Just dropping a line to let you know that I have been working on the Void article. Life is kicking me in the nuts. Between kicks, I squeak out whatever work I can.
Here are some questions that I'd like to pepper throughout the article in a sort of unstructured interview. If they generate follow-up questions, we'll work those in too.
Time again then to sit at the control station and hammer the keys a bit.
Sorry about your nut crushing. Hope you source the necessary chutzpah to kick life back. I'm afraid my nuts are quite battered at the moment too, (I actually got kicked in the nuts literally today) and I might have lost the plot somewhat herein. Probably not much worth printing... too long, too off topic, too self indulgent... More worthy of a flushing than a printing?
Let's find out.
0. How does it feel to be the oldest living band named Void (in a time that we at the Toilet like to call "peak void")? 1. Does the fact that a million other metal bands keep stealing your name ever make you want to change it?
Oldest is good. So is living. But peak Void has been a pain in the arse. It has made it extremely difficult to locate our band online. Especially the second album. It's on Spotify, for example, but try searching Void - Void, you won't find it without scrolling many pages.
Maybe that's how it is supposed to be. Maybe we are meant to be consigned to the void. Maybe no one is searching for it anyway. Poetic justice. #Unsearchable #unknowable ... That's ok I guess, we didn't make the music to become stars, however we would like to play some nice festivals, we would like to tour Europe and beyond; so we are waving our fucking flag and keeping the name.
We did seriously consider changing it. We nearly became 'The Unsearchable Riches of Void', or 'The Unsearchable Void', and in many ways we are, just not officially. We never put (official) after our name anyway. Why do they all do that? It looks so shit. We could have used a completely new name, been a completely new band, BUT we love the old songs as much as the new, so without that history to back us up, and considering the rate at which we turn out songs – I can imagine... four or five nearly forty year old guys, popping up with seven or eight weird ass new songs that don't fit into any new scene? At least by keeping the name we fit into a category of our own.
However: Can you imagine being a fresh faced young musical duo at the millennium's end, and one lad turns to the other and says "why don't we call it void?" Its hard to imagine there can ever have been a time when that can have seemed like an original idea! Of course, it wasn't, and there had already been an established 'void' but we didn't know that at the time. Neither of us knew very much about punk or hardcore.
Unglamorously enough I think the name was originally inspired by the funeral scene from Alien3, "we commit these bodies to the void with a glad heart...", I was so moved. It was the only 'word' I contributed to the band from its inception until about 10 years later.
As for getting ripped off... I doubt you're being serious, but there was a band that popped up called 'Posthuman', with an album "Into the Void"... That's a bit weird isn't it? Just coincidence? You tell me... I don't remember if there's any stylistic similarity.
I never read anywhere in print that any band has been influenced by this particular Void, but I've received a few personal messages over the years to that effect, including from artists I respect. Things like that really make it worth while.
2. Is it okay for people to think of you, Matt, as a sponge? (Stylistically, that is.)
A stylistic "pore bearer", a sister of the Diploblasts. Sponges have unspecialized cells that can transform into other types and that often migrate between the main cell layers and the mesohyl in the process. Sponges do not have nervous, digestive or circulatory systems. Instead, most rely on maintaining a constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove wastes. Sponges were first to branch off the evolutionary tree from the common ancestor of all animals, making them the sister group of all other animals.
Sister of the Diploblasts!
The first to branch off the evolutionary tree...
You mean because, stylistically, I soaked up all sorts of stuff and spat it out again into the music?
And unspecialised cells do transform into other types that migrate between layers... thematically as well as stylistically. That still occurs. But that I am porous to any kind of wave-born material that tries to pass through me? No way. I am a solid, impregnable type of material. Something dogged and headstrong, like living stone, I resist most recorded music I come into contact with... stylistically. At least I do nowadays. I'm a bit more amenable at live shows.
It was different at the point of maturity in my life cycle of course. My teenage years. I took on a lot of data, stylistically, then.
My parents weren't into popular music so as a kid I absorbed the radio. Cheesy pop was my thing, I remember singing along with Colour Me Bad's, I Wanna Sex You Up, even doing the pump-your-body-and-stab-the-air dance. I was lucky if they played some Nena Cherry, or some Simply Red. I still get the hooks from "I love your smile" or "Finally it has happened to me" stuck in my head sometimes. In my grossly inaccurate memory banks that was only moments before my sister started dating a metal head and I heard the black album for the first time. I found a way out... or in. Although initially I just played Nothing Else Matters and turned the tape over to play "The Unforgiven" on repeat. This has got nothing to do with Void, or your question, so far, but fuck it, here it comes. What I soaked up, and kept inside. It didn't pass through me. It's still there.
