This interview was done with Joseph of Noctuary. Questions by U. Amtey
1. I'm going to start this interview in the same way that I have been doing a few others lately: namely, by stating that I don't want to be redundant by asking for a complete band history or a relation of your 'influences'. What I would like to ask, however, is how you feel about the state of the American black metal scene right now, as we speak. Is it healthy - truly? Do you feel that the American scene can match the power and originality displayed by other national scenes around the world? Is America just too large to form one cohesive scene? Is it possible for the American bands to influence each other or do you find that this would be counter-productive? What do you think is the particular strength of the American scene? The weakness?
I have two opinions on the "health" issue. In many ways it is healthy, because we're having more killer bands on our shores, which is helping us grow strong. In others ways it's bad, the horrible "poser" bands for example. Too many young bands don't really have a clue of what the scene is about and they're playing "black metal" because it's evil and they want a dark, "spooky" image.
I definitely think American bands can display the power and originality of black metal bands from other countries. Our environment is different, which gives us a different perspective on life, and life influences our thought and, in turn, our creation.
I think any band could be influenced by a band/musician from any country without being counter productive. It would be counter productive to rip off their influences, rather than gain influence from the bands. It would be just as counter productive if an American band ripped off a Norwegian band. Our strengths are in the strong willed personas of the US scene... the good bands and people in our scene who support it and help it to grow strong. Our weaknesses are the kids who start bands because they worship Norway. The kids who want to live on the "cold" mountains of Norway because they like Emperor.
2. How does Noctuary see itself situated in the American scene, or the worldwide black metal scene? What I mean is: do you ever get tired of paying lip service to bands that you don't really admire in any way? Do you really take the American scene seriously - do you feel that if offers a viable alternative to what is coming out of Europe? Do you feel that the rest of the scene understands what Noctuary is trying to accomplish in its music? What sets Noctuary apart from all of the other bands? Is it important to you to claim some kind of distinction in the scene, or would you be satisfied with being considered as just a proponent of a certain style?
Noctuary are fellow warriors on the war against Christ. I can understand when someone may compare us to another band who we may have no respect for. It doesn't really bother us. I do and have taken the US black metal scene seriously for a very long time. I was always glad to see fellow US warriors spreading the hatred since the Lycanthropy, Nefilim, Demoncy, and Black Funeral demos. I don't really consider US black metal as an alternative to European black metal, or vice versa. I think US black metal does stand up and both sides of the world have excellent bands, same with the East Asian countries. I don't know if the rest of the scene understands what were doing musically, and I really don't care. Our influences and environment set us apart from other bands. We don't duplicate our influences as some other bands may, we try to learn from them and take different ideas and mold them into our own. It's not important for us to claim any distinction, many will say we are a "this, or this" type of a black metal band, which doesn't bother us. As long as we know what we're doing we're fine.
3. What do you think it takes to remain original in the black metal scene? Is it even possible? What musical elements do you think it takes to create a ' black metal' band - what goes into the particular sound of a band that makes it 'black metal'? Does the term really mean anything anymore? Do you ever get tired of all the categories that music 'journalists' invent to label music with? Do you think musicians really care about such distinctions? Do you think categories have a detrimental effect on the music scene?
I think it takes a very broad musical background to maintain originality in the black metal scene. If you only listen to Darkthrone, Graveland, and Beherit your music will, most likely, sound similar to those bands. But if your influences and musical knowledge has a wide range, the possibilities are endless. I'm not saying Noctuary is truly original, nor am I saying we are trying to be, and neither are many bands... it is easy to have originality, but original doesn't always mean good. Honestly, there are so many different types of bands who "claim" to be "black metal," but it doesn't even matter anymore. The term lost it's meaning when the trend grew years ago. I don't really know if the categories are detrimental, but they are necessary to distinguish one type of music from another.
4. Why do you think so many black metal bands are starting to incorporate death metal influences in their music now? Does this point to a new trend, or is it just the inevitable result of genre cross-pollination? Do you think that this 'new' style offers important possibilities for exploration? Is it just the fact that so many black metal musicians playing now started listening to death metal before they had even heard of black metal? Do you think either of the genres is more relevant to our age (the present time in history) than the other?
For some bands it's a trend. For others it's could be what you suggest, and others have had that influence since the beginning. It can offer more to explore, unless they just rip off from past death metal bands. Death metal has been overly explored in the last 15 years or so... but, if they can add elements from death metal into black metal without recreating sounds which have been explored already, then that's fine by me. Neither genre is more or less relevant to our time.
5. Why do you think the black metal scene witnessed such an enormous explosion in popularity after the events of '91-'93? Was it just a new trend or was it something else? Is black metal a new evolution in the aspect that it reflects the world with more clarity than earlier forms of music? Was black metal seen as a progression past the limitations of death metal, something that offered new vehicles and/or possibilities for expression? What initially attracted you to black metal? Is there something in this style of music that touches you in a way that other musical styles can't? Why do you continue to be involved in the scene, other than you have a vested interest in the form of your band?
