Here for your reading pleasure is the latest and greatest from IMPIOUS BAPTISM, one of Australia's best up-and-coming bands. The enigmatically named J, helmsman for IMPIOUS BAPTISM, was kind enough to answer a lengthy stream of questions about the band, the forthcoming (and by now, probably released) demo, his past with bands such as DESTROYER 666, NOCTURNAL GRAVES - and the occult. Now, let the beast spit fire...
Hails, friend. What's the weather like in Australia?
"We are just coming into summer, so the last few days have been +30c. I'm not the biggest fan of our summer months..."
For those of us who weren't aware until recently, why was NOCTURNAL GRAVES put to rest? Did you have it in mind to quit at a certain point and pursue other projects?
"It was always known between the band that if things became stagnant NOCTURNAL GRAVES would come to an end. Since touring in Europe last year (2010) certain life changes occured within the band (I moved away from the city of Melbourne, R. became a father etc) so we were not in a position to rehearse as I would have liked. I wrote a lot of material but was forced to basically work on the development of the songs in solitary. When we wrote and recorded "Satans Cross" we were writing and rehearsing as a full band and I think you can feel that "band energy" flowing strong on the album. The tracks for the split album were written solely by myself and I recorded all instruments excluding the bass (R. just came in once everything was recorded and laid the bass tracks down with no input to the song arrangements). I felt that these tracks were good but were lacking the feeling of being arranged by a full band in rehearsal-mode. I really think that NOCTURNAL GRAVES is a band that needs to be recorded live in order to maintain the untamed feeling that we had on "Satans Cross", and without a dedicated line-up this is obviously not possible. So over the year leading up to the dissolution of the band I considered all my options (get a new line-up, do the next album alone etc etc) but I found that my inspiration for NOCTURNAL GRAVES had completely burned out. I did not want to go ahead and record material that I wasn't happy with just for the sake of having another release out there. A few people said that they would help me out with NOCTURNAL GRAVES after I told them the band was over but by this time I just wasn't interested in pursuing it. I had other ideas and was already working on those, one of which you can see through IMPIOUS BAPTISM. Life moves forward and it is my opinion that art imitates life, being static is not something I like to incorporate into my life."
Everyone seems preoccupied with figuring out why the scene is the way it is; why it sucks, basically. Your projects were, and continue to be, heralded as among a handful of precious gems; those "one of the few" doing it right. The praise is deserved, obviously-but what's "right"? Surely you don't think about the "right" way to play Metal. Doesn't it seem like people just want to bitch about, instead of talk about music?
"Thanks for your kind words Nat, but I don't obviously feel that way about my own music. I do enjoy it but comments like "one of the few doing it right" is really up to the people who like what I do to decide. And no, I don't think about the "right" or "wrong" way to write music because there are no "right / wrong" ways to it. Music is subjective and one mans trash is another mans treasure as the saying goes. I do however think that to write music you must feel something and understand how to transition that feeling in order to make music work. You have to let what is there flow outwards and not restrict it by writing to "fit in" with a certain demographic of a "scene". Music for me has always been associated with feelings and nostalgia. I like any kind of music that I can relate to or which invokes a feeling I enjoy. Essentially I feel that (with any form of artistic expression) if you are creating something as an extension of your inner self, even if the audience is extremely limited, you are doing something right. At least your "art" is coming from a place of integrity. As for the bitching, the main problem I see is that most people cannot help themselves but try and fit in with a certain demographic of a sub-culture. They crave identity so they do their best to transform their personalities to fit the mould of whatever sub-culture they are most attracted to. It's a lack of self awareness on their behalf, holding convictions which are usually devoid of reason and rational thought. This just makes for fragile personalities and the result is a lot of bitching and finger pointing; "you are this", "you are that". If these people were genuinely honest within themselves they would have no reason to act like in-secure children. The need to "prove" oneself comes from a complete lack of self-esteem. This however is not secluded to the Metal scene, this is a universal trait amongst humans. Perhaps the internet has something to do with the degree to which the Metal scene has been infested with these types. My reason for saying this is because it obviously took a certain kind of person to immerse themselves into the underground music scene when there was no internet. There was a feeling of defiance back then by choosing the artistic integrity of underground music over crass commercialism. From the foundation it was definitely a rebellious stance and thus a reflection of base personality traits whereas today its out there for ANYONE to get involved with to voice any opinion they want. We can blame social networking websites and messageboards for giving these nobodys a voice. My overall perspective is that today there really isn't a "niche" group of people making up the "underground", I really don't think that exists any longer. So I really don't consider myself part of any particular movement, I just do what I do, write and record the music that I want to hear and listen to the bands / records that I want to listen to. I don't hold onto convictions with respect to something which has all but dissapeared."
