"Concentrating on technique is somehow egotistical"
Anaal Nathrakh last year published the "The Whole Of The Law", bringing once more their chaotic pandemonium to the extreme metal scene, with their blend of black, grind and indrustial elements. Dave Hunt, the voice of the demonic duo, talks about the latest album, the band and their future plans.
First of all, congratulations on the new album, I really adore it. What is the response you had so far?
Great, thanks, glad you enjoyed it. We tend not to search for responses to albums, because we don’t think it helps - you have to concentrate on doing the best work you can without trying to track what might please people. But we’ve seen some pretty positive stuff, the album was featured on a few 'best of 2016' lists and so on. So the response we’ve seen has been quite positive. Even if it’s not a good idea to pay too much attention to reviews, it’s nice for to hear that people liked the album.
The album is titled "The Whole Of The Law". What do you mean by using this Thelemian phrase as the title?
It’s a reference to the hysterical tone of some kinds of conflict, and the way that tone betrays a brittle insecurity and desire to annihilate. I think that that kind of psychology underlies more of the general human experience than we realize. Global peace, so far as it exists, isn’t secured by laws and matter of right and wrong. It’s secured, so far as it exists, by the realities of mutually assured destruction, underlying threats and coercion. So the Thelema thing isn’t really intended to borrow from that source material, it’s just a case of using the form and rhythm of the words. There’s more that you can read in the liner notes in the booklet, about how the idea links to other idea on the album, how it crops up in some of the lyrics etc. It’s not the only way you can look at the world, and I’m not saying that it’s right that the world arguably is that way. It’s just how I think things often are.
What was the writing process? Did you follow the same path as always, everyone by themselves?
Yes. As far as we’re concerned the point of writing isn’t to fuck around with how you do it, because how you do it is irrelevant. What matters is having new, fresh ideas that mean something to you. And if you have those, where you write or how exactly you go about writing doesn’t make any difference. What you write and how you feel about it are what make a difference, rather than how.
Have you ever thought of jumping in the part of composing the music yourself?
Not really. I’ve always suggested things to Mick now and then, but I’m no composer. It’s a bit tangential, but I happened to hear some of Eddie Vedder’s soundtrack for “Into The Wild” recently, and listening to that it was clear that he’s as much of a song writer as anything else. But I’m not like that – I can play a little, and have musical inspirations sometimes, but what I’m good at is coming up with ideas rather than music. Mick is brilliant at writing music, he can have a feeling in mind and just make music out of it. So we may as well stick to what we’re each best at.
I was amazed one more time by your vocals throughout the album and especially in “Extravaganza”, where you were reaching a really high pitch. After all these years of screaming and shouting, how do you keep the good shape? Do you have a coach or something?
No, I’ve never had any lessons or, in fact, done anything properly. I don’t even know if there’s a proper way to do most of the stuff I do, I just do it. Singing stuff like really high falsetto notes does improve with practice, but standing there wailing for an hour a day would be a bit ridiculous. If we’ve got a recording or some shows coming up, I try to sing regularly in the lead up. Just normal singing, singing along to the radio or whatever, to get the appropriate muscles in decent shape rather than to practice making any particular sounds. Beyond that, I would actually oppose doing much else. There’s a sense in which people can fall into treating technique as an end in itself, and I think that detracts from the point of music. The point should be expression. There are exceptions of course, such as Pavarotti, but in general I get a sense that concentrating on technique is somehow egotistical. It becomes about you, rather than the experience you’re trying to express.
You are a very productive band with consistent quality. Where do you draw inspiration from (both lyrically and musically)?
Everything, all the time. And also nothing, in that it can be just a matter of things which crop up in our heads. I keep notes of things which stick out to me, be that on the news, something I’ve read, or from talking to people, or be it simply things which I think up. There’s a certain flavor to an Anaal Nathrakh thought which would be pretty hard to describe, I just know it when I feel it. With Mick, he doesn’t really draw inspiration from anything, he just has a certain feeling that he wants to express through music. He usually describes it as ‘AAAAAAAARGH!'. Both of us have quite busy minds most of the time, there’s always something that we’re thinking of or dreaming up. So it’s not really a matter of thinking to ourselves ‘right, time to come up with some Anaal Nathrakh material’. It’s more a matter of filtering the Anaal Nathrakh stuff out of the general flurry of drivel and shit that runs through our heads constantly.
The cover art is stunning. It is such a great depiction of the conflict and the destructive nature of human. So artistic... Where is it from?
