[interview by nichtig]
We invite you to read the interview with Vomit Orchestra. About music, drugs and altered states of mind and consciousness. Have a nice trip!
What drugs have had the strongest impact on your life and creativity? What would be the proportion of their negative and positive effects?
I suppose the drug that has had the strongest impact on my life would be alcohol, in the sense that it is a very destructive drug with little to no redeeming value. If you mean in a positive sense, it would be broken down into “eras”.
I used a lot of marijuana when I was younger, which gave me fantastical ideas and surely influenced large amounts of the old Vomit Orchestra material (all of my music recorded as a teenager, for that matter). I could hear music clearer, and I found other moods and atmospheres while stoned off my ass in the middle of the woods for hours on end. The negative side of marijuana should be obvious- it turns people into lethargic morons after a while.
Somewhere along the line I started taking amphetamines, which helped me stay focused while recording, and much of what I now know about recording techniques I learned while on amphetamines. I’ll always be thankful for that aspect. The negative? Amphetamines are absolute shit after you’ve been on them for a few months, and will destroy your creativity by forcing you to focus on the most mundane, meaningless details imaginable. When you do that, you get burnt out, and you stop. Amphetamines are the reason there weren’t any Vomit Orchestra releases from 2007 onward; I had burnt myself out, and it took years, even after I’d quit, for me to want to record music again. I had to start from the beginning again (four-track recordings) and work my way back into the digital realm, like some sort of bizarre rebirth. That’s where the Nod project came from (which I’ll discuss later).
Benzodiazepines are an interesting one, in that on one hand they kill the anxiety that might come along with trying to compose a new song, but if you don’t write down what you wrote, or record it, you aren’t going to fucking remember it!
LSD is a great drug for creativity, but I cannot possibly imagine recording anything of use on it. It seems like the sort of thing where whatever you are doing makes sense under the influence, but would sound incredibly dull and useless after you sober up. I have one recording that I made on LSD, where I played drums and a friend played flute. While it is very interesting, it’s also entirely useless and bizarre, when compared to how we thought it sounded at the time.
Opiates are the only drug worth a shit when it comes to creativity, and that’s only because they don’t seem to have a lot to do with it one way or another- they just help me want to get off my ass and “be creative”, so they serve as a fuel. The entire “Eptirconvellere” album was recorded and mixed under the influence of an opiate prescription after a hospital stay. The negative aspect there is that they are clearly addictive and will destroy your life if you let yourself become an addict. At that point, I can’t imagine they serve any “fuel” type function. They just make you a loser.
I need to stress, though, that the biggest thing that has affected my creativity has been the fact that I am naturally a creative and curious person. If anything, drug use hindered my creative outlet at a certain point in my life. Vomit Orchestra wasn’t formed as a “drug band”, and while I’m sure drugs have affected a lot of what I’ve done musically, the bigger picture here is that drugs were just one of a multitude of life experiences I’ve had that have shaped who I am and how I approach art. If you take drugs out of the equation, the rest of what influenced my life and how I make music would still be there.
One of your new compositions is titled Lorazepam (I’m on it at the moment, haha). While I was lying in the dark, convolving in pain (pyrogenic injection), it came to my mind to ask you about a couple of things. What kind of a role do psychoactive substances play in your life? Have you ever experienced drug induced psychosis and have had to be hospitalized? How would you compare the suffering, which can be brought with drug use, to physical and psychical sufferings, that people inflict upon one another?
Well, I have been a drug user with varying degrees of frequency for over half my life. It’s always been a hobby, not an addiction. Any time I saw it becoming a potential problem, I simply stopped for a while. My interest and use peaked about seven or eight years ago, however. I have experienced enough drugs with enough regularity to find them generally dull and uninteresting these days. Most of the drugs I use now are prescribed to me for a legitimate ailment, and I simply enjoy them while I have them. The song Lorazepam, for instance, is called as such because I was given a massive shot of that particular drug in the hospital to save my life during a series of seizures a week or so before recording the song. The entire “Eptirconvellere” album is about that event.
