Anaal Nathrakh are in support of their tenth album A New Kind of Horror, which is about the First World War. See our Review of the album here.
Interview questions were answered by email by Dave Hunt the vocalist for Anaal Nathrakh.
Noizze: I hope you’re well? How do you feel about A New Kind of Horror, now that it’s complete and released?
Dave Hunt: I am well, thanks. Busy. We’re really pleased with it – not that that will be particularly surprising to anyone, but it’s true. And we’re really pleased with some of the things that have happened around the release, too. We’re very proud of the video that accompanies 'Obscene as Cancer', I think the film makers knocked that out of the park, so to speak. We don’t really read reviews or that kind of thing very much, but I noticed that one of the songs, 'Forward!', had over half a million plays on Spotify pretty quickly, so that’s cool too.
Noizze: How has it been playing the material live?
Dave Hunt: We’ve only played a couple of shows where we could play any new material, but the new songs seemed to work really well at both of them. One was a big festival, so somewhat lacking in intimacy to really feel people’s response. But the other was a special album preview kind of thing at a comparatively tiny venue, and they went off like a bomb.
Noizze: Has there been anything different that you’ve done in writing this album? Or are there any conscious musical influences for the album?
Dave Hunt: We don’t really have any conscious musical influences in terms of bands or anything like that, we haven’t had for a long time. But I think the electronic sounds have taken a slight step back. They’re still there, and we still use a similar approach, but a lot of the sounds we’ve used are more organic on A New Kind of Horror. That’s not to say that the overall feel is softer-edged, but there’s a degree or two more tactility to some of the sounds, I think. I don’t think that was particularly conscious, it’s just how things came out because that’s what it felt right to do. And with the lyrical side of things, some of the writing was different because of the way we recorded. I was at Mick’s studio near Huntington Beach in California, staying in his friend’s spare room, and that meant there was an almost complete focus on the creative work, to an extent that we haven’t often had before. So after recording, I’d be stitching together lyrics and so on for the next day’s songs, often with no one around and nothing else to do or think about. And the lack of outside life made that a more concentrated experience than it often is. What impact that might have on the resulting recording is hard for us to say, but it was a cool way of doing things.
Noizze: Do you feel that Black Metal still or has a strong influence or indeed any influence on your music?
Dave Hunt: Yes, I think so – Black Metal is still one of the kinds of music that Mick and I have most squarely in common. It’s not the only thing, of course, but it’s a big part of our shared musical experience and part of our lexicon, our way of understanding what we do. That’s not to say that we set trying to write Black Metal songs – Mother of Satan isn’t about what it sounds like it’s about in that way. Check the liner notes for a brief idea. And to a fair extent, saying the word Satan a lot isn’t what we think Black Metal is best at. But some of the style of playing and aspects of the psychology of Black Metal are definitely part of what we do. They’re just not the whole of what we do, and we just don’t try to be and don’t claim to be a black Metal band. Some of it just oozes out through the pores.
Noizze: Whilst most of the album has tracks that feel a part of your modern sound as a band (similar to Desideratum and The Whole of the Law) there are tracks like ‘The Apocalypse is About You!’ and ‘Vi Coactus’ that feel similar to earlier albums (Eschaton and In the Constellation of the Black Widow), do you listen and/or ever write songs with previous albums in mind?
Dave Hunt: No, not really. The albums we did in the past are part of us, they came out of us, and so unless we make a conscious decision to purge those sounds, they’ll be somehow echoed sometimes just naturally. But we very much treat each new thing we do as its own thing – A New Kind of Horror is where we were and how we felt and thought at the time we made it. We are us, we couldn’t change that if we wanted to, and that has certain effects on the sound. But the album isn’t beholden to what we did in the past. If you’re trying to quote or refer to something you did previously - even if you’re trying to move away from something, that still means you’re doing what you’re doing now in a way that’s relative to the thing you’re moving away from. We don’t think that way, we want an album to be itself without reference to anything else. Obviously it’s an Anaal Nathrakh album we’re talking about, so it’s going to have certain sonic features and a certain mindset and all that – otherwise we wouldn’t call it Anaal Nathrakh. But it’s not in dialogue with previous albums on any other level than the fact that it’s us making it. Everything you do could be the first thing an outsider is exposed to, and it must stand on its own as such. Being consciously self-referential or trying to recreate something you did before in comparison just smacks of a paucity of ideas or some level of insecurity. We’d rather aspire to abundance.
Noizze: What would you say the relevance of the First World War is for modern audiences and what could we learn by it?
Dave Hunt: I think there are a lot of things we can see as relevant if we think about that war, as well as others. First of all there’s the simple point that we shouldn’t forget that these things happened. Not that we will any time soon, but the human detail can slip out of the picture and we can sometimes end up with a general mush of sentiment that obscures what actually happened to people and to the world. Second, there are any number of parallels with today’s world, I think. Don’t people today have a sense that the world isn’t being run in their interests? I think they do, I think that’s partly what’s behind phenomena like Trump’s election and Brexit – a sense of dissatisfaction with and even betrayal by agents of the status quo. Well try reading Sassoon’s Soldier’s Declaration – something very similarthing is there – manipulation of sentiment and jingoism leading directly to the squandering of people’s lives. There are lessons and warnings there about allowing ourselves today to be dragged along by disingenuous leaders who don’t have our best interests at heart. That’s just a couple of ways of looking at it, we could be here all day. The bottom line is I think there is a hell of a lot that we can get out of reflecting on that war today.
