Monthly Archives: March 2012

BEFORE EVERYTHING FALLS: ALAN NEMTHEANGA / PRIMORDIAL

Alan Nemtheanga of Primordial has become the extreme metal scene’s official opinion machine. Be the issue this or that, you can guarantee that in some point a magazine or other party is asking what this outspoken Irishman thinks about it. And usually Nemtheanga has a good view on that issue: he has seen enough of this world and its darker side to have a perspective on things, and the wide knowledge about history, culture and politics gives a strong back-up. And you can’t forget that he is a singer in one of the most profound and impassioned metal bands of today!

So although this whole interview was more or less improvised, it turned out well. Of course there are some themes like Blood Revolt (whose debut Indoctrine, unleashed not until 2010, is a tricky but striking piece of extreme metal), but otherwise, just one couch, two guys (okay, Mikko Kuronen of Qvadrivivm was also there) and lots of words. No more to say, sink your teeth into this!

As you have noticed, I wanted to get closer to David Tibet as a person in my Current 93 interview. Now this is my second attempt, trying to reveal the man behind Primordial, Alan Nemtheanga: a man with many words and opinions, closer to Black Metal than ever, both musically and ideologically. Read on and take notes about the end of the Western civilization and the suitable soundtracks framing this destruction…

It’s 23th of February in 2007 and Jyväskylä is freezing cold. A few hours before the tonight’s gig. How are you feeling?

– Heh, well, in pain. The last night was a bit too intense. I can’t do my fist and my elbow is hurting. I got thrown out of the bar in Helsinki…

Is it typical for you to get in trouble?

– Not typical, usually I drink to a certain point and have a good time, but usually I don’t go over the line and become aggressive. But I think that I was drinking Jägermeister and energy drink, and I drank one bottle of Jägermeister during the gig and some Finnish drink which I don’t know, so it made a slightly different reaction. With whiskey I’m usually okay.

 So you are sometimes aggressive after that certain point?

– Usually I’m relatively good-natured but sometimes I get a bit aggressive. But I’m not one of those people who people know that if he drinks too much he’s going to kill someone. We all have friends like that, but I’m not one of those.

 What kind of preparations, rituals, meditations do you have before the gig?

– When I’m getting all the stuff and make-up on I do some vocal scales and drink something hot, lemon or something. And then there’s the usual band bonding going on, but nothing special, just focusing my energy.

So is it easy for you to get into that certain mood, or is it sometimes like “naah, I don’t want to this”?

– Hardly ever. I can count with one hand those gigs which I didn’t like. I remember one gig in Portugal, and the night before the gig I went fucking drunk and mental and I really felt that I can’t give people that proper Primordial that they are waiting, but usually it’s not hard to get into that atmosphere and those songs we play.

So is it usually the physical state which goes wrong?

– The mental state that you need for those songs, it always comes when you start to sing. You remember what they mean to you, and although it may sound pretentious, but you become that song. So it’s very rare that I would be somewhere outside when singing our songs. It’s more like Jekyll and Hyde, or something.

You took the audience well when you were performing in Nummirock, Finland, a couple of years ago. Are you always so interactive with the crowd, because some bands can be good on stage, but they are very introverted and just playing for themselves, not for the audience…

– It’s always that way. If someone is taking all the trouble and effort to come to our show, it’s our duty to be active. The last night in Helsinki was very active and the crowd allowed taking them where we wanted to. Often bands stand onstage and think that there’s a barrier between them and the audience, but generally if you come to see Primordial, you usually see the world like we do, so there’s no point to alienate our crowd. The feeling of the songs becomes reality, and also it’s an old school metal thing. You don’t just stand on the stage. I have been at gigs where the place has been smaller than this room, people are everywhere and the crowd is singing, and I like it. Of course playing in a huge tent or open-air is different, but you just have to project yourself in a different way, or you find yourself running everywhere like a Black Metal Bruce Dickinson…

You mentioned that equipment, studs and spikes and masks. What kind of role do they have to you?

– Well, I’ve been doing them from 1992, and it helps focusing your energy. It’s not like you are becoming a character, a character is in you already like in Jekyll and Hyde, but it’s more like a ritual what you do before going onstage. It projects something common with the music, and I have also been attracted to that style, I am a fan of Celtic Frost and Testament, I’m not interested on standing onstage with a Metallica T-shirt on. Even when we were playing gigs in 1992, we never wore band T-shirts on stage. Of course it’s odd that I’m nearly forty and I can’t stop myself painting my face, heh.

– So it’s a performing ritual. And when the people see me and I see them, it’s a strong connection; usually they are like “what the fuck” because they didn’t expect anything like that, more like a style of My Dying Bride or something.

Usually in Black Metal all the bullet belts and spikes refer to persons going to war: they have their swords and axes onstage. Do you feel same way: when you go onstage, you are going to war?

– Yes, in a way, it’s like preparing for something, it adds that ritualistic feeling. And of course it’s an old school metal thing, a heritage or something. As said, I have always been interested in Celtic Frost, Possessed and Bathory… And Sabbat – when I saw Sabbat in 1989, that was a changing point for me. They were all having swords and leather gauntlets and medieval shirts, and before that I hadn’t seen a band that would do that.

Let’s take a look on your new projects, on the fields of Black/Death Metal. For example you will be making a guest appearance on the next Marduk album. What was the motive behind this?

– Well, I have been friends with them for a long time, with Morgan and Arioch as well. They are into Primordial and I like Marduk also – it’s not one of my favourite bands, but with a new singer they have much more potential, and when you hear the new album, you will be quite surprised I think. First it was just an idea: he had this song called Opposer/Accuser, which he wrote basically for me, having two characters in that song, and I sing like answers in that song. And it worked very well, it was very challenging and interesting to with other musicians. But people were first like “are you going to make Black Metal vocals” and my answer was “why should I? Arioch has a voice of Hell, you can’t compete with him and I have never heard anyone singing like that”. So it was interesting, we are also very like-minded individuals, me, Morgan and Arioch.

For me Marduk are one of those few stubborn bastards in Black Metal, fistfucking God’s planet all night long. How do you see them musically and ideologically?