I have never been hospitalized for drug-related psychosis, but I have had drugs induce a sort of psychosis in me while being hospitalized. When I was younger, I had pretty severe insomnia. At one point I hadn’t slept much in days, and it was causing me serious problems. So I was taken to the hospital. When I arrived I was injected with a benzodiazepine, the name of which I cannot remember. The dosage must have been fairly high, because I began having very vivid hallucinations while laying in the hospital bed. I saw energy coming out of the electrical sockets, some of it directly at my face. In the hallway, there were these weightless, square nets consisting of “white energy” and “black energy”, one chasing the other back and forth down the hallway, sort of pulled through the air like jellyfish, or leaves blowing upward during an Autumn day. A bit later, they all went the same way, down the hall to the left, and from the right side a figure appeared who was wrapped up in these nets, but in a sort of dark grey shade, not black or white. Its face kept changing shapes, always appearing as some sort of ancient Roman bust, and although it wouldn’t look at me, I recognized that it acknowledged me. I immediately realized that this was Death, and it walked the halls of the hospital. As it passed to the left, a couple last “energy nets” followed behind it, and then the hallucination stopped. It was without a doubt the most vivid hallucination I’ve ever had, and it didn’t occur on any psychedelic drug. My guess is that it was caused by my insomnia coupled with a substance that furthered my exhaustion.
You’re not unfamiliar with experiencing the abyss / altered states of consciousness. Do you consider yourself as a polytheist, an occultist, a heretic or do such “things” make no sense to you?
I’m interested in my own experiences, and that’s about it. I cannot put words to it, typically. I’m an epileptic, for instance – and the experience of a seizure is a very surreal, almost spiritual experience for me prior to and immediately after it occurs. What name shall I put on that? How can I explain that to a “normal” person who has never experienced an aura before? I cannot. It’s something far more real and grounded in empirical observation than any occult bookstore mumbo jumbo, and I’m willing to bet, based on all ancient views of epileptics, a much more powerful spiritual tool. There’s a reason so many of us have done so much in the realm of both spirituality and art.
So no, I’m really not interested in studying the occult, although I do find the study of different religions interesting from time to time from a philosophical standpoint. At one point I was very interested in the occult, but philosophy by itself is far more interesting to me without the need for any sort of ritualization. If that’s necessary for some people to focus their thoughts and better their minds, then that is great. It’s not necessary for me.
If you’re actually a practicing occultist / Chaos magus, how long did it take to move from the assimilation of theoretical principle to acting itself? What would be your advice for a novice in the occult realm?
My advice, based on what I said before, would simply be to base all views and actions on your own perceptions of reality, forgoing the structures and rigors of any set of guidelines. It’s far more rewarding and far more grounded in reality – your reality.
What’s your opinion on the direction in which went your former co-musician Emit? Are you two still in touch?
Emit will always be one of my favorite recording projects. Very few things are so unique, in any artform – and I truly mean that. I can hear 10 seconds of any recording and know immediately if Michael was involved or not. That is rare in an artist, and shows his skill level. He is by no means a former co-musician, as we are still in touch and still share ideas, plan collaborations, etc. He’s my longest-running contact, and friend really, that I made in the “music scene”.
A propos the use of violin on your latest LP, or more specifically, the conjoining of electronic music with classical instruments: the effect, in my humble opinion, transgresses the orchestral A Winged Victory for the Sullen, for instance. Not without a reason, both projects are phenomenologically extremely different – “Eptirconvellere” is like a place, where that which is music-wise close to Sacrum meets the destructive, transgressive face of what Georges Bataille named ‘informite’. Am I listeninig to Eptirconvellere correctly?
Well, there is no right or wrong way to listen to it, as it’s down to the listener to decide for his or herself what it means and why it exists. I really cannot make that decision for you. In fact, I’m not sure that I’m even allowed to have an opinion on the matter, as the creator.
How did you come to cooperation, you and sb (the man responsible for the violin on “Eptirconvellere”)? A truly unique music conjunction, I’d even say rather lighthandedly, that a piano album such as “Peaceful Snow” by DiJ & Miro Snejdr, is simply miserable in comparison to what you two just did.
Thank you for the compliment. Actually, “SB” is a female, but I’m sure she would appreciate your complimenting her playing. I directed the mood of the violin piece, but she improvised my ideas over the top of the recording, so it was really her “feel”. I met her through my wife, as they have been friends for many years. I hope we can do other things together, but I never really know what my collaborations will look like – or if there will be collaborations at all. It really depends on what the song calls for. For instance, I cannot imagine violin on any of the other songs on the album. We tried a few, and it simply did not fit at all. In the future, if violin is required I’d gladly ask for her help again, and if not, I’d ask somewhere else.
What’s the situation with you solo project NOD – has it been put on hold? I hope not. Maybe the “Iokanaan” EP you’re about to issue via your Static Grief Industry, incorporates what was primarily designed under the NOD moniker?
There’s a lot of confusion on what Nod was. It wasn’t really a solo thing, as much as it was a way to develop my recording abilities again after I had quit in 2007.
