Well it’s happening folks… For the first time a top-tier name from the black metal scene (excluding Rotting Christ) is about to hit Cypriot shores as headliners of the forthcoming Funeral Worship Festival (held at RED on the 9th of April). Known for their captivating performances, despite the fact that they’re only composed of two members, they have accrued praises from many a writer, fan and even outsider. Chromium Sun caught up with stringsman Okoi Jones (aka KzR) for quick tour of the band’s inner workings.
Questions by Andreas Sarpogoat.
Greetings! Yes I am well thank you! These last few weeks have been laid back but that will change soon enough!
You’ve admittedly been on the receiving end of a lot of praise from the underground given that you’ve only just released your debut. How do you feel about this? Has it taken you aback in any way?
Initially we were very surprised with how quickly momentum had gathered behind what we were doing but everything remains very relative and whilst we are ever humbled by the following we have we also put in plenty of work to get the band to the place it may presently be. Let it also be said we have an equally proportionate crowd that are less enthusiastic about our music! It takes two to tango.
Your rather atypical approach with regards to songwriting has resulted in unusually lengthy songs with an expansive riff-based narrative. Despite the length there’s a flow which prevents them from getting tiring. How do you envision a song? What exactly does the creative process entail?
Songwriting is a lengthy process for me/us. We have learned that in order to write something we can still stand behind years after creating it we need exercise patience and allow the material to take on a character of it’s own instead of moulding it to a momentary or hurried expectation. I think many bands suffer from an inability to do this, resulting in songs with plenty of traditional albeit short-lived headbanging appeal but lacking in substance. I do not see myself as a good songwriter but it is something I strive for.
So a riff may come to me when I’m feeling euphoric (winter sunshine, fine beer or sport for eg.) or whilst HzR and myself are rehearsing and we will build on it until we have something or we let it rest until I feel I have the necessary hook to round it off. It is a little difficult to pinpoint finite moments within a song’s creation as it is a living and therefore transient process for me.
Every genuine and authentic artistic creation can be traced back to a unique moment of realisation which forces one to view the world anew in one’s own terms. The art which transpires through this realisation is then an effort to transmute the subjective into something universal. Did you experience such a moment and could you share it with us?
If I catch your drift I would have to confess to experiencing many such moments and due to the psychedelic and often chaotic thought processes awarded their conception I would be challenged to be able to summarise the experience in detail with you! Sometimes during moments of elation I feel I have been struck with a proverbial bolt of lightning and I am able to “connect the dots” on an idea or concept I have regarding life and/or art.
The Freudian dichotomy distinguishes between two forces, namely Eros, the cosmic will towards unity and creation and Todestrieb, the downwards devolution towards death and inanimate matter. Typically, black and death metal thematics would be aligned with the latter – a negation of life and an acclamation of death epitomised by Hellhammer’s “only death is real”. You on the other hand seem to have elements of Eros as well, an almost triumphant affirmation of life and the vehement struggle to ascend to higher plains of awareness. One can detect signs of this in your evocative artwork as well. Would you agree?
Without a doubt. In my opinion though, both are crucial to one another’s existence for together they are chaos (the struggle), the primordial essence binding both death and life in the one same tapestry.
I see a duty in the affirmation of the struggle and the belief that one will conquer that which attempts to hinder one’s path. Death is certain and life is not so, relinquishing the latter unto the former prematurely is absolute weakness and a gross abuse of the very basest faculties we possess as living organisms. Ultimately any fool can die, living is a little harder.
Following on the previous question, you cover a much wider emotional spectrum which encompasses redemption, transcendence, even heroism. Do you think that typical black metal lyricism is too restrictive for your own artistic visions?
I simply write what I feel compelled to so I’m not sure how to answer your question…
There is a distinction between being influenced and being inspired. Other than the obvious influences that one might infer from your music, what else musically or otherwise, has been a source of inspiration for you?
Aside from the genial works of countless composers and musicians out there I have always felt strongly inspired by my own father’s musical achievements. He is a master of his instrument and absolutely unique at the same time, a beautiful talent.
Both HzR and myself are also inspired many forms of evocative art and if it makes your hair stand on end it’s usually a winner. Debussy, Cezanne, La Tene art, anthroposophical architecture, running long distances through forests…my list of loves is varied and long!
I can’t help but notice a certain mythological bent on your covers. What exactly is the general theme behind them?
