there is IMPETUOUS RITUAL and GRAVE UPHEAVAL (some of our closest allies) from Australia.
SABBATIC GOAT, SINISTROUS DIABOLUS, VASSAFOR are all worth listening to from New Zealand. VESICANT is a new band I am drumming in; there will be recordings of that in the next year. Also TREPANATION are a relatively new band taking an interesting direction with what I’ve heard of their new material and BLOOD OF THE MOON from NZ now have a lineup again.
Also check out PAROXSIHZEM and ADVERSARIAL from Canada, IMPOSER from Italy and GENOCIDE SHRINES from Sri Lanka.
Will you tell us which musical works were your biggest influences in creating Heresiarch?
CONQUEROR – War Cult Supremacy is the most essential album of this style in my opinion.
Besides that: Realm of Chaos by BOLT THROWER, Fallen Angel of Doom by BLASPHEMY as well as some classical such as Lizst, Wagner and Holst.
Your newest track, “Endethraest,” sounds familiar but I can’t place it. It’s highly rhythmic and military, like a real war being prepared. What influenced this?
The initial influence for the track originally stemmed from Gustav Holst’s “Mars Bringer of War.” It’s a good indication of the new direction Heresiarch is heading, with less regard for speed like on Hammer of Intransigence and a focus towards creating a dark, martial atmosphere.
Rumor has it that Heresiarch uses some members from Diocletian and Witchrist as session musicians. These bands are apparently part of a ‘Doom Cult’ which is trying to brand itself as a certain type of metal. Are you part of that movement, or heading in a different direction?
Heresiarch has no members of Diocletian or Witchrist present in the current line-up and we never have been a member of Doom Cult.
What’s next for Heresiarch?
The aforementioned album is intended to be released by Dark Descent Records in 2014. All further intentions will be announced when suitable.
You say the band is based around war, death and victory. Why do you choose these topics? What do you hope to express? Do you intend to create change in the world?
There is no “hope” to express anything, the music does the talking and is the expression itself.
Do you think war metal carries with it a big of a stigma in that so many bands are seen as humorless and self-important?
Do you think most people accept war as necessary, or think of it as an evil to be purged? Why or why not?
I don’t care what most people think or believe in.
Extreme ends always attract extreme people, usually regardless of goal, doctrine or outcome.
It looks like the old school metal has lost out to the metalcore/indie-metal types. Is there any hope of rolling back the clock and getting to the days of better music? How important is it when the majority takes over a genre or a country and turns it into the same old stuff?
It’s not important. The “majority” as you say will always manifest their interests in trivial activities, beliefs and art in one way or another.
I guess the next logical question is, if you have no notion or desire for changing the world, what is your purpose in creating the music of Heresiarch?
I lost interest in all facets of politics and society a long time ago and from a logical perspective, a Black/Death Metal band is the least likely candidate to rally the masses towards changing the world.
In some respects that attitude is militarized in Heresiarch as an expression of contempt and disgust for all morality, faith and social structures which is a valid view for one to hold in today’s world… Essentially Heresiarch exists because it needs to and when that need ceases, so will the band.
If you could change the world, in what direction would you take it?
It’d look like the gatefold of Hammer of Intransigence.1 Comment
Back in the early days of death metal, it was fun to spin some contrast on the radio. Start out with the phrasal bands like Morbid Angel and Slayer, work up to something percussion like Deicide or Suffocation, then drop into the doom-death. Somewhere in there, Obituary, Asphyx, Incantation, and Morpheus Descends all got displayed.
The latter was a puzzler since it was grim, primitive and primal, yet thoughtful and very distant from the normal everyday lives most people aspired to. It was truly music to keep the listener outside the arc of society’s concerns, guilt and manipulations, and for many of us it was deliverance. It blended into the other death metal as if it belonged there, a distinct voice that yet upheld a shared spirit.
Morpheus Descends was thus for many of us a go-to band when we wanted the old school underground sound. Music from beyond this world, it chanted dark praises of outsider viewpoints on reality while crushing our heads with intensely grinding, explosive riffs. It is with great pleasure that after many years, I am finally able to interview Rob Yench/Xul of this massive underground cult…
Morpheus Descends appeared early in the death metal movement. What were you influences, and how did you conceive of the then-new musical style you were creating?
