Tuesday, February 5, 2013

New interview with Zamiel (February 5th, 2013)

Here it is folks, a very, very long (recent) interview with yours truly, conducted by AntifaMetalhead at thedarkskiesaboveus.blogspot.com over in Greece. The answers may be a tad long... too bad! Stay tuned for the results of an interview trade I conducted with S. Stormhammer of Valkynaz for TFE-zine, tfezine.blogspot.com. Cheers!

Question 1:

Lets start with some things about you. Would you like to say a few things
about your projects?

I took the name Wende from “Wende Im Zeichen Des Mikrokosmos”, the German translation of “Snu mikrokosmos tegn” (Turn The Sign Of Microcosm) by Burzum.
Wende means “the turn” or “turning point” in German, wenden (verb) means “to turn”. In English, wend means to “direct one’s way” but also to meander, that is, to not take the straightest or easiest path. Both the German and English words are cognates of the same Gothic root “wandjan”. The true meaning of “Wende” is slightly ambiguous. Perhaps “metal artist from the Pacific Northwest” is the newest definition. In both languages, wend(e) is a verb. I thought at the time that a musical project with a static name would invariably project static music with a static message. My music is intended to act on people. It means turn all right, but from what? Wende is a reflection of my contempt and revolt against the modern world and my love for antiquity, beauty, fantasy, danger and consciousness.

When I speak of my contempt for the “modern world”, understand that I do not mean anything like scientific advancement or technology. I like my computer, not least because it allows me to answer interview questions from Greece (!). I’m not an atavist idiot, desiring to live in a mud hut and following a “back to nature” life (as if living naturally somehow entails discarding scientific achievement.)

No, when I say that Wende is a revolt against the modern world, I mean modern thought. The new limits of depravity, ignorance and ‘safety’. The extreme realization of ancient human weaknesses through the aid of modern invention and craft. Wende is a synthesis and reconciliation between our technology and power, with a more aware, simple, and for lack of a better word, natural, consciousness. Each individual by their nature, each group from the consensus (consciousness) of its individuals. Wende is the fist in the face of Nietzsche’s lezte Mensch.

Musically, Wende is simply the music I want to listen to. Originally, I created music for my own enjoyment, and for my own listening exclusively. It was then shared with a few close friends, through with no real desire to ever be known by it. I certainly don’t plan on “getting rich” with Wende, so when I did “release” my music, I made it available for free. I’m interested in releasing physical copies sometime soon, so the lyrics and artwork can be available in a single package, in which case I would have to deal with currency, if only to recoup material costs. I will not however, suffer others to make money from my art, or to pass it off as their own.

As for Skinwalker, we’re unapologetic about our “throwback sound” all right, and we craft what easily falls into the second-wave “black metal” candy-bin, with all of the necessary crust, fuzz and barnacles. But at least all of us know our history! Skinwalker was the first to play this music in our home area, and we’re still the only band playing this kind of music in over a hundred mile radius, so I think we feel a strong kinship to the isolation and d.i.y attitudes of the early “black metal” scene. For us, the scene never sold out, because it never even started. Skinwalker is Skull Island, complete with prehistoric mega-fauna – a snapshot into the past!

Question 2:

Which bands or artists influenced you? Listening to Skinwalker i got the
feeling that you have a thing for the classical Norwegian scene.

I began learning piano at age six, and I mostly listened to art music (classical) and acoustic music when I was younger. I knew the major works of composers like Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Mozart and Beethoven before I knew any rock music (!).  I’m sure all this art music influenced my music sensibilities, at least subconsciously.

Pink Floyd might just be the most important band to me. They were the first rock band I liked. That started an interest in my dad’s old rock cassettes. I also got into electronic music, which I still enjoy. The first cd I bought was a electronic music compilation called “Together as One”, in 1999.

The early Norwegian/second-wave scene is important to me because it was really the first time I found a genre of metal I actually liked and connected with. I would still say I don’t really enjoy nine-tenths of the metal that’s out there. Most metal is rather simplistic, uninteresting, and stupid. I felt a power, conviction and honesty in the early second-wave scene that I couldn’t receive from other genres of metal too much. It’s the most effective magic I’ve ever heard in music. The milieu that surrounded the music only made it more real, more honest and more powerful. Here as nowhere else, were artists with conviction.

Question 3:

Nowadays there are so many metal genres. What do you think makes black
metal special?

I don’t entirely know why the second-wave sound works for me, but I do enjoy the eerie melodies, the atmosphere, and the (sometimes) though-provoking, intelligent, escapist lyrics. The whole experience has a mystical quality to it, and hits like a blast of (refreshing) cold air in a metaphorical stifling heat. I’ve also had very personal, transcendent, consciousness-raising experiences while listening to “black metal”. I found it to be a great catalyst for higher thought and action. Many people do not. I would probably like another genre of music had I experienced the same reactions elsewhere.

Worldwide? I couldn’t tell you. I think “black metal” has become a malignant circus sideshow, and a vehicle to “corner the market” on anger and depression for white teens. Black metal is (now) to Europe what rap is to the United States.

