Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Interview from May 2014

Interview from Zintaer zine from Slovakia, May 2014.

This is the full English original text. I do not envy anyone trying to translate my garbled word vomit for publication, thanks Ondrej.

This one's very long and covers a lot of ground, it kind of shows where my head is at - and how it informs the content of my music - these days; much less focus of millenarianism (Primitive, Deuteronomy) and more on physical space and culture (Mission from God).

Firstly I have to say that I'm huge fan of music produced by the
Endless Blockade and now by Column of Heaven. I really appreciate how
music of both bands is not only about its form but also about content.

Thank you for your kind words. I try and pay attention to both form and content in my music, so i only play in bands that are some kind of extension of my world view/ sense of self.

My first question is about the song Perfection from Primitive LP. I
completely agree with the text (as I understand to that). I would like
to know if you think that it is pointless to try to understand to
divinity or do you think that any man should try to approximate to
understanding. I as mathematician/computer scientist know that there
are much more simple problems that are unsolvable but their existence
is no reason to give up the research. What do you think?

I think that it's ok to admit to yourself that you are incapable of knowing everything, Perfection is in part about the rejection of the desire to "know" everything, either through religious answers or scientific rationalism.

The song is largely about my rejection of an easily definable idea of what god, or rather "god", is. It is my rejection of the concepts of agnosticism, atheism, monotheism, polytheism, monolatry, and spirituality; it simply does not matter if i believe in divinity or not.

My vision of god does not care what i think.

Your rejecting of mentioned various concepts reminds me something
called Apophatic or Negative Theology. I'm not expert, I just heard
about that.

Whilst the song itself is a rejection of all theologies/ non-theologies, i would probably – very cautiously - use Apophatic Theology to describe some of my own beliefs, however i do not subscribe to the idea of a transcendant, omnipotent god, which is still very much present in Apophatic Theology.

Perfection is very good example of the fact how nonstandard (for
hardcore punk) lyrics you write. Do you think it is important to think
about such nontrivial topics?

I think it's important that bands sing about the things that drive them in the world. It's important that bands have some kind of identity and intellectual stamp of ownership on their own work.

I've never really been interested in punk as a shopping list of banal, half-formed political concepts, or worse, some perpetually non-defined anger that's forever directed at an always vague other.

Let's continue in sketched topic. In the lyrics of the song
Irrationalism Uber Alles you connect hardcore punk/metal attributes
like logos, patches, fast songs and stage diving with alchemist and
occult symbols. What is the point of the song? I'm just guessing from
the comment of Hakim Bay. To see punk cliche as a Blavatskian crap?
Loss of importance?

The point of the song was that culture is a language that needs to be learned in order to participate fully and convincingly within that culture. Youth culture - all youth cultures - have degrees of initiation and levels of access depending on how much time you put in to it.

The song was partly a celebration of this closed nature of hardcore punk, that it's closed to those that don't take time to learn the symbols and language of the scene.

The Hakim Bey quote was just to show that obscure mysticism with magickal intent is far more pernicious in areas outside of weak occultism, such as advertising, high-finance, etc.

To be honest i wish i had chosen another person to quote as i'm not really a fan of Hakim Bey

Ahaa, now I see. But why Irrationalism ubber alles? It doesn't look

Irrationalism meaning a philosophy of instinct over reason, not irrationalism meaning an insult.

If we are talking about cliche in the scene. What do you think about
"dogmatic" attitudes of people in the hardcore scene?

Which dogmatic attitudes? 

Maybe it is not good question. I mean dogmas like veganism,
anti-religion or anti-faith, sometimes anti-thinking about things that
are outside of the scene bubble. I mean strictly and blindly repeating
of the same topics. (Maybe good example is straight edge that arisen
as something like an act of freedom and now it sometimes acts like
sect. Maybe I'm wrong.)
I see where you're coming from, but i don't know that everything that's written off as being dogmatic is always dogmatic. I think it's important to place the philosophy/ philosophies of hardcore punk into the context of how they're delivered.

Hardcore, at its best, is generally a very stripped down, bare-bones approach to music; anything superfluous is dispensed with. Everything is reduced to its most simplified components, and then they're exaggerated to stand out and not simply end up as being an exercise in minimalism.

The ideological content - and hardcore punk is most definitely an ideological movement as much as it is a musical movement - tends to reflect this approach and makes for a more coherent whole.