It does seem that there's a greater number of commentators (like me, I confess) than of participants, i.e. playing in a band. On the other hand, I've noticed that the "keep it oldschool" franchise attitude infects even some musicians. Within the last four years, a swarm of better-off-dead bands got back together, some of them for no other reason than to release box sets and play festivals guaranteed to sell well. But, if offered, would you take IMPIOUS BAPTISM on the road? Have you played any material live yet?
"Well, the idea of doing this kind of band has been swelling around my mind for several years but IMPIOUS BAPTISM is and will remain a solo band at this stage. I don't have any plans to do live shows but somewhere down the line this may change. It's not currently a goal of mine but if some reliable promoter got the idea to send the band on tour then I'd possibly throw together a line-up and do it. But in all honesty I don't see such an offer being thrown my way any time soon. I'm definitely more interested in the creative / recording process than playing live."
Correct me if I'm wrong to have this reaction to your music, but it strikes me as like an elegant BEHERIT: still ugly, but with Trey Azagthoth's riffing thrown in.
"Your reaction to the music is as good as anyone else's my friend. I really hold the opinion that music is subjective so there really is no right / wrong way to interpret it. Even when someone says that the band is shit, their opinion is no more / less valid than someone who says it's killer. It's interesting you mention the Azagthoth style of riffing because his style on "Abomination Of Desolation" definitely influenced me. Its fukking evil and dark but also twisted and bizarre which is something I love about that record in particular. Someone also told me that they could detect a certain INCANTATION "Onward To Golgotha" feeling in a few of the riffs, which was interesting to me because whilst I own that particular record I've probably listened to it no more than 10 - 15 times over the many years of owning it so couldn't say it was an influence. Maybe they are referencing the same riffs that you could hear the MORBID ANGEL vibes emanating from?"
"Seventh Seal Of Abominable Extermination" bespeaks a knowledge of the occult. Do you practice, or do you have a scholarly interest in the occult? The only thing I've read is The Satanic Bible, so I'm next to ignorant unless it's about the Laveyan Enochian Keys. :P
"Well if you were to read The Book of Revelations from the Christian Bible you will find reference to The Seventh Seal. It is a direct reference to The Final Armageddon but I do no interpret this in the literal sense as it was written. It is my opinion that mankind is well into the process of "Opening The Seventh Seal" which seems to be a reference to the shifting tide of consciousness that mankind is currently experiencing. The current state of man is one of moving away from blind faith whilst the modern industrial revolution is in full swing. The bridge between science and magic is beginning to merge at rapid rates and is becoming more and more indistinguishable from one another. The developments that science and technology are making are exponential and non-linear. These paths are breaking down old-world religious views and I think the next evolutionary stage of mankind is one of embracing this change. Obviously there is a lot of religious restraint towards these developments but as the foundation of the Western World is based not upon religious oppression, these sciences will continue to be explored and developed regardless of how loudly religious fundamentalist groups want to cry heresy. So in essence, the opening of the "Seventh Seal Of Abomination" is in reference to the above. These developments are an "abomination" to those who believe them to be for it is breaking down and exposing their faith for what it is: the belief in something that is in contradiction to reason and rational thought. The industrial revolution is the Antichrist referenced in The Book of Revelations, plain and simple. I do study the Occult, and the reason I have discussed the above is because studying the Occult is the search for hidden knowledge. I embrace the developments that mankind is making in these "forbidden realms". The Occult is a search for truth, to strip away all layers of falsehood in order to find what works for the advancement (both physical and mental) of the individual. With respect to the "magical" aspect of The Occult, I do practice Ritual Magic but I do not wish to discuss the mechanics of how it works here. I would save discussing that in a music forum as its best saved for direct communications with others of like mind."
Would you agree then that it feels almost like a new kind of Renaissance? I mean, what with science and magic entangling their selves in the public's awareness, it seems like a whole new artisinal merchant class is upon us: the PhD Mage! It sounds nice, but do you find there's a danger inherent in that? If people are close to deifying science, science will inevitably let them down and they might once more embrace a rigid worldview.
"I think that the developments will only get better since science is making exponential advances. When I say science and magic are becoming less distinguishable it's because things like cryonics, cloning etc. are becoming a reality within our western society. When scientists are bringing people back from the dead this will clearly illustrate that science = magic and vice versa. In 1899, Charles H. Duell (the commissioner of the U.S. office of patents) claimed "Everything that can be invented, has been invented". No one would argue that the world in 1899 is vastly different from the world in 2010, and the world in 2050 will be vastly different from the world today. What I am basically saying is that the results will speak for themselves. When the ancient people believed that the Gods sent the rains, scientists of the past discovered exactly why rain happens. The more science uncovers further truths, the more the old-world-religious views will be shattered. This is what I mean when I say something like man is in a transitional phase moving away from religious faith, but there is a long-way to go that's for sure."