For that matter, Nod was really just a low-key version of Vomit Orchestra, a way of doing Vomit Orchestra-type material without any expectations, and with a lot of collaborations. No one was originally supposed to know about it, other than close contacts. Those tapes were recorded just for friends when I was starting to record music again, to show them what I was doing. But I made the mistake of talking about it, and then decided that I might as well just show people what was done. It was recorded with all of the same equipment as the Vomit Orchestra material in the exact same way. In fact, the first three tapes were originally called VO. So for all intents and purposes, Nod is Vomit Orchestra – just not in name. All of that material will probably get re-released in public form eventually.
As for Iokanaan, it is sort of similar to the old demos and “The Aura of Saints” EP, I suppose… which themselves are similar to Nod.
What do you think – shall we live long enough to experience the collapse of the rotten system of what is left of Western culture? Or perhaps you’re not as pessimistic as one would think?
I think western culture is an ever-evolving thing; it cannot collapse, therefore. The “collapse” itself would just be the new face of western culture! A person’s view of a culture’s demise is a matter of where their values are placed within that culture. The Third Reich saw western society crumbling in a way that the United States saw it thriving, for instance, at the exact same point in history.
As for pessimism, I would say that I’m an optimist. People around me would completely disagree with me (my wife laughed at me when I asked her if she thought I was optimistic…), but I find that within my extreme negativity, there’s a bizarre sort of cynical optimism.
Concerning Vrolok, two of your songs were of particular meaning to me – “Nightfall” and “The Funeral” (Dark Pestilence cover from the “Melancholia” cassette tape). Maybe it’s not the best way to ask about such things, but please say a word on how your artistic evolution may develop or regress in the months and years to come.
It’s really hard to say. I don’t necessarily plan that sort of thing out. The biggest influence in how I approach art is just a curiosity for sounds, for different atmospheres, and how I can put the atmosphere I’ve created in my head onto tape. I always try and challenge myself with Vomit Orchestra to create new tones, patterns, and evoke different, weirder emotions. Emotions that aren’t immediately recognizable, even- things that exist between other emotions, more obscure feelings.
With Vrolok, it was a whole other thing. I’m not sure I have any of that band left in me, as it wasn’t very imaginative in that regard. It was purely philosophy-driven, and I no longer have anything I want to say through my music, as I said all I needed to say. I just want to show people emotions and feelings, sounds, realms within themselves they didn’t know existed. Anything outside of that is, frankly, very boring to me. Will that change in the future? Possibly, as I can’t know for sure. But at least for the time being, this is all that I want to do.
Also, something that I’ll acknowledge, as it’s been 12 years now- Dark Pestilence was actually a Vomit Orchestra project. I wish I still had that material, but it’s been lost.
You said that you’re not sure if you still have any of Vrolok left in you, and that made me wonder – do you keep returning to black metal music, even from time to time? Which simply begs the question, what are you listening to these days?
Vrolok is a very specific feeling and “event” for me, and I can’t put myself into that authentically these days. I don’t know if that will change in the future, but it would certainly be inauthentic of me to pretend that I somehow fit into that context right now. The way I see Vrolok is sort of how I might see an old pair of favorite jeans that don’t fit anymore – they are full of holes, they no longer fit, but it’s impossible to throw them away. I keep hoping they fit – but with age, it just seems less and less likely. Unless I get AIDS or something.
I still listen to black metal more than any other sort of music. I cannot imagine that ever changing. Just because I cannot see myself fitting into the context of an old band, doesn’t mean I don’t still worship the sort of music that band played. Other than that, I listen to a very wide variety of things. When it comes to newer/active bands, I’ve been listening to a lot of Triangle & Rhino, Christmas, and Russian Tsarlag lately. Then of course I worship at the altar of Popol Vuh and pre-80s Tangerine Dream, so those records get spun constantly.
What’s the thing with the Vrolok / Relique split cassette tape limited to 23 copies – does this release even exist?
It was actually limited to 46 copies, but yes, it exists. The Vrolok/Relique split was a recording with some of the members of the 2012 Vrolok live band. We had written a couple of new songs to include in the live set, and wanted to put them down for posterity. At the same time, a few other people in our circle of friends (as well as the guys who played rhythm guitar and bass in Vrolok) started a band called Relique, in order to play one show and record one EP. So, we put the two recordings onto a tape, and released them at each band’s first live show- 23 copies at the first Vrolok show in New York City (using a white cover), and 23 copies at the first Relique show in Pittsburgh (using a yellow cover). I can’t speak for the Relique side, but the Vrolok side will probably never be reissued. It was put out exclusively for people at those two shows.
Some might say your music is still rather minimalistic, but then I’d say your recent LP reveals a Vomit Orchestra more refined than ever – complex and expanded. Have you ever thought about re-recording some of your older songs, apart from what you did with “Dying”? I’d say they could use some additional arrangements and a fresh glance.