– Yes, and in the end Legion was turning Marduk a bit to a pantomime. His vocals were good as well, but at some point you need change like that. And Morgan is Marduk for me at least. You can get a wrong impression when you read the most stupid Marduk lyrics, but he’s a very intelligent guy, he has tons of books and CDs and he knows so many things about history, he can say “here’s a church from 1444 and here’s a grave from 1466” and so on, full of geographical and historical facts. And when I asked why nothing of this is on Marduk albums, the answer was because Legion wrote almost all the lyrics. The thing is different with Arioch, he’s writing better lyrics, and if you have listened Funeral Mist and read his lyrics, this new album will be from the same – his – angle: Religious, orthodox Black Metal feeling.

Another thing is this band with you, Vermin and J. Read (Revenge, Axis Of Advance) called Blood Revolt.

– This will be one of the most interesting things and it will fuck with many people’s heads. Revenge fans maybe can’t believe they want to make an album with me and it’s the same thing with Primordial fans. Basically I’m really into Revenge and J. Read is into Primordial, and now we are working with an album. We have four songs so far, and they have Axis Of Advance stuff, crazy tempo changes and speeds and stuff, but also epic, slower moments which remind me about slow Deströyer 666. Some of the songs are so fast that it’s difficult for me to sing on them, but the main thing was to try how it sounds with normal vocals – very brutal normal vocals but still normal vocals.

– Like Morgan and Arioch, also Read has many similar views and ideas with me. He’s one of the most stubborn people you can meet and won’t compromise one fucking thing in the music he makes. So there’s a common ground with Revenge and Primordial, most of the people don’t hear it song-wise, but the common feeling lies under the surface.

You mentioned this common goal and vision on your homepage. What kind of vision will Blood Revolt have?

– Musically the main goal was to make an uncompromising album which is like a fist in the face of normality and mediocrity and the plastic, pathetic state of death metal. But we are trying to make on as big a label as possible, not some underground label with a thousand copies.

– The lyrical theme, which is my handling, follows eight stages of total social alienation of a man – from losing his job, not being able to feed his kids to urban and social decay, to the alienation from his culture and society. And this all is a descent to madness and he ends up killing himself as a suicidal bomber. This shows his total mental breakdown. I have ideas to make a song about how to make a bomb, but I’m not sure if I’m allowed to do that… However, this story can be about anyone. It can be about Timothy McVeigh, about Hamas.. It’s supposed to be a morality tale about how a normal person can go to a store with a gun in his hand and shoot eight people. How more and more people get alienated from society and have no voice, more like this will happen. This is inspired by Timothy McVeigh and Middle-East, but it can happen anywhere. It can be a right-wing group, but it can be someone who goes bombing some French company who owns the watering in Columbia. It seems that blowing up buildings is the only way to get people to listen to you nowadays.

So it gives you an opportunity to go beyond that point where Primordial usually stops?

– Yes, in that respective I am allowed to cross some lines, hailing military equipment as salvation and creating really violent images, things that I couldn’t put to Primordial. For example some of my inspiration came from the dead town centres in America, where Walmarts are stripped and there are just cottage shops and drug addicts… The old community is starting to pass away, so I try to picture that slow decay and a descent to madness.

We have mentioned war a couple of times, so are you more an observer, for war or against war?

– We are living the age which brings us a perpetual war, and this war is just war for material assets, for example USA and England went to the Middle-East just for the natural resources. And bombing Afghanistan – it’s not that they want Afghanistan, it’s that they want to build an enormous gas line. Although the world is full of books and films, people need to be informed, not just conspiracy theories but that pretext that we are living the age of a perpetual war. After 9/11 the world has become a much darker place and this is showing also in Primordial: the feeling of alienation and the feeling that you have no voice and that feeling of worthlessness – that whatever you do it doesn’t make difference. I for example can fully understand those young Muslims, who are blowing people up. We have no spirituality in the West anymore, we have replaced it with capitalism and materialism. Every action that American policy takes has a reaction on my life, on my state. We can’t be integrated, but people have to live together, be they Muslims or Polish or Russian.

– So I don’t have any difficulties to understand people who go and try to have a better living, but in twenty years… I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be. We Irish have an island mentality and it’s hard for us to accept changes. But it’s the same thing wherever I go, the old historical wounds between countries are reopening, and that’s what The Gathering Wilderness is about.

– So back to your question: I’m active in the sense that I’m aware of my opinions and thoughts, and I do see things that move me and that’s why I’m talking about them in interviews etc. Maybe after this someone is starting to think that he/she should use his culture in a positive way or notices that Palestines are human beings, not just demonised by the media. It’s hard to just throw your hands and think it’s all fucked up anyway, but I don’t know if I want to bring kids to this world.

Can you even see that things could get better, that there would be some change in politics or in the minds of people? Or does it just getting worse and worse and worse?

– It’s good that people are more aware of things; the world has become a smaller place because of all the information. It’s no more like during the cold war when you just had America and Russia. There was this one line and people didn’t question things. The geopolitical landscape has changed a lot, but I don’t know if people can do anything about the situation anymore. Like I said, we have no spirituality in the West, our religion is materialism. It’s hard to see what you could to do to change things in a positive way. For me we are living the end of our days, this is the period when we can see massive changes during our lifetime. We have lost our power to America, and they know it and they keep it to themselves. They want to keep the security and the lifestyle that they enjoy and when they do it, they don’t want anyone to stand in their way.

Well, let’s imagine that all the materialism and capitalism would be swept away and replaced by religion. Would the change be to better or to worse?

– It’s quite unlikely obviously, but you can see that in the countries that have grown economically, they don’t have a need for religion or god. The exception is the USA, where you can see fundamentalist Christianity rising. It’s so fucking scary… There are states that are full of churches, 120 churches in a row. I don’t know have you seen the document called “Jesus Camp”, but it represents groups who have enough money to bother anything. They are xenophobic racists, Christian fascists who have their own armies. But I don’t think that the West would embrace any form of religion anymore.

I guess we can’t ignore your heritage and home country in this point. Many people consider Ireland being a quite religious country, but is it?

