A Year at the Wheel releases archive of video interviews

July 1, 2014 –

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Shane and Amy Bugbee drove across America for a year-long epic road trip spent producing some 200 short videos featuring interviews with classic American figures, including metal- and punk-related ones such as Jeff Becerra (Possessed), Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) and Averse Sefira. They called this project A Year at the Wheel and have released the extensive interview footage to the public.

Their footage has been featured on syndicated news shows, and even in the Peter Jackson documentary West Of Memphis. They financed their project with no grants, no sponsors, and not even a credit card, and began with only $180 between them. Since that time, their YouTube videos have received over 1.3 million views and they have published a 534-page book called The Suffering & Celebration Of Life In America including their interviews with the above musical figures.

In response to popular interest the Bugbees have made their archive available to others through Archive.Org. The footage can be not only viewed, but used by other filmmakers and journalists in their own projects. Subjects include internationally known photographer Joel Peter Witkin, anthropologist William H. McNeill, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, Attorney for the American Atheists Edwin Kagin, punk icon Ian MacKaye, the Godfather of Death Metal Jeff Becerra, American Indian Movement activist Dennis Banks, the black metal band Averse Sefira, and eyehategod’s Mike Williams.

Condemned to Glory: Interview with Averse Sefira

June 27, 2014 –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, see above.

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

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

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

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

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

What is the difference between spirituality and religion?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interview with Jeff Tandy of Birth A.D.

April 30, 2014 –

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I’m interviewing Jeff Tandy, vanguard of the hateful and cynical Texas thrash band Birth A.D. He also played bass in the black metal band Averse Sefira under the pseudonym Wrath Sathariel Diabolus.

How were you introduced to heavy metal, and how have your tastes evolved over the years?

Unoffficially it was by seeing Alice Cooper on the Muppet Show when I was three years old, and my mother very graciously bought me the single. Officially it was exposure to traditional American heavy metal through secondary contact (Dio, Quiet Riot, whatever else was going on) then discovering thrash with a few like-minded friends. I had the proper evolution that all fans should experience: heavy metal, speed/thrash, then death/black. At that point you’ll be fully literate, fully integrated, and you’ll have avoided all the stupid stuff.

How was Birth A.D. formed?

We formed out of a need for something to do while we watched our guitarist let Averse Sefira languish and die. I had songs in the vault from my formative days (back when I had a very remedial thrash band called Afterbirth) and I had always wanted to record them just to have for posterity. Little did we know it would actually be something with promise.

And how did you meet the drummer and guitarist?

Mark and Brian had a band called Death of Millions, and I’d known them for years. Mark joined me in Averse Sefira in 2001, and that was basically that. I invited Brian in to try guitar because I knew he was a solid player, and it came together perfectly.

When you write songs, what comes first? The riffs? Lyrics? Rhythms?

The lyrics are invariably first. They actually shape most of the riffs, and that’s always how I write. In this band, the words have to be just right or the riff is worthless.

In an old Averse Sefira interview, you identified yourself as a hessian. What does being a hessian mean to you?

To be a hessian means you make metal part of your life in an integrated fashion. It’s not a hobby, it’s not a weekend diversion, and it’s not something you hide. It is akin to a faith, except without all the retarded masochistic tenets of worship.

What album are you looking forward to most in 2014?

I think the new Triptykon will be good. My friends in Death Wolf have a new one coming, so I’m interested in that as well. I don’t know, these days the time between announcing an album and actually releasing it is so narrow it’s hard to build a lot of anticipation. The Demilich compilation finally came out so I’m all taken care of for now.

What’s next for Birth A.D.?

We are finally looking into live dates elsewhere. I’m working on a new album, but I want to take some time to make it right. I feel like our first one will be hard to top, but I intend to try my damnedest! Thanks for the interview.

Final words?

Hail Hanneman. Cause problems! In that order.

The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America by Shane and Amy Bugbee

February 16, 2013 –


The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America
by Shane and Amy Bugbee
532 pages, $50 (direct: paperback $25 ebook $10)

the_suffering_and_celebration_of_life_in_america-shane_and_amy_bugbeeShane and Amy Bugbee are no strangers to controversy. Shane helped produce the original Milwaukee Metalfests, then ran several of his own Expo of the Extreme shows, while publishing classic Ragnar Redbeard texts with intros by Anton LaVey and running a radio show called Radio Free Satan with the blessing off the occult community.