Before forming Morpheus, we were all in local area bands, Ken and I did a Voivod / DBC styled band called “Volitle Zylog”, Sam, Steve and Craig were all in a band called “Infectious Waste.” During the summer of 1990 we played an outdoor show together with a few other area bands. At the show we were talking to each other about the bands we were all interested in, as it turned out our tastes were very similar. When Ken and I heard “Infectious Waste” do a Pestilence cover we talked with the three of them right after the show and we decided to start a death metal band. A month later the five of us had all quit the bands we were in and formed “Morpheus.” Our first practice was on October 31st, 1990. Our style was based on what we listened to at the time, late 80s & early 90s bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Pestilence, Obituary, Napalm Death and our earlier influences like Black Sabbath, Voivod, Kreator and Celtic Frost. Once we became a band and played shows we started to meet other bands who shared the same goals, also playing many shows with our peers shaped the style known as New York Death Metal.
Were you among the creators of this genre? What do you think your contributions were?
All the previous mentions plus so many more helped create the genre but I will limit my scope to the bands that grew out of the scene that we were part of; Suffocation, Immolation, Mortician, Incantation, Ripping Corpse, Prime Evil, Human Remains, Nokturnel, Gorephobia, Deceased and Apparition (Sorrow). I don’t really measure what our contributions were to the genre except to say that I think the best reflection of what we have done as a band in Death Metal scene is all the people who still come up to us or still contact us online to tell us how much the band’s music means to them. We played a lot of shows in many states and even Mexico from 1990 – 1997, so I think we reached a lot of people in a time when Death Metal was “electric”.
I noticed that Suffocation seemed to have quite a bit of influence from Morpheus (Descends), with Terrance Hobbs wearing a Morpheus t-shirt on Effigy of the Forgotten and using one riff that seems similar to one of the riffs on Ritual of Infinity. Do you think you influenced Suffocation? Who else do you think you influenced?
Both bands were very good friends in the early 90s; we played our first show with them in Buffalo NY. After that it seemed like every weekend for a while, they either drove to our hometown to hangout or we drove to Long Island to hang with them. We would share ideas and jam with each other and show one another riffs and songs we had been working on. I think we are about as much an influence to Suffocation and much as Suffocation was and influence to us. The same things could be said for a lot of the other death metal bands from NY around that time too.
They’re talking about a “big five” of death metal bands doing a tour. Why do you think Morpheus Descends isn’t out there? What makes a death metal band popular more than others?
First and foremost I think the more popular DM bands of our era were signed to bigger labels (EARACHE, ROADRUNNER, NUCLEAR BLAST, METAL BLADE). We worked with a much smaller, less successful record label (JL AMERICA). With more promotion, bigger distribution and record company help; they also landed US and European tours. We did do some touring but not to the extent that a lot of those bands got to do. So they were much more accessible to fans in a time before the internet was so popular. We did EVERYTHING ourselves, touring, merchandise and even pressing. Outside of JL releasing the CD it was all 100% DYI.
Can you tell us the story behind your name change from Morpheus to Morpheus Descends? What happened to the other Morpheus?
JL had RED for distribution; they got a call that from RED that they wouldn’t be able to distribute the Morpheus CD because they already had a band of that name in their catalog. This band was some “gay” techno band, we did try to fight it but JL basically told us change the name or it will not be released. We had always planned to write a song called “Morpheus Descends”, so after some discussions we made the name change and never looked back.
You signed with JL America for your first album, which ended up being a rough path. What happened there? How would you do it differently if you had to “do it over”?
Well since NO other labels had any serious interest in us, it was a good choice. We got our music out to a lot of people that we would have never reached doing it ourselves. It may not have been exactly the record deal we were looking for but at least people saw the CD at stores and bought it. This is part of the reason for our notoriety today; you could buy the CD in most big record store chains at the time. Also it was distributed overseas as well. As far as doing it differently, it would have taken a better record label to have stepped and worked with us, which didn’t happen so there is no regrets when it comes to our history.
One of the things that stuck with me from Ritual of Infinity was the formal language you used for the titles. “Proclaimed Creator,” “Enthralled to Serve,” and “Ritual of Infinity” set a standard which other bands especially in New York aspired to. Where did you get the idea to write song titles this way?