– First we have to remember that Ireland was a very poor country in the late eighties and early nineties, it was like a second world country. While people were poor, they still got their religion. Then in 1991 and 1992 the first cases of abuse within the church in the previous 50 years came up: there were big institutions where children were raised by Christian brothers called teachers because the families didn’t have money to raise their children, and basically these Christian brothers and sisters of mercy had systemically abused thousands of children over these 50 years – and the old government – closely linked to the church – had swept everything under the carpet. Then these stories rose and Ireland became more and more economically powerful and so no-one under 35 years old went to church anymore. No respect for the church, no respect for the priests. There were even years that no-one applied to be a priest. In a sense you can say that you get what you deserve, but the biggest joke was that all the money that the church paid to the abused children was taken from our taxes…

How was it when you introduced yourself to bands like Darkthrone etc.? Were you raised in a religious environment?

– The interesting thing is that my mother was a Catholic and my father was a Protestant, which wasn’t very accepted in Ireland, but for example my father was more an atheist than a Protestant, so they just left me alone and saw what I come up – and there wasn’t a long way to wearing a pentagram and an inverted cross around your neck. So I have never been into church, and it’s the same thing with my family and relatives. I haven’t got a mad religious aunt praising about Jesus.

What was like to be a metalhead in Ireland in the eighties?

– I found metal music at the age of ten in 84/85, so I was a teenager at the end of the eighties. People wouldn’t believe what was it like, but it was a fucking rough place. There were fights all the time. There was a group called “scumbags”, a totally underclass society just watching football and fighting, and when you went out on Saturday night, you were in a fight in 10-15 minutes. Scumbags fighting with punks, punks fighting with metal heads, punks and metal heads fighting with scumbags, and then there were Smiths fans and straight edge people and so on… I was living in a good area, but there were places where they beat you, pulled you down and cut you hear. Going to a gig was always crazy; you needed to have a big gang around you because of the scumbags… We all got grown up at that time, but I don’t say it was all bad, at the same time there were lots of bohemian culture and shops, and in the end people were very friendly.

Did you ever think that “this is not my thing, that I should be something else, something normal”? Or is it so that if you are born metal, you are metal forever?

– I definitely think that way. When I was fourteen, I was making tape trades and my own fanzine and I knew that this was my thing, although I knew that some of us will fade away and some will stay this way. I was always actively engaged with music, it wasn’t enough to just listen to a new Iron Maiden album.

And now you are sitting here, in Finland, Jyväskylä, preparing for the gig. Is it weird?

– But this is the reason why I have been doing all these things. We play music because we have to. The culture and the music live in a symbiotic relationship; it’s not just that there’s a bunch of lads who happen to have couple of bad Slayer riffs. When we started in 1991, things were really difficult: no instruments, no gear, practising in shitty bedrooms. When I answered the ad for the singer, the ad was visible just for half an hour, then it was covered by other ads. I was the only person who answered to it and I got into the band because I had a Rotting Christ shirt and long hair. I couldn’t really sing, but it was meant that we all should be in that band. The sense of achievement and the sense of having gotten where you are through your own talent is very rewarding. To be here now, that’s a joy, but often we sit down and think where have we came from, and we see that this has been a long and interesting journey.

Advertisements

TOO COLD TO BLEED: HYPOTHERMIA

The more I get into this blog thing, the more I see elements falling in their own places, cycles going on and on, feelings and moments repeating themselves. Another example of this phenomenon is this Hypothermia interview. Here in Finland the nature is balancing on the edge of winter and spring, and all these alternately crisp and misty days have forced me to take walks in forests and listening to the bands like Drudkh, Walknut, Austere and some other epic but still bitter sounding bands. Also Hypothermia has sneaked its way to my playlists, and so it’s refreshing to take another look on this old interview – and see what words I used to start this actual interview! A cycle is turning again…

However, my most enthusiastic Hypothermia mania has withered away – the band had its moments but generally the band’s material wasn’t so memorable after all. Kim Carlsson was at his best when he was walking on the thin line between hypnotic repetition and improvised solutions – Gråtoner (2008) is a fine example of this.

The latest offering from Hypothermia lair seems to be Skogens Hjärta album, which everyone can download with “pay-as-you-will” principle from the band’s homepage. I haven’t done that yet, but if this winter continues, maybe I will. Also other creations are waiting us in the cold horizon, according to Carlsson:

– Hypothermia has been experiencing some re-arrangements of members as well as locations for recordings over the past years and we’re becoming stronger for every year, just as our dedication and spiritual devotion. As with any art there are periods every year that are concentrated on channeling the essence that lives as Hypothermia, especially every winter during the last five years has become more intense in every sense: every year greets me as the devil’s cold whispers runs through me, his voice grows stronger and louder for every year and season that passes. Something which will show this materialized is the next album which will require a minimum of two discs… so you could definitely say that we embark on this channeling with full power now. It feels extraordinary and overwhelming. 

The spring is coming, again. Let’s still spend a moment or two with the last breaths of winter, feel its relieving caress of oblivion, which separates yourself from your body. This is a point where your cut flesh doesn’t bleed anymore, it’s too cold for pain, too cold for blood, too cold even for dying. This is a state of mind where Hypothermia is wandering. Mainman Kim gave us some answers and memories under the frost in the Autumn of 2006.

So, the winter is coming, the temperatures are getting lower and snow is covering the surface of the land there in Sweden, too. How do these changes affect you? Do you sense any changes in your state of mind, inspiration etc.?

– Winter has always been a change for the better. This is the only time of the year when I actually feel that I breathe and on the behalf of inspiration, there is no better time. I always have a continuous flow of inspiration but it is in winter that it is most flawless and of higher quality. I find myself being more calm and focused.

Well, Hypothermia as a band name and as a band is quite over-whelming and has a sense of finality to it. How was all this coldness and freezing rage born in the first place?

– I suppose it came with birth. I have always had a deep connection to coldness.

Since Hypothermia is, for the most part, your own creation, I have to ask if Hypothermia reflects yourself as a whole, or does it represent just one side of you? Usually people say that their music reflects their feelings, but I guess you can go even deeper with your music, creating a whole picture of your inner self.

