First of all, many thanks for taking the time for the interview. Congratulations on In The Constellation Of The Black Widow, another fine addition to an already excellent discography! Can you briefly describe Anaal Nathrakh’s sound for the unwary soul who’s yet to hear it?
Thank you, glad you liked it. Isn’t briefly describing the sound for the uninitiated your job when you’re writing the introduction?
In The Constellation... seems subtly more... necro, for want of a better term, than its predecessor. Was this deliberate?
Yes, pretty much. I mean, we weren’t looking at it in precisely those terms, but we were aware that we wanted to make an album that was more vicious and nasty and evil sounding than the past couple of albums we’d done. A number of people have commented on that, including you, so it seems we got it about right.
Can you explain the title of the album, and your influences when writing it?
It’s taken from a book called Moment of Freedom by Jens Bjørneboe. The book deals with a man’s experiences before, during and after the period of the second world war, but it’s hardly a typical war novel; it’s got none of the fighting in the trenches etc that characterises a lot of war literature. It’s more of a tour around the most negative parts of human society – abuse of power, callousness, murder, prostitution, slavery, delusional depression and so on. And this is juxtaposed with detailed and learned commentaries on art. It’s a pretty unusual book. And I don’t know how relevant it truly is, but one of its claims to infamy is that at one point in the book, the main character says that in ten years’ time, he will have accumulated so much knowledge of the cruelty and inhumanity in the world that life will no longer be tenable. Ten years after the book was published, the author killed himself. There’s a passage in the book that I thought was particularly powerful (well, one of several) where the juxtaposition I mentioned is taken to the extreme, with a desperation that’s hammered home by the strangely detached tone. The main character is describing visits to various art galleries, alternating with metaphorical or at least abstract descriptions of events in the war. In one of those references he says that Uranus and Pluto stood in conjunction in the sign of the black widow. This is a coded way of saying that the nuclear bombs had gone off over Japan (uranium, plutonium, the black widow as a symbol of death etc). As I say, I found that passage very powerful, I had to put the book down for a few minutes after reading it and given the kinds of books I read, that’s generally a sign of quality. And I knew I’d found a brilliant title for the album.
Is it your favourite Anaal Nathrakh album, and why? If not, what is?
Yes, it is. That’s usually the case with any new album, although in this case we do have a feeling that it’s the best work we’ve done so far on a more objective level as well. The performances from everyone involved are I think the best we’ve produced, and the sound that Mick managed to achieve is the best presentation of those performances so far. The composition is stronger, the songs are better structured, and the atmosphere and ideas are darker and more focussed. It could easily sound as if I’m trying to be a salesman but I’m not – this is simply what I think about the album.
Looking at In The Constellation... alongside past albums, it seems that you’re happy with the band’s sound as it currently is, locked into a groove one might say. Are there plans to make any big changes in your sound?
We don’t plan at all, so we won’t know what direction further material will take until we actually do it. I understand that Mick has some ideas in a slightly different direction, but one that is both compatible with Anaal Nathrakh and something I’d like to look into. But whether that will manifest in Anaal Nathrakh or something else is impossible to say at the moment. The sound we have now seems to work very well and is capable of producing music we’re very proud of, so I don’t see any reason for radical change, but by our nature we tend to evolve so it’s impossible to predict what will happen. The one thing we won’t do is shift completely to a nicer sound. We have no interest in conquering the mainstream or ‘doing a Paradise Lost’. So the one thing I can categorically say will never happen is the thing that fans have feared and detractors have predicted. Anaal Nathrakh is fucking horrible, and it will stay that way. Aside from that, I wouldn’t bet on anything.
One of the only criticisms of Anaal that I’ve ever read is, oddly, your longevity; for such an apocalyptic band, it seems more logical to release one or two albums that say all that need saying, whilst In The Constellation... is your fifth full-length. Any comment on this line of thought?
Hmm, while I can kind of see the idea behind your point, if anyone genuinely seeks to criticise a band for having the audacity to release music, the answer is pretty simple – don’t listen to it. The world doesn’t have to be censored to fit your view, you are the one who has to cope with the world as it presents itself. So avoid the things you don’t like, and don’t complain about things to which you aren’t forced to subject yourself. Experience has shown us that there are plenty of people out there who want to hear more from us as long as we’re producing good music – that might change, but it seems to be the case now. And as long as those people exist and we continue to want to make albums, nothing else is relevant.
Regarding the band’s sideprojects: will we ever hear more from Frost? And why was the Fukpig album so limited?
Hard to say about Frost. I don’t think Mick has vowed never to make any more Frost music, but neither am I aware of any current plans to release anything. Time will tell. As for Fukpig, I’d think you’d have to ask Paul (a.k.a. Misery). They’re intending to play one or two shows in the near future, so maybe that will be the springboard to more activity. I like the aesthetic of Fukpig, so I’d be interested to hear more myself.
Are the members of Anaal Nathrakh actually friends or just professional co-workers, in your view?