In addition, the Bugbees put fingers into about every pie in the outsider art community, from banned comic book artist Mike Diana to — well, evil metal, now that you mention it. Their book The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a tour of the USA to discover its roots, but it’s also a series of interviews with some of metal’s greatest minds.

Originally, Shane and Amy Bugbee, a married pair of artists and entrepreneurs, planned an adventure called A Year at the Wheel where they would drive the length and breadth of the United States during an election year and record what they saw.

Luckily these artists are also metalheads and so decided to visit with a number of classic figures in the underground or related scenes. They interviewed Jeff Becerra (twice), Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat), Averse Sefira, the West Memphis 3, metal artist Jeff Gaither, and Gene Hoglan (Dark Angel).

These interviews tend to be in-dept explorations of the motivations behind metal artists, and include a number of statements that are crushing in their honesty and profundity. In many ways, they showcase the best of metal when all of the rock-star impositions are removed.

For example, take this selection from Averse Sefira:

Some people think the only real difference between black metal and other forms of metal is the fact that you wear corpse paint and that you scream instead of growl. That’s really, really short sighted. You look at a band like Emperor. You could not write a song like ‘I Am The Black Wizards’ in death metal or thrash or anything like that. You could not write a song like ‘Blashyrkh’ the song that Immortal did in any other genre but black metal. It wants to transcend and that is why we are involved in it. (307)

Interview questions become interesting as the Bugbees interrogate their subjects about historical mysteries, and in doing so, lay bare to some of the vital issues conflicting them. For example, Jeff Becerra (Possessed) on his Satanism and censorship:

We had to take the upside down cross off of the second and third records, well we didn’t, the record company did. We actually toned down the Satanism for the second and third because it was the bonfire of the vanities, the Christians were throwing books on the fire and burning shit up that might be important. People’s moms were making them switch to catholic school cause they were getting caught with shit, like it was drugs, people were afraid of Satan then, no one is scared of Satan now… It’s a trip because if people find spirituality without fear it’s gonna be okay. Life is
scary enough at this point in time, we don’t need to put metaphysical boogie men in our children’s heads. (445)

Not all of the interviews are metal per se, but it’s hard to deny the influence of Minor Threat on underground bands who came after them. Much as punk is different than metal however, the punk outlook as expressed by Ian Mackaye (Minor Threat) is less metaphysical and more political — in fact, this may be the most significant difference between metal and punk, now that I think about it:

In my mind, at least in our culture, the overriding emphasis is on profit and wealth. I think it’s actually the modern form of power. Before there were royalty and kings, or this guy has the biggest knife and cuts off more people’s heads. Now the warriors, the really powerful people are the rich people, and profit is so dominating in all business conversations. (514)

What makes these interviews interesting (outside of the content) is that they are not in a fanzine. This is a book about driving across America to figure out what it’s all about. The goal was to discover it, and themselves, for the authors. In doing so, by approaching many classic musicians from non-standard angles, they captured a lot of what motivated them.

In addition, the Bugbees are no strangers to the type of experience that a metalhead has in a society that, whether motivated by Jesus or money or something else, doesn’t like the disobedient and too smart to conform and get in line for the easy jobs and abundant shopping. In their case, it was a professed interest in Satanism, horror movies, metal and pornography that attracted negative attention.

In America’s heartland, they had to abandon a town and a successful business when a “poison pen letter” outed them as the authors of several atheistic and not-so-very-Jesus blogs that might have endorsed Satanism. Along their trip, they lost other jobs too, as well as non-profit opportunities. In a few cases, they almost lost friends or other contacts but were able to rescue the situation.

Wherever they went, these accusations seemed to follow them. It would make anyone paranoid. It explains what so many metalheads feel in this society, which is that the instant it identifies us as outsiders, it goes on the offensive. We are seen as a threat to its way of life, whether it be conservative and Christian or politically correct and urban.

For this and other interesting explorations of what it is to be an outsider, The Suffering and Celebration of Life in America is a great read for anyone who has stepped outside of the mainstream, and wants to find a reason not just to be outside, but to celebrate it.

Averse Sefira “Battle’s Clarion” 11-year anniversary

December 4, 2011 –
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