Category Archives: Interview

Interview: Ze’ev (Salem)

It was fortunate to get in touch with this band as it gives a new perspective to the mix of interviews here: a black metal band from Israel who are pro-Israel and pro-Judaism/Jewish culture, from the sounds of what they say here. Because of linguistic confusion, it was hard to figure out exactly where they stand on many issues and Ze’ev declined to answer some of the “hot issue” questions, but what is remarkable revealed here is the attitudes toward black metal of people living in a place that to most of us, is inconceivably remote and linked to one of the great enemies of black metal, Jehovah. Many thanks to Ze’ev for taking a chance on us and giving a lengthy interview which was interrupted only when Palestinians in bulky overcoats began to arrive nearby…

What is the difference between humans and animals?

The difference between humans and animals is that animals act with their instincts alone and that is why you can’t accuse them of animalistic behavior.

Do you believe that a deity exists, as a physical or otherworldly manifestation outside of the world of symbols?

I’m not a religious person, I think everyone can believe in what they want as long as they don’t hurt anyone and as long as they don’t force you to think like them. I don’t believe in god the way most people do, I think “god” is the good things in everyone

What do you see as the ideals shared by black metal bands? If you see no shared ideals, please describe how we have all arrived at roughly similarly sounding music.

In my opinion, Black metal especially share style, subjects and visuallity, this style fits dark subjects and that is why the music sounds similar and you can define a band as black metal.

What are the historical origins of black metal music?

I think “Venom” brought this style.

When you founded salem (in 1985, as your bio claims) what bands were influencing you then and what do you feel you added to metal at the time?

Salem was formed in 1985, at the time our main influences were “venom”, “slayer” “black sabbath” et cetera. I think “Salem” and bands like “Mayhem” “Masacre” “Merciless” et cetera, brought the next generation to metal with new ideas, new instruments and more…

How would you describe the music you have written for Collective Demise?

“Collective demise” is very aggressive, although it has a lot of melodies and harmonies. I think that “Collective demise” reflects a certain adolescence of Salem, the fact that it’s more aggresive and much faster distinguish it from our previous releases.

“Collective Demise” contains 12 new songs which textually are snapshots of our reality since September 2001 and musically explore new territories; The use of Afro-Cuban Percussion on “Dead Eyes” and “Slave”, Arabic darbuka on “Broken Yet United” and “Act of Terror”, female vocals on “Coming End of Reason”, “Feed on Your Grief”, “Act of War” and “Al Taster” and the most sophisticated second guitar harmonies ever submitted to reel.

“Al Taster” is also the first single and video off the album released in Israel on June 19th 2002. This song is a cover of an old Jewish hymn. Lyrics are taken from Psalms, chapter 102, verse 3.

This album is the first Salem offering for KMG/ System Shock in Germany. Earlier this year Salem signed a 3-album contract with this well-established label.

Psalm 102: A prayer of an afflicted man. When he is faint and pours out his lament before the LORD.

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD ;
let my cry for help come to you.
2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

3 For my days vanish like smoke;
my bones burn like glowing embers.
4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass;
I forget to eat my food.
5 Because of my loud groaning
I am reduced to skin and bones.
6 I am like a desert owl,
like an owl among the ruins.
7 I lie awake; I have become
like a bird alone on a roof.
8 All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
9 For I eat ashes as my food
and mingle my drink with tears
10 because of your great wrath,
for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
11 My days are like the evening shadow;
I wither away like grass.

12 But you, O LORD , sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
14 For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
15 The nations will fear the name of the LORD ,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
16 For the LORD will rebuild Zion
and appear in his glory.
17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the LORD :
19 “The LORD looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
20 to hear the groans of the prisoners
and release those condemned to death.”
21 So the name of the LORD will be declared in Zion
and his praise in Jerusalem
22 when the peoples and the kingdoms
assemble to worship the LORD .

23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
“Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
28 The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

In your bio it says: “Kaddish” also featured a cover song called “Ha’ayara Bo’eret” (the town is on fire), a song that is being associated with The Holocaust. This national controversy found its way to the Israeli parliament for a discussion of whether or not it is appropriate for a metal band to play such songs.

Why would it be inappropriate for a metal band to cover such songs?

This is a very sensitive subject and some people thought the music is too aggresive, but eventually we decided that it is appropriate to cover songs like that, and that is why we did it, after all we are a democratic country with freedom of speech.

What do you think are the causes of the current conflict between Iraq, Afghanistan and the USA?

T E R R O R!!!

It seems to me Israel and the USA are similar, in that both are countries of immigrants founded for religions reasons. Do you see this as true?

There is no doubt that Israel and USA are similar, except i don’t think that Israel was founded for religions reasons only, The main reson was Zionism.

What is like living in a place that is currently under somewhat warlike conditions?

In Israel it’s impossible to ignore the news since it has a direct effect on your daily life and as a result you have songs. It’s hard to cope with the fear of being somewhere crowded (like busses, restaurants, or even live shows) without knowing how it will end. The fact that innocent civilians are dying gives you an helplessness feeling. It is difficult for us to see a solution for it right now, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring – therefore we try to keep hoping.

How do you feel toward the Palestinians who live in Israel?

I don’t have a problem with the palestinians who live in Israel, i think they are suffering because a minority of fanatical who believe in terror.

Why do you think the UN decided Israel should be created in the first place?

Well, the Jews were living all over the world, they had no country, and they suffered holocaust all over Europe, 6,000,000 was killed! that fact shocked the whole world and the result was that the UN decided to create Israel. ( It’s a pity that 6,000,000 had to die so that we’ll have a country).

When you are writing songs, how do you create them – from lyrics, from a melody, or from a general concept? Which members write most of the songs?

Every member of the band is writing material, and in most cases We are all meeting, listening to it and choosing what we like, eventually we build song, after that we are writing a lyrics to it. When the song is ready, We can change it , so a song is not realy ready until we record it

Do you think metal is an expression of rebellion, or does it have deeper significance?

Maybe in the past it was some kind of rebellion, but today,in my opinion, it has lot of significance, otherwise i wouldn’t keep doing it for so many years!

In America, we have fanatical Christians who both would like us to make war on Iraq but also would like to ban certain types of metal. Do you have a comment on that?

I don’t think it’s right to ban music. We are living in democratic countries and we have the freedom of speech and creation . About making war with Iraq – I think Iraq is a country that supports and exportes terror, so USA have to do something to stop it.

How is Christianity viewed in Israel?

Israel is a country that contain all the religions. We think everyone can believe in anything as long as you don’t force your opinion on us.

Do you have any anti-Christian lyrics?

No.

Do you feel you have gotten the right promotion for a band that has been around since 1985?

We didn’t get the right promotion because our old record companies saved money on publicity and tours. We were very disappointed, but i hope our new record company – KMG/System shock will do much better work.

Do you like any current black metal bands and if so, who?

of course! bands like “Limbonic art”, “Arallu”, and more…

If you could tour the world with any band, who would it be?

“Kreator”

Are there many metal bands in Israel?

The metal scene in Israel is great, we have some good bands with a lot of potential like: “Arallu”, “Nail-Within”, “Lehavoth”, “Untropia”, “Meleches”, “Orphaned Land” A lot of kids listen to metal and support it and come to live shows.

Have there been any church-burnings, or temple-burnings (not sure if I have the right word there) from black metal where you live?

No. Never.

What is your stance on the concept and spiritual significance of grave desecrations?

I think it horrible! not bcause of the deads, but because of the people who love them, and want to use this place to remember them.

Do you see there as being a difference between commercial metal bands and underground metal?

There is a difference, underground metal don’t compromise and that is why they aren’t earning money like the commercial metal bands.

What’s next for Salem?

A European tour, The release of album Number 5, and then we’ll see. We want to remain active as long as we feel that we have something to say and that there’s someone who’s interested to hear it. Salem try to be as much original and come up with good material cause we work a lot on the songs to make them interesting and have no rush to write songs that will end up being crap in the end. We will continue as long as we have support from our fans in Israel and worldwide.

What do you do outside of the band for intellectual, physical and spiritual stimulation?

First of all, I have a family – a wife and a beutiful girl, and i like being with them, I also like exercise Martial art “Tai-box”, create web sites, playing with Salem, and helping metal bands- I produced several bands like “Arallu”, “Azazel” ,”Aztec”, “Betrayer” , and i just returned from germany, helping producing “Nail within” with Harris Jones.

Do any members of Salem use drugs?

We don’t do drugs. We once had a member in Salem that used drugs and the result of that is that he is in psychiatric hospital to this very day. that freaked us out.

Some blackmetallers think that the music should be all about death, no hope, total destruction, watching the earth burn, etc. Others have families and lives outside of the musical scene. Do you have families? What is your feeling on this attitude?

As i mention before, i have a wonderful family. I’m against death and destruction, but the music is about those things because we’re living in it.

At what moment did you first feel like a “real band” or think, “wow, this is going to be our future”?

The day we recieved our first album and i held it!

In ancient mysticism, man was not viewed as separate from nature. Do you think this view has changed?

People ruined most of nature, and separated themeselves from it.

Is it possible that humans influence the outcome of events with their thoughts alone?

People, and their actions causes the outcomes! I dont think that a bus or a restaurant or even the twin towers exploded because of thoughts alone.

Do you believe UFOs visit Earth and if so, are they alien visitors or do they have malevolent intent?

I think it pretentious to think that we are alone in the universe. I don’t know what their intentions, maybe they just curious, wouldn’t you be? :-)

Do you believe in “good” and “evil”?

Yes. I believe that everyone has good and evil in him.

Thank you very much for your support. Keep metal alive! For more information about Salem, you can visit our web site: http://www.salemband.com

One would be bound to despair of our national character, too, if it had already become so inextricably entangled in its culture, indeed entirely at one with it, as is horrifyingly evident in the case of civilized France; the very thing which was France’s great advantage for a long time, and the cause of its vast superiority, namely the identity of people and culture, should now, as we contemplate the consequences, make us thank our good fortune that this questionable culture of ours still has nothing in common with the noble core of our national character. Instead, all our hopes reach out longingly towards the perception that beneath this restlessly agitated cultural life and senseless education there lies hidden a magnificent, inwardly healthy, ancient strength, which admittedly only stirs powerfully in momentous times and then returns to dreaming of some future awakening.

- F.W. Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Interview: Brian N. Russ (BNR Metal Pages)

When the Internet first became commercially available, there was no information on metal available save a handful of ASCII files and Megadeth, Arizona. A few brave souls challenged that by writing about metal and thus creating an information stream focused on the art, and not the marketing of the art as was all other information on the topic, having a corporate origin (this condition continues today, with the added complexity that most metal sites simply repeat said corporate information and slap the label “underground” on it). One of these brave souls was Brian N. Russ, who created BNR Metal Pages with a simple mission: to reflect his opinions about the better metal bands out there. Over the years, millions have read and loved this site for its simplicity and candor. Brian was kind of enough to come by the ANUS command bunker and chat a bit about his motivations, methods and metallic ambitions…

What inspired you to start the site, and what made you think, “I’ll do a database, instead of a reviews or pictures site”?

First, I’ve always had a mind for statistics and trivia, in both music and other areas (for example, sports statistics and fantasy football), so coming up with a database and learning all sorts of useless facts about bands fascinated me. As it turns out, when I was in graduate school in the mid-eighties, one of my programming projects was implementing a database, and in fact I used some of my metal knowledge back then as testing data. Long after that was done, I continued accumulating data, without really knowing what to do with it until the WWW sprouted up in the mid-nineties. Finally, I noticed at the time (as well as now) there are many more well-done reviews sites than database sites (though some other good database sites have come online in recent years), so I thought I could develop my own little niche in the metal world.

What was the hardest part of getting it going? Did you face any technical hurdles back then?

