Monday, 31 December 2007

Cold Spring Records interviews THB

The following interview was conducted in March 2007 and appeared in the April 2007 CSR catalogue

People may remember your earlier work with Endvra. How did THB start and does it have any relation to that band?

Endvra stopped recording around 2000/1. When that happened I felt a real loss and an urge to carry on making my own music. I had been involved with Endvra for 8 years, I still had many more ideas that I wanted to express and I was frustrated that the vehicle that I planned to use for them had come to an end.
I started recording again in 2003. At the beginning I didn’t know what would come out – I had been away from music for some years so I just began trying to make the music that I hear in my head. I knew I wanted to make this music far darker and bleaker than Endvra but the use of electric bass and guitar feedback was something that I stumbled on. There are some elements to TenHornedBeast that people who know Endvra may recognise – I use some strings like cello and violin but more to create textures and ambience than as a lead. I also wanted to write and compose on a larger scale so many TenHornedBeast songs are very long and “epic”.

What have you released as TenHornedBeast?

I did a self-released CD-r in 2004 called “Ten Stars Ten Horns”, just to test whether any body would be interested in it. That went down pretty well and was released in a first edition of 100 and a second of 50. Both have sold out. In 2005 Nothingness from Belgium released “Woe To You O Earth And Sea”, another CD-r collection. That ran to two editions which have also sold out. I have several other releases pending – including “The Sacred Truth”.

TenHornedBeast – and also Endvra – is known for its use of imagery and themes with a strong magickal feel. What part does this play in your life and music?

I think it was much more explicit with Endvra but it’s still here with TenHornedBeast as well. Endvra albums such as “Liber Leviathan” and “Black Eden” were themed around magickal work I was involved with at the time but what has happened to me is that as I’ve grown older the line of separation between my everyday life and my “magickal” life has dissolved and it is now so much a part of my experience and world-view that I only notice it when I’m confronted by it’s consequences – for instance when I’m talking to somebody and I have to check myself from saying something that would be so bizarre that they would not know where it came from.
I do not record music for any specific magickal purpose but I do try to express ideas and concepts with music. I think a strong “conceptual” feel to this sort of music is important, there is very little narrative contained within the composition and for me some sort of sign to steer the work is crucial.
Also as the years pass I am aware that I am increasingly intolerant and my opinions and values are becoming harsher. This is definitely reflected in TenHornedBeast – tracks like “Oppression Sacrament” and “In The Teeth Of The Wolf” are statements of where I am at now. This ain’t the summer of love.

How do you record and is the music on “The Sacred Truth” typical of other THB material?

I record everything myself and I record in a home studio. I have no interest in working with other people on TenHornedBeast, I feel strongly that it is my vision and my voice – bringing other people into that creative area would feel very wrong.
Because I record in a home studio I’m not constrained by time/money or the ideas of others. Sometimes I work very fast, layering sounds on top of each other and other times I spend days looking for the right sound or effect. It’s a luxury I can afford and I have hours of unreleased material that is being constantly changed and re-visited until it says what I want it to say.
“The Sacred Truth” is more ambient and subtle than some of the other material I’ve recorded as TenHornedBeast, which can be quite rigidly structured and “traditional”, even using guitar/bass/drums in a sort of “rock” context, but I have also recorded very long tracks that are composed only of minimal drones of feedback and noise. I don’t want to box myself into a corner – I can see TenHornedBeast going where ever I take it.

Are there plans for TenHornedBeast to give live performances?

Not at the moment. I’m aware that the times have changed but I still feel that this sort of music is not suited to a live environment, for me it is much more introspective than that and works best experienced alone. I am also totally disinterested in entertaining people, in providing a back drop for people to get pissed and chat with their friends.
It is something I think about, I get offered gigs and I’ve also been offered help in “going live” from friends in other bands but at the moment it’s not on the agenda. interviews THB

The following interview was conducted in October 2007 and appears on the website

1. The name you chose is taken from "Revelation"17:3 and 13:1 ("And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns" and 13:1 "And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names") and "Daniel" 7:7 ("After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns). What made you chose this subject and how do you think it is related to your sound?

