Interview: Devolved (Are You Morbid? death metal radio show)

From 1995 to about 1999, the old underground tried to live on in a new modern form. Then it collapsed, and what took over was an indie/alt-rock hybrid of metal that lost the raw aggressive spirit of metal and replaced it with self-pity. Starting in 2006 or so, the revival of the underground began. A new radio show is helping blast that door wide open with a solid diet of underground death metal, black metal, grindcore, speed metal, thrash (crossover), and hardcore mixed in with dark ambient and possibly classical music. Meet Devolved, the voice and choice of music behind the show.

What name do you use on the air?

Devolved. Devolution is real!

Why did you pick an old school death metal, black metal, thrash, grindcore, speed metal, heavy metal and dark ambient show?

Metal helped me see the world in a new light, or at least provided a soundtrack. Perhaps it will affect a few of the listeners in the same way. My generation (what they call the ‘Y’ generation) certainly needs a new light and a new path.

Do you think these genres offer something artistically or politically that doesn’t exist anywhere else?

I can’t say that with certainty. But the best metal does contain a spirit which is hard to find elsewhere. A real love of life, and of death. And that youthful desire to analyze all aspects of reality, even if unpleasant.

What’s a typical playlist?

Mostly death metal with forays into other genres. Autopsy, Suffocation, Massacra, Immortal, and Slayer are perennials. I discover more metal music all the time, both modern and old-school, and incorporate what I find stimulating.

How has response been so far?

A few locals have called in and voiced their support. People also listen to the show online; how many is hard to know.
Do you think there’s a difference between old school underground metal and what’s going on now? If so, what is that difference?
Obviously, but I really don’t know much about the modern ‘scene’. It seems that most of the good releases of the past few years have been composed by musicians who have been around since the formative years. It’s possible that people of my generation are simply incapable of creating quality metal, either for innate reasons or because attention is focused elsewhere.

What defines an underground genre, like old school death metal?

Shared ideals through a shared artistic method. The “underground” aspect is probably a conscious choice to avoid decay and assimilation.
Why do you think there was such a peak in output of old school death metal and black metal in the late 80s through early 1990s?
Seems like intelligent, alienated Westerners finally realized that the rot had reached to the very core of our society, and that by that point halting Kali was impossible. Certain individuals had realized this long before, but it takes a critical mass of aware people for an artistic movement to form around such an idea.

Is something similar going to happen again?

That would be cool. What I see with my generation these days is that they’re either totally lost in their own narcissism, or are working their butts off to rise above the masses of this overpopulated planet. That doesn’t leave much time for art.

What advice would you give someone interested in learning about these genres?

Find people you respect and see what they say influenced them (this is why band interviews are great). Death Metal Underground and DLA both introduced me to a lot of good stuff; frankly I often just trawl through Youtube vids until I find something interesting. Learn more about the craft and composition and don’t be afraid to be critical, selective or ‘elitist’.

I was watching the Combat Records Live at Studio 254, NY tape with Venom, Slayer and Exodus. Slayer were getting loaded and talking about how they liked Bach and Tchaikovsky. When I interviewed Quorthon, he was heavily into Bach as well. Do you think there’s a connection between metal and classical?

Absolutely! The simple explanation is that classical (and baroque) music will deeply affect anyone with intelligence and taste and love of art, or even one of those three qualities. Metal bands were not the only musicians affected, but they incorporated these influences into their own compositions in a way that no one else did.

http://radio.deathmetal.org/

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Interview: Gordon Blodgett (Timeghoul)

TIMEGHOUL are one of those death metal rarities: a band with only demo-level output that often outshines that of their more well known peers. Their brand of American-styled death metal was complex, eclectic and, most importantly, constructed on a foundation of solid songwriting and and intriguing concept. Guitarist Gordon Blodgett was kind enough to speak to us about their obscure legacy.

Taken and adapted from Heidenlarm ‘zine, Issue #8.

I promised no generic questions, but since TIMEGHOUL still ranks among the obscure, a brief history would be helpful here.

The band was originally formed in 1987 by Jeff Hayden and Mike Stevens. It was originaly called Doom’s Lyre, and was changed not too long after. They recruited Chad and Tony around 1990 and cut the demo Tumultuous Travelings in April 1992. Jeff wanted to go to a three-guitar attack so that he could incorporate three-guitar harmonies. At this time Mike had decided to drop out and form a Christian metal band. I grew up on the same street as T.J. and we had been playing and writing music on our guitars in his garage, but we couldn’t find anybody in 1993 that wanted to play technical thrash/death. I saw a flyer posted at the record store about Timeghoul tryouts. I followed up, tried out, made the band, and got T.J. in the band as well. Somewhere in there Chad bowed out but we continued on. We then recorded Panaramic Twilight.

Getting the second generic question out of the way: although TIMEGHOUL can be described as death metal, the eclecticism points to a greater array of musical influences. Can you describe what some of those were? What about non-musical ones?

Jeff was the main visionary here. His favorite was Atrocity’s Longing For Death, Suffocation, Immolation, Gorguts, Morgoth, Nocturnus, Malevolent Creation, stuff like that. That pretty much went for everybody in the band back then. Jeff also liked alot of experimental dark classical music from the 20th century too, as well as medieval music.

Only six tracks were officially released, but I have seen listings for live bootlegs showing more than six tracks being performed, though I have not seen the videos themselves. Is there unreleased material floating around, and is it recorded anywhere if so?

Nothing of good sound quality. There was an instrumental version of a song called “Last Laugh” that was scrapped for parts to other songs. We were also rehearsing “To Sing With Ghosts” and “Joust Of The Souls” before we disbanded, but there are only 4-track versions of the various riffs.

What comprises a “riff” in a TIMEGHOUL song? How are these presented cohesively within a song, i.e. is there a current of an idea defining each track, are the riffs composed randomly but placed in logical sequence, or is it totally random? Something else?

For Timeghoul a riff was more or less a sequence of smaller phrases that added up to a much bigger overall part of the song. Not to lose you with musician talk but Jeff was thinking like a classical composer and the riffs had the longest phrases to them — they just went on and on, and he didn’t like to come back to parts either that much, just like in classical music. As far as the format of the songs goes, I think Jeff just wrote the riffs chronologically (w/ an exception of a riff or two) as they appear in the structure.

“No man is an island.” Much as we may feel and act as Individuals, our race is a single organism, always growing and branching, which must be pruned regularly to be healthy.

This necessity need not be argued; anyone with eyes can see that any organism which grows without limit always dies in its own poisons.

– Robert A. Heinlein, Time Enough for Love (1973)

Was TIMEGHOUL tuned to A? Some of the riffs completely bottom out.

Actually we were not really downtuned at all. We tuned to E flat because nobody else was doing it. We used active pickups and played 4th chords to beef up the sound. Back then 7-strings were barely around. I think Morbid Angel, Korn, and Dream Theater were the only ones using them. We used alot of heavy EQing. Jeff actually used super-thin strings because he said it helped him speed-pick better. And T.J. and I were on the other end of the spectrum playing are jazz-gauge strings.

I think the approach to death metal taken by TIMEGHOUL can safely be called “American” for the most part. Does this mean anything to you? What makes American music in general specifically American in your opinion?

Well, I know we didn’t sound a black metal band from Sweden. We were in talks w/ Holy Records from France and they wanted to see what we came up with next before they would sign us. When the label heard the recording of the two songs from ’94 they said we sound like an American death metal band similar to Immolation with too much grinding. It wasn’t avant-garde enough for their label. I guess so. It sounded pretty unique to me. As far as an American sound goes, I would say that maybe there’s more of a focus on groove with catchy hooks or something, like Obituary I suppose. But again we weren’t writing catchy hooks or grooving. We were musically in the world created by Jeff’s lyrics.

TIMEGHOUL’s music is quite complex, but clearly not in a contrived sense. Did TIMEGHOUL strive to make complex music, or did complex music better fit the thematic ideas behind the band?

I think Jeff developed his own style of writing melodies in a midieval way, and the rest in a frantic way that begged for strange and technical patterns. He developed the Timeghoul “Vocabulary” as we used to say.

I have seen the TIMEGHOUL lyrics described as “fantasy,” which seems true. Like all good fantasy though, some seem to be truth buried under complex metaphor. They are also very well composed. Was there any kind of meta-concept, or were they written as seperate short stories that happened to play out well as lyrics?

Jeff wrote the lyrics after the song was written. He may have had an idea or working title to the songs before the vocals were done, but that came last. Phenomenal lyric guy. I know “The Siege” has a backdrop of a castle being overtaken by the opposing army-which is metaphorical for someone going insane. I think “Rainwound” is loosely based on Greek/Norse mythology, and “Gutspawn” was based on a creature from D & D called the “Gut.” “Occurance on Mimas” was fascinating in that Mimas is an actual moon of Saturn, but it’s missing a chunk of itself. The theory was that there were evil, warring tribes on that part of the moon and an asteroid came through and knocked that part of Mimas to Earth where it all crashed into what is known today as the Himalayan Mountains. The creatures awaken from underneath and rise to the surface where they destroy the planet, before going back underground. Maybe that was metaphorical for the “underground” scene in music rising up at some point.

The “clean” vocals provide a wonderfully ethereal effect and are included with good taste. I have an old interview where Jeff Hayden mentions medieval polyphonic music as an influence on them. Was their inclusion seen as a bold move for a full-on death metal band at that point in time?

Definitely. I think Fear Factory was about the only band doing that back then. Jeff was a composer first and foremost, and he wanted harmonies everywhere, especially sandwiched between the heaviest of riffs. The songs are really progressive if you think about it. And they’re always shifting in different directions to keep it interesting.

In your experience, what works better for songwriting: democratic participation, or a more singular vision? Is there a compromise between the two? How did TIMEGHOUL typically operate?

In the band I play in now (Gate 7; what a shameless plug), we have found through trial and error that it’s best to compromise. We write everything live in the practice room, and if somebody doesn’t like it we don’t play it. As far as getting the most artistically out of a song you should probably just let an individual write the whole thing based on his/her specific vision, and then maybe the rest of the band can add their thing over the top, or make a suggestion here or there. I know when I solely write for my projects, nine times out of ten I accomplish exactly what I was going for. I can see both sides of the coin on this one.

Band members, when asked about what they were aiming to achieve, often give an answer to the effect of “Nothing — we were just four dudes playing what we loved and having fun.” This is a believable (and understandable) scenario, but not a wholly satisfying one, particularly for bands that showed greater insight. What answer would you give to this question with regard to projects with which you have been involved?

I was 18 when I joined Timeghoul in January ’94 so I was thrilled to be in a band that heavy and that original. I learned a ton from Jeff and Tony. When I write music now the songs end up being long, and I don’t like to repeat parts too many times either. It was a great learning experience to go into the studio as well. My first taste of playing live was during this time too. I think we were proud of the songs we played and envisioned sticking around alot longer than we did.

Is music art? Is modern music art? Is there a continuum?

What is art? I look at it like that about half the time. I listen to King Crimson and stuff like that, and that music makes you think the whole time you listen to it. Then I’ll put on something on from back-in- the-day and just start jamming out and having fun. Ultimately I would say I like an approach of a band like Opeth who can give you the “art” and the “heavy” at all times.

Everything that depends on the action of nature is by nature as good as it can be, and similarly everything that depends on art or any rational cause, and especially if it depends on the best of all causes. To entrust to chance what is greatest and most noble would be a very defective arrangement.

– Aristotle, The Nicomachean Ethics (c. 325 BC)

What qualities do you seek in music?

Originality and Creativity. It seems that it’s harder and harder to find original bands anymore. Everybody sounds like “this” meets “that” and it’s pretty uninspiring. I watch the new Headbanger’s Ball and for every one video that’s good there are six that either suck, or sound like something that was done ten years ago. I try my best personally to write things that are unique and don’t sound like any one band, especially over the course of an album.

Why are some people more discerning when it comes to music (or any other complex choice) than others? Is there a more-or-less inverse linear relationship between quality/quantity?

It could be a left-brained or right-brained thing. I know people with IQs through the roof, and they seem genuinely entertained by nothing but the simplest pop music of the day. Maybe their enjoyment is that they don’t have to think about it. I get my enjoyment by listening to the structures of songs, and seeing where they go, what effects the band is using, and generally how fresh the material is at the time in which it was written. I guess I do view music as art. Others may view it as entertainment, and some may listen for the message. To each their own.

Why did TIMEGHOUL fail to achieve greater success? Do you think the band was possibly too cerebral? Too different? Or was it the just result of an oversaturated underground?

The problem back then was that nobody had any money, and the technology wasn’t there to record at home on the computer, so without some support we could never record any songs. And the labels weren’t calling us because we just weren’t out there enough for them to know who we were. Plus, we could never keep a full lineup in tact. We virtually had no bass player for the final three years. Eventually Jeff and Tony had kids, T.J. moved to Florida, and I joined another band.

Has anybody shown interest in re-issuing the TIMEGHOUL material?

I will eventually post all six songs on my website (http://www.aegea-synergy.com) on the Timeghoul page (w/ kind permission from Mr. Hayden of course). I still talk to Tony and Jeff here and there. You never know — Tony lives in a home/studio with his band, and Jeff talks about writing something more ferocious and complex than ever. If we can ever find the time I would love to record some more of Jeff’s compositions. “Stay Tuned!”

Have you met with any success with AEGEA and SYNERGY?

I haven’t really marketed the music other than posting a website. It’s mainly just a hobby for me while I play in a band and live the married life. Besides, it’s hard to find a market for heavy-progressive- instrumental music (Aegea), and the other project (Synergy) is like Frank Zappa metal or something.

Was TIMEGHOUL highly revered locally? What was the response like in other parts of the US/world?

Back in the early-to-mid-90s there were hardly any any thrash and death metal bands in St. Louis. The whole grunge thing was going on and everybody thought they were born-again hippies or something. Timeghoul was always playing gigs with the same bands, like Psychopath and Immortal Corpse, but that was about it. We also opened for a show that featured headliners Obituary with Agnostic Front, Cannibal Corpse, and Malevolent Creation.

Enlightened to the point of bewilderment
Deaf to the song of creation
Blind to the light of the afterworld
What has always been shall always be

– Jeff Hayden (TIMEGHOUL), “Infinity Coda,” Tumultu
ous Travelings
(demo 1992)

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Interview: Mike Albert (Mike Albert Project)

When it came down the pipe that Mike Albert, former live guitarist with Megadeth and musician experienced throughout many layers of the hard rock and heavy metal worlds, was starting his own band for the sake of playing AC/DC-cum-Metallica style universal L.A. strip style heavy metal, we got in line early to ask him a few questions. We wanted to hear from an experienced hand who isn’t bitter about the nature of the music business, the state of heavy metal, and where he’s going to take his The Mike Albert Project as a musical experience.

How did you get involved in playing music?

My aunt had a beat up acoustic guitar that I picked up at 9 years old and never put down.

What got you into metal?

I’ve always liked the aggresiveness and attitude of Metal, “the end of the world” vibe. There is nothing like it. I’m very aggresive and it fits.

If you could identify your primary influences, what would those be?

Black Sabbath was a primary influence and a lot of early European Metal; UFO, etc… Hendrix was a big influence, and for Blues, Albert King!

Can you give us a run-down of your history playing heavy metal?

I was more of a hard rock fusion guitarist prior to Megadeth, and after working with Dave Mustaine I then stuck to that genre.

You were a guitarist for Megadeth on the Killing is My Business… And Business is Good tour. How did you get picked for that spot? What was that like?

Chris Poland had just left, and I was friends with him and Gar Samuelson. We had known each other through playing for years. I was the most logical choice. Speed Metal was exploding on the scene and Megadeth was at the forefront of it. It was great to be a part of it.

Would you do it again?

Financially it would be great, but once was enough, thank you!

Megadeth was rumored, at the time, to be an insane drug band that many musicians found difficult to survive. Were you able to ride the wave?

It was no rumor. It was a big part of the scene back then and I’m lucky to have lived through it! R.I.P. Gar Samuelson, my friend.

What other speed metal bands have you played with?

After playing with Megadeth I was offered a lot of gigs with other popular speed metal bands, but I refused. I needed my own band and didn’t want to be a sideman anymore!

You’ve now got your own album, Afterlife, coming out. How do you describe this style, and what do you hope the album will express?

Afterlife is out and getting quite a bit of airplay. I’m thankful for that. It’s a cross section of many genres of Metal; Old School and New, and Hard Rock influences.

Have the values and sound of metal music changed from the 1980s? How and why?

Metal got lost when Grunge exploded, but in the last few years especially, has fought its way back. The quality of musicians is definitely back!

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

Music is expression. To have technique is invaluable for the sake of good music. To use it in excess is always a problem, it creates self indulgence. To name a few examples of natural expression without over using technique would be; Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and the Stones.

They could not return to space. Their scant remaining store of roots represented an inflexible number of protector work-hours. They might refuel their cesium tanks, they might even build a plutonium-producing technology in the time they had left, but to find and reach another Pak-like world — no. And if they reached it, what gurantee had they that it would grow tree-of-life?

They had spent their last years building a laser beam powerful enough to pierce the dust clouds that hid them from the galatic core. They did not know that they had succeeded. They did not know what was wrong with the cop; they suspected the sparsity of a particular wave-length of starlight, or of starlight in general, though their experiments along those lines had produced nothing. They gave detailed information on the blood lines of their breeder passengers, in the hope that some of the lines might survive. And they asked for help.