Once I learned simple HTML, the process of generating the pages from my database was pretty straightforward. And back in the early days before everyone had a .com place to host their stuff, I had an affiliation with my university, and they allowed me to host the pages there, which was very easy to do. So, there weren’t a lot of technical hurdles there. My struggles have usually been trying to find ways to keep the site looking good — not too plain, not too flashy. I don’t have an artistic background, so it’s hard to make the site look just the way I might like it.

What’s your own favorite era and genre of metal? Has this changed over the years?

The 80′s will probably always be my favorite era of metal. Of course, I’m not talking about the popular view of 80′s metal (glam/hair stuff), but the 80′s was when metal was still new to me — there were so many new bands with new sounds to listen to. So, from a nostalgia point of view, that era will always be my favorite.

As for favorite genre, right now my favorite bands are often the ones that don’t neatly fit into any one genre. When some talks about a metal band and uses phrases like “eclectic” or “avant-garde”, I am interested. This might be partially because I’ve heard everything else for so long, and/or because that’s what my tastes have evolved to, for whatever reason. In general, I’m not sure any one genre really stands above the others to me, though some (doom and thrash, perhaps) might be slightly above others.

You have been accepting of Christian metal bands while most other metal sites are not. Can you tell us a bit more about your philosophy of defining Christian metal as a separate genre? (Note: this is not an adversarial question – I think something “objectively” vital will emerge from it)

To me, it’s really the music itself that defines a musical genre more than lyrics. Therefore, bands with Christian lyrics are really no more or no less “metal” than bands with non-Christian lyrics. I’m not a Christian in the church-going sense, but I see no reason to disregard Christian bands just based on their image. Along those same lines, I find it slightly disturbing that certain Christian bands/fans isolate themselves from the secular world. I’ve found some Christian bands to have good things to say lyrically (which is great), and others that seem to be using their music solely as a marketing/recruiting tool (which isn’t great), but even those bands in the latter group still should be considered metal if they sound like metal.

To be more specific about your question, I don’t really consider Christian metal its own genre. I list it as such on my site, but only for convenience for readers, who read about a particular band and may wish to find others in the same vein. But really, it shouldn’t be a separate genre. I’d rather refer to Stryper as a pop metal band and Tourniquet as a thrash/death band rather than just calling them Christian bands.

What, in your mind, defines metal, and differentiates it from other popular music genres?

First, as I alluded to above, it’s not the lyrics. To me, it’s the “image”, but not image in the lyric or visual sense. There is a certain mood that is conveyed with most metal bands, a dark (I’d almost use the word “evil” here, but that’s a bit too simplistic) mood that resonates from metal. I’m anything but dark, evil, or angry, but yet it’s those moods that fascinate me about metal music. Certainly, though, there are bands that are on the fringes of what is commonly accepted as metal, and so it’s difficult to impossible to define metal just by listing bands that play it.

How often do you update the site, and what tools do you use (ex: Notepad)?

I now update the site roughly once a week. As it now stands, the information itself resides in several text files (representing, in a sense, crude database files, derived from the programs I wrote ages ago that I talked about above), and I edit those using vi, the UNIX programming editor that I learned so many years ago and still use in my profession (as a software developer) now. I’ve written programs/scripts that have evolved over the years, but whose function is the same — read the text files and output HTML. After that, it’s just a matter of packaging up the files (winzip) and uploading them to the site. Thankfully, this part of the process is far less time-consuming than writing the band descriptions and so forth.

Do you have any idea how many people visit on an average day? Do hits pick up over the weekend?

Unfortunately, no. This is partially due to my dissatisfaction with my current web provider, as I have had difficulties with them in regards to bandwidth/disk space issues and providing me with useful administrative tools. Though, to be fair, I just haven’t had the time to go back to them and sort the whole thing out, so as long as the site is up, I’m happy. I need to rectify this someday.

You tend to write summaries of a band’s sound, ideas and history all wrapped into one, then list albums with data only. Why did you decide to use this highly-efficient format, instead of writing about each CD individually?

It wasn’t really by design, it just sort of ended up that way. When the site first went online (1995), the reviews were a bit more personal and less information/history based, and over time I’ve adjusted it to be more objective. If I had more time, I’d probably broaden the descriptions to discuss individual CDs more in depth.

Looking at your top ten lists, it seems your tastes vary widely within the genre. What else do you listen to besides metal? What do you look for in a metal band that makes it a winner for you?

Actually, I rarely listen to anything other than metal, at least as far as buying non-metal albums goes. There are a couple of exceptions, and I’ll throw out two bands that I’ve enjoyed before — Crystal Method and Portishead. To me, though, the range of metal styles is so great that I can listen to bands from across the board and not feel like I’m “just” listening to metal all the time.

As I mentioned above, bands that are off the beaten path are often winners for me. That’s not an absolute — there are some bands that (though original and unique) don’t appeal to me, and there are a few completely unoriginal bands that somehow click. But after listening to metal for so long, it’s the bands that are pushing boundaries that I usually like best. A great example is the band you’re just about to ask about…

I’m bummed as hell to hear that Kong disbanded. Do you think there’s a value in listing such obscure bands alongside mainstream ones, and do you know of any people who’ve gotten into them from your review and listing?

I think there is such a value, and yes, I have received emails from people who read about Kong on my site, checked them out, and thanked me for the recommendation. That’s a great feeling. It is too bad they broke up, though their direction on the later releases led me to believe they probably wouldn’t last forever. The best bands never do…

You seem to like hardcore, but not metalcore. Is there a reason?

I’m not really a fan of either. It’s mostly just that I don’t like that vocal style. I used to dislike most extreme vocal styles, but over time I’ve come to accept death growls and even like black metal singing, but monotonous shouting just doesn’t do it for me. This gets back to the mood that one hears/feels when listening to metal — two words that at least begin to describe metal moods are “evil” and “angry”, and for me personally, I greatly prefer the former mood in the music I listen to.

Do you feel it is possible for bands to “sell out”? If so, “how”?

I think it is possible, but I don’t think it happens nearly as often as many seem to believe. Every time a band comes out with an album that changes their style even slightly from their previous work, accusations of sellouts are everywhere. I just don’t think that’s usually the case. To my mind, if you’re a musician who likes and plays a particular form of music (you might even attain some level of success with that music), and then you radically change your music with the sole purpose of making money, then you’re selling out. If a band explicitly and obviously jumps on the current bandwagon to follow whatever trend is in vogue that day, that can be selling out. But it’s difficult to prove one’s motivations. Let’s say I play in a traditional thrash band, and my new album comes out, and it’s a metalcore album, which just so happens to be the thing to do right now. Am I selling out? Maybe, maybe not. It’s certainly possible and reasonable that I enjoy this new metalcore music, and my own new music reflects that. If that’s the case, that’s not really a sellout. So I’m sure it happens, but it’s probably not as prevalent as the accusers would have you think.


Where do you think metal will go, once black metal finishes fading away and metalcore is no longer trendy?

For some time I had guessed that electronica and programming and industrial influences would become more prevalent. It still might happen. I can’t say I predicted the past trends (nu-metal, grunge, metalcore), so it’s hard for me to say what the future will hold.

Do you think you’ll listen to metal your whole life? Even in the retirement home/old age?

For awhile I thought I would, and then there was a period where I figured it’d only be a matter of time before I’d move on to something else. But I think I will always listen to some form of metal, though probably not the most popular or basic forms of it.

You don’t seem to be very fond of black metal. Any reasons you’d like to give here? (Although, notably, you did pick out Enslaved to like, which suggests a sharp eye for musicality)

Actually I don’t think that’s really true. Certainly, when it first became a legitimate genre, I wasn’t on board. I’d heard a few of the early bands and thought they were sloppy. The vocals turned me off. The corpsepaint really turned me off. I pretty much ignored the bands and listened to other forms of metal. Over the last several years, I’ve changed my stance. I’m still not a fan of the real old-school raw stuff, but if you look at my recent top ten lists, you’d see several bands that at least have some basis in black metal, though perhaps not in the traditional sense. I can tell you this — I’d much rather listen to an average black metal band than an average metalcore band, or an average power metal band, or an average death metal band. Hey, just the other night I was quite enjoying newer albums by Gehenna and Carpathian Forest, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say I don’t like black metal now.

In what ways do you wish metal fans/the metal community would change? Have you been able to do anything to effect that change?

There is some close-mindedness in the metal community, and some immaturity. That’s one reason I don’t have a discussion forum on my site — every time I go read someone else’s, there are immature flame postings and the like polluting everything. I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about that…

When’s the Assuck page coming? ;)

Here’s the thing. As much as I try to be organized about how I manage the site, bands fall through the cracks. I’ll listen to a band for awhile, get the basic info researched, and for whatever reason, forget to follow through, due to the sheer number of bands I’m researching at any given time. That’s what’s happened here, as well as too many other bands for me to admit to. I’ll see if I can get it done finally!

I don’t know if this is rampantly unprofessional of me or not, but can you talk about some of the metal websites that were around during “the early days,” and what you thought of each in terms of its method of organizing information about metal?

I don’t think it’s unprofessional, but I’m honestly having a hard time remembering what sites were around in 1995. Most of the sites I look at now aren’t that old. I do remember thinking that there really wasn’t a site that really did a great job with discographies and lineups and the like. Nowadays there are other sites, bigger than mine, that do that, though I hope that my site is still relevant in that area. I probably had some complaints about cheesy graphics that some sites used (and still use), such as rotating skulls or the famous dripping-blood horizontal bar (hope I’m not stepping on toes there!).

Is your site designed to help research, or fans? Who do you envision as the average user of your site?

The best emails I’ve gotten are from nostalgic fans, who remember listening to metal long ago, somehow stumbled across my site, and went back to listen to their old albums. That’s great, though that’s probably not the typical reader. Many use my site as a reference, or as a first option toward getting an opinion on a new band. By no means do I think my opinion is best, always right, or the only opinion out there, but I’d like to believe that, given my experience and love of metal, that my opinion is worth hearing. Of course people disagree with me on certain things (most often, what bands/sub-genres do or do not belong on my site), but it wouldn’t be right if there was no disagreement.

The one most relevant [cultural factor] here is language. In general, scientific discourse adopts as its ideal univocality — one word, one meaning. Closely related to this goal is the belief that a language exists, or can be forged, that is purely instrumental. Clearly and unambiguously, it will communicate to the world what the speaker or writer intends to say. Roland Barthes (Rustle) has ironically called this the belief that science can own a slave language, docile and obedient to its demands. Anyone who has seriously studied how language works is aware, however, that it shapes even as it articulates thought. There is now an impressive body of work exploring how metaphors, narrative patterns, rhetorical structures, syntax, and semantic fields affect scientific discourse and thought…language is not a passive instrument but an active engagement with a vital medium that has its own currents, resistances, subversions, enablings, pathways, blockages. As soon as discovery is communicated through language, it is also constituted by language.

- N. Katherine Hayles, Complex Dynamics in Literature and Science, p. 5 (1991)

BNR Metal Pages
The Former Home of BNR Metal Pages

Interview: Bruce Corbitt (Rigor Mortis)

Before labels for styles such as “death metal” caught on, there was in the late 1980s a ghastly combat in metal to see who could produce the most archetypally extreme metal band and thus exceed the boundaries set by Slayer and Venom. Into the fertile time rose the spectre of Rigor Mortis, a band renowned for their intricate fast fretwork and energetic, gruesome vocals that did not yet become deathy, but were still forceful and raw. We were fortunate to catch up with the generator of those pipings, Rigor Mortis vocalist Bruce Corbitt, as he was exiting a slaughterhouse zipping up his pants…

You are writing a book on your experiences, including rigor mortis. How does writing compare to music writing?

