Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone

amber_r_clifford-napoleone

Amber R. Clifford-Napoleone is Associate Professor of Anthropology, and Curator of the McClure Archives and University Museum, at the University of Central Missouri. She specializes in the study of gender and sexuality in music scenes, and also works as in textile curation and preventive conservation.

Dr. Clifford-Napoleone also curates the largest collections of Middle Eastern traditional material culture in America. She is also a lifelong metal fan and one of the founders of the International Society for Metal Music Studies. She lives in rural Missouri with her wife, three dogs, and a very large collection of industrial metal.

We were lucky to get a few words with Dr. Clifford-Napoleone on the topic of metal and its relation to power and her study area of specialty.

You are an anthropologist. What drew you to this discipline?

I got into anthropology as a young child. I used to pretend I was Howard Carter in King Tut’s tomb! I started volunteering at a museum, working for an anthropologist, when I was a freshman in high school. I planned on being an archaeologist, but I didn’t like the excavations as much as the lab work. Then I started working in material culture studies and ethnography, and everything just clicked. I love the way that anthropology teaches us how to be more human, to revel in diversity as our biological imperative, to really see the world for the enormous ball of complexity that it is.

What is the anthropological perspective on heavy metal? Has this been enhanced by your own personal knowledge of and enjoyment of this genre?

Lots of folks might think anthropology and heavy metal is an odd fit, but actually anthropologists have worked on topics in heavy metal for a long time. Jeremy Wallach, one of the founders of metal studies, is a cultural anthropologist working on heavy metal in Indonesia. Sam Dunn, whom I am sure many of your readers know from his films, is an anthropologist from Canada. There are many others. For an anthropologist, all aspects of human life are considered both unique and important. That extends to heavy metal as well, and anthropologists who work on heavy metal topics discuss is cultural, social, artistic and sonic effects in all sorts of ways. As to your second question, the answer is a resounding yes. I tell my own students that they will always be successful if their career engages them in things they are passionate about. I love heavy metal, and my passion for heavy metal is absolutely part of my ability to think, talk and write about metal as an anthropologist.

You’ve got a book coming out in 2014 about queer fans in heavy metal. Can you tell me more about what’s going to be in it?

My book on queer fans (Queerness in Heavy Metal: Metal Bent, to be published by Routledge and released in February 2015) is the result of seven years of work talking to queer fans, and researching the influence of queer performers and lyrics on heavy metal scenes. My book includes a lot of material about the role queerness played, and continues to play, in heavy metal. That includes the information I received from over 500 self-identified queer fans who took my online survey, and dozens that participated in individual interviews with me. I see my work as transdisciplinary- anthropology certainly, but also metal studies, ethnomusicology, cultural studies, gender and sexuality. I’m trying to make the case the metal is inherently a queer institution.

How do you study queer fans of heavy metal? What kind of barriers do you face in trying to contact them, learn about them and so on?

Queer fans of heavy metal are more connected than you might think. There are a handful of active discussion groups, listservs and websites devoted to queer fans of heavy metal, as well as some Facebook groups and blogs. As a queer metal fan myself, I was already a member of a lot of those groups. Once I started posting the link to the survey online, queer fans just sent it out to other lists, groups, and folks that they knew. I’ve also posted it on my blog and website, and always talk about it when I give lectures or papers at conferences. Because my survey is anonymous, queer fans feel pretty comfortable telling me exactly what they think too. I ended up with information from queer fans from six continents and 39 countries.

Rob Halford is generally credited with heavy metal’s imagery of leather clothing, whips, motorcyles and studded leather belts. In one VH1 documentary I watched (yes a very credible source!) one of the pundits credited this imagery to the gay community in London in the 1970s. In your view, is this correct? Has heavy metal appropriated most of its image from the gay community?

In my opinion, there is absolutely no doubt that Halford started that trend, and even less doubt that it came from the gay leather community. This is one of the things I discuss in detail in my book. Did earlier metal acts wear leather jackets? Sure, taken either from post-World War II bomber jacket style, or late 1960s leather belted coats, or even from the post-war motorcycle culture in America and the Rockers in the UK. The problem is, if you take an image of Halford premiering his leather look, and set it side-by-side with Sabbath or Motorhead or even Blue Cheer, you’ll see that Halford’s leather is entirely different. Ozzy wore striped bell bottom jeams and a brown belted coat for many of their early appearances. Even Alice Cooper wore bell bottoms and white clothes on stage until Halford picked up a whip. If you take that same iconic image of Halford’s leather look and set it next to images from gay leather culture, you have an exact match. Rob Halford has, over the years, given some different statements on whether he identified with leather culture or not, but that’s where the look came from. What I find interesting is not only that heavy metal style comes from gay leather culture, but how heavy metal also appropriated the masculinity that came with that and then pretended that didn’t happen. If you really think about it, if we push masculinity to its limits can we get any more masculine than muscular leather men who only have sex with other men? Funny that heavy metal keeps trying to refashion that as straight male masculinity, when it never was.

Other than overlap between members, what do you think are the similarities between the heavy metal experience and the gay experience? Are both outsider groups, thus privy to certain knowledge that the socially accepted cannot perceive, or is it something else?

I can tell you one thing for certain- the queer fans I’ve spoken with see and feel an overlap. One fan called this feeling “outsider togetherness,” this idea that queer metal fans are outsiders in two overlapping worlds. The similarities between these overlapping outsider worlds are the kinds of similarities that anthropologists see in most marginalized groups: a coded language, symbols that mean something specific that people who are not outsiders do not understand, certain styles, and particular ways of using space. For example, let’s consider the dog collar, a popular accessory in heavy metal and punk scenes. I remember in the 1980s, we all did odd jobs around my neighborhood so we could buy studded dog collars at pet stores to look tough. I had a leather studded collar that I actually took off my dog to wear, and I equated it with being tough and being metal. That was the symbol of being a metal chick. Now, many years later, I know that people in BDSM relationships refer to certain submissives as being “collared” or “under the collar.” For BDSM-identified folks, seeing someone in a leather vest and a collar might mean something much more complex than just “I’m a tough metal chick.” The coded ways of existing in marginalized groups is complex insider knowledge, and for queer fans of heavy metal, even more complex because you can see where the codes overlap.

You also have expertise in textiles and their conservation. Are there any parallels you can draw between the conservation of textiles and the conservation of a culture or art form? What about a lifestyle?

Conservation is a big and tricky word. The idea is that you are preventing further damage, keeping something safe for perpetuity. As a museum curator, I work with textiles so that future generations can access them, study them, and perhaps understand something about the people who used them. I think that, in some way, we are always involved in the act of conserving our culture, whether that be lifestyles or arts or anything else. We record our music, we photograph things that signal our interests, we hand down important belongings- even the selfie that we see so often in social media is an example of conserving yourself, your life. How often do you tell a story about yourself, post a pic of your dinner or your beer on Facebook, post your music and art to the web so that others can rip, save or archive it? I think that for me, and speaking as a museum curator, the biggest conservation challenge is a digital one. It will be interesting to see what is actually conserved from an increasingly digital world. After all, how many emails do we actually print to save for some future archive?

Conserving a lifestyle or an art form is difficult. As an anthropologist, I think it might even be impossible. You cannot stop change. Human beings change, their environment changes, societies expand and contract. Art objects, recordings or paintings or quilts, we can conserve those. But conserving a lifestyle suggests we can trap humans in time like ancient insects encased in amber. And we can’t. Even if we could, I’m not sure we should. Heavy metal, as a subculture and an assemblage of scenes, has so many artifacts to leave behind: sounds, styles, film, images, on and on. But conserving the actual feeling of standing on a floor with a thousand other metalheads, blast beats shaking your bones, heads banging in rhythm? I don’t think we could conserve that any more than we could conserve our other feelings. Heavy metal has to change too, it is a human movement.

In a blog post, you mention studying the connections between leather and metal communities. What kind of connections are these? How do we observe them?

The connections are long-standing and quite deep. The first gay rights organization chartered in the United States was a leather motorcycle club, The Satyrs. Young metalheads, and later industrial and goth metal fans, found themselves welcomed in leather bars, clubs and parties where their tastes in style were not seen as threatening. After Halford premiered his leather look the ties became even more solid: metal performers donning leather gear, leather organizations using metal imagery and language, even the appearance of metal tracks at leather bars and parties. I think the key to observing them, however, is to know the history of leather-identified people in the western world. Leather-identified folks have been vilified and stereotyped for decades, both people in the queer communities and people form the straight communities. If you really want to understand those connections, you have to engage with leather culture in a new way. A visit to the Leather Archives and Museum in Chicago is a great start, I can never thank the staff there enough for everything they do for the leather community and its history. My week there as Visiting Scholar was one of the most important intellectual periods of my career.

You refer to metal as a “transitory space.” What defines a transitory space? What can be done in a transitory space that can’t be done in a regular cultural/artistic space?

Transitory essentially means temporary, almost an ethereal space that will only be there for a blink in time. If we think about metal concerts, for example, I think we see a good example. Imagine a concert experience you’ve had: the sound, the crowd, the music in your ears and the bass thumping in your bones. But when the concert ends, the metal space evaporates. The memory of it sits in your brain and your bones, but the next concert will be nothing like the one before. Transitory spaces provide a place for playing with the rules, because it is all going up in smoke anyway. I went to a Killswitch Engage show last year, and down in the mosh pit was a very tall, extremely muscular guy in a Little Bo Peep outfit. He was moshing with ferocity, with his bonnet on and his lace skirts flapping away. Am I going to see that at every show? Hell no, I’ve been going to shows for 25 years and that’s my first Bo Peep in the moshpit. Did I see that, hear it, feel it the same way as the guy standing next to me? Not even possible, I have no idea what he was thinking about Bo Peep. And when the show was over, Bo Peep was gone. You can’t play like that in a permanent space. If I showed up at the office tomorrow in a Bo Peep outfit, I’d be sent home.

For many years I’ve considered metal to be music dedicated to power, where most other music is dedicated to satiation. Do you see power as important in metal? How do power, sex and attitudes toward gender reveal themselves?

Power is such a slippery concept, isn’t it. Power over what, or who? Empowered or powerful? I agree, I think metal is about power. But I also think metal is about the brutality of life, about survival no matter how bloody the battle. Power in metal is so much about metal as a home for outsiders, a place where those of us who feel like we don’t fit (for whatever reason) find a place where the extremity of the sound matches the extremity of our experiences. It is a power that really refuses to bow to authority, and a bodily refusal at that since metal is so physical. So in metal we’re not really saying “I’m in power, I will tell you what to do,” we’re saying, “I’m a survivor, you can’t tell me what to do.” There’s a fascinating dynamic in there. Sex and gender, especially for people whose bodies, desires and orientations don’t fit what mainstream authority says is acceptable, fits in that conception of power. It’s my body, you can’t tell me what to do with it. I’ve read a lot online recently suggesting that hyperfeminine women in metal were anti-feminist too, and I don’t agree. Third wave feminism is right in line with the thinking about power in metal. There’s very little difference between “you can’t tell me what to do” and “get your laws off my body.” For queer folks, the power in metal also means that your refusal to bow to authority might mean losing family, friends, being isolated, and for intersex and trans folks the very real fight against a world that demands you act your body. Imagine the bodily refusal, the physical power in that individual act. This is sonic power too. You hear a song that empowers you, and it travels with you in your ears, in your memory, in your tissues. You see a show that empowers you, and the sight is branded on your brain.

