Phone interview conducted on April 22, 2011.
Special thanks to Jackson “Mankvill” May for helping me out with questions!
WULF: OK, so I hate to start off with questions like this but I’m legitimately curious…how has the reception been so far for “Passion” on your end?
VITRIOL: It’s been interesting, actually. There’s only been a handful of reviews that I’ve seen so far because obviously the album’s not out yet and the reviews are not creeping creeping out, but (some of the reviews that I’ve seen) didn’t like it very much, which is a little less than ideal when you’ve made an album, but I’ve seen quite a number of more positive ones now. So broadly speaking, it’s been quite good, there have been a few people that (didn’t like it), but that’s always going to happen. As for people close to us and everything, a lot of people have been very, very positive about it. A couple of people have said (it’s) some the best songs that we’ve ever done. But yeah, so far, broadly speaking, we’re happy. It’s more important for us to be happy with the album ourselves because people will say what they like, but it’s whether or not you can get on the album yourself that’s got to be your guide. We’re very happy with it, so that’s the most important reaction as far as we’re concerned.
WULF: Yeah, I would agree, but I wouldn’t agree with the negative reviews. I found “Passion” to be just as fantastic as all the other Anaal Nathrakh albums. So, anyway, I don’t know what they’re talking about. I was definitely blown away.
VITRIOL: Well thank you, I’m glad you liked it. And it’s not like all the reviews were (negative), just a couple, but I’m glad you enjoyed it.
WULF: Well thank you, for what it’s worth. But anyway, after getting the album repeated listens, judging by the song titles the subject matter on this new album is similar to other common themes on previous Anaal Nathrakh albums. However, were there any themes explored on “Passion” that were considered, lyrically, (as) new territory for the band? 2012 is looming ever-closer, after all…
VITRIOL: (laughs) Yeah, yeah. It is. We haven’t got long left. (laughs) Yeah, there were a few new angles but a lot of it, (as) I’ve mentioned to one or two other people, had to do with a paper I read about the concept of horror, and understanding what horror was as opposed to terror or anything like that, and it has to do with the victim and the experience, becoming aware in the way that they’ve been changed or by the way they’ve been corrupted or otherwise altered by the experience. A lot of this stuff on the album is sort of vaguely related to (this) idea. So…
WULF: Interesting. That’s pretty fascinating.
VITRIOL: It’s more about understanding the way in which the world and things in it and evil out there and everything has an effect on you as an individual, and that effect can be ruinous, but at the same time coming, in some self-disposing way, to
desire it in some ways. So that’s particularly the theme of the second song, for example. So, yeah…I could go on for hours if you like, but yeah, those sorts of ideas are kind of new for us. It’s a bit of a different spin rather than just “the world’s shit and we all deserve to die”.
WULF: Right, right…and while I know that Irrumator, or Mick (Kenney) writes all of the music and you write all of the lyrics, I don’t want to put words in Mick’s mouth, but does he share attitudes or ideas similar to yours that are reflected in Anaal Nathrakh’s music?
VITRIOL: Well, it depends in way you mean thoughts and ideas, but obviously, musically we’re of like mind. We wouldn’t be writing together still after a fair amount of time and still keep coming up with great stuff, so musically we’re on the same page. In terms of the more ideological stuff, that’s mostly me, but he might be slightly less…I don’t know, how could you say it? Wrathfully pessimistic about everything?
But there’s a vaguely similar sort of undercurrent that we do share, so yeah, as much as it is Mick writing the music and I do a lot of the writing and the lyrics, there is a sort of permeable barrier between the two of us. We’re both compatible with the way the other one does whatever it is that they do. So it is sort of a genuine synthesis, I suppose, you might say. Different, but mutually complementary things. Does that make sense?
WULF: Yeah, that makes sense to me! I was just curious, because especially (by) reading past Anaal Nathrakh interviews and stuff there’s definitely a…I don’t know…pessimistic…misanthropic…(attitude)? I don’t know, that’s the sense that I got. I wasn’t sure as far as if Mick was equally so, on that level.
VITRIOL: Yeah, he’s probably not quite as (inaudible) as I am.
But we’re compatible in that way.
WULF: Right, right. So on a quick separate note, what have you been reading recently? Did this play any role, as far as lyrics go, on “Passion”?