A general theme or conceptual thread within the music would be difficult to identify but I would say meanderings on individualism, growth and passion are ever present as well as the obvious interest in the dichotomies of nature and the human spirit. Most mythologies will be brimming with these topics but I definitely have a strong interest in the classical, ancient european and nordic cultures which is evident on our covers.
Despite your intransigence in terms of music and aesthetic you’re the proud progeny of the masters of old. Your logo typeface with its sharp edges and crisp characters harkens back to the black / thrash old-school bands of the past. Was that done intentionally to pay tribute of sorts?
The basic idea behind the logo aesthetic was to compliment our musical intentions at the time, which were admittedly slightly different to what we became, with some structural aspects of the runic alphabet and a stylised form of lightning (our iconic bolt/spear and Malleus Idolum followed soon after) with the intent of awakening a primal and stalwart atmosphere.
There is an unrefined, almost primal energy which emanates from that early boom of the scene in the 80s. With respect to Bölzer do you see yourselves as bearing the banner of that early movement and re-interpreting it in your own way or as a base to build something entirely new and unique to your individuality?
The only banner we bear is our own. I believe many forms of art let alone heavy music, often serve as conduits for the artist’s raw and primal emotions. Be they unrefined and explosive or theoretical and decisive, if what is being portrayed is honest and passionate it usually has some substance to it. I would like to think we belong to this school of expressionist, honest and passionate.
Looking back, there is an eye-poking discrepancy between the circumstances within which those early bands operated (late 80s / early 90s) and today. People were generally a lot more conservative and averse to anything different – just having long hair would be a cause for physical altercation. With no Internet, bands had to depend exclusively on the gritty life of touring in unknown territories and old-fashioned tape-trading. Today’s bands are more refined and artistically cohesive but perhaps one might say that they lack that vigour which comes from overcoming the particular difficulties of that period. How do you perceive the contrast between today’s and yesterday’s underground?
The aspiring bands of today certainly have no shortage of advantages compared with the analogue years gone past but I would have to say that everything is once again relative, the bands and their efforts to achieve recognition being a product of the time and place. Many of these bands were very successful in crafting a style and identity of their own, something made possible by the youthfulness of the scene and abundance of possibilities in pushing heavy music to new levels. Today, many of the genre envelopes have already been pushed by a superfluous number of bands making truly entrepreneurial acts something of a rarity. So I believe it fair to say the musician of today has his/her fair share of obstacles also, even if getting your band noticed has become too easy.
You eschew the “gimmicks” typically associated with the extreme metal aesthetic such as overtly Satanic imagery, corpse/war-paint, bullets etc, etc. Do you feel the genre has “grown up” now in a sense making such behaviour seem ludicrous?
Not necessarily, I guess it all depends on where your priorities lie. There are still plenty of bands retaining their cult attire in the name of traditions, preference or lack of imagination. I would agree that many bands have evolved ideologically, often giving the music itself secondary status. Many of the contemporary stage shows may be a little more refined and tasteful than those of the past but often they are simply regurgitated ideas. While we prefer a raw minimalism live it is essentially all a matter of taste.
Playing a song live carries its own unique energy and nuances depending on the audience, the place and your own subjective state during those moments. By contrast, playing it on one’s vinyl player is something “frozen” in time – it does not carry the distinctive features of the spatiotemporal context it is being played in. Regarding your relationship with live shows would you say there’s an extra intangible “dimension” captured during a performance that cannot be captured otherwise? Are the audience gaining something more than mere entertainment by being part of your performance in a way?
Of course! Provided the cyclical exchange of energy between performer and artist is existent, a live show serves as a palpable exposition of the music and an often intimate confrontation with those performing it. That being said, prerequisites such as suitable sound conditions and the engagement of both performer and spectator are usually necessary in order that this experience be optimised.
The atmosphere present at many a One Tail One Head or The Ruins Of Beverast performance is a prime example of what should be happening in this type of setting….magic is very real when the hearts and wills of all involved surrender themselves unto the fire of the music.
One demo, two EPs, one full-length and already a couple of tours under your belt. What is the next summit the Bölzer camp have set their eyes on climbing in the future?
We are working on new material whilst gearing up for the very busy year ahead and as always we will continue to challenge ourselves creatively!
I believe this pretty wraps it up for me. Any parting lines of wisdom to the Cypriot fans out there?
Perhaps not of wisdom but of anticipation! We are grateful for this opportunity and very much look forward to playing for you!
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