“And from then on my soul was sold to the devil.”
Interview by Jason Guest
Jason: Hi. Thanks for taking time out for this interview. Congratulations on your début; it’s an incredible album (Ed: Jason’s review is here). The band has a very eclectic sound. Did this evolve from the writing and recording of the album or was it something that you had in mind before writing began?
Konstantin: Jason, that is quite the review! I am glad to hear you liked it so much. I followed a vision that I had in order to pinpoint how the album would turn out. I knew what I was searching for so to speak but not how to get there. The initial rehearsals had way more distortion, really tons of it actually, plenty of reverb and extremely down tuned guitars. So as we rehearsed one by one they were changed. We tuned up the guitars because the riffs came through much clearer and better, we took away plenty of distortion so that you needn’t use pedals. Rather to have it sensitive enough that the strokes would decide when distortion would come across differently strong. Not wholly unlike Led Zeppelin. Plus that when the muddy wall of sound that huge distortion creates was gone it gave free access for the eerie atmosphere I wanted to cloak it in. A very raw and naked sound that was the signum of 70’s rock bands yet having the influence of Death, Black and Doom; taking this together we reached to create something that resembled a soundtrack for a surreal nightmare that would change your life forever after you’ve woken up from it. If it didn’t take your life, that is.
Jason: What it was that drew you together to form Head of the Demon?
Konstantin: I had had the idea for Head of the Demon for quite some time before its inception, even when I was busy in other bands. As usual, when I have an idea I ponder and work with it in the shadows until I feel ready to start trying to manifest it. But I guess it is a creative urge that becomes frustrating to carry to the extent that it needs to be exorcised. When I called the drummer up and tried to outline what I had in mind he was positive to the idea and shortly after we started rehearsing and experimenting.
Jason: Who are the band’s main influences? And how have they informed your sound?
Konstantin: The influences are legion and varied to the extent that I wouldn’t be able to pin-point them. Amongst music it is everything from rock, pop, metal, electronica, ambient, soundtracks, blues. And add to that books, movies, experiences, magic, you name it.
Jason: Where did the band name come from?
Konstantin: The band name Head of the Demon is the literal translation of the Arabic word ra’s al-ghūl. It is the name given by the Arabs to the star Algol from where derives the word ghoul amongst other. The working name for the band was actually Alghoul until I decided to use Head of the Demon as moniker instead.
Jason: How does the band work together to create material? Is it a collaborative effort or do you write individually? Do you discuss ideas about what you want each track to do or is it an evolutionary process?
Konstantin: The outline of the songs have been done by the time we hit the rehearsal space more or less. But well there we experiment a lot. In terms of how to play the riffs, what beats and bass lines to use and generally just a lot of arrangements. All of this is done in order to reach a level of where we feel the song has become filled with its potential. It expresses its own meaning in other words. It is a gut feeling you know. And some stuff were also done last minute in the recording process in the studio. So an evolutionary process would be a fair description. But there is no formula that we use as a blueprint. We rely on inspiration very much I’d say. Which is why the songs differ so much between them as well.
Jason: How do your songs begin their life? Is it with a melody, a riff, a lyric, or a theme? And how do they develop?
Konstantin: All of the above mentioned ways work. However, not all of the ideas become fruitful instantly since I can have a great riff but don’t know how to develop or proceed from there to an entire song. But it is an eclectic and to some extent a Dadaistic approach I guess.
Jason: What is it about H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos that drew you to him for inspiration?
Konstantin: I first came across Lovecraft when I was in high school which in Sweden is between the ages of 13 and15. I bought his books and the very first story I read was ‘Dreams in the Witch House’. This taken together with that I had gotten into Death and Black metal which was in its early beginning of taking the world by storm, it somehow fell into place. I had found the dark current that I was searching for in both music and literature. And from then on my soul was sold to the devil. I couldn’t but feel a terror when reading his books about something being behind it all. And today, when I am older and more well read, I guess one can say that I have come to understand the principles his stories describe as titans, as archetypical forces that linger just outside the known world, as well as in the depths of little explored human psyche and consciousness. And the fact that I have always sought out to know these forces, his stories have found a reverberation in me.