One day in 2003 the name came to me from somewhere/nowhere as I sat and watched shadows moving across a wall. I “saw” the name as I have written it, as one word rather than three separate words. As soon as the epiphany occurred I knew that this was important and something that I should pursue.
I am reluctant to agree to the name coming from the Book of Revelations because that is not how it happened. Obviously there are several beasts with ten horns mentioned in various books of both the old and new testaments but I did not sit with a Bible and flick through the pages until I happened upon a good name.
I am equally reluctant to agree to the biblical interpretation of the TenHornedBeast or the later explanation of either Alexandrian and/or Roman imperialism. The horned beasts that the Hebrew prophets feared were an atavistic resurgence of the ancient Earth from a time in human prehistory when men, beasts and gods were the same. This Current was shocking and fearful and inherently “negative” and “retrogressive” – which is why I identify with it so strongly.
I think my “sound” and the idea of the TenHornedBeast have grown around each other and one has strengthened the other. I wanted a sound that was vast and dark but also organic and vital.

2. From what I read into your Myspace page, Endura has not ended, so, what brought you to forming TenHornedBeast project and what differences there are respect Endura's one?

I need to correct the info on the MySpace page if that is the impression that is given. Let me say once and for all that Endura has ended as a functioning creative vehicle, the last recording we did as Endura was 6 years ago in 2001, which was the song “Medicine of the Poor” for the Infernal Proteus project, since then there has been nothing.
The differences between TenHornedBeast and Endura are profound. Endura was a very creative union of the influences, ideas and techniques of Stephen and myself, we both played to our strengths and the music of Endura benefited from that. With TenHornedBeast I am responsible for everything – I write and record all of the material on my own and I am responsible for the aesthetic direction of the project - with no exceptions. It is quite literally my visions.

3. Endura always gave to me a feeling of a personal search through magick and occultism. TenHornedBeast, instead, because of the sound and because of some titles such as "Oppression Sacrament" or "In The Teeth Of The Wolf" give me the idea of a great destruction where everything has been lost. Can you tell your point of view?

I know that nothing is lost, even after total destruction the seeds remain. This is something I have learned from watching my children grow, it has triggered very deep memories of my own childhood, not just vague impressions but clear memories of specific incidents when I was 2 or 3 years old and these have given me a much clearer direction in my life and work. I also know that “memories” can be accessed from the deep ancient past and these can also be used to provide a star to travel by.
The main difference between now and the period with Endura is that I am now much less tolerant and much less prepared to suffer fools than I was and as a result the Current has shifted, it is focused inwards on me and my experience rather than outwards towards a search for some external “truth”. Personally I find the ideas and emotions expressed on “The Sacred Truth” uplifting and life-affirming, if you don’t see that I suspect you may be viewing these things from the wrong end of the wolf.

4. TenHornedBeast's sound is based on drones created with treated conventional rock instruments. Can you tell something about the creative process behind this sound and what brought you to that?

It just felt right. When I began to record on my own around 2002/3 I initially thought of continuing the sound and concepts that I had explored with Endura. I had a lot of ideas sketched out for the album-that-never-was, “Contra Mundum”, but when I came to actually flesh out the ideas I found that I couldn’t record anything that I felt was authentic and convincing using that style of music. I also felt that I was having to “force” the material and in contrast the sounds and ideas that coalesced into TenHornedBeast were literally bursting out and demanding my attention, so it was out with the old and in with the new.
The “creative process” is quite simple – I work on the material until I have something as close as possible to the sounds I hear in my head. Some tracks are built around a riff, others around a long wavering drone and others just seem to erupt fully formed as if the ideas were given to me. I sometimes play old material and can not remember recording it or how I got the sound. I also record quite quickly and loosely but then can take a long time to edit and polish the sounds. One of the things I feel strongly about is that I do not release anything until I am 100% satisfied with every aspect of it.

5. Tracks like "Our lady of the lightning bolt" or "In the teeth of the wolf" (the latter is 22 minutes long) are long suites where the listener find itself floating into a dark magmatic sound. When you composed them did you think about the effect they should have or you only let the stream flow?

I never think about how the audience will react to the material, it is enough that I am satisfied with it. Trying to second-guess what an unknown third party will take from your music is futile.
22 Minutes is not particularly long for a TenHornedBeast track. The track I recorded as part of the split album with Marzuraan is called “The Law Of The Needle” and is 28 minutes long and I have similar length tracks under construction for future releases.
One of the techniques I use is to record long tracks and edit them down, so most pieces probably started life about 50% longer than the finished version. I usually record at a very slow tempo – occasionally with no tempo at all – so themes need time to develop and vary. It can be challenging to maintain sufficient momentum over a long piece but that is where the strength of the composition and the source sounds come into play.