You mention both veganism and straight edge, which i haven't seen as being particularly *big* ideas in hardcore for quite some time, but that brief moment in the 1990s when vegan straight edge metal was a big thing in Europe was interesting and the delivery of the (often fairly flimsy) message was in a very Old Testament kinda way.

Veganism and straight edge were repositioned as being about defending innocence, a primordial righteous purity that could save humanity from its decadence and imminent destruction.

For me this was interesting because it meant that as a lot of these bands inevitably lost their moral high ground (breaking edge, veganism being less important, etc etc) and attempted to transition into being straight forward death metal bands (Arkangel, Deformity, Abnegation, and many many others) , they could slightly shift the delivery of their message and lose little in the way of aesthetic consistency. Push that violent biblical edge more, hold back on the defending the innocents approach; society is still eroding and being destroyed in these narratives, but the morality can fade more and more until these are just straight forward stories of horror with no larger purpose and the original aesthetic of the band hasn't been compromised too much.

So i think what some might see as dogmatic i just see as straight forward and serving a point. None of this is to say that there hasn't always been a lot of wretched dumb bullshit, poor critical thinking, and just straight up terrible politics in hardcore punk, that's something we'll always suffer from. Hardcore is a very reductionist approach to dealing with composition and politics, consequently you can get some really bad music and some really crappy politics sometimes.

Wow, I really like your answer. It smells like base of anthropological
research of cultural phenomenon called HCpunk. :-). Do you think there
exists something like that?

There is some academic work on punk that's actually by punks, Zack Furness edited a book called Punkademia that's mostly pretty good and his introduction takes to task the endless dullards regurgitating Dick Hebdige's work, or who spend their entire papers debating whether punk is culture, a subculture or whatever. He also quite neatly dissects the bullshit of constantly focusing on the Sex Pistols and the work of art provocateurs that were not punks in the first place.

Like anything there's some not that great academic work done on contemporary punk and hardcore. For me i think it's probably more useful to understand how aspects of cultures and constructed identities work and how they can in turn be potentially applied to other areas, how these other areas prove or disprove these theories.

Personally i'd rather read the likes Roland Barthes, Henri Lefebvre, Edward Soja, Benedict Anderson, Linda Smith, Guy Debord, Pierre Bourdieu, and Stuart Hall and see if any of their thinking can explain my own experiences. Sometimes they do explain things very well, often they don't.

Thanks for tips for reading! You have mentioned in previous answer
"...veganism and straight edge, which i haven't seen as being
particularly *big* ideas in hardcore ...". What do you think are "big"
ideas in hardcore?

In North American hardcore right now i think there is a tension between the struggle to politicise hardcore (either repoliticise, or give a degree of political legitimacy it maybe never had in the first place?) and the struggle to keep it indifferent.

There is an increasing momentum in those that have more of an access to a voice than they did in the past who are calling people out for their privilege. At its best this argument is people who are pointing out the social structures others are not aware of because they benefit from them. At its worst it's just maddeningly ineffectual shit slinging, for example claiming that veganism is a worthless, privileged identity category - and there is definitely an argument to be made that veganism in the western world has a certain privilege that goes along with it, i would not doubt that - but then saying it's because people in poor neighbourhoods do not have access to affordable healthy food. Clearly this scenario is a class issue and the struggle should be in making everyone equally rich (not necessarily in material terms), not equally poor.

[maybe this doesn't come across, but i was reacting to something i'd read around the time of answering this question]

On the other side there is a clear category of bored, white guys, who are starting to come to terms with their own alienation from themselves and their surroundings, but have decided that absolute nothingness is something to aspire towards. If this was any kind of buddhist-esque meditation on the duality of existence i would see the validity in it, but it's just a bunch of bored idiots figuratively masturbating with handfuls of their own feces, unable to see that their sudden awareness of the fruitlessness of their own existences is something most people understood all along and simply don't care about.

[again, obliquely referring to something specific]

So you get bored people making ultimately boring "edgy" statements and pushing moral buttons that no one is really taking seriously anyway. You also get a bunch of dismal turds that have half an understanding of the language of cultural symbols, but not enough that they don't understand what's either not theirs to take (any romantic white take on indigeneity instantly comes to mind), or that modernity (and the post-modern melange) has rendered any symbol as meaningless –  or more likely meaningful when it suits their purpose, meaningless when called on it. I'm thinking of any boring fence sitter that likes fascist aesthetics but doesn't actually have any real understanding of what fascism is and consequently either doesn't believe in it at all, or thinks it's just another intellectual playground to dip in and out of at will.