I can also add that I simply don’t understand playing live. I’ve always experienced music by myself, as my retreat, Metal no exception. Skinwalker plays live to be sure, and I oblige, but I can count on one hand the bands I was ever impressed with that have shared the stage. I remind that I cannot speak for all of Skinwalker. But really, I can’t understand wanting to see a band play live at all. Not unless the stage show was so good that it removed me from the experience of being surrounded by drunken invalids. Something like what Dead (Pelle) talked about with chains, mist, severed appendages, uprooted trees, etc. Live is only good for me when the focus isn’t on the band (!). Isolation until death!

For people like me who’ve had personal, isolated responses to the music, it is indispensable. When it works, it works.

Question 4:

What do you think about Cascadian black metal? Any bands you like?

It’s interesting at least. It’s hard to define “Cascadian black metal”. Is it a sound? An ideology? Merely a function of geography? Only by band self-identification? It’s so new it has yet to be completely commodified, and that in itself is a very good thing.

I feel the artist’s self-identification is the paramount factor in whether the music is, or is not, “Cascadian black metal”. Only the artist knows what their music truly is.
That said, it seems to have some usual defining characteristics: long, trance inducing songs, often with strummed acoustic interludes; a constant wall of tremolo-picked guitars, as opposed to riffing; and repetitive drumming. Not too far off from most generic “black metal” actually, but it seems somehow more ethereal and trance-like (when it works).
The lyrics/concepts seem to focus on some combination of nature, atavism, anti-modernism, anti-government, and transcendentalism, but also with doom influences too.

I suppose I fall in with a few of these ideals, at least partly. I’m sure that whatever raises consciousness about the truly horrible condition of the human and non-human world is necessary, as one would presume that once equipped with this knowledge, the onus would be to find ways to live more sustainably. Unfortunately, the people that need this wake-up call the most wouldn’t listen to this music if their lives depended on it (!). Musically, the whole thing often bores me, and I need to be in the right frame of mind for a listen. It’s seems to be music that one “hears” more than “listens to”, though it’s quite nice where it belongs, in the forest.
I really enjoyed the Skagos side of the split with Panopticon, and I like some stuff by Wolves in the Throne Room and Agalloch even. Harrow’s “Wanderer” is fine, as is some stuff by Echtra/Fauna (though it begins to bore me). I like some Petrychor too, though I prefer Tad’s acoustic stuff.

Question 5:

What's your thesis on black metal and politics?

Oh dear, here we go.

Well, I feel the aesthetic and lifestyle of black metal is dead and gone all right, though the genre of music continues on. Black metal doesn’t mean anything anymore as a way of life, if it ever did, but the genre perseveres. In many ways, black metal died in 1993 - certainly with the death of Euronymous, and possibly with the Kerrang! (kerrap!) article.

What is “black metal”? I think the word is completely devoid of meaning. At least it means nothing to me. The more definitions a phrase has, the less meaning it gives and the less relevant it becomes. I suppose what most people think when they hear “black metal” sounds, more or less, like what came out of Scandinavia in the late 80s and early 90s. But even these “progenitors” had differing opinions on the phrase. Was it metal with Satanic lyrics/imagery? Was it the overall “sound” of music? Could it be anything as long as it was “anti trendy-death-metal”? Again, I defer to the artist’s self-identification. If they say it is, then it is.
Very, very few bands move beyond this sound now, labeling it “orthodox”. At best, they are a continuation of this now identifiable sound and at worst, they are a low-brow parody. As it has become a definable genre, it’s become a label, a badge, and can now be successfully commodified and “contained”. It has become safe. It is the rare band that does something different, but even that can be sequestered into its own sub-sub-sub-sub genre nowadays anyway. In nowhere but metal has genre-classification run so rampant.

And for me? Well, I’m sure Skinwalker and perhaps Wende are prone to being labeled in this sense as well, but I feel otherwise, for two reasons. For us, we don’t ever intend to capitalize on what has become a trend, we’re simply content playing the music we like to listen to. And also for us, the scene never even started, in our own microcosm, we are the first.

Ultimately though, I feel that if it’s good music, it’s good music. Call a spade what it is. If it works for you, it works. Life is too short to worry about a true vs. trendy dichotomy anyway, just listen. I would only prefer if more people experienced it alone and remotely though, instead of the giant party it has become.

As for politics, well, perhaps I’ll leave this one alone for this interview. I’ve been meaning to draft a document outlining Wende’s alignments and non-alignments for some time now anyway, though perhaps I need a list of entirely political interview questions to catalyze my answers properly. I can say that Wende was, is and never will be overtly political. That said, I do hope to act in certain ways, upon certain people, through my music…

Question 6:

Wanna tell us a few things about an anarchist movement that you can feel
close to your ideas, if there is one?

Well, I suppose the most simple definition of “anarchy” would be the translation of the word, which means ‘without a leader’ or ‘leaderless’ in English. That much I certainly agree with. I remember a story of a Viking raid, possible at Cadiz (?), where the townsfolk, wishing to negotiate their deliverance asked of the ship “who is your leader”? The Vikings scoffed, and replied “we are all our own leaders”. That much I can agree with. There is no one who is better suited to guide your life than yourself.