6. "The sacred truth" is your first album which hasn't been printed into a limited edition. Do you think you'll make the old ones available again?

No, there are no plans to release two CD-r releases from 2004 and 2005, they were released in limited editions for just that reason, the value of their scarcity. However, several of the tracks have been re-recorded and re-worked into new pieces for future releases, which I think is a much more economical and creative use of the material than just re-pressing the albums on to CD.
The track “Father of the Frosts”, which was originally released on the 2005 album “Woe To You O Earth And Sea” has been re-recorded and will be released on the “Hunts & Wars” album next year, I am much happier with the new version which is tighter and heavier and is closer to the spirit I wanted to express. I am also re-working “Give Death, Take Death” at the moment – not for a specific release just because I wanted to expand and enlarge on the original composition for my own satisfaction. It is now about 20 minutes long and I have no plans to release it commercially.

7. Inside the digipack you wrote that: "One of the best means of preparation for a new and bolder life is to be found in the destruction of the standards which the modern age has laboured to impart to man. The best answer to the high treason of the spirit against life is high treason of the spirit against the spirit, to be a part of this blasting operation is one of the great and sacred truths of our time". About this: - what kind of destruction are you talking about? De-programming of social behaviours ? In your opinion, what kind of method is working best at this purpose? Do you think your music could be part of this process or it is a sort of soundtrack to it?

I am talking about the conscious rejection of the codes, morals and standards of the “modern world”. I really want as little to do with it as possible, I feel that it is toxic and poisonous and best avoided. However, I don’t believe anybody else can provide an answer for you or that there is any kind of political solution - science has yet to invent an instrument sensitive enough to measure how little I care about politics – but I believe that by making a conscious act of will to remove yourself from the evils of the modern world you can insulate yourself from its wickedness and regain some of the autonomy and strength than is rightfully yours. TenHornedBeast is my soundtrack and one of the weapons I employ to achieve my own personal “de-programming”, if it works for other people that would be a bonus.

From what you say, this is a kind of magical process where you take out energy from evil things by not caring about them. I always had mixed emotions about this process applied to social life, because I can't control the situation in any case: if you spend your energy by trying to awake people's social consciousness it's like to kill a giant with a needle but if you "retire" to meditation/personal growth, there are fewer people to struggle for a better place to live, because politicians are free to do whatever they want... Even start talking about WWIII!

It is more than just “not caring”, it is the rejection of these things and replacing them with something that is antithetical and hostile. I have rejected democracy and replaced it with autonomy. I have rejected equality and replaced it with elitism. I have rejected the cults of weakness, feeble-mindedness and mediocrity that thrive in the modern world and replaced them with something that makes me stronger and allows me, in the words of Mel Lyman, to see something as it really is.
You are correct – you can’t control the wider situation, and I would not suggest that you waste your time trying, but you can control yourself. Everything ultimately reduces down to You. You need to assume control your own Will.
I do not care about trying to awaken other people’s “social consciousness” nor do I expect people to struggle for a better place to live on my behalf. In fact I delight in people’s ignorance and stupidity because if they are prepared to accept the status quo they deserve no better – the track “Oppression Sacrament” is not a criticism it is an affirmation and celebration of the state of oppression and a call for it’s veneration as a sacrament for those who would stand apart.

8. What's next for TenHornedBeast and what about Endura?

In the summer of 2007 Cold Spring Records suggested that I remix and redevelop several of the tracks from “The Sacred Truth”. I worked on this project during July and August and finally came out with five new compositions, three remixes/expansions/contractions of songs from the album and two totally new pieces that are in a similar style. I am glad that Cold Spring provided the opportunity for this project because revisiting the material was very rewarding and I feel that I was able to rework the material into something that is both new and continues the atmosphere of the album. I have named this remix album “My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth”, it will be released on Cold Spring Records.
In 2006 I recorded a long piece called “The Law Of The Needle” for a split album with Newcastle band Marzuraan. At the beginning we didn’t have any label in mind for this project but London independent label Aurora Borealis will release this in early 2008.
The next full length TenHornedBeast album will be called “Hunts & Wars”, I already have this 90% complete but I’m waiting for the dust to settle on the current releases before I put the finishing touches to it. This should be released on Cold Spring when the time comes but with so much else happening there is no need to rush .
Aesthetic Death, who released in the 1996 Endura album “Liber Leviathan” are re-releasing select titles from their back catalogue in limited vinyl editions, they have already released some of the Esoteric material and “Liber Leviathan” is next, the art is being prepared as I type this. Also Cold Spring have asked me to gather together all the non-album tracks from Endura onto a double CD. This will cover the period from 1993-2002 and should see a lot of very hard to find songs that were originally released on obscure compilation CD’s and vinyl releases gathered together for the first time.