1992 Metallica & grunge at the same time,
1994 Pantera > Slayer (I was reading the big magazines and following orders), Entombed Wolverine Blues, Fear Factory
1995 Sepultura > Carcass > Death's 'Individual Thought Patterns' (Shit was getting good now - I went to Donnington Monsters of Rock that year), I read a review of Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse, I also started playing in the school orchestra. I met Mat McNerney around this time and he had an older friend called Kola Krauze, they introduced me to a lot of bands.
1997 I stopped listening to much else other than Emperor, Dissection, Satyricon... I didn't like Burzum or Darkthrone much. I liked the linear scaffold. I hated cradle of filth. I got completely lucky in that I was studying A level music (because I wanted to do Music Technology) and the syllabus that year was Russian Ballet, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky, Stravinsky. I was a sponge for that genre. It's some of the best ever music ever written imho. Mat McNerney and I took a trip to Norway, passing through Oslo, and there we met Fenriz, amongst others. They became fast friends. I was too misanthropic for friends.
1998 Life at home became utterly shit. Unbearable. I listened to Satanic Black Metal sounds and cut my arms. I went to Central America and visited the ancient cities of fallen civilisations. I drank so much I couldn't speak.
Then I moved to Scotland. I had Written in Waters copied on tape. I didn't understand it yet but I would soon. I wrote the first Void song, "Superhuman Frequencies". “Let's not be afraid to use effects”, Mat said.
1999 was the year. Everything changed for me. I was free, my spirit soared. Dødheimsgard released 666 International. La Masquerade Infernal came out. Even Ulver released a good song (maybe more than one...) Sponge sponge sponge. Fleurety released Last Minute Lies. I remembered that record the other day and heard it for the first time in years. Wow.
2000000000000. I felt empowered, an individual. Cut off from my family, I could be whoever I wanted. I moved back to London and started taking drugs in the goth club Slimelight, which also had a "techno" floor... it wasn't really techno, but I liked it. Do you remember Apoptygma Beserk? They played it there. I met the guys from Aborym on the dancefloor. My ego exploded into the Void. I heard Aphex Twin's 'Come to Daddy'! & Squarepusher 'come on my Selector'. It was dark and electronic. It was better than most metal, more intense. But there wasn't enough music like that. Detailed and classically beautiful but really full on. All this stuff, sponged up and mixed together in me - this was Void, this was who I was. I got more into electronic music. I was a student on a music technology degree course in London.
If I was so happy during this time, how come the music came out sounding so dark? I ask myself on your behalf, Richter. Well on the one hand, because of its influences, but also, because this kind of happiness, that stems from giving personal permission to find thrill in self-destructive patterns... it’s quite negative. To find belonging and acceptance by hurting yourself. It wasn't sustainable. Mat McNerney chose to steer clear of me around this time.
2003 Void split up, I was devastated. I didn't want to hear metal music anymore. I found new friends and took ketamine in filthy squats. I got a full time job and lived for the hit from the weekend. One of the last records that Mat copied for me was "Deloused in the Crematorium."
2004 I moved to Brazil, with my Mars Volta record. I met Wagner Antunes, who had been in the straightedge hardcore scene there, but was now listening to what he called 'Post-Hardcore'... they don't call it Post-Hardcore anymore, that's a kind of screamo now isn't it? Wagner introduced me to some bands that I really liked, the more progressive ones, bands like Fugazi from DC, Faraquet, Medications and things like Dismemberment Plan, which is kind of pop/indie, but nicely arranged with really depressing lyrics. We started a band called Erege, that was called post punk, not because we were punks before that, but because that's what happens when a black metal guitarist and a hardcore drummer - who don't share a common language - smoke weed and make a band together.
I did a lot more drugs in a lot more parties. I overstayed my VISA by 10 months and came home broke and broken.
