I even get bands approaching me these days, which makes a change…
Following on from 2013’s Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult and with 2015’s Black Metal: The Cult Never Dies Vol One, on 31 May 2016 Dayal Patterson brings us Black Metal: Into The Abyss. Digging even deeper into the darkness of the genre, this edition offers a more personal and old school approach and aesthetic by bringing a more intimate conversational approach with its subjects in a nod to the fanzines of the eighties and nineties, as well as the Prelude To The Cult mini-book that was released alongside Black Metal: Evolution of the Cult.
Comprised entirely of exclusive interviews, many with artists who have never spoken about their careers before, and images – many previously unpublished – the 300 page work features exclusive candid and in-depth discussions with some of the most significant (and in some cases elusive) acts including Furia, Massemord, 1349, Forgotten Woods, Tsjuder, Nocturnal Depression, Vemod, One Tail, One Head, Mystifier, Black Altar, Besatt, Mord ‘A’ Stigmata, Trist, Helheim, Hypothermia, Loits, Deinonychus, Psychonaut 4, Koldbrann, Urgehal, Sacrilegium And Blaze Of Perdition. Here, Dayal Patterson gives MR’s Jason Guest an insight into all that went into creating the books and much more besides…
Hi Dayal. Thank you very much for taking time out for this interview. Black Metal: Into the Abyss, the third book in the series, is to be released on 15 May and features exclusive interviews with some elusive acts. For this edition, you’ve changed from the traditional book format to a more intimate conversational approach. Why so?
I wanted to split the books in this project between two separate series that would compliment each other but also be somewhat distinctive – the result is the Cult Never Dies Volumes and the Into The Abyss books. Each scene I want to cover (whether it be Norwegian black metal, depressive black metal, USBM, bestial/war black metal, Finnish black metal or whatever else) will be treated by both series, with the CND volumes setting the scene (being written in a more traditional manner and talking predominantly to the older bands involved) and the ITA books getting a bit more personal and working with a more direct interview style and talking to slightly newer bands. This also means that each book is not just about one scene and keeps things more interesting to those interested in black metal as a whole.
The other motivation is that I want to keep things as fresh and compelling as possible – for both myself and the readership. Fair to say, this project is the main creative focus of my life now and I want it to be as varied and fully realised as possible, not to mention value for money. Working with the new format for this book actually proved quite liberating; I grew up with black metal fanzines in the 90s (that’s actually how I started writing myself, with my own zine) and there is an element of nostalgia involved, with the design of the new book also having this kind of dense old school aesthetic. But I also think there’s a lot to be said for that question and answer approach especially if you can establish a good understanding and get your subject to open up on their thoughts (as this very interview hopefully underlines!)
What was it that you wanted to achieve with this volume?
As with the previous book I wanted to create a book that you could read as a standalone text (without having read any of my other books or for that matter any other books on black metal) but which would also continue the legacy of the last two books. Put simply, these books exist to provide a deeper understanding of the black metal genre via long and definitive interviews with significant artists, particularly those that haven’t spoken at such length or so openly – and in some cases have never gave interviews at all. This time around I closed the chapter on Norwegian black metal (via bands such as 1349, Tsjuder, Urgehal, One Tail, One Head, Vemod), Polish black metal (Sacrilegium, Furia, Blaze Of Perdition, MasseMord etc) and depressive black metal (Trist, Forgotten Woods, Hypothermia, Deinonychus, Nocturnal Depression etc) among other things.
There are more and more books on black metal appearing on the market, some good, some not so good. What was it that gave you the confidence to write and publish your own book?
It sounds arrogant (which is apt since we’re talking about black metal right?) but I had the confidence to start writing because I knew that I was dedicated enough to keep working until I had created what I considered the best book on the subject. If it hadn’t ended up that way I wouldn’t have released it. To be honest, the main reason that I wrote the first book was because no one else had done it, not because I wanted to write the book myself necessarily. I was honestly waiting for years for a book to appear that properly told the story of how this genre was created and give a voice to the people who made it happen. But everything that came along was written by outsiders who had very limited understandings and perspectives on the whole thing and just ended up talking to the same five bands and telling the same anecdotes over and over again. The result was that the whole story got distorted and just about a few early 90s Norwegian bands. Black metal is a very complicated genre and if you don’t understand the underlying context. Yes, it’s important to talk about Mayhem and Burzum and Darkthrone, but everyone ignored or brushed over the likes of Venom, Master’s Hammer, VON, Hellhammer, Mysticum, Ulver, Rotting Christ, Beherit, Blasphemy, Enslaved, Tormentor, Necromantia, Samael, Thorns and so on. So I spent some years finding these people and talking to them in detail to kind of rectify that situation.