I think all of what you suggest are the reasons for the "popularity explosion" of black metal. Some of it was trend, some of it was just getting tired of the same old sound and people were looking for something new. What attracted me to black metal was the melody. I was mainly a fan of metal, e.g.: Ozzy, Metallica, Maiden, Megadeth, Motorhead... and I really didn't care much for death metal, except for Hypocrisy, Dismember and Carcass. When I heard Emperor's demo I was blown away with the use of melody and keyboards, it was very interesting and emotional. Although I never became a big fan of Emperor, I did broaden my horizons and started picking up some black metal albums and gathered demos from bands around the world. Black metal, to me, was more of an art form. A medium for expressing emotion and feeling, more so than other forms of metal. That's what keeps me interested in the scene. It is more from the heart than other metal, in my opinion.
6. Do you feel that black metal is a lifestyle that transcends the music itself? If so, what are the tenets of this philosophy? How does it reflect the modern world - what kind of statement does the black metal lifestyle make about our society and the current state of the world, if any? Do you think it's possible to be 'black metal' without being a musician? Do musicians have a special faculty that allows them insight into this lifestyle that others can not hope to grasp?
It can be a lifestyle, it depends on who you are talking to. I personally believe in everything I "preach." There's not just one philosophy in the black metal scene these days, so it's really hard to say. Everything from politics to religion are the focus of many of today's bands. I don't really know if black metal makes any one cohesive statement of the current state of the world. I would say that it's possible to be "black metal" if one cares that much to be "black metal." I think a lot of musicians/bands don't really understand what it means to be "black metal" as some non-musician fans do. You have to be in the scene for long enough to really understand what being "black metal" is.
7. What kind of experiences lead you to compose this form of music? Do you feel that black metal offers you a method of expression that other forms of music can not - i.e., that this style of music is particularly cathartic when it comes to emotions or experiences that overwhelm you? Do you feel that writing music in such a fashion is positive in that it allows you these cathartic situations, or negative because being involved with such dark music tends to draw you back into experiences that only serve to reinforce your negative emotions? Do you think its possible to write 'positive' music that doesn't just gloss over all the problems you are experiencing - in other words is it possible to retain your integrity as a 'positive' musician?
I have had the same experiences of all other human beings, for the most part. Nothing particularly unusual. Black metal offers me a method of expression, but that is not the only type of music in which I can express myself best. I also study idiomatic music, such as in classical, baroque, romantic, 20th Century and Minimalism. I compose pieces which would be considered positive and negative. The music really doesn't remind me of experiences, it's more of a closure. I don't really think there is room for positive music in the black metal scene because black metal is dark, violent music. If it was happy music, I'm sure it wouldn't be called black metal, since black implies sorrow, hatred and blasphemy.
8. On a lighter note - what form of music can we expect from Noctuary in the immediate future? What do you hope your music will sound like in a year, or five years from now? Do you think you are constantly progressing as a musician, or are notions of 'progression' overrated? What form would your progression take? Are there certain things that you want to add to Noctuary's sound that are not there now?
Noctuary will always perform a violent and emotionally charged form of metal, for as long as we exist. We our currently working on the follow up to our debut, which will be titled "When Fires Breed Blood." I don't really hope for the music to sound like anything specific in the future, we'll see where time takes us. I definitely think we are progressing as musicians. With everything I learn in my studies, it helps me to bring some new ideas to our particular brand of black metal. We try to be as creative as possible without getting too technical and losing our spirit. As far as new things I want to add to Noctuary's sound, we have added some more interesting harmonizing techniques which will be prevalent on our next album. There are no certain instruments or effects I would like to add, but there are some techniques that will be used on "When Fires Breed Blood" that I would like to explore further on future songs.
9. How do you go about writing your lyrics - are there particular situations, emotions, or environments that you find especially inspiring? Do you deliberately seek inspiration sometimes? Do you think you have accurately captured in your lyrics the spirit of what you imagine Noctuary to be? Do they effectively convey the emotions that you are trying to express? What part does ideology play in your lyrics? Are there certain messages, political or personal, that you find yourself returning to over and over again? Do you think that music is an ideal method for transferring (communicating) these ideas to other people? What few messages would you really like your audience to take away from a listening of Noctuary?
I don't know if there are any particular environments or situations that are especially inspiring. Life inspires us in writing music and lyrics. Living inspires life, life inspires art. I think we have captured our emotion into our art to the best of our ability. The only reoccurring message in our lyrics is blasphemy. We are here to help to destroy the divine light. Christianity is the plague of humanity... Besides the anti-Christian message, we have experiences written in song and word, we want our audience to be able to relate to our lyrics and find their own meaning for our lyrics. We're not really passing on a message as much as we're expressing our thoughts.
10. Alright, I'm going to go ahead and close this interview out with a final question: when can we expect new material from Noctuary and what are the details of its recording and release? Is there anything else planned for the band that you want to add - or any other information that our readers need? Please take the space here to say anything you want...
"When Fires Breed Blood," a concept album, will be released by March 2000. It will be 8 songs which tell the story of Armageddon through our eyes. We also have an exclusive track for the US black metal comp "An Evil Elite" which is being put out by Lost Disciple Records and we covered "Die Hard" for an upcoming Venom tribute. Hails to the US Hordes!