As a modern ‘movement’, anarchists generally identify with being anti-authority, anti-greed, anti-exploitation and generally for the dissemination and transparency of knowledge, especially knowledge deemed ‘unfit’ for the public.

As a way of structuring a society though, I feel anarchy is utterly worthless, as it  would essentially be a society without a government, without leadership. I would never advocate a society that wasn’t built on leadership, as it seems anarchism advocates; (remember that leadership need not necessitate a ‘leader’!!!)

I suppose I would describe myself as a “localist republican”. Republican NOT in the sense of the annoying-at-best Judeo-Christian greed-mongers of my home country, but in the sense that I advocate a Republic as a form of government. A Republic differs from a Democracy in that it allows the vote to only a few, not everyone (indeed, there are no true Democracies on the planet anyway).
Which few then? Well, I advocate for the individuals who have the greatest interest in the success of the ‘state’, those people who have an investment and stake in making the correct decisions. Too often, Democracies, and anything resembling a Democracy, very quickly devolve into Ochlocracies, that is mob-rule. That familiar all-too-relevant, contemptible society of idiots who neither care, nor are properly informed to make good decisions for the state, and who are cynically manipulated through the media, money and law by the oligarchs into performing their will anyway. This dystopia, (realized most noticeably in modern America) is a symptom of Democracy (mob-rule), unintelligence and large, overextended states, instead of local, accountable consensus. ANYONE should able to become a voter, an exalted position, but only those who could prove their merit and intelligence, only those who would stand to lose the most in the event of failure, that is, only those who are accountable.

I also can’t stress enough the importance of living locally. This ties closely with my advocacy of bioregionalism. Attempting to continue most anything on a global scale is unsustainable, except perhaps the trade of ideas. There are interesting and emerging texts on bioregionalism one could find, but essentially it is the idea that settlement and culture are most sustainable, and for lack of a better word, healthy, when plotted around the local selection and availability of resources, instead of the import of ‘essentials’ and the export of ‘undesirables’. This isn’t a ‘back to nature’, atavist, mud-hut concept; it is very knowledge-intensive and requires careful stewardship. It is a synthesis of old and new. Be certain of this though: small, semi-isolated states are inevitable, whether we like it or not. Size, and more importantly endless growth, are unsustainable. The biggest “bubble” of all is the human population “bubble”.

I do not believe in authorities, nor do I see any excusable reason to follow authority, other than the interest of self-preservation if under immediate threat from an authority. I do believe in experts. There is a difference. Experts are knowledgeable in their field or area of intelligence. They are not authorities. That is, beyond question, and demanding of followers. A physicist is not an authority of physics, but an expert. Both the expert and any self-proclaimed ‘authority’ of any field are to be questioned, to be sure, but it is the expert that is validated by other experts as speaking words of merit, while the authority seeks to dominate and withhold information for their own gain, and are often incorrect anyway.
I don’t follow authorities, if I can reasonably help it. I do “follow” and accept experts. I am not an expert in physics, evolutionary biology, the Japanese language or Greco-Roman wrestling. But I am happy to defer to an expert’s knowledge in instances when my knowledge is inadequate. To proclaim otherwise is arrogance in the highest degree, and if there’s one thing I hate more than lack of knowledge, it’s the illusion of knowledge, feigned intelligence.

There, you got me to wax political anyway.

Question 7:

And last but not least what are we gonna see from you in the future. Any
plans for any release?

Wende was originally (and still is) planned to encompass a four-album canon, the albums representing loss/conflict, reflection/introspection, change/kinetics and synthesis/creation, respectively. This canon is meant to illustrate a turn, and a change. The first album represents something that went wrong, the second album represents the conscious thought necessary to creating a solution, the third album represents the inherently violent state of change and transition, and the fourth album represents the new condition, the synthesis, the solution. That’s Wende in a nutshell.
The first album, The Third and the Noble (a rerecord of the demo, still to be considered the first album), deals with the subject of loss, conflict, decay and decrepitude and thus sounds primarily morose, woeful and closed. The second album, Vorspiel einter Philosophie der Zukunft, deals with the subject of reflection, introspection, retreat and examination and thus sounds primarily spacious, trancelike, hopeful, full of yearning and open. The next two as yet unnamed albums will continue with my basic concept. There will only ever be four albums, and anything I may release after that would be epilogues.
I have absolutely no date set for the third and fourth albums, but don’t hold your breath, I’m very busy, and I can’t seem to find the same inspiration as often, but someday. Someday.

Skinwalker is almost finished recording our second full-length, which probably will be called Ancestral Genocide. Our first full-length, The Darkest Magic is floating around and can easily be downloaded. I do recommend my remastered version of that album, if you can find it. You’ll know the remastered version by the first track, Earth’s Shadow on the Moon. In the remastered version, the sample is at the end, instead of the beginning.

I maintain presence in a few other side-projects, but I can’t really speak about those at all.

Thanks for the interview, AVE GREECE!!!

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