In addition to your book, you’re fully active in the academic community including supporting metal. What’s ahead for you?

A lot. I’m giving one of the keynote lectures at the Metal and Cultural Impact conference in Ohio this November, and then getting ready for the Metal, Markets and Materials international conference in Helsinki in June 2015. I’m Treasurer for the International Society for Metal Music Studies, and we’re going to have a busy year getting membership systems rolling and the first issue of the journal Metal Music Studies out to the world. I’ve also got some essays in a couple of forthcoming collections, one based on the presentations at the Cologne conference in 2008, and another from the meeting in Puerto Rico last March. I’m lucky, I get to spend part of my day working with the smartest metal intellectuals on Earth, bringing metal studies to the masses. I’ve also got a second book on the way soon, the publication of my doctoral dissertation on sexuality in jazz scene Kansas City before World War II.

Do you think academia’s expanding focus on metal has brought more light to outsider communities? What do you think is responsible for the post-2006 relatively large expansion in metal and academia?

I think outsider communities are always going to be outside in some way. In truth, several of us who identify as metal scholars talk about our concerns in bringing academic attention to metal. But let’s face it, metal has always received a lot of attention, and not always positive. And it survives, maybe better than it ever has before, and still just as outsider as always. If we can survive Tipper Gore and Hot Topic, then metal will be just fine. I do think that the academic work on metal will bring better, more focused attention to metal scenes and fans, instead of the tired old stereotypes. As for the increased attention, that’s the work of a core of brilliant metalhead folks who are teaching, writing, and thinking about heavy metal in academic terms.

Can you tell us about your own history with metal? How did you get involved? Were you a fan first, or a researcher first?

Definitely a fan first. I started listening to metal as a kid growing up in west Texas. In my mixed-race and working class neighborhood you listened to three things: metal, country, and pop music from Mexico. I grew up listening to a tossed salad of Sabbath, Bob Wills and Menudo. First metal record I “owned” (I bootlegged it from the radio) was Black Sabbath’s “Fairies Wear Boots.” Then I got an 8-track of Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida,” it was 1979 and my mom got it for me at a garage sale, I was 5. It was all downhill after that. I was a big-haired 80s glam band girl in the 80s, with posters of Motley Crue on the wall, and I have Tipper Gore to thank for turning me on to Judas Priest. By the mid to late 1990s I was a Rivethead, and I still love industrial and industrial goth metal. I started reading academic work about metal when I was in graduate school in the late 1990s. By the time I was done with my dissertation, I knew I wanted to devote my research to heavy metal.

Metal folks always want to know what you’re into now. I like my metal heavy, weapons grade plutonium heavy. I’m not much for thrash and speed metal. A good sludge album, a heavy shoegaze record, something dark and funereal- that’s what I prefer. I also listen to records by bands with openly queer members, and a ton of classic NWOBHM. Priest is my favorite band of all time. Last show I went to was Killswitch Engage, and my next three shows are Motley Crue’s farewell, Joan Jett and then Judas Priest’s latest tour. And my favorite recording right now? Torche’s Leather Feather.

Interview: Question

question-band_photo

Question come from Querétaro, Mexico and create technical death metal in a combination of old school styles. Their debut album Doomed Passages saw release through Chaos Records in early June. Question deliver a very spacious style of death metal reminiscent of The Chasm with some Finnish touches. The guitarist, Rodrigo, agreed to talk to us about the band.

Question caught my eye as an unusual name for a death metal band. What made you choose this name?

“Question” is a name which is coherent with the philosophy of the band and the lyrics; it’s consistent with the context that we want to portray. A friend came with the idea and we thought it fit perfectly with the music that we were composing at the time. It’s not surprising that some think it is a weird or dumb name; you’ll always find people that keep looking for the most rude or evil names, but I think that has become a weak point with the past of the years in the metal scene.

I detect a strong Finnish death metal influence on Doomed Passages. Would I be correct?

Well, we are fans of some early Finnish death metal bands; also we listen to some contemporary bands that have been spreading rottenness lately. However, it’s more appropriate to say that we’re heavily influenced by obscure death metal in general; Mexico has a lot of obscure metal bands and some of them are big influences for us. Also, besides metal, we listen to a lot of punk, progressive rock, etc.

What drove you to create death metal?

Curiosity. In terms of composition death metal has a very vast spectrum of possibilities and we all are very into obscure, heavy and strange stuff, not just music, also books, films, so I guess it’s natural to feel a tendency to create and play this kind of tunes.

Is art separate from entertainment or are they one in the same?

I’m afraid I’ve never established a delimited frontier between these two concepts; any attempt to be objective will fail, however I can resume my thoughts with the following: many expressions of art can be entertaining, but entertainment mostly lacks art. Art is an intimate vision of an artist, and sometimes the vision is shared with some people. In contrast, entertainment is made for the masses, is a guided story that leads to a guided conclusion. Art is more subjective, it makes you think what you’ve experienced.

Tell me about the recording process of Doomed Passages.

We recorded the album in April 2013 at Oz Recording Studios in Mexico City. The process lasted five days and it was the first time for the actual lineup to record something. All went well, the studio is amazing, and we had a really good time, although the mixing and mastering process was more exhausting, as we couldn’t make a connection with Roberto Granados. I think the result is good.

What does the artwork on Doomed Passages signify and how does it tie into what is being expressed musically?

Hector and I wrote a couple of ideas for the artwork based on the lyrics and the band’s philosophy. We send this to Arturo Vargas and he came with this spectral vision that became the cover of our first album. The significance is relative; art should not be restricted to a single interpretation.

Interview: Unaussprechlichen Kulten

unaussprechlichen-kulten-band_photo

We recently reviewed Unaussprechlichen Kulten Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath, a death metal album that knits together old school and newer styles of the underground metal art. We were lucky to get a few moments with Joseph Curwen, guitarist and composer, to explain the intricate secrets behind this dark cult act.

Do you identify with the “old school spirit” in the metal underground? If so, what is it and how does it emerge in your music?

Not really. “Old School” sounds like a “nostalgic trend” of “clone bands.” For us the Death Metal way is one style. It may have variants like brutal, old style or mixtures with other styles. But if the bands begin to clone all — the style, sound and even the graphics and pics — this really… sucks. Poorly made copies are not necessary! The “Sunlight” or “Tampa Florida” styles are wonderful and are always “inspiring,” I know it’s difficult to innovate in a “strict” style and with so many old bands as reference … but if a band does not have in its purpose something new, creative, original… anything in particular that distinguishes… why make that band?

The name “Unaussprechlichen Kulten” or “nameless cults” comes from the Cthulhu mythos, as do many of your song titles. How important is Lovecraft’s work to your art, and to metal in general? What other occult/romantic/fantasy writers influence you?

You are right about our name. Lovecraft’s literary legacy is rich in terminology and knowledge, therefore allows us to explain with his words the religious or spiritual concepts that otherwise we would be forced to use “Christian” or “common” terms so they can be understood. Lovecraft always publicly declared himself to be an atheist, but his erudition in the occult was something more than an amateur.
Therefore we are not only focused on the work of Lovecraft. We also include other topics, including Chilean mythology. The Necromancy is not unique to any particular culture, so what we do is explore in different subjects, always mystical and dark, but with the work of Lovecraft as a reference. Other interesting writers are Robert Bloch and Robert E. Howard, classics occultist like Blavatsky and Eliphas Levi, even contemporary Chilean writers as Oreste Plath and M. Serrano and others

Metal has always been influenced by the literature of Terror, and Lovecraft is the horror writer who made the most important revolution in the genre. He will always be a benchmark in the lyrics of Metal bands.

Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath sounds like it takes influence from both newer and older raditions in underground metal. What are your influences? Which of these did you find most useful in creating this album?

A lot of influences, you know mainly 80-90. Classic Swedish and American death Mmetal. Some from South American or Scandinavian… older? …mmm INCANTATION, NECRODEATH, GORGUTS, SHUB NIGGURATH, IMMOLATION, NECRODEATH, PENTAGRAM, MORBID ANGEL (old), MORTA SKULD, DISMEMBER, the mighty SADISTIC INTENT, DEMIGOD (old), MORTEM, and of course SLAYER, MERCYFUL FATE, SACRIFICE….. Newer? Throneum, Karnarium, Deathspell Omega, Godless, After Death, Dead Congregation, Hatespawn, Katharsis among many others.

In the early 1990s, there were few bands and not that many fans. Now there are more of both, and metal is accepted as normal in the mainstream press. How has this changed what it is to be a metal band? How has it not changed how it is to be a metal band?

Good question. It’s been over 20 years and society (worldwide) changed. We live in the information age; in the early 90s without internet, the bands depended on the promotion and diffusion that could be done through the “official” and monopolized media (radio, tv, zines Poser, label’s flyers, etc). Now every band can do their own promotion, also in these 20 years there was a “democratization” of recording technologies now make it possible to make music in a “Home Studio” way. More music available and easier to access it produces “the moment” in which we live.

This album embraces a dark and occult way of putting riffs in order and making songs of them. How do you know which riffs fit with each other? And how do you compose a song — do you start with a melody, a riff, an idea, an image?

From “People of the Monolith” onward our approach has always been the same way — to do riffs. I bring the riffs, arrangements and dis-harmonies of both guitars (I come with everything done and ready in accordance to what lyrics need like faster, slower or thicker parts, strange arrangements, etc.). It’s personal, a kind of trance. I only think in the “concept” and the lyrics, while I do an old trick: I move my fingers over the guitar until I’m no longer playing at random, but there is a “pattern” becoming a “riff.” Once I show the guitars to Butcher, drumming is 100% his responsibility. Then we adjust the structure and cuts together in the rehearsal room. When that base is settled, we incorporate the bass (based on drums). I used to do the bass but in this last record, NAMRU IMPETRADORUM MORTEM was integrated into the creative process of basses, all of them were 100% invented by him in Chapter VIII.

How did Unaussprechlichen Kulten form? Did you know each other from previous bands? Did you have a stated goal in coming together and forming the band?

In the beginning we was just two members, with no previous bands, the first name was “SPAWN.” With that name we just recorded 5 tracks of traditional Death Metal (never edited!). During that period of time I always felt unsettled about the name of the band so I decided to change it for a name in Spanish: “Culto Innombrable” was the one that came into my mind, it was a good name, we even made a logo. At that time I realize about the coincidence with the apocryphal Lovecraftian book: “UNAUSSPRECHLICHEN KULTEN”, diabolically whispered in my ear by Azathoth!

How well has the album been received so far? As more people hear your music, will your plans change? What comes next for Unaussprechlichen Kulten?