Zero Tolerance interviews THB

The following interview was conducted in October 2007 and appears in issue 20 of Zero Tolerance magazine

There’s a very dark occult and ritualistic flavour to the Sacred Truth album, but is there any specific occult, pagan, esoteric or magickal inspiration or intention behind your work? What about other influences – musical, artistic, cultural, cinematic, literary, philosophical, natural etc.?

I am not and never have been linked to any pagan or magickal organisation. My own views on this have developed throughout my life until now I see them as being a fundamental part of who I am, rather than something I “do”. The music I make with TenHornedBeast is also an expression of this.
I am increasingly drawn towards a view that is anti-intellectual and anti-anthropomorphic, which is why I have adopted the motif of the TenHornedBeast. Before men became conceited enough to think of the “gods” as sharing their problems they felt an affinity with the beasts of prey and the animals of the hunt. The modern world has lost this connection, the reconstructed cults of neo-pagans have layers of anthropopathism that hide the truth and the ceremonial magick tradition is full of over-intellectualised Judeo-Xtian claptrap that has philosophised itself dry. These are symptoms of the modern world – and by modern I mean the settled, pastoral-agrarian life that developed in the Neolithic. There is purity and truth in a barbaric and pre-modern worldview that rejoices in strength and joy; “magick” is worth nothing unless it puts a roof over your head, food in your belly and destroys your enemies. These things are the inspiration for TenHornedBeast.

The text on the album packaging is quite minimal and cryptic, and in the absence of intelligible lyrics, THB maintain a mysterious, shadowy aura. Are you happy to let listeners read into your work whatever they want?

I’m not aware that I maintain a shadowy aura but I do not feel the need to guide people by the hand through my music. I feel that it demeans and negates the work if you have to explain what’s going on to the audience. Those with the wit to see can read the signs and maybe see what I’m doing but you can’t control what other people take from your music.
There are no “intelligible” lyrics because I’m not interested in narrative and I don’t feel that my music is suited to that style of traditional song writing. When you begin to write lyrics and adapt them to a song you immediately impose limits on to the music, it reduces down to human levels and whatever its length or the amount of distortion involved it becomes a 3-minute pop song.
As I said before I am not interested in “anthropomorphism”, I’m interested in exploring a reality that is older and larger. This kind of music – drone, dark-ambient, call it what you will works best when it is played out on a vast scale.

Drone-based music is enjoying an upsurge of popularity at the moment, with the likes of Sunn 0))), Boris and the reformation of Earth – where does THB fit into this scene, if at all?

I don’t see any links at all – other that some people who like those bands may also like what I do. I don’t want to be part of a “scene” because they come and go so quickly and really their only function is to provide a handy commodity to buy/sell. I’ve been making “drone” music for many years, certainly long before it became a buzzword thrown about by emo kids in skinny jeans, the Endvra albums “Liber Leviathan” from 1995 and “The Watcher” from 1998 are made up of very long, drawn out “drones” and when they were released nobody was talking about a scene.

Can you describe the THB song writing process – where do you start with a composition? What kind of instrumentation and recording / mixing technology are you using? (Feel free to get quite technical, ZT readers take this stuff very seriously!)

It varies – sometimes with the more structured “rock” material I start with a riff then constrict and break it down until it’s as primitive and heavy as possible – then I elaborate on it and work it into a track. Other times a sound, an effect or even a title/idea will suggest itself and I play with it until it’s what I hear in my head. I feel strongly that you can only record the music that you hear in your head, anything else is false. TenHornedBeast is my ongoing attempt to get what’s in my head onto disc.
I have a home studio based around a custom built Carillon audio PC. I run Reason 4 and Cubase 4, which allows for live audio input. I’m not interested in music technology other than as a tool to make music, the technical minutiae of hardware/software leaves me very cold.

