First off, let me congratulate you with your absolutely monstrous sophomore effort called 'n0n'! For the readers who missed out on your first album 'Occasus' back in 2004, could you give a short description of what The Amenta is and what you stand for?
Hi, thank you very much. We are very proud of 'n0n'. Basically The Amenta is an extreme music band dedicated to pushing the boundaries in music. Our first album, 'Occasus', was the first step in distancing ourselves from what we see as a stagnant metal scene. 'Occasus' married the sounds of extreme metal with noise and avant-garde sounds. Our aim was to create intricate and interesting music that was, above all, unique. According to the reviews for 'Occasus' we succeeded.
We have just released our second album, 'n0n', which takes our experiments in sound much further. Thematically it deals with herd-mind and human failings. It is a much more personal album than 'Occasus' but both will stand the test of time as original works of art from a time when redundant shit was the norm. I guess, to sum up, the raison d'être of The Amenta is progression. We believe in challenging ourselves and our listeners. We believe in constant movement. We believe that stagnation is the antithesis of art.
It's been four years since 'Occasus', what have you been up to in the mean time? How long have you actually been working on the new album 'n0n'?
Despite how it appears we have certainly not been idle in between albums. Immediately after 'Occasus' we began working on our live show as, up to that point, we had never played a live show for The Amenta. During 'Occasus' our band was only three members. We had to find new members capable of playing our stuff, so there was a lot of preparation and rehearsing. We then toured Australia three times and played a few one off shows as well. We shot the film clip for 'Erebus'. In 2006 we started creating pieces of noise music and experimental film which was eventually released as the 'Virus' DVD with the 2006 'Occasus' deluxe release.
During all this time we were trying to find out where we wanted to go for the next album. After 'Occasus' we were really fucking burnt out. It was basically just two of us writing and recording everything. We saw each other every day for 16 hours a day sometimes for six months. It was hard to get back into the writing process after the hell of 'Occasus'. We started writing some material in 2006. The first songs written were Cancer and Slave. They helped us establish our new direction. Cancer especially showed us that we could still be extreme will embracing a more ambient and electronic side of our music. Once we had discovered a way forward the music came together quite quickly, compared to 'Occasus' anyway. The hard part was recording.
'n0n' truly transgresses quite a number of boundaries in extreme metal resulting in, in my view, an absolutely innovative sound. Where is this sound based on and how did you 'find' it?
Thank you very much for noticing. I am afraid that many people seem unable to understand what we have done. It's always a pleasure to be understood! I think the sound we discovered for 'n0n' is based on a more 'on-screen' experimentation than the experimentation that defined 'Occasus'. On one of our tours around Australia, we had most of our gear stolen from a venue we were playing. We lost all the gear that we used to make 'Occasus' and subsequently we had to think of new ways to write. When it came to write 'n0n' we didn't have the synths that we had relied on previously so we had to use software synths. From there it became obvious that we had more scope to design our own sounds. I don't like using presets in music, I think you find more joy in happy accidents when you play with the settings of a piece of equipment. It's those happy accidents that came to define 'n0n'. Before writing I had no idea about electronic sound design. I learnt a lot with this album. When we began writing we had no idea of what we were looking for but we always follow ideas that we find exciting. So we would design a sound and start thinking of how we could use it and then we would layer instruments until we had achieved what we considered the perfect part. It was a long process but that is the part of music I really enjoy. It was very fucking exciting to hear the songs gradually taking shape. In a way the songs were built, rather than written.
Judging by the fact that each song consists of more than 100 recorded tracks, you must have made an enormous effort with the new album. How did the process of song writing actually take place? Can you describe how laborious the process of creating the songs actually was?
It was extremely hard. We don't have a template for how a song begins but it usually starts with a bit of brainstorming. We imagine an idea which we find exciting. For example, the song Rape was based around the idea of a 'metal' song with no guitars, just noise. So we set out to make that, sometimes we start with a beat, occasionally (though not often) it would be a guitar riff and sometimes it would be based around electronic noise and effects. Then we build the parts up, and start visualizing where the song should go. Rape ended up becoming a weird three part epic and nothing like the song we originally envisioned but sometimes ideas lead to other ideas and you find yourself travelling in strange uncharted directions.
Our aim when we wrote the songs was to create what we called “skeletons” of songs so we could move quickly. That part was difficult in the sense that it was more about song structure. We pulled songs apart and put them back together in different configurations. Some songs lost parts, some gained some. Stephen King once wrote that in order to be a successful writer you have to “murder your darlings”. This means that sometimes you have to kill your favourite part because it just doesn't work in context. We did a lot of that for this album. Once we had the skeletons complete we then started fleshing the songs out. Sometimes I would work on one sound all night and get a tiny bit done. Sometimes a part would just flow out. It was the same with guitars. We experimented a lot with effects and sometimes we had heartbreaking days where we recorded hours of shit but nothing made the cut.
The final recording process was the most arduous. We recorded the album all over the place, in seven different studios, which involved a lot of subsidiary work such as carting all our shit and the actual logistics of capture sound in strange places. Because we had written so quickly we had to go back and relearn all the songs, during which time we rewrote some stuff. It was a more pleasant and less stressful record than “Occasus” but it was longer and had its own set of fucked things. Due to the huge track count we couldn't play back entire songs on our system. So we had multiple sessions, one for vocals, one for guitars and bass, one for drums and one for effects. We didn't hear them together properly until we went in to mix and we were able to load them all into a weapons grade system. So there was a bit of uncertainty about how it would all gel. Thank fuck it turned out well.
The new album sounds very different from your first album. Which features, according to you, are the binding connection between the two albums?
