Interview: John Gelso (Profanatica)
In all avenues and aspects of creative expression, different levels of effort produce different results. Moderation, pandering, or creating something merely unique enough to warrant attention result in transience; conversely, truly going for it” and channeling an inhuman energy to produce a horrifyingly powerful result results in a longer lasting relevance. This is the essence of extremity. In roughly three energetic bursts of activity throughout the past two decades, Profanatica (or its shadow project, Havohej) has created some the most “extreme, black, and ungodly music imaginable,” reducing metal to its most atavistically energetic and trance inducing form. We were able to catch up with Profanatica guitarist John before a most impious performance to discuss amongst other things, the band’s motivation in writing their full length Profanatitas De Domonatia as well as the relationships between art, philosophy, and religion.
Is art different from entertainment? If so, how?
To me, art and entertainment can be one in the same, but art should be one’s personal expression. Entertainment is looking into someone else’s expression. In essence, art is doing and entertainment is observing.
Can heavy metal/black metal be art?
Absolutely. Creating music is art and should be about the realization of the best of your true self and to a certain degree, your sense of uniqueness.
Does entertainment imply passivity from the listener?
Yes. Those being entertained, the observers, they are like parasites. They aren’t moving their own energy out. They’re just feeding off other people’s creativity. Of course, the exception is a live performance where the audience can add to the experience of “the art.”
So everyone should give the world everything they have to offer and create in any way they can?
Right. Everyone should express their true self to the fullest extent that they can. Although, not everyone is capable or they might believe they don’t have anything to express. they rely on others. So, it’s like a passive versus aggressive situation. Aggression, art, is letting out your own energy, as much as you can. The passive aspect, being entertained, is taking from what other people put out.
The unconscious egoism of the individual in the crowd appears in all forms of crowd-behavior. As in dreams and the neurosis this self feeling is frequently though thinly disguised, and I am of the opinion that with the crowd the mechanisms of this disguise are less subtle. To use a term which Freud employs in this connection to describe the process of distortion in dreams, the “censor” is less active in the crowd than in most phases of mental life. Though the conscious thinking is carried on in abstract and impersonal formula, and though, as in the neurosis, the “compulsive” character of the mechanism developed frequently – especially in permanent crowds – well nigh reduces the individual to an automaton, the crowd is one of the most naïve devices that can be employed for enhancing one’s ego consciousness. The individual has only to transfer his repressed self feeling to the idea of the crowd or group of which he is a member; he can then exalt and exhibit himself to almost any extent without shame, oblivious of the fact that the supremacy, power, praise and glory which he claims for his crowd are really claimed for himself.
- Everett Dean Martin, The Behavior of Crowds
I feel like some concepts, such as the Freudian notion of “Id”, are too abstract to be effectively communicated with words. They manifest in actions, expressed in the energy transmitted. Using music as an example, an artist can use the word “hate” in their lyrics and the listener might be able to comprehend on some level if they can understand these lyrics, but the idea would come across so much more universally and effectively if the music itself were to actually sound venomous, hateful, etc. I’ve always thought of Profanatica as one of the best examples of this; expression of raw emotion via the most simplistic possible means. How do you feel about all of this?
I agree with you. The energy of the music needs to match the lyrics. It should all be one unit. With Profanatica, a lot of it is about expressing frustration and hate, specifically with religion and morality. You shouldn’t rely on the ideas of others for your own idea of what’s “right” and “wrong”. You should make your own rules. Be your own god; make the world as you see it. To a certain degree, worship yourself. Treat yourself as a “god” or “goddess.”
This view seems to parallel Satanism, to some extent. In some forms of “Spiritual Satanism” and “Luciferianism”, all ideas pertaining to a god beyond the self are viciously blasphemed and rejected. The individual is then built up to be the one supreme being of its own reality.
I see your point. Simply put, I myself don’t like labels. I’ve always found them confining. Most humans have this “need to belong” and this “need for order.” I say it’s all bullshit. That’s why I say I follow no religion. Not Christianity or Satanism. All labels are man-made and are not natural. I am what I am. I believe in what I believe in and that’s it. I follow my own free will. To me, it doesn’t make sense to trade out one symbol, god, for another. After all, the concept of “Satan” is just a product of Christianity originally developed to inject fear into people. Very much the way the US government are using “terrorists” to inject fear into us. The fact is, fearful and needy people are much easier to control and manipulate.
The universe could be argued to be composed of tangible things, like substances, and intangible things, like designs or ideas or “natural laws” which are enforced through substance but are not substance. How do the two correlate?
It’s all interconnected. Ideas come at different times for different reasons. The universe wants you to do what’s best for you and to apply yourself to the fullest possible extent; to move everything forward as a whole. If you apply yourself, good things and good ideas will come to you. If you want something to happen, you have to go and do it yourself.
They have also those songs of theirs, by the recital of which (“baritus,” they call it), they rouse their courage, while from the note they augur the result of the approaching conflict. For, as their line shouts, they inspire or feel alarm. It is not so much an articulate sound, as a general cry of valour. They aim chiefly at a harsh note and a confused roar, putting their shields to their mouth, so that, by reverberation, it may swell into a fuller and deeper sound. Ulysses, too, is believed by some, in his long legendary wanderings, to have found his way into this ocean, and, having visited German soil, to have founded and named the town of Asciburgium, which stands on the bank of the Rhine, and is to this day inhabited. They even say that an altar dedicated to Ulysses, with the addition of the name of his father, Laertes, was formerly discovered on this same spot, and that certain monuments and tombs, with Greek inscriptions, still exist on the borders of Germany and Rhætia.
- Tacitus, Histories
Do you believe natural selection should have primacy over technology?
Define natural selection.
The idea that only the strongest members of a species will survive in the long run.
I don’t think the popular concept of natural selection is necessarily accurate. Whatever you want to achieve, you can. Strength is in the mind not the body. With that, the human species is not living up to half of its potential. This is what is lacking in the world. I think that’s why there’s a lot of hatred for mankind. A lot of this can be seen in black metal. I believe this hatred is because it (mankind) isn’t necessarily doing the “correct” thing. There is so much more that it should be doing. So many better things and that’s what’s frustrating. The problem is that we’re basically just not challenging ourselves enough and this allows a few greedy individuals to get away with bad choices that affect many. I believe religion is the catalyst for this numbing of the mind that’s been going on over the last 2,000 plus years.
Profanatica’s newest release takes the high-speed, long-riff, motif-based style (similar patterns appear across different songs) that had been pioneered with incantation, and adds to it melody like one might find on a Gorgoroth album; what prompted this change, was it what you always wanted to do, and do you see it as a fusing of constructive (melody) and destructive (rhythm) properties?
Interesting perspective, can’t say I really got into Gorgoroth. Musically I didn’t feel there to be any major change in what we’re doing, other than tuning down.
It’s all based upon feeling and being in the moment. I still draw my influences from the same bands I listed to in my earlier years. Paul and I wanted to pick up from where we left off.
Interview by Michael Dean