How much difference does it make to you when you are working on a solo project as opposed to being part of a duo or larger group?

It makes a huge difference, TenHornedBeast is my visions and it would feel like a betrayal of that to bring other people in. There are downsides – not least that the creative burden is solely mine, for instance with Endvra Stephen was very good at coming up with melodies whilst I just don’t think that way, hence this music is much darker and bleaker than Endvra.
Also It can be hard to get a critical perspective on something if you are intimately involved with writing/recording, with Endvra we could always tell each other if something wasn’t working but with TenHornedBeast I have to make those calls alone but this is offset by the freedom to do what I want when I want.

According to the discography posted on your MySpace page, you currently have no fewer than three THB works in progress. Is this still the case, and if so, which one is likely to see the light of day first? Any other THB activity in the offing, e.g. live shows, compilation appearances, collaborations etc? How about your other projects – is a resurrection of Endvra possible?

I like to be busy and the benefit of recording at home is that I can do as much or as little as and when I feel like it. I tend to work on several projects simultaneously until something sparks my imagination, then focus on that until I feel like going back to something else.
At Cold Spring’s suggestion I did some remixes/expansions of the material from “The Sacred Truth” over the summer, and I have also recorded a track for a split album with Newcastle band Marzuraan, which will come out on Aurora Borealis in 2008. The next bona fide full length TenHornedBeast album will be called “Hunts & Wars”, this is quite different to the material on “The Sacred Truth”, not as ambient and with more focus on heavy bass riffing. The title is a line from the Robert E Howard poem “Cimmeria”, and was also used by Celtic Frost in the song “Circle of the Tyrants”, which might gave a hint as to the mood of the recordings. I’ve got these tracks at demo stage now and will add the fine touches early next year.
I’ve had several offers to play live but it’s not something I can commit to at the moment and to be honest I’m not convinced that playing this music live will add anything to it. It’s maybe something for the future.
I’m working on a very minimal/ambient project called Valka as well, it makes a change to play something delicate and quiet after the battering of TenHornedBeast, no deadlines or releases for this material yet.
I am going to draw together a collection of non-album tracks from Endvra’s catalogue between 1993 -2002 for release as a double CD by Cold Spring, this is on my “to do” list. A full-scale Endvra resurrection with new material is unlikely.

Finally – and I probably won’t use this in the finished interview, but I’m personally interested – are you able to tell me anything about the deer skull with antlers used in the cover image for The Sacred Truth? I’m a craftsman who has done a lot of work with antler, but I’ve never seen any quite like that! They don’t look like red deer antlers, roe deer antlers, fallow deer antlers or reindeer antlers. So what the hell are they?!

They are actually red deer antlers but very old and weathered, it looks like they have been outside for some time because the antlers have been worn smooth and have none of the usual grooves and channels found on red deer antler and the skull is very fragile and loose. I think the animal may have been diseased because the base of the antlers are covered in many small nodules and bumps – similar to the kind found on roe antlers. I found them whilst out tracking/stalking in Cumbria several years ago.
I work with antler – mainly roe and red deer – to make fetish objects, needles, harpoon/arrow heads and also to make soft-hammers and pressure flakers for flint knapping.
I see antler as a sacramental material that can provide a physical connection to the TenHornedBeast, much in the same way that Xtians believe their sacraments work for them. I also use tracking as a ritual tool to access the atavistic hunt/war state.

Rock-A-Rolla Interviews THB

The following interview was conducted in October 2007 and appears in issue 12 [Nov/Dec 2007] of Rock-A-Rolla magazine

1. I assume that the ten horned beast of your “band” name is the one from Revelations, the one related to the New World Order. Is this your main thematic motivation for Tenhornedbeast’s music? How do you interpret that particular passage from the Bible, since it has been subjected to different interpretations?

I am reluctant to agree to the name coming from the Book of Revelations because that is not how it happened. Obviously there are several beasts with ten horns mentioned in various books of both the old and new testaments but I did not sit with a Bible and flick through the pages until I happened to chance upon a good name. Rather the name came to me automatically and I realised that it was something that I had to do.
I am equally reluctant to agree to the biblical interpretation of the TenHornedBeast or the later explanation of either Alexandrian and/or Roman imperialism. – or for those with some sort Nostrodamus complex, the “New World Order”. The horned beasts that the Hebrew prophets feared were an atavistic resurgence of the ancient Earth from a time in human prehistory when men, beasts and gods were the same. To the people of the Book this Current was shocking and fearful and inherently “negative” and “retrogressive” – which is why I identify with it so strongly. If anything TenHornedBeast is a manifestation of the Old World Order.

