Benighted Leams won album of the month for Ferly Centesms, one of the most original sounding Extreme Metal albums of the last years; so I decided to contact Alex Kurtagic in order to learn a bit more. It turns out he not only gave us the opportunity to discuss Benighted Leams and his last album, but also he talked about his famous extreme Metal label/distro Supernal Music. Enjoy.
Could you please begin by introducting your band to all the readers.
When reading fanzines in the past I always found this "introduce your band"-type of question very boring. Rather, I think this is your job. Were I to answer the way you most likely would like me to, anything I say beyond a strict enumeration of dates and line-ups no one gives a damn about would inevitably be dismissed as self-aggrandising spin. Let's just say then that Benighted Leams started ten years ago and released three albums on Supernal Music. The third is available. For the other two you might have to approach disreputable peddlers on eBay.
Benighted Leams has a very unique sound; how would you describe it?
Obscure irrationality, clinical depression.
What inspired you to create such unique art, which are your influences.

During the 1980s I grew impatient with the structural rigidity and superficiality of Thrash Metal. To me extreme Metal music had a huge potential to be much more than what it then was. In this sense my thinking was not unlike some Heavy Metal musicians, like Blackmore, Van Halen, Malmsteen, and so on, who attempted to continue the Classical tradition in this relatively new musical form (see Walser 2000). Unlike the former I was not, however, interested in brilliant technical dexterity as much as I was in everything outside technical dexterity. The latter I find not as interesting as the emotional, atmospheric, and intellectual content of a song.

I credit Hellhammer / early Celtic Frost for showing that speed was not necessarily what made music extreme, and that a technically poor performance could in fact enhance the experience. Also important were Voivod (circa Killing Technology), through their use of dissonance, and Possessed (circa Beyond the Gates) through their blocked-string strumming technique, which I have used for nearly twenty years now, but which as far as Benighted Leams is concerned appears for the first time on record on Ferly Centesms. The first two albums show a different side of Benighted Leams, one constituted by the combination of Darkthrone and Bethlehem with early Schoenberg (Verklärte Nacht and some of the very early atonal work).

This is Benighted Leams' third album; do you consider that your music has evolved? If so; are you pleased with the results? Are you happy with the final product?

Ferly Centesms simply explores a different side of the band. It has always been there, but only during rehearsals, never previously on record. Having said this, I will accept that there has been evolution. In Caliginous Romantic Myth the songs were fluid and linear, with long riffs and long songs and horizontal complexity. With Ferly Centesms the songs are broken and discontinous, with shorter riffs and shorter length and vertical complexity. This is partly the result of unconscious processes as much as it is of conscious ones. One the one hand, my evolutionary path has a life of its own, and I only become aware of its direction after the event; on the other, I do make a conscious effort to avoid repeating myself. To this effect my methodology has always been to first decide how I generally want my next album to sound like (and how I want it to be different from the previous one) and to begin composing songs only after I have found a formula that I find interesting.

As to whether I am happy with Ferly Centesms: yes, I am. While I like the material in the previous two, they suffered from crippling flaws. With this one I think I hit the nail right on the head.

Why did it take so long to release a new album (5 years)?
I suppose it was lack of time and recording the album was never a priority. What changed it was David Irving's book, Hitler's War, which I read in March-April last year (2004). In it he says Adolf Hitler saw his life not in terms of how many years he had lived, like most people, but in terms of how many years he was likely to have left to live. This explained the sense of fanatical urgency one associates with Hitler and his movement. I asked myself: what if I don't have as long to live as I think I might have? What if I have a fatal or crippling accident? I was very happy with Ferly Centesms and I did not want it to be lost. I also knew that from September I would have additional, commitments which were not likely to leave me time to record for the next five years. So in May last year I decided to find the time any which way I could and get the album recorded without delay.
I understand that the original title (Ferly Centesms: The Lust, Depression, and Suicide of Samantha Challis) had to be changed due to legal reasons. Which were those reasons?
That's one of the many red herrings contained in the album.
What is the concept behind Ferly Centesms? Who is Samantha Challis, and what role does she play in the concept/story?
What is important in my lyrics is not what I say, but the fact that you suspect I am saying something and yet you don't know what it is. The intended aesthetic experience is not offered in the lyrical content, but in the limiting of access to it, and in the way I have done it. Therefore, to talk about the concept is to detract from it. Benighted Leams has its own obscurantic logic, but at the same time it is one of (to borrow a phrase my father is fond of using when referring to bureaucrats and civil servants) 'conscious irrationality'.
Would there be any chance of seeing Benighted Leams live? Why?
No, not a chance. I don't see myself as an entertainer and I am too much of a recluse to enjoy the live thing.
What lies ahead for Benighted Lemas and Alex Kurtagic as a musician?

My current plans are to re-record both the first and the second albums, and to re-issue them with completely new artwork. As I said, while I am happy with the material, in am not happy with the rendering: the first album has the right sound, but I no longer like the vocals or the lyrics; the second album needs to be re-done from top to bottom: I will keep the lyrics but change the vocals and the sound and add more guitar parts to give the arrangements more depth. The new vocals in both cases will be either spoken or screamed, like in Ferly Centesms.

Beyond that I would not want to say. Perhaps there is another album in me, perhaps there is not. You see, the beauty of not having sold myself as an indentured servant to another label is that I don't have hard-nosed business men and beancounters who think of my work simply in terms of "units" getting on my case about pumping albums every six months in order to keep profits predictable. Similarly, because I enjoy my obscurity, I don't feel pressure to keep up a profile. The result is that I only record an album when I find the material is sufficiently interesting to sustain (at least my) interest.