Was there something that such books as Lords of Chaos or Lucifer Rising or the documentary Until The Light Takes Us were missing?
Put simply, none of those give a very rounded understanding of the black metal phenomenon and how and why it was born. If you were to rely on those as source material you would picture a movement that was very different and much more one-dimensional than the one I’ve spent the last two decades within. That’s not to say that they don’t have any value of course, but their scope is not on the black metal genre as a whole. Lords of Chaos was basically a true crime book that only really deals with black metal for about half its content and just deals with it in relation to crime and the early-mid 90s scene. Lucifer Rising is an interesting book, but not particularly one about black metal. And Until The Light Takes Us is a really great work, but it’s focus is really on the early 90s Norwegian scene and specifically some of the characters behind Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum. Black metal is a truly international phenomenon and one that is now almost four decades old. It is, I would argue, the most varied and interesting genre in metal (and perhaps music generally) with a truly staggering variation in musical expression, cultural values, visual approaches, worldviews, you name it. To examine a narrow slice in isolation can be very interesting but there needs to be more than that.
So far, you’ve covered a significant portion of the black metal scene. What are your plans for covering the UK scene? Will that get an entire book to itself?
My gut feeling is that it is better not to give any one scene a whole book at this point, but rather to present two or three groups of bands at the very least. I will of course cover the UK black metal scene eventually though, but it won’t be in the immediate future because I am working more or less chronologically and I want to look at the Swedish and Greek scenes etc first. That is perhaps for the best anyway since there is a fair bit of activity right now here in the UK and there will likely be a lot more to tell about British black metal in a few years, rather than jump the gun before this mid-explosion of activity has reached its peak.
As black metal continues to grow and more and more bands from all over the world emerge, to produce a comprehensive picture of black metal in its entirety is quite the challenge. Why did you choose to take on such a mammoth task?
As mentioned, I felt somewhat provoked to start this project because I felt no one else was going to do it. When I was writing the first book, I wasn’t thinking about what would happen once it was completed. I certainly never thought ‘In six years I want to be releasing the third book about black metal’ – writing one seemed a monumental effort at that time. But it’s a greatly rewarding process, and that is why I continue of course.
Given that black metal musicians, generally speaking, harbour views that are, shall we say, “extreme” and a number have committed some very serious crimes – arson and murder seem to be favourites – were you at any point concerned that you might be providing another outlet and more publicity perhaps for their views?
No, although that is certainly not to say that I am unaware or uninterested in the possible ethical/moral dimensions of anyone’s actions and words. First thing to underline is that the range of opinions and worldviews held by black metal musicians is much wider than usually assumed and this is part of what I am trying to convey with my books. The second thing I want to make clear is that I believe strongly in allowing the people I interview to speak as openly and honestly as possible, so that the reader can make up their mind about what sort of characters the people are. How can we learn what positions people hold if we censor them?
I’ve had people tell me that they didn’t think I should have interviewed x artist because they discovered they weren’t the sort of people they want to support. Think about that for a moment. Would they prefer to be ignorant and support them anyway? If someone expresses an ‘extreme’ opinion in one of my books, some people will applaud them while others will think negatively of them. People know where they stand and it allows for further discussion. A far worse thing is to just cover safe ground and avoid contentious subjects, which is how mainstream media tends to work – you probably won’t see Chris Brown asked questions about beating up women when he’s promoting his new single or Jennifer Saunders pressed on why she supports fox hunting when she’s doing the rounds with a new comedy project. I think the duty of the interviewer is to present their subject honestly and also allow them to express themselves to the best of their ability, even if they’re expressing bizarre points of view. The duty of the reader is then to examine what is said critically, having been given all possible information, and not just latch on to an opinion because they like the work of the interviewee.
How do you feel about the more extreme branches of black metal? Is that an area you plan to explore further in future volumes?
Depends what you mean by ‘extreme’ haha. I wrote about the NSBM movement in the first book and I don’t feel any particular need to dig further into that scene – not least because there are now two books by other people devoted to the subject. But I will continue to talk to bands and artists that might be considered extreme by certain people, whether that has to do with their philosophical, political or religious views, clashes with the legal system, narcotic habits, odd lifestyles or anything else. On the other hand, I wouldn’t talk with someone just because of any of those things – all the bands featured so far have obvious musical qualities as well.
When interviewing those that hold such extreme views and views that perhaps differ greatly from your own, have you ever found yourself biting your tongue?
No not really. Most people hold views that differ greatly to my own, but it’s not as if that would stop me being able to get on with them on a human level or being interested in why they think the way they do. To give one of many examples, I personally think supporting industrialised meat farming is pretty stupid, but most of my friends – most of the people I have ever met in fact – do this on an almost daily basis when they buy meat of whose source they know nothing of. I don’t need to discuss the matter with them each time, it’s just that we have differing views. I could give many other examples.
