HORROR THROUGH THE STAINED GLASS: NEGATIVE PLANE

We have reached the end of Kaleidoscope interviews. There’s no use to publish interviews from the issues 10-15 because they are still widely available, but fear not – I will kick this corpse onwards no matter what. That’s why I have dug up a few interviews I have made for the Finnish web media called Imperiumi during the last ten (?) years. Of course these interviews are in a Q&A format and the whole editing work was done only for the Finnish translations, but I guess you can get something from these texts. So not so brilliant and breath-taking than those journalistic gems of Kaleidoscope but worth of releasing, er?

The first pick is the interview with Negative Plane. As you all know, they released their second album called Stained Glass Revelations in 2011, and this piece of darkness lifted this US duo’s original black metal to even more original levels: ghastly guitars, rumbling drums, cries from the grave… to make it short, music from The Other Side.

Although Negative Plane has stayed more or less silent during the last two years – the only break was the split 7” with Rotting Christ – Nameless Void (guitars, vocals) has kept himself busy with his other band Occultation and also being some sort of a background man on Cultes Des Ghoule’s Henbane (another great album – check more here). But when do we get more Negative Plane? Soon I hope.

negativeplane_logo (published in Imperiumi.net in 2011)

I guess the one basic word is used quite often when people speak about your music: horror, or fear. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that; especially your latest album captures very murky and eerie feelings which aren’t from the shiny side of the street. So let’s talk about horror for a start. Does Negative Planes music create horror or is it born of horror, in your opinion?

– I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to our music as such, but it’s flattering to say the least. To answer this question, I think the music and lyrics are inspired by a lot of horror themes, but I also view Negative Plane’s music as a separate entity independent of its authors and it is certainly possible that it creates these themes as well as being inspired by them.

Of course the definition of horror in culture is quite varied nowadays: we have entertaining horror (b-grade movies etc.) but also real psychological horror which can be connected quite tightly to our everyday life. What kind of horror is your chosen flavour? Are you more interested in old stories (Edgar Allan Poe etc.) or real life mass murderers? Or are these maybe just different sides of the same coin – the dark side of the mind?

– I am interested in horror of all kinds, but the one I probably draw the most inspiration from is gothic horror. When I say gothic horror, I am referring to books like Melmoth the Wanderer and also the works of writers like Edgar Allen Poe which you mentioned above.  I do agree that you can find horror in different shapes and forms and in modern times as well, but there’s something within those 18th and 19th century stories that I feel a special connection to.

So what kind of things (music, movies, places, sounds, you name it!) send chills through your spine? Do you dodge situations of fear, or do you throw yourself to these situations to experience a catharsis?

– I have seen quite a lot of horror movies and read lots of books involving horror so I’m a little desensitized to certain things. However, I think a lot of the Japanese horror movies like Ringu and Ju-on still give me chills after repeated viewings of the films, since the Japanese seem to be masters at taking everyday settings and turning them into pure nightmare.  Also, there have been a few experiences in my life that have scared me so much that their memories are always lurking in the lower levels of my consciousness.  And they return when I least expect them to in my dreams and random flashes.  Regarding whether I avoid situations of fear, usually fear involves real danger being present so my natural instinct is to avoid a situation involving danger. However, sometimes I try to experience a situation involving fear so that way I can know it intimately and thus overcome it.

And talking about catharsis: is there ever a danger that you dive too deep into the world of horror and you can’t find your way back? History knows people who have lost their mind because of what they have experienced. I mean, we all know that if you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back…

– I think that there is definitely some kind of threshold that the human mind cannot cross and remain sane, and some things were not meant for us to comprehend. However, it’s hard to imagine making music that would cause me to reach that point, but I suppose that it’s possible, however unlikely for someone like myself.

Usually people say that if you fear something or feel yourself anxious, you are very responsive and ready to face any opposition. Without fear we couldn’t survive, like an animal trapped in a corner, a fear of death can make us superhumans and lift our instincts to another level. This idea gets me thinking about creating art: you have to bring yourself to the edge and feel yourself frightened in order to create something special and unique. Thoughts about this? 

– To be honest, I don’t ever think I was actually frightened while writing music especially since the individual parts of the songs by themselves are not very impressive. However, I think that when I tried certain combinations of riffs and sections began to come together I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome of the song as a whole. I do agree that with any creative endeavor you should definitely not take the safe route and that most of the great music that I can think of was somewhat of a risk at the time it was written.

One basic fear is the fear of death. Does this have a role in your life or in Negative Plane? Maybe music gives you tools to deal with this fear and become familiar with it? Or maybe we should always fear death, at least a little bit. Again, comments please!

– No one really knows what awaits us after we die, and whether it’s blissful oblivion or a fall into an endless abyss, the idea is terrifying if you think about it for long enough.  The idea of death has fascinated me ever since I was told what it was at a young age so it is only natural that I write about it with Negative Plane. I think music helps me keep the subject in my mind but it’s hard to say how I will handle my own death until it actually happens.

Horror is one sort of an emotion which creates a certain atmosphere, but when you start to write music for Negative Plane, do you begin from the atmosphere or the music (riffs etc.) itself? Or does it make a difference where you start from? Or does it matter what the process is like, if the end result fulfills your expectations? In Negative Plane, how important is the journey/the process for you, so to speak?

– When coming up with a song I usually start with a riff or a section and then build from there. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a part is atmospheric or not until it fits with another riff, but everything is written to be as dark and atmospheric as possible. The process really doesn’t matter to me as long as the end result is good.