2. What is the sacred truth? What is the background to this new release?

Looking back on the various moods of the album I can see something negative and almost nihilistic although I did not deliberately set out to make it so and I would not necessarily put a pejorative spin on the words “negative” and “nihilistic”.
I just tried to make the music that I hear in my head – that’s all you can do if you are being true to yourself, the bullshit starts when you try to make music that somebody else hears in their head.
I never really gave too much thought to the meaning of “The Sacred Truth”. I try not to over-intellectualise what I do because it robs all the creativity and spontaneity from the work but when I went back to the ideas on the album I realised that the “sacred truth” is my own focus, desire and will. TenHornedBeast is, as it says on the album, my visions and I need to draw down the Current to me.

3. Musically speaking, what has evolved since the beginning of this project, and the two releases that have appeared so far?

The most obvious progression has been my increasing competency with my home studio. When I released the first CD-r in 2004 I was still learning and as a result I didn’t really get the sounds I wanted. By the time I came to record “The Sacred Truth” I had begun to experiment with different ways of recording, espescialy building layers of effects but that brings it’s own problems because if you are not vigilant you end up trying to build tracks around studio tricks and gimmicks rather than around strong ideas.
I constantly edit and revise my music so that any extra fat is trimmed off – which is why I feel the remix project, “My Horns Are A Flame To Draw Down The Truth” will compliment the album so well, I stripped some of the songs down to their bare bones and allowed them space to breath again.

4. What is your method to create soundscapes so vague (to a “regular” listener) and yet so intricate and so atmospheric? What instrumentation do you use, and do you need to put yourself into a particular frame of mind?

I am always in this frame of mind. I say that as a blank statement of fact rather than as some sort of kiddie-black metal boast. I once knew a bloke who decided he was going to be a poet and every day he would sit down at an appointed time and try to write “poetry”, which seems about as futile as it is possible to get. Luckily I have never had to try too hard to presence the dark, as the ONA used to say. As I said before – you have got to record what you hear in your head, and if you have to force it then it’s fake.
I really don’t think the soundscapes are vague. They are not improvised or thrown together – they are fully worked-out compositions that have been edited and polish until I am happy with every aspect of them but I do want space, atmosphere and ambiguity in the music. I try to makes sounds that are confusing – in as much as it is difficult to work out which instrument made the sound or how the sound was processed.
My home studio is based around a custom built Carillon PC, I run software that allows for VST sound modelling and also live audio input, which can be further modelled and processed. I am happy working like this because of the freedom and scope the VST allows but I am also aware that I haven’t really scratched the surface of the software tools yet.

5. What kind of people do you expect to touch with this new release? Do you have an idea, in general, of who your “audience” is? Do you think of that when you compose?

No, not at all. To be honest when I began working on TenHornedBeast in 2003/4 I had no idea if there was an audience for my music – other than me. At the beginning I planned to release all the material myself in tiny handmade editions, not because of some sort of collector fetish but because I didn’t think many people would care.
I can hazard a guess that some people who enjoyed my work with Endvra may also respond to TenHornedBeast but the only criteria I use when writing and recording is that I am satisfied. Nothing more or less.

6. Have you considered doing something more musically conventional, with more structure and vocals?

It’s not really a question of considering doing something more conventional, it comes down to my inability to see music in any other way. If I was conventionally musically talented I probably wouldn’t be making this music – I’d be trying to play the guitar like Leslie West or Michael Schenker. Luckily I realised many years ago that more or less everything than can be done with “conventional music” already has been done, and by people with a lot more talent than me so I see no reason to repeat it.
Some of the material I have recorded with TenHornedBeast has had a “rock” structure in as much as there are either bass or guitar riffs but they tend to be wrapped up in a non-rock package and are very much part of the atmosphere rather than the main attraction. The material for the “Hunts & Wars” album is in this style, heavy bass riffing set against the typical TenHornedBeast pit of sound.
Vocals are a different matter – there are “vocals” on all the releases but they are used to add atmosphere and colour rather than carry a narrative. I can not see any circumstances in which I would write a “song” with lyrics because once you introduce a narrative you reduce the whole down to a human level – which is the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve.