These are a few of the significant bad things i very occasionally think about. I think positive big trends are the rejection of the commodified experience that things like Scion A/V and other corporate interests in manoeuvring youth culture towards attaching themselves to their products. But again, this is another tension in hardcore here, because it's a rejection of something that is actually happening more and more.

I like that hardcore punk is still about taking space and repurposing that space for cultural endeavours, those cultural endeavours in turn remodel the space. In Europe it's the building and maintaining of semi-permanent spaces and autonomous venues such as Kopi in Berlin, the 1 in 12 Club in England etc etc. In North America it's the house show or temporary space in skate parks, record stores, back rooms of restaurants etc

What do you think is "basic ingredients" for birth of cultural
movement like HCpunk (or Beat generation, or for example Czechoslovak
underground scene in 70's [people, bands, writers around the bands
like the Plastic People of the Universe or DG307,...], or some other
miracles)? I'm afraid that new cultural movement of present "tablet"
era will not expand from a form of facebook group.

I'm probably missing a lot here, but a rough outline i can come up with for the necessary ingredients for cultural movements to exist would look something like this:

  • a message/ cultural expression that is either entirely new, or a significantly modified version of something that is currently in existence 
  • people that are willing and able to transmit that message/ cultural expression
  • people who are receptive to a new/ modified message/ cultural expression
  • space for the message/ cultural expression to be performed within
    • this space has to be owned/ taken over in some way by the people that are responsible for the new message/ cultural expression
  • there needs to be people within the target audience who, whilst not outright rejecting, do not agree wholesale with every aspect of the message/ cultural expression/ method of delivery/ space of delivery and problematise those areas
  • in these contested areas, that are at the periphery, yet still within the boundaries of the movement, the interesting things start to happen. If the contested areas are too close to the centre then a coup/ complete derailment takes place. If the contested areas are outside of the periphery then it's of little consequence/ separate from the movement itself.

Almost all important social movements have their roots in youth culture, and i don't think it's important that youth think too much about the old people that came before them; their ideas should be unreadable to those of us outside their culture.

Consequently i don't tend to dismiss things as not being able to expand beyond a Facebook group, it just doesn't matter what i think, and besides, i probably can't see what's being accomplished outside of social media. Most social movements fail before they even begin, it's just that in the social media era they're more visible.

Movements that are entirely reliant on social media, not just partially reliant for propaganda/ information purposes, are destined to fail because they aren't using a space that can be controlled, even temporarily, by the movement.

Eric Wood said something in the sense that there doesn't exist nothing
like new powerviolence bands. Allen Ginsberg also said that Beat
Generation doesn't exist. Everybody knows that is not true. I know
that powerviolence should be understand as the era of a group of bands
like MITB, INFEST, etc. But I think that the bands started something
like their own aproach to creating music with something like their own
aesthetic principle. And it is something that is able to grow with a
help of new bands. The Endless Blockade was very good example of that.
What do you think?

I think that some ideas are location and time specific, but they can still have resonances outside of those times and spaces, hence the continued interest in a (perpetually shifting) compositional approach to hardcore called power violence.

Personally I have very little interest in most discussions on what power violence does or does not encapsulate. I think there is a mistaken idea that power violence is an easily definable essence and that bands should be judged solely on this essence. This idea doesn't make much sense to me and never has.

Personally I'm more interested in looking at genre bands in terms of the context they exist; what they are attached to, what they push away from, what their intent is, and what the shortfall between intent and realisation looks like.

The Endless Blockade was a band influenced by power violence.

Column of Heaven's link to power violence is almost entirely based solely on half of the bands connection to The Endless Blockade; it's not a style we're strongly concerned with in 2014.

Is there any chance that The Endless Blockade will be alive again?

No, never, it's dead and buried forever.

Music of Column of Heaven is little different from The Endless
Blockade (as you said and I am also able to hear it). Is it caused by
new influences of new people in the band or is it due to your own
personal and musical development. Is a process of music composition
only on your side? I think I've read somewhere that music composition
for The Endless Blockade was only your matter

It's almost the basically the same dynamic in that i write all the music and Eric will make suggestions for directions sometimes.

There are several differences between Blockade and Column of Heaven and i don't consider them to be the same thing really. Despite being the sole writer in both bands other people always bring their own style of playing and energy, particularly to live performances.

Musically Column of Heaven isn't really going to do much slow material, unlike Blockade, and i've made a conscious effort to erase certain motifs in my writing that defined Blockade.

It's also worth remembering that Blockade stopped in 2010 and i probably wrote our last songs in 2008/ 2009. In between Blockade and Column of Heaven three of us from Column of Heaven played in a death metal band called Slaughter Strike, which has had an impact on our style.

In Column of Heaven we release everything ourselves first on cassette and consider every vinyl release to be licensed from us, and two, and we don't use recording studios or other people to record us. We barely play live, book our own shows locally (though there is one promoter we will occasionally work with) and only tour selectively and with people we feel some connection with (these live/ touring factors were the same in Blockade as well).

I found that Come Friendly Bombs and Turn Illness Into Weapons covers
were designed by Brian Livoti. I really like his style. Do you know
him personally? Are you a fan of fine art? Is here some other
creative activity from music that you are part of or you are passive
fan of?

Brian was the singer in Boston band Watchmaker, who i was a big fan of. I contacted him about doing some art for us and then invited Watchmaker to play a few shows with Blockade in Canada. This was probably ten years ago.

I am not much of a visual artist at all, if i was i would probably do our record covers and shirts myself. As that's a skill i don't possess i always pay someone else to do that for us. 

It's important for us that we pay artists to design our shirts and record sleeves, we're not really fans of the old "picture from google image search with a band logo" approach to graphic design. It's also important that we also use local artists for some of our output; The Chew, Chelsea Watt, and Izzy Burgwin are three locals we've used recently.

Regarding other creative outlets, honestly, i barely have time for music these days, so that's about it for me. Dave writes a magazine, Chromium Dioxide, that comes out a few times a year.

As far as passive fandom, i guess we're all fans of fancy beers, everyone reads a lot, half of us are serious horror fans. We're all utter music nerds, Dave sings in a death metal band, Billy plays bluegrass, Eric does a lot of noise and weird percussion stuff, i do some noise and power electronics - some of it i release, most of it i don't - and i've scored a very small number of independent short films (I think four? Maybe three?), if i had the time i would like to do more scoring.

About your noise/power electronic stuff. Death Agonies is a regular
band or "only" your side project? I guess that it starts as your solo
project but the track 26​/​02​/​11 sounds like band product. When does
your noise passion started? Come friendly bombs and Turn illness into
weapon were without noise/power electronic parts.

Death Agonies was all members of Blockade, there's one final unreleased session, my favourite thing we did, it goes into noisecore territory at times. Not sure if that will see the light of day now.

My interest in noise began in the 1980s; i would experiment with analog keyboards, turntables, tape recordings and stuff, nothing serious, just me making sounds with friends. In the early 90s i discovered industrial music, artists like SPK, Throbbing Gristle, Grey Wolves, Monte Cazzazza, and i realised the possibilities of non-traditional sound being organised into musical forms.

In the mid 90s i became active in the DIY international noise scene and made good contacts, with acts like Macronympha, Facialmess, Prurient, Government Alpha, Gasolineman, MSBR, Sickness, and a lot of others.

The original recording of Turn Illness Into a Weapon had two noise tracks on it, but there was an issue with the studio and we rerecorded everything, minus a few tracks, including the noise material.

I fall in and out of noise, sometimes i love it, and sometimes i just don't care about it at all.

I haven't done much with noise for a few years and haven't really been active since around 2000/ 2001, but i released a tape under the name of Coloniser about a year ago and this year started working as Wolves of Heaven, which is obviously meant as a complimentary project to Column of Heaven and isn't really all that removed in intent, the methods are just different.

Wolves of Heaven was born out of a thematically related trilogy of releases Column of Heaven did in 2013 (Holy Things 7", Failures tape, and Romance tape)

There's a split LP due out with Nyodene D in summer 2014, a few splits and some other cassettes i'm slowly working on. I scored a short film as that project as well. So far it's just me, though Eric has contributed drums for some unreleased tracks. Eventually it may have all members of Column of Heaven involved on some releases.

What do you read now? Is there some favourite style of literature
(except from philosophy)? I'm reading now Friedrich Nietzche's
Antichrist. Have you read it?

I haven’t read Nietzche's Antichrist, though this year I read The Gay Science and enjoyed. I don't read that much philosophy to be honest, as I find a lot of it inconsequential.

I don't think I could ever get bored of Antonin Artaud and I can usually find something relevant and useful in his work whenever I pick anything up by him.

For fiction I prefer to the point, dialogue driven work. I like James Kelman, Ryu Murakami, Matthew Stokoe, Dennis Cooper, Flann O Brien, James Elroy. Unfortunately I rarely get the time to read fiction anymore.

I'm reading a lot of stuff on the Situationist International just now and I'm also trying to familiarise myself more with Edward Soja's concept of Thirdspace, Henri Lefebvre's social production of space, and Pierre Bordieu's Theory of Practice.

Wow, another interesting tips for reading. But I guess you have some
positive relation to Nietzsche's work due to quote from Primitive
album and also from lyrics Deuteronomy.

The Nietzche quote on Primitive fit with the basic concept of the record; that mass movements don't do "bad" things in the name of evil, that most "evil" acts are perpetrated in the name of morality and/ or progress.

Deuteronomy was essentially Primitive part 2 on some levels. 

What about music? What are your oldest, newest and most important
pieces in your record collection.

Without a shadow of a doubt my most important pieces are my Discharge, Coil, Autopsy, Macronympha, and Shangri-Las records.

Oldest, hmm, in terms of the records I have had the longest they would be either the first four Slayer albums (also important), or some UK hip hop 12"s like Gunshot, Hijack, or Hardnoise.

But oldest music that I actively collect and have in my collection is different matter. I'm very interested in early multi track recordings and experiments, I'm referring to artists like Teiji Ito, Pauline Oliveros, David Tudor, Daphne Oram, and the Musique Concrète of Pierre Henry, Pierre Scaheffer and so on.

A few new records that I've enjoyed a lot would be Permanent Ruin – San Jose 7", The Lowest Form – Negative Ecstasy LP, Teitanblood – Death LP, Framtid – Defeat of Civilisation LP, Selfish – Life has no Vacant Time LP.

As I said before I really appreciate lyrical content of the songs of
The Endless Blockade and Column of Heaven. Which from your favourite
bands inspired you lyrically at most?

Thank you for saying so.

I honestly rarely pay attention to most bands' lyrics these days unless someone is trying to tell me how terrible a band's lyrics are.

When i was a lot younger Dead Kennedys were quite influential to me.

I like Slogun's delivery, i always like Hammerhead's approach to daily paranoia, I like Chris Colohan's lyrics in most of his projects, 

If we are talking about lyrical content of songs that is able to view
as a special case of poetry. Are you interested in poetry?

I find it hard to read poetry, but i have found some enjoyment in these:

Arthur Rimbaud - A Season in Hell
Dennis Cooper - The Weaklings (XL)
Jorge Luis Borges - Poems of the Night
Charles Baudelaire - The Flowers of Evil

I think I've read somewhere that you are not lyric author of Mission
from God but you had impact on that. Mission From God seems like
conceptual album. If it is, can you please say something more about
main idea of the concept?

I wrote the original set of lyrics, but then Dave joined the band, the concept remained and he rewrote the record, keeping some song titles and lines, keeping the ideas, but writing them to suit himself.

The concept is well documented elsewhere, particularly on our blog, Survivalist, for anyone that wants more details.

The simple explanation is that when i was four years old Irene Richardson was murdered by serial killer Peter Sutcliffe, The Yorkshire Ripper, a mile away from my home. Several other ripper victims – most notably Jayne Macdonald and Jacqueline Hill – were also killed close to my house, or in areas that would grow to have some significance later on in my life.

The record is a partial outline of what makes a person (me) become utterly disillusioned with life from a young age. It's about growing up where murdered women are a part of the physical and social landscape (Buried Secrets). It's about growing up "knowing" that it is acceptable for some people to lose their lives (Pharmakos).

Can you please say something about Pick Your Side?

Pick Your Side are from Hamilton, which is about 70km away from Toronto. Column of Heaven had played a few shows with them and I'd known most of them for a few years from their other bands Fuck the Facts and Haymaker. They asked me to play bass for them on a short European tour in 2012, which i did. I also recorded a split 10" with To the Point on Deep Six records, and played a handful of other shows after we got back.

I left at the end of 2013 because i didn't have the time to do it anymore due to some other things going on in my life.