– Hypothermia is both a reflection of me as a whole and a representation of different moods and emotions. It is limitless. This will become more present with a couple of songs I’ve worked on the last year which should be recorded and eventually released during 2007.

Have you ever thought of making Hypothermia a “real” band with full line-up, or is it even impossible to find kindred spirits?

– I personally don’t like the idea of a “real” band. I know people who share some of my views but even if I would have use for a larger line-up than myself and a drummer it would only be for the purpose of a performance. But for me to keep Hypothermia and my creativity without limitation I must remain the sole-creator. But an example of a more “full” line-up is the current I’m rehearsing with at the moment for future acoustic performances with a drummer and second guitarist.

Let’s analyse this “one man band” scheme more. When I find out that a band is build around one person, I get the sense of this band and its music being more like a personal calling and ceremony than with regular bands, who hang out in the rehearsal room, share some beer and create music (and share visions and opinions etc.) together. Your thoughts on this?

– In a way, I have both. Since I create all my music and its main foundations alone then when a session for rehearsal or recording is scheduled it becomes more of a “band” experience out of it.

I have been spinning your albums a lot lately, and although the music of Hypothermia is usually described as monotonous and being based on repetition, you can also find many other shades in there – from atmospheric flowing to pure northern rage. In addition to monotonous and purely cold feeling, you have evidently other goals when it comes to creating music?

– It is a bit hard to explain in a language that isn’t my mother language; my lyrics are usually somewhat clear about the matter, on and off. It is generally about creating an awareness of negativity and its continuous presence and power to create and affect. My affection towards repetition is simply because of the emotional and meditative state that I put myself in when I perform my creations. It is something that I don’t mind sharing.

I’d like to pick up some certain things from your discography. The first thing is the last track on your Rakbladsvalsen album, which reminds me of Forgotten Woods’ mellow moments and even some melancholic rock music. That song creates a nice contrast with the opening track which is a lengthy opus of cold Black Metal. What is the story behind that fourth track and what feelings did spin in your head when writing the song?

– Originally, I always write my songs without distortion. This one in particular is simply some ideas from the whole recording put into a song when we rehearsed it. I wrote all music for the album during a few days in December 2005 with the obsession of cold as inspiration of the music along with the weekend that the lyric this conception album is about. The clean and clear smell of cold air in autumn and winter colliding with dirt, rust and bloody smell of a slaughterhouse.

Another quite different and almost cheerful song is Att Älskas… (nomen est omen, heh?) from the upcoming split with Woods Of Infinity (which was never released, though… But you can find the song from the Internet wonderland -ed. ). Is it really “happiness” that those melodies create or just an illusion or some kind of twisted mutation of positive feelings?

– This song in particular is one of my most genuine reflections of negativity. Displaying the negative in positive and positive in negative, which in conclusion is a theme of the lyric. So your observation is quite accurate.

How about WOI as a band then, what’s your opinion about their perverse and absurd music and ideology?

– It is a bit hard to explain properly, I must admit. Their art makes me feel a brotherlike connection which puts me in admiration and respect. For them, Scandinavian nature and the nature of man itself and the true nature of Negativity in its endless shapes.

The song Melankoli from the split with Aska stands out because of its vocals, they make a connection to the band mentioned above, WOI and their insane atmosphere. Well, you can deliver your feelings through the instruments, but the singing is in my opinion the strongest and purest form of self-expression. In what kind of moods you “sing” your songs? Are the any peculiar states of mind, moments etc.?

– Agreed, sometimes there is a need, or perhaps – an urge. To bring in someone from the “outside” even though in this case it was on a very personal level with both collaborators which let the song grow and mature for over a year to turn into the beauty it became. To be able to use my throat I can put myself in different moods depending on what result I’m after. It can take a certain period of time to reach a desired/needed hysteria obtained through focusing or self-abuse or sometimes both combined.

Let’s get back to that monotonous feeling, which is the main source and character in your music at the end of the day. Do those repetitive riffs take you somewhere, to some sort of trance, or what does charm you in those 20+ minute songs?

– The coldness of winter is always inside my mind. Which is what I reach into and it holds me there in a firm grip. The sensation is very hard to describe, it becomes undetectable for the mind to grasp if it is my thoughts and emotions or my veins that are opened/widened. It gives me a further and deeper reflection of the general misery and negativity and turns it into something stronger and as an important part in my existence as breathing. So yes, a sort of trance is an appropriate way to describe it.

Although ever since the days of Burzum Black Metal has included feelings of depression and trance-like atmospheres, the tag “suicidal Black Metal” didn’t emerge until this century, and I guess many would call your music “suicidal”. Of course the genres are always artificial and sometimes totally useless, but I’ll ask it anyway: what’s your opinion about suicidal black metal as a genre and as a phenomenon?

– It is just one of many weak points in the general individual’s mind, to always make definitions. To organize everything into its specific little place. But there couldn’t be a more inappropriate definition when it is completely in the eyes of the observer. Which usually is wrong. I wouldn’t call my music “suicidal” and I don’t even like referring to it as “Black Metal”, it is just simplifications. My overall feeling towards this must be disgust. From most Black Metal that I ever hear is from people that do not seem to have taken their time to evolve together with negativity and let it enhance their minds, writings and actions. Just being temporary inspired or charmed by its surface.

If we take a look at Black Metal in general, we can find that the picture has always been very wide and shattered – for example Hypothermia is miles away from Blasphemy both musically and ideologically. But still, is there any common ground despite all this dispersion?

– Perhaps. But I wouldn’t be the right person to make any connections. I cannot say if they make their music for others or themselves. But if it would be the latter, then that would be it.

One thing which is usually mentioned when talking about Black Metal is the presence of Satan. Like in the case of Forgotten Woods – a band close to your style – the word ‘Satan’ isn’t included in the vocabulary of Hypothermia. Rune from FW said that Satan has gone through inflation, and there is no use to repeat it in FW’s lyrics, although it’s present as an idea, standing for individuality. What’s your reason for the “absence” of Satan?