So far very good reviews, but our plans will not change. We are a “not popular” or “trendy” band. It has been more than ten years since it all began. So far we are a very unknown band out of Chile, we have been into the deep underground always, and I think will always be so because of our style. Death Metal is not a “trendy” style at this moment; now Death Metal is made by people who are stubborn and headstrong which maintains this “sectarian” behavior. It is true that more and more bands are appearing… on one hand this is good … the “scene” looks “healthy,” alive, which allows bands to exist and makes the media interested in promoting them (and of course in our case, more people hear our music), but on the other hand, also the “overpopulation” of bands is huge, generating a size of information unable to be processed. “A lot of bands” are not synonymous with “quality of bands.”

Interview: Nidhogg

gamlebanken-nidhogg

History reveals little about Nidhogg, the musician known for his contributions to Ildjarn, Sort Vokter and Ildjarn–Nidhogg. These projects, while initially rejected by an increasingly faddish black metal “scene,” quickly gained fans for their use of elegant short melodies within ambient songs of abrasive noise fused with aggressive Oi rhythms and black metal riffs.

Using short songs structured around the transitions of song inspired by lyrics, Nidhogg creates albums that immerse the listener in a dark world of excitement: like the primeval forest come alive, this music pulses with the poetry of life in the wild. It embraces the world as a living organism in the pre-Christian tradition and brings out the fierce natural instinct for survival and power as well as the ambiguous lack of safety inherent to the frontier. Expansive and transcendent, like all good black metal from the Norse tradition, it transports the listener away from a failed functionalist time into a mindset of possibility and exuberant cosmic exploration.

Much of black metal would benefit from seeing into the mind of this primal artist concerning his contributions to the aforementioned nature-metal projects and his own artistic endeavors. Read on for the thoughts of one of the last embodiments of a genuine black metal mentality…

How did you first meet Ildjarn, the person?

Me and Ildjarn met when starting secondary scool at Bø Gymnas, Telemark in 1988. We had the same interest in metal and started hanging out together and experimenting musically in different directions in the basement at Akkerhaugen where we recorded “Norse” and “Svartfråd“.

Can you describe the formation of the musical project, Ildjarn, and how you became involved?

Ildjarn is his own project, and he started recording under that moniker in the early 90′s. Me and Ildjarn had played together in different constellations, and Ildjarn also played with Samoth and Ihsahn in Thou Shalt Suffer. After doing all sorts of stuff, even some noise/experimental, me and Ildjarn focused on the Black Metal sound, as it was where our hearts lay. I found some old lyric sheets which indicates that we initially called ourselves Nivlheim, but at the time of “Norse” we had landed on Ildjarn — Nidhogg, because Ildjarn had already started using the Ildjarn-name.

Nature is a big part of my life, and I’m not comfy living in the city. I’m lucky enough, now, to live right by the forest, surrounded by small lakes and mountains. Nature evokes most of all awe and calmness.

We recorded Norse in two sessions in 1993 which is discernible on the differences on my vocals between the a and the b-side. Samoth liked it and decided to release it on Nocturnal Art Productions. Ildjarn continued releasing his own records, and me and him then sporadically made music together, culminating with “Hardangervidda“.

What sort of guiding influence did you have on Ildjarn, and how was this different from your role in Ildjarn–Nidhogg?

I didn’t have any guiding influence on Ildjarn. He is very much his own man. But we had the same love for the proto-scandinavian black metal sound, shaped by athory and picked up by Mayhem with Dead, and so on.

Ildjarn — Nidhogg was a 50/50 collaboration, and we always had clear idea of where we wanted to go, both with the metal and the ambient stuff. The demos I uploaded were my concepts, like the Ildjarn stuff was his, so they were planned to be released as Nidhogg-demos.

Regarding vocal duties, what were your contributions in this area to Ildjarn–Nidhogg?

I did the vocals on all Ildjarn-Nidhogg recordings and also on Sort Vokter except for on “Hatefulle Tanker…” where I, Ildjarn and Harald all sang, and “Bak to Lysende Øyne” where both me and Ildjarn sang, but he did the prime vocals. The last song also appears on Svartfråd and I did the vocals on that version.

You previously mentioned that you were the collaborator with Ildjarn for the visual elements of various projects. What album covers did you create and is the impetus and process of creating them distinct from the musical process?

We did the layouts for many of Ildjarn’s albums on a computer I had access to. I mainly did the layout and was only artistically involved in the creation of Ildjarn transforming into a boar on the Strength and Anger-cover, Nob of NOB Art, did most of that, though. Nob was a friend of ours from Notoddden, and is the artist featured on albums such as Nocturnal Visions, “Minnesjord – The Dark Soil” and “93.” He also did the graphics for Forest Poetry along with another outstanding artist by the name of Javier Guerra who did the frontcover and at least two other illustrations Ildjarn used.

I’d also like to mention a fourth person who were also a close friend in Notodden at that time, who wrote the poem that was used for lyrics on “Eksistensens Jeger.” KK, as I’ll call him is now an established and published artist and writer. In Notodden me, Ildjarn, Nob and KK used to hang around, as three of us attended Telemark Lærehøgskole (teachers college) there. The pictures on the Sort Vokter-cover were taken in the forest behind the school, an area that stretches several miles. It was a place where especially me and Nob had many excursions, often in drug-induced states. I’m not exaggerating if I say I had some semi-paranormal experiences in that forest. This was also a feeling we tried to transfer to the cover.

What attracted you to metal in the first place?

Like all over Norway in the 80s, we were some kids in school who started listening to metal, copying tapes and borrowing music from each other. The energy and aggression was the appeal, of course. It was a rapid progression via Twisted Sister, Accept, AC/DC and such, to Metallica, Megadeth and Motörhead and then on to the more aggressive thrash as Slayer, Death Angel, Dark angel and Sabbat.

How did you first become entwined with the “black metal scene”? What was that time like, and what do you think of current “black metal” bands? What is missing from the present crop?

I was never involved in the scene, other than through Ildjarn and knowing members of Emperor. I met Ihsahn and Samoth, or Vegard and Thomas, first at a regional music talent show. They were playing as Xerasia and I was doing vocals with a band I sang in before me and Ildjarn did anything together. Later, we met in the basement at Akkerhaugen youth club, were Vegard and Thomas did all their initial projects. Besides some early exploits me and Ildjarn did together, we started started jamming as a hardcore/grindcore band with Thomas and Thorbjørn Akkerhaugen. Then when the Emperor concept was developed I was really blown away hearing them rehearse in the basement. It was clear they were on the verge of something. This was before all the ruckus started happening in the media.

When I got a tape copy of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” I played it repeatedly, and it’s amazing how it is really such a spot on musical interpretation of the progress through the year. Hardangervidda reflects a progression of time as well, from morning to night. The second half of “Sunrise” is very much inspired by Grieg’s “Morning mood.”

I think there are plenty of good acts around today, although one has to sift through more music now than before. I guess as with most genres that establish themselves, there are going to be waves and declines, but great stuff still gets released and will be released. The major challenge I guess, is to make something original in a genre that has been very much explored already. I think there are plenty of bands still around worthy of a listen, but now it’s of course a global thing, so one can just as easily find good bands anywhere else besides Norway, which is also stimulating to the genre.

What was the genesis of Sort Vokter? Were you involved from the beginning?

Sort Vokter was a spur of the moment idea and an opportunity between me and Ildjarn and two guys I knew from Notodden. Me and Harald (Heiinghund) ended up living in the same dorm and jammed some together on synth. He was a natural musician as was also Kyrre (Tvigygre). Sort Vokter was a concept we thought up in my flat, and as far as I can remember, we were all four there at that particular time.

The concept was doing very necro forest metal, or Folkloric Necro Metal, as we called the album. Kyrre worked as a studio technician in Grenland (Not Greenland ; )), and his boss granted him the studio for a weekend when we could do what we wanted. Sort Vokter was more a recorded jam session, than anything else, and most of the songs were composed/played through once and then recorded. Second or third takes would have greatly improved the album, but we were on a very tight time schedule. So “ignoring technical details” as the cover states, was more out of necessity than anything else.

Why has there been only one Sort Vokter album?

It was never meant to be anything more. We had known each other for some years before, and we stayed friends and connected until we one by one relocated from Notodden, but there was never any intention of making any sort of follow up to that one album.

You additionally worked on a synth album with Ildjarn, which was dedicated to the glory of Norwegian nature. What was the process of composing and recording this album? What does your experience of nature evoke?

Hardangervidda is a celebration of a particular mountain region in Norway, yes, where me and Ildjarn have been many times, both separately and together, since childhood. It’s vast and relatively flat, and trekking across it takes several days. The album was written in my flat in Notodden and recorded and mastered a couple of hundred meters down the same street, with help from Tore Hansen. Because it’s very layered it was never considered to record it live in studio. I had put away all the money I earned during one of those summers and bought a Roland XP-80 synth which also functioned as a 16-track midi recorder. Me and Ildjarn started working on the album in sessions, gradually tweaking the songs, doing both composition and production together. Some songs are my original ideas, some are his. There was a very clear idea from the onset of where the album was going to go, and it was really just a matter of doing all the work. The XP-80 was very easy, but time consuming to work with, as we didn’t hook it up to a computer. When we had finished the album we sent demo-CDs out to a couple of record companies. Origo sound actually said they’d consider it if we made alterations, which was of course out of the question. Ildjarn ended up releasing it on his Norse League Productions some time later.

Nature is a big part of my life, and I’m not comfy living in the city. I’m lucky enough, now, to live right by the forest, surrounded by small lakes and mountains. Nature evokes most of all awe and calmness. There’s nothing like the view after you’ve trekked up a mountain.

Last fall, Ildjarn released a split album with Hate Forest, entitled Those Once Mighty Fallen. You’ve recently been active on youtube and have released the demo recording which that recording was based from. What’s your reaction to this situation? Will you be releasing any more recordings in the future?

Well, like I’ve also stated, I was just surprised to realize it. It didn’t dawn on me until I actually checked with some old tapes laying in my basement, but how Osmose came to mislabel them, I don’t know. I think the songs may have been copied onto the same tape as some of Ildjarn’s stuff, years ago.

No, I don’t have any plans to release anything else, although I have lots of riffs and ideas laying around. I might pick up music again, since I still have the old synth, but hat will be when I’m less busy. I started on a concept-album in Notodden about the time of Hardangervidda, under the name Shadow Hungry Onto God (S.H.O.G.). This project was purely classical music, and is what I would start up with again, if anything.

Do you have any recordings of your own, separate from Ildjarn-Nidhogg, that you will release in the future?

I only have two proper recordings, one of which I don’t know where is at at the moment, from the S.H.O.G. project. The other is an edit of the B-side from a 7 inch I intended to release on my own, self-financed. The A-side was already finished, but I lost it due to an equipment failure. Since this meant that I lost weeks of work, I didn’t pick up on it again, after I relocated out of Telemark. I’ll upload the edited B-side on my YouTube-channel when I get the time. It’s quite psychedelic and nothing like anything me and Ildjarn did, except for the rhythms which are quite punkish.

Most striking within your music is the level of refined aggression sublimated through strong melodies. In our interview with Ildjarn, he told us that grindcore/industrial band Godflesh was a major influence on you. In particular, the album Streetcleaner seems to embody a similar spirit to your work. What is it about that band that resonates with you? What other bands provide the same state?