Without getting into the mechanics of magic, can you tell us what the purpose of magic should be? How should a serious student approach it? It's not just about hurling curses everywhere; it's also about improving your mind and your character, is it not?
"The purpose of magic is getting what you want. A serious person will study, practice and learn through experience. And no, it's not simply about throwing curses but understanding the ebb and flow of life."
Metal and the occult are proud bedfellows, as we all know, but not all bands are resolved to saturate their material with it. As a practitioner, how do you feel about bands who bare their teeth at people for not taking the occult seriously enough? (Between you and I, I think those bands just want to promote themselves, which makes them bigger posers than the people they mock).
"Most people using occult imagery within Metal use it because it is synonymous with the aesthetics of this kind of music. The majority don't study the occult in a meaningful way so that they can integrate what they discover into their lives, it's just part of an image. Honestly I don't care if someone simply likes the aesthetics and so forth, it's their choice. If it did bother me then I'd be wasting heaps of energy on something that I could never have any control over… therefore I am of the opinion that bands who "bare their teeth" at others who don't take the occult seriously are wasting their time."
Agreed, but the exclusionary attitude is a part of not just the Black Metal scene, but anything, really. That kind of attitude makes real creativity impossible, which is bitterly ironic for us because the last 12 years all music was, and continues to be, preoccupied with the idea that there was, not long ago, a prelapsarian state of music.
"I'm not sure. I approach my music from a prelapsarian mindset as it is. Even when I listen to new bands, I usually look for bands that give me the (now nostalgic) feelings that I got when I first discovered the underground, and I think there was a kind of innocence at the beginning... I mean, most of the bands from the early underground scene were doing this for a love of the craft, not for popularity and commercial purposes. Plus, my discovery of underground music was quite natural (I lived in a small country town with no record store within a 2 hour drive, so one fanzine was what I needed to open the gates so to speak) and there was no "niche group" whom I wanted to fit in with, I was just doing my own thing so the "innocence" was there at my beginning as well. But overall, I don't concern myself with the "who's cool" within the music scene. There will always be niche groups. Some will be more appealing to the masses than others and fools will try too hard fit in somewhere, and then cry when they are excluded by the people whose asses they want to kiss. Just like in primary school."
Unlike the United States, Australia has a consistently passionate Metal scene. Which bands, both old and new, would you recommend to us?
"SADISTIK EXEKUTION, SLAUGHTERLORD, HOBBS ANGEL OF DEATH, MARTIRE, PERSECUTION (Melbourne), CORPSE MOLESTATION, DISEMBOWELMENT, ENTASIS, BESTIAL WARLUST, FUNERARY PIT, DENOUNCEMENT PYRE, ABYSSIC HATE, SERAPHIM DEMO '95, INCUBUS / SPECTRAL BIRTH, ABOMINATOR, CAULDRON BLACK RAM, RENEGADE, GOSPEL OF THE HORNS, INNSMOUTH, TRENCH HELL, ASSAULTER… this is just off the top of my head so I'm sure I've forgotten some. However, most Australian's really seem to suffer from the same mentality that I've been told US Metal fans suffer from and that's ignoring local bands until they make some name for themselves overseas. It's as if they need a socially acceptable reason in order to take a band seriously, or even bother listening to it. They just wait for the hype, jump on-board and then act as if they were supporting the band all along… There are exceptions to the rule of course."
I'm sure news of a grassroots Catholic movement shutting down a Metal show long ago reached your ears. An online petition was circulated and while many signed it, myself included, some people expressed pessimism at the petition's prospects for success. I agree with those who say Metal ought to be apolitical, but with such a clear contrast between right and wrong, why not stand up for what's right? Do you think its sometimes naive not to take action?
"Metaphorically speaking if something stands in your way, tear it down, but I'd probably agree with those whom said that the petition was pointless… What I found humorous in all this was the fact that most of the bands on this particular concert preach an anti-christian message, proclaiming things like "death to christians!", "death to mankind!" and so on but when their gig was closed down, they cried for tolerance and liberty. It's not as if they preach such things through their bands haha. It's pointless to confront someone with a knife then cry for mercy when they pull out a shotgun. From what I understand it was not the organisers behind the petition but they made the smart choice to launch another gig with essentially the same line-up under the banner "Armageddon Festival". I can't see this causing much of a stir as the marketing material seems a little toned down from the previous PR efforts. But since the original festival was closed down due to pressure from a religious group it just gives them the motivation to continue their crusade to ban anything that is not in alignment with their foul creed (something that I definitely oppose on a personal level). The best action for promoters of such gigs is to reframe their original intentions and carry on with what they want to do. That's enough of a slap in the face to religious opposition I feel."