Two and a half million years ago.

– Larry Niven, Protector (1973)

Did learning music theory help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

Music theory is a necessity for every musician. Every band I’ve been in, and every session I’ve done, would have been a disaster without the knowledge of music theory. I’m still studying!

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

My album Afterlife, philosophically, is what it is. It’s not going to turn the music world upside down, it’s just a good Metal CD….that I’m proud of!

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

You are a product of your environment. I think your question is quite viable.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

Just like in the late 70s, it’s getting formulated. If you don’t sound like other bands on the charts you won’t sell, bottom line! It’s a vicious cycle. It’s all about the money. Change is needed! Good luck!

What are your goals with Afterlife, and what’s in the near future for you? Tours, media blitz, some fun?

The goals with Afterlife are to tour and promote this album world wide in every way possible. It’s doing very well so far. It is available on CD Baby and all the usual internet sites. I invite you to check out: MySpace/MikeAlbertProject.

The properties of the rational soul: it is conscious of itself, it moulds itself, makes of itself whatever it will, the fruit of which it bears it gathers itself (whereas others gather the fruits of the field and what in animals corresponds to fruit), it achieves its proper end, wherever the clsoe of life comes upon it; if any interruption occur, its whole action is not rendered incomplete as is the case in the dance or a play and similar arts, but in every scene of life and wherever it may be overtaken, it makes what it proposed to itself complete and entire, so that it can say: ‘I have what is my own.’

Moreover, it goes over the whole Universe and the surrounding void and surveys its shape, reaches out into the boundless extent of time, embraces and ponders the periodic rebirth of the Whole and understands that those who come after us will behold nothing new nor did those who came before us behold anything greater, but in a way the way of forty years, if he have any understanding at all, has seen allt hat has been and that will be by reason of its uniformity. A property, too, of the rational soul is love of one’s neighbor, truth, self-reverence and to honour nothing more than itself; and this last is a property of law also, accordingly right principle and the principle of justice differ not at all.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (170)

Thank you for your thought provoking questions, more insightful than many other interviews I’ve done. Kudos!

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Interview: Lord Imperial (Krieg)

Krieg emerged at a time when few New World black metal bands had made a name for themselves, and none had come up with an iconic style to match the distinctively “Scandinavian” attributes of the founders. Raw and reckless, chaotic and vitriolic, early Krieg was like a fusion between primitive black metal and noise, but over time the band has matured and gotten closer to its shoegaze and drone-rock roots. Frontman Imperial gave us the skinny on life, the evolution of Krieg, and metal as an art form in this exclusive interview from his Western New Jersey headquarters, a former Nike missile site that’s now a converted studio and hydroponics lab.

How did you get involved in playing music?

When I was much younger I decided I didn’t really have the usual interests of cars, sports and television that the majority of American kids had so I started getting deeper and deeper into music. Both of my parents were very deeply into music and literature though neither of them played any sort of instrument that I know (they’re both dead so I can’t call and ask). I picked up the guitar around age 14, the same time death and black metal swiftly entered and controlled my life. I guess in the sense that the ’77 British movement said “if you think you can do better, start your own band” I had a similar mindset and started an early primitive project called Impaled which recorded a demo that would make Anal Cunt seem musical. After this I helped form Abominus which was a death metal band that with enough rehearsing could’ve sounded like Belial’s Never Again and Krieg’s first draft Imperial.

What got you into metal?

I always liked guitar oriented music and being a child in the 1980s it was either that or the tail end of the New Romantic movement which I didn’t like or understand. Deeper appreciation grew once I hit high school and discovered a college station that had a lot of harsher metal which opened a lot of doors for me mentally. I still vividly remember hearing Darkthrone and Samael for the first time through this show as a sophomore.

If you could identify your primary influences, what would those be?

It changes a lot. I soak up a lot of influence from the music I constantly listen to but I guess I’d say in the beginning it was mostly Beherit, Profanatica, Darkthrone, Forgotten Woods and the first few Demoncy records. These recordings still get a lot of play around my house. Judas Iscariot obviously became a strong reference point for me in the late 90s and since then I’ve added a lot of stuff like Black Flag, Public Image Ltd and The Velvet Underground into the writing.

Have the values and sound of metal music changed from the 1980s? How and why?

There seems to be more of an intellectual awakening amongst a majority of bands. The 1980s created the foundation and I guess stuff like Municipal Waste never really grew out of that. I want to say that something like the late 80s/early 90s indie and Sub Pop scene helped change a bit of that but a majority of metalheads abhor that stuff but you can clearly hear it in some of the newer bands that utilize more rock and roll or shoegaze soundscapes. Values have changed in that I feel a lot of the vapid ideas of the 1980s are disintegrating, people want more meaning out of their art and entertainment (though this is just a small grouping, this theory is obviously proved wrong via Hollywood, MTV and pop music which views art as commodity-an extension of the 1980s “Me Generation” that’s fucked things up for the rest of us). I personally think a lot of the US metal bands are starting to show this sort of introspection or are at least reaching for new heights with it.

Can you give us a run-down of your history as a musician?

I guess I’ll try to do it chronologically as best as I can: The early 1990s I spent failing at learning guitar and bass, which is obvious in my early records. I was a member of Abominus (94-97) Imperial/Krieg (95-current) Devotee (98-00) AngelKunt(00-02) Twilight (04-current) March Into the Sea (06-08) and N.i.l (06-current). These are all the projects I had something to do with the musical writing side of things. I’ve done lyrics and session work for several other bands as well.

Was early Krieg material actually improvised in the studio?

About 75% of it. The Imperial demo stuff was written beforehand but Rise of the Imperial Hordes we recorded without a drummer or a label. These were added later. Destruction Ritual, except for the older songs on the record, was all improvised in studio. Originally we did it because we didn’t know what to really do in a studio environment that wasn’t a 4 or 8 track. Destruction Ritual was just meant to be unlistenable and punishing.

Do you believe black metal is still a viable form of music?

Difficult question. With the advent of Myspace and computer recording you have a deluge of bullshit meaningless noise, moreso than the days of mp3.com and the initial CD-R craze. But there are still plenty of artists out there whom write and record with thoughtful intentions and sincerity, even if I don’t personally find their music interesting I still respect anyone dedicated truly to their art. You’ll always have throwaway bands who form clubs with other throwaway people and that exists in any genre of music. One man’s unlistenable derivative garbage is another’s kult ebay record. I don’t think black metal will ever be a shocking or culturally substantial form of expression to the multitudes since we have such a desensitized and moral society. Plus it’s still a fad to some kids who’ll move on to EBM or the Dave Mathews Band a few months later.

What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you in your loneliest loneliness and say to you: “This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence– even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!”

Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: “You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” If this thought gained possession of you, it would change you as you are or perhaps crush you. The question in each and every thing, “Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?” would lie upon your actions as the greatest weight. Or how well disposed would you have to become to yourself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than this ultimate eternal confirmation and seal?

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882)

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

Technique is for school and Dream Theater. Some people find that sort of “note note note note solo note etc” music to be the greatest thing since the Fleshlight but I define great music as something that emotionally moves me, captivates me and forces repeated attention. Anyone can learn to play well, not everyone can write something worth hearing. We all learn to read and write but not everyone is Charles Bukowski or Knut Hamsun. Same goes for all art form.

Can a heavy metal culture augment or express aspects of a parent culture (like say, “American culture”), and have you seen examples of this?

I don’t know. Metal is an outsider thing for the most part, only recently has black metal spread outside its confines and a lot of that has to do with ironic hipsters and curiosity seekers. It seems metal goes two ways: one is that it expresses the “American dream” if you will, of loud music, lots of girls, alcoholism and patriotism which is normal American behavior (loud music turns to loud Bruce Springsteen, girls to either being a dead beat dad or responsible parent, alcoholism to your uncle who gets smashed at Thanksgiving and hits on the 15 year olds, patriotism to a belief that goverment is always correct = American as fucking McDonalds) or the other way which is an absolute rejection of societal norms, creativity not taught or nurtured at (public) schools and, if stuck with, a lot of interesting ideas and art which could one day channel into a real movement for change.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

I’m horrible with math so theory always confused me. I did try lessons when I was younger and long time listeners see how that went. I’m more of the idea that self teaching and free form idealizing without the aid of constriction breeds the most challenging and interesting art and could lead to innovation. It also leads to horrible Myspace bands so this is more of a personal experience for me.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

No one is still swinging hammers at invaders inside their castle walls. I’m more of the philosophy implied by the 1970s rock critics like Griel Marcus or Lester Bangs that rock (which all metal is derived from) should be more of a personal introspective experience. This is why a band like Amebix will always greatly fascinate me more than say Crass (which is a weak example but the first to come to mind) in that it’s more personal than collective. I have enough mental problems that don’t see to be going away anytime soon regardless of what new medicine my doctor switches me to every few months to keep my writing process outside of the open sphere of religious icons and impending doom for a long time. This wasn’t always the case since Rise of the Imperial Hordes and my demos were more based on traditional war topics, but I was only fucking 17 at the time.

When Hellhammer said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us through sickness, misery and sudden doom (in their lyrics) that life is short, manipulations are false, and we need to get back to reality. Where should the genre go from there?

I don’t think that’s a bad thing to be fixated on. Looking at the majority of philosophy books in any chain store and you’ll see this topic isn’t restricted to metal alone and is something that will never be answered. I’d like to see the genre go into more of a intelligent approach but certain subgenres don’t allow that. Plus a lot of people would be at a loss if they couldn’t sing about goats.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I think some of it has to do with age. When you’re young you are more rebellious and questioning and angry. Whether this subsides once life lines up for you with a mate, employment and house can say a lot about if an artist will even continue to create. Now once you’ve got that out of the way (or if it never lined up for you in the first place) and you still have those emotions and see the world the same (or if your worldview has grown with you and disgusts you ever more once you know more about it) then it definitely affects the way you make music. Personally in my close circle of friends who see the world in a similar grey light, we all tend to gravitate towards the same kind of ideas and music hence Twilight’s reformation or my strong involvement with certain people. Is this universal? I’m not sure, isn’t it how scenes are created?

Your music seems to attempt to be ritual music, where a play or ceremony shapes the transitions in each song. Did you have a ceremony in mind?

Emotional disrupting. Even more so now that I’m working with different time changes and unexpected stop/starts. The ritual of discomfort.

Within the tiny space occupied by a note or a colour in the sound- or colour-continuum, which corresponds to the identity-card for the note or the colour, timbre or nuance introduce a sort of infinity, the indeterminacy of the harmonics within the frame determined by this identity. Nunance or timbre are the distress and despair of the exact division and thus the clear composition of sounds and colours according to graded scales and harmonic temperaments…The matter I’m talking about is ‘immaterial,’ anobjectable, because it can only ‘take place’ or find its occasion at the price of suspending these active powres of mind. I’d say that it suspends them for at least ‘an instant.’ However, this instant in turn cannot be counted, since in order to count this time, even the time of an instant, the mind must be active.

So we must suggest that there is a state of mind which is a prey to a ‘presence’ (a presence which is in no way present in the sense of here-and-now, i.e. like that which is designated by the deictics of presentation), a mindless state of mind, which is required of mind not for matter to be perceived or conceived, given or grasped, but so that there be some something. And I use ‘matter’ to designate this ‘that there is’, this quod, because this presence in the absence of the active mind is and is never other than timbre, tone, nuance in one or other of the dispositions of sensibility, in one or other of the sensoria, in one or other of the passibilities through which mind is accessible to the material event, can be ‘touched’ by it: a singular, incomparable quality – unforgettable and immediately forgotten – of the grain of a skin or a piece of wood, the fragrance of an aroma, the savour of a secretion or a piece of flesh, as well as a timbre or a nuance. All these terms are interchangeable. They designate the event of a passion, a passibility for whih the mind will not have been prepared, which will hvae unsettled it, and of which it conserves only the feeling – anguish and jubilation – of an obscure debt.

– Jean-François Lyotard, The Inhuman (1991)

When you write your music, how do you avoid repeating the past 15 years of black metal?

I just don’t pay attention to it. I experiment with riffs and keep what I feel represents me as a whole. If someone feels it’s derivative or cliché it’s not my problem and they can go listen to something else. I havent bought any new black metal in close to a year outside of the new Urfaust and Vohlahn.

When you write songs, do you start with a visual concept, or a riff, or something else?

Overall I start with a visual idea of how I want to feel through what I’m writing. Mostly colours which explains the last two album names. Sometimes I’ll have a phrase in mind and I try to put the emotion behind the phrase to use through the guitar and if that doesn’t work I’ve regressed to using my power electronics setup to try to create a background that I can build a suitable song structure through. If that doesn’t work I get up, smoke a cigarette and find some coffee, sit down and start over again. There have been times when I’ve dreamt of ideas and had to rush out of bed at 4 am down to my rehearsal area and put it to work. Lyrics are done in a similar fashion though I generally these days write pages and pages of lyrics then using the cut up method piece them together into some sort of abstraction that may not make sense to others but perfectly suits what I’m thinking.

How has Krieg changed over the years? You as an artist have changed as well — can you give us a rundown on your newer projects, and what you’re attempting to do with each?

There has been three phases of Krieg: 1995-2002 which was more of a primitive beginning forged into a noise ending ala Whitehouse if they were a black metal band. Patrick Bateman was the end of this phase in which I felt I could do no better with creating harsh sounds. 2002-05 which might have been the busiest time for me was when I figured I could write emotive pieces but my guitar skills were lacking so I employed friends to help bring these visions to light.

Riffwise not a lot changed between Destruction Ritual and Black House, it’s just that with a full band and decent recording the music became its own new form. My interests in other music like the 1970s NYC art scene came pouring in and I stopped limiting myself to traditional black metal topics and focused on what was important to me. By 2005 I was an emotional wreck, ruined my label and reputation and went out in a drink fueled bang at Under the Black Sun. 07-now is phase three which is a melding of ugliness and beauty so far. I’ve only recorded two songs, the track for the split with Caina and a cover of the 1980s noise/punk band Flipper. We plan to record in 2010 depending on when the label is ready to announce shit and get the ball rolling.

Other projects: The only active ones are N.i.l which just finished recording a 3-song MCD which we’re shopping to labels once it’s mixed. Our first record came out on Battle Kommand in 2007 and I think a lot of people missed the point that we were actively emulating Strid and My Bloody Valentine. Most people thought it was just too simple or monotonous but that was the intention: it was more of a trance record than something to play at parties. We did get to play live with Profanatica last year but sound problems fucked up a bit of the show. Ledney and Gelso dug it though and that was important.

I’ve also just finished vocals and a majority of the lyrics for the new Twilight record which is worlds beyond our first effort. This time it was done in a real studio and the writing was mostly Blake Judd, Wrest and myself musically and lyrically. Vocally I’ll be a pretentious asshole and say it’s the best I’ve ever done.

I’m also doing vocals for John Gelso’s project Royal Arche Blaspheme which I’ve done three songs for so far. I think I’m still involved with The Red Cathedral which is myself and Andrew from Caina plus some others but it’s sporadic at best. Should be interesting when it’s completed.

I’m also working on Apothecary.Sound.Lodge which is power electronics and black metal but it’s taking forever and due to finances being what they are probably will take even longer.

What are the goals of your art? Is there a goal to art itself?

To keep me from killing myself. Artists may say their goal is to improve humanity’s thoughts and ideas but the cynic in me thinks it’s because they want something of theirs to remain when they’re dead. True immortality.

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

I don’t think a lot of people who sing about this subject really desire it to be a normal part of life because they wouldn’t know how to deal with it. Everyone desires security to some extent (though I can’t speak for everyone) and to have that taken away, I don’t know how they would handle it. Jim Morrison on the other hand obviously lived this and died for it, proving that there are people living this idea. Utopia is just a manmade idea to try to comfort you when you’re going to sleep. Only desperate people really live to experience this idea.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

The late 70s also brought the creation of punk, post punk and some interesting literature and art. But this is different now with things like MTV reality TV and other forms of cheap entertainment to keep people from growing and realizing what a fucked up world they live in. The recession might spur some change in ideas but I’m afraid that in Western culture we might be too deeply embedded in instant gratification and plastic living to really benefit from such a shift in life’s paradigm. I think much of the world thought with last year’s presidential election we’d have some kind of light shed on us telling us where to go but this shit takes time.

I read an interesting essay a few weeks back about how people who are unemployed or poverty stricken (just above lower middle class, this obviously won’t account for homeless people or those on social support) should take this time to do what they truly love in life, start painting or writing like they always dreamt. It’s a beautiful sentiment but we as a culture are so dependent on building our DVD collection and buying a fucking hi def TV that we’re more concerned with that outlook.

I’ve strayed a bit from topic; will metal help change this? It gives people an outlet to express their rage at things they cannot control at a constructive level rather than turning to the bottle or needle. It can also help them look at things from a different perspective. Christ that’s a lot of positivity from me.

It seems obvious to me, when all factors are added up, that our society is in decline. However, this opinion is not widely shared. Why do you think this is?

To keep the suicide rate down so the IRS can collect more money.

William Blake says, in perhaps his most memorable line, “The cut worm forgives the plow.” What does this mean to you?

Sounds like turning the other cheek to me. In 9 out of 10 cases this is a worthless idea. There’s some specific people who rightfully deserve to knock my teeth out and there’s a few who deserve it from me. Forgiveness is a mostly outdated idea unless in minor cases, like someone accidentally broke something minor of yours or got drunk and said something they regret. I see no virtue in forgiving someone who robbed you, fucked your wife or killed your animals.