7. Do you think there is a bigger acceptance today for this sort of sound than there was, for example, when you were in Endvra? At least there seem to be more people doing it than before, or they are more visible. Is that all due to Sunn 0)))?

When I met Stephen and formed Endvra in early 1993 I was listening to Lustmord, Diamanda Galas’s “Plague Mass” recordings from the 80’s and Radio Werewolf’s “Songs For The End Of The World” album, which is still the most bleak and apocalyptic recording I have ever heard. I had also been listening to early Cold Meat artists like MZ412, Morthond and Archon Satani and wanted to do something similar.
I quickly realised that while this was new to me, living as I did up in the sticks in the middle of nowhere there was a very strong grassroots scene in Europe and I started writing to other bands and magazines. If you look at the volume of releases and compilation album from the 1990’s you will see how large the scene was then, I have no idea whether there are more or less people making this music than 15 years ago but it has always been about quality, not quantity.
Acceptance is another matter though – for all there were many bands in the 1990’s making dark-ambient/drone they were all basically releasing records for each other to hear, the scene seemed to be self-contained and self perpetuating. For instance I can remember Wire magazine stating that dark-ambient was just metal without guitars and refusing to review or interview artists, these days they can’t get enough of it and have published a spurious guide to what they termed “outsider metal”. If more people are aware of this music I feel that can only be a good thing for the bands and labels making it, but who are this Sunn 0))) you speak of?

8. You worked as a duo in Endvra, do you prefer working alone these days?

It was not a conscious choice to work alone, it was something that was forced on me. Stephen no longer wanted to continue with Endvra and I didn’t know anybody else who I wanted to work with so rather than do nothing I just set off on my own.
Working alone has it’s benefits – I do as much or as little as and when I like, and having a home studio makes this approach to recording very easy but I also have to carry the creative burden alone and if things are not working there is nobody to turn to. However I have grown accustomed to working like this now and I feel that working alone forces upon you an introspection and self-criticism that can be very healthy, I can not imagine making the music I make as TenHornedBeast with any body else.

9. Can Tenhornedbeast be seen as a natural progression from Endvra, thematically or musically? Is Endvra still active in any way?

No, TenHornedBeast is not a progression from Endvra, it is something totally new and very different. When I began recording on my own I tried to flesh out some of the ideas I had gathered together for Endvra material but it quickly became apparent that the well was dry. I could not write or record in that style anymore, certainly not the lush neo-classical arrangements that we used on albums like “Black Eden” and “Great God Pan”, it was as if the thread that linked me to that sound and style had been broken.
In contrast while I was flogging that dead horse and getting nowhere the ideas for TenHornedBeast material just flooded out so I decided to focus fully on that. I think the tone of TenHornedBeast is much darker and more aggressive that Endvra ever was, it is also less melodic, much much heavier and played out on a vast scale, all of which are reflective of me.
I am working on several re-issues of Endvra material, including a double album for Cold Spring that will gather together almost 10 years of rare non-album tracks but I can not imagine that we will record any new material as Endvra. It is past and gone.

10. Would you consider performing live as Tenhornedbeast?

I have considered it – and rejected it. At the moment I really cannot commit to doing live performances, I have too much going on in other parts of my life and if it is going to happen it needs to be done right. Also I am not really convinced that this music works in a live setting – I go to a lot of gigs and whilst some of the audience are there to listen and engage with the performance others are just turn up because of the cheap drinks promotions or to chat with their friends – which is fine but I don’t feel like providing them with a soundtrack.

11. What is the longevity of this project? Do you see it lasting, or do you think you’ll keep moving on to new thing?

No, TenHornedBeast is here to stay for as long as I can keep a grip on the Current that informs the music. You can buy equipment and acquire the skills to use it but of you run of ideas you are in trouble. I have plenty of ideas for future releases and plan to realise them all in time. TenHornedBeast will be around for a while yet.

12. Thank you for the interview, and you can leave a final message for all our readers!

Thanks, all my messages are contained in the music. Backwards.

Holy Mountain

This account of the ascent of Roseberry Topping was first published on the THB MySpace page in January 2007.