In terms of any direct influence Industrial Metal had on me, it would have to be on an industrial band me, Ildjarn and Thomas played as briefly, using the basements Oberheim drum machine for rhythms. The name was Fast Breeder. We recorded some rehearsals but never released any first demo.

Yeah, Godflesh is pure genius, in my opinion, and I actually got to speak with them when they played in Kristiansand. I liked Godflesh from the moment I heard them, Justins grinding guitar and use of feedback is perhaps the foremost appeal with Godflesh for me, but of course the whole soundscape. I highly recommend the double CD reissue of Streetcleaner and the release of old Fall of Because recordings.

I was also very much into Pitch Shifter until they changed their style, and their debut “Industrial” is amazing. SWANS is, of course, a band that one has to mention, and their “Cop” is a favourite of mine. Saw Throats “INDE$TROY” is also a classic. And the industrial/crustmonster Sonic Violence of course.

At the time I was listening much to these bands, I was also listening to the Young Gods, Foetus, Minister of Noise, Skinny Puppy, KONG, Front 242 and In Slaughter Natives. G.G.F.H. is one of my all time favourites.

What influence does classical music have on you? Are there any specific composers who inspired you?

I grew up in the 70s, which was a time when classical music was still always played on national broadcasting TV and radio. When I got a tape copy of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” I played it repeatedly, and it’s amazing how it is really such a spot on musical interpretation of the progress through the year. Hardangervidda reflects a progression of time as well, from morning to night. The second half of “Sunrise” is very much inspired by Grieg’s “Morning mood.”

For the S.H.O.G. project I’d say music that would evoke the same feeling as I was after with that, would be Peteris Vasks, Arvo Pärt, Randall Meyers and Berlioz. Just talking about the inspiration now, of course, these are untouchable composers working with symphonic orchestras. I was using dark synths underlaying the classical instruments.

Another composer that may not be very known or revered in metal-circles that had a huge impact on me is Michael Nyman. Being a member and also running film-clubs in Bø and Notodden, the movies by Peter Greenaway caught my interest in particular. Michael Nyman wrote the music to four consecutive films (and more later on), and these four film/music collaborations are often referred to together. “The Draughtmans Contract”, “ZOO”, “Drowning by Numbers” and the epic “The Cook, the Thief, the Wife and her Lover.” Greenaway also made “The Belly of an Architect” with Wim Mertens doing the music equally good, and in somewhat the same fashion.

But everything is corrupt, obviously, and I suppose the more you learn about the world, the more disheartened one gets at society. I have great faith in nature and animals though, as nature have adapted catastrophes unimaginable to us.

On that note, I’d like to mention my friend of Yayla of Türkey. If you want to check out his works here is his homepage: http://www.merdumgiriz.org/ and YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/merdumgirizworks

What do you think the purpose of art is? When you make music, do you have a conscious intention or goal driving you beyond the finalization of a piece?

I can’t speak for anyone else but myself, but for me it’s just an urge to express oneself through music. I started singing with a thrash band in ’87 and was hooked.

Looking back, there was always a clear intention with the music, and never any doubt as to what elements to include or exclude in the various concepts. I went in many different directions, by myself and with Ildjarn, although the metal and ambient stuff was the only released (except for a drone/folk demo I did). For instance, me and Ildjarn started working on a project we called “Myristic” which never came to fruition. The direction was very different from the metal stuff from Ildjarn — Nidhogg, but was nevertheless fully formed as a musical concept. At least for me, a composition or album is more like a road waiting to be discovered and mapped, rather than something one has to toil to invent. Once you start with an idea, everything rolls by itself, and reveals itself as you progress.

A drone/folk demo sounds fascinating. What was it entitled and when was it recorded? Can we expect this to ever surface again?

Well, I’d rather not reveal the title of it since it’s a totally unrelated project with Ildjarn session on bass. I recorded that one demo, which was also just meant to be a one off in 1994. It was a 9-track post-apocalyptic vision with references to Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds,” where scavenging birds were now the rulers and terrorizers of man.

I don’t think I’ll upload it as it was a totally unrelated thing.

What role did THC play in Sort-Vokter’s music? What value do you find in altered states of consciousness?

Yeah, we put that on the cover as a spoof. Ildjarn didn’t smoke, of course, like he has already stated, but I guess music and drugs were the common interests of the rest of us. It added a certain feel to the whole weekend, so to say. How much it influenced the creative side to the music, I don’t know, but it certainly makes ideas pop up easier.

Altered States of consciousness has been a lifelong interest of mine, and I currently live in place where the surrounding fields are littered with magic mushrooms in the autumn. I find psychedelics can reveal a lot, and can also possibly be a door opener to unseen realms.

I have a great regard for Terence McKenna and Rick Strassmans works, and there are also many other previous pioneers which could be mentioned. In England there were some very early nitrous-philosophers. Ken Keasy said: “I believe that with the advent of acid, we discovered a new way to think, and it has to do with piecing together new thoughts in your mind. Why is it that people think it’s so evil? What is it about it that scares people so deeply, even the guy that invented it, what is it? Because they’re afraid that there’s more to reality than they have ever confronted. That there are doors that they’re afraid to go in, and they don’t want us to go in there either, because if we go in we might learn something that they don’t know. And that makes us a little out of their control.”

Do you find anything valuable in human society? What about individual humans?

While I don’t share Ildjarn’s nihilism (for lack of a better word, Ildjarnism, perhaps) I share some of his misanthropic attitude towards humanity. It’s obvious that we are, most of us at least, dependent on each other for food, lodgings and so on, so, on a practical level, saying fuck you to society and introducing full anarchy would feel pretty uncomfortable for most of us in the end. Some structure is required if we don’t want to go back to the stoneage. But everything is corrupt, obviously, and I suppose the more you learn about the world, the more disheartened one gets at society. I have great faith in nature and animals though, as nature have adapted catastrophes unimaginable to us.

On a personal level I do find value in other people, although I don’t consider many people close friends. One good friend outweighs ten bad ones tenfold, as have been said. And family will unlikely ever fail you.

Your first love in metal was thrash. How did you discover this genre, and what did you like about it? Were you able to carry over any of its ideals to black metal?

After listening briefly to the more commercially established metal for some time, I became a Metallica die-hard fan when I discovered Master of Puppets at about the time it came out. I’m from a rural area, and Metallica wasn’t heard here until Master. Ride the Lightning and Kill ‘em All were gems I discovered subsequently. Before I left for the States, I had bought Reign in Blood, The Ultra-violence and Darkness Descends, and Slayer just ruled. Stll I was a Metallica-head. I lived in the States when Justice came out, and although it’s a great album, I, like so many others, started to smell something fishy. At the same time I bought Bathory’s Under the sign of the Black Mark which was one of a kind back then and still is my favourite black metal album. Back then I guess the only prerequistite was that the music was hard or edgy and I also listened to punk and such. Ildjarn introduced me to all types of music, like The Exploited, Napalm Death (love “Evolved as One”), Misfits and many others. Thrash and black are very different, for example in vocal style. It takes a lot more to be a good thrash-singer. I did the vocals on Ildjarn – Nidhogg, and the standard “witch-scream” of nordic black metal suited my voice and not least, my capabilities. So I can’t really say we took anything from thrash to the music we made, other than sheer energy, of course.

How much of an influence have other genres, such as classical music or punk music, had on your listening and your work?

Classical music has been an inspiration, although not consciously. There are some pieces on Hardangervidda, for instance “Night” (Ildjarn’s composition), which are more or less classical compositions and not ambient. Punk has been a more direct influence, which many people have also commented on. The drum machine I used back then were pretty basic, but there’s definitely a lot of “Ompa” (European term, perhaps) going on in the rythms. Combined with Ildjarn’s distored strings and my voice, our music displayed a certain punk-attitude. In norwegian Black Metal circles this was not necessarily a good thing, especially since the scene at that time had become very dogmatic, hence the term TRUE Norwegian Black Metal.

What are your favorite classical subgenres and composers?

As for classical subgenres, I’m not familiar with the terms on that. I’ve listened a lot to Arvo Pärt, Michael Nyman, Wim Mertens, and Ennio Morricone, as well as the old masters. I also like Peteris Vasks a lot. I listen to all kinds of music, though, and after Vidar bought Juno Reactor’s Transimssions, I got into Goa Trance. I’ve been a convert for many years, and I warmly recommend the afforementioned album and Hallucinogen’s Twisted. I guess I have to blame it on the drugs : P

Still love metal, though, and I also very much like bands who carry out their own unique mission, like Foetus and G.G.F.H.

Where did the concept of “forest metal” come from? Do you identify strongly with the forest? Why?

Norway is sparesly populated, and as you can guess, pretty cold. Nature is all around us. We also have a strong tradition of folklore in Norway, and tales of such creatures as “huldra,” “de underjordiske,” “tusser,” “troll” and others are deeply ingrained in Norwegian culture. I would suggest you do a Google image search on “Theodor Kittelsen”, and you will no doubt get an impression of what I mean, and you’ll also see where many black metal covers came from. Being non-satanic, this cultural tradition of the supernatural and the old Norse culture were the inspiration behind the themes and attitude in my approach to black metal.

I feel a strong pull towards the forest, and one of my favorite things to do is venture into native forests, and observe the natural cycle of decomposition and new life springing forth. The atmosphere in such a place can often have a feel verging on the supernatural, especially as night sets in.

How much do you think forest-worship is integral to black metal as a whole? You mentioned the proto-Scandinavian sound of black metal as seen in Bathory; was there forest-worship or something like it there?

Forest-worship was primarily important to the imagery of black metal bands in Norway, and the esthetics of an old forest is totally fitting the genre. An example would be the cover of Djevel’s “Besatt av Maane og Natt.” Of course, venturing into a forest in corpse-paint to take promotional pictures and such, I guess it was inevitable that the feeling of a dark forest would also influence the feel of the music. As for Bathory, no, I don’t think Quorthon was to prone to such, at least not on his black metal albums. Later, perhaps a little bit, I’ve seen some bloody good pictures of him and his musicians in battle gear in an overgrown forest, but that’s about it, as far as I know. I guess Darkthrone were the first to incorporate forest aesthetics fully into their concept. Also lyrically.

Based on the sound of some of these demos, I sense a kinship with some Oi punk music especially in the percussion. Was this an influence, or coincidence?

Yeah, I touched on that a little before. It was no intentional thing, but I liked rythms that made me want to move, quite different from most black metal. When pacing the drum machine to Ildjarn strings, I guess you could say we tried to make it “swing,” so to speak. I think Norse accomplishes this best, and is the one of the two EPs I’m most happy with. Ildjarn liked Svartfråd better.

Do you think black metal has a spirit, or a set of values to it? Where do you think these came from? Are there any historical antecedents?

It’s hard for me to make any valid statements about this. The music itself carries a spirit, yes, but where ideology fits into the music, is an answer best put to someone else. What united all Norwegian black metal, Norse metal or Viking metal bands was a hate for Christianity. As has been realized as years have passed, this has to do with the opression of the people the church has been guilty of for the last thousand years here in Norway, more than with any wish to carry out “Satan’s cause on earth.” We still have a state church in Norway, and I think about 76 % of norwegians are members. When I grew up “Christianity” was part of the curriculum at school, and the church still has a great hold on the population through the rituals of baptizing, confirmation, marriage and burial. So the genres in question held the same basic attitude towards christianity. It was forced upon us, and now we expressed the discontent through music.