How has Krieg changed over the years? Is interest still high, and in what era of your material? What’s next for you and Krieg?

It’s evolved like I have. My writing style is still very similar and my aesthetic visually hasn’t changed. Interest I suppose is still strong though I haven’t paid much attention. We’ve done about 8 shows since reforming and some have been amazingly excellent events like our shows in Brooklyn and Rhode Island this past winter, others have been poorly put together messes like the fest we did over the summer. It seems people either love Black House/Blue Miasma or hate that and only want to hear Destruction Ritual. After close to 15 years you can’t really please everyone and it’s not my intent to do so. I’ve always done Krieg because it’s something I’m driven to do and I don’t see that drive going away soon.

Besides the aforementioned split 7 inch with Caina we’ve recorded songs for splits with Gravecode Nebula, an excellent doom band, and Shining. There have been two unofficial LP releases of Black House and Blue Miasma but the official Blue Miasma with bonus tracks, original artwork and linear notes will come from Hammer of Hate (FI) and we’re signed for our next record The Isolationist though the official announcement hasn’t been released yet. We have some shows coming up in the US and maybe in 2010 we’ll go back to Europe. Since these splits will be the last split releases we’re able to do, I’ll probably concentrate on other projects during the downtime between albums.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

As always thanks for the support!

Making time public does not occur occasionally and subsequently. Rather, since Da-sein is always already disclosed as ecstatic and temporal and because understanding and interpretation belong to existence, time has also already made itself public in taking care. One orients oneself toward it, so that it must somehow be available for everyone.

– Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (1926)

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Interview: Omid (Fearless Iranians From Hell)

Some artists like to tell you what to think, and others make you meet them halfway. These provocateurs are both more artistic and more realistic than the others, who are usually using those bold political opinions to mask a lack of direction otherwise. Of the metal-influenced genres to exist, thrash (crossover between hardcore punk and metal) was the most playfull provocative, and of all the thrash bands, the Fearless Iranians From Hell were the arch-jesters of making people think. During their reign in the 1980s, America freshly smarting from the OPEC debacle of the 1970s was convinced its next big enemy was Islamic fundamentalism while at the same time becoming more politically fundamentalist itself; it took some balls to tweak that self-righteous outlook by the nose, and even more to do so by mocking the American vision of democracy, justice and history — by appearing to endorse Islamic fundamentalism from within America’s borders. We were fortunate enough to catch Omid (drums, guitar, art direction, producer, and co-writer of both music and lyrics) while he was cleaning his gold-plated AK-47 in San Antonio, Texas.

Rumor has it that members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell were in an early thrash band called The Marching Plague. Was your interest always in thrash and extreme hardcore, or did you get introduced to music through other genres?

Check out the Texas hardcore compilation that Gibby Haynes (Butthole Surfers) released in the 80’s called Cottage Cheese from the Lips of Death, and the harder-to-find punk compilation on Matako Mazuri Records that Jeff Smith (The Hickoids) released called Metal Moo Cow. You’ll find all of Fearless Iranians From Hell’s members previous bands there: The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up consisted of members of The Marching Plague and the future lead guitarist for the band Toejam (on bass). The Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up that recorded for Boner Records was comprised of ex-members of The Marching Plague, The Butthole Surfers, Prenatal Lust, and Toejam.

The members of Fearless Iranians From Hell grew up listening to all kinds of music: pop, punk, synth, industrial, avant-garde, reggae, rap, classical, and especially disco. Many a disco party was held at Fearless Iranians From Hell headquarters. In fact, Fearless Iranians From Hell recorded, but never officially released a disco record called Dance for Allah. It’s pretty hard to find, though there are a few warbly cassette copies of it floating around out there. Although Fearless Iranians From Hell’s guitars are loud and often out of tune, and the vocals are shouted, you can still hear that pop sensibility in the songs.

In politics, we usually hear about The Other of some form or another being a threat to our way of life. Rock music has traditionally grasped for “authenticity” by identifying itself with an other, whether African-Americans, drug users, gender-ambiguous individuals or criminality/gangsters. The Fearless Iranians From Hell seem to have inverted this formula, by embracing a larger-than-life vision of The Other in order to show us more about ourselves. How did you hit on this doubly ironic technique?

We were influenced by The Martial Arts. Seriously. It was a Judo strategy: Turning your enemies’ power against themselves.

How do you feel when you turn on CNN or your favorite news service, and see headlines that could well have come straight from Fearless Iranians From Hell lyrics?

Not suprised, unfortunately. While the band was still together, we had the ultimate punk PR man: The Ayatollah Khomeini. Every time you opened the paper, or turned on the news, there he was, stirring up the shit. World News doubled as advertisments for our band.

You were appearing to endorse the Ayatollah Khomeini, radical Islam and jihad against Americans during the Reagan 1980s in the heart of Texas. How did people react? Were there differences based on their alignment in the political spectrum? Do people still react the same way?

How do you think they reacted? Hahahaha! They HATED us. Especially in the South. The more intelligent people figured out it was political satire, and that what we were doing was ridiculously over-the-top. But we were banking on the more thick-headed ones getting it wrong, being offended, thus drawing more attention to the band. We were attacked by police, protesters, skinheads, right-wing radio hosts, left-wing college boy bands who were too caught up in their seriousness to get what we were doing, gangs, religious organizations, promoters…hell, Fearless Iranians From Hell album covers were even featured in PTA slide-shows portraying the evils of rock ‘n’ roll. Mission accomplished.

Political views varied between our band members, but Fearless Iranians From Hell didn’t have a specific political agenda. We did however have a common creative agenda. We purposefully garbled political rhetoric, so it was confusing to all ends of the spectrum. The band refused to do interviews at the time, which helped further the misinformation and confusion + there was no internet, so it was a lot harder for people to get the facts straight about who we were and where we were coming from.

We eventually went on tour, and did a few radio interviews in ’88 and ’89, and thought we had let the cat out of the bag. However, it appears many have remained uninformed. For instance, just a couple of years ago, some idiot posted a bounty on the heads of the band members on his web page. One of our lawyers had the site removed.

How did the fearless Iranians in your mythos (the world of characters created by your lyrics and cover art) end up being hash-smoking maniacs? Is this part of a satire of American artists who endorse drugs in their music?

The song “Iranian Hash” is a reference to Hassan-i Sabbah, who founded a group known as the Hashshashin. Hassan-i Sabbah was a Persian Nizari Isma’ili missionary who converted a northern Iran community in the late 11th century. Part of his indoctrination technique was to keep his young assassins stoned out of their minds on hashish. Of course, it’s also a jab at Reagan’s “War on Drugs”…a turn-of-the phrase, as the Hashshashin literally went to war on drugs.

You had four releases: a self-titled EP, the Die For Allah LP, Holy War LP and Foolish Americans LP. What were the differences between them, how did they “progress” if at all, and which is your favorite?

The 7″ EP was more mid-tempo punk. Lyrically, it was an almost rap-like introduction to the band, and featured the horrifyingly prophetic “Blow up the Embassy.” The first album, Die For Allah, was like a soundtrack to a movie. Much harder hitting, and faster-paced. The second album, Holy War, was the most raw and explosive. Having played live together for a couple of years at that point, the band were at the top of our game and were pushing everything to its extreme both musically and lyrically.

The third album was more studio-fied, verged on heavy metal at times, and along with the usual outrageous lyrics, contains some “serious” non-tongue-and cheek songs like “A Martyr in Every Home.” The band went into the recording studio knowing it was going to be our last album, planning to break up before we started repeating ourselves. Amir’s Farsi-spoken vocals on the last song, “Decade” were decidedly our final words to the world. No favorites. I look at all the albums as one single body of work, to be listened to in order.

Evolution of life, and the emergence of man, is a natural process in which chance, failure, waste, disorder and death will ultimately prevail. The entire destiny of the upsurge of life and all of its efforts have been enshrouded, from the beginning, by a cloak of “heat-death,” which, one day, will cut off the source of life — the sun. The very air we breathe is drawn from a thin film of atmosphere which hovers precariously over the seas and mountains and praises that have been pushed up for us to stand on.

– Raymond Nogar, The Lord of the Absurd (1966)

In an interview, you talked about an important concept — not “taking music at face value.” Face value, we assume, is what the music projects; are you saying that little in this world matches up to what it projects, or that its actual causes are different than what it tells you are its causes?

Americans, as a whole, have an underdeveloped sense of irony.

How did you get involved in playing and writing music?

We all came from different levels of musical appreciation and education. Our lead guitarist always had to tune our rhythm guitarist’s axe, because he never learned how. But that didn’t matter, because the music we were into at the time favored creative ideas over virtuousity. The Sex Pistols playing in our hometown, San Antonio, and the DIY punk aesthetic are what brought it all together.

How did the members of the Fearless Iranians From Hell meet?

Fearless Iranians From Hell’s first singer, Amir, moved to Texas with his family after the fall of the Shah of Iran, to flee the reign of the Ayatollah Khomeini. Amir made friends with the other outcasts in his American high-school, punk rockers who were in a band called The Plague. The Plague rotated lead vocalists a few times ( Amir may have even been the singer for a show or two ) before settling on a line-up and changing their name to The Marching Plague. The lead singer for The Marching Plague appeared as the voice of Anus Presley on the first Butthole Surfers EP ( the tracks “The Shah Sleeps in Lee Harvey’s Grave” and “The Revenge of Anus Presley” ) and, after joking with Amir that he should have his own punk band, wrote the first Fearless Iranians From Hell songs.

The first Fearless Iranians From Hell line-up, comprised mainly of Marching Plague members, would wear ski masks to both enhance the terror-rock concept, and so they could open for The Marching Plague without the audience knowing they were watching the same band twice. This line-up recorded “Burn the Books” for the “Metal Moo Cow” compilation, with Amir on lead vocals. Around this time, The Marching Plague, having released an EP chock full of notorius, made-to-offend lyrics, took an about-face, and influenced by the more positive DC scene, headed in an emo direction. Shortly thereafter, the Marching Plague’s lead singer left the band, devoting his full attention to Fearless Iranians From Hell, calling on ex-members of Prenatal Lust and Toejam to fill out the roles of his ex-bandmates.

Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll magazine’s Tim Yohannan, who hated The Marching Plague’s un-PC lyrics, actually loved the live Fearless Iranians From Hell demo sent to him for review and recommended, “Get thee to a studio, or off with thy hands”. Fearless Iranians From Hell obliged, securing a record deal with the California label, Boner Records, home of Fang, The Melvins, Tales of Terror, etc. Before Fearless Iranians From Hell entered the studio, Amir suggested he be replaced by a more capable lead vocalist. Amir stayed on board as a songwriter, manager, information source, and spokesman. Amir also contributed vocals (the ones that were sung in Farsi) to the 1st and 3rd album. Before recording our debut album, the bassist who played on the Fearless Iranians From Hell 7″ was replaced by the Butthole Surfer’s first bass player.

How do you think our society uses icons like the Ayatollah Khomeini to make us live in fear, how does it benefit from that, and how does using those icons in over-the-top satire (like Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal) change how things are done?

It’s the age-old cult tactic of making people feel that they are in imminent danger. It’s an instrument of control, and an insult to our intelligence. The Ayatollah Khomeini was bad news. No doubt about it. But the danger is in mimicking his behavior in our own free country, villianizing an entire race, and simplifying complex issues into a battle between “good” and “evil.” I’m not quite sure if “A Modest Proposal” or Die For Allah actually changed anything, or if we were just preaching to, and entertaining, the choir. You’ll have to find some Fearless converts out there to answer that one.

Do you feel genre is important, and that specific genres have specific conventions that make them distinct from others? What genre would you identify as that which encloses the Fearless Iranians From Hell? Did you call yourselves skatethrash, thrash, crossover punk or punk hardcore, or something else?

Conforming to a particular genre can be a good starting point…taking advantage of a popular movement to get people’s initial attention, but from that point you have to carve out your own identity, and leave the genre behind. When Fearless Iranians From Hell emerged, the flavor-of-the-day was hardcore punk. It’s arguable that we were an art-rock band, but we definitely wouldn’t have classified ourselves as that at the time.

Though I didn’t consider us skatethrash, half of the band were actually skateboarders, and our record label worked out a deal with Thrasher Magazine where you’d get a free Fearless Iranians From Hell album when you bought a subscription. We thought that was pretty funny: Fearless Iranians coming to America, getting infected by capitalism and selling out. It added to the confusion.

Did thrash music, which is what I’m calling the metal/punk hybrids like DRI and CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER, have its own style and val, ues that were separate from its “ingredients,” both metal and punk?

Living in San Antonio, which is known as “The Heavy Metal Capital of the World”, there was no escaping the influence of Heavy Metal. Being fairly isolated, the Texas punks took whatever info we could get on punk rock and often played it using the Metal musical vocabulary we were raised on, quite often parodying metal at the same time ( as on the Marching Plague EP, “Rock and Roll Asshole”). So it was kind of a love-hate thing.

Early Fearless Iranians From Hell, much like early DRI (circa The Dirty Rotten EP) didn’t have as much an obvious metal influence, but the Judas Priest-style riffing is still there. At the outset of Texas punk, the Punks, the Jocks and the Metalheads were all opposed to each other. I’m not sure if the fusion of the two genres/audiences was a good or bad thing. Maybe a bit of both, as Crossover brought people together, but resulted in a generic, cookie-cutter playing style for many bands.

What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

Funny you should mention that. At the time of the band, I was getting my degree in fine art, and approached Fearless Iranians From Hell as a work of art, so here’s the party line: Art can be entertainment, and entertainment can be art, but ultimately, art serves a greater purpose…well, at least that’s what the artist will tell you!

Do you believe music should be mimetic, or reflect what’s found in life, or ludic, and show a playfulness with life that encourages us to experience it in depth? Do the two ever cross over?

All of the above. Music should have no boundries in purpose, style, or subject matter. No rules.

In one interview, you say your goal is to insult every last person and every nation on earth; what do you hope to achieve with this act?

We did it for our own amusement.

The modern propaganda of commodities and the good life has sanctioned impulse gratification and made it unncessary for the id to apologize for its wishes or disguise their grandiose proportions. But this same propaganda has made failure and loss unsupportable. When it finally occurs to the new Narcissus that he can “live not only without fame but without self, live and die without ever having had one’s fellows conscious of the microscopic space one occupies upon this planet,” he experiences this discovery not merely as a disappointment but as a shattering blow to his sense of selfhood. “The thought almost overcame me,” Exley writes, “and I could not dwell upon it without becoming unutterably depressed.

– Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism (1979)

Should people be less ready to get offended? Are you trying to innoculate them against being offended?

Good point. Maybe so. Perhaps people should become more aware of their “buttons,” and how easily they can be pushed, so they won’t be manipulated by the button pushers.

Do you think Muslims and Westerners share any values, and are they misunderstanding each other? Is fundamentalism more of a religion than the specific religion it inhabits, or is it just another way of saying “conservative interpretation”?

Though there are obvious differences, I think we share more values than we’re often led to believe, however, it is convenient for many, particularly those seeking some kind of power, to perpetuate our misunderstanding of each other.

Did you ever study music theory or take lessons? Did this help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

Our lead guitarist was taking Music Theory in college at the time. I had some formal training on guitar, but was a self-taught drummer. Our singer had piano training. The rest of the band were 100% self-taught. Since Fearless Iranians From Hell had both trained and self-taught musicians, there was always a tug-of-war between being a bit brainy, and keeping it simple. I think that yielded interesting results. Our basic concept was that any kid who picked up a guitar for the first time should be able to bang out one of our songs. The idea being that if you could play one of our songs on your guitar, you instantly related to our band, and felt like an insider.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, some have also said that heavy metal breaks with that tradition with its “epic” and impersonal view of life. Where do you fit on the scale?

Our goal was to tip the scale over on both sides.

Will Fearless Iranians From Hell ever re-unite to play shows, tour or write more material?

Do we really need to re-unite? I’ve received emails from several modern punk groups with 100% Iranian-American membership who claim that we inspired them to start their own hardcore bands. Some of them even cover our songs. But, hey…you never know! We’ve been offered some pretty good money to re-unite, but at the moment, we really don’t need the money. We’ve become business owners (you’d NEVER guess which businesses), teachers (That’s right, PTA, the Fearless Iranians From Hell have now infiltrated your educational system and are directly influencing YOUR children), and doctors (hey, our lyrics still hold true: Your life IS in our hands!).

Personally, I’m not a big fan of reunions. Especially punk band reunions. Who wants to see a punk “oldies-but-goodies show”? To me, it’s a contradiction of the punk aesthetic. Reunions are for bands like The Eagles. Fearless Iranians From Hell are a band from a certain time of history, about a certain time of history, but as you hinted at earlier, history keeps repeating itself, so our albums are still relevant today. Maybe even moreso than when they came out. Also, even though they deal with serious subject matter, the records have a sense of humor, and that has kept fans coming back to them over the years, as well as creating new fans.

Are you going to release the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP as well? Will the compilation of the 3 LPs stay in print?

