By Ryan Starr
Last year saw Anaal Nathrakh return with a new, very well received, album. UM caught up with V.I.T.R.I.O.L. at the end of last year but we've only just managed to get our asses in gear and do something about it. So without further ado, on to the interview.
After doing some research I’ve noticed that even in recent interviews people are still asking the standard preliminary questions about where you came from, your lyrics, etc. Do you think we can finally move past that?
I certainly hope so. We try not to begrudge people asking those sorts of questions if they genuinely don’t know the answers, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone who really wants to know that stuff hasn’t already looked on the net and found it within seconds. So really it’s just lazy journalism that’s not taking its readership into account. Nick Cave has probably the best standard answer to those questions – ‘Just fucking google it’. It’s a shame though, because if the questions are unimaginative, the answers aren’t going to be top notch either – I’m not going to rack my brains for interesting ways to spin an answer when the journalist can’t be bothered to think up an interesting question in the first place. Nothing’s going to change in the answer to ‘You don’t publish your lyrics – why?’ between the 150th time we’ve answered it and the 151st, but if someone actually thinks about it and says ‘Many black metal bands mention Nietzsche and the death of god, but you concentrated more on the madman’s role in that parable, was that an intentional change of focus?’, or if they ask Mick an equivalent question about how he structures songs or his attitudes to certain styles of production, then they’ll get a much more interesting answer.
Do you think the global metal community has finally gotten to know you?
I wouldn’t know. To mention google again, if you search for the name of the band on the net you find results from numerous different countries so at least to an extent it seems so. But I’d imagine that in most places, although people may have heard of us, we’re still thought of as pretty underground. At what point do you become ‘known’? Is it when you get parodied on Metalocalypse?
Are you comfortable with your band influencing new artists that are perhaps trying to mimic your sound?
If they want to do that then that’s fine. But to be honest if they’re trying to mimic anyone else’s sound, ours or otherwise, they’d probably be well advised to try to do something more original instead. That aside, it’s got to be a great compliment for someone to say that what you’ve done has been an influence on them. Obviously we have our own influences, and to think that aspiring musicians might think of us in the same way that we think of the people who have been influences on us is not something we’re used to, but it’s a very nice thing to hear. Not something we’d want to dwell on though; we’re not into this for an ego trip and we’re more comfortable concentrating on what we’re working on.
How has the reaction been to the latest and album? About what you expected?
Yes, roughly. The large majority of reactions I’ve seen have been very positive, including from people who’d never heard us before. That’s a pleasing thing to see. There have been a few who weren’t so keen, split roughly evenly between people who just didn’t like the music (which is fine by us) and people deciding not to as a result of their own vanity or misplaced prejudices (pretty annoying but not surprising). But yeah, most people seem to have really got into it – including us, as a matter of fact – we genuinely believe this is the best album we’ve ever done.
You have always maintained that Anaal Nathrakh has never dramatically changed its sound, but rather gotten better at writing and conveying your vision. None the less many in the black metal scene are starting to say that Anaal Nathrakh have begun to lose their way. How do you respond?
Lose our way? Hahaha! Bollocks. And to be honest your question’s not entirely accurate – it’s not a new thing for people to say that, they’ve been saying it ever since our second album moved on a bit from the first one. The truth is, if anyone thinks we’ve lost our way, they’re just highlighting the fact that they didn’t know what ‘our way’ was in the first place. Who died and made them god, for fuck’s sake? We’ve never craved the approval of scenesters and we’ve never claimed to be on a black metal mission. I love proper Black Metal, but – shock, horror! – I don’t think that every band in the world should sound like Under a Funeral Moon. If you do, fine, like I say I think it’s great music. But you stick to that and we’ll be over here with the less insecure people whose main concern is simply whether they like music themselves and don’t care what others think. The thing that does annoy me is if people say we’re fashionistas or in some way fake. That’s not the bewailing moan of a misunderstood auteur – while no band would release CDs if they didn’t hope that people out there would enjoy them, we neither expect nor want everyone in the world to continually tell us how great we are. No, it’s annoying because it just isn’t true - Mick’s primary commitment is to the music and it’s wholly genuine, I don’t know anyone else who lives and breathes music like he does. And the ideological material in Anaal Nathrakh is very important to me and if I wasn’t involved in music I’d be doing something else that expressed it. So such people are making claims without actually knowing what they’re talking about, which is a coded way of simply talking about themselves. Hmm, think I might have gone on a bit there, sorry - I’ve got a bit of a thing about egotistical critics at the moment, after an argument I had with a friend over a film review recently! Basically, our way is and always was to do things however we see fit, that’s why we sounded different to pretty much everyone else when we started, and why we sound different to pretty much everyone else now.
Do you think people are being nit pickers when saying one album is completely different than another?
No, not really. Well, completely different is going too far – it’s not even like the difference between Small Change and Alice. If you know what we sound like, you don’t need to be told that the new track you’re hearing is Anaal Nathrakh. But the albums do sound different from one another, and that’s a good thing. Bands like Bolt Thrower are famously proud of basically releasing the same album several times, but that’s not how we work.
Why did you choose to feature “Zeitgeist Memento” of Repvblika on the album and why did you pick that specific song for him?