– It is certainly a short, exact and correct notification. Satan is mentioned in just a small quantity of lyrics, one being featured on the split with Dimhymn. Much is about practical things as sense and logic. Positive and negative. Anything can evolve and be evolved through negativity which to me is equality to Satan. Since in the end, it is upon the individual to choose its master. If it shall strike him down or rise him up. Using the actual words Negativity or Satan would usually lack of purpose in Hypothermia. When it is an essence always present in my audial and lyrics works. I wouldn’t want to simplify or narrow down anything that I do just for the purpose to get more people to connect with it. Those who search for its presence will find it.

And now that we are deep in this context, let’s spew out the big question: what does Black Metal give to you?

I have repeated words like ‘cold’ and ‘depression’ when talking about your music, and those same words can be connected to Hypothermia’s lyrics and ideology. You have stated openly that your lyrics deal with self-mutilation and bloodletting. Although we are now walking on very personal ground, could you shed some light on the motives concerning these topics? I guess you bleed for yourself, not for “Him”?

– Sometimes shedding blood can be needed to get closer to a certain state of mind. A deeper awareness of negativity concerning both the mental and physical. An additional and sometimes shallow reason would be the glorious feeling of when the skin splits open. That is one reason which by itself is enough for the self-mutilation. Consequences is also something of interest in this matter, the aching burning sensation the days afterwards while being surrounded by nature, where each step puts you deeper into its coldness and each step is painful. It’s simply wonderful.

Usually in Black Metal the hate and disgust is thrown towards the world around you, but I sense that there is a feeling of self-hate and self-contempt in Hypothermia. Am I on the right tracks? Do you position yourself above everything else, or just isolate yourself from the others?

– It is hard to neglect a certain degree of self-contempt. Which as I see it is needed to be truthful towards myself and others. Since it is closely related to contempt in general which certainly is hard to avoid. But something as deep as hatred shouldn’t be thrown around too easily. If not given hatred its needed respect it would strike us and not others down.

Besides hate, the world of death is another carrying force in Black Metal. What’s your relation to death? Is it always present in your life and thoughts, do you fear it or are you curious to find out what’s there (or is there anything)?

– I see no reason for any fear or curiosity. Its presence is everywhere so it is not like it is something that can be avoided. But I cannot deny a certain interest and affection towards it. Isolation will bring me to a final insight one day and I’m fine with that. Nothing that I currently could go more in depth about.

You have mentioned that many recordings of Hypothermia take place outside of society, in the houses at the countryside or in the woods. How big of an effect this kind of environment has on you and your creative force? I can imagine that it’s very interesting and shattering to create music like this almost alone, released from the “modern” world…

– It is a must. When we have our sessions the isolation from the rest of the world is necessary. To acquire the needed stillness/calm, to be able to focus. The beautiful desolate surroundings have their purpose as well.

On the other hand, you have many social connections: you run a label called Insikt and Hypothermia has also made one live gig. Do you see a contradiction between being social, having relationships and meeting new people when your music gives out a totally different picture? Is there any discrepancy?

– Unfortunately, to achieve certain goals one has to contradict them to in the end be able to achieve them. If it wasn’t for the support of some dedicated individuals I wouldn’t be able to do what I do today. The contradiction will be erased partially by time but so far it cannot be avoided. It also puts several things in perspective and enhances them further. Which in the beginning lead me into the coldness and isolation. But in the end it all has its common reason, to fuel the cold flame of Hypothermia.

So, this moment of social contact has reached its end. Any last words?

– Respect the silence and submit to it.

 

 

 

 

FROM DREAM KINGDOMS TO METRO TUNNELS: ALCEST / AMESOEURS

Issue number four (2007) marked the point of changes and evolving. The most visible thing was the size: from a bit amateurish A5 this zine grew to the glorious A4 (with a fever red cover!) and there hasn’t been any reason to look back after that. Also the contents were one of the most successful in the history of Kaleidoscope: enough variance, enough questions, enough familiarization. The only thing I regret is the use of K. Rajala’s material (interviews with Grippiud and Blasphemophager) in this particular issue. They both are good inties but in a wrong environment.

For me the most personal and emotional interview was the phone conversation with Current 93’s David Tibet, although my idea him as a mystic or a philosopher was a bit extravagant – Tibet was just an ordinary man and musician who talked about cats and children. Therefore a part of my questions were targeted to a wrong direction. Still, the whole process was very nice and sympathetic, and it is a pleasure and privilege to see Current 93 finally performing here in Finland on the 18th of March.

Other good interviews were the ones with Hypothermia and Ride For Revenge, and also the more or less improvised face-to-face meet with Primordial’s A.A. Nemtheanga worked well. Also this Alcest/Amesoeurs interview goes to this better part of the issue. Both bands had released only their promising EP’s (Le Secret by Alcest and Ruines Humaines by Amesoeurs) so far, but I think these little creatures are the strongest efforts from the both. Also their debut albums are definitely striking pieces of art, but I just can’t forget the impact of Le Secret’s dream-like atmosphere or Ruines Humaines’s heart striking emotion blasts. The first strike is always deadly…

(translated by Noel Benoit)

If someone had a musical Midas touch, it would be Neige. The artist who has made his career in bands like Mortifera and Peste Noire has also two very important and more personal bands which both are making waves in these days: Alcest and Amesoeurs. These two entities can be considered as different sides of a same mind – how a modern man is shackled to this rotten society but still his heart pounds for nature and freedom.

However, maybe the best way to start this chat is to give Neige an opportunity to introduce these two bands to us in your own words.

– Alcest is a solo project that I created back in 1999/2000: the first demo was traditional black metal but once it got released, Alcest’s style had already changed. Since then, it has been more like esoteric, ethereal and nostalgic music based on what could be “memories” of former lives.

– As far as Amesoeurs is concerned, it’s a new wave/post-punk band created in 2004 with the following line-up: Audrey Sylvain, Winterhalter, Fursy Teissier (who is back in the band for some time) and myself. Unlike Alcest, this project is very pessimistic. It is based on negative emotions and agonizing urban aesthetics.

I found Alcest when Le Secret was released two years ago, but I didn’t have the demo Tristesse Hivernale (2001) until just last year. As everyone can hear, the leap between these two releases is very wide and progressive. What were your first thoughts and aims when starting Alcest six years ago, and what happened between Tristesse Hivernale and Le Secret?