Noizze: How much has poetry of that time been used and referred to in your lyrics for the album and why?
Dave Hunt: We drew on various bits of poetry, and we often include poetry in the cauldron of things we’re inspired by, because it’s often one of the most direct and powerful evocations of what people experienced, what was in their hearts and minds. With the war poems, for example Dulce Et Decorum Est, when you realise that it was written by someone who was there in the trenches himself, it’s staggeringly powerful. And Siegfried Sassoon’s compassionate bitterness is as compelling as anything I’ve seen written about the war. And sometimes one poet’s inspiration can fire your own imagination off – thinking about Larkin’s poem 1914 made me want to make the horribly jarring clash between the sentiments in the verses and the chorus of 'Forward!'. There’s a lyric video for that song on the net if you want to see what I mean. So yes, the poetry of the time was a big point of reference. So were other things from back then – we spent a lot of time talking about images – photographs, propaganda images, a whole lot of time discussing paintings. There’s a big resource as part of the Imperial War Museum’s website, and various other repositories like the online collection of Otto Dix’s work and that sort of thing. It’s all fascinating stuff – especially seeing the changes in style and content over time as the artists were exposed to ever harsher realities. It’s utterly terrible what they went through and saw, and what’s in their work. And it’s also hugely important, I think, and deserves continued recognition and engagement. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that others have paid attention to similar things recently, and I’m curious to see Peter Jackson’s new film about that time. A bit part of the power of his film, of the art and especially the poetry, because of its intimate, interior nature, is to make us realise that they, the soldiers, the people of that world which can sometimes seem remote, were and are us.
Noizze: The extreme music is both dark and beautifully melodic at times, is this conscious and if so how do you find this balance?
Dave Hunt: It’s conscious to the extent that the music wouldn’t feel right to us without that complexity of elements, without that balance. But we don’t think in terms of ‘we sometimes create beauty’ – we wouldn’t use language like that or think that way. It’s more that contrast and difference are important parts of what makes music satisfying to us. That’s the case in general, I think, a strong tendency in humans everywhere. Contrasts are important to how we understand things. One thing all the time is boring. And one of the things we find resonant and satisfying is to have those different emotional aspects that melody can bring in. It’s all part of what Anaal Nathrakh is to us, it includes all of the various aspects at once. It’s still constrained by its sense of identity – when I say that melody is part of it, I don’t mean we’re going to launch into Watching The Detectives – it’s a certain kind of melody, a certain kind of atmosphere. But it’s automatic and balance
d because it’s a fundamental part of what we do, just like eggs are part of a cake. Omit them and it’s not a cake, use too many and it’s a shit cake. And once the cake is made, they’re not a separable thing any more. There can only be a good cake of the right kind of all of the required elements are there in the right proportions. I’ve now said cake too many times. I don’t even really like cakes!
Noizze: Do you have any favourite songs and if so why?
Dave Hunt: No, we’ve got particular bits that stick in our heads at different times, but no favourite songs – we’re too close to it all, and the album seems like one monolithic thing to us. It takes a bit of distance and therefore time to be able to think of an album in the required way to have favourite songs. And even then, if you’ve made the songs yourself, it’s often the things you connect with the recording of a specific song that stick out to you. I suppose that’s just one of the irreconcilable differences between the people who make music and the rest of the people who listen to it. Your own stuff is always going to occupy a slightly separate category in your mind to the stuff you listen to as a fan or consumer like everyone else.
Noizze: Do you know of any ideas that you’ll take to any future albums?
Dave Hunt: Yeah, we’ve got plenty of ideas that we haven’t used yet, but there’s no use planning when you’d like to use them. You can think, in prospect, that this or that would be the perfect thing to do on the next album. But then when you come to it, and the album’s started to take on its own shape, that idea can all of a sudden seem crap or irrelevant. But then for the album after that, it can seem like just the right thing to do again. It’s not necessarily a matter of whether the idea is a good one, it’s more about the subtle aspects of context that each album comes to give to itself. So we’ll keep hold of the ideas we’ve got, and maybe they’ll see the light of day eventually, maybe they won’t. To be honest it’s kind of exciting for us to have that unpredictable element in there, and it’s a virtue of the way creativity works. A lot of stuff’s like that. For example I have this philosophical idea that I won’t bore anyone with right now, but I’m aware that it’d need a really big piece of work to really get into it – a PhD or a book or something. I don’t have the opportunity to do those things, at least not about the idea in question, and I probably never will have. But the idea is still an interesting one, albeit under-developed and embryonic thus far. But it still percolates away in the back of my mind at times, and every now and then it can influence other things I do, by providing a certain perspective that I wouldn’t otherwise have thought of. Unused ideas can still play an important role, I think, and music is not necessarily any different than that.
Sincere gratitude goes to Dave Hunt and Anaal Nathrakh as well as Metalblade Records.