The first IMPIOUS BAPTISM demo was released a few days ago. Orders look like they're piling up quickly. Are you pleased with the response so far?
"Well I haven't had much feedback for the demo aside from some friends who heard it in full but the tape has been selling really well so I'm definitely satisfied on that front. I am however already halfway through recording 3 new tracks for a 7" EP that I am quite focused on at the moment. I'll keep the demo available for sometime to come (well, as long as people want a copy of it) but as I said, I'm already focused on new creations."
A 7" EP sounds good! What do you have in mind for it? Anything special for the artwork?
"At this stage I have tracked both the drums and guitars, still to do the bass and vocals. There's a little more variation in the music as compared to the demo but it's still in the same vein. I have sketched up the concepts for the artwork and layout but I'll keep the overall packaging quite simple, but we'll just wait and see the results once it's released."
How many tracks will be on it? One thing it seemed cool for bands to do for a while was record songs in excess of 10 minutes. Sometimes the epic works; sometimes it doesn't. If you found it at all possible, would you one day release, say, a 30 minute album with two tracks?
"There will be 3 tracks plus an intro. As for doing a 30 minute album with 2 tracks, I certainly wouldn't do something like that for IMPIOUS BAPTISM but if I had the music for something that would work in such a format then I wouldn't see any problem with doing such a release. To be honest I have not thought in depth about doing something like this but if I did it probably wouldn't be very "Metal" sounding. It'd probably be something in more of a Progressive Rock vein with a variety of musical themes to capture varying moods… but if that were the case I'd like to have at least one or two other conspirators to see such a thing come fruition."
You announced a t-shirt the other day, if I'm not mistaken. Can you tell us something about it? It sounds cool.
"Yes, I'll do a limited amount of shirts with the demo motive. It'll be a black print on blood red garments, check out the website to see the design…"
Great! If we step aside from IMPIOUS BAPTISM for a moment, I understand you play(ed) with a number of legendary bands including DESTROYER 666 and HOBBS ANGEL OF DEATH. Is there any possibility you'll work with these bands again in the future?
"I played drums for DESTROYER 666 for a few years and did 2 recordings with them ("Satanic Speed Metal" 7" and "Phonenix Rising" LP) but I only played with HOBBS for 6 months or so (did a couple of gigs and then left). I would definitely do something with DESTROYER 666 again if the opportunity arose."
One last thing about the Catholics shutting down that festival: although I have no knowledge of the socio-political climate in Australia, I don't think I'm alone in thinking that religious conservatism isn't a big problem down there. Are we all wrong, or did the pigs just get lucky? On the plus side, things like this might remind us that the past maybe isn't as dead as we fear. It might even rekindle some conviction in the scene.
"There really are no problems coming from the religious right here in Australia. This country is really quite liberal and the reason this festival was cancelled appears to be the way it was promoted. The governing body of the venue felt it was not in their best interests to promote such an event after receiving countless threats and complaints from these religious folks. The management of the venue itself were apparently very annoyed that their higher management cancelled the event, so this seems to be a one-off "victory" for those opposed. To be honest I don't care what this may or may not do for the metal scene here in Australia."
Does the woodcut on "Seventh Seal Of Abominable Extermination" have a name? I ask because many of the woodcuts we see on demos and such are taken from grimoires, or from famous medieval and renaissance texts such as the Hanging of the Chelmsford Wives. If so, would you recommend it for education purposes?
"I'm not sure if it has a name to be honest. I liked the image and connect it visually (to an extent) with the title of the demo. As for educational purposes (as you put it) I would say that most of these images, whilst nostalgic and holding a nice aesthetic they were (from my opinion) created to instill the fear of god into people at the time. I cannot see how they would have any educational purpose beyond saying something to the individual who would thus have some perspectives already in mind upon viewing them. Otherwise they could tell somewhat of a historical tale about how people back then did view what they did not understand or considered "un-godly". People could also watch "The Witchfinder General" starring Vincent Price to get an idea behind the sadistic hypocrisy that was most likely rampant in those times as well haha. Without rambling too much, I'd like to point out that Satanism is a real-life philosophy dealing with the betterment of the individual, both physically and mentally. Aesthetics are definitely a part of Satanism for they also lead to mental and physical gratification for the individual. Surrounding yourself with aesthetically rewarding things which inspire you can give you a feeling of calm and control. Such a feeling gives you a mental platform to approach life from a positive and thus workable view."
It's good to know IMPIOUS BAPTISM is off to such a good start! Thanks very much for the interview! The last words are yours.
"Thanks for the interview and support Nat. Anyone interested in IMPIOUS BAPTISM can write or email me, or check out the website for up to date information."
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