Although Boner Records has not been putting out any new albums by new artists, it has continued to re-issue several of its top-sellers, so our first three albums can still be purchased on CD. For how long? — I guess as long as they keep selling. All three albums and the Fearless Iranians From Hell EP can be purchased in MP3 format from iTunes, etc. Also an album of Fearless Iranians From Hell demos and outtakes called Peace Through Power has just been released, and is now available from CD Baby and iTunes. Although there’s no talk of writing or recording any new material at the moment, there have been discussions about starting up an official Fearless Iranians From Hell website and selling t-shirts and other merch online.

Any plans to write books or articles about your experiences as the Fearless Iranians From Hell?

We’re being approached more and more often these days about doing interviews and telling our story, so who knows, if there’s enough interest maybe someday there’ll be an “I Was a Fearless Iranian” tell-all book…available at Wal-Mart! Stranger things have happened.

Open your chest welcoming death in the path of God and utter your prayer seconds before you go to your target. Let your last words be, “There is no God but God and Mohammad is His messenger.” Then, inshallah, you will be in heavens.

– Osama bin Laden

We are grateful to the Fearless Iranians From Hell for this interview. From the internet archives, we’ve pulled fragments of other interviews to keep alive the spirit of this iconic band. The text of those interviews follows.

SOUNDS magazine April 23, 1988

“Sam King talks terrorism with hardcore fanatics, FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL”

The pop prophets of Fleet Street, ever anxious for a true story, appear to have found a new bete noire.

Fearless Iranians From Hell, an aggressive American hardcore band from San Antonio, are the latest victims of the Street’s pop pundits, having tastefully titled their debut LP “Die For Allah” and released it just in time for the recent hijack.

The band aren’t doing themselves any favours. Song titles include the title track, ‘Ultraviolence’, and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’. Lyrically, too, it’s hot, with lines like, “You will see that terrorism is the key” and “I’m going to hijack a plane / Won’t do it for glory or fame / when they catch me they’ll say I’m insane.”

Are FIFH provocateurs or just plain insensitive? Amir Mamori, an Iranian exile and the band’s singer, explains

“We want to show the Americans just how foolish they are. They want to see Iranians in a specific way and we’re taking their bigotry and stupidity and spitting it back in their faces.

“We may inadvertently be doing a lot of harm to the image of ordinary Iranians, by sticking so closely to the American stereotypical vision of them, but I’m not that worried. I have higher goals to consider.”

Do you feel driven to this?

“Definitely, I’m driven in the sense that there are points which I have to make. The funny thing is that people seem to think that we’re not really serious. In fact, we could hardly be more serious. At the moment there’s no bigotry in America that comes close to their feelings about Iran. Americans can’t understand or cope with the Iranian fanaticism and so they’re afraid of it.”

What about lines like “Terrorism is the key”?

“I don’t think terrorism is the answer, but I would say that I think it goes on on both sides. Innocent people are killed all the time.

“But if all people believe that all Iranians are beasts, then we will give them their ridiculous stereotypes and sit back and watch them make fools of themselves.”

NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS magazine April 30, 1988

“Gulf Balls”

NME kinda wondered if there’s anything you can do to help us with regard to Mr Terry Waite’s continued captivity in the Lebanon?

“I suppose”, muses the slightly foreign accent across the transatlantic phone-static, “We could do a benefit gig for him…in Beirut.”

Whaaaat??

Something’s gone sadly awry here. I rang Amir (main mullah of San Antonio’s FEARLESS IRANIANS FROM HELL) fully expecting to be scorched by a Koran – crazed, hostage eating psycho-child of the Ayatollah – and now the bugger’s gurgling about bloody charity shows!…

The source of this confusion is the Fearless Iranians’ LP which Big Takeover Records have just released on an unsuspecting Europe. Its cover is dominated by the glowering features of the Khomeini-monster and the unambiguous command / title ‘Die For Allah’.

The record itself — a procession of hardcore grunges with names like ‘Deathwish’, ‘Iranians On Bikes’, ‘Ultraviolence’ and ‘Blow Up The Embassy’ — crystallizes the worst nightmares of Ronnie’s America; wave upon relentless wave of death-defying Iranians traversing the USA (on bikes and in “Turbo Trans-Ams”), exploding in a ceaseless orgy of fanatical hatred and terrorism. It’s both mad and hilarious.

Could these guys, I trembled after a single hearing, be serious? Amir, Iran-born but US-educated, hoses down my wilder imaginings:

“Our stuff is not to be taken at face value. It’s designed to let an audience react in the predictable ways, to make fools of themselves.”

So you’re not the mad-eyed blood-caked Yank-slayers suggested by the record? Not even a teeny bit?

“No, not at all. We love what we do, but we don’t take it too seriously.”

Other people, however, most certainly do. A brief over-the-phone recitation of some of some of the choicer Fearless Iranian lyrics ( “Nuke the people / Kill’em dead / Come on, Ronnie / Give me head !” ) elicited a frothing reaction from Tory MP Harry Greenway : “They’re sick!…It’s an obscenity!…We don’t want them spreading their filth in Britain…”

Same story with something called the National Movement Of The Iranian Resistance: “To find a so-called pop group promoting terrorism is just appalling and revolting. If they were ever allowed into this country, we’d seriously consider picketing concert venues.”

Amir sniggers sheepishly down the phone: “So it sticks up people’s ass – that’s good. We have trouble over here, too – Americans are just so stupid. The Marine-types think we’re insulting their country and their president: the liberals think we’re insulting Iranians!”

So what’s the point of it all?

“Our ultimate aim is to insult every last person, and nation, in the world.”

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Interview: Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites (Until the Light Takes Us documentary)

Over the last half-decade, metal documentaries have proliferated — there are now a handful, which is several fingers more than before. One of the more unique ones is Until the Light Takes Us, a look at the Norwegian black metal scene of the early 1990s, in that it attempts to understand not a phenomenon but the reasons it came about. We were fortunate to get a chance to chat with filmmakers Audrey Ewell and Aaron Aites, who answered these questions in a single voice through collaborative writing, as they took a break from a busy schedule of promoting the film so that it can achieve the crucial next stage of distribution.

What first attracted you to black metal as a subject? Are/were you a listener?

A lot of people seem interested in the fact that we don’t come from a metal background, and that’s certainly true. Neither of us were ever particularly into a lot of metal before (except for doom/stoner rock – things like Sleep, Sunn O))), Earth etc). But we do come from a background of obscure experimental lo-fidelity noise rock. I mean, the leap from something like Harry Pussy or The Dead C to Norwegian black metal isn’t exactly a gaping chasm. (In case you don’t already know this, a lot of the musicians in our film are also into stuff like this — Enslaved have even collaborated with Merzbow). It’s not like we were reaching for a Sting record and accidentally grabbed a Stigma Diabolicum demo. The driving similarity in all the music we love is that it’s intelligent in some way, and psychically or culturally relevant and usually extreme in nature. Whether by way of insanity, artistry, ideology, invention or what have you.

We were introduced to black metal by a friend (Andee Conners who owns Aquarius Records in San Francisco) who knew that it was something we were going to be into. We both really care about music, we had gotten into black metal, and we both just wanted to see a good film on the subject. That’s really how it started. We were looking for a good documentary on the subject and couldn’t find one. So it really just started as a way to find the answers to our questions, and to explore a genre that had deeply moved and surprised us, and which described an experience of being alive on this planet that had not before existed in this way.

What kind of research did you do for the film?

We researched extensively for a year. First, we bought every Norwegian black metal record we could find (as well as all of the precursor bands like Bathory Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Venom etc.). We listened to everything, read all the lyrics, went over liner notes. Luckily, we’re pretty obsessive so that part was fun. Next, we sought out every magazine, fanzine, blog, book, newspaper and anything else we could find and compiled giant bound books of interviews of every musician that we wanted to talk to. These books were massive, they were like telephone books consisting solely of interviews by Norwegian black metal musicians. We also spent a lot of time on review sites like Markus Karlsson’s site, do you remember that? We loved his reviews, if you know how to reach him please put us in touch, we’d love to have him to do something for the DVD.

Did you prepare a project abstract first and shop around for funds in order to make the film?

Yes. Before we filmed, we went to Norway and wrote a fifty page proposal, a thesis essentially, of what the film would be. This took a lot of time. It was actually helpful in that it forced us to refine our ideas, to take into account what we saw around us and to plot the trajectory of the film, of which we had a very clear vision by the time we started shooting. It also forced us to do a second round of research, because in order to explore the ideas of globalization, postmodernism and dissent (ideas that we have thought from day one were relevant to black metal), we had to read up and be sure that our ideas were intellectually sound. One of the big resources for us was a book called Jihad Versus McWorld by Benjamin Barber. Another was The Lexus and the Olive Tree by Thomas L. Friedman. These guys are both cultural theorists and economists, who come at things from a markedly different perspective, but both deal with the struggles of retaining cultural identity within a globalized society, and the tension this creates.

The other big reference point was post-modernism and theories of simulation and simulacra, essentially the idea that a thing can be transformed out of existence if it is copied inaccurately enough times. That the sheer volume of incorrect copies can overwhelm the original truth, until the original truth becomes a sidenote in history, and the degraded or even just altered copy becomes the reality. People ask us all the time if we like current black metal bands. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a trick question. Yes. And no.

What kind of reactions did you get from people when you explained what you intended?

From people that we were trying to raise funds from, or from the musicians? Funders did not get behind this movie until we had done a substantial amount of filming. There were some amazing people who helped and supported us, but we spent a year trying to raise funding and it just didn’t work. Norway was willing to fund us but there was a catch: the movie would have to be about “American filmmakers who go to Norway to investigate black metal.” It would have to be as much about us as about black metal. Um, no thanks. So we scratched and scrambled, begged and borrowed, and ran up our credit cards to get to the point where we could raise finishing funds. We turned down hundreds of thousands of dollars because we weren’t interested in making the movie that they wanted us to make.

With the musicians, it differed. We clicked with Gylve instantly, and he agreed to be in it right away. He was the first person we approached, and I think that helped to establish that we hadn’t just read Lords of Chaos and hopped on a plane.

It would seem to go without saying that a film about Norwegian black metal has to have Gylve, Varg, and hopefully Hellhammer. Just, period. Or it’s just fatally flawed. Gylve and Varg, with Euronmyous, CREATED Norwegian black metal. It would not exist were it not for the three of them each playing a distinct and crucial part in the formation, codification, and dissemination of the genre. There are certainly other great musicians who have contributed a ton to the genre, but it was the originators that we knew we needed to talk to.

We clicked with Gylve immediately, we spent less time with Hellhammer but have great affection and respect for him, and we were prepared to stop at any time, fold up, go home if we weren’t able to get Varg’s participation. We knew it would be very hard. We were relieved when, after eight months of correspondence with him, he finally agreed to meet Aaron. We were pretty confident that if we were given that opportunity we would be able to get his participation, and we did. I admit though, it was a relief, because by the time that happened, we’d been in Norway for eight months and had spent an awful lot of time and money on the film. He used to write us letters that stated that even if we made exactly the movie that he himself would make, he STILL wouldn’t be in our movie. Those were hard letters to get. But we kept on with it, and finally he agreed. Once he actually met Aaron and talked with him and was able to see where we were coming from, it was not at all difficult. He was very open and forthcoming, except in cases where for legal reasons he couldn’t say certain things on camera. Obviously, we can’t and won’t repeat any of that either. But even when he couldn’t state things, he would allude to them. He was very open with us. Of course you can’t blame him for being initially wary. He felt that he had been burned (no pun intended) by the international media circus that erupted in the early 90’s. But we were able to convey to him what our intentions were, and once he realized that we were not there to make a quickie hype piece, and that we’d actually researched the hell out of everything, and I think just based on who we are, he agreed to participate. And we think that he would agree that the film is fair, and most importantly, honest.

Is it expensive to make a film of this nature?

Of this nature — yes. Hundreds of thousands of dollars. A big part of the expense was just the day-to-day cost of living in Norway for two years. But that was necessary. We had to spend time with the people, establish trust, etc. It wasn’t interesting to us to make a film that skimmed the surface. We wanted the film to be from the perspective of the musicians looking out from the inside. For that to be possible, we had to be inside.

Were metal fans and bands cooperative, for the most part?

We didn’t talk to many fans for the purposes of making the film. This isn’t like other movies about metal. But, literally everyone we met was extremely helpful.

The eye may be said to owe its existence to light, which calls forth, as it were, a sense that is akin to itself; the eye, in short, is formed with reference to light, to be fit for the action of light; the light it contains corresponding with the light without.

We are here reminded of a significant adage in constant use with the ancient Ionian school — “Like is only known by Like”; and again, of the words of an old mystic writer, which may be thus rendered, “If the eye were not sunny, how could we perceive light? If God’s own strength lived not in us, how could we delight in Divine things?” This immediate affinity between light and the eye will be denied by none; to consider them as identical in substance is less easy to comprehend. It will be more intelligible to assert that a dormant light resides in the eye, and that it may be excited by the slightest cause from within or from without. In darkness we can, by an effort of imagination, call up the brightest images; in dreams objects appear to us as in broad daylight; awake, the slightest external action of light is perceptible, and if the organ suffers an actual shock, light and colours spring forth.

– Johannes Wolfgang von Goethe, Theory of Colors (1810)

What equipment did you use — were you shooting direct to digital, using film, etc? How did you edit?

We shot on 35mm and PAL minidv and edited on AVID (telecine to tape for the film parts), eventually outputting an HD D5 master, from which we make copies in other formats as necessary. Our original intention was to end up with a 35mm print, but expenses were too great, we couldn’t do it. The film industry imploded a few weeks after our festival premiere in LA 8 months ago. The pressures of the economy, combined with some industry specific factors, drove it into the ground. Six of the top independent film distributors went out of business nearly overnight. Ripples went far and wide, those that were left became extremely conservative in what they would fund or distribute. So the money to transfer to film just wasn’t there anymore.

How long did the whole project take?

Many years. I don’t like to talk about how many. It disturbs me. A lot of my life has gone into this. Aaron got very sick as well and we had to take a year off while he had surgery and recovered. We also had to spend over a year raising finishing funds when we got back from Norway. Luckily, we found that in two great companies who have been very supportive of us and of the film, even in this horrible climate for independent documentaries. We would not have finished without their (continued) support. And we found an editor, Michael Dimmitt, who loved the project and agreed to work for deferred pay. He also made it possible for us to finish the film. He actually hasn’t been paid yet, and that sucks and we feel crappy about that, but he knows we’re good for it. It takes a lot of dedicated people to make a film like this. And we’re so grateful to everyone who has helped us.

What were some barriers you ran into?

Money, health, equipment problems, time. I’ve had a job consistently since a few months after we got back from Norway. Aaron was ill and I was trying to support us, as well as raise money to finish the film. That was a horrible time. It lasted for over a year, and it is a very dark period in my life. I was extremely depressed, as was Aaron, and it felt like we were never going to be able to finish the film. We finally found the funding and support we needed in two companies, Artists Public Domain and The Group Entertainment, and were able to start editing. It took six months just to digitize and log our 350+ hours of footage. Finally, moving forward! Then our system crashed. We lost it all. That was so disheartening. We took a break, regrouped, got a new editing system and editor, and started over, half a year’s work down the drain. It took about two years to edit the film, we had so much material and even though we knew what we wanted, it was difficult to achieve. We were both working at this point, so our free time was very limited, and it all went into the film. I’m not complaining, but there are years of my life dedicated solely to surviving and making this film.

Is it expensive to distribute a film so that the DVD is available on Amazon and in stores? Do you have other options to pursue for distribution?

Well, if you make a quickie movie with a small budget and don’t invest that much into it, you can do things like release it straight away on Amazon and platforms like that. If however, you do what we did, which requires a huge investment of time, money and work, then you can’t and don’t want to do that unless you have no other option. We are currently hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt on the film. We have investors and co-production partners who did not give us nor loan us the money, they invested it in our film. So that’s one aspect of why we are committed to doing a proper release of the film. In order to legally be able to release a DVD, we have to first pay about $50,000 in outstanding expenses. So, that’s just a reality we’re dealing with.

The other reason is that this is a creation that we have made, and there is a certain way that we want it to be presented. The film is about black metal, but we also deal with wider issues and it is relevant to the larger culture, not just fans of the genre. I am a filmmaker before I’m a fan, and a person before I’m a filmmaker, so there are a few masters that I serve when I make something. This is a communication between us and the world, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from making this film, it’s that if you don’t control your creation to the utmost degree that you possibly can, you lose your ability to do so very quickly. We refuse to see this released in an exploitation context. This is an art film, and if people want to cheapen it, we will make that as hard as possible for them to do. Some people do, by the way, want to cheapen it, just like they want to cheapen metal in general.

Have reactions differed between metalheads and mainstream audiences?

It’s mostly metal fans who have seen it thus far. With our sneak peek screenings, what we have attempted to do is bring the film to places with interested metal scenes and give them a chance to check it out first and give us a chance to get feedback from them. And so far, the reaction from fans has been really great. 95% of them really like the film. Even the ones who thought they weren’t going to like it. You don’t know how many times we’ve heard “I was really worried that I was going to hate the movie, but I’m happy to say that I thought it was incredible.” Mainstream audiences are more mixed in their reactions. Some of them get angry that we don’t make the musicians look like complete assholes or lunatics. But the reactions from non-metal fans has been mostly positive as well. Especially from those who like dark underground films.

What are your hopes for this movie: what should it accomplish, who will see it, where will it fit in our pantheon of culture?