Besides the obvious things like the length of text and the amount of time it takes to write a book. When writing lyrics for a song you sometimes have to think about the number of lines and syllables in certain verses and choruses. With writing a book you don’t have to worry about anything like that and you can just let the words flow. My book is also a true story and my lyrics are usually fictitious ideas.

The funny part of it all is that one of my biggest weaknesses was my lack of ability to write a lot of lyrics and now I have just written a 400-page book. I mean I have no problems with hearing where I wanted to place the lyrics and how I want to sing them. But, just coming up with enough words to fill all the verses and chorus was usually a struggle for me. So for me to write lyrics for 10 new songs back then would have taken me forever.

On the other hand, Harden Harrison and Casey Orr were able to write lyrics with relative ease and they also blew my lyrics away. So after writing some lyrics for a few songs after I first joined the band, they began to write most of the lyrics from that point on. I didn’t object to it because I knew their lyrics were better than mine and I thought it was just the best thing for the band. I mean Bruce Dickinson didn’t write anything for the Number Of The Beast album… but, you don’t hear anyone complaining about that album because Bruce didn’t write all of the lyrics.

When you were starting out with Rigor Mortis, you must have experienced a good deal of personal doubt and uncertainty. What factors helped you overcome those?

I think the title of their third album pretty much sums up the attitude that the band had in the beginning and until the band’s end. Rigor Mortis Vs The Earth… that is really how it felt for us sometimes. Us against the fucking World! When I first joined the band they had shitty equipment, hardly any money or transportation and not even a place to practice. They were also taking a musical direction that obviously wasn’t going to be mainstream. Along with our rebellious attitudes… the odds of us having any kind of success was stacked against us from the very beginning. But, we didn’t give a fuck about anything like that. We just wanted to do it all our own way without any thought of compromising the music or the bands image in any way.

But, I did have some personal doubts when I first joined the band about just being accepted as the new member of the band. Because many people already liked Rigor Mortis at that time the way they were as a three-piece band. Not to mention that I had only been in one band before and we mainly had just done a lot of Black Sabbath songs. I had never taken any singing lessons and didn’t have a lot of confidence in my voice yet. But, I just wanted it so fucking badly and I also wanted to prove the doubters wrong. So, I put my life into it and I had to have this… “FUCK YOU, I am a bad motherfucker!!!”… attitude in my head to silence any uncertainty that I had for myself or that anyone else had for me.

The Texas metal scene seems to produce one or two excellent bands per generation with the rest being sub-par. What’s your view on this?

I believe that there have always been a lot of talented musicians in Texas. But, sometimes the talent is spread out too thin among too many bands. Very seldom will you see a band with every member of the band being a badass motherfucker. It’s like if you could take this drummer from one band and put him with the guitarist and bass player of this other band, and then take this singer from this band… then you could have an awesome band.

I also know that a lot of bands do not always want to do the hard work it takes to keep progressing. They want the benefits and the rewards of being in a band without wanting to keep busting their asses for it. They get enough songs down to be able to play at clubs… and record a demo or a CD. Then, they seem to go on cruise control as far as the amount of practice they do and the amount of new songs they write comes at a slower rate. But, they are doing great in their minds because they are able to play at clubs, they are now getting chicks easier and they get to be the cool guys playing on stage on weekends. When in fact they should be spending more time on just writing original songs. I mean if a band wants to survive for a long time, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

If you want to have 5 or 10 albums and be around for a while… hell, that means you need 50 to 100 originals. I see too many bands slowly stop progressing after they have 8 to 15 originals. They get too anxious and they want to start playing gigs. They gain a following and record a CD and things appear to be rolling. They hope they can get a deal with what they have and then they figure that everything will take off from there.

Of course I am talking from experience here and from some of my own mistakes. Because I also felt like the hardest part was over once we had signed with Capitol Records. But, looking back on it now… I can see that getting a deal even with a major label doesn’t mean shit. It’s what a band does if and when they do get a deal. I don’t think too many bands think past just trying to get signed and they don’t prepare for the longevity of it all by just simply writing as many originals as possible. That is the main reason why I feel this area only produces a few great bands for each generation.

Do you listen to any current metal?

I do listen to some of it through my friends that keep up with the newer bands more than I do now. I will never be a fan of any new bands like I was a fan of metal bands back when I was younger… but, I am behind the newer metal bands because they are keeping the torch burning. I also still like to get the local metal bands demos and CD’s to check out and just to support the underground.

Metal will always be in my blood and I am proud to say I never grew out of loving metal. I like other music of course… from 60s and 70s classic rock bands to punk bands. But, metal always got my adrenaline flowing more than any other type of music and it still does to this day. I know many people that loved metal and then they sort of grew out of it or something. They thought it wasn’t cool to like metal anymore, as they got older.

Even some musicians who were inspired and influenced to start playing because of metal bands and started out themselves in metal bands, became anti-metal after a while. It’s not their decision to evolve and change their musical taste over time that bothers me. I can understand that part and I respect that side of it. But, I never understood those that started slamming metal once they stopped liking it and went in a different direction. Especially when it’s the music that made them want to start jamming in the first place.

Would you do vocals for any current bands?

Absolutely! But, I don’t sit around and think about it or wish I were singing for any current bands. If the right situation and opportunity came along… I would go for it. As of right now, I am content with just starting or joining or forming a new band locally here in Dallas.

While most bands were getting “chunky” with muffled power chord riffing, it seems to me that only rigor mortis and slayer were taking the melodic approach. what inspired this direction?

Rigor Mortis was never the type of band that would go with the flow or do what all of the other bands were doing at the time. I think some of our influences like Slayer and Iron Maiden and maybe even some of Mike’s influences like Michael Schenker and Randy Rhoads might have had something to do with the melodic side of it. But, the main reason I think that Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else is simply that Mike, Harden and Casey each had their own unique style and technique in the way they played their instruments at that time. I really didn’t have anything to do with the musical direction that Rigor Mortis ventured into. They had already developed their own style of playing, they had those “fuck the world” attitudes and they were already singing about horror and gore before I was ever in the band.

Many metal fans consider the first Rigor Mortis album to be the best one that the band released Some even consider it to be a classic metal album now. Since the band didn’t have long lasting success and eventually disbanded, many metal fans that didn’t know the true history of the band, or they found out about Rigor Mortis after our breakup… many have this false misconception that I was somehow part of being the mastermind behind the first album, or that I was also part of being behind the style or image of Rigor Mortis.

When in fact all I did was join the band and I tried I fit in well with what they wanted to do at that time. Which was easy for me to do because I had already acquired a love for thrash and speed metal music by that time. Plus, I was always into horror movies and gore. I honestly always believed that the main reason many people consider the first album to be the best one is because it simply had the best material on it. Those songs had time to mature because we had played them live many times over the years. That is just my opinion and of course I am biased because I am not on the other two… lol!

If you were going to redo the Rigor Mortis experience, what changes would you make to style or content of your music?

I don’t think any of the changes would be anything too drastic. I do hear the vocal parts in certain lines in some songs that I know I would like to change. Hell, I think I could do my entire vocal parts better if I could do them now. I am sure all musicians hear their old recordings and think about how they would have done it differently if they could do it again. The sad part of it all is that because of the studio we picked to record our first album, the true definitive sound of the Rigor Mortis that I was a part of was never truly captured on a recording.

I guess other than that I think we should have added some rhythm guitar tracks over the guitar solo’s on the first album. I also think that because of the adrenaline rushes we got while we were on stage… the songs just kept getting faster and faster. It made some of the songs even better in most cases. But, in my opinion… the speed of the song Re-Animator on our demo tape was the right pace for that song. By, the time we recorded it for the first album we were playing it so much faster that I think it lost a lot of it’s intensity because of that.

Last but not least, I would now get my lazy ass in gear and contribute more to the writing process with the band. Like I was talking about back in your first question… I willingly let them start writing most of the lyrics after a while and I felt it was the best thing for the band at the time. But, now I see how I wasn’t putting enough effort into it and making myself just do it. It was the easy way out for me to let them write the lyrics and not do it myself. So, I now understand their disgust with the fact that I stopped contributing as much in the writing and ideas process after a while.

Many people, myself included, consider Rigor Mortis to be crossover music between speed metal and death metal. While I’m not here to talk about categories, I think it’s interesting how your music fits between generations. What do you see as the primary differences between what Rigor Mortis were doing and what the metal scene is putting out now?

Well, some obvious differences with some of today’s metal bands compared to back then is that they tune down their guitars and some are anti-lead solos etc. Nothing stays the same forever and so it’s natural for things to change… and that goes for metal too. I mean I often wondered back then as Rigor Mortis and bands like Slayer were taking metal to such furiously fast paced songs… how can it continue to just get heavier and faster than this before it’s just a blur and it’s not even comprehendible as a song anymore? I felt at the time that Rigor Mortis was already pushing the sound barrier to the limit.

Every Rigor Mortis song was fast at least somewhere during the song. But, if every metal band that came out played all their songs full speed… it wouldn’t give up enough variety like we have now. Metal can be fast and aggressive or slower and more powerful. It can be technical and difficult or it can be simple and lazy. The coolest thing about metal and why it will always survive even when many want to say it’s not cool to like metal these days is that we have so many different styles of metal to choose from. Black, death, speed, thrash or classic heavy metal bands ETC… take your choice.

Back when Rigor Mortis was producing records, there wasn’t as much of an underground. It’s amazing to me a band as metal as Rigor Mortis made it onto Capitol Records, but then again, it’s kind of rewarding. How do you think this appears to a generation raised on predominantly underground releases?

To some it might appear as if we were some corporately produced spoiled imitation metal band, or that we must have been sellouts to sign with a major label. For others it might be some kind of redemption that a band like us could was able to get total control of our music after signing with a big label. But, if anyone thinks we got rich and royal treatment because we signed with Capitol records… or that we sold out because we signed with a major label… think again.

The truth is that after getting some interest from many major and underground labels for a couple of years, Capitol was the first label to believe in us enough to actually tell us they wanted to officially sign us. It’s not like we turned down underground labels to sign with a major label. Once we knew that Capitol was going to give us 100% control of our music, it was a no-brainer for us to want to sign with them. It was a miracle how it all happened in the first place. So, I admit thinking at the time that by signing with a major label like Capitol Records that it was gonna increase our chances of getting more promotion and also our chances to succeed enough to survive as a band. It’s easy to try and blame Capitol for not promoting us like they could have. But, I think our biggest mistake was simply the wrong studio to record the first album.

Did you find having to be frontman for a band affected you personally, with stress or with positive changes, etc?

Being the singer for Rigor Mortis stirred up every type of emotion known to mankind. I had the stress of trying to be accepted when I first joined a band as I mentioned earlier, because many in the area already liked how they already were as a three-piece band with Casey doing the vocals. But, at the same time all kinds of positive changes started happening for me in my life as soon as I joined the band. I felt like I was somebody once I joined that band and I felt like I was part of something special. Rigor Mortis literally became my life 24 hrs a day and seven days a week. Of course I became more confident in myself as the band started having all kinds of cool things happening for us.

I mean going from such a positive highs one week after we got our deal with Capitol Records… to the very next week being stabbed in the back five times before a gig and fighting for my life. It truly was an emotional roller-coaster the entire time I was in the band.

We ask: what is there still to be dared that would be still more daring than Life, which is itself the daring venture, so that it would be more daring than the Being of beings? In every case and in every respect, what is dared must be such that it concerns every being inasmuch as it is a being. Of such a kind is Being, and in this way, that it is not one particular kind among others, but the mode of all beings as such.

If Being is what is unique to beings, by what can Being still be surpassed? Only by itself, only by its own, and indeed by expressly entering into its own.

- Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought

What other Texas metal bands do you consider great?

