Monday, 31 December 2007

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.

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