I think it is the best documentary about a music scene ever made. You can quote me on that. It isn’t like anything else. It is not a balls to the walls expose of youth gone wild. It is not sensationalized, nor exploitative. It is elliptical. It is a contemplative look at the evolution of the creators of a scene that has all but morphed out of existence, at the forces in the culture that brought it into being, and the forces of culture that take it into a different place in the culture’s conscious (or unconscious). It’s about mechanisms in society that eradicate authorship, identity, intent. It’s about black metal, a scene and genre of music that deserves to be accurately recorded, once and for all, for whatever place in history it will take.

Beyond that, as filmmakers, we want it to be a work that resonates with the audience. The filmmaker who has had perhaps the biggest influence on me is Chris Marker. While our film deals pretty solidly with a story and characters and a time and a place, it also borrows from Marker the notion that a film can be more than the sum of its parts and that you can weave together seemingly disparate elements and timelines in a traditionally clear-cut documentary mold and create something that will hopefully resonate on levels beyond a linear re-telling. That was our goal anyway, or at least part of it. Hitting the tone that we wanted and striking the balance between telling the story of real people but also getting at the truth at the center of the story, while also exploring the other themes that we see as part and parcel of the story, was always going to be a challenge.

We also know that the contemplative tone and elliptical structure is going to piss off people who think that a documentary about metal should be a certain way, or done in a certain style. Our film isn’t like other works that people would superficially be tempted to lump us in with. I hope that eventually the film will be perceived as a unique work of cinema, valuable as a document of a music movement and a moment in time, but also valuable as a creative work in its own right.

Well, you can’t be objective when you’re dealing with passionate situations, politics and so forth. I guess you can, I never have. For instance if you were objective about Richard Nixon, you would never get him or understand him. You had to be subjective to understand Nixon. You have to be subjective to understand the Hells Angels.

– Hunter S. Thompson, interview with Freezerbox magazine (2003)

Do you think black metal is a subculture in itself, or solely a genre of music? An ideology?

All of the above. It is a subculture, sort of, but one made up of individuals if that makes any sense.

What kind of audience response is required for a distributor to be interested?

We have to reach a wider audience to make the expense of making it make sense to a distributor. And we want to reach a wider audience, because it is a smart and moving and relevant film that deserves to be seen. Due to the collapse of the indie film industry, we’ve had to really think about a way to make this all work. Our current plan is to show the film theatrically at these sneak peek screenings and festivals that we’re currently doing. This does a couple things: 1) Lets the theater bookers know that the film does have an audience, and that they won’t lose money if they book it. 2) Lets DVD distributors know that we will work like that crazy to make it worth their while, and again to prove that there is an audience. And 3) to get a break from all these people writing us all the time telling us to release the film or bring it to their town already!

We get A LOT of requests to bring it to places all over, we plan on bringing the film around the US for special engagements through September, then we’re going to Europe in October, premiering in London at the Raindance Film Festival in October, then bringing it to a few more countries before we head back to the states to finish our theatrical run in the fall. A lot of people have been asking us to bring the film to various countries, and we’re trying, but some are very hard. Like France, they basically won’t screen the film without French subtitles, and we don’t have the money to have it subtitled. But we’re working on these things! We actually listen to the people who write to us and we try to set up screenings wherever we can. I’m actually slightly terrified by some of the ones we’ve set up, I mean is anyone going to go see the film in Atlanta? I really don’t know. But a couple people wrote and asked us to do it, so we set it up. So, I hope so. It’s a gamble. Failure at any screening is very damaging, this is a truly stressful process.

By the way, one thing I should point out. Probably a lot of your readers, who are immersed in the metal culture, look at our film and think “this thing will sell a lot” but believe me, distributors etc. look at it and say “what the fuck is this?” The metal market is a small one by film standards, and not large enough to justify the expense alone (for distributors). Even people who like the film tell us that the film is great, but they have no idea how to market it. So we have to show them that we do. So, that’s the plan. Time will tell if it worked.

Would you want them to show this film on prime time cable?

I want people to have the option of seeing the film in a theater first. Magic and ritual and mysticism is all but gone from the world already, but there is something of that surviving in the ritual of seeing a film in a darkened room with a bunch of people there with the same purpose. Maybe you think that’s dumb, but you don’t become a filmmaker if you don’t respect the power of the medium. And no, that doesn’t apply to all films. A lot of films can be appreciated just fine on DVD only! But my hope is that people take something from the experience of seeing the film in a theater, and leave thinking about it, or talking to their friends, because the film is not as straightforward as some might think before seeing it. We tried to make it multi-layered, and I think we did. It’s meant to be watchable more than once, because there are things that might not be apparent on the first viewing. And that’s true of all my favorite films. But, then, I truly love film! I’ve seen some of my favorite movies countless times, and will see them countless more! And as I change, I see different things in them. A film can function as a statement, as a record, as a cipher, as a puzzle, as an experience, or as a mirror. Or all of them.

Did your attitudes toward metal bands and fans change?

Not really. We are fans ourselves. All fans are different. The film is very specific to Norwegian black metal. It isn’t about the fans. We’ve found the fans, by and large, to be really engaged, smart, and generous. There are always a few people who say that they will never see this film no matter what because they can’t conceive of the possibility that it just doesn’t suck. And that’s fine. There are about half a million movies that come out every year that you couldn’t force me to watch. Then there are a few who say that we should be punished for not releasing it on DVD sooner. That’s retarded. Let them go put their entire life, all of their money, all of their time, and make their own movie and then we can talk.

Anyway, this is like people who get upset because we didn’t include certain bands or certain people, or that there aren’t American bands in the movie, and I just can’t relate to that mindset. Usually I just tell them that sounds like a really great idea for a movie, go make it. What are we supposed to say to this? Did people get angry at Spielberg when he didn’t put giant squids, barracudas, piranhas and sea-snakes in Jaws? This isn’t an encyclopedia. It isn’t journalism. It’s a movie. It’s OUR movie. It’s what we combined to make. There are an infinite number of possibilities, people create what they are moved to create. We were moved to make this, and we’re happy with the film that we made. Most people who see it are happy with it too. And if they’re not, that’s fine too, I like that some people hate the movie, I think that’s healthy. Love it or hate it, a strong response is a victory. Of course, I can say that because so far, most people have loved it. I might feel differently if more people hated it!

Do you see comparisons to other genres and black metal?

You can compare anything to anything else. You can compare a grape to a Ford Taurus. You can compare Einstein to the A-Team. Of course you can compare other genres to black metal. And of course, being a huge fan of black metal and other kinds of music, I see comparisons. But that’s entirely subjective and totally irrelevant. We aren’t doing that. We don’t talk in the film. The idea of the film is that the musicians themselves are the ones who are talking about it. Not cops, not priests, not fans, not musicians of other genres, and not us. Some metal fans call us hipsters (only on blogs mind you) because we like more than metal. That’s absurd.

Do you think black metal was a moment in time, or will it continue to exist like other heavy metal?

Both. Things change. There was certainly a lot of music that inspired the Norwegians and they in turn inspire others.

What other films have you done, and do you plan to do?

Our next film is a thriller that takes place on a commune. I was born on a commune. They can be a bit cultie. Some are stranger than others. Our film will have some supernatural elements as well. We want to call it Possesion, but there is already a great film from the 70’s with that name. So its working title is The Living Day.

You seem remarkably gentle when handling metalheads. What do you think is the psychology of the average metalhead?

I don’t really put people into different categories like that. A lot of my friends are “metalheads.” To a lot of mainstream people, I’m a “metalhead.” To others, I’m a hippie. I don’t believe that there is a generalized psychology to any subculture. There are so many factors in making a person like one thing over another, and so many differences within subcultures. If there is a similarity amongst people we’ve met in the scene it’s a certain interest in looking past the surface of things. Always a good idea.

What would you advise a first-time watcher to do as they see your movie?

Let the movie’s logic do its thing, don’t come with expectations or an agenda.

Art is a creative act. Paul Klee said that art does not simply render nature, it renders it visible. The artist sees something that others do not see, and by seeing it and putting it on canvas, he makes it visible to others. Recognition art. A particle physicist at the University of Texas named John Wheeler has developed something that he calls “recognition physics.” Wheeler says that nothing exists until it is observed. Well, the artist as observer is like that. The observer creates by observing, and the observer observes by creating. In other words, observation is a creative act. By observing something and putting it onto canvas, the artist makes something visible to others that did not exist until he observed it.

– William S. Burroughs, interview in Contemporanea (1990)

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Interview: Erik Lindmark (Deeds of Flesh)

A longstanding force in high-speed, atonal American death metal, DEEDS OF FLESH have deep roots in the exploration of the technical and musical limitations of these strident sounds. This has ranged from the ultra-deep, twisted morass of their earliest rumblings to the streamlined approach they have made their own within the last ten years as displayed on such late-period minor classics as Mark of the Legion. The most recent disc has shown a willingness to develop this sound — and themselves — even further, with a total enthusiasm that explains why they remain one of the most steadfast acts of quality anywhere in the genre.

How did DEEDS OF FLESH form, and what were your influences? What made you choose to be a death metal band, at a time when alternative and punk were much bigger?

Jacoby and myself started DEEDS OF FLESH in 1993. Joey was already in another band with Jacoby and that’s how he fits in the picture. At the time we thought the death/extreme metal genre could be a bit more aggressive and technical so we formed the band based on that over-the-top style of writing with odd counts and tempo changes. Our main influences were speed metal bands from the 80s and death metal from the early 90s.

Members of DEEDS OF FLESH started out in CHARLIE CHRIST, which seemed to be influenced more by DEATH and MORBID ANGEL, but with the first DEEDS OF FLESH EP, a new style — more like SUFFOCATION or Cannibal Corpse — came about. That lasted for another LP, and then a new style, more technical and weird, emerged. What was responsible for these evolutions?

With the first three CDs especially, we wanted to constantly challenge ourselves as far as writing new material goes and the technical level. In particular, Inbreeding the Anthropophagi.

What pushed you toward a longer, more streamlined approach to songwriting after Inbreeding the Anthropophagi?

With Path of the Weakening we were experimenting with a more dark sounding style songwriting with a lot of feel and emotion. This style was then used on all succeeding releases, but also combining the technicality as well.

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How and why?

Oh ya, I have seen it go from where in the 90s it was who has the fastest drummer and deepest vocals to where we are now where killer guitar work has come back around, which I like, haha.

Did learning music theory help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals?

I actually am trying to add much more theory to my skills to bring new sounds and elements. It definitely helps and opens many new doors. Nothing more killer then falling upon a new scale or pattern.

Do you favor the use of “real” violence or that of fantastic violence when constructing lyrical concepts, and why?

All our CDs with exception of the newest CD deals with the darker side of the human condition and tragedy and all lyrics are factual. The new CD is more of a concept CD based on future events.

When HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” it launched legions of death metal and grindcore bands who showed us the grim structure of reality hidden underneath its appearance and our social judgments that gloss over negative things. Where does metal go from there? Is metal “rebellion music” or “protest rock,” or is it trying to uncover for us new possibilities in life?

I think many bands have great ideas for lyrics and concepts and metal in all forms really is very widely open to really any subject matter. Doesn’t always have to deal with death and being bummed out, haha.

Some have said that rock music is about individualism, or escaping the rules of society and nature to do whatever the individual wants to do. However, others have pointed out that death metal seems to suggest the rules of nature triumph over both individual and society. Where is DEEDS OF FLESH on the spectrum between these extremes?

Ah, nature will always win. Reduced to Ashes hits that concept. Men are but mere cells in the big picture.

As our mother earth is a mere speck in the sunbeam in the illimitable universe, so man himself is but a tiny grain of protoplasm in the perishable framework of organic nature. [This] clearly indicates the true place of man in nature, but it dissipates the prevalent illusion of man’s supreme importance and the arrogance with which he sets himself apart from the illimitable universe and exalts himself to the position of its most valuable element.

– Ernst Haeckel, The Riddle of the Universe (1900)

It has been observed that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs form a sort of poem that tells a story about a change in states of mind. Is this reflected in your songwriting at all?

Yes, I always try to have the songs tell a story and sound unique from each other.

After SUFFOCATION clones had their day in the early-to-mid 90s, what musical methods did DEEDS OF FLESH pursue to differentiate themselves from lesser bands?

We have always stuck with our style of songwriting since we started. We have only added new elements to make a broader sound.

Do you think death metal has a distinctive worldview different from that of “normal” people? Can people interpret that worldview from the sound of the genre, and does this make them converge on musical communities?

I don’t think the views on the world for metal fans are inspired by the music. I’m glad you don’t hear bands giving political points of view. That’s the last thing I would ever want to see happen.

Is man a noble beast or a fallen angel, and what does that say about the means he employs in pursuing his ends?

Noble beast, as on the cover for Of What’s to Come, which is actually a representation of man in the future and the challenges faced.

Is it important for death metal to be a genre of “respectable” skills, one that outsiders may not enjoy but can appreciate for its creative force?

You see so many different types of styles now mixed in with the genre. Metal is probably the most open style of music as far as experimentation. Sky’s the limit basically.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

You now you have so many variations: death, extreme, black, progressive. I remember in the 80s when progressive just meant you had a keyboard, haha. I think it should just all fall under metal.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

I don’t think so; the way a person writes is almost like a thumbprint, no two are alike. Everyone is unique in their own way.

Do you think it generally common for fans of death metal to be otherwise “normal” people?

Of course, I have been around plenty of metalheads who are way more sane then most humans out there.

How much guitar overdubbing and harmonization do you do in the studio? Is layering a necessity for the DEEDS formula to work properly?

We lay one track per side and leads, always have recorded this way. We are doing a lot more overwriting on the new CD compared to our previous CDs for sure. With the addition of Sean Southern, our lead guitarist, we have really gotten into the guitar work, and we can’t say enough about Erlend’s tracks on bass.

Will any lead guitar make an appearance on older tracks in a live setting now that you’ve established it as part of your vocabulary?

No, we will leave those songs as they were written, but I’ll tell you I wish I would have approached the writing style as a four piece rather then a three piece if I could turn back time.

In my view, Of What’s to Come is a masterpiece that unites your past with a future direction I can’t quite figure out. Were there additional influences or developments to your style? Where do you go from here?

I definitely agree with that, mixing the old style with the new, more guitar-oriented style. The main difference is the addition of lead work and really getting more involved on the overwriting and harmonies since we will always be a four piece from now on. We will never go back to being a three piece. Since Of What’s to Come was our first in the new concept lyrically and in showing the new direction we are headed, everyone can expect more of the same but to the next level. Thanx a lot for the interview and support from everyone reading. See you on the road!!!

What makes you think that human beings are sentient and aware? There’s no evidence for it. Human beings never think for themselves, they find it too uncomfortable. For the most part, members of our species simply repeat what they are told — and become upset if they are exposed to any different view. The characteristic human trait is not awareness but conformity, and the characteristic result is religious warfare. Other animals fight for territory or food; but, uniquely in the animal kingdom, human beings fight for their “beliefs.” The reason is that beliefs guide behavior, which has evolutionary importance among human beings. But at a time when our behavior may well lead us to extinction, I see no reason to assume we have any awareness at all. We are stubborn, self-destructive conformists. Any other view of our species is a self-congratulatory delusion.

– Michael Crichton, The Lost World (1996)

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Interview: David Herrera (Imprecation)

In the late 1980s/early 1990s in the expansive United States, the nascent genre of death metal developed multiple strains. The more accessible of them included the well-known, technically-impressive bands from the scenes in New York and Florida, respectively. A third major bloodline, arising from the likes of early Morbid Angel, Necrovore and Possessed found itself in darker territory, more readily embracing deep occult themes with palatable atmospheres of musical evil to match. Imprecation, hailing from Houston, Texas, were among the early participants in this subgenre, helping carry it to its mature phases in the mid-1990s along with acts like Incantation and Fallen Christ. The bands’s 1995 discography-to-date release, Theurgia Goetia Summa, is a succinct statement of death metal’s ability to inspire moral horror that reaches beyond the banal graphic fantasy often associated with it.

Answers by vocalist David Herrera.

What was forming a death metal band like, back in the early days before people really knew what death metal was? How did you explain it to people, and how did they react?

It was kinda strange, the whole “Earache” scene was starting to gain momentum, and yet there was an even ‘darker’ undercurrent that was gnashing it’s teeth into the throats of Christians. This is the cauldron that we bubbled out of! It was very unknown at the time, especially with everything being heard solely through tape trading or if you were lucky an underground radio program that would turn you on to bands that were only existing on word of mouth such as Incantation, Profanatica, Impaled Nazarene, Beherit, Phlebotomized, Demigod, Archgoat, and more. We had a radio program here in Houston called “Sweet Nightmares” airing on Tuesday nights/Wednesday mornings from midnight to like 4 am, hosted by Wes Weaver and Bill “the Master” Bates. We’d stay up out in the woods with lots of acid and alcohol and make bonfires to this radio program to check out all of the unknown stuff that they would turn us on to, it was such a drag when it stopped airing as this was a weekly ritual for us. I remember the first time I heard the new extreme in the underground, it was on this show in ’89 or ’90 and Wes had just got the advances from Earache of Morbid Angel’s “Maze of Torment” and Terrorizer’s “After World Obliteration”. He played them back to back and it completely floored us. That ‘s when I knew that I had to be creating this music, to actually live it!

I understand that two members came from the Kreator-y/Slayer-y “Dark Reign.” What caused them to make such a stylistic jump to greater extremity and darkness?

Well, Dark Reign were such a repected band in Houston, really no one was nearly as extreme as they were when they were around. To find out that I was gonna be in the same band as the main songwriters, well I could not believe it. It was like going from the pit to the stage in one swoop, I really lucked out to have my first official band to be rounded out with guys who took their craft seriously. I always felt that the “Ceremony of the Nine Angles” (NOT ANGELS! people to this day seem to think we misspelled this haha!) demo had a lot of Dark Reign and Undertaker (which was basically what Imprecation morphed out of) all over it. Basically I came in as a guitarist, they heard my vocals and decided they wanted me to contribute that way instead. The darkness was honed through some of the lyrics that i brought to the table, although Ruben and Phil were already some dark motherfuckers. I just let them know that if I was gonna be their vocallist, i wasn’t singing politics or government or anything of the kind, not that there is anything wrong with that. But my love lies in utter darkness, and blasphemy is my scripture.

What were the influences on early Imprecation, and did these change over time?

eh, basically it was more that we were inspired by certain bands, and these inspirations remain firm almost 20 years later. Phil came to me when we actually started to piece together our first song “Blinded” and said he was really bitten by the sound coming out of Sweden at that time, most notably Entombed and Carnage. I was always a big fan of Nihilist, so I completely understood! He’s also a big Hellhammer/Celtic Frost fan, along with Dark Angel and Possessed, so I think that is where we got our music stylings guitarwise from, kinda a mixture of those styles. Ruben has a drum style completely all to his own, Ben Falgoust once said that you could make a comp with a hundred bands on it and throw a project with Ruben involved and he could pick his drums out of the lot. I totally agree 100%! I once asked Ruben what made him tick, and he just basically said he was a big John Bonham and Keith Moon fan, as well as a fervant supporter of Mercyful Fate, Slayer and Exodus. To this day he definitely marches to his own drum beat heh heh. My vocal stylings were born of early Morbid Angel, Blasphemy, Beherit, and Immolation worship. Also a healthy dose of early Deicide, I always dug Benton’s approach especially on the self titled LP and “Legion”.

What is good?–Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself, in man.

What is evil?–Whatever springs from weakness.

What is happiness?–The feeling that power increases–that resistance is overcome.

Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid).

The weak and the botched shall perish: first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it.

What is more harmful than any vice?–Practical sympathy for the botched and the weak–Christianity…

– F.W. Nietzsche, The Antichrist (1888)

Theurgia Goetia Summa is most often compared to early Incantation, with a healthy infusion of early Morbid Angel. Did these bands influence you at all, or do you think you hit on a style that’s inherent in metal?

eh, Incantation is fuckin killer but I’d be lying if I told you they were an influence. I was a big fan, and still very much am, but they never came into the equation when we were writing any of our material. I saw them on their tour with Anal Cunt, supporting their “Entrantment of Evil” 7inch and their “Unholy Massacre” cassette at both the Pik n Pak and the Axiom and let me tell you, in 1990 it was a unheard of to see a band of their magnitude live. At least down here in Texas. Also in that same year we saw Morbid Angel on their “Altars of Madness” tour, with heh heh, you guessed it, Dark Reign supporting their Texas shows. I cannot deny the impact that performance had on my life, and what that album plus their “Abominations….” album did for us muscially, but as I said before it was pure INSPIRATION. I feel to this day that Imprecation were on to something special and original, especially with the “Sigil of Baphomet” ep and the Mark Beecher fronted ‘deathymns’ (A.S.!) that started the first three tracks on “Theurgia Goetia Summa”. Even when Mark took ’em in a more black metal direction it still had that Imprecation low tuned crush that made us easily identifiable!

What, in your view, is the difference between black metal and death metal, if any?

Well if you are talking about pure negligent praise of moral destruction and the end of life as we know it, there is no real difference. But that is where it stops when talking as a genre in it’s entirety. I always felt that true Black Metal was very focused on atmosphere and infernal aesthetics, kinda like a funeral shroud that draped around your being, candles lit and pure Satan worship whether Satan existed as a deity or a form of negativity. True Death is more embracing the soil, the musk of things decayed, the creak of a coffin lid, the chop of an axe, and focused on bringing it to you in a very unforgiving and pummeling assault to the senses. I prefer when either style mixes a little flavor of the other to make it a grand combination of destruction. That is where I think Imprecation succeeded most of all, through a perfect balance of Death and Black. Bands like Archgoat, Necros Christos, Teitanblood, Katharsis, Incantation, Watain, and Portal bring this type of rotting stench to my speakers! Death Metal that is as pitch black as a bottomless pit, falling through the infinite abyss…..

Do you think that metal bands, like indie bands, need to develop a “persona” that they support with a unique lingo, habits, styles of dress and mannerism, etc?

Sometimes it is okay to have something that can bring identity to one’s stylings, you know to give ’em that certain trait that makes them all their own. Venom, Voivod, Sadistik Exekution, Hellhammer/Frost, Carnivore, Judas Priest, Blasphemy, Bolt Thrower, Mayhem/Darkthrone, Misfits, W.A.S.P. hell; even Manowar whom I fuckin hate had something that made them stand on their own. I don’t think a band has to develop it’s own original persona or sound to succeed, however, but it definitely helps when they have CONVICTION in their musical execution!

You (David Herrera) also write and perform for Bahimiron, a gutter-vicious Gorgoroth/Motorhead-styled black metal band. What’s the difference in your songwriting there, as opposed to when working with Imprecation?

Huge difference. Where Imprecation focuses on getting most every note played with tightness and clarity, we in Bahimiron believe in being akin to “an eyeball loose and wild”. We embrace death and the devil, and are at one with ways of alcohol abuse and loaded firearms. Heh heh I know a certain someone who does not embrace our love for whiskey and the such, maybe “misguided” in our directions (I’m looking at you, Mr. Prozac!) but none-the-less it is how we live. As the Electric Hellfire Club once proudly displayed on an album “Drugs, Death and the Devil”. It is not for everyone, but when we proclaim that we are Whiskey Fueled Black Metal it is not in a “party” attitude, rather a result of the harm that this way of life can do to one’s self or to any who get in the way!

Our national drug is alcohol. We tend to regard the use of any other drug with special horror.

– William S. Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)

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

I think that sounds about correct. I mean, that is how cults are born, a group of individuals who try to accomplish the same goals, missions, or end results. I think as far as true death and black metal it definitely qualifies, especially if one lives it’s message as a completely dedicated lifestyle.

Like in the late 1970s, metal feels to many people like it has lost direction and become hollow. Is a change in direction needed, and if so, will that come from within metal?

Well it depends. I like my metal true to form, and if you start mixing techno or emo punk into it then it is complete shit in my ears and I could give a fuck if that is the new “saviour” of metal. I mean, look at the nu metal scene. And by that I am not talking Korn, I am talking Killswitch Engage or Job For A Cowboy. If that is the change needed to bring metal to a different plateau, then I’ll stay in the valley with my old standbys. I still put in my “Seven Churches”, “Reign In Blood”, “De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas”, or “Fallen Angel of Doom” records KNOWING how many bands aped these styles, and it still summons the demon abyss from my speakers. Even the bands that border on plagerism of these styles score high points with me as compared to what some idiots are calling death or black metal nowadays. I’d rather hear a Blasphemy rip off than God Forbid any day!

Did you learn music theory? Did it help you or slow you down in achieving your musical goals? If not, did musical illiteracy help or hinder you?

No. I do not think that one needs music theory to create music. As a matter of fact i think when one knows TOO much about their instrument, it fails to “wow” me and the end result is total boredom. I get more out of a band who are shaping their music through pure devotion to make it work with the skills or lack of skills that they have than a band who is worried if they are playing in 4/4 time or how many diminished triads they can pull off in a measure. All the music theory I need lies in my record collection.

It has been observed that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs form a sort of poem that tells a story about a change in states of mind. Is this reflected in your songwriting at all?

I’d like to think so. I mean, that has always been the appeal for me through a lot of metal: where are the instruments taking me? I need passageways to form lyrics to, sometimes a narrow corridor covered in blood will do, other times an ocean of blood with floating corpses does my mind good. Some people write their lyrics before music, I write my lyrics THROUGH the music. I let the Devil take my mind, and the instruments guide my pen to paper. Most lyrix i have writ were on the first stab.

Do you think a genre of unpopular “popular music” like death metal and/or black metal can be a form of art? What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

Absolutely. What seperates the two? Art succeeds from the within, damn the outsider’s opinion. Entertainment comes with the ideals that for it to succeed, you must please a group of people whether large or small. I think it is possible to be a bit of both, as when we write music we do it for ourselves firstly, but we do care if our message poisons the right people. I mean, if you really did not care if your music or art was embraced by anyone then why release it? Now, it does not bother me if we get negative response, if we wanted to be liked by all then we would be involved in a band hunting for a major label and become a tool for their bank accounts. That is where it ceases being art, and falls strictly into the “please the sheep” category!

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How and why?

Somewhat. Like I mentioned earlier, there are kids that really think these bands like Unearth are Death Metal. Pathetic.

Are there any skills you have learned from being a death metal band that can be applied to other areas of life?

eh, the only time it was a benefit for me was when I worked in the field of Demolition. Now I am a construction foreman, and i don’t think that really applies to the fine art of fuckin shit up!

Imprecation has just reformed after a dozen years absent, and now you’re opening for Mayhem. How does that feel? Where are you going next?

It feels great man. It feels natural that our first show back is gonna be with Mayhem and Marduk onstage. I mean, our very first show as a band was in early 1992 opening for Grave/Massacre and the very next one was opening for Entombed/Exhorder, so we are used to “breaking the ice” on a big stage. We have a real killer show planned in June with Father Befouled and Thornspawn, and we will be playing in Mexico in August and New York in December with some killer bands.

Is that live recording that made it to tape ever going to see a general release? What about a re-release of TGS?

No. It was only a small production, never meaning to be an official Imprecation release. If you got one, cool, but it stops at that cassette as far as our involvement with it. As far as Theurgia Goetia Summa, it will be re-released this summer on Die Todesrune records in Spain. The original release never gave proper credit to Phillip or myself. I mean, Phil wrote the music to at least 6 of those songs and my lyrics and vocals were on 6 of the nine tracks to no mention. Everyone who don’t know us think that Mark Beecher does all the vocals, when his vocal contribution stops after the third song. From then on it’s me, and Phil is playing the guitar on everyone of the Sigil of Baphomet and Ceremony tracks as well. So that’s gonna be re-released and also we have a killer new 7 inch that has been recorded on Negativity Records that will be entitled “Sigil of Lucifer”, to be released this summer.

We appreciate your spending so much time on these questions, and know it’s going to be important information in the underground. If you have anything else to add that we were too dumb to ask, please stick it here.

Thanks Herr Prozak for the interview. Hails and horns to ANUS.com, and to all affiliated with its writings!!

Here and NOW is our day of torment! Here and NOW is our day of Joy! Here and now is our opportunity! Choose ye this day, this hour, for no redeemer liveth. Every attempt made to organize the future must necessarily collapse. The present is our domain, and our chief duty is to take immediate possession thereof upon strict business principles. Strive therefore against them that strive against you, and war against them that war against thine. Lay hold of shield and buckler or their equivalents; stand up! Be a terrible one in thine own defense. Raise up also the clenched hand, and stop the way of them that would persecute you. Say unto thine own heart and soul: “I, even I, am my own redeemer.” Let them be hurled back into confusion and infamy, who devise thine undoing. Let them be as chaff before the cyclone, and let the Angel of Death pursue them, nay, overtake them. In a pit they have hidden a trap for thy feet; into that very destruction let them fall. Then, exultant, “sound the loud timbrel”. Rejoice! Rejoice! in thine own salvation. Then all thy bones shall say pridefully, “Who is like unto me? Have I not delivered myself by mine own brain? Have I not been to strong for mine adversaries? Have I not spoiled them that would have spoiled me?”

– Ragnar Redbeard, Might is Right (1896)

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Interview: Wes Infernal and Matt Mayhem (Blaspherian)

Blaspherian comes from Houston, Texas, and makes old school death metal with its own voice. Their music does not sound like any known band but is clearly influenced by the old school of booming, primitive, dark, introspective and alienated metal. Formed in 2004, Blaspherian arose from the collaboration of Wes Infernal — formerly of Infernal Dominion and Imprecation — and Desekrator, but rapidly branched out to include Matt Mayhem on drums and Apollyon on vocals and bass.

Since that time, through several releases culminating in Allegiance to the Will of Damnation, after which Joe Nekro replaced Apollyon, the band has been crawling its way to the top of the Texas death metal stack, and will release a new album, Infernal Warriors of Death, shortly. We were fortunate to get some moments to talk with members Wes Infernal (guitars) and Matt Mayhem (drums) about this raging force of death metal.

Is it hard for you to create new riffs, ideas, songs and a “voice” for yourselves in old school death metal, since so much of the genre was established before?

WES: Not at all. We’ve been at this for long enough that it comes quite naturally, although there are occasional “dry spells.” One thing that sticks out is out guitar sound… once you hear it, you know it’s us. That and the way I write creates an original “voice” for us, as I see it.

MATT: Wes and I continuously get better at writing together. I think both of our hearts are in death metal. That and our strict guideline of writing songs is what keeps the ideas flowing. The right part for the wrong song, the song as a whole, and most importantly to remain evil and heavy at all times.

BLASPHERIAN finally has a stable line-up. How did you (Matt and Wes) decide to form the band; what was the catalyst?

W: BLASPHERIAN was created by myself and Desekrator, the original vocalist. Matt joined a short time afterwards, when Desekrator and I decided to get a lineup together. We originally had the idea of starting a thrash band back in 2004, but then I realized for me it had to be Satanic death metal, as that’s my true unholy calling. I had been without a band for about a year, and had enough time off…it was time to create this sick unholy force known as BLASPHERIAN.

I went to the Garden of Love,
And saw what I never had seen;
A Chapel was built in the midst,
Where I used to play on the green.

And the gates of this Chapel were shut,
And ‘Thou shalt not’ writ over the door;
So I turned to the Garden of Love
That so many sweet flowers bore.

And I saw it was filled with graves,
And tombstones where flowers should be;
And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
And binding with briars my joys and desires.

– William Blake, Songs of Experience (1794)

Have the values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How, and what does it make you think?

W: The values have not changed for the diehards, for the true. But in the poseur world, of course their values change with every trend, with most of them eventually getting out of the scene altogether. To me, metal is a way of life, forever — until death. Long live the true metal warriors of death!

M: Unfortunately, I wasn’t there to experience the glory of the old days. I’m only 25, but the majority of the death metal I listen to is from the late 80s to early 90s. From what I see happening now, there are a lot of new killer bands coming out that keep that tradition alive. People are getting fed up with the bullshit that’s labeled “metal music” nowadays and rightfully so.

Wes Infernal has hosted the “From the Depths” radio show for a long time now. How long has it been, how has the show contributed to knowing metal, and has it showing you what is important to the listening audience influenced your approach to writing music?

W: I’ve done “From the Depths” since 2000, anno satanas. The show really hasn’t contributed to me knowing metal. I do the same things I’ve always done: buy CDs, collect records and magazines. The fun is turning all the listeners on to the stuff I get.

M: Honestly, I think to the older generation “Sweet Nightmares” was more important. Especially from the late 80s through the 90s. I know from my own experience before meeting Wes, “From the Depths” was definitely a pivotal point as far as finding out about new music goes. Me and my friends would get together and drink every Sunday and listen to awesome music we had never heard before. It eventually became a game of sorts, guessing which band he was playing at the time as well as an opportunity to test your knowledge of the underground.

When the band HELLHAMMER said, “Only Death is Real,” what do you think that meant?

W: To me, HELLHAMMER were one of the first metal bands to introduce death into their lyrical and visual themes. Life is short, death is eternal, therefore only death is real.

What were the early influences on your playing and songwriting, both individually and as a band?

W: Without a doubt, POSSESSED… and SLAYER. Which later developed into DEATH, MORBID ANGEL, etc.

M: In the beginning I think we were very influenced by INCANTATION, DEMIGOD, IMMOLATION, GRAVE, MORBID ANGEL and POSSESSED. I still try to incorporate those influences as much as possible, but I think that BLASPHERIAN has developed into its own beast by now! As far as drumming influences: Chris Reifert (AUTOPSY), Jim Roe (INCANTATION), and Craig Smilowski (IMMOLATION) are considered before all!

Does being fully metal conflict with having a career, family or non-metal friends? How do you all balance being in an occult death metal band with the needs of normal life?

W: Yes. It’s not easy, dealing with people that do not, and will not ever, understand the things I believe in or the things I do. You just have to go through life standing up for what you believe in. Try to explain, and most never get it. The few that do still think you’re crazy, which to me is hilarious. Explaining to a Christian how they are the embodiment of the herd mentality, and a slave in every way possible — I look forward to it sometimes.

When you write songs, do you start with a concept, or a riff, or something else?

W: It works either way. Sometimes a song title can trigger music, sometimes music will conjure a song title. But for the most part, at least so far, music gets written first.

How did you learn to play? Do you use music theory or another method? Did musical illiteracy help or hinder you in learning to make music that sounded the way you wanted it to?

W: I used to just jam along to SLAYER, METALLICA, and DARK ANGEL records. That was the foundation for me to learn everything I needed to learn. I know very little theory, really it’s more about pure feeling and emotion, each riff must mean something on a purely emotional level. So to me musically illiteracy has definitely helped, as strange as that may sound, because I would hate to have any kind of limitations, which is what theory is in my opinion.