I would have to say Dead Horse, Sedition, Gammacide, Watchtower and Absu are the bands I have the most respect for. I think that all but Absu are now extinct.
Can you give us any timeline on a rigor mortis CD re-release? i know people out there will ask me this, so i’m asking you; sorry if it is a stressful question.
The question doesn’t bother me at all and I get asked about that all of the time. I just really have no clue myself since I have nothing to do with it. I just hope it still happens for those who still want it.

It seems that Rigor Mortis has influenced bands from diverse ranges of metal, from the most commercial to the most gnarly and underground. I hear a good deal of Mike Scaccia’s technique in Mayhem and other european lightning fast bands. Do you agree?

Yeah, I do hear it in some of those bands. I just don’t honestly know if they were really influenced or if they just have similar styles to Scaccia’s. I am kind of surprised that more guitar players haven’t picked up on Mike’s style of playing over the years… even though I do know of a few local Mike Scaccia clones. But, I don’t think Mike’s style of playing for Rigor Mortis was something that just any guitarist can do. He was born with a gift and his own style for playing the guitar. It was always natural for him and easier than it is for most who pick up a guitar. I am also certain that the rest of the guys from Rigor Mortis are also honored about any other bands or musicians that were influenced by the band in some way.

If you did form a metal band again, what kind of music would you make?

That would mainly depend on the musicians around me. I won’t know really myself until I hear it to tell you the truth. It would be old school metal for sure. I would never puss out and be in some wimpy metal band. But, I can’t tell you what it will sound like because I want to be in a band that doesn’t sound like anyone else. Rigor Mortis didn’t sound like anyone else… and I would never try to copy the Rigor sound with a new band even if it was possible. So, I just hope to find some guys that can also create a unique sound that my vocals, style and image can work with.

If Rigor Mortis were hypothetically to record another album, would it continue the stylistic progression of past or move to something of a different organization?

I think it would be like trying to do a sequel to some classic horror/gore/spatter movie for us to do another album together. Now do you want to make the sequel with more blood and twice as much killing? Do you want to go for a bigger audience and cut out all of the violent parts and make it not as brutal as the first movie? Or do you want to make the entire thing totally different than the original? Obviously we would go with being as brutal and gory as possible and we would keep the same style without copying the original sound.

We know what Rigor Mortis represents and stands for to the fans. We would never do anything that would disappoint anyone that ever liked Rigor Mortis. We all have hindsight on what we did back then and we are all a lot wiser now. But, it’s hard to recapture what you had back in early stages of a band. We were in our youth and the music was being written naturally without any thought. Because that was the music we all wanted to do at that time.

Since then the other guys have played many different styles of music in other bands. So it wouldn’t be easy to just pick up where we left off. I do however believe that our experience and wisdom on what we should and shouldn’t have done back then would prevail over anything else. I honestly feel that we would be able to create a horrifying metal masterpiece if we ever did make another Rigor Mortis album together.

Interview: Paul Speckmann (Master, Deathstrike)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Paul Woodruff, Reverence: A Forgotten Virtue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- William S. Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who cares about the artist?

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

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

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

Interview: Francois Mongrain (Martyr)

Many people gush over later Death but really, it’s pretty predictable heavy metal done up “Death Metal and Yet, Prog-Rock” style; for a band that takes the best of jazz-and-prog-rock influences and puts them into rhythmically adept yet vicious death metal, try Québec’s Martyr. They don’t aim for anything new, but do everything in a new way, in the process contributing some of the fastest, most intricate and harmonically aware metal lead playing ever heard on this earth.

Interview originally from Heidenlarm e-zine #3.

How much do you think death/black metal were influenced by prog rock in the 1970s?

I’m not sure… I think some bands were influenced by classical music,some other from rock, blues, jazz, and some other by contemporary and progressive music. It depends of the influences of each musicians, what they like, what they listened.

Was prog rock a movement that came about by chance, or was there a reason for rock bands going technical so close to the birth of rock music?

I think it’s the need to explore and create more satisfying stuff.

There are two basic ways of looking at music. In the first, there is a mechanism to the arrangement of certain tones (such as “a diminished melodic pattern modulating to a flattened second”); in the second, a narration occurs where a story is told or a poetic function completed. In your view of compositions, which is more important?

I think the first one is a tool to help the second one. Personnally, great arrangements alone are pointless if they deliver no message. The message through music is the most important thing. If there’s any,better stop doing music.

Do you think most prog rock uses narrative structures, which reveal a poetry or story, or cyclic structures?

Definitely. They brings us in other worlds, it is like a fantasy movie,a dream, etc.

What bands inspired the direction that martyr took?

Some band gave some inspiration, but did not inspired the direction. We try to do it our own way.

What for you is the significance of the name, “Martyr”?

Martyr is a way of thinking, is a state of mind, a way of life. It’s the acceptance of suffering for the beliefs of some ideals, the cause of a better world that can hardly be reached because the world as we know it is too sick.

Like a certain other Canadian band of great brilliance, you focus on technology in your concept and lyrical writing. Is this something brought on by its imminence in all of our lives, or for symbolic reason?

Maybe it’s because of the technology’s omnipresence in our society, but when I write lyrics, I try to use symbols to say other things. The technologic symbols in the song Retry? Abort? Ignore? are to represent the human brain when reaching its endurance limit, when it’s about to disconnect, like a burn out or other illness.

If you could tour with other bands in metal, who would you pick if you were looking for bands similar to Martyr?

Maybe Spyral Architect, Meshuggah, Voivod, The Dillinger Escape Plan…maybe there would be some more.

What is the most difficult part about composing songs as you do?

The most difficult part is to make the music flow as it was written in one shot. We try to avoid the riff-riff collage that too many bands are doing. We try to compose as naturally as possible.

While Martyr has a high tech sound and conceptual approach, often your music seems closer to progressive heavy metal in the 1970s style, with more of the merger between avantgarde and progressive that has occurred in the more novelty-based recent decades. Is this true, and how do you see yourselves as differentiating on an artistic level from the other bands in this time?

Our progressive inpiration is not really a concious thing… we write what we have in mind, that’s it.

How do you compose songs as a band?

Main riffs, melodies, etc are written individually. When we rehearse, we make a lot of arrangement, we find more ideas. The composer of a song has ideas for the other instruments, but everybody bring their ideas.

Do you think people collaborate more effectively with a leader or as a ground-up leaderless project?

A “leader” is good to give directions for a project, but if this leader imposes too much his ideas, it’s not good at all and ruins the members relationship.

What other bands from Québec do you enjoy?

Cryptopsy, Obliveon (rip), Neuraxis, Gorguts, Voivod, there are so many!

Which do you think is most important to metal, harmony, melody or arrangement?

Hehehe…. it depends of the situation. Most important is: Did I succeded in the delivery of my message?

What do you feel is the role of lead guitar in a well-written song?

Soloing is a peak in a song, as a drum fill is another kind of peak. I don’t see any instrument that would be more important that another.

As individual members, what are your philosphies regarding the degree of importance death should be accorded in our lives?

Death is unavoidable. So we must live with it. I read samurai philosophy. Death was a concept so present for them that they lived with this reality day and night. They could die or kill an ennemy at every moment. In the modern life, in most civilized countries, we don’t have this reality except for cancer, accidents, etc. But the more you are conscient of your inevitable death, the more you’ll be aware of everymoment of your life, and it may make it happier.

What thing scares human civilization most at this time?

Our fear of war, oppression, etc, are caused by our lack of control over these situations. We are really powerless as individuals.

Do you think it is possible, as many thinkers allege, that humans exist in a world of language “containers” and philosophical justification, and thus do not often come into contact with the “real” existence, which is undefinable and hard to communicate socially as regards any significance within it?

People are afraid to talk about their existence, their death, their origin, etc. So, society hide itself in the more trivial things as videogames, buying clothes, watching movies and joking all the time. These are all good, but not when they serves as masks and crutches. (I’m not sure if I answered right your question!)

Who were the most important thinkers in history for you?

I’m not an history guy, but I like a lot Miyamoto Musashi, the most famous samurai in japan feudal history. His obsession with death is amazing and scaring at the same time. At these times, death was a daily preoccupation as eating, sleeping and buying food.

One who is a samurai must before all things keep constantly in mind — the fact that he has to die. If he is always mindful of this, he will be able to live in accordance with the paths of loyalty and filial duty, will avoid myriads of evils and adversities, keep himself free of disease and calamity and moreover enjoy a long life. He will also be a fine personality with many admirable qualities. For existence is impermanent as the dew of evening, and the hoarfrost of morning, and particularly uncertain is the life of the warrior…

- Code of the Samurai

What do you think defines metal as music, as a genre, and as a subculture?

When you put some notes together, rhythm and vocals, it is called music. The way each person do it makes the style, and if some people likes it, you have the subculture. Sound silly but I don’t know how to explain it better. ;-)

Which is the role of religion during our current age, and how much do you think it influences politics and government?

Religion is powerless in front of politics. it’s a good thing and a bad thing in the same time. Religion have bad concepts but good ideals in the same time. Politics have no moral ethics. I don’t care for politics. I know nothing about this and I’m proud to say this. It stinks. >:-)

Death metal has intense variety, between Morpheus Descends and Demilich and Asphyx and Martyr; what holds these bands together in the same genres?

I don’t konw these bands ! LOL Can you send me a copy? Should be interesting!

When death metal gets technical, does it necessarily get closer or further from other mainstream genres, or does it stand on its own in a different depth?

I’m not sure about this. Technique is only a tool to transmit a message. I hate technical music that tries only to impress.

What allows music to be separated into “genres,” when all of it uses roughly the same theoretical basis (excepting the different theory required for use of different scales, etc)?

The sound? the song structures? The vocal style? The look and attitude???? Maybe a little of each one.

As the market for metal slows down, and the mainstream comes closer with heavy stuff that’s still very commercial like Slipknot or Korn, do you think metal will mutate into a new style?

No. Mainstream bands are good because their fans will sooner or later be interested in more heavy stuff. We all began to listen to less heavier stuff. They are like a bridge that leads to the real metal.

If you could hope for metal to change as a whole in any way, including its basic form, what would you desire of it?

I’d like that there would be less bands, especially less bad bands. Anyone can take a guitar, make up some shitty riffs and create a band. Go practice before! ;-) I’d like that the lyrics would be more intelligent. That it would not beany shit and crap in the artwork of cds. These things are really not good for the reputation of metal.

If a holy war (crusade vs jihad) breaks out in the Middle East, how do you think it will affect the way most people view metal, and the way most metalheads view religious people?

I don’t know. There’s no crusade, it’s just propaganda from the middle-east. I’m sure of one thing: Most religions are not bad things. The bad thing is what people do with religion: quest for power, glory, tyranny, fanaticism.

One big problem in thought today is “individualism”; it seems everybody wants to make novelty of their own lives, and not many people want to band together and agree on things to allow change to occur; what do you think is the next major ideology “for most people” beyond “individualism”?

Union make force. Everyone wants their piece of cake. It leads to nothing. It’s the problem of most modern societies. In Japan, individualism doesn’t exist. It’s unthinkable. No doubt about why they are one of the most organized countries.

Are you a materialist, or do you believe there is a life beyond this one, or any supernatural space/beings/life at all?

I believe in life after death. I don’t judge others about this, as it’s a personnal belief. I can’t tell how I see this afterlive, as I never seen it yet! :-) So I don’t want to imagine anything, for not being disapointed! :)

When you compose as a band, do you think in terms of scale patterns, or are your melodies more granular?

Harmonies are very important. That’s the most important thing to transmit emotions. So I think in chords first (then breaks the chord tomake melodies). Scales and patterns are just tools.

What do you do as individual band members to relax, when not working on music?

I read a lot, I do computers, and I practice martial arts a lot (6 days a week!)

Do you use standard tuning?

Yep. On a 6 strings bass : b-e-a-d-g-c Guitars : they use stardard tuning on Hopeless Hopes. On Warp Zone, they use standard tuning and drop D tuning. On the New songs, they try D tuning with drop C.

