French collaboration, WW2, Balkan wars and traditions, USSR, Ku Klux Klan, Ukrainian and Chechen war units…
11 November 2014 saw France’s industrial black metallers N.K.V.D. release their second full length, Hakmarrja. MR’s Jason Guest talked to mainman L.F. about the usual stuff, like the band’s development, the album and its inspiration, and how the Stalin-era police organisation of the Soviet Union are an inspiration. Y’know, the usual stuff…
Thanks for taking time out for this interview and congratulations on your new album, Hakmarrja (reviewed here). You’ve been making music under the N.K.V.D. name since 2005. How has the band evolved since its inception?
Hi! N.K.V.D. is the same from the start. My recording and producing skills are better now and I have more ways to record and produce N.K.V.D’s music. But the vision of how N.K.V.D. should sound was in my head, years before I started to record something. I try each time to have the more listenable and precise sound, but guitar techniques, ways to compose music and orchestrations are the same since 2005.
It’s been three years since Vlast. How long were you working on Hakmarrja? Is it all new material or is there some that’s been around for a while?
I took a break after Vlast. I don’t make music only for myself, and I do care about what listeners and reviewers say about N.K.V.D’s music; if it wasn’t the case, I wouldn’t release any music. Vlast got a quite disappointing reception; it made me take a break. I still don’t understand today, as Diktatura was acclaimed, why Vlast wasn’t. It took me 6 months to record Hakmarrja, working 3/4 hours a day and more than 12 hours on weekends and holidays.
Did you have an idea of how you wanted the album to sound or did it take shape as it was being developed?
Of course, I knew what I wanted. Ideas are in my head for years, it is only a matter of being able to record what I have in mind. And it takes a lot of time. All Hakmarrja material was composed during this break. The only thing, when you record, it that some ideas doesn’t sound the way you want, and you have to adjust or find new solutions, and music takes a shape you hadn’t thought about.
What was it that you wanted to achieve with the album?
The main idea for Hakmarrja was to make a varied album. Every song is different from the other. Every song exploits a side of N.K.V.D. style. It was very important to me to have one sound, one colour for each song. Vlast was a monolith, Hakmarrja is the opposite. It was a big challenge, because in metal in general, variety is a very rare quality, even more in extreme metal.
What does Hakmarrja mean? And what’s the significance of the album title?
Hakmarrja means revenge in Albanian language. But Hakmarrja (or Gjakmarrja) is a concept. It is a blood feud tradition in Albanian society. This blood feud tradition is also used by people in Caucasus. If someone kills or humiliates publicly someone of your family or your clan, you have the right to kill the author or someone of its family. As today’s justice, particularly in France, is sometimes more favourable to the author than to the victim, I find this concept interesting. Revenge is a natural feeling everybody has inside of himself. And you have to go against your nature not to revenge.
What are the themes on the album? And where does inspiration come from?
Themes from the album are French collaboration, WW2, Balkan wars and traditions, USSR, Ku Klux Klan, Ukrainian and Chechen war units. Inspiration comes from sides of history that always interested me personally. Things come naturally. I never have to force myself to find themes, as I am always learning history.
Is there a philosophy or an ideology that drives your material, both musically and lyrically? And how does it manifest itself in your compositions?
There is no philosophy or ideology behind N.K.V.D’s music. Each song is like a report, with no point of view. N.K.V.D. shows what can’t be hidden. All the themes we deal with are part of history. There is no imagination or no interpretation. Some listeners or reviewers misunderstand N.K.V.D. by claiming we are a NS or a communist band. But we are not. Freedom is the greatest quality of today’s worlds. We spoke about every sides of oppression, WW2, USSR, Islamism… There is no message behind N.K.V.D.
The band name is taken from the Stalin-era police organisation of the Soviet Union. What appealed to you to name the band after it and find inspiration for your music?
I wanted N.K.V.D. to be based on real history and facts. And the word N.K.V.D. sounds cool. As it was a cruel historical organisation, we took its name. But I knew it would give me some problems on misunderstandings, and to close off any avenues, and it did. I am sure; I would have reached a higher level with a different name, and different themes. But on an artistic point of view, I never made any compromises, no restrictions, and I am proud of that. Concerning the music itself, I had the idea on how to sound for years, the only problem was to realise this. I played with guys for years, and never found skilled or motivated musicians, so I decided to do all by myself.
Can you tell us about the image on the album’s front cover? What does this figure represent and how does it relate to the album and the band?
The cover is an unreleased work from Finnish photograph and artist Juha Helminen. When I discovered this artist, I fell in love with his work. He denounces oppression through his work. N.K.V.D. is the same. I absolutely wanted one of its photography as a cover for Hakmarrja, and he allowed me to do it, and with a photography never released. It took time to find an agreement, that’s why first part of the promotion was made with another cover. The cover represents an unknown officer from an unknown country. It has the signification you give to it.
How did you come to work with Avantgarde Music? Why did you choose to work with them for the release of Hakmarrja?
After the recording of Hakmarrja, I was looking for a new label, and I wanted to cross a threshold. I contacted Avantgarde Music, because it is a legendary label, they always had bands from different styles, and great bands. But, to be honest, at the time, I didn’t believe they would sign N.K.V.D. I received quickly an email from Roberto, the boss of Avantgarde Music, he said that he enjoyed Vlast, and that he enjoyed even more the new album. It was amazing. And we found an agreement. Avantgarde Music did a great job for Hakmarrja. They had the balls to sign a band like N.K.V.D, which is a lot of times badly considered, on an ideological point of view.
What does the future hold for N.K.V.D. ? Is there more music in the pipeline?
Yes, we started to record a new album called Autokrator. It will be heavy and darker than the music done before, with more death metal and sludge influences. And we will come back to Diktatura and Vlast brutality. It will feature a real drummer, for the first time.
Any plans for shows? And what would be the ideal setting for a N.K.V.D. show?
We have no plans to play live. The only condition to play live would be to be part of a great show or a festival with the conditions to do a great show. And as the musicians I work with are from different countries, it would require finding skilled musicians to play next to me.
Thanks again for taking time out for this interview. Do you have any closing words for our readers?
Thanks for your interest for N.K.V.D.