Have you noticed any similarities between black metal and its values or imagery and that of Romantic literature, art or music (from the 17-18th centuries)?

There may well be similarities there, but it’s not something I have the knowledge to comment on. There is of course a strong element of classical and progressive composition from the more symphonic bands in the black metal genre.

I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to individual songs, just put the whole thing on like a classic symphony and let it rip. I don’t know how to ask, but I wonder how you achieved this effect of albums as a whole.

I can only speak for what me and Ildjarn did together. He had a different vision for his Ildjarn solo-project than I had for mine. At the time we released Norse, we had already played both hardcore/grindcore, industrial, drone/folk and noise/expertimental. Mostly just jamming and sometimes recording an obscure demo or performing at local talent shows. Thomas Haugen also played with us in two of these bands, as well as on the last demo I uploaded, as the demo states. So already when we recorded Norse we had known each other for about five years and there wasn’t anything uncertain about where we wanted to go with that recording. As the flyer also stated: “Raw and primitive Norse metal.” Thankfully Thomas liked it and put it out as his second single on Nocturnal Art Productions.

What united all Norwegian black metal, Norse metal or Viking metal bands was a hate for Christianity.

I don’t know if you are familiar with the old rehersal studio where we recorded “Norse” (an old bank vault, no less)? This is where Emperor went through its various stages and also where Ildjarn recorded his albums, using one mic. for the whole drumset. His metal-albums and “Norse” and “Svartfråd” where recorded there. It was basically like this: If you showed interest in using the vault for rehersals or demos, you were pretty much given keys, and you could lock yourself in and out as you pleased. An article in norwegian about the place is here: http://www.akkerhaugen.no/Heavy%20Metal.htm

Hardangervidda was a totally different vision, and at the time I was attending the teachers college in Notodden, where music was one of my majors. Hardangervidda was guided totally by nature (and the instructions for the synth ; )), and there was never any doubt or disagreement about where we wanted to with that album either. The nature is overwhelming there and it has a lasting impression of most people who visit the place. Ildjarn, Nob and I went there for a pilgrimage in the closing stages of the making of the album, ventured for some hours into the area, enjoyed the sunset and slept there in nothing but sleeping bags. There’s always a lot of commotion when album covers are changed, but I really think the artwork on the vinyl edition does it more service than the original would. The pictures on both editions are by me and Ildjarn and he’s also been up there again shooting pictures for another edition. As far as I know, this edition is intended to be in colour, I guess that makes some people cringe. I’ve seen the pictures, though, and they look great. I don’t have any details about that release as of yet.

Also, are you aware of the ressurection of “Helvete” (where Euronymous ran his business)? “Neseblod records” (Nosebleed Records) have recently moved in there and a museum of Black Metal is now emerging. I’m sure you’ll find the pictures on the web-site interesting. Check it out, here’s the link: http://www.neseblodrecords.com/

I can inform you that I’m currently in contact with a small record label for the possible release of the Nidhogg demo and a future extended version of “TrollTripp”. I recording the B-side of the demo now (bass and vocals) and then we’ll turn it the right way around and hear if it’s usable. It sounds good so far.
Here’s a link to the label. Like the sound of the WROTH-demo, btw. http://intotheshunnedhouse.wordpress.com/

We were also able to get some words in with Apelseth, one of the members of Sort Vokter who participated in recording Folkloric Necro Metal. While his answers are brief, they reveal his mindset about the recording and the nature of the band.

How did you get involved with the musicians who became Sort Vokter? Did you share any interests? Were you into metal, or black metal?

Metal and some black metal

I am told you are responsible for “Tårers Sang.” Did you compose this alone? What helped you come up with the unique blend of emotions on this piece?

“Tårers Sang”; melody and guitar on “Fra Kilden til Tjernet”; sound-engineering on the whole album.

The melody came to me one full moon night, I was in the forrest. Inspired by the shades and special light that is in the forrest at those times.

What kind of atmosphere do you think this band produced? Does it correspond to any real-world events, places, or emotional blends?

It is a soundscape based on the different landscapes and emotions in the norwegian nature

Thanks to all members of Sort Vokter and Nidhogg himself for making this interview possible.

Interview: Personal Device

personal_device-band_photo

We reviewed Personal Device Microorganismos del Mal in Sadistic Metal Reviews 05-19-14 and found this to be an excellent late thrash album inspired by some of the more technical hardcore punk out there. At that point, we wanted to learn more, so wrote to the band with a short interview some months later. They were generous with their time and able to share their answers about music, life, micro-organisms, thrash and world destruction.

When did Personal Device start, and what bands or ideas inspired you at the time? What does the name “Personal Device” signify?

We go way back as a band.

We started up in 2006 as UNHEILBAR (German: incurable), playing what you may call “classic thrash.” At that point we were looking up to the Bay Area scene, trying to mix it up with some German influences: we were trying to capture the essence of such bands as Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, Slayer, Sacred Reich, Testament, and so on. Then, circa 2009, we started exploring a fresher sound with crossover: Suicidal Tendencies, Nuclear Assault, Ratos de Porao, Billy Milano’s S.O.D and M.O.D. At that point, we made a switch from a purely thrash project to a more comprehensible one: mixing both old school thrash with some 80s hardcore punk (Minor Threat, Black Flag, Bad Brains, Batallion of Saints). With this new approach came along our changing the name of the band to Personal Device in 2013. To us it means the constant struggle to find oneself, one’s tools to get by. Plus, it sounds like something about to explode.

Are you a metal band? A punk band? A crossover thrash band?

Our music is based on Metal but we incorporate elements of hardcore punk sounds, which kinda makes us a crossover thrash band. We often refer to ourselves as thrash-punk, but we don’t care much about labeling us in a certain way. We are comfortable being refered to as a Thrash Band. If you want to Mosh, if you are looking forward to heavy riff-orientated, fast pace, songs, then Personal Device is for you.

Much of your sound seems like a better-played vision of what people were doing in the 1980s. What made you pick up this banner? Have you added anything to it that’s new? What have you added that’s all your own?

While it’s true that we draw heavy influences from the so called old-school 80s scenes of thrash and punk, we don’t consider Personal Device to be a mere “revival band.” You could that we are not nostalgic, we aim to produce our own sound, though we can’t deny our great debt to the old school. Even so, we also like the New Wave of Thrash Metal bands, it’s just that we find it somehow pointless if your entire music is devoted to yell BRING 80s THRASH BACK.

What inspires your lyrics, and is this important in the style of music that you’re making?

Our lyrics deal with the condition of modern circumstances, living in big dehumanized cities. Nonetheless, you may find some sporadic nonesense as well as constant references to Colombia. We also have one or two jams dedicated to thrash music, a couple of thrash-party anthems if you will.

Where did you record Microorganismos del Mal, and were these new songs or a collection of songs? Did you use any special techniques to get the very crisp sound on the recording?

After signing with our friends at the independent label Gomorrah Records, we went to the 4Cuartos studio in Bogotá D.C. We recorded our first full-length album Microorganismos del Mal (Spanish for Microorganisms of Evil) which is the consecration of eight years worth of work. There are 10 tracks in it: five of them are re-recordings of songs we had already recorded as Unheilbar, the other five are original compositions. The recording was pretty standard for a heavy metal band; we worked with two great sound engineers, Juan Carlos Bravo and Alejandro Veloza.

Can you tell us something about the concept behind the album?

The concept behind Microorganismos del Mal deals with our city, Bogotá, and with the meaning of Thrash and Punk.: a reflection on how important it is for us to live the whole experience of making music.

When did you sign to Gomorrah Records, and what made you choose this label?

We signed with Gomorrah around November 2013, and it was not much of a deal at the time of doing it since there was, and still there is, a friendship in between. So they just told us that they wanted us to release an album produced by them and we never doubted it.

Are you going to go on tour now, record more material, or both?

For sure we are planning to go on tour. There is the possibility to self manage a tour around the US more specifically in Florida. And also we have been looking for rock venues around South America where we could play. All this under a “do it yourself” philosophy. About new recordings, right now we are working on new material, and some of those songs were recorded in collaboration with sound engineering and visual arts students, with the idea of launching a live session

Do you think it’s hard for a band to get recognized in the underground now? How do you think people will find you?

It is definitely hard to get recognition when you play Thrash. Especially when you live in Colombia, but we think it is a matter of time and hard work. We have been playing together for around eight years and you can see how things start to happen when you are consistent. So in this moment the best way to be recognized its playing and having approaches with different people and all the movements that are concerned about music and keeping the scene alive.

What’s the most important aspect of a song for you, lyrics, riffs, structure or imagery?

For us, all those aspects are important. We like to come up with songs that have coherence between sound and lyrics, and that involves off course, structure and imagery.

If people want to learn more about Personal Device, how can they do so?

There is no doubt the best way to learn about a band is going to their concerts, buying their albums, reading the interviews, reviews and all that stuff. So taking into account we are a band…well people just can start by doing it. A good place to go first would be our bandcamp page, personaldevice.bandcamp.com.

Interview with Khand

khand_workspace

Metal comprises both a concrete format and an idea. That idea, like pollen on the winds of a tempest, spreads far beyond its original home and takes root in other landscapes. One venturer in the recent hybrid style of metal-influenced cosmic ambient is Khand, whose shadowy personage spoke to us through an encrypted Skype communication over a private anonymous “darknet” network within the internet.

Where does the name Khand come from and what does it symbolize to you?

The name Khand comes from The Lord of the Rings. It is a mysterious land southeast of Mordor. Tolkien didn’t say much about Khand so my interest was piqued. Given the frequent usage of The Lord of the Rings band names it was refreshing to see one that had not been used at the time. Out of the whole universe Tolkien created, Khand still remained mysterious. That notion is also influential on the mindset I take in creating Khand’s music, regarding fantasy and science fiction.

What’s the name of this upcoming Khand release and when will it be out, and where will we be able to get it?

The name of the release has not been decided yet. That is usually the last thing I come up with after everything is recorded and mixed. That said, the song titles are completed for this release, so once they are finalized and ready to go, it will give me a better general idea of what to ultimately call the whole thing. The release will be available to download for free, most likely on the wonderful HiArcTow creative commons page that has supported myself and others throughout the years. Beyond that, I ultimately hope to release this on some sort of physical format… whether it be cassette again, CD, or even vinyl.

Will there be any differences to past Khand work? How do you see the band evolving with this release?

There are a number of differences with this newer material. I have always felt that this project has lacked some sort of direction and organization; it was as if the past two releases were a bunch of random songs thrown together with no real end in sight. With this release, I have decided to focus on one idea only. The release will be a chronology of events that take place during humanity’s first trip to Mars. It seems that we will most likely see this venture at some point in our lifetime, so the imagination runs rampant with all the possible scenarios we may face. Musically speaking, I have upgraded my equipment and have decided to use some newer synth sounds for this release. Everything will have a “spacey” feel per se, taking the listener on a trip with the crew to Mars. These recordings will not have any medieval/fantasy inspiration like some of my past works, though I am currently working on a few songs in that regard which may end up being used as a demo or split release of some sort.