That's about where it ends for spongeyness. I don't think I soaked up much more than that. I got back into metal in 2009 when I met Joe Burwood, who is a massive metal fan, when we were working on the Flowers of Flesh and Blood (an anarcho hardcore punk band) record together. But I didn't start listening to new metal bands. I dusted off my DHG and my Ved Buens Ende and picked up where I had left off in 2003. I started tracing backwards instead of forwards through time, back in the direction of Pantera, and Colour Me Bad... But by now, the experience of playing in a proper band, with a drummer, like how it had been in Erege, that's the hit I was after, the thrill I was addicted to. So Void was reformed as a live band, playing in the style of the first demo that had Czral on drums, but influenced somewhat by the hardcore band we were playing in, the doom bands we were gigging with and the playing style of the band's new members. With Rob Archibald on bass (the most talented musician I have ever met, alongside Joe, both can play all the instruments) and the awesome power of Ben Lowe (R.I.P.) on vocals. That was a very good year... For all of us. And for Void. If we could have carried on like that …. ????
I've discovered a few good bands since then, Shield Your Eyes & Nitkowski from London, Toe from Japan, Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum from the States, God Speed You Black Emperor from Canada; there's not a great deal else I've soaked up to be honest, certainly very little in the metal genre. Stuff like Oranssi Pazuzu is alright I guess but I can take it or leave it and this shoegazey post-black-metal stuff, "Blackgaze", that seems to have hijacked the genre of post-black-metal, like how those emo bands hijacked post hardcore earlier, that's not for me. I can't sit still and pretend that I'm dead for thirty minutes anymore, I'm far too ADHD, and anyway, I've got to get up and get scavenging. I've offspring to feed. I've got the million plates of modernity to spin, and deliberately spoon feeding myself doses of someone else's bleakness isn't on the list of priorities. Same with doom/sludge. I was pretty sure I was OK with doom, (which is so humongously popular now in London, with Desertfest etc, which I still haven't been to) but I put on the new Sleep album in the car yesterday, which facebook keeps raving about, and I just didn't get it. I mean are this band so amazing that they don't require notes anymore? I couldn't find many riffs amongst the endless open bottom strings, ringing out through one song into the next. Of course I'm mucking about. I know what it's for, the music... but it's not for me. Not without a LOT of drugs n' alcohol, Sir. Then I'm just about anyone's : )
I get bored. Say something or get off the stage. Play some Nena Cherry. But clearly this is not established thinking because Blackgaze style post-black metal and doom/sludge are the big things at the moment. So we, Void are stopping to call ourselves Post Black Metal these days. Or even black metal. Is it black metal?
Euronymous said, to be black metal it only had to be Satanic, which we're not, and who would want to follow his kind of religious Satanism - an inverted Christianity, anyway? Religion is stupid. He said that the Satanism wasn't a gimmick but i guess that was the gimmick. Saying it wasn't a gimmick.
Interestingly, Fleurety's 'Min Tid Skal Komme', an album I have a lot of respect for, although I wasn't hooked on it like Written in Waters, gets described as Post-Black Metal, because it is original sounding music. But how can it be post black metal, released in 1995? This is just black metal isn't it? Before black metal became homogenised to sound like exactly one thing (Burzum, Darkthrone) and post black metal its more shoegazey offspring. Svein Egil said they used to lie in bed at night, scared that Euronymous would come and kill them in their sleep for not sounding original enough hahahaha. So maybe we are a black metal band. That's not what you asked. You asked if I'm a stylistic sponge. Short answer: not anymore, no.
3. What's holding it all together, man? What driving force is at the center of the Void?
Playing guitar. Playing together, with good musicians. The endless pursuit to get tighter as a band. But also writing riffs, hammering notes into a sequence that pushes a riff past the abstract and obvious... (its just another riff... nobody needs another riff!)
Something that says, yes, I am finished, I don't require more development. You put your soul into this and it sounds like that. Sometimes a riff sounds generic to us and we develop it and change it beyond recognition. Sometimes it comes out exactly as it should be and never changes. Sometimes I'm trying to play something I've sponged up in my head, and it comes out wrong, and you call it your own.
There was less careful structuring of riffs when we wrote the tape, because we were so well rehearsed and well maintained after doing the second album, the riffs just plopped out, one after another into the rehearsal space, lovely smooth sausage shapes that got hammered into songs. Good times... good times. What holds it together now is the knowledge that all that has been learned so far is yet to be properly expressed, and that the next album will be the one to really tear a [w]hole in music. And the one after that will be where we really get going, it won't even use notes, or not as you know them. Ha ha, I jest. It's a game, it's all a fucking game. For sure we are older and fatter now and the tight waistline has slipped, but we're working hard to get it back.