What motivated you to start your own label / distro?
Why the name Supernal Music; and what in this world is your logo/mascot, a Black Metal egg? Who came up with that?

I chose 'Supernal Music' because I did not want to be limited to a particular genre or aesthetic. I was aware that modern popular music is constantly evolving, that fashions change, that one's interests change, and I did not want to have a label with an incongruous name a few years down the line. I think even a 5-year-old could tell you that!

As to the egghead logo: some 15 years ago I had a girlfriend who had short blonde hair and whose head was like an egg. Because of that I called her 'Egghead'. The evil egghead character derives from the egghead cartoons that I used to draw about the Egghead, usually satirising her habits, her life, and her way of seeing and doing things. In these cartoons I drew the Egghead like the character in the company logo, minus the corpsepaint. The link between her and Black Metal was established by the fact that she was (and still is, one hopes) of Swedish/Norwegian ancestry. In some of the cartoons I drew about her, I had her visit Norway and have run-ins with Black Metal musicians. These I depicted as perennially angry eggheads with corpsepaint, usually bearing swords and clubs and inverted crosses and swasticas.

Which is your main objective with Supernal Music?
To me it is more than just music; we also provide a way of resisting the rootless, capitalist, cosmopolitan dystopia where everyone drinks Coca-Cola, eats McDonalds, watches Hollywood films and sitcoms, reads Hello!, knows what's the number one single, keeps track of airhead celebrities and other such creatures, believes Associated Press propaganda, and thinks like all the other simple-minded boobs that the modern world is just oh so wonderful. We offer music for the serious, perceptive few who refuse to be brainwashed and browbeaten into politically-correct conformity by a system where you are just a serf: a unit of mass consumption and a disconnected atom floating aimlessly in a social soup, manipulated through maudlin emotion and flashy gimmick through relentless corporate advertising, fashion, and entertainment - whose identity is shaped purely through consumption and is therefore available for sale in the market. This kind of music embodies the much-missed values of strength, discipline, and self-assurance; deep, honest, and noble emotion; creative, intellectual genius; physical formidableness and Aristotelian fundamentalism. What we say to people who uphold these values is that there is still a place where they are welcome and where they can find others capable of genuine passion, sincerity, and independent thorught; wherefrom they can snarl menacingly at an infuriating world.
What makes Supernal Music different from the rest of the labels?
The fact that I own it and run it?
What does a band need to be signed to Supernal Music; how do you choose the bands you release and how should a band contact you if it thinks it has what it takes?

Simple: if I like the band, if I can't stop playing their music, I'd like to sign them. Whether I do or not is another question: sometimes I like a band, but my hands are full with existing projects and it makes no sense for either of the parties that I sign them. Similarly, sometimes I like a band, but I don't pursue a contract with them because know we are not right for each other.

But this question should serve the purpose of offering readers who are in unsigned bands a guide to decide whether it is worth their time sending us a promo (you'd be surprised how many times I get promos from bands whose material has nothing to do with what we do). At the moment I am very keen on true, radical Black Metal. Many bands play in this style and many are perfectly competent, but what makes the difference to me is whether the music has an immediate feeling and an atmosphere that exudes absolute fanaticism; that mixture of iron fist and intellectual genius that makes all the difference. It should be borne in mind that I am bombarded with promos every day, and that there is a constant torrent of music passing through my ears; because I am, on top of this, extremely busy all of the time, my selection process has to be necessarily brutal to the point of unfairness: if the feeling is not there within the first five seconds, I move on. It is not arrogance or failure to realise that many put a lot of effort composing and recording their music, just practical necessity.

Our contact details appear in our website. Otherwise: Supernal Music, P.O. Box 171, Cranleigh, Surrey, GU6 8WW, United Kingdom. Email:

If you could sign any band in the world to Supernal; which would that be?
If I had that kind of power, I wouldn't be signing them: I would be owning them!
Which Supernal Music release(s)/band(s) is/are your favourite(s)?
You didn't think this question through: inevitably, regardless of whether I have favourites or not, for obvious reasons I would always have to give you the same answer. But the truth is that each band that is on my label stays on my label because I like their music, I find I can work with them, and our aims are compatible with one another.
If you could have released any albums in Metal history through your label, which would you choose?
I could no doubt supply you with a list of bands, but that would involve raking my brain for candidates and I am just too busy to spend time doing that.
Which were your favourite releases of 2004 (on any label)?
Benighted Leams Ferly Centesms cd. Have you heard it?
What lies ahead for Supernal Music?
In 2004 we had a record year and in 2005 we are upping our output of releases: there is going to be, all things being equal, 15 or 16 during the next twelve months. We are also doing an overhaul of our mailorder service and re-designing our website.
Thank you very much Mr. Kurtagic for your time; I hope your label keeps growing and that Benighted Leams releases more amazing music in the future (and not in 5 years)!
Thank you. I too hope that if I do another album, it will not take 6 and a half years. The good news is that I have already two or three songs and fragments of others in progress.
Thank you very much Mr. Kurtagic for your time; I hope your label keeps growing and that Benighted Leams releases more amazing music in the future (and not in 5 years)!
Thank you. I too hope that if I do another album, it will not take 6 and a half years. The good news is that I have already two or three songs and fragments of others in progress.

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