What other artists are you listening to / reading / watching / observing during this time?

Art exists all around us; you just have to look for it. As an inspiration for this release, I am obviously looking up to the night sky, imagining what the future holds for the human race. There is no greater influence to me than that of nature and science itself, as it is the only real constant we know of. We are mere peons on this bloody planet, yet our potential is limitless if we free ourselves of bonds. I’ve always felt that artists and musicians see the world differently than most. During this time, there have been a number of artists or musicians which have been inspirational. The biggest influences for the music of this will be that of Robert Fripp, Brian Eno, Varg Vikernes, Tangerine Dream, Kraftwerk, John Carpenter, and Vangelis. Though not really a prominent influence on this release’s music itself, I also feel certain classical music has a profound influence on our perception of the emotions that coincide within music, so there has been inspiration there as well.

Do you think there’s a strong community for metal transplants into ambient and atmospheric music with epic themes?

Yes and no. It seems there should be more of a community than there currently is though it certainly feels like it has started to pick up steam. In my opinion, there is a strong correlation between ambient/ atmospheric music and metal. Both have the ability to create worlds within worlds, something more than most other kinds of music can say. They dig deeper into the human psyche than your average pop song. The possibilities with ambient music are endless. Like metal, there are many different styles and takes on the sub genre. So as one door opens, another swings open. I always tell people that it is good to start with the classics. Like those of metal, the forefathers of ambient music had laid the foundation and built the canvas. It is our duty to pay them respects and listen to the worlds they’ve created and find inspiration in their limitless contributions to the music we know and love.

Condemned to Glory: Interview with Averse Sefira

averse_sefira-band_photo

What is best? To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of the women. – Conan

For many years, this site and its writers have demonstrated a preference for the music and philosophy of Averse Sefira. Among other bands who rise above the heap, Averse Sefira may not be as well known or easily grasped, but their music possesses an enduring power of being both relevant and metaphorical enough to stimulate our sense of fantasy and longing for meaning in the emptiness of existence. We were fortunate to get a few minutes with Wrath of Averse Sefira back in 2011 before the band imploded and the previous version of this site transitioned to the present.

We very much agree with Conan’s apt description of what is best in life. Do you? What indeed is best in life?

Martial spirit is indeed something that should be preserved. Robert E. Howard knew this. Many people don’t realize he was and old-school pig-iron body builder who participated in bare-knuckle “tough man” competitions in the years leading to his death. Freedom is best in life, however you achieve it. Money and Molotovs are both acceptable methods.

Averse Sefira has been eerily quiet for some time. What prompted this cease-fire? When can we expect a new offensive from Averse Sefira?

The simplest reason is because album five refuses to emerge and in the meantime we may have inadvertently blown out the Eastern candle (to paraphrase another grand cabal from our region) when we stumbled on the path circa 2009. There are components of the next album ready to go, but the spirit must be with us.

Many fans are anticipating the re-release of “Blasphomet Sin Abset” at some point, is this a realistic expectation? Why or why not?

Are they really? Nobody has spoken to me about it in a long time. Given all the re-releases out there, it seems like it might be overdue. I think it’s just a question of pursuing it. Some label would make it possible, I’m sure.

Take us briefly through your life’s musical journey. Were either of you classically trained as a child? Musically, what were some of your early favorites? What music did you enjoy early on, but later grew out of?

averse_sefira-wrath_satariel_diabolusI took piano lessons and later guitar. I liked Alice Cooper and bombastic classical music, circa 3 years of age. From there, whatever was on the radio was ok, though I didn’t really like anything that wasn’t in minor key. By age twelve I liked Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, and I was actually a big Anthrax fan, chiefly because of their guitar tone (wasn’t that why anyone liked them? SOD proved to be the superior version). I don’t like Anthrax anymore, or Metallica past the first four.

What music/artists currently peak your interest? What musicians’ works (metal or not) do you consider to be timeless? Out of these, which ones have been the most influential on your work in Averse Sefira, if any?

Immolation still satisfies, and their work has always been very important to AVRS. Voivod’s classic era is immortal, as are the first three Immortal albums. Slayer is forever great, though there is no Slayer imprint upon our work.

How much of your work is the result of conscious deliberation and how much is spontaneous inspiration? How, if at all, has your approach changed over the years?

I think the first two releases were very much “on rails” in that we planned the songs and then effectively refused to deviate on the way to their final form. The next two captured our spirit better in that they were planned but then left to many changes and ideas as we assembled them. There are whole songs from Tetragrammatical Astygmata and Advent Parallax that were effectively born in the studio, so there’s the yin and yang of it in a nutshell.

What sets metal apart structurally and melodically from other forms of music?

Metal at its best is like classical, where it rises within a theme and culminates in movements. Most music is designed for rapid consumption so it is repetitive and point-to-point. Metal can’t always be explained, sometimes you just have to be there.

Do you see any antecedents for or parallels with black metal outside the immediate genre?

Yes, see above.

In your 2008 interview with “A Year at the Wheel,” you proclaimed emphatically that Christianity is the source of all the modern West’s problems. Would you care to elaborate?

I would say it’s the more universal and categorical attitude, because people who don’t consider themselves Christians still let asinine Christian ideas dictate their lives. Why is suicide illegal? Why can’t a bachelor be President? Why must we be merciful to the less fortunate? Where else does any of this come from? And I wouldn’t extol Christian ravages from a Nietzschean perspective, but perhaps a masochistic one. Catholics know all about it.

Metal at its best is like classical, where it rises within a theme and culminates in movements.

Does the Divine exist? If so, how do you define it and how does it differ from the concept of God? Do you make a distinction between the two?

This probably won’t illuminate much, but I don’t believe in God (YHWH), and yet I am divinely protected. What does that tell you?

What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

Spirituality is about looking within to find strength and meaning. Organized religion, or at least the Abrahamic ones, look outside the self and request guidance from external and ultimately arbitrary sources. The only consciousness one can truly rely upon is his own. Without spirituality, there would be no great deeds, and very little in the way of art or grandeur. The problem is Christianity is that it de-emphasizes actually spirituality in the name of a lot of unreasonable rules and rote behavior.

Are there any legitimate paths of enlightenment open to man? What would it mean for a man to be enlightened?

To me, the simplest path is to not spend time wondering about the meaning of life but instead to get on with living it. When I want things to happen, I set my mind to what it would take and do it. As of now, I have achieved virtually everything I ever wanted to do with my music career (except opening for Slayer). Read books, talk through your ideas with the intelligent and like-minded, and devote your life to something, however insignificant. In the end, we all pave our own roads.

Has man’s pursuit of God helped or hindered his understanding of himself, the world, the cosmos, reality?

It depends on which god and the motivations to seek it. As a personal quest, there is arguable merit. As a rule of law, it has kept the world in the dark ages on so many levels.

Is there TRUTH? Can revelation be a genuine source of truth or knowledge? Must man rely solely on Reason and his rational faculties to discover truth?

Truth is always relative, and revelations can indeed be truths to the recipient. Truth is one part emotion, one part reason, assuming we’re not discussing something like physics. We make truths based on the evidence before us and how it makes us feel. When emotion trumps reason is when things go wrong.

What is the significance of ancient Greek maxim Gnothi Seauton (“Know Thyself”)? Why does its significance appear lost on modern man?

The West in particular is characterized by low self-esteem, mainly because we’ve allowed other forces to make us feel lesser. Most Americans are unbelievably insecure, which is why we can’t ever have realistic conversations about maintaining standards or upholding merit-based advancement. We’re too busy shirking, shifting blame, and being envious of everyone around us who is doing even slightly better to spend any time “knowing thyselves”.

Has modern science been a boon or a curse for modern man?

It has been a boon to man and a curse for every other living thing on this planet. We live too long, for one thing. We should level the playing field again and let the hardiest among us prevail. No more cancer treatments, no more heart surgeries. Sure, the life expectancy would drop to 45 again (and that might include me), but we’d end up with a lot more Thomas Jeffersons for our trouble.

What are your thoughts on evolution? In what way has evolution facilitated worldwide overpopulation by associating success and the entire meaning of life with breeding and survival?

This dovetails with the above response. Evolution has, in many instances, been halted by Judeo-Christian values and abuse of scientific apparatus. What do we need with babies who are born five months premature? They aren’t supposed to make it. That’s not evolution, that’s regression. We’ve halted as a species since the industrial revolution, and now comes the grievous cascade.

Your lyrics seem to be largely inspired by the symbolism found in various forms of esoteric spirituality such as Q’uaballah Mythology and the Occult. Is this a matter of practice for you, or is it merely a subject of interest? If you do practice, how does the experience impact your approach to song-writing, if at all?

I use a mixed system, with Hermeticism being a central pillar. It has steered much of our work and decisions that the band has made over the years. Much like John Dee and Edward Kelley, Sanguine and I needed each other to channel and apply these transmissions. He has withdrawn for the time being, and unfortunately it has also made me more estranged from these workings.

What are you currently reading, if anything? What books have peaked your interest the most lately?

I read lots of James Ellroy. He’s nuts, and his style of prose is sharp and caustic. I keep re-reading I Am Legend by Richard Matheson, Heart of Darkess by Joseph Conrad (of course) and Grendel by John Gardner. A psychologist might suggest my reading habits reveal a combative attitude towards the world, and he’d be right.

Art is what you create when nobody is looking. Entertainment is designed to please a perceived audience and sell a product in the process.

What differentiates art from entertainment? How would you characterize Averse Sefira and why? Is art necessarily good and entertainment necessarily bad, or vice versa?

averse_sefira-sanguine_mapsamaArt is what you create when nobody is looking. Entertainment is designed to please a perceived audience and sell a product in the process. Averse Sefira is art, simply because we made it the way we wanted when nobody cared and continued to do so even when that changed. We could have made much stupider music and been far more popular for it, but that wasn’t our mission. Not all art is good, and not all entertainment is bad, but mistaking one for the other is detrimental.

What is the relationship between an individuals essential being and there decision to listen to and/or play a certain type of music?

I find that most people who are drawn to metal and remain so throughout their lives are those who are fascinated by the unknowable. They also tend to feel like most everyone around them are liars or idiots, and metal is (under ideal circumstances) an avenue that circumvents that way of being. Take the work of Dio, for example – tastes aside, nobody could say that his music wasn’t earnest and heroic. That to me typifies the spirit that allows metal to triumph. I have no idea what makes people listen to other genres, and I don’t care.

What characterizes a Hessian as opposed to a metalhead? Is there a natural hierarchy among the metal community and what defines each caste?

Hessians integrate metal into their lives permanently. They make choices about jobs, significant others, and their trajectories based on their passion for the music and its tenants. Metal culture is fan culture, which means it is superficial and transient. There’s nothing wrong with that, as music in particular needs a supplementary audience outside its core devotees to thrive. Also, all Hessians start out as metalheads, so it is incumbent on we veterans to cultivate and encourage a legitimate interest among them.

As for a hierarchy, it’s the standard seniority that comes with the length of participation. The only real difference between old guard and new guard people is time and persistence.

