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Black Moth

Recently Black Moth bestowed upon us their latest album, 'Anatomical Venus, a very solid rocker that stands out from "the rest" because of, among other things, the poweful vocals of Harriet Hyde, with whom we had the pleasure to do this interview. The singer shows a very bright and open side and tells us about her interests, about how interesting it is to explore the darker caverns of the mind, and how paraphilias are a recurring theme on their albums.

By: Bart M. | Archive under stoner

I probably do not have to tell you that I was very impressed by 'Anatomical Venus'. It came as a big surprise because I had never heard of Black Moth before Lords of Metal sent me the album to review. Can you please tell us about how the five of you met and what made you decide to form Black Moth?
Ah, thank you! We have played in the Netherlands a few times, and hopefully next time you will catch us! Jimmy (guitar) and I met in school, aged 13! We were both really into grunge at the time and decided to form a band together. We started off covering bands like Pixies, Nirvana, PJ Harvey and Tool…! But by the time we were in our late teens, we started trying to create something new of our own. Our first proper band was The Bacchae, who came from our passion for 1960s garage, psych and protopunk. We met Dave (bass) when we were 18 and Dom (drums) a couple of years later. Dom’s a heavy hitter and the influence he brought was somewhat more metallic than we had experimented with before. Our love of groovy 60s riffs moved chronologically into a love of bands like Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore. This coupled with the influence of bands like Kyuss, Alice in Chains and L7 that we already adored from our grunge days, led to the sound we all now know as Black Moth!

The album is very heavy and psychedelic in my experience, it hits you in the face like a freight train and then takes you on a very interesting journey that does not seem to slow down or stop. What does your songwriting process look like? And who writes what?
Fantastic- very glad to hear it had that impact! We write all the music in the rehearsal room together. Someone has a riff and we just grow it from there. If it feels good and makes our hairs stand on end, we continue with it. If not, it goes in the bin. Lyrics wise, I wrote with a co-writer for this album- a new thing for me! It has always been such a solitary process in the past but this time I enlisted the help of Jessika Green- a close friend who shares my deepest interests and intrigues. We lit candles, meditated on figures in the Anatomical Venus book by Joanna Ebenstein and let the themes leak out from our unconscious.

In my review of your album I expressed the idea that psychedelic music is music that makes you close your eyes and then takes you to realms unimaginable. This is exactly what your music does to me and thus to me it is the definition of psychedelic. Can you give me your opinion on this? And if we are talking categories, where would you put Black Moth?
That’s wonderful to hear. We’re not as “out there” as more classic psych bands in the Hawkwind vein. Our songs are not super long and we don’t tend to trip out for minutes at a time, but it is a huge part of my musical philosophy and I’m glad you can pick up on that. I loved that you picked up on the influence of Jefferson Airplane in the music as they are a BIG one for me.

The one song that stands out from the others is 'Pig Man'. It sounds different: a bit more primitive, musically, and the vocals match that idea. Can you tell us what the song is about and what inspired it?
Yes you are right, it is more of a scuzzy protopunk vibe. Theme wise it is a step away from the poetry and more of the old style Black Moth Black Comedy than the rest of the album, and continues our running theme of songs about interesting paraphilias (such as in Looner, Slumber with the Worm and The Articulate Dead). I had been reading a book called 'Perv' by Jesse Behring and he talks about the witch hunts of New Haven and these guys they called "Pig Men," which were farmhands or men who had been caught having sex with barnyard animals. The belief was that they were trying to spawn satanic offspring that would then bring Satan to Earth. Some were even executed for it. Obviously I had to write a song about this… who wouldn’t!?

Another song that struck me is 'Sisters Of The Stone'. It is very vengeful and heavy. I love it! I get the idea that it has some linkage to the #metoo discussion but I could be wrong here. Please explain what this song is about.
Yes you’re absolutely right in a way, although I actually wrote it months before the #metoo campaign came into existence. It was actually inspired by some shocking stories I had heard from close friends about abusive relationships. One day I went into the rehearsal room just seething with rage about the maltreatment of my sisters and it started there. I also think there were notable ripples of violation felt by many women in the aftermath of the exposure of America’s “pussy grabbing” President. It felt very appropriate to release this on the centenary of Votes for Women in the UK and with the wave of female empowerment around #metoo/#timesup campaigns. I had Tarrentino’s 'Death Proof' as well as the Maenads of Ancient Greece in mind when writing. My favourite moment of our live show currently is when Jimmy and Federica cross axes on stage and play their amazing interweaving double solo harmonies. It feels like and expression of men and women standing strong together.

Your lyrics seem to flirt with the occult occasionally, or at least have some dark edge to them. (Correct me if I am wrong.) What is it that interests you in these things and how do you decide what to and what not to sing about?
I have always had quite leftfield, esoteric interests and a desire to probe the dark corners of existence. I am currently training to be a psychotherapist so I am dwelling in the shadows of the human mind more than ever! I’m easily bored by the mundane and every day and am the kind of person who always wants to be operating or conversing at depth with people about the BIG stuff… pretty much love, fear and death! The things that make us human.

Let us dwell a bit more on the occult. One of the reasons my father is against metal is because he has the notion that it is all satanic and occult. I disagree with that, but I do think it is a fact that metal (heavy music) deals a lot more with these topics than any other kind of music does. Why do you think this is?
Wow, your poor father must be so worried! Ha ha! Aesthetically, the satanic and occult match this style of music, but it definitely runs deeper than that. I think good music taps into the deep stuff buried in the human unconscious and that can draw us towards a realm of darkness - our shadow (in the Jungian sense). Sharing challenging emotions or experiences through creativity in the loving community of a music scene can be immensely healing and bonding… and actually a very positive force of acceptance. There’s no place for judgement or moralism in art for me, it has to be about raw, honest expression. That’s how you connect with people.