Many of the songs you mention, we came up with the song title first; then we would talk about the concept of the lyrics; then Sam would write the lyrics around those ideas. I think that is why the titles sound so “formal”, we wanted the names of the songs to provoke interest in wanting to hear the songs. We stayed away from the simple titles of blood and gore and concentrated on making the titles and lyrics more interesting to the listener.
Is “Accelerated Decrepitude” a reference to Blade Runner? Were there other non-musical works that influenced you greatly? What about non-metal bands?
No, Blade Runner was not really an influence for this song. Progeria, the rare genetic condition that produces rapid aging in children was really the thought when we wrote the song as well as the artwork we used for the demo of the same name. Our take on it was that at birth the infant was already a century old, ancient and decrepit. I do not really think any non-metal bands are an influence to us, but we did listen to a lot of Wesley Willis when we traveled.
After Ritual of Infinity, Morpheus Descends came out with two very powerful EPs, Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones and The Horror of the Truth. Each of those had its own character. How do you see the band as changing during that time?
Yes, each MCD has a distinct sound and each time it was a reflection of the lineup at the moment and direction we would move in. We wanted to distance ourselves from a lot of the saturation of death metal bands of the mid 90’s, many were all using the same template as successful bands but really lacking their own identities. Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones was the first time we had time in the studio and did not have to rush ourselves; we developed a lot of ideas and had a real good time creating the music. It was also a transition time in the band; Sam and I became the main song writers and that is why you hear such a difference in the music. This music became much darker and doom laden than our previous endeavors.
When it came time to record Horror of the Truth more changes occurred; we had parted ways with Jeff our vocalist as well as our second guitar player Brian. Tom Stevens had recently joined the band as the replacement to Brian Johnson and then filled the vocal spot as well. So now the band had a different configuration and we went to Cleveland to record with our longtime friend Brian Seklua. The songs on that MCD were much faster and contain furious guitar solos; this was in contrast to the style of Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones. This would be the last recording we would do together as a band and I think the release didn’t get the exposure that it deserved. This was all shortly before the band disbanded, I would have liked to have seen where we could have gone with that lineup and sound.
Do you have any current plans for resurrection, touring, recording, etc? I see you’re set up for Martyrdoom Fest. Who’s in the lineup, and what expectations/hopes do you have?
We are taking things slow, things feel real good in rehearsals and it is sounding like Morpheus Descends should sound. This is very important to us to deliver what the band should sound like and to do justice to the legacy the band has become to Death Metal fans around the world. The lineup is the 4 of the original members from the MORPEHUS 1990 inception lineup. Sam Inzera, Rob Yench, Craig Campbell and Ken Faggio, Steve Hanson was not able to be a part of the reunion. Steve lives in Florida and when we started talking about making this happen we called him to see if he would like to be a part of this “return.” As much as he would have liked to do this, the distance is the real hurdle to work around; Steve did give this his “unholy blessing” and wished us the best!
After Martyrdoom, we are planning to work on some new songs for possible 2014 EP release. We have already exchange riff ideas and it sounds very Morpheus Descends!! Also there is a possibility in 2014 for more shows too but nothing confirmed as of yet.
What do you think of the state of death metal now? Is it fair to divide death metal into “old school death metal” and “modern death metal,” which is the term people use for the new style which has hardcore breakdowns, prog-math-metal riffs, and lots of sweeps?
There is a distinct difference between the two types of Death Metal you speak of; I myself am not really a fan of the “modern” death metal sound. I prefer what I grew up with and what feels comfortable to me. This is not meant to be a “dis” on this style but it is just not for me.
In your view, what are the bands who really shaped death metal into what it was, and what does death metal stand for? Does it have something to communicate, or is it just slightly weird music?
Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Death, Entombed, Carcass and Obituary would be some of the best known pioneers of the genre. As far as any deep meaning the music, I think each person has their own interpretation of what this means to each of them. For me it has been a way of life, family, work and Metal !!
Do you have any plans to re-release your older material?
There are plans in the works for some really cool stuff, but I will bite my tongue for now until things are more solid than at the moment. We want everything we do to be of quality and something that would be fitting in any MD fans collection!!
Members of Morpheus Descends have gone on to form a number of projects, including Mausoleum. How do these differ from Morpheus Descends, and do they reflect things you learned from the Morpheus Descends experience?