– At the beginning, I created Alcest because I really loved Black Metal and I wanted to play some. With the help of Famine (Peste Noire), I wrote four tracks with a theme based on winter and the sad feelings this season conveys. In fact, the universe of the “new” Alcest has always been present in me, even back then, and I decided at an early stage that I had to use this project to portray my “memories” into music. I thought (and still do) that it’s very exciting to illustrate through music a place, pictures, sensations and feelings that don’t belong to this world and can’t be described in words.

Although Tristesse Hivernale is a very good demo, Le Secret stands on a level of its own in my opinion. Part of its secret (eh) is that dream-like vision in the songs. Was this your goal when making Le Secret, to get into dreams and beyond?

– Indeed, even though you can’t really talk about “dreams” I guess. To my eyes, pure imagination, the ability of invention, is not the only factor that takes part in (day)dreaming. There’s also a part of mysticism. I think that the great dreamers are kind of mediums. They’re often connected to other realities without knowing it… This is the kind of dreaming that I want Alcest to present to the listener. “Music from another world”…. This sentence is to be understood literally.

How about dreams and dreaming in general: do your dreams play a role as a source of inspiration in any way? People say that dreams are a gateway to one’s subconscious, so how do you see yourself in the light of this?

– My night dreams are grey, sticky and utterly depressing. The same scenario takes place in all of them, more or less. Each time, I have the feeling that I’m lost or abandoned in a hostile environment. It’s really strange, I think I haven’t had a nice dream for years. I use those feelings when I compose for Amesoeurs. On the other hand, the dreams that inspire me for Alcest are daydreams/ visions in which I have the opportunity to feel and catch sight of this fine and radiant “other world” I relate to in my songs.

If Alcest represents abstract and mellow dreamscapes, Amesoeurs is more confined to this world, being very realistic, cold and concrete, in a sad and negative way. Do you get inspiration from different things and sources when comparing Alcest and Amesoeurs, or can these two bands be seen as different sides of the same coin in some cases?

– The sources of inspiration for Alcest and Amesoeurs are not only different but literally opposite. I need these two extremes to reach some kind of balance. To answer your question, they represent the different sides of the same coin. Except for myself and my “guitar riffing”, that some people label as characteristic, there’s no link between these two projects. There is some kind of a “common feeling” in the melodies I create, be they sad or joyful, they are a representation of both my dark and luminous self.

One element which makes Le Secret so outstanding is the clean singing on that first track. Although clean vocals aren’t that rare in Black Metal nowadays, in this case they really take the music to the next level, creating a very innocent and flowing atmosphere. How did you come to this kind of decision? And in general, do you think there is a change in the lyrics / message if you use clean/shrieking vocals?

– On Le Secret, I decided to use clear and ethereal vocals because I think it’s the only type of voice that could match this song. I wanted something soft, motherly and faerical, something that sounds like celestial chants that I had the chance to hear during my “visions”. Elévation is the expression of a mighty desire to leave this earthly life and rise towards other spheres. I wanted to scream the words of this great text, so that they’d be HEARD and would pierce the listener.

– A short digression about clear voices: I read some time ago on the internet that some people say that I’ve been inspired by “shoegaze” bands such as Slowdive or My Bloody Valentine… I’d like to clarify that: at the time I wrote both Le secret and the new album Souvenirs d’un autre monde, I had never listened to these bands, I only listened to black metal, dark/new wave and folk music. Unlike Amesoeurs, which is a project that is openly inspired by new wave, Alcest’s sources of inspiration have never really been musical. I’ve been recently introduced to “shoegaze” by a friend because someone told me it sounded like my music. Obviously, I loved it and I’ve been listening to it a lot since then but Alcest, in its goals and creations, has no link with this.

Let’s consider Alcest’s music from another angle: if Le Secret was a season, I’d say it would be spring, whereas the demo Tristesse Hivernale is closer to winter. Can we say that the seasons and nature have an effect on your music? You said in some interview that you spent your childhood in the countryside, so I guess nature has a big meaning to you?

– First of all, I don’t think Tristesse Hivernale and Le Secret can be compared. It’s as though these two works had been written by two different bands. Tristesse Hivernale is dark music, black metal. Le Secret, despite the opinion of some people, bears nothing depressive. I think that black metal is rich enough to be related to themes such as occultism, the threatening aspect of nature, Satanism, nihilism, fantasy, the anxiety of existence, the negativity of the human mind. But to my eyes, black metal has to evolve in a dark register, always. That’s why, since Le Secret, Alcest does not fall within the scope of this music, it has become something else.

– I guess you’re right. If I had to associate a season with the “new” Alcest, it would be spring, especially the first days when nature comes back to life and reaches its peak of beauty and liveliness. Nature is very important to me as it is a bridge that enables me to make contact with the Kingdom of Alcest. These contacts are not frequent, I had a lot of them during my childhood, but not anymore. However, when I walk in the forest during springtime, when the gentle breeze caresses my face, when the sun rays gleam the leaves of the trees as if they were emeralds, I feel Alcest again and the reasons that led me to create this project are obvious once again, and so are my motives.

Another difference between Alcest and Amesoeurs is that whereas Alcest has its connections to nature, Amesoeurs walks through city streets and metro tunnels, right? So is it all about the environment and people living in that particular environment?

– That’s it, roughly. Except that Alcest is not really connected to nature, not as we know it. That being said, the nature that is described in Alcest tends to look like the nature on earth. It’s just more beautiful, more lively, more luminous. Indeed, as far as Amesoeurs is concerned, “urban landscapes” are an unquestionable source of inspiration, they are the foundation of the project. My vision of the city is totally romantic/fantastic (in the literary meaning of the term). The things that are common to most people are not for me. Each wandering in the city (especially during the night) overwhelms me. It’s as terrifying as it is fascinating. It also makes me dream a lot.

 How about yourself, would you say it is easier to live among humans, in big cities, or would total isolation (a little cabin in the woods, perhaps?) be a better option? Are humans and civilisation, in your opinion, a plague to get rid of or a necessary evil?