Not really. Vomit Orchestra has a sort of constant evolution, but it’s not really an evolution where something minimal later takes on a “bigger” approach. It doesn’t work like that. A more layered sound is just what the new album, Eptirconvellere, called for. Nothing says that the next album won’t be closer to Antecrux, which was far more sparse. Nothing says it won’t incorporate a symphony orchestra, either. It’s all about being tasteful to the context, and being authentic to whatever inspired the artistic spark to begin with. A lot of songs on Antecrux consisted of one or two guitar tracks with some background sounds created with effects loops- that could not have worked on Eptirconvellere. Just as including drums, more instrumentation, removing the electronic elements, etc would not have worked on Antecrux. Dying was re-recorded because the original song (on the experimental Bridges Burnt EP) was a sonic experiment, to create a melody and sound that I heard in a dream about drowning using backwards guitars and electronics. The re-recording was made because I wanted to see if I could recreate some of that using live instrumentation, and because it fit the theme of the album. It was a rare exception, therefore.
So you do everything music-wise fully analog, not using any of the software which – as I suppose – most of newer electronic music makers exploit? How hard is it to obtain necessary knowledge and skills?
I record some material analog (such as the last bunch of EPs and all of the VO demos), but “Eptirconvellere” was recorded digitally. It was recorded organically, however- meaning that it wasn’t altered with effects in post-production, and I didn’t use synthesizer software to enhance the recording. There’s a time and a place for messing around with electronics (and I have no problem with that in general), but when people start using software to mask the fact that they aren’t using real instruments, I have a problem with it. It’s cheap, it’s effortless, and it’s plastic. The same people will bitch about pop music being vapid, which is really ironic. I needed violin on this album, so do you know what I did? I went and found a violin player! I also needed a Hammond organ on a couple of tracks. Did I torrent software? No, I went and bought a fucking Hammond organ, and learned to play it well enough that I could record the parts where it was needed. I also built a synthesizer instead of manipulating samples on a computer. I put in actual effort, as an actual musician should.
By all means, warp sounds, mess with things, make as much noise with a computer as you want, if that’s what your intention is (maybe try it without a computer first, though, as all of those things can be done with proper equipment)- but don’t program a synth cello and try and get away with saying it’s a cellist.
As compared to another ‘lone wolf’ of the (post) black metal scene, namely Wrest of Leviathan / Lurker of Chalice, you two – at least in my eyes – have grown into the biggest individualities on these outskirts of music and from the other side of the ocean – and that’s why any collaboration would be more than great to hear, as well as –I suppose – highly unlikely to come?
Well, I think that would be pretty difficult right out of the gate, because I don’t know the guy. We have close mutual friends, but we’ve never met or spoken. I’m not familiar with Lurker of Chalice, but I like the Leviathan material I have heard. I recorded the intro to the Krieg side of the Krieg/Leviathan split, and that ended up being my favorite release of 2014. The Leviathan track was really good. The thing is, I’ve heard comparisons of our bands from people for years and years, which I think has kept me from looking closer into his discography. It’s sort of a bruised ego coping mechanism. I’m very juvenile in that sense.
“Dying” from “Eptirconvellere” is certailny your most ‘noisy’ track out there, but ‘Hypodermic’ walks hand in hand. Noise as a music genre seems very pretentious to me, apart from what people like Kevin Drumm are working on – namely, transcending nearly all musical genre borders. What’s your opinion on this ‘genre’ of (anti)music?
I really don’t have much of an opinion, as I don’t typically listen to much of that sort of thing. I’m obsessed with sounds, all sounds in fact, but I’m more interested in the sounds I can create using amps and equipment in the spare room in my house than I am in a cassette tape someone else recorded. I find it way more fascinating to see what sort of sounds I can pull from different sources – that’s what grabs me. I have tons of unreleased recordings made with my fish tank, effects, the sound of my neighbor shoveling snow, all manipulated with various pieces of hardware to where they are unrecognizable from their original form. Some people wouldn’t be interested in doing that, though, and would rather listen to what someone else does. My own noisier EP recordings, for instance – those have an audience, and it’s a somewhat different audience from the people who like the full-lengths. I’m very grateful for that. In regards to the “Eptirconvellere” tracks mentioned, I actually don’t see “Dying” or “Hypodermic” as noisy, but then I guess that shows my intention versus how it’s perceived by others. Always fascinating, isn’t it?
But to the question, it seems obvious that anyone can pretty much make “noise recordings” at the most basic level, but then anyone can paint, too, right? Pretentiousness might play a part in some of it, but if it’s coming from a genuine place, I don’t think it can be called pretentious at all.
Questions by nichtig; Answers by Blewcheer, conducted 11.01.-02.02.2015 AYPS