How would you describe the emotional palette of your latest album, Stained Glass Revelations? There aren’t any rays of light piercing through the musical canvas, but is the world of Stained Glass Revelations totally dark in your opinion?                                      

– As much as I would like to say that, yes, it’s completely dark, I don’t believe absolutes exist in the physical world so I don’t feel that the music is totally dark.  I think the image of a stained glass window in a dimly lit chapel is the best possible way to describe the sound of our music and why the title of the album is so appropriate.

negativeplane_cover

One interesting thing in your music is that you manage to make weird and difficult/technical stuff sound very natural and flowing – it’s smooth complexity or something… One band made this back then, and I’m referring to Celtic Frost: their music was aggressive and attacking but still there were many things going on behind the curtains. So, how important for you is it to make technical material but not lose the natural flow of the music?

– As long the music sounds good I don’t care whether the music is extremely simple or complicated. Usually with more complex riffs, there’s less of a chance that the riff has been used by someone else already, but I never try to write a riff to be a technical. I personally can’t stand music that is technical just for the sake of being technical; there has to be some kind purpose to it. For me, the purpose of a complex riff is to keep the song interesting and maximize the atmosphere, and if it doesn’t serve that purpose there is no reason to use it in a song.

I would guess that these compositions take lots of time, but of course I might be wrong? You are not the most prolific band around but how much do you spend time to make things click?

– The music takes forever to compose and we spend years on an album before finalizing it. Most of the songs are already old by the time we record them. For example, Staring into the Abyss, A Church in Ruin, and The Chaos Before the Light were all written in 2003 but they weren’t recorded for the album until 2005 due to needing more material for the album still.  Sometimes we spend years trying to find just the right part to fit into one song as was the case with Angels of Veiled Bone, but I much prefer it this way as opposed to just putting out mediocre albums with disposable riffs and songs only partially thought out.

And in general, how big role does Negative Plane have in your life? Does it lurk in the back of your mind from day to day, or is it more like a certain mood you put on when you start to work with things connected to Negative Plane?

– The past ten years of my life have been based around Negative Plane and they will most likely continue to be based around it for a long time. Of course, just like most people I have to work at a regular job and do other mundane things in order to survive, and also now and then I take breaks from music in order to make sure I don’t get burned out. However, the vast majority of my free time involves Negative Plane and everything else associated with it and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Alright, let’s get back to our first theme, horror. It is easy to say that this is horror music, but how do you see this in Negative Planes music – which musical elements do include this horror factor, or should we just talk about the general atmosphere? I would say that the use of tempos is one thing – you don’t rush forward blindfolded and with full speed, but there is an element of slow torture in these sizzling drums, like a slow but still emotional twist of a knife in your guts. Any comments on this?

– I think that the music needs to be viewed as a whole instead of individual parts in order to properly see it for what it is. However, I can say that the reverb and the delay effects that we use significantly add to the atmosphere, since these are sounds that are naturally found in places like old tunnels and large cathedrals.  We also like the bass guitar to be very prominent and we add a chorus effect to it as well to give it a sort of low end shimmering sound. And while I am on the topic of effects, I would like to state once and for all that these effects were only intended to enhance the dark atmosphere and they were not added to give some sort of “psychedelic” or “surf rock” vibe to our music like everyone seems to think.

 I don’t want to analyze the lyrics of Stained Glass Revelations too much, but I sense the same growth in them: the tension tightens slowly and the crescendo waits until the last song. Did you have this kind of thoughts in your mind while writing the lyrics?

– I just fit the lyrics to the music of each song. The music builds up to the very end so it’s only fitting that the lyrics do the same thing.

Then again, for various reasons – the labyrinthine riffs, for one, the metaphor-filled lyrics, for second – the album doesn’t seem to follow an ordinary linear sort of curve. Rather, it goes to different directions all at once. It is the logical in the illogical, the wrong in the right, the life abloom in death. How important is it for you NOT to treat black metal as a museum piece?

– I think that if we ever reach the point that we start viewing it that way we should start doing something else. Modern black metal bands with boring high tremolo riffs and non-stop blast beats sound  a lot more stale to me than timeless albums like Beherit Drawing Down the Moon, Martyrium L.V.X. Occulta, Necromantia Crossing the Fiery Path , Master’s Hammer Ritual and Darkthrone Ablaze in the Northern Sky.  I am always trying to find a fresh approach to our music and the idea of black metal as a museum piece never even crosses my mind when working on music.

negativeplane_band
There are certainly many different ways to approach black metal, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other, but in my opinion there’s a certain extraordinary depth and complexity in the way you approach it. In your opinion, to what extent does the complexity of your music reflect the complexity of the ideas you want to portray conceptually/lyrically?

– I think the music is almost better at conveying the ideas than the lyrics are. There are certain ideas that I find it easier to articulate with music instead of words so I think it is very important to listen to what is happening within music instead of just reading the lyrics by themselves.

And in general, is storytelling a natural characteristic in you, or do you even consider your lyrics stories? Maybe a poem, a verbal still-life or a lyrical form of an apparition would be a better description?

– I don’t really view the lyrics as stories; they are more like guides for the music if that makes any sense. Each song is a journey and, like I said above, the music is what dictates what lyrics are  going to be about.

Horror is usually connected to our subconsciousness: a certain happening, form or detail can be a trigger that brings hidden and blocked nightmares back to the surface. Have you noticed that this has happened to you while writing lyrics/songs or playing them?

– Some lyrical inspiration has come from dreams, but so far I haven’t had any random flashes while writing or performing our music.

To conclude, I’ve got a question that’s a little more, well, out there… Horror can certainly spice up our lives, but then again, we might think that there’s more spirit and life in the remains of a mummified corpse than any modern interpretation of living. So what makes life worth living for you, at the end of the day?

– Music, the enjoyment of my current life and surroundings, and the knowledge that it’s not my time just yet.

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