I am not disclosing any trade secrets. In fact, the manager said afterwards that Mr. Kurtz’s methods had ruined the district. I have no opinion on that point, but I want you clearly to understand that there was nothing exactly profitable in these heads being there. They only showed that Mr. Kurtz lacked restraint in the gratification of his various lusts, that there was something wanting in him — some small matter which, when the pressing need arose, could not be found under his magnificent eloquence. Whether he knew of this deficiency himself I can’t say. I think the knowledge came to him at last — only at the very last. But the wilderness had found him out early, and had taken on him a terrible vengeance for the fantastic invasion. I think it had whispered to him things about himself which he did not know, things of which he had no conception till he took counsel with this great solitude — and the whisper had proved irresistibly fascinating.

– Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1902)

Starting with INCANTATION, occult death metal bands have a unique way of titling their songs, like “Enthroned in Blasphemous Triumph” that emphasizes an older, more complex, more formal way of speaking. Why do you think that is?

W: I’m not really sure. I just know I like titles like that — they are from the heart, that is the heart of pure darkness and evil — and to me that’s what it’s all about.

What are the differences between BLASPHERIAN and IMPRECATION, and how do these reflect what you’ve learned or thought in the intervening years?

W: The most obvious difference is that Phil and Ruben wrote most of the music in IMPRECATION, at least early on. In BLASPHERIAN, I write 99% of the music thus far. I will say that without IMPRECATION, there would be no BLASPHERIAN…plain and simple. Those guys showed me everything, 666 goat hails to those wonderful lads!

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

W: Lack of honesty, really. You know you hear something, and you know if it’s real; to me that’s the most important thing, moreso than sound quality or production…those things mean nothing. It’s what’s in the intent, the meaning behind the music, that matters, not production.

Your riffs sound to me like there’s a heavy MORPHEUS DESCENDS and ASPHYX influence. What are the pivotal bands for all old school death metal acts to know?

W: I love old MORPHEUS DESCENDS but it’s not like I listen to them all the time. More often, I listen to IMMOLATION, INCANTATION, old MORBID ANGEL, GOREAPHOBIA, and of course IMPRECATION. You mentioned ASPHYX; I would definitely throw them in there as well as old DEICIDE, PARALYSIS, CRUCIFIER… so many.

If you could re-live the underground years of 1988-1994, what would you do differently? Do you think that kind of era is coming back again for metal?

W: I’d collect more old records, go to more shows, collect more demos and posters. I’d keep all of my old stuff in better condition. Some of it got fucked up along the way. I hope the old era will come back. It seems to be going in that direction, at least on an underground level. A lot of the newer death metal bands are keeping the old spirit alive, like DEAD CONGREGATION, NECROS CHRISTOS, just to name a few. Hail to the old school, and hails to those that keep it alive.

Is metal a culture, like many other “subcultures” which are part of this one big culture we call modern society? If so, what are its values?

W: In a way, it is a subculture. Definitely a counter culture to the norms of modern society. Metal values — hmm — standing up for real metal, as well as keeping vinyl, spiked gauntlets, denim vests, patches, crushing poseurs, collecting metal, not following the herd mentality…fighting against the blind Christian fools… you know, the fun stuff in life.

Some have claimed that art is a warning to society; others say art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Where, if anywhere, do these views intersect?

M: Our goal is to spread as much negativity as possible. The music is most important to us, not recognition as artists or opinions of others. We create this music for ourselves but we also welcome those that enjoy what we do as well.

Now that you’ve got several shorter releases out, the most prominent being 2007’s Allegiance to the Will of Damnation, how are you going to expand your empire? Has your songwriting or approach changed?

W: We’re working on our debut full length, for one. As for changes, there are none really but I think the new songs are stronger. Better riffs, better arrangements… and more fast stuff. But unquestionably along the same lines.

Although your music is old school death metal, your songs seem to concentrate on creating an atmosphere of pervasive doom, then rushing back into energetic metal as if to imitate a camera panning away from a battlefield of devastation. What is the importance of this atmosphere in your music?

W: Contrast, kind of like a roller coaster ride. Not all fast, not all slow, a mixture to keep things interesting. At least, that’s what I shoot for.

Is there a relationship between how an artist sees the world, and the type of music he or she will then make? Do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music?

W: Interesting question. I’ve never thought about it; I don’t see how others see. But if I had to guess I’d say no. I think for someone that feels exactly like me, their art could manifest itself completely differently. I mean, if you look at death metal, most bands sound different, but some may have the same hate and the same musical influences.

The CD version of Allegiance to the Will of Damnation has two additional tracks that the vinyl does not have. Were these recorded at the same time? What’s their story?

W: The first track we recorded as a band was “To Walk the Path of Unrighteousness” and it was for the split 7″ with Adumus. The other tracks were recorded at the same time. We used “Of Unholy Blood” for the split with Evil Incarnate. It’s been an honor to work with these bands, and with these labels…horns forever up!

I’m excited about how good this CD is and am looking forward to future output, live performances and presence in the genre from BLASPHERIAN. I think our readers are too.

M: Thank you Brett for the tons of support!

W: Thanks for the great interview, absolutely one of the best so far. Also thanks for the support, and thanks to all that support true death metal. We do this for ourselves, because we love to create heavy evil, Satanic music… it means a lot when others enjoy it as well. Look for our debut Infernal Warriors of Death soon. Hail!

We shall be able to gather, if not to create, this Life; to transmute it into other forms of force, as now we transmute heat to light. We shall be able to store it, to harness it, to guide it; to absorb its energy ourselves directly, without resorting to our present gross, inefficient, cumbrous and dangerous means of abstracting it from ores (if I may say so) mechanically, blindly, empirically, and with such toil and strife. Our journey–by such means of transit–is necessary and hateful; our travelling companions are our diseases, and the host to ease us at the end of the short, the weary day, is Death.

– Aleister Crowley, Liber CCCXLIII: AMRITA (1920)

Photos by AngelaTXDM

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Interview: Ross Dolan (Immolation)

Death metal spread itself around the world, zooming in and out of media focus, and probably died and was reborn several times. Stalwart pillars of the death metal community remain, guiding it past the social hype and dead ends, and one of the most persistent is New York’s Immolation. These death metal craftsmen have created detailed, artful death metal since the late 1980s and have influenced every generation of the genre. We were lucky to catch Ross Dolan for a few questions.

When you started out in 1988, you were a different band than even a few years later. Dawn of Possession seems divided between the style of those early tracks, which sounds more like a collision between speed metal (Exodus, Metallica, Slayer) and Possessed than the newer material, which seems to me to be fully death metal in a “modern” sense, more like the European bands of the 1990-1991 era. Did your musical goals or influences change during this time?

I think with our first album, our influences are more noticeable than they are in the later albums. This album in particular was written over the course of three years, a few songs here, a few there, until it was finally ready, and actually the last two songs we wrote for that record were “Those Left Behind” and “Into Everlasting Fire,” two of the strongest and most memorable songs of the record in my opinion.

As a young band, we wrote songs for fun and had no intentions of recording an album, nor were we planning on making a 20 plus year career out of the band. We wrote songs as an outlet, we were all into the same music and were trying to create our own version of that, only better and different. I was only 18 when the band formed in 1988, so in a lot of ways I had a lot of growing up to do, and as we matured and focused, so did the band.

I really don’t think we nailed it until possibly our fourth record (Close To a World Below). The first three were a struggle for us to try to find our place, and although we were close, and all the elements were there, it was just a matter of fine tuning. I would say Here in After and Failures For Gods were albums that showed more of Immolation and less of our influences, but at the same time they were experimental in the sense that we were trying to create something unique and different, and didn’t quite know how to get there. I think we were all very happy and proud of our earlier releases, but as the band matured, so did our song writing and confidence in our material.

Our goals I don’t feel ever changed, we were just in a new place with each new record. Each new record was almost like a fresh start for us, leaving everything else behind and starting anew. We obviously wanted to make things better and better, but we never tried to out do ourselves and top the last record, there were way too many other obstacles without adding this kind of pressure into the mix.

As far as influences go, the main inspirations to play music are always there, and all I need to do to remind me of them is to see a great live show or put on a killer album that hits me the same way now as it did 25 years ago, then I am inspired all over again. The bands you mentioned above were all favorites and big inspirations to us as young musicians; in fact Exodus was the first underground metal band I ever saw live in August of 1985 in Brooklyn. They played with Carnivore, Nuclear Assault, Blessed Death and Agent Steel, and it was something I will always remember as a fan.

After the first album, Immolation seems to have gone through three stages of evolution. Technical metal (Here in After), a simplified but punchier style (Close to a World Below, Failures for Gods, and Unholy Cult) and the newest (on Harnessing Ruin, Hope and Horror and Shadows in the Light), a style that reminds me of the powerful storytelling metal bands of the late 1980s and how they wrote songs that seemed like the soundtracks to their fairly epic videos on then-new MTV. What spurred these changes in style, and do these reflecting your desire to reach different people or communicate differently?

I would agree with you, except as I mentioned earlier, I would put Failures for Gods in the “experimental/technical” stage, and the rest seems to fit. After the Unholy Cult record, we made a conscious decision to strip the songs down a bit, make them less bloated with riffs, and make them more straight forward. We wanted to make things more simplified in a stronger way, to make the songs easier to grasp right away, but still maintain that dark and haunting feel that Bob seems to create so well.

Harnessing Ruin was our first attempt at this, but I think we came closer with the latest album and the E.P. Harnessing Ruin was a great album in my opinion, I think it was probably our heaviest album to date, and it saw us taking a brief departure lyrically from the religious themes and focusing more on the world and the darker sides of life, which I think gave it a more personal touch. This change of approach came not to reach new people (let’s face it, if we wanted to reach more people, maybe playing extreme death metal isn’t quite the way to do it), but simply to write better music that got to the point quicker and stuck in the listeners head longer.

The Shadows In The Light album along with the Hope And Horror EP were a continuation of that, only difference is that these newer records had more of the guitar layers and embellishments that make the songs more epic sounding and much more interesting to listen to. It wasn’t a drastic change because all the core elements of Immolation are still in tact, but it was something that we felt helped make the songs stronger in delivery and dynamics.

Just as Life, after ages of struggle, evolved that wonderful bodily organ the eye, so that the living organism could see where it was going and what was coming to help or threaten it, and thus avoid a thousand dangers that formerly slew it, so it is evolving today a mind’s eye that shall see, not the physical world, but the purpose of life, and thereby enable the individual to work for that purpose instead of thwarting and baffling it by setting up shortsighted personal aims as at present.

– George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

Recent Immolation albums use melody lines with more “space” in them (are less chromatic), and emphasize harmony as well as allowing the solo to fit the themes of the song, making for more easily-recognized songs. What inspired you to explore music in this way?

Changes such as these just happen naturally as we grow as musicians and song writers. There was no conscious effort to add more melody; it just felt right at the time. Some of these embellishments are worked on before we get into the studio, but on the last album, most of the extra guitar parts were written and performed on the spot while Bob was tracking his leads, and this was the first time he really went in there with no preparation. He would loop the solo sections and just play over them until we found something that we liked and then he would build on it.

The instrumental “The Struggle of Hope and Horror” took a full day to add all the extra guitar overlays and solos. There is so much going on in that song it’s hard to even comprehend what went into it, and yet the finished product wouldn’t lead the listener to believe there are that many guitar tracks because everything blends together and works as one piece. It’s all done to give the songs more depth and personality, to create something different that’s both dark and musical in an epic way.

As a band of over twenty years, you have had to work substantially to maintain a level of quality that many never achieve even briefly. It seems a substantial number of death metal bands from the late 80s/early 90s burned out quickly, creating great works and then evaporating. One might guess that their creative abilities were more spontaneous and fleeting than yours. Do you think the difference between these “methods” of creation is obvious when hearing something initially, or after some study with it? How do you, as a band or as individuals, avoid becoming complacent?

I don’t think this would be apparent initially in any band. As we mentioned earlier, our first record had a lot of our personal influences mixed in throughout the album, and it did take us a few albums before we really crafted the band into what it was meant to be from the beginning. So I would think it would take some time, and some bands never made it to this point, and the bands that did, it was only the beginning of the hard work.

Once we fine tuned everything to fit our vision, then it became more of a challenge to move that vision forward, develop it in a way that wouldn’t compromise the “essence” of the band but enhance it and make it into what it is today. And even now as we are writing new material for the next album, we are still trying to make things better, stay true to what we are, and enjoy the process! It never ends, this creative drive never ends for us, we are still like a bunch of excited kids when the writing process kicks in, and this is why we keep doing it.

This isn’t something we do to pay the bills, it’s not a job and it’s not a chore, its something we are truly passionate about. It is something that each one of us needs in our lives, because without it, our lives would have a huge void. It’s very hard to convey this feeling to some people, but it is like a drug, a powerful driving force that we enjoy following year after year, record after record. So this is what kills complacency, our love for what we do and our passion and drive to move it forward and improve on it.

I could write a thesis on all the influences that I think I hear in Immolation. There’s something that sounds like Voivod, and an acknowledged Mercyful Fate influence, as well as sometimes some Iron Maiden. On Harnessing Ruin and nearer, I hear variations on themes Black Sabbath introduced. What are your most influential influences? Have you found yourself leaning more toward some and less toward others as your songwriting style has evolved?

Well, you are spot on with everything you just mentioned. VoiVod was a definite influence, especially the first three records, and as you know, Mercyful Fate is a huge influence on us as well. Iron Maiden was both mine and Bob’s favorite band back in the 80’s, and a huge influence on myself as well (Steve Harris is the guy who got me playing bass). Black Sabbath has inspired everyone playing metal today, and if they deny it, they are lying!!!! These bands were the beginning of the road for us, the foundation, and they have all left their mark on us as fans and musicians.

Honestly, we are very open minded when it comes to music, and our personal musical tastes are all over the map, so most of our inspiration over the last 10 years or so has been from more non-metal acts rather than from the old classics. This is true especially with Bob, and if you ask him, he will tell you himself that it’s the non-metal stuff that inspires him to try new and different things, but in a way that would work itself into our style of music.

We are very picky and try real hard to sound different and unique, so knowing what’s out there helps us to stay the way we are without unintentionally writing something that sounds similar to another band. For the last few records I think we have all been on the same page musically, and we know what we want to achieve, so we really use our past records as a sort of template to guide us. We know what works for us and what does not, and although we do try different things with each record, they are very subtle and do not distract form the core of the band.

You write almost exclusively on religious themes that are unnervingly well-versed in Christian theology. Many metal bands seem to use fantasy or metaphor to express ideas that would become too mundane if made political, psychological, etc., preferring the more poetic symbolism as poets like John Milton and William Wordsworth did. How did you discover this way of expressing yourself, and what effect do you hope it will have?

We have always shared the same feelings when it came to religion, and although religion played a small part in our earlier lives, to some degree this inspired us to move lyrically in this direction. We have always tried to be as honest with our lyrics as possible. We are writing about our personal feelings and giving our perspective on different aspects of the world around us, whether it be religion, war or personal demons.

I think our bluntness and honesty shines through and it gives the listener the ability to relate to what we are saying on a more personal level, which makes it more powerful. Again, I think we have always taken our lyrics as seriously as the music itself, and have always believed the two worked together hand in hand to drive home the point of our music. Over the years, as with the music and song writing, I believe we have also come along way in the lyrical department.

Since the Unholy Cult album, Bob has had a much more active role in the lyric writing process, and I think the result has been much stronger and much more personal lyrics that go beyond just the religious themes we had written about earlier on. Prior to that, it was really just myself writing the lyrics, a lot of times building the song around just a title or a basic idea that our first guitarist Tom would throw my way. After four albums, it became more difficult to deliver fresh ideas without sounding redundant or without rehashing something that we had already done, so to have a fresh point of view be introduced into the mix was something that I was extremely happy about.

Music does not express this or that particular and definite joy, this or that sorrow, or pain, or horror, or delight, or merriment, or peace of mind; but joy, sorrow, pain, horror, delight, merriment, peace of mind themselves, to a certain extent in the abstract, their essential nature, without accessories, and therefore without their motives. Yet we completely understand them in this extracted quintescence. Hence it arises that our imagination is so easily excited by music, and now seeks to give form to that invisible yet actively moved spirit world which speaks to us directly, and to clothe it with flesh and blood, i. e. to embody it in an analogous example.

This is the origin of the song with words, and finally of the opera, the text of which should therefore never forsake that subordinate position in order to make itself the chief thing and the music the mere means of expressing it, which is a great misconception and a piece of utter perversity; for music always expresses only the quintescence of life and its events, and never these themselves, and therefore their differences do not always affect it. It is precisely this universality, which belongs exclusively to it, together with the greatest determinateness, that gives music the high worth which it has as the panacea for all our woes. Thus if music is too closely united to words, and tries to form itself according to the events, it is striving to speak a language which is not its own.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (1819)

Your exhaustive touring (and longevity) brings you into contact with many of the newer acts (and fans) and every perceivable trend within metal. Could you comment on anything notable you’ve seen develop recently (or ever), how you tolerate the worst of it and to what degree you’ve subsumed some of the best?

We have certainly seen a lot of bands and trends come and go over the last 21 years, and we have also seen extreme metal go back underground at times, and come back out into the forefront at other times. Through it all we try mainly to stay focused on what we need to do and not what is going on around us. We knew we would still continue to push forward regardless of the trends and popularity of the music. What everyone else did never really concerned us.

