ANAAL NATHRAKH – Still learning
ANAAL NATHRAKH is right now between two albums; the previous one called "Passion" and the new upcoming album entitled "Vanitas". Eternal Terror’s Rune Grande caught up with V.I.T.R.I.O.L. for a not-regular conversation concerning the bands history, how Dave sees the world today and the live thingy.
What can you say about "Passion" that has not already been said?
Not a great deal, I shouldn’t think – it’s been out a year or so now. It was an interesting album for us – I don’t think it sounds like any other band, but it sounded a little clearer and there was more of an accent on melancholic sounds. That’s neither good nor bad, it was what we wanted to do at the time, and the tracks we’ve played live from it have worked very well. And of course people who were new to the band probably thought it was chaotic ear raping insanity. But people who were familiar with us may have thought it was slightly laid back, if that’s possible with an album full of horrific screaming and blast beats. To us it was just a bit more personal sounding.
There have been two years between the last three Anaal Nathrakh albums. Does that mean the next one will be released next spring? Or do you have any other exciting news for us on the coming album?
It will be sooner than that – the provisional date we’ve been told by the label is October this year. We handed it over to the label, complete with artwork etc a few weeks ago – we recorded most of it at the end of last year, but we’ve been working on the production etc. for quite some time. Compared to Passion, I think it has a lot more punch, and more malevolence. It will be called Vanitas.
You have been signed on a few labels; Mordgrimm, Season of Mist, Feto and now Candlelight. Would you say it’s been a natural travel between labels for you?
I’m not entirely sure what natural means in this context, but I think so, yeah – relationships with labels are often slightly weird, because it means there’s someone else who has a view on what you should do and when, which in our case isn’t something we’re used to outside of our dealings with record companies – the rest of the time we do whatever we like. And their motivations are different. But there haven’t been any court cases or anything like that, and each time a deal has ended (they’re usually for a set number of albums), we’ve just decided to look around and see what else was out there. It’s a learning process. It was a bit different with the FETO release because we were doing it ourselves then, but that worked out pretty much just as well as any of the other albums we’ve done. To be honest though, we’re far more interested in making and playing music than we are in any of the rest of it. A good label can help you do those things and give you some money to make it happen. That’s about all we’re interested in.
Mick was missing during your gig at the Inferno Festival in April. What happened there?
He had visa issues – he lives most of the time in the states now, and it got a bit annoying and complicated for a while. It ended up meaning that he missed a number of shows over quite a period of time. We were fortunate in that we had friends who could step in for the shows, but obviously it was far from ideal for us just as much as for the fans. But everything’s sorted out now, no more red tape. Mick is thankfully free to play whenever we have a show.
This is your third gig in Norway. You must like it up here?
Absolutely, Norway is one of my favourite places out of those we’ve been to. The climate, the scenery, the fact that there aren’t all that many people there, comparatively speaking. A lot of people think about what they’d do if they had a lot of money all of a sudden, a lottery win or something like that, and personally I think I’d buy a log cabin in Scandinavia. Possibly somewhere in the Bergen area, it’s beautiful up there. I have lived all my life in cities, and although I often loathe the forced interaction with people in big cities, I also need the stimulation as well. But somewhere remote that’s still within striking distance of a large population centre, that would be ideal.
There have been a lot of sayings after your gig in Oslo during this year’s Inferno Festival. Some says Anaal Nathrakh is one of the best live bands around today and some say you are The Best live band. Does stuff like this get to you or don’t you care about what the fans are saying?
Well it’s live, so by default there’s interaction with the fans, and so yeah, we care about what they think. No one wants to play or be at a show where no one cares. But the reasoning is more internal than external – we will do everything in our power to give the best show we can, and that’s literally all we can do. I think people watching bands are usually perceptive enough to make their own minds up, and the most important thing is being committed to the show, making it something you believe in. If you don’t, the people will know. And if you do, they’ll pick up on that and go crazy/enjoy/respect it.
Being in an extreme metal band like Anaal Nathrakh today is almost like being a top athlete. It requires a lot of you to manage to give the fans what they expect, especially on stage. We all know that athletes train an insane amount of hours to be sure they are able to give absolutely everything in competitions. What about you, do you train a lot to be sure you’re able to give everything on stage?
I do actually try to exercise and stay reasonably fit, though lately I’ve lapsed because I have a lot of stuff I need to do which requires sitting reading or writing at a computer. But I suspect a lot of people in bands who would answer yes to that question would actually still be doing it anyway, regardless of playing shows. But the main thing about playing music is mental, I think, or perhaps emotional – you can have a herculean physique and be able to sprint marathons, but noone will care about your music if it doesn’t say anything worth hearing. Conversely you can be sickly or at least not athletic and not care about winning fights and people will love your music because of what you put into it – eg Kurt Cobain or Radiohead or whoever. Having said that, Anaal Nathrakh is particularly physically demanding for me at least. It’s not uncommon for me not to remember much of our shows, or to pretty much collapse after walking off stage. That doesn’t change no matter how much exercise or preparation I do, because the reason it happens isn’t because I’m not up to doing the show, but rather because whatever the circumstances I empty everything I have into doing the show. Not to impress people or hurt myself or anything like that, but simply because that’s what is required. Do it like you mean it or don’t bother.
What amazes you the most in the world we are living in?