On the last day of 2006 I climbed Roseberry Topping, a numinous conical hill first recorded in 1119 as Othenesberg and sacred to Odin. Wuotan, Wodhanaz, Óðinn, Oden, Wodan, Woden, Odin. Over 235 names and titles are known for the. ruler of the Æsir. The All-Father is All-Things to All-People. A God of runes, magic's and wars. A God of the hanged and the Wild Hunt. A God of storms, rains and harvests. A shape-shifter, a giver of the gifts of madness, of poetry and creativity. Subtle, wily, mysterious and dangerous.

Accordingly 31st December 2006 in northern England was an unpredictable day of storms. Driving through the low fields on the south side of the river Tees the car was rocked by the buffeting winds and blinded by the spray from flooded ditches. Roseberry Topping stands out in grim isolation, a huge age-worn crag jutting out from the northern wall of the moors. The Old Norse name for the hill was Odins-Beorg, this changed gradually, the march of the English language eroding the sharp heathen corners from thought and memory, slowly renaming and redefining Othensberg, Ohenseberg, Ounsberry, Ouesberry and now Roseberry.

Walking up the track that leads to the foot of the hill one had to negotiate the run-off from the fields, little rivers of yellow iron rich water making their way towards the sea. The wind whistled through the bare hedges, bending the dead grass and making the holly leaves rattle together like winter's bones. The land lay dull and sleeping. Green had fled and brown was king.

Below the hill a wide wood of tall oaks, trunks rising, crowns spreading, the old years leaves gathering in deep earth coloured drifts with mast rolling under foot. The path to the top lead up through these woods. Above us the trees creaked in the storm like the rigging on a vast ship whilst here and there fallen branches and limbs lay among the leaves, things of the air cast down to earth. The path snaked around the lower shoulders of the hill, steep and rocky, wet and muddy until rising higher one became aware of a deep stillness.

I looked out over the tops of the trees and had the unearthly sensation of being above the wind. The roaring beneath contrasted sharply with the quiet of the immediate surroundings as the swaying, roaring ebb and flow of the storm passed through the bare forest below. The weird detachment did not last, as the path rounded another bend on the hillside the landscape changed to a sparse blasted moorland of grass and gorse the wind swept in again, pulling at clothing, ripping at voices and chilling flesh.

The path stretched out above, steeper and steeper until the summit of the hill broke the clouds in a sharp horn. Close to the top the winds grew stronger, making climbing harder, making each footfall doubtful. The final hundred feet to the summit were reached in a scramble over slick wet rocks and tussocked grass, sometimes the wind blew from behind and seemed to help one climb, other gusts came in violently from the side as if to rid the hill of human presence. Just below the summit a network of large rocks with small recesses and nooks offered some shelter as the screaming wraith-wind blew tatters of cloud past like the riders of the Wild Hunt.

Here a thousand feet above the plain of the river Tees the wind howled and raged. Wod, the root of the name Woden, is the Old English world for frenzy, madness, extreme fury. Stepping out onto the flat rocks of the summit was like crossing a threshold to another world where humanity is barely tolerated and rarely welcome. Spectral grey clouds shot past heading east over the moors and to the sea beyond. Standing upright was impossible and gave the strange feeling that one may be blown off the mountain and fly away, taken with the Hunt.

It was not a day to linger on the top. The bitter winds froze exposed skin and the driving rain made the descent over the rocks difficult but descending the path was like leaving a Wilderness, every step returning closer to the familiar as the influence of Man grew and the fury of the Gods reduced.

As the patchwork fields and toy houses of the plain grew larger we passed through layers of human occupation. The area immediately below the summit is still extensively pitted and scarred from the former mineworks when iron was taken from the hills, now leaving deep circular pits and mounds on the hillside. Beyond these a Bronze Age hoard was discovered on the slopes of the hill and the remains of Iron Age occupation, as demonstrated by low enclosures and the remains of huts, can be seen among the newly planted trees on the lower slopes.

We returned down the path, through gates and farm tracks, down into the canopy of the broad oak wood like a swimmer plumbing the depths of a dark and weedy pool. The skin on ones face sensing the small changes in temperature as the path hugs the hillside and drops into the lowlands. Again the strange silent passage down the hill path as the topography shelters from the storm and wraps us in shroud-quiet before depositing us on the forest floor and into the creaking, bending, swaying action of a wind-blown wood. Somewhere a Jay cackled and cracked and later the soft scratchings of a Nuthatch winding its spiral path up a bare limb.