– I’ve always lived in the countryside, I really like nature and loneliness. Now that I’ve been living for 20 years in this environment, I’d like to experience a new lifestyle. These past three years, I haven’t met anybody, even my friends for months sometimes. The ideal thing would be to live isolated in the countryside but not too far away from a city so as to be able to go out from time to time.

 If we connect Satan or the dark side of the human mind to the environment, I think the hedonistic and impulsive Lucifer lives in the nature, while the cold, mechanical side of evil chooses neon lights and rusty factories, the plains of existence where morals and human life are swept away to the drain. What do you think about this kind of dualism? Is one better than the other?

– Your conception of evil is very interesting. For example, when you drive at night near a forest listening to black metal, contemplating the landscape that passes by and capturing its atmosphere, you can feel very intense/dark emotions resulting from the relationship between the music and the scenery. On the other hand, sullen urban landscapes, angular and cold as ice, can indeed embody evil. To my eyes, a greyish scenery in ruins embodies loneliness and depression as much as a dead forest for example.

– By the way, I think that the debate between satanic/nihilistic black metal as opposed to the more fantastic black metal such as In the Nightside Eclipse, Bergtatt or Dark Medieval Times is totally futile. Both these aspects of black metal really have their meaning, they both deal with darkness but in ways that are different according to the sensitivity of the listener.

 The “band” picture of yourself on the covers of Le Secret is quite daring in its nakedness. What kind of message does that picture hold? Usually a person wants to get rid of everything, strip him/herself of clothes, social roles and dogmas in order to find his/her true self and reach independence…

– In fact, Alcest represents the deepest part of me, the essence of my spirit, regardless of the social factors and the daily events that built it. Alcest is the core. Amesoeurs’ Neige is another part of me, the one that has been used, frustrated and saddened by the reality of the world we live in.

 Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous line was “back to nature”. Would you agree with Rousseau, that the human race should go back to the natural state of society, or is progress a good thing and worth of aspiration?

– Honestly, I don’t know, I am not a philosopher. I would rather be inclined to think that since every human being has different moods, tastes, values and goals, there will always be conflicts and tensions on a small or large scale. The fact that we live in an urban environment or in a state of nature doesn’t change anything and the hope of a harmonious earthly heaven is really stupid.

 Another thing that makes me think you/Alcest are longing for the old days are those little children on the cover of Le Secret. Why did you choose that photograph as the cover art? And what kind of childhood did you have? Was little Neige close to the person that you are today?

– I’ve chosen this picture as a metaphor of Alcest’s Kingdom for these two children convey something unreal, pure and fascinating. They seem to be ageless and kindly deities, like guardians of this world. My childhood was a wonderful time, probably too much so because now that I dwell in the adult world, it’s very difficult for me to reach stability and well-being. Except a few details and the knowledge that I have acquired, I am the same person that I was back then, with the same tastes and interests.

The lyrics of Elevation are taken from Charles Baudelaire. Do you read a lot in your spare time? How about when you write lyrics, do they need a song around them to begin with, or do the lyrics and music walk separate ways at first?

– Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, from which is extracted the poem Elevation, has been my bedside book for a long time. Unfortunately, my reading time has been scarce lately. When I read this poem for the first time, I immediately fell in love with it for Elevation reflects the concept of Alcest for the most part. As for the lyrics, I don’t have a specific method but I used to write them last, after I had finished composing a track. On the other hand, I always write under special circumstances, for example, I like to listen to a song which is related to the nature of the text. I can’t write without background music.

Back to Baudelaire who talked a lot about decadence. What do you think about this ideology: does one need to wallow in filth to purify oneself, to know every sin to know him/herself, or is it better to live in asceticism as a puritan? This kind of dualism can definitely be found in Black Metal nowadays.

– I think it is necessary to experience what you NEED to experience. The attraction towards “vice” varies a lot depending on the individuals. We all have both a negative and a positive side, however, negativity can never disappear if you try to repress it. Indeed, in order to know yourself better, I guess you have to investigate the different aspects of your personality. As for myself, I achieve this through my different projects that are quite different from each other as you’ve noticed.

Besides Amesoeurs and Alcest, you have played in Peste Noire and Mortifera. Usually people want to emphasise different sides of their personality and “soul” with different bands and projects, and if we follow this idea, what different Neiges can we find behind these four bands?

– I still play in Peste Noire and I’ve written a track for the second album that will surprise some people. Indeed, there are “several” sides to Neige. Alcest’s Neige is like the basis of my personality, its essence: a joyful and quiet man who is a reflection of the music. Amesoeurs’ Neige is more of an urban man who is completely lost, sad and anxious, not knowing his goals anymore nor his desires. He doesn’t know himself any longer since he has accumulated a great deal of frustration and unspoken vices. Last but not least, Peste Noire’s Neige is a kind of old, evil and stupid witch whose unbearable stench is equalled only by his ugliness. My urge of animal and primitive regression is embodied by this mix between a cave woman and a fiend. When I play with a band, I need to merge into its concept and aesthetics in order to explore the different aspects of my personality.

The majority of the questions have been about Alcest so far, so let’s concentrate on Amesoeurs for a while. If clean vocals and dream-like atmosphere made Le Secret so special, I find those postpunk/pop elements being the best part of Ruines Humaines. How did this whole band come to life in the first place? Was it hard to combine these raw BM elements and a lighter side of music or was it more like a natural thing to do?

– When we created Amesoeurs in 2004, it was a post-punk band without any black metal influence whatsoever. Both Black Metal titles on Ruines Humaines were written for Mortifera but since my collaboration with Noktu has ended, I decided to use them for Amesoeurs. Basically, these tracks are rather urban black metal so I thought they would totally fit with the song Faibless des sens. To my eyes, the blend of styles on this MCD works fine, it brings a hint of originality to it while it’s coherent conceptually and emotionally (the content remains the same, only the form evolves). On the other hand, even if many could be disappointed, this mix of styles was a one-off thing and our full-length album won’t contain any black metal tracks. Amesoeurs has returned to post-punk from where it originates.

You have said that the one release you’re most proud of is Ruines Humaines, even if you look at your whole personal discography. Why is that? I think that many “real” BM guys will spit on Ruines Humaines, but I guess you don’t care about this?