Mick had been working with Repvblika on their album and thought that Zeitgeist was a distinctive vocalist with an unusual style. And you wouldn’t expect to hear a guy from an underground Mexican band showing up on one of our albums, which makes it a good thing to do – it keeps things more interesting that way. Why that song? It was the one that suited him the best, and I think that shows in the way that it turned out – songs on this album like the title track or Blood Eagles… are perfect for me, they’re what I do. But with the song that Zeitgeist did, I think he did a better job on it than I would have done with that track, because it fits his style more than mine. It turned out great, I love what he did with it. Plus it was also cool to see what someone with an outside viewpoint would do with a Nathrakh track – with the guest vocalists we’ve had in the past I’ve never known what they were actually singing, but Zeitgeist provided a lyric sheet for us. The tone was quite different to the way I think, it was angry but I read it as defiant rather than universally hateful, which was why I called the song Oil upon the Sores of Lepers – I have no personal disagreement with him, but the point of view of Anaal Nathrakh as an entity with its utter misanthropy would see defiance as palliative but ultimately futile. A nice little juxtaposition. We actually had one or two other cameos in mind – I asked Philip Best from Whitehouse but unfortunately he said he couldn’t do it. But he was extremely nice about it and actually quite complimentary, I felt honoured even to have received a full response. And a couple of albums ago I asked Geist from G.G.F.H., who said he was up for it, but we didn’t get time to sort it out back then. So this time we were hoping to finally work with him, only to find out that he’d sold all his gear and given up making music for good. Shame!
How is FETO records going?
Fine. It’s had a bit of a quite period recently, more about consolidation than releasing new bands, but I understand the guys are coming back around to new stuff soon. It’s good to be able to work that way – if you continually throw out everything you come across you’ll quickly burn yourself and your resources out. You can do a better job if you step back a little and take stock every now and then. I’ve a feeling there’ll be some interesting new activity in the next couple of months.
What is the current relationship with Candlelight records?
OK. They’ve put what as far as I can tell is satisfactory effort into promoting our album, and they’ve mostly been reassuringly professional to deal with. After the contract stuff is dealt with, most of a band’s dealings with a label are with the press officer, in my case it’s mostly been with Daz at the UK office, and he’s a good bloke. And the US office must be doing their job or I wouldn’t be talking to you now. Some bands like a lot of toadying, but as far as we’re concerned we don’t want the chief exec of the label bringing us flowers and chocolates – as long as the label keep in touch and do their job well then we’re happy.
As stated before, Anaal Nathrakh has never focused on shows. But those few shows you have played seem to garner an incredible response. Have any stood out?
Yes, most of them have gone really well. Hopefully that’s as a result of the fact that our habit of not playing all the time means that when we do play, it’s special both for us and for the people watching. We recently played the Brutal Assault festival in the Czech Republic and Summer Breeze in Germany, and they were amazing – we did a signing session and expected it to be a few hardcore fans to chat to, but when we got there, there was a queue well over a hundred people long waiting for autographs and photos, and then for the shows, literally thousands of people came out to watch us play. We were blown away, and very grateful to the fans for their support. Aside from those the ones that stick most in my memory are the first ever show we did (because it was packed to the rafters and the crowd went berserk) and the one at Inferno in Norway – our first foreign gig, we had no idea what to expect and the response was again phenomenal.
Do you think some fans expect an increase in shows to support the new record?
No idea, they might do. Although I don’t really see why they’d expect us to change dramatically now, as opposed to at any point in the past. Regardless, there will be a few more this time around because as we get better known, we get offered more shows that we want to play. And we’ve found that playing Anaal Nathrakh live is a really exhilarating experience. We’ve got a few more shows lined up in the near future that we’re looking forward to, and there are plans for some pretty interesting things further afield in the new year. But they’re not confirmed yet so I’ll have to leave it at that, and see what happens…
How do you go about selecting a live line up? Just friends of the band? Or are you looking for a specific person with complimentary mentality or vision?
Someone who can play the songs, and whom we can get on with. The latter being nearly as important as the former, I can’t stand dickheads and it doesn’t make any difference if they’re talented dickheads. We’ve been lucky in that we’ve never had to advertise for anyone or hold auditions or anything like that. Everyone who has played live with us has been someone we’ve known personally, and who we knew in advance would be able to handle what we do. If we did have to look outside of people we already knew it’d be interesting to who we ended up dealing with. I have a suspicion that the ‘complimentary mentality’ thing would be a stumbling block, but it’d cool to find out. Having said that, we’re very happy with the band as it is at the moment, so hopefully we won’t have to take that step.
Any updates on the various side projects? (Fukpig, Professor Fate…)
Benediction have mostly finished writing the music for the next album, in fact it’s about time for me to start writing the lyrics so we can finalise the songs and get into the studio. It’s sounding great so far. We’ll be looking at recording towards the end of this year, with the album to be released in the first half of next year. Plus it was excellent to play our recent home town show with Bolt Thrower – the bands go way back, and it was great to play with them again. Obviously playing foreign festivals etc is very cool in its own right, but there was something extra special about that night. Fukpig are currently rehearsing to play with Anaal Nathrakh at a show here in Birmingham in a couple of weeks’ time. It’ll be good to see them live, and I believe they’re intending to write some more new songs soon. Professor Fate I understand to be on hiatus – that is, Mick hasn’t abandoned the idea of releasing more material in the future, but isn’t actively planning on it in the near future. And we’re getting Mistress back together for a one off final show in October. That will be a complete horrific mess, I have no doubt.
Any other business you want to take care of?
No. Thanks for the support, and thanks to any fans out there for theirs.
Official Anaal Nathrakh myspace
Official Candlelight Records website