Monday, 31 December 2007

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.

No comments: