Xasthur – Interview

int_xasthur_hedUltimately, describing music is futile. Its intention and meaning are subjectively unique to each respective listener, and any “shared” experience among them essentially signifies a weak concept to begin with.

Not so for Xasthur, the sole vision of one mysterious Malefic. Anyone who heard his Nocturnal Poisoning debut LP last year will testify that they’re unequivocally altered by the album, that SINKING in its fathomless depths i and continuing to do so, spin after successive spin – is one of the most (sub)consciousness-expanding experiences falling under the black metal banner. Beyond that, describing it is futile. Malefic has created a world all his own, and we again stand at its blacker/larger-than-night doors waiting for another chance to be sucked in…and down.

Alas, at the time of this interview, Xasthur had recently released a new 12″ mini-album, Suicide in Dark Serenity, which continues to expand ‘n’ exaggerate the man’s already inscrutable vision of BM, and a split 7″ with Nachtmystium for Blood Fire Death is already in the bag. Read on and die… – Nathan

First off, how ’bout some background: When/how did Xasthur form, and what so inspired this entity’s birth?

It formed around early 1996, and I had a lot of hard times making it work out – I was thinking maybe it wasn’t meant to be, after a lot of time had past. To tell the truth, I’d never had so much suppressed hatred come out of me until I heard Graveland’s Thousand Swords album. I give Graveland a lot of credit – it really had an impact, not only the hateful battle hymns of Thousand Swords, but reading about Rob Darken’s viewpoints. And like I said, hatred and sorrow brought Xasthur to be. Up until ’96, I’d been listening to a lot of death metal, but after a while, it started to lack the extreme emotions that I’d always been feeling, as it never seemed to express a person’s state of mind. It was like any normal person could play it – death metal, that is.

Is it fair to say that Xasthur is your vision, and yours alone? Is Xasthur a one-man band by necessity, or by choice?

Both necessity and choice. Typical humans and I don’t see eye to eye on how black metal should be, yet who am I to say how it should be? I tend to even hate a decent percentage of people who are supposedly in the “scene” – that would just be one view or problem. I like working alone on black metal songs, in the cold, on my own time and not someone’s sheep-schedule filled with light and excuses. I wanted to have members for a while, but that wasn’t meant to be… now, as you can see, and then, as there was no progress being made. I would say it really turned into a choice or preference – I realized that selfishness works for me, as in fuck other peoples’ input.

Since Xasthur is essentially you, what are your conceptions of “black metal,” and how – if at all – does Xasthur meet and/or exceed those conceptions?

int_xasthur_picThere are many shades of black, and sometimes it’s hidden in places not many people would look for it, be it in music or in the outside world. I don’t need to look for it… it finds me. Am I glad that blackness finds me? Of course not! I’m not supposed to be, but I’ll make it into something that will make it work for me if I can. I would say that Xasthur can meet some – but not all – of the expectations of black metal, because there will always be complainers and different points of view. I don’t care about meeting anyone’s expectations – Xasthur is for those who seek suicide, misery, and the obscurity of old, nostalgic black metal that will curse their state of mind… for underground fiends, not the mainstream. Most importantly, it’s for myself – how can a price be put on something that isn’t marketable?

And since you play all instruments in Xasthur, which one do you feel most comfortable/fluent with? If there’s in fact an instrument of choice, does that guide each song’s initial framework in terms of how it’s created?

This is a good question, and I don’t know why I’ve never been asked this before. I like the bass a lot… I feel the possibilities are nearly endless. They don’t call it a “bass guitar” for nothing, if you ask me, because it’s both a bass and a guitar at the same time – it provides deep, dark notes and also provides another melody… some members of maybe Necromantia could probably say the same. I”m not much of a guitar player, really – I mean, I’m comfortable with the songs I make, but I like bass and second-guitar disharmonies the best, as it’s more comfortable to me and not as limiting as the initial “riff” of song. I very rarely create or start a song starting with bass, though – just guitar.

Really, how do you construct Xasthur’s songs, and in particular the album Nocturnal Poisoning? Does each song come to life via a tangible element, or is it more so something intangible like feeling?

I sometimes hear something dismal in my head according to which kind of bad day I’m having, then I’ll take that dismal tone, learn it, and then play it wrong, making it worse. And then sometimes, as you say, just a guitar riff when it’ll just all fall into place without me even really knowing it.

What is the intention of Xathur’s music, and specifically Nocturnal Poisoning? With your compositions being as long and loping as they are, one would assume that the “intention” is hypnotic transcendence or even psychedelic consciousness, but is there daresay infinitely more to your music and its core – perhaps an “infinite sound”?

To hurt as many people as possible, and this would be the legal way of doing that.

That said, what about the new album’s title – is a bit of “nocturnal poisoning” indeed behind this record? Put simply, are any “substances” requisite to write/play Xasthur’s transcendental music?

If you’re asking about any kind of drugs taken to create any of this, the answer would be no. I’m always sober when I make songs and record them. I can be amused and sickened with my own thoughts… I don’t need drugs to be more dysfunctional than I already am. The title has nothing to do with getting high at night or something – it has to do with silently killing people in their sleep and making their nightmares coming true by the holy ones that obsess on their own nightmares, and making it happen to them.

How would you contest, then, allegations that Nocturnal Poisoning – or any Xasthur record, for that matter – is merely repetitive and consequently “boring”? To counteract such ignorance, how do you delineate between “repetition” and “repetitiousness”?

I would say if someone’s looking for some band to hear that just wants to put as many notes that can fit into a count/measure as possible – showing off their athletic abilities, it seems – and not their blackened souls, then look elsewhere when it comes to myself and Xasthur. It needs to be repetitive for it to sink in.

Also, since you’re a one-man band playing hypnotic BM, how would you counter allegations that Xasthur’s merely a “Burzum clone”? The difference is obvious to the enlightened, but how would you stake your claims for originality/uniqueness?

I wouldn’t care if someone were to call Xasthur a Burzum clone. I would take it as a compliment because Burzum was rarely a clone of anyone, and no one can clone Burzum in Burzum’s ways. Varg will think of some notes/chords I would’ve never imagined, and I would hope vice versa. One claim that I think I can make is its unpredictable paths and changes. I used to worry about those kind of things ruining a song – now, I like songs to be ruined in this way.

Considering the dank and cavernous air of Nocturnal Poisoning, is a raw production necessary for this vibe to truly “come to life”? Or, if given a considerable budget, would Xasthur’s music change at all? Basically, what I’m asking is this: Even if the production is “too raw” for some (fuck ’em), is the studio an integral instrument to capture and color your music?

That’s right! Fuck ’em! Sure, I’ll admit, about a different kind of budget – I’m what some would consider poor. Being poor and the equipment that comes as a result of being poor doesn’t even phase me anymore. Though I have some decent recording tools, a band with no ideas or just a few will need some really great equipment. But, if someone has a few hundred or thousand ideas and mediocre equipment, it shouldn’t matter. I thought people would complain about the “production,” but surprisingly they didn’t. If I was given some budget to record with, I don’t think it would be the same… going to some “studio” to record would be so premeditated, whereas doing things the way I already do is like acting on impulse – meaning, some of these songs on Nocturnal Poisoning, and other songs, were almost improv, or I’d change them right in the middle as I heard them in the back of my mind…. I want this kind of black metal I do to sound old, as if some cassettes existed in the 1600s were found or dug up somewhere, and there was some black metal band on them from who knows where….

Considering that Nocturnal Poisoning is (presumably) meant to be absorbed as a whole, can the same be said for Suicide In Dark Serenity insomuch being a complete work in itself? Or, is it more so a “companion” record, so to speak, to Nocturnal Poisoning since its compositions were written across a wider variety of times?

I think the same can be said, if you’re talking about some sort of flow, feeling, pattern, theme or piece of time – this new record has nearly the same [elements] to it. True, the songs on this new LP were all written over a wide span of time, 1995-’96 through 2001, but were all re-recorded close to each other around 2001 – some of these were from the demo and have been improved drastically, which makes for a better enemy than a companion, though. There will most likely be a CD version of this coming in late 2003 with a bonus track or two, hopefully – maybe a digipack, not sure though…

In my eyes, the greatest music – and especially the greatest black metal – is that which is transcendental, otherworldly…music that is truly an experience, and one that’s to be absorbed within the deepest corridors of the mind. So, at least in the BM realm, are you trying to achieve similar results?

What I’m doing is giving off a reflection of myself and yourself – you will see it, you will hear it, you will feel what it’s like to step into my world, and you will not like it at all! Dead can also mean dying because you had nothing to live for… doesn’t always require a nice escape, or option like a grave. I realized one day sitting and observing what I already knew in public, and that is that words have lost their meaning. Normal people who I already hate killed so many words and what they could mean – they say they’re “depressed” because they missed the bus or a TV show. They don’t know the true meaning of depression – if they did, as “normal” as they are, they would’ve been killed by it, and I wouldn’t be hearing it out of their mouths. They’ll say, “I hate this kind of food” – do they really? Do they feel true hate? Have they ever received true hate? I don’t think so! Well, I have. And do they really hate a food, for example, that they’re lucky enough to be eating in the first place? Because of examples like these, I feel like I could NEVER tell anyone what’s on my mind, and they would never grasp it, because their definitions aren’t the same. And they don’t know what true suffering is, so how could I ever express mine? They know the true meaning of terror by what they saw on September 11th, but it only changed people for a short amount of time and then they forget and carry on with their oblivious lifestyles, forgetting that their lives could end in a split second. For some reason I can’t understand, they value their empty existence – I’m rather impartial about mine… I could take it or leave it.

~ by scottsplatter on January 3, 2009.

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