I play in four bands; Morpheus Descends, Mausoleum, Engorge and Typhus, Sam has Morpheus Descends, Mortician and Funerus. Ken does Morpheus Descends, Rooms of Ruin and Cabal 34. We have also done session work and played in a few other bands too but you see we are very immersed in Metal!! The bands we do are all different than Morpheus Descends, but what has been learned by me is to work with people and let each person express themselves and have input in all aspects of the process. Morpheus Descends was the “boot camp” for knowing how things work and what doesn’t.
How were the songs on Ritual of Infinity composed? They’re like mazes of riffs. Did you start with a riff, or an idea, or a story, or an image? How did you compose these mind-twisting tunes?
This was a time in the band when everyone was throwing riffs out there, we just kept sewing the riffs together and making things work and it ended developing into a style where we rarely returned to a riff once it was played in the song. When I listen back sometimes, I hear some riffs and I think “wow we could have done more with this riff!!” All in all though this is what helped made us unique.
What do you listen to currently?
OK here is what is in my playlist as I am doing this interview Repuked, Anatomia, Scaremaker, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Motorhead, Manowar, new Mausoleum songs, Deceased, Sadistic Intent, Slayer, Nekrofilth and Midnight !!
Thanks, Rob, and good luck in the future with all of your bands!
The metal/hard rock tyrants in Den of Sin unleash their demo Raid Your Soul With Cutthroat Rock N Roll via online stream in a style of old school metal that owes the most to NWOBHM and American hard rock, but also incorporates punk and speed metal riffs.
Composed of members from other bands, Den of Sin claims to be influenced by Motorhead, The Runaways, Girl School, Saxon, Krokus, Acid, Venom, Warlock, and AC/DC, and it shows in the sound. Rushing energetic verse riffs run into swiftly falling choruses underneath the energetic vocals of LiLi Le Bullet.
The band is rounded out by Chris G. Mezzadurus (Goreaphobia) on guitar and Jim Roe (Incantation) on drums, with Robin Mazen taking on bass duties. All members are remaining active in their respective bands but continuing Den of Sin as a side project.
Raid Your Soul With Cutthroat Rock N Roll aims for the days when metal and hard rock were less serious, more about having a good time, and also gave people a sense of musical aptitude without the pretense. Merging punk rhythms, metal riffs and hard rock attitude, Den of Sin invokes those older times in a new age.
For more information, watch this band on Facebook.3 Comments
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
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.
Someone finally explained heavy metal in terms simple enough for the nodding nobodies to comprehend:
Biff Byford, lead singer of 1980s heavy metal behemoths Saxon, is preaching to convert the non- ferrous among us to his cause. “Heavy metal is a tribal music and everyone is a member of the tribe,” he explains.
A wistful look passes across the features of a man memorably described by one critic as “the dray horse of heavy metal”. “The music’s not about love,” he adds, warming to his theme. “Our songs are more about Richard the Lionheart, steel trains and thunder. But when you do click with a big audience, it can be quite an experience, a massive connection… I suppose you could say it is a religious experience in a way.” – The Independent
As some people have been saying for years, metal is the one true alternative in pop culture — most of pop culture is about the individual and its desires, and the ethic of convenience that accompanies them. Don’t do the right thing — do what feels good! Ignore history, we’re inventing a new regime! One for the people, by the people, about the people. And when we gain power, and throw out those bad old fuddies with their social standards, everything will be totally awesome!
Heavy metal is the opposite. It minimizes the individual, and reduces you to the role of one in a tribe. It de-emphasizes the now, and replaces it with a broader view of history. It makes desires secondary to quests, goals and heroic struggles. It’s the anti-pop-culture, or the counter-counterculture. It’s a war against all of the illusions that allow our modern time to be corrupt. You can’t fight a corrupt society with flower power, pacifism and universal tolerance.
You can fight it by taking a look at reality for once, which is what heavy metal does. And because we’re the oddballs, we are the tribe of those who drop out of the “consensual reality” created by media, social pressures, advertising, government propaganda and what the crowd is talking about. We look at hard reality, fire and iron and blood, instead. While we may look like the other drop-outs, space-outs and individualists from the outside, we are in fact made of different stuff.No Comments