VITRIOL: Well, for the past few months I haven’t really had much choice about what I was reading because I was doing a university course. So in the immediate past, everything I’ve been reading has been the philosophy of language and things to do with the definition of happiness and stuff like that. So I suppose, in a way, it does sort of (influence) me a little bit, but no, it’s not directly relevant. The stuff I read that’s relevant at the time for stuff on the album…I said this in interviews at the time for the last album it was a book called Moment of Freedom, and that was the first book of the trilogy, and one of the songs on this album was influenced by the second book of the trilogy, called Powderhouse. There’s also some stuff by a German guy called Max Stirner who was writing in the 1800s or 1830s-40s, and that was the influence on the song “Paragon Pariah”. There’s stuff about multiple personality disorder and the reintegration of personalities into one core personality. That’s what the one with the German title on this album (“Tod Huetet Uebel”) is about. So it’s more bits and pieces rather than one book or something that had a massive impact and took over the album. It’s bits and pieces of various different things, but I’ve read quite a lot of interesting stuff, I’ve been lucky to have found it, so the bits and pieces are there and are also fascinating.
WULF: Yeah, I’d love to check out some of the stuff you’re talking about, because especially with the multiple personality thing, I’ve always been really fascinated by that. Just out of curiosity, if you don’t mind…what are you studying at the university?
VITRIOL: A Master’s degree in philosophy. It’s reasonably (inaudible) stuff, but I just find it interesting.
WULF: Me too. I actually just graduated myself…undergraduate degree. I’m not ready for graduate school quite yet, but that’s pretty cool!
VITRIOL: What was the undergraduate degree?
VITRIOL: Alright, OK. That’s a (inaudible) for post-grad study if you ever do go onto it.
WULF: Yeah it is. (laughs) I’ll probably have to if I do want to do anything.
VITRIOL: (laughs) Yeah, that’s the thing.
WULF: So you mentioned, actually, off of “Passion”, the German song and unfortunately I haven’t taken much classes in German, so if I try to pronounce it I might butcher it, but man, I was curious…how in the fuck did you guys hook up with Rainer (Landfermann) from Bethlehem and Pavor?!
VITRIOL: Crazy voice, isn’t it?
WULF: I haven’t heard anything (by him) except his vocals on Bethlehem’s “Dictius te Necare” but his vocals on that are absolutely insane and I’d say a perfect fit for Anaal Nathrakh’s music because it’s a much different vocal style than yours but quite intense just the same. So how did this guest appearance come to fruition?
VITRIOL: It was largely the same for us. We heard that Bethlehem album you just mentioned and we thought it was…well, you probably used the best word to describe it, it was really crazy. We’ve always been fans of what he’d done with that, it was just so out there and so…the (British English) word would be “barmy”, essentially it means “crazy”, so we just thought, “screw it, we’ll just ask him!” So we tried to get ahold of him, and he’s not the easiest man to get ahold of, but I eventually managed to track down the band that he’s in now, which is a death metal band called Pavor in Germany, and they’re a fairly unusual sort of band, they put out like…one EP every eight years
and (inaudible) signed to a record label, they’re a fairly individual sort of thing, themselves. I sent an e-mail to the band contact up there on their website saying who we were and that we’d been blown away by his work on the Bethlehem album and some of the stuff he’s done since, because he has bits and pieces of his vocals in Pavor even though he’s not the main singer, (and asked) “would you be interested in it?” And he came back to us saying “possibly, but I’m going to need to know that it’s something I can really get behind and it’s something I can totally get on-board with and an idea of” and he asked me to give an idea of what we were thinking of for the song. So we sent him some music back and I sent him this quite long written-out version of the idea I had for the song, and then he replied, saying, “this is brilliant! I love the idea! I’ve just spent four hours arranging vocal parts for it!” And he just took the idea and ran with it. He just took off. So it was fantastic to have someone that was just so enthusiastic about it. He was blown away by the idea and then he turned around and blew us away back. So yeah, it was just about chatting to him and asking him about the idea.
WULF: Man! Well I think that was brilliant on your part because when I saw that HE was going to be on the album according to the press release, I was like, man…I didn’t know of any vocals that he had done besides (his work) with Bethlehem, so I was crossing my fingers, saying “please let this be vocals!” And when that song came on, sure enough, I was like, “that’s my man, right there!”
VITRIOL: Yeah, I mean, that’s what we were like when we got this track back from him, because obviously we didn’t know what he was going to do with it, so we were waiting to hear it ourselves, and then we played it and just thought, “yes! That is EXACTLY what we wanted this man to do! That is brilliant!” And so we loved it, we thought it was great.