If I forgot anything, please insert it in here.

I apreciate the interview, very elaborated and interesting questions! Hope to play in your area soon!

Interview: Dan Lilker (Nuclear Assault, Brutal Truth)

Dan Lilker has been involved with heavy metal for many years. Whether you spotted him in his first “real” band nuclear assault, or followed his career from NYC speed metal band Anthrax to his work in Brutal Truth, you probably recognize something he’s touched in the past decade and a half. We caught up with Dan after spotting him goofing off on the internet, and he was kind enough to answer some quick and obscure questions.

Some people would accuse you of trend-jumping in that you’ve covered the spectrum of genres from speed metal to grindcore to black metal and now to whatever the ravenous is.

Let’s do a quick overview of my history in metal. Formed Anthrax, got tossed ‘cos Neil Turbin was a prick. Formed N.A. (’84). Played faster, more hardcore-tinged thrash than Anthrax. So far, no trend-jumping, lol. Was invited to do S.O.D., accepted.

Side note: All this time I still treasured my Hellhammer and Fate collection!

OK, after 8 years of N.A., I grew tired of thrash and wanted to play much more extreme shit, hence B.T. Was that trend jumping, or merely doing what I really wanted to do, rather than stagnating and not enjoying myself? Hmmmm…

In ’96 I also joined Hemlock, ‘cos I enjoyed a lot of 90′s b.m. and I still held the old bands close to my heart. Perhaps some cynically-minded people might see that as bandwagon-jumping, but I was just enjoying myself…

Almost done! B.T. broke up for personal reasons in ’98, not ‘cos I was tired of not playing “popular” music, hehe.

In early 2000 I received a call inviting me to jam with Chris fuckin’ Reifert, whaddaya THINK I’m gonna say to that???

Are you saying people talk a lot of shit about metal musicians in public? Thanks for the history of your involvement with metal.

Consider this: When I talk shit and get aggressive, well, everyone knows who I am , right, and they could find me at a Metalfest and get in my face, but I have no idea what all those other people look like…

Nuclear Assault… let’s talk more about this, if possible. What were your influences then? Who wrote most of the material? Why the switch to longer song formats almost exclusively (excepting great stuff like F# wake up) after the first two eps?

We were into a lot of HC and thrash metal, I guess, Celtic Frost, Adrenalin O.D., etc.John and I were the main songwriters. Longer songs? Well, the first release we ever put out, Braindeath, had a 9-minute title track! I guess we “matured”, I don’t know…

And for kicks: who came up with Mr Softee theme? I’ve driven away neighbors with that one. ICE CREAM!

Ha! John always played that dumb riff at rehearsal, and it blossomed from there!

SOD came after the DRI/MDC expansion perhaps, but seemed like an extension of what Anthrax and Agnostic Front were doing rolled into one.

Well, you’ll notice that I never said we created crossover, I just said we made it trendy, lol! But it’s true. Metal kids started getting more into HC after “Speak…” came out, no doubt about it.

I thought Brutal Truth was one of the hopeful lights for the grindcore genre since the rest of it just seemed to slide into fucking turd… I don’t blame you for jumping out of the grindcore style when you did whether people call it trend hopping or not.

Well, it’s the semantics of trend jumping that bothers me, as it would seem to connote someone making a conscious and deliberate effort to play whatever’s popular at the time, regardless of whether that person really likes the genre in question. And that has NEVER EVER been the case with me, but I can’t help it if people come to their own conclusions. I just do what I wanna do, play what I wanna play, and that’s it, end of story.

Interesting. Black Metal seems like hardcore an ideologically-based genre (of some sort) so people take its boundaries more seriously. So far we’re at four genres in which you’ve participated, and I can see why others might see that as bandwagon jumping, but my opinion is neutral as of now. Who started hemlock and what 90s BM do you enjoy? Or rather, since you put that in the past tense, what 90s BM did you enjoy?

I have always noticed that HC and b.m. have the same type of narrow-minded, snobby, (un)holier than thou attitude. And it always seems that the people who have got into it the most recently talk the most shit, lol! Hemlock was started by Lino (D777). I still enjoy 90′s b.m. like Nazxul, Darkthrone, Immortal, blah,blah,blah.

Although it always sucks when a useful band breaks up, sometimes it’s unavoidable. Besides, Brutal Truth was one of the top acts on relapse, right?

Yeah, we were definitely a big priority for Relapse and they were crushed when we split up, but there was no other way, so, oh well!

Pretty cool that for a dude over 30 you’re able to keep up the lifestyle. Speaking of which, mind a few more questions? Bongs or pipes? Hashish or vegetable matter? Constant or intensity ingestion? Most profound statement of relevance of THC to your lifestyle and ideas?

Pipes. I’m too lazy to keep re-loading! Just stuff that fucker and smoke! I enjoy hash and herb equally, but hash is a nice treat since it’s rarer here. In March, me and my wife are going to London and AMSTERDAM for our first anniversary, so……….yeah.

Grindcore is by nature an ideological genre, but once you’re in the general area of protest music style lyrics, most of which are what we could call “leftist” or “anarchist,” you’re part of the club. It seems to me that to many musicians, lyrics are mostly irrelevant. How does this fit into your worldview?

Well, Brutal Truth had socially conscious lyrics, but it would certainly be a stretch to say we were anarchists or anything. Our lyrics were not really outright political as opposed to your DRI’s and COC’s. Once Kevin took over singing in ’91 all the lyrics got really interpretive and indirect anyway. As for me, I am a bassist and musician first; lyrics will always be secondary to music to me. That doesn’t mean I would play songs like “Kill The Niggers” or “Vegan For Life”, hehe. My worldview? I’m basically a laid-back, tolerant person, and I don’t really attempt to inject these views into the music I play.

When you were making music with Brutal Truth, there is a shift in style on Need to Control that marks a departure toward depth in harmony and texture in music that on the first album was direct, straight ahead blasting chaotic grind. What inspired this shift? If you could do it again, would you still?

Drugs. Or, specifically, marijuana. Well, that’s generalizing. Our first drummer, Scott, who didn’t get high, left the band ‘cos he was sick of playing drums and touring, he really just wanted to sprawl on the couch with remote in hand. So, we got Rich, a big pothead, like us, and it made the music a lot more in-depth. It also had to do with the fact that a lot of the songs from the first one were written solely by me, where as NTC was more of a group effort.

Need to Control is one of my favorite grindcore albums. Was it intended as a whole, or was it collected songs? Where and when was most of it written, and how much embellishment occurred in the studio?

With hindsight I dislike the production, but the songs are good. I wouldn’t say it was written as a whole, although we wrote them all in a house by the lake in New Hampshire in the dead of winter, which (to me) gives all the songs a unifying theme. The noise songs were tracked there on my old analog Tascam 8-track cassette board (RIP). I wasn’t there for the mix, Earache wouldn’t pay for all 4 band members to chill in Liverpool where itwas mixed, so I couldn’t tell you much about any embellishment, but let’s say it didn’t sound incredibly different than the raw tracks.

Did Nuclear Assault ever get in any flack from censoring or album stickering problems in the 1980s and 1990s?

Nah. I don’t think we attained the level of popularity where those assholes noticed us.

Are there any current bands to which you listen?

Terror Of The Trees.

What are your responses to the following: Burzum, Beherit, Sarcofago, Krieg, Kult ov Azazel, Averse Sefira, Slayer, Repulsion, Napalm Death, Carcass, Graveland, Antaeus, Demoncy?

Burzum: Great music from an idiot. Beherit: All Beherit is cool by me, from that pile of crap (Oath) to the electronica shit. Sarcofago: Beautiful raw primitive. Krieg: My homeboy Imperial. Krieg is good shit and this guy always supported Hemlock. Kult ov Azazel: I haven’t heard them, but Black Witchery says they’re good. Averse Sefira: Haven’t heard them either. Saw one of them fighting with D77 from Hemlock on the FMP board, much to my amusement. Slayer: They ain’t what they used to be, but still great live. Repulsion: Ah yes, classic and revolutionary death-grind. Napalm Death: Love all the old shit. Carcass: Ditto. Graveland: I certainly don’t agree with Darken’s views… and their drummer is so crap that their music isn’t very good either. Antaeus: Never heard ‘em, but I’ve heard good things. Demoncy: Played with ‘em in NYC. Cool guys, good band.

You’re married. Is your lady a metal woman?

Oh yeah! We met at the 2000 March Metal Meltdown, as a matter of fact. You should see our apartment!

What do you like most about living in New York?

Convenience.

What do you dislike most about living in the USA?

Knowing that most Europeans think we’re all fat, loud, know-it-alls.

Have you had any ideological conflicts with black metal?

Only with what’s commonly known as NSBM. Call me a purist, but I think bm should not be diluted with social commentary. Not to mention that talking shit about blacks and Jews, etc., puts these people in the same category of thinking as diehard God-fearing Christians like the KKK, for instance. Anybody who has anything in common with those dirtbags should not be playing a genre of music that rejects commonplace religious views.

I understand you are recovering from a childhood in a middle eastern religion (all major Western religions originate in the Middle East). Can you explain what factors have helped and hindered your recovery, and what started you on the path away from Judeo-Christianity?

Heh heh. I was never a religious person, religion has never meant anything to me, I’ve been as atheist as long as I remember, ever since I was old enough to understand the concept of deities. My parents never attempted to coerce me to embrace religion ‘cos they are not that religious themselves. I suppose the fact that I simply never bought into the concept of the existence of a God in the first place started me down the path… But it wasn’t until Sabbath and Venom that it had a focus.

Do you prefer indica or sativa? What is your favorite strain of sinsemilla?

Oh please, I’m not some High Times-style aficianado. I prefer strong, skunky weed to regs but I’ll smoke whatever does the trick! I enjoy smoking in quantity, or should I say always having a fat bag nearby, so I’m not gonna regularly drop $50 for something that’ll last 2 days.

What instruments besides bass do you play?

Guitar, keyboard, and half-assed drums.

You were one of the first bassists to embrace playing with distortion. What engendered this decision?

Discharge, I think. Specifically the “Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing” LP. I had a Peaver Mark4 bass head that distorted if you tweaked it and that was it. I never went back.

What other musicians have influenced your technique, and what is your opinion on technique playing?

To be honest I don’t really seek inspiration from anyone nowadays, I was never one of those bassists who practiced constantly or anything. My original inspirations way back when were people like the guys from Cream, Zeppelin, Sabbath, and then later Steve Harris from Maiden. Fancy technical playing isn’t my thing, however, I certainly wouldn’t bash people who do that shit.

When you played that show at the anti-club in Los Angeles that I saw years ago, with Brutal Truth, your response after the cover of “Lord of This World” was to give a middle finger to the heavens. How do you feel about God? You clearly make the distinction between tolerating religious beliefs of others, and insisting on those freedoms (in lyrics of some bands), but also having a personal stance on religion. How do you feel about everyday religions and how they differ from, say, the beliefs of the church of the creator or the KKK?

I was probably just drunk’n’stoned and being silly. As far as everyday religions go, I pretty much ignore them. If people need that kind of spiritual structure in their lives, that’s on them. I think the extremists are actually more honest in their outright hatred. I don’t need any of that shit.

It seems to me black metal was founded on these beliefs, and on a renaissance retro-fascination with classical and european culture. Do you think there’s room for people with more leftist and tolerant beliefs, like yours, in black metal or do you think it would be like a nazi grindcore band, an anomaly?

I disagree with you. Black metal originally had no political leanings. All this fascination with cultural origins, etc., came about in the 90′s.