Fundamentally I am very interested in the way different people view the world and if someone says something that I think makes no sense I am more likely to ask more questions to try and understand why they’ve come with (what I would consider) an erroneous position. My intention is to get an understanding of the people I’m writing about, whether I agree or disagree with their points of view. The major fuel for these books is my own curiosity on a few core points – how music develops, the nature of subcultures and how and why people say and do the things they do. These books are as much about human stories (albeit about some very unusual people) as they are about riffs and blastbeats.
There are those that argue that black metal died a death a long time ago and all else is but mere imitation or at best a corruption of its true essence. Do you agree?
No and I don’t think it’s a position that really stands up to closer inspection because so many great bands have appeared in the last decade. I think this is something amazing about black metal – it is one of the few genres where new groups can appear with very original sounds that are nonetheless undeniably black metal in nature. It says a lot about the potential of the movement in general. But I would say that the 90s was a golden time for black metal and is still without compare when it comes to essential releases and perhaps the cultural experience. And it is true that a lot of newer bands are just rehashing old formulas.
Has producing these books changed your perception of black metal in any way?
Definitely. As I said, I was waiting for someone to write a book about black metal so that I could get a better understanding of this phenomenon. Curiosity again! When I read other works I felt that I was looking at a scene I didn’t really relate to or recognise – the depiction didn’t match what I had experienced, but I also knew that there was a lot I hadn’t experienced and I wanted to hear the words from the most important artists and put it all together and make a judgement for myself. I’ve interviewed about 150 people at length so far for this project and I’m still learning with each one – what does this music mean for the people creating it? What inspired it? Where did it come from? So being able to talk to so many reclusive characters at length and revisiting whole back catalogues while writing has inevitably given me a better insight than I had when I started. And I am fairly confident that the same is true of those following this series.
While you’ve been putting these books together, what or who has been your best interview experience?
I get this question a lot and it’s really hard. Some of those that stand out for me are King Diamond, Venom, various members of Mayhem, Mysticum, Forgotten Woods, Strid, Silencer, Mystifier, Vemod, 1349, Helheim, Thorns, Celtic Frost, Rotting Christ, Necromantia, Bethlehem, Emperor, Beherit, Satyricon, Sacrilegium, Lifelover, Gorgoroth, Kampfar, Behemoth, Darkthrone, Ulver and Blasphemy. But there are many more I could list.
For this book as well as the others in the series, have you ever met with any reluctance from interviewees? And if so, how did you manage to turn them around?
Oh man, there were a lot of very reluctant people when I wrote the first book. That was part of the reason it took so long, I had to convince people who didn’t want to take part because they were very unhappy about the way the previous books had presented black metal or simply didn’t like giving interviews in general. But things have got a lot easier since Black Metal: Evolution Of The Cult was released because I don’t have to explain what I am planning to do anymore – people can see exactly what approach I take by looking at what I’ve released already. And because so many of those involved have provided glowing testimonials (many of which, incidentally, you can read at www.CultNeverDies.com) I think it is much easier for people to see the benefits in taking part. I even get bands approaching me these days, which makes a change. But yeah, to give you some idea of how things can be, the new book features an interview with Mystifier of Brazil and I first approached them to take part in 2009!
Covering black metal is, as I said, a mammoth task and your books are clearly a labour of love. Have you considered covering other genres – death, grind, thrash, etc – for a series?
I listen to all those genres and I definitely want to write about them more, but as for giving them the same treatment as I am for black metal? No, probably not. I don’t really have the time since there are many other black metal bands to speak to and I’m probably not the best person to do it, certainly not alone. Better if someone else does it and then we publish it via the Cult Never Dies publishing house haha!
What does the future hold for the series? When can we expect the next volume?
I’m not totally sure about when the next book will be released but probably not in the very near future. The next two books have actually been started but I think I need a break and I want to expand the publishing house to showcase some artists, both visual and musical, that don’t necessarily fit within the black metal genre. To some extent I think it also makes sense to let people catch up a bit because I’m still regularly hearing people tell me that they’ve just discovered the first book, so I think I should wait for a while before releasing book four. But several of the projects I’m working on are linked, even if loosely, with black and underground metal, so in a sense I will still be expanding the story there.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thank you for the interview and for the thoughtful questions! If anyone is interested and has a few minutes to spare, I would heartily recommend checking out www.CultNeverDies.com and cultneverdies.myshopify.com, because the books and band merchandise (from groups involved in the series such as Ulver, Beherit, Rotting Christ, Necromantia and so on) are in most cases exclusive to those sites.