Is Hessian culture relevant? What does the future hold for Hessiandom and through what channels will the spirit of Hessiandom manifest itself in the future? How would you like to see it manifest itself?

Metal is a demonstrably global phenomenon, and I think it says a lot that you could put Hessians from America and Iran in the same room and their impression of metal and what it means to them would be very similar. I experience this all the time, and it is validating to be part of something that transcends fixed cultural boundaries. With all that in mind, I feel like we need to unite more as a proper cultural movement under one flag, so to speak. I’m not talking about a bunch of whining and demands for special treatment, but it would be nice to be protected under the same laws that everyone else enjoys and not have to cut our hair just to get a job.

Is extreme metal a symptom of or antidote to the decadence of modernity? An antidote to its poison?

Extreme metal in its purest and most meaningful form is perhaps a reflection of modernity’s shortcomings, but it also a reaction to it. It seems like many Hessians feel like they were born in the wrong era. We don’t like the pithy and puritanical methods of modern society, and in many ways Hessianism hearkens back to a warrior code. Let’s put it this way, if Hessians ran things, trial lawyers would probably no longer exist.

To what extent is Hessian art a surrogate for more intense experiences currently unavailable to man?

As I said, Hessianism is a bid to recapture a simpler and more decisive age. Our world today is shaped by shadow agendas with a veneer of hurt feelings. That’s lame and pathetic, and anyone with a sharp mind and a bright spirit is going regard it as a joke. Modern society is so fixed on egalitarianism that we are denied the opportunity to be who we are, and that goes for gender, race, or personal calling. Hessianism calls bullshit on all of that and says, “This is who we are, no apologies”.

What is the future of Hessian music? Do you foresee any major breakthroughs or developments in extreme metal music theory? What developments would you like to see?

The musical cycles will likely be internal, as I’m not convinced we’re going to innovate past the proven forms. That’s fine with me, as usually “experimenting” leads to abominations like nu-metal, industrial metal, rap metal, or metalcore variants. Traditional heavy metal, along with death, black, and thrash, are all we really need.

Among the Hessian community there seems to be a developing interest in the ideas and writings of authors such as Rene Guenon and Julius Evola. Do you find this surprising?

Martial thinking is part of what propels metal, so seeing writers like Evola cited is no surprise. I haven’t read Guenon, but I like Evola. His ideas are rousing, even out of the context of his era. The sad thing is that writing like his seems like fantasy fiction when compared to what I see when looking out the window. We have gotten so far from Traditionalist ideas that it would take a global war to have any prayer of resurrecting them. For help or hinder, it’s useful for anyone, particularly Hessians, to read unvarnished and unblinking indictments of how mankind continues to fail itself. The hindrance will come from the transient crowd who doesn’t like difficult ideas.

Modern society is so fixed on egalitarianism that we are denied the opportunity to be who we are, and that goes for gender, race, or personal calling.

What is the degree of your involvement in politics? Do you identify at all with the modern approach to the Left/Right dichotomy?

In terms of American politics, the Right is a bunch of uptight, self-righteous Christians, and the Left are exactly the same but pretend they aren’t. I have no need for either. Money is the only real political force in this nation. I don’t vote, and I have no political affiliation.

Most western societies seem oblivious to the fact that their liberal ideology and liberal immigration policies are contradictory. Why is this?

Maybe it is because Western governments are, at this point in history, run much like corporations. Corporations care about headcount first and foremost when it comes to the drones who run daily operations, and it seems like America is adopting this method. I hear theories that the state of our immigration policy is designed to cultivate more voters by leveraging their agendas and making a lot of grandiose promises. It seems hard to argue, because the people of this country certainly don’t benefit. Moreover, just about everything our leaders say on the subject don’t seem to match the reality of the situation at all. And hey, if all these people with divergent creeds are forced upon each other, we’ll be too busy struggling on a person-to-person level to ever stand up to the ones who keep making it possible. Then again, we still technically have the right to vote every last one of those idiots out of office, and nobody seems to be doing that either.

Interview: Jeremy Wallach, co-editor of Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music around the World

jeremy_wallach

Jeremy Wallach made a name for himself by studying metal before it was cool, and he has expanded upon it by taking his studies worldwide. As co-editor of Metal Rules the Globe: Heavy Metal Music around the World, he explored the impact of metal on different cultures and the impact of those cultures on metal around the world. In addition, he has written numerous articles on the study of metal from many other perspectives.

As a professor in the Department of Popular Culture at Bowling Green State University, Wallach investigates many aspects of popular music, which led to his own book Modern Noise, Fluid Genres: Popular Music in Indonesia, 1997-2001. Those who have followed the development of metal academia may remember him from his numerous articles, presentations at metal conferences, and strong ties with others in the community. We were lucky to get a few minutes with him to ask some of the pointed questions that a metalhead might want to know of a metalhead academic…

Were you a metalhead before you became an academic? If so, what drew you to metal at that time?

I’m 43 and grew up outside of Philly. Like almost everybody of my age and background, I spent my teens mostly listening to rock music. My favorite band when I was thirteen was Rush and my favorite song from Moving Pictures was “Witch Hunt,” the heaviest track on the album. From there I branched out into the harder stuff: AC/DC, Priest, Maiden, BÖC, etc. By senior year of high school, I was listening to the likes of Anthrax, Slayer, Cryptic Slaughter, SOD, and Dead Brain Cells. A fairly normal, demented progression, really. As for what drew me to it, I suppose that could end up becoming a very long essay! In a nutshell, I was attracted to the music’s intelligence, complexity, social relevance, and brutality. It was music that for me told the truth about life.

You have a lengthy list of academic publications and credentials. What made you think to combine metal and academia, and research on this specific topic?

By my senior year of college, I was convinced of two things: one, metal was a valuable and compelling cultural form that was completely misunderstood by the adult world, and two, the approaches to music and culture that I had discovered in my ethnomusicology and anthropology classes could be used to explain the importance of metal to outsiders.

Being a part of metal studies has been a learning experience. One thing I’ve learned is that in 2014 metal is more diverse and inclusive than I ever would have thought possible twenty-odd years ago. Metal’s message has more global currency than anyone could have suspected when the genre first coalesced. The consequence of this has been a field of study that has more relevance to the contemporary world than the vast majority of new fields that focus on popular culture phenomena that had their start in the 70s and 80s. One of the most challenging topics in metal studies at this point is social class. Metal’s blue-collar fan base is often difficult to locate in the 21st century flourishing and diversification of the music, especially outside of the UK, New Zealand, and Australia. We should never lose sight of the fact that it was working-class folks, people without much formal education, who set the template for heavy metal’s musical sophistication, aesthetics, and dark vision.

I was attracted to the music’s intelligence, complexity, social relevance, and brutality. It was music that for me told the truth about life.

Some of your research appears to take an “ethnographic” approach, which is a study of culture. Do you consider heavy metal a culture? If so, does it inherit properties from a broader culture, or is it a wholly self-owned entity?

I was trained as a cultural anthropologist and an ethnomusicologist in graduate school. Ethnography is the primary mode of research in these fields as they are currently practiced. “Deep hanging out” is my favorite definition of ethnography, although usually it’s quite a bit more systematic than that. Basically it involves long-term engagement with a finite group of people, gradually learning to see and experience the world the way they do. You have to master local languages and idioms, really be able to listen, and be willing to be changed by what people tell you. It’s difficult and not everyone can do it, as you can’t really maintain any sort of comfort zone. Metal ethnographers spend lots of time at shows, clubs, and recording studios, but also in cars, bars, record stores, and anywhere else metalheads gather. Pierre Hecker’s book on Turkish metal is an excellent example of a book-length ethnographic study of heavy metal.

There is a range of theories regarding how music cultures like metal interface with the “parent cultures” in which they are embedded. It’s more common now to refer to metal collectivities as “scenes” than as “subcultures.” This is mostly because of advances in cultural theory that emphasize how no culture can be a “wholly self-owned entity” of homogeneous values. All cultures have porous boundaries and are composed of contested meanings. Accordingly, metal music scenes encompass contradictory sets of values, from the celebration of virtuosity and freedom of prog to the despair and resignation of doom to the nihilism and misanthropy of black metal (etc.), and within each of these subgenres there are internal tensions as well, as most readers here know. Some of these competing values echo those of dominant culture (male supremacy, individualism), others resist it (anti-religion, anti-war, pro-drunken revelry). Even the values that seem to fit with dominant culture are not passively inherited but instead tend to be actively renegotiated and rearticulated to fit the conditions of the lives of the actual metalheads composing, performing, listening to, and interpreting metal.

That of your work that I could find online seems to emphasize spaces, both real and virtual, in not only the work but the audience. For example, your analysis of a rock club emphasizes spaces by role (shades of Christopher Alexander) and look at social/cultural separation between bands and fans in an insightful way. What are spaces? Can they be psychological or even artistic? Where do you find them in metal?

Metal culture has always been about claiming space. At the beginning of his book Running with the Devil, Robert Walser writes, “Metal energizes the body, transforming space and social relations.” It’s kind of a throwaway line in the first chapter, but like so much of what’s in that book, it hits the nail on the head. Steve Waksman’s research focuses on how metal’s powerful amplification made it the ideal music to fill arenas, while Keith Kahn-Harris’s work brings attention to the other side of the of the phenomenon: the proliferation of precarious spaces around the world for underground metal that becomes understood as a connected global network of unstable scenes. Emma Baulch has written about the importance of “territorializing” and thus localizing the underground metal scene in Bali, Indonesia, of claiming space, as Walser puts it, “in the name of a heavy metal community.” Nelson Varas Díaz has looked at practices of temporary space annexation by Puerto Rico’s proud and longstanding but highly marginalized metal scene. In all these cases “metal space” is anyplace marked by metal iconography, filled with metal sounds, and inhabited by metalheads. Seems obvious, but what’s not is what exactly goes on in metal space, which can only go on if metal space first exists. Lately I’ve become intrigued by the possibility that a type of metal space exists whenever two or more metalheads are interacting, regardless of whether the music or the iconography are in fact present at that moment. Like, I could be wearing a suit jacket at an academic conference and join some similarly-garbed graduate students in an intense conversation about Candlemass and somehow the space is transformed.

You have been a featured speaker at several recent metal conferences. How does it feel to be part of a rising academic movement? What do you think made metal finally accepted into academia?

It’s been great, of course. Metal studies appears to be an idea whose time has come. This is both a good and potentially problematic thing. Why now? An astonishing number of us were born around the time the first Sabbath record came out. We’re the first completely heavy metal generation, and now we’re finally old and established enough to change the conversation about metal in the mainstream press, rock criticism, and in scholarship. The last of these took the longest, due to the long slog of the academic profession, but we’ve made remarkable progress since 2008, thanks in part to the ease of international communication. There aren’t that many metal scholars in the world, and we come from Germany, Brazil, Finland, Turkey, New Zealand, the UK, California, Massachusetts, all over the place, but we keep in touch with each other, and the undeniable vitality and high intellectual caliber of our conferences and publications have won over more than a few formerly skeptical colleagues and administrators at our universities and in the wider academic world.