This is an interesting line of questioning for me, as the USA is about to go under police state precautions while engaging in a Christian activity to save a Jewish state and ally in the Middle East. How do you feel about this entire chaotic terrorist situation, and do you see it as odd that leftists are encouraging what many would call “fascist” reforms? I’m speaking of the justification of women’s freedom and music and freedom of speech in Afghanistan, and other rhetoric from President Bush in this war against an “axis of evil.” Do you see this situation as positive, negative or of mixed qualities?

Oh, it’s all a big fucking mess. I would agree that the Israelis are no better than all the other scumbags out there, with the notable exception that when they retaliate, they don’t kill innocents in marketplaces. It’s very hard to say what’s right or wrong in that part of the world, some people see the USA as imperialistic meddlers, others see the Middle East as a huge shitpit full of psychotic fundamentalists. Me? I say that not all Muslims are terrorists, but the reverse DOES seem to apply…

If you could play in a band with one other metal musician of note, who would it be and why?

It would be interesting to jam with Trey Azagthoth, he seems to be a very focused, intense musician. I already jam with Reifert!

What the Gospels make instinctive is precisely the reverse of all heroic struggle, of all taste for conflict: the very incapacity for resistance is here converted into something moral: (“resist not evil !”–the most profound sentence in the Gospels, perhaps the true key to them), to wit, the blessedness of peace, of gentleness, the inability to be an enemy. What is the meaning of “glad tidings”?–The true life, the life eternal has been found–it is not merely promised, it is here, it is in you; it is the life that lies in love free from all retreats and exclusions, from all keeping of distances. Every one is the child of God–Jesus claims nothing for himself alone–as the child of God each man is the equal of every other man. . . .Imagine making Jesus a hero!

- F.W. Nietzsche, The Antichrist

Interview: Nuclear Cath (Leather N’ Spikes)

I laughed when I saw the editor of Leather N’ Spikes magazine described somewhere as “metal hottie Nuklear Cath.” She’s a lot more than that: she runs one of the magazines which meets metal ideal in spirit and aesthetic, which idolizes the stuff with potential and doesn’t notice the bands that normal people seem to like. Those people who can’t step outside of their own heads and into the world of metal which supercedes the norm will hate it, but to the rest of us it’s a form of journalism unique to metal itself. After a busy day of piling up the corpses of her victims near a temporarily memorial area, Nuklear Cath was good enough to grant us an interview on the eve of the launch of the new Leather’n’Spikes website.

When you reference the container “metal music” in your head, do you think first of a concept or of sounds?

It’s a hard question, I would say it is in a way a concept, it’s about something, the subjects are always related to the same things, which makes what metal music is. Or each band has its own concept within the metal concept?!

Your zine has been long known for its amazing picture layouts.How do you research the visual components to articles?

My goal is always to translate the band’s music into something visual. So I try to respect styles. If a band uses certain fonts in their booklets and promotion, I will use them to layout the interview. Same for the pictures, the kind of drawings, the kind of atmosphere (the band can be extremely serious or sarcastic, into pagan subjects and nature or into nuclear war). So I try to respect the whole concept on each band featured.

How long have you been listening to metal? What did you enjoy hearing before that? Is this a consequence of musical education (self and/or formal) or a process that converged on that growth as well?

There have always been music in the house, I was not a fan of anything but I was initiated to music (rock, mainly) and slowly I started to search for a genre that would suit my endless need for heavy music. It ended up being metal, and then I “studied” the 20 years of metal that had passed before me. I might have been born too late, but I’ve done my homework!

In many ways, your writing appears to obliterate the line between ideology and lifestyle by suggesting a viewpoint where life takes on artlike, and nihilistic, qualities. What enabled you to reach such a view, if it is at all correct?

I didn’t “reach” that view I think, it’s just how I am, or maybe the one idea of an old pile of rare metal vinyls, tenth generation tapes, jean jackets with patches, empty beer bottles on the dirty floor of a rehearsal room and loud music simply leads us to that point. But it isn’t completely nihilistic, or then what would it give for me to do all this, to make that fanzine, to write letters, to spread flyers, it would be pointless. I give myself goals and challenges.

What do you think of the writings of Antonin Artaud? Georges Bataille? Theodor Adorno? Friedrich Nietzsche? Jacques Lyotard?

If this is about philosophy, I don’t read a lot, I don’t take the time to do it. One of my favorite, if not my favorite philosopher remains Nietzsche. The rest you named I haven’t studied.

What do you think is the conceptual link between death and art in the symbolic vocabulary of humanity, even subconscious thoughts?

Maybe both are mysteries. Or they provoke the same kind of fascination. Or they are both abstract things, or concepts in themselves. Or both can provoke the same deep feelings, either of fear, terror, panic or pleasure in a way. Or maybe death is a form of art, expressed with the body and usually not voluntarily. It’s hard to tell what push people to link those two things.

Are you aware of any circumstances under which humans reach a state of free and autonomous thought? Does this occur to all, or to some?

Maybe in their dreams, or when they create. I think both can be related together: you try to reach a certain state where you a free from all the other people’s influences and judgment and you create without any boundaries, moral limitations. Freedom in inspiration and creativity. That’s all I can see right now.

The visual constructions used to anchor the layout of each page in the zine is eccentric and striking. When you conceive of a page, do your thoughts begin with symbols or a shape filling a space?

I never really stopped and thought about that. I think I always already have a very clear idea on how the pages will be, how big the logo will be, what graphics I will use and what kind of feeling it will have. I just then reproduce what I have in mind.

Periodically the zine features a photo involving yourself and bare flesh that causes blood pressure increases across the globe. Do you see sexuality as a tool, for war or art, or do you have a depoliticized view of sexual iconography?

Yeah, maybe sex is art. Unfortunately too many people took advantage of it, so I got bored. But I do use myself for ‘artistic purposes’ and experimentation / creation, in photography for example, or experimental movies. As for blood pressure increases, it’s their problem, hehehe…

When you interview bands, how do you mentally prepare for the interaction?

I think it’s part of the game to expect surprises, violent reactions, insults, totally different answers that I had expected, or yes, sometimes deceptions. That’s the thrill – you work hard on researching on the band and trying to make your questions in the most original way possible, and you wait to see what kind of answers and ideas they will bring up! That’s why all the interviews are different and interesting; people put their personality in them! My concept of the interview is to do like if I was meeting the band in person, in the world of their music (even if it’s snail mail interview). Some bands embarked in the game, it was really cool.

What publications do you read, metal or other?

I like underground extreme metal fanzines, I also read a few comic books because I’m working on one, and I read mags and books related to my work (graphic design, illustration or desing in general). Almost no novels or anything like that, no time anymore.

Which do you consider to be the most important bands from Canada at this time? And Québec, over the history of metal?

OK from Québec I would say Voivod, Soothsayer, Yog-Sothot, Vensor… I should have mentioned brutal death metal bands, but it has been too exploited here. From Canada – Blasphemy, Voor, Infernal Majesty, Slaughter, Razor, Disciples of Power and maybe a few more I can’t think of at this moment!

Some characterize the metal movement “as a whole” in terms that describe its cathartic nature for angry youth, while others see it as a revolution against the social for youth who later, metalhead or no, carry these ideas into society. Still others see metal as an endorsement for hedonism, relativism and a good time. Among these how does your own judgment fall?

Well I tend to only think for myself and not analyzing the impact on the society and how it is perceived by it. So it’s hard to tell. Sometimes a metal genre will start as a rebellion but then go into an independent genre not fighting anymore for a cause but just producing music. Music can be done just for a specific purpose – fighting against a religion, a race, a trend – and then end up giving birth to bands who aren’t fighting but simply being influenced by the musical side.

If you could interview any musician in history, who would it be?

Lemmy! But I wouldn’t know what to say.

Can you list five bands that you feel contributed the most to black metal as an evolving genre?

Well the first that come to mind is (old) Mayhem. Also Venom with all their satanic imagery, Bathory, Hellhammer and… well Sarcofago, Blasphemy, Beherit, aarrgh it’s going over five…

“Image” has a bad name to many in the underground, yet visual presentation of concept is an important piece to any communication. What are your views on this?

There are contradictions in this scene and I think that’s why in the first place metal became sportsuits, short hair, baggy pants and white socks and that’s why a guy like Euronymous got sick of that and tried to get back the real metal look – spikes, patches, leather, long hair, black band tshirts etc… It is important to have a metal image, but the contradiction is in the fact that ‘poseurs’ (whoever you consider them to be) will try to look the most metal possible – so then image is more important than their dedication. Same for corpsepaint, it’s starting to be too much revisited, without any meaning anymore. So what I say is, the dedication comes first but the image should have a certain importance as well, as long as there is a reason remaining behind that.

You manage to extract the ironic humor underlying many of even the most extreme human outlooks. Do you see this humor as inherent characteristic to the process of self-actualization?

I just think that there is a kind of humor that have its place in this nuclear metal scene – and it’s sarcasm, black humor. The result is sometimes violent reactions, or people don’t understand, or they take themselves so seriously that even the smallest smile is forbidden.

Many of us consider Texas to be a separate nation from the Judeo Christian States of America (JCSA). Do you consider Québec a separate country from Canada as a whole? What does America appear to be, from your national and political perspective?

Yes Québec is a completely different country, another world. I don’t feel being part of Canada too much, just like most of the people here. 2 languages = 2 cultures, 2 ways of thinking, 2 different people. America? That is from the Southern countries to the North Pole right? If you were talking about USA, well I think this country is taking too much place here and in the world unfortunately.

What is your ideal solution to human overpopulation?

Hehehe I don’t know, or else I don’t dare saying it.

Hypothetically, you are given a corporation to run with funding from an alien government to initiate world destruction plans. How would you approach this real world scenario?

Well I would approach it in a highly creative way. No problems for the funds, right? Well then let’s have fun. I’m working on a comic book with a story a little bit related to that, so all I’ll do is re-create the devastated landscapes and junkie people of my story, and then draw them as models for my comic book. And maybe make a movie. Ah, my own story come true, what an honor!

Some define art as the end product, others define it as the communicative process between artist and audience. Which do you think is closer to the truth?

And if there is no truth in this world? My own truth is, art is like alchemy. You work on it very hard, and your skills get developed, but you evolve as well besides that, in your mind, as a person. Whatever people might think, even though they don’t like what you do, you know that what you do is ok, and people being shocked by your art might be a good sign.

Are you of any mystical belief?

You mean occultism, satanism and things like that? Yes, I do have my own thoughts about it.

If so, does your mystical belief involve entities and processes beyond this world, or within it?

I don’t really know. It’s something very complicated.

What importance do you place upon the conceptual process in the artist before making work, including ideological, mystical and philosophical beliefs? (when I say philosophical here, I mean the existential and valuative processes of cognition)

The artist puts himself into his art, even though he might be trying not to. His art is his blood. So it reflects his mind, personal thoughts and beliefs. It is nothing objective. Someone looking at the artwork of an artist will therefore look into this artist’s mind and personal life.

If going into combat under idealized circumstances, from which era would your weapons come? (are you a medievalist, or a modernist? regarding weaponry)

I’m not as fascinated as some people I know, but it seems war and battle was an art in the ancient times. The weapons of those eras – dark age and medieval – are definitely nice pieces of art, and the honor and the idea of dedicating your life to war is quite different from today’s red-button pushing countries. Fighting man to man, with or even without weapons, in honor, is something that seemed quite more appealing. And the different weapons, some sacred, with runes carved, some unique and rare, forged by those people themselves…

Are there any generalized opinions you have of metal journalism, and where other zines differ from Leather N’ Spikes?

We all have our own ways of making a fanzine. I might think that my ways are the best, criticizing others for doing this and not doing that, but anyway that makes a diversity in the fanzine world; but the editor needs to be serious and dedicated, and to make ‘information’ is first priority.

If you had to pick a metaphor for the individual in modern society, would you choose “the castaway” or “the fortuneteller” – and why? Do you see the individual as important, philosophically or politically, and what is your opinion of democracy?