WULF: Had he not heard of Anaal Nathrakh before?
VITRIOL: He’d heard the name. He wasn’t overly familiar with us, I don’t think, but not too long before we asked him we had played a show not in the town he lives in in Germany but not all that far away, and he said one of his friends had been. So he was aware of us.
WULF: I would just be surprised because I would think that if you guys had contacted him he would have just jumped on-board immediately, so that just kind of struck me as weird, but I’m really glad that it all came through.
VITRIOL: I’m kind of glad that it happened the way that it did because it meant (inaudible) when he said, “OK, I might be up for it”, and it meant that he was taking it seriously and what we put to him was good stuff. So I’m kind of glad that he wasn’t just, “yeah I’ll do it!” It was nice to have someone work on the idea a little bit.
WULF: Right. OK, so I’ve got a couple more questions here if that’s OK, because I know that you’re probably really busy. If Mick still lives in California and you live in England…you’ve probably answered this before, but how much time do you spend writing and rehearsing if Mick writes the music and you write the lyrics separately?
VITRIOL: When it comes to making albums we spend not a great deal of time working on stuff. There’s pretty much no rehearsing, though, because we put it together in the studio. So Mick writes literally a whole album’s worth of music and I prepare…well, I’ve prepared 20 albums worth of ideas and bits of lyrics and stuff like that, and then we just go in together and do it in the studio at the time. So we can talk over the internet and that kind of thing but we don’t particularly need to be physically in the same room until we get to the studio phase of it. For live stuff, obviously it’s a bit more difficult, but as it stands at the time he’s the only member of the live band who isn’t available here in Birmingham where I am, so I just get everyone together and rehearse without Mick until he can get over. But the thing is, not only is he a talented guitarist and doesn’t find it difficult to pick stuff up, (but) he wrote the damn songs!
He should have a pretty good idea of how they go, so we (go over the songs) and jam for a couple of days.
WULF: OK, so forgive me if this is wrong, but as far as I can tell, you guys have only one official music video, and so as far as you know, will you be shooting a music video for a song off of “Passion”? How do you feel about music videos?
VITRIOL: I don’t know, really. We’re not particularly interested in trying to get heavy rotation on MTV or anything. If it happens then I’m sure it’s a great thing and I’m sure it’s lovely but it doesn’t upset if we’re not doing that so we don’t feel the need to try and push for something like that. But at the same time, it is kind of fun, we did do one for the last album, you’re right. The only one. It was just a different creative idea for us because we had to come up with the ideas for it and work with who was shooting it to try and make it what we had our in our heads, which was just a new thing because we weren’t used to working in video, so it was cool to have a try. I don’t know whether we’ll do one for this one. As far as I know, our contract with Candlelight does have a provision to doing one, but we’ve been so focused on getting the album out and putting a few tour dates together and stuff that we just haven’t gotten around to that yet, but it would be nice. It would be cool to do another one if the opportunity comes along. So yeah, fingers crossed.
WULF: Alright, and you mentioned tour dates, so my last question then, would be…I understand that you’ve got a few dates that are going to be here in the United States, or at least just a couple? Am I mistaken?
VITRIOL: Not yet…we’re just in the early stages of working out to do that. At the moment we’ve got a few dates in the UK, and then we go off into mainland Europe, and that’s what we’ve been doing up till now, but in the past couple of days we’ve started to figure out whether it’s viable to get back to the States because we played in California about six weeks ago or so…so we would like, if it’s at all possible, to get back there, but we have no concrete plans yet. Hopefully, but we’ll have to see what happens here.
WULF: Alright, well, for what it’s worth, if you ever want to come to the Midwest here I know that’s probably not in the cards, at least not for this album…
I live smack in the middle of the country, a lot of times bands on limited tours hardly ever make it out here.
VITRIOL: That’s one thing that interests me about touring…I like to go to interesting places. To me, America is one big, whole, interesting place because I’ve never been to most of it, (just) parts of it. But I would like to see the places that bands don’t always play. It would be cool. Whether it would be possible, I don’t know, but we would be happy to go and play in Kansas or (wherever), but it would be an interesting, different thing to see.
WULF: I was going to joke and ask if you guys were ever coming to Kansas because that’s where I am.
Alright man, well that’s all the questions I have for you. I know you’re probably really busy. Do you have anything else you’d like to say, any last words?
VITRIOL: Not particularly, not particularly. Whatever happens, maybe, you never know, we may turn up in Kansas one day.