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Since we are on this track now I cannot resist to ask you the following. As you are probably aware of there are a lot of stories going round about bands and musicians that have sold their soul to the devil in return for fame. The Beatles, for instance. When I listen to 'Anatomical Venus' I am enjoying it from A to Z and I find no flaws whatsoever. So, just for fun (the question, not the actual deed), did you sell your souls to the devil? And, what do you think about these rumours of bands that supposedly did?
Ha!! Well I’m not Christian, and I’d probably have to believe in God to believe in Satan. But I do love the mythology around Lucifer, as well as representations of dark lords of the underworld across various cultural histories- from Hades to Yama! Like I said, I think the really rich stuff in human experience is in the shadows, so that probably involves communing with the devil, metaphorically speaking at least! Having said this, a part of me LOVES the idea of the Beatles selling their souls to the devil, so as a story at least, I’m happy go along with it! It definitely helped that they wrote beautiful songs though!

The thing that stands out most in your music is the voice, I thought initially. I cannot stress enough how enchantingly beautiful it is. But then I got to thinking that your kind of music is just too powerful to have anything less. I was wondering how that kind of thing (your voice) develops. At what time in your life did it become evident that your powerful, commanding vocals were way beyond average and what did you do from that point on?
Thank you, what a lovely thing to say! I never thought of myself as a singer until a few years ago actually. I wasn’t trained so I just started out wailing rock music purely for fun. When people started referring to me as a singer I felt very self-conscious! However, having been singing for years now, I’ve noticed a huge improvement in my range and power and have finally been able to accept the title of “vocalist”! Singing is the most wonderful feeling - projecting sound swathed in raw emotion from your own body. I wish I had an instrument sometimes but I wouldn’t trade it for the experience of singing. It’s very therapeutic!

On a slightly related note: a lot of musicians (mainly vocalists) are being "discovered" in television shows like Idols or The Voice UK. Most of them do not end up in the metal scene. I think that is a blessing, because like some other professions, being a singer in a metal band is more a vocation than a job. How do you feel about shows like that?
Haha I don’t know… it just feels like a million miles from what we do! I’ve never seen myself in isolation from a band for a start! I have no interest in becoming a famous pop star or turning it into my profession even, as capitalizing always comes with compromising. Our art and our creative freedom is more important to us than that! It is sad how those shows seem to be producing very weak, generic pop music, but the general public seem to have a taste for that at this particular point in history! One could write a dissertation on it!

I see that you have toured with a number of very interesting bands. I noticed the names of two of my favourite bands among them, namely L7 and Sisters of Mercy. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences on tour with these bands? What are your most memorable moments?
Meeting and playing with L7 was the ultimate dream support for me. Those women have been an immeasurable inspiration and I don’t even know what I’d be doing today if it wasn’t for them showing me that women can rock just as hard as men if not harder. When I arrived in Glasgow, I walked through the doors of the venue and just heard “HAAARRIEEETTT!!!” And Donita came running over to give me a hug. And when we played the show, I turned around and the whole band were headbanging side of stage. I could have cried I was so proud! Sisters of Mercy was also a lot of fun. Andrew Eldridge was a true gentleman and he even watched and applauded our soundchecks! So supportive and generous, more than we ever expected!

I have always wondered about what effect it has on a band when they are supporting another band. What is your experience in this? When you open up for another band is the reaction of the audience generally positive?
Oh it varies a lot. Depending on the band you are supporting, the crowds have entirely different collective personalities, which is always amusing to perceive! Then you notice them preferring the heavier songs in your set if it’s a metal band… or the more fun punk songs if it’s a younger crowd maybe! If you are a good match to the band you are supporting, the crowd are usually very receptive. We’ve been very lucky in this way.

And what do you do when you get the feeling the audience does not get your music? Sometimes I really, really like the supporting act of a band I am going to watch, and then sometimes it seems like I am the only one in the audience that does and it feels kind of awkward. How does this feel when you are up there on the stage?
Oh it makes a huge difference. I’d like to say it doesn’t but it does. We enjoy playing our songs of course, but a big part of the enjoyment is knowing you’re connecting with people and that delicious alchemy occurs. So I implore you, even if you feel like you’re the only one, let the band know you’re enjoying it and you will get a better show!

Last November I was in Leeds at Damnation Festival and me and my UK "tour guide" passed through Bradford on our way there and she explained to me a little bit about the metal scene in those regions. How is the metal scene in Leeds and surroundings? And does the area (surroundings, other bands, etc.) have an influence on your music?
Oh it is brilliant. I actually live in London now but I really miss the DIY vibe and supportive nature of the Leeds/Bradford scenes. It is very open minded, so you get a lot of genre blending which I think is very important to creativity. There is a lot of member swapping/collaborations as well, which keeps it fresh and interesting, such as Paul Astick from Hawk Eyes doing backing vocals on our record!

Finally, what can we expect from Black Moth in the future? And if there is anything you want to add or say to our readers, please feel free to do so!
Yes, we are working on some European dates as we speak so keep your ears to the ground and spread the word. The more demand there is, the more likely we are to be able to get over there and see you guys! Thanks Bart!

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