Jason: Will you remain with Lovecraft for future music?
Konstantin: Yes, no, don’t know. I think not to be honest. But I have also learnt to never say never.
Jason: From Black Sabbath through to modern bands such as Jess and The Ancient Ones, Blood Ceremony, the aforementioned Ghost, and Aluk Todolo to name but a few, the occult has long been a popular source of inspiration. What is it about the occult that is so alluring for metal?
Konstantin: I guess it is because the mystical, esoteric and occult themes provoke our senses and points at something primal and at the same time unknown. That stirs the imagination of the listener and inspires fear, danger and terror. Taken together that the very term “occult” is wrongly applicable to what is thought of as Satanism, devil worship, black magic, etc. It lies in the nature of the more darker-inclined persons to seek it out.
Jason: There seems to be a near-constant desire to explore belief systems or systems of symbolic representation that are very different to the dominant religions. Do you think they hold a significance, a truth perhaps, that more established religions maybe hide or have yet to discover?
Konstantin: Yes and no. Religion is at its basis a mystical and spiritual school that preached to the uninitiated and became dogma and rituals. When people are fed up with dogma and rituals for their own sake they seek out their truth. People who find comfort in religion usually do so because it provides a ready answer to an existential question or problem that they fear or are confused about. The ones that seek the mystical approach through initiation are not wholly unlike the philosophers of old whose creed is to know and seek truth and wisdom. In religion the “truth” is provided whereas for spiritual seekers truth is found through initiation. They might still point to the same direction though, but where one is “promised” the other has experienced. And don’t forget either that most mystical schools are based in their respective religion itself. Sufism on Islam, Kabbalah on Judaism, Tantra on Hinduism, mystery cults of Greece on its Paganism etc…
Jason: Do you think that music, something intangible and abstract, is itself imbued with a power to provide an avenue into these unknown aspects of existence?
Konstantin: Yes. I think that music and art can point towards it very well. A very dear friend of mine once said that amongst all the animals on earth, man is the only species that needs and creates music, art and the likes which provide the soul satisfaction. I think it is a wonderful insight that reveals mans profound nature.
Jason: The visual aspect of Head of the Demon is very intriguing. Can you tell us about the artwork for the album? What does it represent?
Konstantin: The idea with the artwork is that it should reflect the music it is to represent. And very proudly I can say that it does so perfectly. The cover represents the artist take on the mythological creature chimera. Quite a bizarre twist to it but that’s how we like it.
Jason: Who is the artist? And what was it about their work that drew you to him?
Konstantin: The artist was named Desprez and was a Frenchman who lived in the 18th century. However he died in Sweden and is buried in Stockholm. It was actually a fan who dug this information up and told me about it. So now we can add that merit to the death of Descartes. Initially we had some other ideas for a front cover. But when the guy we worked with for the layout sent us this one it was like, that’s the one! I can’t pinpoint what it is about that etching that draws me to it. But in this case the “painting” says more than a thousand words.
Jason: Do you plan to make any videos? If so, what can we expect?
Konstantin: Not that I know of yet. We’ve had some ideas and know some people who can make videos. But it all boils down to time and money. I am a fan of surreal art and a huge fan of Kenneth Anger’s movies as well as Jodorowsky and some others. It would indeed be killer if one of our songs would be portraited in that vein. But that is also asking for a lot. But we are not out to do a “rock ‘n roll” video that is for sure.
Jason: The promo states that Head of the Demon is “amysterious Swedish entity comprising nameless members from known bands”. The concealing of identities has become very popular of late with bands such as Ghost, Nine Covens, and a host of black metal bands working hard to stay out of the limelight. Though the name of each member of Head of the Demon has since found its way on to the internet, why did you choose to conceal your identities?
Konstantin: We haven’t chosen to conceal our identities in the manner that you describe. We have simply asked not to be mentioned in Head of the Demon as the members of this and that band. This because we want Head of the Demon to stand on its own legs and not rest on prior merits. After all, our proper names are mentioned in the sheet of the record as well as in several reviews. So it takes no master detective to figure out who we are.
Jason: Individually, you’ve been making music since the 90s and the internet has come to be a significant, even domineering force since that time. What’s your opinion of the internet and its impact on the music scene? Do you think that because of the ease of making music available, the internet has affected the quality of music?