Friends. For obvious reasons, a lot of the conversations we have are about the band, but we were friends before the band started and we’ll most likely be friends after it’s finished. Mick lives in America a lot of the time now, and because of the logistics of communication involved it’s mostly for band reasons that we contact each other, but whenever he comes back one of the first items on the agenda is going out on the piss like the old mates we are. To be honest I feel sorry for anyone in a band whose sense of being in the band is primarily one of working with colleagues. Where’s the passion, where’s the humanity in that?
As controversial as clean vocals are in Extreme Metal, they’re a great addition to the band’s sound. Was it a tough decision to add them, and to what extent will they be taken? Are we ever going to hear female vocals in Anaal, for example?
No, it wasn’t a tough decision because they’ve always been there. There were background bits of singing on our demos. I’ve always done whatever I thought was appropriate for the music, and as long as it comes out well, Mick is generally happy with that too. And our first album is the only thing we’ve released without at least one ‘big chorus’. I suppose it also has to do with the way we work – there actually was never a decision to introduce anything because literally until we’re in the studio and I say to Mick ‘Yes, I’ve got this bit, press record’ we don’t know what’s going to happen. I didn’t know what tune I’d sing on Do Not Speak until I actually sang it. I didn’t even know I was going to use clean singing until thirty seconds before that. Basically, we just don’t think it’s a very big deal – there are songs with clean bits because we thought a clean bit would go well where we put it. There are unbelievably harsh sections of singing because we thought that would sound right where we put that. End of story. Female vocals? Actually you’ve already heard them on Domine Non Es Dignus – a girl screaming like she was being stabbed. We are both strongly of the opinion that more girls should do singing where they scream like they’re being stabbed, it sounds absolutely horrible and therefore brilliant. Though of course what you mean is gothy female singing. This is Anaal Nathrakh not Lacuna Coil. So no, fuck off.
Are there ever plans to record an album using non-programmed drums? What is it about a literally inhuman drummer that’s appealing for you?
No plans, but it might happen. The thing is, we don’t have anything in mind that’s implied by using programmed drums that we wouldn’t have in mind if we were using a human drummer – all we care about is if the sound is right, and the best way of achieving the right sound. Using a human drummer wouldn’t be a problem (we have a drummer for live shows, of course, and he’s fantastic – I wouldn’t want to play shows without a full band), but in the end I can only envisage that a drummer would be playing virtually the same beats Mick had programmed, and Mick would be trying to get their drums to sound the way he gets the machine to sound. So it’s not a point we’re trying to make or anything like that, it’s just that there isn’t much of a reason that we’re currently aware of to do things any differently. There’s simply no extra value to us in changing.
Your live shows are notorious for their extremity as much as their rarity. Will there ever be a world tour, as one of the readers on our forum (Rhys) asked, taking in Australia along the way?
No, there won’t be a world tour, long tours are impractical for us for various reasons. But that’s not to say that we wouldn’t be interested in playing all over the world one or two bits at a time. We’d happily go to Australia if we received an appropriate offer of shows over there. I’d be extremely curious to see the place. And our live guitarist is desperate for us to get a show in Japan because he’s passionate about the country and wants an excuse to go over there and disappear. We don’t jump at every show that comes along, but we do jump at opportunities to see and play in other parts of the world, so if any shows crop up in interesting places there’s a good chance we’ll do them.
Outside of the band, what are your political views? Do you vote in elections?
Anaal Nathrakh is not a political band, and this is an Anaal Nathrakh interview.
What’s been on the Nathrakhian playlist lately? Are you up-to-date with Black Metal these days? And if you recommend one album from 2009 to our readers, whatever genre, what would it be?
Hmm, some pretty varied stuff. Mostly over the past week or so I’ve been listening to Mosaic by Woven Hand, Under The Sign of the Black Mark by Bathory and a cd of Debussy, Ravel and Satie pieces played by an Italian pianist whose name escapes me right now. Oh, and Bergraven’s Dödsvisioner album. But none of those are from 2009. I haven’t heard the new Bergraven album yet, but I’d recommend trying that. Same goes for the new Circle of Dead Children album. The new album that I can remember hearing and thinking ‘hang on, this is something special’ was Oracles by Fleshgod Apocalypse. Admittedly that’s got a lot to do with the fact that it reminds me of None So Vile by Cryptopsy, which is one of my favourite old albums, but it’s great in its own right.
You have the power to erase one human being from history. Who is it, and why?
No one. What is, is. You might wish to change it, but you can’t. Deal with it.
Do you have a favourite joke you could tell us, to lighten the apocalyptic atmosphere?
I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it involves a Labrador, a milk float, and a man in a trilby hat.
Many thanks! Any final comments?
No problem, thank you for the support. Final comments? If you’ve never seen Apocalypse Now, make time to do so. I hadn’t until last week, and it’s brilliant. To say nothing of Apocalypso Now…