What do you think is the future of metal in academia, and how do you expect to support this with your own research?

I think metal studies has a bright future. Twenty-two years after completing my undergraduate thesis, it’s nice to see metal getting some respect. The truth is, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Metal matters — a lot — to tens of millions of people around the world and all indications are that it will not only continue to do so but that it will continue to win new converts in places like Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, India, and China, as well as among future generations in places already colonized. That means the study of heavy metal will matter, too, whether one likes it or not, at least for the segment of metal’s audience who cares about intellectual issues.

To answer the second part of your question, in my recent work, I have quite self-consciously tried to produce things that will be useful to scholars just beginning their research. The “Local Metal” piece I wrote with Allie Levine on how to study scenes (reprinted in Controversies and Countercultures) is an example of that.

What, in your view, is the (apparently) enduring appeal of heavy metal, such that it is now more than four decades old and going quite strong?

There are many schools of thought regarding metal’s appeal across the world. Some of the most common explanations, the “teenage need to rebel” and whatnot, are facile and condescending to the music’s audience. I would prefer not to speculate on this question. But I will say this: don’t forget that metal is great art. Metalheads listen to metal because they find it aesthetically compelling. To ignore this obvious explanation is to invalidate, to pathologize, the aesthetics of the fans—which I would never do, because I am a fan.

If metal was just about fulfilling male adolescent power fantasies, its appeal would be mainstream, not subcultural.

Much of your research seems to focus on masculinity in metal. Does metal have its own concept of masculinity? Is this concept stifled by society at large?

I’ve lately come to the conclusion that debates about masculinity and metal suffer from some significant shortcomings. It has become commonplace to maintain that metal somehow compensates men for the power they lack that they feel they should have in a patriarchal society that denies it to them. I have made similar statements myself. But this definitely oversimplifies things. What “men” are we talking about here? Young men? Working-class men, maybe? Men like that do have power — powerful bodies, powerful minds, power to defend themselves and others. There are external forces who want to harness that tremendous power and transform those who possess it into mindless worker bees or killing machines. Metal songs often advise people to beware of those forces; I think the music is also more about using and valuing the power one does have than fantasizing about the power one lacks.

Furthermore, such assertions make metal redundant. We already have video games and blockbuster action movies and in fact practically all mainstream popular culture that isn’t centrally concerned with the myth of romance. If metal was just about fulfilling male adolescent power fantasies, its appeal would be mainstream, not subcultural. Thus to understand metal, we need to dig deeper.

To its fans, metal is a powerful and empowering music; it gives listeners a sense of control over their own lives. That power is not always experienced as masculine, however, or as gendered at all. Metal’s detractors often charge that the music glorifies the dark side of power in its portrayal of war atrocities, serial killers, state oppression, nuclear destruction, etc. But depiction is not endorsement…I’ve gone on long enough already, but I’ll end just by saying that metal’s view of power is ambivalent, alert to both its allure and its perpetual dark side to which no one is ever immune. It addresses its audience as ambivalent empowered agents, never as emasculated victims. Some fans of course simply embrace the dark side, disavowing ambivalence. That’s one possible interpretive strategy, though it’s not the most common.

You are an acknowledged expert in Southeast Asian, specifically Indonesian, metal and culture. What drew you to this area? How is metal from this area similar to that in other areas? Are there differences?

Indonesia has had a vibrant, massive metal scene for three decades, quite possibly the largest in Asia. The scene is connected to those in two adjacent Southeast Asian nations, Malaysia and Singapore, which are similarly quite active and share a (somewhat) mutually intelligible language, Indonesian/Malay. Since, until the quite recent advent of folk metal, English was the only acceptable language for international metal, lots of bands from all three countries sing in that language, too. Since I began studying the Indonesian scene about twenty years ago (visiting there the first time in 1997), I’ve compared it to other metal scenes around the planet. I’ve found that Indonesia really is remarkable for the size, longevity, and dedication of its metal scene, which is older and a great deal larger than the burgeoning metal scenes in most other Asian nations (with the exception of Japan, of course). It’s also perhaps unique in that Joko Widodo, the current front-runner in the July Indonesian presidential election, is a proud, outspoken headbanger. So Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country, might be the origin of the first metalhead world leader. Which of course raises the question, why is metal so big there? Still working on that one…

Do you have any personal favorite metal bands? If so, what are they?

Let me preface this by saying that my listening preferences are eclectic and I try to listen to both fashionable and unfashionable subgenres of metal. (For example, I really like Head Phones President, a Japanese group whose sound owes an obvious debt to the most vilified of American nü-metal bands; I also dig some power metal.) I’m also hardly esoteric in my tastes, and if I find out about an amazing obscure band it’s either serendipitous or, more likely, a recommendation from one of my students. All that said, of course! Recent discoveries: I got to hear some great bands in Puerto Rico back in March, including Tavú, Organic, and doom metal scene stalwarts Dantesco. Erico from Dantesco is currently my favorite vocalist, along with Silent Hell’s Kin Lin. Vallendusk’s a great atmospheric black metal band that sounds to me like a sort of a cross between Alcest and Panopticon, and they’re from Indonesia! I should also mention Winterhymn, who I saw on tour with Paganfest—great Viking/folk metal from my home state of Ohio. I don’t know what their story is, but their music is quite impressive and represents a sadly underappreciated subgenre in the States. As for personal favorites, mostly predictable I’m afraid: Chthonic, Fates Warning, Sabbath, Slayer, Maiden, Priest, Amorphis, Anthrax, Sepultura, St. Vitus, and the Indonesian bands Seringai, Puppen, and Slowdeath.

I will say this: don’t forget that metal is great art. Metalheads listen to metal because they find it aesthetically compelling.

Where is the best place for someone to go to read more of your work?

My website has an online CV with links to PDFs of many of my publications. The articles are there with the permission of the individual publishers, so not everything is up, but it’s a good place to start. Once I started putting things on the page, I started finding many more references to my work in the Indonesian news media, not to mention student essays posted online. Unfortunately a lot of what I’ve written is still hard to get a hold of for anyone without access to an academic library, though I know a number of public libraries now carry Metal Rules the Globe. Readers of this interview can always contact me directly, especially if they’ve actually read this far!

What’s next for you? You’ve got a book forthcoming and are rumored to be working on new research. Can you tell us what future directions you’re pursuing?

Esther Clinton and I are working on another edited volume, sort of a follow-up to MRTG. I probably shouldn’t say much about it, since it’s still in the beginning phase. I also think it might upset some people. Additionally, I’m working on various pieces of writing that develop ideas mentioned in this interview involving power, ethics, and sociality in metal culture. There’s other stuff, always more than I can manage.

Thank you for taking the time to do this.

You’re quite welcome. Metal on.

Interview with Brett Stevens at MetalRecusants.com

welcome_to_hell

Adventurous metal site Metal Recusants published an interview with myself that hopefully will not bore any of you too much. Metal Recusants is one of the more interesting sites out there as you found out when you read our profile of Editor Dom and his team a few months back. Be sure to poke around for their commentary and reviews, interviews, and other forays into the world of extreme metal.

Interview with - - - 

- - -

For those who caught our review of the - - - /Dawning split some months ago, the intentional mystery behind - - -  may have created some interest. Artists disguising themselves is nothing new; all of black metal disguised themselves under pseudonyms and paint like nocturnal vigilantes. Authors such as Thomas Pynchon are famous for their reclusive refusal to be photographed or interviewed. And in occult and ambient music, the situation gets even more obscure.

- - -  create music that sounds like a heavy metal hybrid with the vaguely occult black metal of the style that Deathspell Omega made famous, but with a mix of heavy metal in the balance such as one might find from Paradise Lost or Primordial. The result floats gently through the speakers and is both familiar and highly distant. We were fortunate to gain access to the concealed personality behind - - -  for a short interview on the nature of existence, music and possibly why black metal has lost its way.

When did - - -  originate, and what can you tell us about the lineup?

I wrote a lot of minimalistic music when I was about 15-16 years old. Back then I didn’t have a guitar, just an old keyboard. All the music I wrote, I wrote down with the help of some MIDI-software. I didn’t think I would do anything with the MIDI-files, I just wanted to write some music. Several years later I found all those MIDI-files (about 50-60 tracks) and thought it would be fun to add drums and some guitars. Thus was the music of - - -  born.

The lineup is just me. On some tracks a friend of mine sings.

The music you play has a lot in common with both avantgarde black metal and the type of instrumentally advanced heavy metal that Therion ventured into with its third album. What style do you identify as your own, and what are your biggest influences?

When people ask in general what music I play, I usually answer that I play heavy metal. There are so many genres in the metal corpus so just to begin answering what kind of metal one is playing is rather impossible. And if heavy metal doesn’t suffice I’d say I play dragon metal.

For the piano compositions I’ve had the great Flemish composer Wim Mertens as a big influence. Also Michael Nyman, Roberto Cacciapaglia and Ludovico Einaudi. The guitars are just buzzing tremolo melodies to accompany the piano tracks.

Much of your work seems to be based around the notion of secrets; if not outright secrets themselves, the revelation of hidden meaning. Do you think there are hidden meanings in life around us? Are these metaphysical or material?

To answer the first question: Yes, I do think there are meanings in life around us. If this meaning is hidden or not I can’t really tell. To acknowledge that there is meaning around us is in itself a great step toward a life that isn’t nihilistic and/or fatalistic. But then you’ll have to validate whether these meanings are good or bad. I’ve chosen to believe that the meanings I’ve found in life are good ones. I don’t know this by necessity and I can’t persuade anyone that this is the right path. I believe that there is a reality and that I, as a human being, am capable of knowing something about it.

Since I have to relate to a material world to even begin to grasp the metaphysics, I’d have to say “yes” on this question (I interpreted it as an inclusive disjunction). I don’t think any materialistic substance can hold a Principle (of something higher). We interact bodily with the materialistic world and with our mind (soul), through the study of metaphysics, the Principles (how to know the meanings epistemologically).

Why did you choose the name “- - - “?

I used to name my music project files that way. And then the name stuck.

As - - -  goes on, do you think you have “matured” or “improved”? Is there a difference?

Maybe lyrically, but not musically. I still use the old MIDI-files I wrote several years ago.

Where will you go next with - - - ? Will there be more recordings, a change in style or a different look at things?

I have no idea. I think I will try to write something new from scratch. It will probably not sound exactly the same.

What personally attracted you about underground metal, and keeps you bonded to it twenty years past its glory days?

Probably the creativity. There are a lot of interesting bands that have a genuine sound or have really talented musicians. There is always something new and fresh that you can find in the great sea of underground bands. You don’t see the same creativity around the big names in metal.

Are your songs based around symbolism from which riffs are created, or do you base them around riffs and layer symbolism on top of those?

If by symbolism you mean the lyrics then: yes. I usually have some tracks ready when I begin writing the lyrics. Then I puzzle them all together.

If by symbolism you mean that I have a clear idea about what the tracks is going to be about, then: no. The lyrics are written separately from the music.

If someone wanted to find out more — but not too much — about - - - , where should they look?

Look toward where the sunrise, and in to the names of Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite’s divine. Otherwise you should try google: “- - - “.