Konstantin: I believe there are two sides to it, equally good and bad. It amazes me that there is such a quantity of crap music out there. But I can’t say that it wouldn’t have existed without it. The lord knows I’ve heard some crappy demo cassettes in my days. I think it is the availability that is different. Now everyone can hear ones music only hours after it has been mixed. An old band mate of mine said a good thing about internet’s impact on the music-making that I share. He said that it is only good because that means that there will be so many good bands out there which increases competition. That way you need to really make an effort and work really hard to make good songs.
Jason: How did you come to be involved with The Ajna Offensive? Why did you choose to work with them? And how has the relationship with them?
Konstantin: I’ve known Tyler since many years and he knows that I have always been involved in bands and making music. We kept a really low profile with Head of the Demon all the way to the record being finished. And it was more or less on its way to the vinyl plant for pressing when I sent Tyler a sample. He was taken with it and I sent him the entire album. I heard from him only a day after wanting to co-operate. Which I shall admit was really flattering. Taking into account his musical taste, experience and time in the scene it was very flattering. And having the Ajna Records logo on the release only adds to the quality of it. The relationship with Ajna has so far only been very good and smooth and I see no reason why this would change.
Jason: Because of the internet, the underground appears to be less underground as it’s now easily accessible. Is it the modern version of tape-trading?
Konstantin: I don’t know if the UG is less due to the internet. I was along prior to its existence and if the UGs main concern was to spread music within its genre to other people and countries through tape trading and selling demos, then today’s possibility is a different and faster arena. But still serves the same purpose pretty much. And UG ceases to be UG when it becomes bigger than itself, which happened to both Death and Black Metal.
Jason: With illegal file-sharing threatening the music industry, do you think it’s become more of a challenge for band’s to survive?
Konstantin: Nope. I think it has become harder for record companies and distributors and record shops to survive. Bands will not be too affected in a musical sense since I take it that a true band is made up by artists who express something that they would regardless of label support. Of course it affects bands in terms of getting certain benefits and the likes from labels. But I don’t really see that it would hinder a masterpiece being created. After all, look at the demo and first record releases of the Death and Black Metal UG. I would dare say that all of them are low budget recordings compared to what even today the bands get in advances.
Jason: Despite the argument that the internet and piracy is having a negative impact on the music business, bands are being very creative in packaging their music. For instance, vinyl has made a welcome return to the market and all kinds of packages are appearing such as digipacks, picture discs, booklets, etc. Do you think this approach is becoming a necessity for bands to survive?
Konstantin: Yes, isn’t it great that vinyl is returning so strongly? Probably it is due to that you can get the music for free so that if you are going to purchase the release you rather spend it on a vinyl or a limited digipack edition of it. Becomes more collector item I guess. But it goes both ways too I guess. I mean, if you are a band, wouldn’t you prefer that the label did a really great digi-edition and vinyl release. But I haven’t pondered if it is a necessity to be honest with you.
Jason: Which do you prefer: CD, vinyl, or MP3?
Jason: Will Head of the Demon be performing live? Are you planning any tours or festival appearances? If so, will we be seeing you in the UK?
Konstantin: I think we will eventually. It isn’t around the corner so to speak being two members short for the time being. The vocalist residing in Liverpool doesn’t really make us flexible. But we follow a rather Taoistic approach so we’ll see where it’ll take us.
Jason: What would be your ideal setting and/or venue for a live performance?
Konstantin: As long as it is a proper venue I am pleased. Not being a back alley pub where on Saturdays there is a band in the troubadours place. I wonder if not an old theatre where the chairs have been removed would be excellent for a band like us. I have made some remarks where I liken Head of the Demon to the band that plays at a theatre and the play is dark and surreal in nature and essence. I think that would suite us rather well.
Jason: What does the future hold for Head of the Demon? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Konstantin: Currently we are writing and composing some new material. So the future holds another record. And who knows, maybe a live show or two.
Jason: Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Any closing words for our readers?
Konstantin: Thanks for the interview! I invite you, the reader, to enter the labyrinths of an album that will guide you into a world seldom visited.