Of course we were always aware of what was going on around us, but it never influenced us either way. We were always about introducing our music to as many different people as we could, and felt that the only way to do this was to tour a lot and get out there and do as much as humanly possible to get the music out there. We feel that this has helped us tremendously where the label support has not. Our willingness to get out there despite the odds and promote on our own is what has carried the band this far.

I would say as a whole, we are happy with the exposure the extreme metal scene has received in the last few years; it has achieved a sort of acceptance within the mainstream to a degree. I don’t mean to say it will ever be mainstream, because I don’t ever see that happening, and this is a good thing, but it is visible now where it was only visible back in the late 80’s in black and white fanzines and on college radio. Now we see coverage in full color metal and music magazines all over the world, on MTV and all the other major video networks, on lager scale tours that can attract more mainstream headliners to expose the music to a larger fan base.

So these are all positive things that have come to light in the last few years. Its just less of an uphill battle these days. Of course there will always be the trends and terrible bands that come out of nowhere and get a lot of hype and exposure thrown their way, which is a bit frustrating at times, but they eventually disappear into the unknown where they belong, and we live to fight another day…..hahahaha.

Here in After is your most complex album and a favorite of many a metal head. What made you elect to take the technical metal high road, and why did you opt for more straightforward songwriting after that? Did a technical riff-fest not express what you hoped it had, and if so, how do newer methods do this?

Here in After is our most complex album along with Failures for Gods, which I feel is even more complex in a lot of ways. Here in After was our second album, and this came after a long period of not writing any new material because we were in between labels, so it was about a five year period between the first and second albums, which in most cases would have been career suicide for most new bands, or a quick ride to superstar status to most bands today who come back after a long hiatus.

For us it was just business as usual. We were at that critical sophomore album phase, and knew there would be a little pressure to write something as good if not better than the first album which did really good for us for the time and amount of promotion. I can say that we never really made any conscious decision to take any technical metal high road; in fact, we never really felt this material was really that technical compared to some of the more tech bands out there. Sure, it had tons of tempo changes and many different parts coming and going, but I never considered it technical because we weren’t technical players, and I felt that if we were able to pull it off, it could not have been that technical.

Let’s just say the songs were a little too busy and involved for their own good at times. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, and after the Failures For Gods album, we knew where we needed to improve the songs and how to do it. The problem with these albums, especially Failures For Gods was that there were so many great riffs that were never allowed to make their mark, they came in for a quick measure and were gone again and we were on to a new part.

Looking back, we could have probably written an entirely separate album just with all the extra riffs that were not needed in these first two records. I know to some of our die hard old school fans this talk is blasphemy, but its how we feel, and we have made conscious attempts from Close To a World Below to the present to change this, which I hope had made things better. It has for us, so that’s what really matters to us in the end. We have to be happy in order to continue.

It seems to me that Harnessing Ruin got a mixed reception in some underground circles because of the use of more “mainstream” techniques, like the whispered introduction to one song, and some of the “bouncier” drumming. However, this album also showcases some of the finest fusion of professional songwriting — using melody, harmony, rhythm and structure together — with savage death metal technique. Are you trying to compete with, or be better than, the newer styles of death metal-hybridized popular metal? What have the successes and challenges of this approach been?

I think this was an important album for us because it showcased our efforts to make the songs stronger and more direct by cutting out all the excess stuff not necessary and getting to the point much quicker.

As far as the whispering parts go, we did use the whisper vocals as a complete second vocal track under the main vocal on the song “After My Prayers” on the first album. I got the inspiration to do this from The Doors “Riders on the Storm”, which has that whisper track under the main vocal throughout the song, and I loved that creepy effect it had and wanted to try it behind a Death Metal vocal. Although it was very subtle, it had a similar effect. So the whisper thing was done not as a ticket to mainstream acceptance, not in the least, but as a way to create a different vocal dynamic since I was opposed to the clear vocal approach, and the whispered parts were suggestive of an inner voice, and they gave the heavier Death Metal vocal parts much more power and authority when they came roaring in (especially in “Son of Iniquity”, which is probably one of our darkest and heaviest songs both musically and lyrically).

Since the songs were more stripped down and to the point, it really allowed all the dark melodies to come right to the surface, and I think it gave some of our former critics a new appreciation of the band, which was a positive thing and helped to attract new fans to our shows. Are we trying to compete with other bands out there? No, we have never done this to be better than anyone else, we try just to better ourselves and make Immolation the best it can be.

We do what we do, and I feel we are unique and different enough to stand out among all the many great and not so great bands out there today. We are competitive only when it comes to working harder with each new release to make it hopefully as good and as strong as its predecessor. I think with what we achieved on the Harnessing Ruin record, it allowed us to make an even stronger follow up album with Shadows in the Light, and hopefully we will carry this forward to the new album.

Are there any skills you have learned from being a death metal band that can be applied to other areas of life?

It’s all about hard work, conviction, following what you believe in and are passionate about and realizing that not everything in life has to be what the rest of society expects of you. Its ok to be an individual, a free thinker, and someone who is willing to disagree with popular opinion at the expense of being outcast from some circles, but that’s fine as long as you are true to yourself.

I have a great family who always supported me, so I was always fortunate to have that support group behind me, but it still was a question of juggling your passions with your priorities. I learned how to work and be responsible at an early age to allow myself to be a touring musician with a full time job waiting for me when I came home. I learned early on that this would probably never pay the bills and it was something I think we all accepted early on, which made us very practical and realistic with our decisions. I learned that nothing comes easy in life, and with out dedication and hard work it was impossible to move forward with any endeavor.

These were all things I have learned from being in the band. We learned always to expect the worst, and if something good came out of the situation it was never taken for granted. And if you consider living out of a suitcase in a van with six other guys for a few months every year for the last 21 years, eating shitty road food, sleeping in rest stop parking lots and taking sink showers while living the dream is a skill, then we can add that to the list…..hahaha. I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Did learning music theory, and becoming better musicians, help you in expressing your ideas? How did it do so?

Strangely enough, we never learned music theory, actually other than a couple of lessons when we were much younger, our musical training was more hands on. I learned how to play bass from a buddy of mine when I was like 13, and a few years later I took a few lessons locally, but I never learned how to read music or any of that stuff. I just always had a good ear for music, and had a knack for figuring things out for myself, and the same went for Bob, although he does know how to read music, but never had any music theory either.

I think this may have helped us instead of hurt us because we never see any limitations when writing or arranging songs, we do what feels right, so it was never an issue. I think the same goes for Bill as well, but Steve I believe had more training as a drummer and this definitely shows in his performance, execution and ability to figure out things very quickly and accurately. Becoming better musicians, which was a very gradual process, definitely helped us not only write better songs, but it allowed us to play better and more confidently live.

I am still learning and getting better with each album, its always an ongoing process for me as well as the other guys. I am pushed to improve my playing as our songs get more evolved and playing shows night after night is the best way in my opinion to get better as a musician.

But it was Schopenhauer who first defined the position of Music among the fine arts with philosophic clearness, ascribing to it a totally different nature from that of either plastic or poetic art. He starts from wonder at Music’s speaking a language immediately intelligible by everyone, since it needs no whit of intermediation through abstract concepts (Begriffe); which completely distinguishes it from Poetry, in the first place, whose sole material consists of concepts, employed by it to visualise the Idea.

For according to this philosopher’s so luminous definition it is the Ideas of the world and of its essential phenomena, in the sense of Plato, that constitute the ‘object’ of the fine arts; whereas, however, the Poet interprets these Ideas to the visual consciousness (dem anschauenden Bewusstsein) through an employment of strictly rationalistic concepts in a manner quite peculiar to his art, Schopenhauer believes he must recognise in Music itself an Idea of the world, since he who could entirely translate it into abstract concepts would have found withal a philosophy to explain the world itself.

– Richard Wagner, Beethoven (1870)

Jim Morrison (THE DOORS) sang and wrote repeatedly of a “frontier,” or a no man’s land where chaos and conflict ruled, but also open spaces were present. Was he speaking existentially, politically, or both, and how does this apply to music that loves nature (red in tooth and claw), destruction, emptiness and melancholy loneliness?

I kind of think he was talking about the capacity of humans to have this chaos and conflict struggling together with our feelings and the other beliefs we have learned throughout our lives as we grow and experience the world, and how to determine which is real and which is not, and which means something and which does not.

I think this frontier is within us, in our own minds, along with the inner struggles and conflicts we experience on a daily basis. The world is what it is, we are what ultimately decides our course and place in it to some extent, and I think this frontier to some degree is the unknown, the future, what lies around every turn in life, each new moment. Now, how does this apply to music?

It’s these inner conflicts and feelings that force us to look at the big picture, figure things out and to make choices. As an example, I am an atheist, and although I never really bought in to the whole religion thing, it wasn’t until I was in high school that I finally decided I was done with all religion, and music gave me an outlet to express all these feelings I had all along. There were many years of this “going through the motions” phase when I had my doubts about the whole thing, but kept it inside until it all came to the surface and I faced the reality of the situation on my own terms.

Morrison had a lot of chaos going on in his head, and between his lyrics and poetry this was apparent, but how it’s interpreted is an individual thing of course.

Do you think a genre of unpopular “popular music” like death metal and/or black metal can be a form of art? What distinguishes art from entertainment, and if they overlap, is there a difference in goals between the two?

I think it is art. When it is done for no other reason other than the pure passion of it, it is definitely art.

Entertainment is made with the purpose of entertaining others, so it is designed in a way to appeal to others, whereas art I feel is more personal, and done for yourself with no compromises and no care whether others will approve. We have always written music for ourselves, and the fact that others like what we do makes it a form of entertainment I guess, but that is not the sole intention or motivation for us to write music.

The two often overlap, when art becomes trendy or cool and all of a sudden is in demand, it becomes entertainment in this way, but it still doesn’t change the motivations when it was created. Music it seems rides along right in the middle, existing as art initially but becoming entertainment. When we perform, sure, it is entertainment for our fans, but when we are writing, it is definitely art, so there is a fine line between the two when it comes to music.

Do musicians end up writing death metal because it expresses their thoughts or worldview, and if so, does this produce any compatibility between views? In other words, do people who see the world in similar ways make similar music with similar topic matter and imagery? Does this mean the genre can be said to have a culture or philosophy of its own?

Well, I really can’t speak for anyone else, but I would imagine and would like to think musicians use their music to express their thoughts and feelings, whether it be on religion, or just their take on the world. For us, Death Metal was the perfect vehicle for conveying our feelings, sometimes angry, bitter and sad, but ultimately to express ourselves through the music.

I don’t think musicians sharing similar views will necessarily create the same types of music, because music is an individual thing and it is personal. Our music is very aggressive and powerful with a lot of heaviness, dark melodies, and very haunting at times, and this certainly reflects what the lyrics are saying. Some bands do have something to say in their music that is real and will make people think, other bands like to go in a different direction and create lyrics that are fantasy, pure entertainment for the listener, which is also fine, and we have also incorporated some of this to drive home our point on some occasions, but I think for the most part we fall into the first category.

We usually have something to say, and we don’t like to be preachy about it, but we like to present it in such a way that it does paint a bleak picture, and I think this certainly drives home the point quicker once you understand what the point of the song is. This genre definitely has a culture AND a philosophy all of its own.

Most of the bands we have toured with are on the same page with regards to politics, world views and views on religion, so it is a common thread that I have found. Of course we sometimes have differences of opinion, which is normal, but overall I would say there is a like minded mentality with bands playing extreme music.

Some have said that death metal and black metal use “narrative” composition, where a series of riffs are motifs that evolve toward a passage between states of mind for the listener. Is this true, and is this type of composition reflected in your songwriting?

I would agree with this. Most lyrics tell a story, whether it be fact or fiction, and this would certainly apply to us. We try to get our point across in an interesting way, and to create a story that is dark, powerful and unique to drive this point home is the ultimate goal. Creating the lyrics is always one of the coolest parts of the song writing process.

I have always found it easier to write lyrics when the music is already completed, because then I get a feel for the song, and this is very inspiring when trying to pen the lyrics. Sometimes the mood of the song dictates the tone of the lyrics and the topic as well. A lot of times we will have a lot of lyrical ideas that need a home, so we will go through the music to get a feel for the songs and see what topics will fit with these songs. It’s not really something that requires a lot of thought usually, it either feels right or it doesn’t.

When you write songs, do you start with a (visual, musical, lyrical) concept for the whole song, or do you save up riff ideas and fit them together?

In the past, Bob would compose one song at a time, which would take much too long because he would either get caught up trying to figure out where to take the song, or he would just get writers block and the whole song would be on hold until the riff reservoir was full again. This was a very frustrating process at times, and we could literally spend over a month on one song before moving on to something new.

For the last few albums, Bob will record riffs onto a multi track or now into his computer, program some basic drum beats to them, and then move on to the next riff. This way we are all listening to the riffs as he is creating them, and when the time comes, when we have plenty of good solid parts, we get together and start piecing them together. This way we never get stuck on one song, we can always move on and come back to it any time, and we can try many different things to make the songs work well, flow well and sound their absolute best.

Now that he is doing everything on his computer, he can e-mail all the parts to our drummer Steve in Ohio, and he basically knows the material before we even practice together as a band. Once we have a song arrangement, we build on it from there, changing the drum parts, altering tempos, determining where we want the leads to go, where the vocals would work best, and what parts need something to make them really stand out. So this is basically the process for us.

Music is thus by no means like the other arts, the copy of the Ideas, but the copy of the will itself, whose objectivity these Ideas are. This is why the effect of music is much more powerful and penetrating than that of the other arts, for they speak only of shadows, but it speaks of the thing itself.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (1819)

Have the sonic values of metal music changed from the early 90s? How and why?

I think you may be referring to production values. If you are, then this has definitely changed. I remember recording on to 2 inch tape, and this was very time consuming, especially when tracking drums, because you couldn’t punch in for drums as easily as you could for guitars, vocals or bass. This really wasted a lot of time and was also very frustrating after being in the studio for 12 hours and accomplishing nothing. Digital recording made analog recording totally obsolete for extreme metal bands, because now you could save time on the tracking, and use that time to get the mix right.

We aren’t talking about huge recording budgets here, so the reality is that you had to get everything done in a few weeks time or you would have to start spending some of your own money. What kids look for in production these days is totally different than when I was 14 or 15 years old. When I heard early Venom, early Possessed, early Sodom, Destruction etc., I never complained if the drums weren’t crystal clear, or if each instrument was distinct in the mix; I listened to it as a whole, and enjoyed it as a whole and never dissected it too much.

Now, these early productions would be laughed at by kids today if they were released now. That is the difference, it was about the feeling of the music, the music as a whole, not the perfect production that made me a fan. Honestly, if those bands back then had these super productions of today, they would lose something and they probably wouldn’t have had an impact like they did, to me at least.

Although your music is technical, you have taken pains to distance yourselves from technicality for technicality’s sake. What is the difference between technicality, progression and good (death metal) art?

As I have always said, it’s all about the feeling. It’s never about the speed, the heaviness, the technicality, the production, the solos or how deep or not the vocals are, it’s about the feeling. Nothing else matters, and none of these elements define Death Metal to me. If these elements are used in the right way to create a mood or feeling, then that’s when they matter, otherwise you can be as technical and fast and heavy as you want, if you can’t write a song with feeling then who cares. Death metal to me has a certain dark, haunting and ominous feel, and when I hear it, it is truly music to my ears, but if I don’t, then its just another band out of thousands, with nothing new to bring to the table.

The author Kurt Vonnegut famously referred to art as a canary in a coal mine, or a warning signal for society. Other artists, notably romantics, have claimed that art serves a necessary role in celebration of life. Still others believe it should celebrate the artist. Where, if anywhere, do these views intersect, and is it possible for art to exist as a discrete one of them and not as an intersection?

Again, this is a personal thing, and art means different things to different people. Art can be all of these things, or none depending on who you ask. I seem to think all of these apply to some degree. For some, music is a canary in a coal mine, it is that escape from the dark and mundane repetitions of life. For others, it has a strong message that people read into and get, and it moves them to see things in a different light, thus becoming a sort of warning signal for society.

It is a celebration of life, because music generally brings out all sorts of emotions and moods, memories and events, certain periods in our life, and sometimes it even helped us to get through these periods. It is the artist that is remembered and celebrated in a sense when we go to see a performance or an exhibit, so I think all of these apply. Art takes us to a different place we don’t go to that often because we sometimes get so easily swept away in the currents of day to day life, but when we do get to that place, it does make us think and celebrate life in our own personal ways.

You’ve now put out a successful album (Shadows in the Light), an EP with an accompanying live performance that is in my view one of the best representations of metal on video record, and gone on a successful tour. What’s next? Do you have long-term plans beyond the next couple years, or are you just taking life as it comes?

At the moment, we are working on new material, which will be our 8th full length, and after 21 years, I still feel we have more to say and do. We still feel as passionate about our music as we did when we first started in 1988, and fortunately for us, that fire still burns strong within us. We try not to look too far ahead, one album at a time, one touring cycle at a time, and once we move past that, we take a break, take a breath and start planning for the next one. We love doing this and will continue until its not fun anymore or until we just physically can’t do it anymore.

Thanks for the truly great interview. I really enjoyed it and now have to give my hands a rest from typing!

But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed.

– Plato, The Republic (360 BC)

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