4. I take it the long hiatuses and stylistic shifts between albums have been the result of both artistic growth great adversity. Care to elaborate?
I've probably answered this above; using far too many words. blah blah blah. me me me.
I'm a hypersensitive sponge, I don't deal well with rejection, grudge-bearer, paranoid... but loyal, and expecting of the same. My wife says I expect too much from people and am constantly disappointed. A slight can take years to wear of. How annoying.
But Ben's suicide and Rob's psychotic break were tragedies that were not of my making. We were really rocked by these events.
These guys were not easy to replace. We're still finding our feet in a way, but through the inclusion of Levi as vocalist and more recently Gerardo on bass, we have evolved into something new again. We've just added a second guitarist as well. We thought we'd never be able to do another album... And then suddenly, there it was, 37mins of new music demoed on my computer:
5. The new EP seems to have more of a political or socially conscious flavor. What brought this about? Are you trying to communicate something to the world or just bleed your demons?
I am not the lyricist of the band, if I was the band might be more political, although judging from what I've typed already herein it might just be more narcissistic and whiney. But I do find myself arguing to make more political statements in the band these days. I worry a lot about the world, especially about the actions of our countries' ruling elite, the US primarily, but the UK too... military bases, war hawks, pipelines, fossil fuels... and ordinary people over there paying the ultimate price... and ordinary people over here believing all the bullshit and hating 'otherness' and diversity even more, which feeds back into the war engine and the self-preservation, or exclusive, nationalist mentality. It isn't always justifiable to point the finger but your country, and mine, have a lot to answer for. If we could only cut their lifeline. Stop using/buying petrol, coal, single use plastics... I mean what's gonna happen now that China won't buy your rubbish? Throw it over the wall into Mexico? Into the sea? This Republican 'fuck the future' attitude has got to be reversed, or soon things will look like a Phillip K Dick story, nothing but fields of blasted ash and slag, nothing moving but man made killing machines, like the Faro robots of Horizon Zero Dawn, eating all life on earth. (I love that game.)
Joe Burwood our drummer is also politically conscious, fiercely socialist. he’s not interested in the lyrics much, but he’s more of an online activist than me. And from a proudly working class background, posting anti-capitalist memes and the like. It's funny how when this band started they were calling these anti establishment ideas 'conspiracy theories'. We don't use that term much anymore do we? Nowadays there's the echo chamber of mainstream media, and the conspiracy theories are the more believable stories, widely reported in the alternative press. Chemical attacks? Bullshit. 'Liberating' oppressed cities? Bullshit. Moderate rebels? Bullshit. Russian aggression?
Is this the new cold war? Time to live in fear again and do whatever our governments tell us while they dismantle social order and scoop up whatever Power they can?. I call bullshit.
If you worry about the world, knowing there's not an immense amount you can do about it, where can you put that energy? Your day job? It's inevitable that it will bleed into your art. Hopefully it will inspire some kind of meaningful action in me as well, before I die. I helped out the Punk scene a lot in the past, and they like to think of themselves as activists and all about inclusivity. That's cute, but really they're just an alcoholic, hedonist clique. Their protest is no more effective than the squat party ketamine heads'.
But I'm not the main lyricist of the band. I wrote the lyrics to Babylon, (the more straight-up-black-metal song on the second album, music by Joe) and that is a political song. And I've written some personal, and some political stuff for the new album. Mat McNerney wouldn't listen to my input and only wrote very abstract things. My involvement was too add all the vocal effects in those days. Ben Lowe wrote deeply personal lyrics. I was involved extensively in the arrangement of Levi LeBlanc's lyrics for the cassette, but the words are almost entirely his. Lyrics on the new album are written by Gerardo, Levi & myself.
I imagine your question stems from the Donald Trump quote at the start of the song '...Scumscrubber'? Well that originated from how I interpreted Levi's lyrics to that song... about "reckless moral authorities [that] fell well short of integrity"... Pretty sure he meant to be political there... but not necessarily. it's hard to know exactly what Levi is talking about a lot of the time, but i dig the vibe.
That's all for now.
Too right. I've written a fucking book. I hope its not another kick in the nuts.
IMAGE of seated figure: Peter Howson, title unknown.