I think there is an experimental aesthetic which binds the two albums. On 'Occasus' there were songs like Zero, which came about through experimenting with running keyboards through guitar effects. And Sangre which is based on blasts of distortion rather than guitars. That same experimental spirit is all over 'n0n'. I think our aims never changed but we certainly changed our methods of achieving those aims. Where as before we used our experiments to spice up our metal album, this time we made an extreme music album with those experiments as the basis for the music.
Thematically the albums deal with the same fundamental issue, which is that humanity is essentially a base animal and only a very select few truly deserve the title “human”. The difference is that 'Occasus' deals with those themes metaphorically through the use of various cultures as a filter whereas 'n0n' examines a more modern political and social climate. 'n0n' is more personal and more direct. 'Occasus' hid the disgust behind pretty words, 'n0n' is just straight out. No hiding behind metaphors.
One remarkable phrase in the bio on the concept of 'n0n' goes: “'n0n' can be seen as an indictment on today's media and technology addicted society.” In what light should we then view the role that technology has played in the creation of 'n0n'?
I guess it would seem that we are contradicting ourselves by using technology? The truth is that there is no problem with media and technology provided you use them as tools for your own end. The problem is that the tables are generally turned. Technology uses PEOPLE. Every time they bring out a new fucking I-pod all the kids run out and get them. Look at the queues world wide for the fucking i-phone! And these aren't bought for tools; they are bought for fashionable reasons. We use technology to make art. We never allow technology to use us. We are the masters, it is the slave. I think you will find that most people are slaves to their machines.
And how would you describe your relation with the media? Do you feel like you have to compromise your ideals when making use of the media? Would you rather do without any publicity via (metal) magazines?
I don't like the media. I don't like doing interviews. I generally find them boring and the questions redundant (though you may be pleased to know that this is the most thought provoking interview I have done so far), however I know the value they have in promoting my art. Once again it becomes about who uses who. There is no shame in being a slavemaster but there is a lot of shame in allowing yourself to be a slave. Media, in the modern age, allows people to forgo thought, to allow their opinions to be formed passively, without any effort from themselves. This is where media becomes the enemy. It becomes a form of control. I have no problems with controlling other people but I refuse to be controlled. I think, at the end of the day, that media for me is a useful tool. I would love not to have anything to do with promoting myself, not for ideological reasons but just because I find it tedious. If I allowed my words to be rewritten or edited out of context then I become the pawn of media. But if I am controlling the situation then media is being used for my will.
Why did you record 'n0n' in three different countries and in seven different studios? Did this only have to do with the guest appearances, or did some studios also have more to offer than others?
For both reasons. Some guest appearances, such as Jason Mendonca and Alice Daquet's parts were recorded overseas and in different studios for logistical reasons. They had access to studios and they sent us parts to play with. We recorded a lot in our own studio, 'n0n' studio, but we recorded the majority of the drums at Red Planet studios as that had a good drum room and it fit in with where we were at that time. We recorded the drums for Skin in the Gaelic Theatre because it's a giant reverberant room and we wanted a big “room sound” drum performance.
Could you give a short description of your collaborations with Jason Mendonca, Alice Daquet and Alex Pope? How did they get involved, what did they do and what do you think of the end result?
Jason came on board after we became friends during our Australian tour with Akercocke. When we had written the song Whore we always talked about Jason's voice as a template for what we wanted in that part. His narrative voice had a grit and arrogance that we thought would be perfect for the part. We sent him the track and the lyrics and he recorded a few takes, then we pieced the perfect take together from what he gave us. I think he did an excellent job and it's a fucking honour to have him on the album.
Alice Daquet was someone whose music we were familiar but we had never met. When we were writing Skin we discussed a female vocalist and starting looking around for people. We ended up emailing Alice the song and the lyrics to see if she was keen and she was sent us back a huge amount of files to choose from. I think her voice is perfect for song. She has a world-weariness paired with an innocence which is perfect for the part.
Alex has been a friend of ours for years and we had always talked about having him on the album. I think he is one of the most talented musicians I know. Great songwriter and a genuine friend. He recorded his parts for Dirt on the first day of mixing. We recorded his vocals in a tiny room just off the main room of the studio. He pulled out an amazing performance as we expected. His voice is the perfect marriage of Tom Fischer and Satyr.
Soon you will be touring Europe with Deicide and a number of other bands. What do you expect from this tour?
For us it will just be a fucking pleasure to get over there to tour. We have been looking for tours for so long and missing out because we were a six piece from some country no one had ever heard off. To be on this tour is a great thing for us. We are excited about playing in new countries and road testing this new material. There is a good chance that the first show we play on this tour will be not only the first show with the current line-up but also the first live airing of any of the 'n0n' material. We know we aren't going over there to play stadiums to thousands of people, but it's an honour to be part of such a strong bill.
And what can we expect from The Amenta live? How will you be reproducing that enormous wall of noise?
It takes a fucking lot of technology. I run a lot of samples and keyboard effects from two keyboards sending to a laptop which processes and triggers sound, which means I am busy a lot of the time. We use a lot of guitar effects to make sure we can play the guitar parts as closely as possible. We have been rehearsing a lot lately to get up to the standard that we feel we need to blow Europe away and just recently we hit it. I was initially worried about bow the 'n0n' material would translate live but I am now no longer worried. I know it will be fucking intense for people. I don't think people are used to hearing this much noise from a five piece band. There are some ugly sounds in there that should set people's teeth on edge!
Thanks a lot for your time and answers. I am looking forward to you show in Holland! If you have anything else to add, please feel free to do so.
Thank you very much for the interview. As I mentioned it has been the most intelligent and thought provoking interview I have done so far. Thank you for breaking up the drudgery! Anyone who believes they are open minded should check out 'n0n'. We are the antidote to the metal scene's poisonous stagnation. We are not easy listening. We are extreme music.