– I’m proud of this MCD for the simple reason that I’m satisfied with all the stages leading to its release: the writing process, the recording session and the quality of the end result. I reached all my goals with this MCD. The fact that Black Metallers have appreciated Amesoeurs for the most part is kind of weird, I’ve received a lot of support from them. By the same token, I didn’t expect Ruines Humaines to get such good words and reviews, I’m very pleased about that.

EPs are usually interesting pieces of art: every song has to be in its own place, and every note, every word has a more important role if we compare an EP to a 12-song album. What kind of whole Ruines Humaines is, what kind of picture does it paint? Are these three songs playing their own role – at least the last one, Faiblesse Des Sens is definitely a great closing chapter, starting with calm atmosphere and then rising to the cliffs of despair.

– Indeed, the MCD has been thought this way in order to create a short trilogy dealing with a common theme. By the way, the MCD is a concept release to the same extent that Amesoeurs is a concept band. Each song on the MCD and on our forthcoming releases will be linked to each other, they are complementary. The same goes for Alcest. I’ve been told a few times that the MCD is too short. It may well be but I think the music keeps the listener’s attention from the beginning to the end. He is really captivated by each riff. I prefer that the listener buys a CD that he will listen to in its entirety, several times and with a proper attention, rather than listening unfocusedly to an endless album. I want the listener to take possession of the songs, and the songs to eventually become a part of him.

 Would you say it was very different or perhaps harder to work with someone else (I mean Winterhalter and especially Audrey S. in this case) if you compare that to working alone (Alcest)?

– In both cases, there are advantages and drawbacks. The advantage with Alcest for example is that I’m in charge of everything: the composition, the interpretation, the visual aspect, the production, material choices and so on… What seem to be advantages can sometimes become drawbacks. This artistic loneliness is indeed hard to bear in the long run, the energy is scarce. Hopefully, I’m going to have a short break so as to work on the Amesoeurs album. I have to confess that I’m fed up with doing everything by my own lately, I’m tired of it.

Although many metal puritans despise other music genres, I think that you can find the same amount of feeling, sadness, harshness and coldness in every genre, if the songs are done by someone with a pure heart. That’s why I find bands like Joy Division and The Cure as important and effective as the most important metal bands. What kind of history as a listener do you have when it comes to post-punk / melancholic pop music? You dedicate Ruines Humaines to Ian Curtis, which, I think, says a lot…

– You’re totally right. To my eyes, some rock bands can be as depressive as black metal bands, only the ways of expression differ. I invite the sceptics to listen to “one hundred years” or “cold” from The Cure, and they will change their minds in no time. In another style, I don’t know if you’ve heard of the post-punk band Virgin Prunes, their album If I die I die is a pure masterpiece of tribal madness, extravagance and noisy ugliness that eclipses most of the so-called satanic and unwholesome black metal records.

– As far as I’m concerned, I discovered black metal at the age of 13 and I listened to Black Metal exclusively until the age of 16-17. Then, I discovered dark wave through bands like Sopor Aeternus, Dead Can Dance, and finally when I was 18, I discovered new wave, mainly via Depeche Mode, The Sisters Of Mercy, The Cure, Joy Division, Clan Of Xymox, Virgin Prunes.

– The fact that I’ve dedicated Ruines Humaines to Ian Curtis means a lot indeed. Joy Division is the new wave band that had the biggest influence on me for various reasons. This band is hard to appreciate at first, their music is very simple and rich at the same time. Moreover, each musician uses his instrument in a totally unusual way. It took me a couple of years to understand and appreciate their music, now I can’t grow away from it, it’s a part of me on a daily basis. Paradoxically, despite the simple technical skill displayed in their songs, every listen I have is different from the other. I rediscover them again and again. This is the kind of band you have to plunge into, immerse yourself in, read their lyrics, read their biography which is very interesting. Joy Division is a miracle to me, a work of art on every level: musical, visual, lyrical, historical (everyone knows their tragic history). In the band, no one guessed that Ian Curtis was so depressed. He wasn’t the type of man who creates a character and shouts to the world that he’s mad, sick and depressed (this is not an allusion to Black Metal hehehe). The day Joy Division was to leave for an American tour in 1980, he was found hung in his kitchen.

– I see his suicide as the symbol of the occidental ill-being that we relate to in Amesoeurs, the individual that cannot face the complexity of his existence anymore and his difficulty to lead a decent life. Joy Division is fascinating because of this feeling of incompletion too. They stopped their activity at a time their art was at the top with songs such as Atmosphere, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Ceremony, The Eternal or Heart and Soul.

It would be easy to say that Amesoeurs is making statements about today’s civilization. Would you agree? Could we consider Amesoeurs as a band that criticizes today’s world and society? Or would you see yourself more as an observer of things in this wicked world?

– I’d understand if one thought that Amesoeurs is a band which criticizes the modern world, it’s true in some way but it’s not our goal really. Don’t forget that we are musicians and simple observers before all. Obviously, we feel that there is a real ambient ill-being in the occidental world (how can you not feel it?). Despite the so-called comfort of contemporary life, it doesn’t work. However, we are not philosophers and since our knowledge is scarce in this field, we don’t want to suggest a too easy and expected criticism of the society.

Do you think you would’ve been able to make Ruines Humaines or Le Secret about seven years ago? In your opinion, have you grown as a musician/human during these years?

– I think I would have been able to write Le Secret at the time. Like I said, Alcest’s concept has been inside of me since childhood. However, the result wouldn’t have been great. I wouldn’t have been able to write the Ruines Humaines MCD, especially the track Faiblesse des Sens back then, because I didn’t listen to rock music at all.

Both Alcest and Amesoeurs have just begun their journey, so could you shed some light on the future of both bands? I guess new releases are in the works…

– As far as Alcest is concerned, I’m thinking of re-recording Le Secret before I start writing the second album. I don’t know anything about its release though. As for Amesoeurs, we are currently working on our first album and we’ll play live when it will be recorded. Amesoeurs is really a live project, I can’t wait to get on stage.

Thanks for the interview! Any last words?

– It was a very interesting interview. Thank you.