Aha, I’m glad you liked it. I’m really pleased with the artwork personally, I think it’s a really strong, striking image. It’s taken from a painting by an artist called Bouguereau from a little over 100 years ago. When we came to talk about what cover art we’d use, we didn’t really have a plan - we were considering all options. Maybe we’d use an image from somewhere, maybe we’d come up with an image ourselves, maybe it’d be a collage, whatever. But one of the things we did was search around the internet for some inspiration, to get a feel for the kind of thing we wanted to use. And then we came across this Bouguereau painting. I’d seen his work before, and thought it was particularly striking, especially in the use of light. And this image seemed to sum up a lot of the themes on the album having to do with particular kinds of conflict and rhetoric and so on. So Mick worked with it, and produced the more focused, iconic looking image you see on the album cover. I think it looks evocative and relevant, but also kind of timeless. It’s a really good cover.
I guess this must be asked really often, but were there any thoughts to add more members in the band? And how did it come down to just the two of you in the first place? I mean there is a lot going on in every album, how easy was it to do it all by yourselves, especially in the beginning?
No. We don’t feel that there are things we wish we could do, but which we can’t do ourselves. We’re happy with the way we work together and what we’re able to produce. We don’t feel limited in any way which adding another member would help. I agree that there’s a lot going on in our music already, and we like it that way. If anything, we tend to have to stop ourselves adding more and more stuff because it would begin to make everything incoherent. But you’re right that it’s a question that we’ve been asked many times before. I don’t really understand why that is. I think the only time it’s relevant to ask why something isn’t different is when you think it’s deficient. But very often the question is asked by people who like our music in the first place. So presumably they don’t think there’s something glaring missing. I suppose maybe it’s because metal bands typically have certain format, and expected number of members with an expected set of roles. But why should everyone have to conform to that? Fuck being typical for its own sake.
The latest years you are doing more and more live shows. The live representation of your albums live is pretty difficult. What of the two do you prefer; recording in studio or touring? And how do you feel that live performances affected your approach on music?
Actually we went over nine months without playing at all between our last trip to Russian in late 2015 and our trip to Japan in the summer. So I’m not sure that more and more is entirely accurate. But yes, we do play shows, of course. Which do we prefer? I think they’re such totally different experiences that you can’t really prefer one or the other – it’s a bit like asking a kid if they prefer daddy or chips. Playing a show is obviously physically demanding in a way that sitting down in a studio is not. But making an album also means lingering over tiny details and a sometimes long and frustrating process of trying to perfect things in a way which doesn’t apply live. They’re simply different experiences. Playing live certainly doesn’t affect our approach to music more generally though – when we’re making an album, our only focus is on making the best album we can. If that means making music which would be difficult to recreate live, then that just means that we’ll have to find a way to rise to that challenge if we play that song at a show. It doesn’t mean that we will compromise on how we feel a song should be just to make it easier on ourselves later on. It can also be the case that music which works really well on record is slightly different to music which works best live. But that’s just matter of choosing the right songs to put into a set list.
Do you have in mind any collaboration with other artists that you are fond of?
At the moment, we’ve got at least one in mind. But we’ll just see how things turn out. It’s better to have an open mind.
How different for you is working with Benediction and Anaal Nathrakh? And are there any plans for Benediction any time soon?
It’s a completely different experience. It was the same when we were both in Mistress too. It’s basically as if each band has entirely different people in it. It’s a bit like how you’d speak differently to your mother or your siblings compared to when you speak to your friends. You don’t do it on purpose, and you don’t think about doing it, it just kind of happens. So it’s kind of like alongside those categories that everyone has - family, friends, girlfriend, whatever, I’ve just got a couple of extra categories marked Benediction and Anaal Nathrakh. The different contexts make them different things, even though they’re fundamentally similar. Yeah, there are plans afoot. The old beast moves slowly but powerfully, and the things I’ve been hearing from Daz and Rewy have showed a new sense of purpose. I expect there’ll be something we can properly announce in the near future.
What does the future hold now for Anaal Nathrakh? I guess it will be a while until you work on new material. Are there any touring plans?
Yes. We played a string of dates in Europe towards the end of 2016, and we’ll be looking at what to do next over the coming weeks. There are a few things on our calendar for the year ahead, but we can only announce those as the organizers permit. Just keep an eye out, and you’ll see things cropping as an when we can announce them. Alongside live shows, a somewhat novel thing for us is that we commissioned a video for the song “We Will Fucking Kill You”. We adopted a pretty hands-off approach by our standards, in that we gave the film makers some information on the songs in question, the lyrics and so on, and then left them to it to see what they came up with. We were really pleased with the results, especially because the video turned out to be quite unconventional, but still closely tied into the themes of the song.
Thank you so much for taking time to answer all this. Do you have anything to add?
Thanks for the support.