It’s a tough question. I don’t know if ‘the individual’ is important, it should unless it starts building McDonald’s and churches and gives away Pepsi bottles and make propaganda for the arrival of Jesus or something. In general the individual should have the right to say what he wants to say but some people often should shut up. As for the metaphor, hard to tell. I don’t really think about it.

Is cruelty essential to humanity?

I think people tend to deny that side of their being, I don’t know if it is essential but it is remaining there as a manifestation of what we are – not always cruel but every once in a while (or more for certain people!) with a tendency to that.

Leather N’ Spikes has garnered praise from across the underground. Do you consider metal to be a “sub-culture” to mainstream or “alternative” or “counter-” culture?

A counter-culture is against the mainstream I guess, so it should be called this way I think. But there are some bands playing a trendy style or an ordinary style but they don’t have any success so they remain “underground” – as they aren’t against the mainstream I would not put them in the counter-culture category at all.

Most people deny that they are beasts. Is this really true?

I would say yes, they deny their own human nature of being animals and having instincts and an animal nature, which includes other animals as daily food, sex, violence and certain primitive instincts etc. A nice example of something against the human nature is catholicism.

How do you, as every thinking individual must, conceptualize your own death?

I kind of saw it when I was younger and it was terrible, so I’m trying to avoid that kind of death. Now I just don’t think about how I will die, but how I want to live instead.

Some thinkers reduce philosophy to a conflict between the eschatological and the existential. Is this logical, in your opinion, and if so, on which side does your greatest sympathy stand?

Philosophy, just like politics, is not something I care for as much as I care for art, for example. There are people that are better than me for this.

If I left anything out, or there is something of useful clarification you wish to state, please say what is needed here.

OK well back to the zine, I just re-designed the whole website (with a huge art section, excerpts, reviews etc!!) which should be online by the end of August. It will be announced on my old website, see address below. Around the same time, issue #7 will be out with Blasphemy, Summoning, Desaster, Destruction, Crucifier, Grand Belial’s Key, Canadian Assault zine, Goatvomit, Abominator, Canadian scene report 1982-1993, etc. Write for prices, info, wholesale prices etc!!
Still available are #4 (4$US), #5 (4$US) and #6 (5$US), check out the contents and excerpts of each issue on the website.s
Ask for the wholesale prices and don’t hesitate to write or send promos!!

Catherine Lachance
35 Brousseau
Loretteville QC
G2A 2R2 CANADA
catherinel@globetrotter.net

So monstrous a mode of valuation stands inscribed in the history of mankind not as an exception and curiosity, but as one of the most widespread and enduring of all phenomena. Read from a distant star, the majuscule script of our earthly existence would perhaps lead to the conclusions that the earth was the distinctively ascetic planet, a nook of disgruntled, arrogant, and offensive creatures filled with a profound disgust at themselves, the earth, at all life, who inflict as much pain on themselves as they possbily can out of pleasure in inflicting pain — which is probably their only pleasure.

- F.W. Nietzsche, Genealogy of Morals

Interview: Jon Konrath (writer)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who are your favorite postmodern writers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should writers stay celibate?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you feel about Christian presence in American politics?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Sufferings of the World

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaking of Waco, what is the function of government?

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

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

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

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

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

Do you believe in conspiracies?

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

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

Jon Konrath on Death Metal

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

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

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

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


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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

Do you consume any mainstream media?

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

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

How controlled do you believe the US media to be?

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

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

- Mikhail A. Bakunin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do supermodels shit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- F.W. Nietzsche, The Gay Science

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jon Konrath
www.rumored.com

Interview: Vidar Vaaer (Ildjarn)

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

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

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

What to you is most inspiring in nature?

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t have a fuckin’ idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- F.W. Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

- Arthur Schopenhauer, The Fourfold Root

Interview: Thorous (Deteriorate)

Deteriorate (Pennsylvania, USA) got their start as a band solidly and unmistakenly death metal of the violent American variety. Their debut Rotting in Hell, one of the premier domestic outputs of the infamous JL America label, broke little ground, but nonetheless manages to get spins from old-timers who have long appreciated its compact composition and caustic delivery. Not long after this sleeper semi-classic the band abandoned their death metal pursuits in favor of a faster, more melodic and hybridized style in line with the rising popularity of the European black metal of the day.

Interview from Heidenlarm e-zine #1.

Deteriorate Rotting in Hell came out near the end of the death metal boom, right before black metal became predominant in the eyes of many listeners. What was it like at that time to contemplate the styles in which you could compose?

Personally I was seriously into black metal since the begining…in fact if you noticed the change in styles between “Rotting in Hell” and “Gather the nebbish/The Senectuous Entrance” you can see my influences shining through out the whole cd; I wrote nearly half of the music on “Gather/Senectuous” around 1994…I was so saturated with old black/death metal like Venom, Bathory, Eestruction, Voivod, Slayer, Sodom, Kreator that it just flowed naturally in any riffs I would be writing…I mean I saw Kreator’s first US tour[I believe] at City Gardens in Trenton NJ with Voivod I think it was “Pleasure to Kill/Killing Technology” tour – this fucking show was so fucking brutal, I was blown the fuck away, it still to this day had to have been the most influential moment in my life, as I watched them play flawlessly I said to myself that’s what I want to do and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there…so I played everyday for years until I was 17 formed my first band it was called “randomdraw” a hardcore/metal band we sounded like cromags vs rage against the machine…anyway after a few years of other bands and stuff I joined Deteriorate which is a long story in itself!…so my goal with them was to take it to the next level get so into the music and just fucking go apeshit and I think it all worked out perfectly…..

It seems to me that death metal has always had two opposing sides, one of which emphasizes fast tremolo picking and relatively few emphatic pauses, while the other side uses muffled strumming and a morse code of pausing and pounding to spell out its riffs. What made you gravitate toward the faster metal side?

When I started playing guitar in ’82 I thought that metal had a missing element that hardcore bands seemed to emphasize on “speed”. So I started playing as fast as I could thinking that it would make me more talented as a player…so I would write these riffs and put them together with my younger brother Justin and we would play these blazing fast songs full of ‘squeals’ and violent solos like Slayer or Cryptic Slaughter…but after some time speed wasn’t good enough so I added into my style harmony&melody…I wanted something different say warmer tones, so I got into Malmsteen alot and Voivod, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Motley Crue, Iron Maiden, Celtic Frost ‘morbid tales’[my favorite guitar sound ever], Exodus, Violence, Metallica, Megadeth, Bathory, Anvil Bitch, Dominance, Faith or Fear, Flotsam and Jetsam, Death & tons more…I started going to 2 to 3 shows a week it was so intense there were lines down the street; as I saw these bands perform in the early mid 80′s I was blown away it was so intense my world had become near perfect! At the same time I was extremely jealous, I thought to myself why can’t I do that? There was one reason why —drummers—there is such a shortage of quality drummers that could do blaast beats or grind or doublebass let alone afford a decent kit…I was so into technical metal that it made it even harder to find someone.

There were fewer people involved with death and black metal in that time, unlike the current scenario. What do you think are the differences in a musician’s experience between the two?

Nowadays its more open to all; the styles combined, there are a thousand times more muscicians that are dying to play…equipment is far more affordable and more directed towards metal hard rock players…the nu-metal styles are bringing more people to wards heavier music especially women! I always thought that if you could get women into your band then men would follow hence bringing your numbers at the door up at the club you’re playing…

What to you makes a series of chords and rhythms a “riff”?

I’m always looking for something different or catchy or “hook” riffs…riffs that make you say “hell yeah that rips” and your hair stands up on your whole body…or like in the 80s the introduction of the word “mosh”or “not” where anthrax introduced to me the true pit styles I actually went nuts at every show we all our own style of moshing or dancing,or the dive kings, we tried every kind of dive you could think of it was a contest to us to see how long you could stay on stage or how long you could wave ride…it was the best years of my life it was so fresh new different and the normal people didn’t even notice any of these bands we were such a minority back then, I was always saying in school that Metallica will be the biggest band ever and 10 years later I was damn near right…I was the only kid in my juniore high with an earring and a denim jacket with death metal patches all over it…

Fo you compose by riff assembly, or is there a pattern into which riffs fit first?

Actually I have an odd style of writing I usually number the riffs along with names for each part and write it all down,so if I forget I have notes…in Deteriorate I played bass but I wrote the riffs on my 7string and brought my guitar to practice where I showed them the riffs…my newer bands I play guitar and sing on almost everything…I write all the music and vocals and let my drummer mike trush write the drum parts…I usually write all the music in my head at work and then go home and play my ass off…

Many of your songs on Rotting in Hell preserved a casual but intense atmosphere of using little introduction and tearing into the material on hand immediately. Was this a reaction to the riff-salad-heavy metal songs of the time, which often took half of the song just to get cooking?

Actually I didn’t play anything on “Rotting,” although I was in the band months before the recording sessions, I was asked to play on “Rotting” but it didn’t feel right playing songs on a disc that I had no part in writing so I declined…if you asked me about “Gather/Senectuous” I would have to say they were flowing and melodic…
lyrically, the band also played at least two sides, having some “gore” topics and a fair number that could have been interpreted as more gothic, romantic or moribund.

What inspired the lyric writing on this album?

As far as “Gather the Nebbish,” I sang 3 songs and wrote a major part of the music, my lyrics were directed towards my hatred towards a society that hates people like me…I would first get into a raging pissed off mood then write the music then the lyrics would just kind of “bleed” to me,you know what I mean?..I went in the studio and basically freaked out in the vocal booth screaming my heart out jumping around like a fucking lunatic,..in fact 2 of the songs I sang on “Gather” came about on the spot, I did the vocals on one take not even rehearsing them once: Evaporated Battleground/Ode to a Mortal” my good friend Trevor Schaible donated those 2 sets of lyrics and I took them in the studio and ad libbed the songs it just so happened they came out pretty good in my opinion total chaos!!

After Rotting in Hell, Deteriorate took a break. What happened during this time?

We went through some member changes and more of my writing came into effect, we really spent a lot of time rehearsing doing shows and getting more professional about ourselves and we said to ourselves what can we do to make this band better and more brutal and so we did just that…

After this break you released, The Senectuous Entrance, which in my view is two albums put together — one that could be described as Emperor-style gothic black metal, and another that was more heavy metal/punkish. What brought about this dichotomy?

I basically came into the band with alot of the ideas already to go, I brought to the band my musical background and it took over I guess…I never really heard any of the newer black/death metal bands, which bothered me when people said we are a rip of of Norweigan bands, its totally not the truth, I was doing this type of music inthe early 80s I was playing the 3rds minor this dissonant that you name it ..if you notice “Rotting” has none of the harmonies and minor chords, I brought that to the band and we took off with it, I was in bands prior to that which had similiar traits…

Your songs convey as much energy as any other band out there. How do you do it?

I tend to think to myself if I was in the crowd or a listener what would I want to hear and I do it…energy is the first priority nowadays in my band “Treading on Divine” I do simpler arrangements but it works for me, there is more flowing riffs and catchy hooks…

The band has been around since 1991. How do you think metal, or death metal, has changed over the course of that time?

All the genres have improved with the times…certain bands keep their styles others evolve into something different I think both scenarios work,it gives fans an oppurtunity to hear something new therefore creating another rip in the timeline for a new genre..

How has Deteriorate as a band integrated those changes into its music?

Currently Deteriorate is rehearsing for a new release in the future but Mike Trush and myself are quite busy so it takes some time to get it together…other members are in Krypton or not doing music at all…

Your songs are convoluted in the logic that produces continuity between their riffs, enough that they must be heard through once fully before being interpreted. How do you think the awareness of this process in the listener affects how you compose?