The things we don’t know. And the arrogant vanity of people. Do you know that we as a species don’t understand consciousness, for example? Forget the big things like the origin of life, we don’t fully know what it is to have a thought. Certain branches of neuroscience have even come round to saying that free will is an illusion. Or a different kind of thing – in modern industrial capitalism, the market is essentially the same thing as a capricious god. Ok, it’s a massively gestalt entity rather than a being, but it is no less out of the control and comprehension of mortal humans. The vast majority of people have never even heard of Black-Scholes, for example, yet those mathematical innovations shaped a huge proportion of our current world. Or look upwards – cosmology. Trying to understand that red shifting isn’t because of velocity through space, but rather because space itself is stretching amazes me. That sort of thing. It’s one of the things that makes me bitter about mortality – I want to see what happens.
And what pisses you off?
Everything. Literally. I cannot think of a single thing that has been a source of joy that hasn’t also been a source of pain, frustration or anger.
The lyrics of Anaal Nathrakh have never been for the public and I won’t ask about them, but do stuff like the changes in the world today, especially the extreme weather and natural disasters as earthquakes, volcanos, tsunamis, hurricanes, super storms etc., is this something you think about when you write lyrics?
I find those things awesome, tragic, terrifying, exhilarating. But in order for natural disasters to fit precisely with the Anaal Nathrakh mindset, I’d either have to be an animist or think there was some kind of supernatural intention behind them. Neither of which is the case. As metaphors, yes, but not as realities. Though the climate issues, yes, to the extent that they are the result of human actions. Or actually, to contradict myself a bit, I like the idea of a Gaia theory – that the increasing prevalence of extreme weather patterns etc is a result of the planet getting sick of us, and eventually it will expunge us. Really, it’s a fucking good job that animism isn’t true, because we’d deserve a collective ass kicking. And we may well get one anyway. But then I have a rather odd way of interpreting the existence of supernatural entities. But more generally, the concerns in Anaal Nathrakh are more human. The misanthropy is a reaction to the reality of the human world. It has more in common with Edvard Munch than it does with Thor or Thangorodrim.
You told me once that you try to have at least one new type of vocals for every new album. How is that going?
I’m still doing it. Admittedly you’d probably notice it less because there’s a lot going on both in the music and in the vocals, but there’s at least one thing on the new album that I don’t think I’ve done before. It’s not really something I’m bothered about anyone paying attention to, it’s more a part of an internal mindset of continually trying to push yourself. Until you can do something akin to a weirding module from the film adaptation of Dune, there’s always further to go vocally. The new album is particularly strong in terms of the vocals, I think. The styles, the atmospheres and so on. When we recorded it, I was shut in a tiny windowless room with no lights save the LED on the mic, so the sound was my whole reality, if you see what I mean. Very focused.
Bands do not make money on record sales anymore and they have to tour more today than earlier to keep it going. Is this why Anaal Nathrakh play more live nowadays or do you do it just for the fun? You even have your first tour planned in November.
We play live more nowadays because we want to. It’s not actually our first tour, we’ve done a couple of short European tours, a few dates around the UK/Ireland with Marduk and so on. Though it is true that a large part of our shows has been festivals, and we haven’t done any particularly long tours. Bands need to get paid to play live, obviously, there are costs involved and unless you’re independently wealthy you need to generate at least some money from the things you spend a lot of your time doing. But the thing we’re interested in about playing live is the experience of doing it. Seeing new places, feeling the songs in a way that’s impossible outside of playing live and so on. It’s practical for us to do so now, and we’re lucky enough to be in a position where a good proportion of the shows we’re offered are interesting enough for us to want to do them. So that’s why we play more than we used to.
Anaal Nathrakh have been around for 12 – 13 years now and you have released 6 full lengths + the "When Fire Rains Down…:" EP. It’s been a lot of hate, anger, extreme music etc etc. What has changed the most and the least since the beginning in 1999?
The thing that’s probably changed the most is our understanding of what this is all about. In every sense – both internally in terms of us understanding the music we make and the ideas involved, but also externally in terms of our understanding of how being in a band works. When you start out, you’re full of creativity but aren’t sure how to achieve what it is you’re aiming at. I mean things like certain sounds, how to create an atmosphere, what equipment you need and so on. And you also have no clue about dealing with record labels, promoters, agents, all of that stuff is some pie in the sky thing that only happens to other people. We’re a lot more experienced in those things now. Mick is good enough at the mechanics of making music that other people seek him out and ask him to collaborate with writing, produce recordings and so on. Without wanting to sound arrogant, that has to be some kind of proof of his capabilities. And I’ve learned a lot about what I can do that makes me able to be more imaginative – not so much knowing your limitations, but having confidence in what you can do. And of course we’ve dealt with the industry side of it all for some time. We haven’t become ‘industry people’ at all, but we know our way around it. The thing that hasn’t changed at all, possibly surprisingly, is our attitude to the music itself. We still talk about odd sounds like ridiculous school children (e.g. our shared fascination for the sound of underground trains) and work together during writing and recording in exactly the same way – albeit a bit more efficiently nowadays. And that’s just the way I think it’s best to be – learn more about how to do what you want to do, but retain the excitement of what it is you’re actually doing. Our last album came out a year ago, we’ve already finished our new album, and yet we’re already talking enthusiastically about what we want to do next.
Do you have any regrets or is there anything you wish you haven’t done with Anaal Nathrakh, or have everything just been a joyride?
Imagine you’re writing a letter by hand. Most competent adults rarely make many mistakes with their handwriting, but sometimes it just happens. When it does, you cross it out or start again, but afterwards, do you regret writing the letter because of that? No, we don’t regret anything.