It gives me a flowing feel to it, I can sit and bob my head continuosly from start to finish, I can only assume that our fans or listeners do the same thing…it has that warm feeling about it…the 5 unreleased songs have a brutal chaotic war type sound to it, but we still incorporated the Deteriorate flow and sound to it…

When you are composing a song and have two directions in which it can go, how do you select which one should prevail?

It was always a band vote or else we would just open jam and if it went in some new direction that sounded cool we would work with it…it’s truly important to find muscicians that you can openly do unplanned jams ,its usually where you find a truly nwew and original riff,where as when you are at home there is no drums or band influence there to strengthen the song or give you a nod or an added riff between another riff….

You seem to be a non-political band, as far as lyrics are concerned. Do you have any political or social change views that you keep to yourself, or are you detached from the entire process of politics and ideology?

Personally I try to incorporate politics or truth in my lyrics, these topics enrage me making my songs come out even more chaotic, I try to let the lyrics influence my choice of riffs after the song is written of course, the lyrics might change a part into something different or brutal…

The USA may be about to wage holy war on Iraq and the Middle East. Is this a metal topic to discuss?

Yes and no…I feel it’s all a front to keep americans intrested in the politics of this country…the president has to do something to keep his people supporting him…with all the things like snipers, Iraq, WTC and racism, he can shift the peoples attention away from starting a war with Iraq, he made everybody shift their attention from Iraq to the snyper atacks, getting everyone pissed off, so now the people are hungry for some desruction somewhere other than here, and to make it work even better the one snipers last name was Muhammad…it worked, he’s got the ok to wage a war on Iraq, I’m not surprised and I do support this war…these people need a leader that has enough brains not fuck with the most powerful country in the world, us!!!

Do you think that music conveys values based upon what positive beliefs are affirmed in the music, even in simply its sound which resembles facets of the outside world?

It does…music has been the center of attention since the beginning of its creation…it can take you out of reality or define reality and it seems that both work very well…I mean people take a cd put it in then something happens, almost chemically in their brain and it feels good,others feel bad or angry or something, its amazing how this works…I always thought that you could totally control or program people of all ages through certain notes played in precise actions in the brain, when I hear certain notes a feel it all over my body its really quite remarkable [I hope this made some sense to you, I think I understand what I just said hahaha]

Is it possible to be a musician without sharing some of your views through music?

Definitely… I’m really into Burzum, Varg does an excellent job at creating a soundscape, it’s total headphone music, which is one of my favorite ways of listening, Varg uses his feelings and beliefs through beautiful music, but yet you can still understand his anger and pains…Mortiis does similar work but his feelings tend to be fantasy like or dungeons and dragons theme music, both are excellent…

You’re now working on new material with a band called Treading on Divine. This title seems to have more metaphysical implications than the gore-metal-ish idea of Deteriorate. What is different about the music and outlook of Treading on Divine as compared to Deterioriate?

“Treading on Divine” is a project that I started around 98 right around the breakup of Deteriorate myself and joe gorski were fed up with the scene in Philly so we moved to south florida and started playing…he was on drums and I played and sang..eventually we grabbed my brother [who is the best guitarist I've ever seen] and Conrad Eddings on bass…we had 3 songs and so it was born…down the road we fell into the party scene down there 3 of us worked in nightclubs so if we weren’t working we were partying thus the band suffered…I had also another band with the samme members except Chris Dino plyed drums that was called ‘twitch’ it was really good stuff….so eventually we after 2 years parted ways I moved back north and started the band with other people, Thorous-lead guitar, Mike Trush-drums, Chris Berwind-bass and Alex Davis-guitar….we rehearsed about a year and 2 of the members didn’t progress so I let them go, now it’s myself, Trush and filling in on bass Jason Hildebrandt from Funeral Mask, Cemetary Earth, Hazarax…we’re ready to record a EP..full length soon the title is “thy only god”..the difference between Deteriorate and treading is I write all the music and arrangements, they’re more flowing and basic riffs…it has black, grind,melody,harmonies,thrash,death styles…in Deteriorate the riffs were all voted on whether I liked it or not so alot of good riffs got trashed, since I saved these riffs and used them now,so some of these songs are quite old…we do one song called “Viral Gore” which is from 1988; some are from 89, these are more thrashy,…the “Treading” songs have “hooks” that make you say hell yeah! As far as the lyrics “Treading on Divine” is based upon my hatred towards authority, I don’t like being told what to do, ever! Not by anyone including my girlfriends….this is the topic I have been griping about forever…i get political on some sogs others are about my nonreligon attitude…being my own god and all that…

What bands are you listening to now?

Voivod-Deathrow-DBC-Burzum-Devil Doll-Elend-Marilyn Manson-Ozzy/Sabbath-Golden Dawn-Entombed-Dismember-Fantomas-Mr. Bungle-Thorns-Abruptum-Mayhem-Behemoth-Venom-Destruction-Kreator-Sodom -Vond-Ulver-old W.A.S.P.-Metallica-Megadeth-Slayer-Darkthrone-Mercyful Fate-Celtic Frost-Belphegor-Tartaros-Tomahawk-Jimmy Rodgers-Sabbat-Immolation-Exodus-Emperor-Autopsy-Laibach-Bloodstorm-Se rvants of Hate-Funeral Mask-LiveSufferDie-Ministry-Christian Death-Violence-Anthrax-Forbidden-Abigor… I could go on forever!

It appears the downturn in the US and world economies has affected metal. Are you able to find a label at this point in time? Are you going to self-release this upcoming album?

Actually Philadelphia has so many labels here…I am talking with a few labels none that I want to name just yet but I have made mistakes with labels in the past and I don’t want to lose money and touring again. When I first joined Deteriorate we had tons of touring offers, some with morbidangel for 40 dates but our drummer had a custody battle going on so he couldn’t do the tours, eventually that was why we replaced him with Darkwoods, Rich was a great drummer though…

How do you think the internet has changed music, from your first album in 1993 to your second in 1996, and now to the current time?

The internet is excellent for underground bands like us to get exposure…it’s amazing how much stuff is out there…I can always find something interesting on the web….

Do you think most metallers have a common general direction of their ideology, or is there no unity in thought in the scene?

I honestly think everybody is different anymore, I always hear different opinions about every topic…,sure theres unity but not really where i’m at…i live in a city that has everybody thinking differently I don’t know why…theres always bands that are jealous of others or pissed offf that they’re opening for a band that they think sucks,i’ve been dealing with this shit since 89…we used to get every tour package that came through philly no matter who was headlining the tour we always got the top slot on the bill…this made all the local bands hate us instead of supporting us which would come back to them in the end…i think nowadays its different theres more unity in the scene…back in the 90s we could’ve all stuck together and the philly scene would’ve been the next tampa bay thing,instead when the cell block closed the bands dissapated,noone astuck to gether and bands broke up, its a shame because we really had some good bands in our scene,to tell you the truth most of those bands are like invisible because I haven’t seen many of those muscians again….

After the rise of nu-metal and bands like Slipknot, does metal any longer have the “coming in from the outfield” strangeness and dramatic impact that it once had?

I feel that this is the metal years all over again, history is repeating itself but in a grander way…a majority of people today appreciate metal and hard rock, its not that uncommon anymore,you hear metal on the radio everyday…we have such a wide variety of bands to chose from along with a generation of people that grew up om metal ranging from 10 to 40 years old….most like something heavy if not ozzy/sabath then metallica or godsmack or something…to me this is positive for the scene…
why metal? it’s not an easy artform, there’s no money and most people seem to hate it or disparage it. why do you keep going? (this is not a criticism, hopefully obviously, since i’m still in this after as many years too!)

I can’t stop! I love it the heavier it is the better….then again everybody will probably hate me for this but I like Marilyn Manson alot…his music is super creative, its full of hate, evil, and other postive shit that just makes him an icon for heavy mainstream music he’s actually helping the world get into heavy music which opens the doors for bands like mine,he has the flow we were talking about earlier, I am open minded to some degree….I like stuff from almost every genre doesn’t mean its good for everybody else, but it’s good to me and I don’t care what anybody thinks….who cares what I listen to anyway you know? To each his own….theres a litttle bit of everyting in bands today it means that awider range of audiences will buy into heavier music…[i hope]…

If you could tour with two or three bands from anywhere and anytime in metal, who would it be?

Voivod!!!!!!!Slayer!!!Morbid Angel!!!

Where do you think metal will go next?

Its going to get even bigger, I know I want more of it and I’m not going anywhere but more angrier then before…I have more anger in me than ever before and I need bands to fuel my fire!!!

Jazz, ambient, industrial, and punk: all of them exist as separate genres, niches if you will, from the mainstream as does metal. But somehow jazz and ambient get more respect and never quite fully are able to integrate with the mainstream of radio music. Do you think this is due to increased technicality, radically unpopular song structures, ability of audience to appreciate complexity, or other factors? Do you think this same distancing from mainstream radio music could help metal?

Maybe the jazz thing is of the other half of society that doesn’t listen to rock or metal or mainstream music…it could be an older generation or possibly the trained muscicians of the world are more appreciated…I know I’ve never had a lesson in my life but it still kept me busy and somewhat talented…

It used to be there were tons of zines, and people mailing stickers and dubbed cassettes all over the world. Metalheads today trade web links and mp3s, and there are now thousands of websites each offering small fragments of information. Where is this weak(er), and what’s next after this? Do you think metal will consolidate its information?

it can only get better,the more publicity for my style of music the better…

Do you believe humanity is about to blow itself into vapor?

Not really its pretty much the way its always been to me, bullshit, politicians, religon it’s all always there its just a matter of what you buy into…

What has changed about the songwriting process for Treading on Divine that is separate from how Deteriorate worked in both incarnations?

Actually not much maybe different tempos or not so much blast and grind beats…I have been working on more catchier riffs that have a more grooving sound to them its still in the black/death metal vein…

Who’s in the band now?

Thorous[guitar/vox] Mike Trush[drums/vox/bass]

Are you going to repress Rotting in Hell and The Senectuous Entrance?

Actually we have the original recording of “Rotting in Hell” which was recorded at an entirely different rcording studio…the vox are even more brutal..we are going to release it soon with the original cover that was deemed to satanic for our onr guitar player….

Where do you hope to be in ten years?

hopefully touring the world and playing brutal music forever!!!!!!!

What do you do outside of metal, as individuals, and who is in the band?

I have my historic renovations business…I do old world/european style stonework and replications. I’m planning to do a house in Spain this spring, its my other passion in life!!

Any final additions?

Its cool to know that there’s people out there still into Deteriorate and the old school metal bands…I appreciate any people who would like a copy of unreleased material and videos…send me tapes and postage to: thorous—-170 smithtown rd. pipersville,PA 18947 Keep the metal world alive! Don’t give up playing your instruments,follow your dreams, I had dreams when I started playingt and so many came true, if I can do it anyone can do it! Keep trying your best,sing your heart out! Play all day and night! Make a difference, speak your mind! Don’t take any shit from anyone! Don’t let anyone push you around, you’re only as powerful as you believe you are! Keep metal alive! Kick some ass! – And support the local bands in your area, without people like you local bands will fade away, go to as many shows as you can, and buy as much merchandise as you can, it will come back to you in some way! Thanks for giving me the chance to vent SRP! – thorous…treading on divine….

The natural inequality of the two powers of population and of production in the earth and that great law of our nature which must constantly keep their effects equal form the great difficulty that to me appears insurmountable in the way to the perfectibility of society. All other arguments are of slight and subordinate consideration in comparison to this. No fancied equality, no agrarian regulations in their utmost extent, could remove the pressure of it even for a single century. And it appears, therefore, to be decisive against the possible existence of a society, all the members of which should live in ease, happiness, and comparative leisure; and feel no anxiety about providing the means of subsistence for themselves and families.

Consequently, if the premises are just, the argument is conclusive against the perfectibility of the mass of mankind.

- Thomas Malthus, Population: The First Essay (1798)