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Black metal wordt door buitenstaanders vaak gezien als een scene vol “rare” gasten, waarbij men gemakshalve over het hoofd ziet dat elke scene, of het nu in de metal is of niet, zijn eigen controversiële figuren heeft. Maar goed, aangezien ik voor Lords of Metal mij voornamelijk bezig houd met black metal, pagan metal en aanverwanten doe ik een dergelijke opmerking af als een hamerstuk.

Black metal dus... Een van de opvallende figuren is Rene “Ash” Wagner (voorheen bekend als Kanwulf), het brein achter Nargaroth. Behalve dat de goede man al jaren muziek maakt, duikt hij regelmatig passief op in diverse discussies over het genre. Daar Lords of Metal zich vooral bezig houdt met de muziek, hadden wij een interview met de man. Het interview ging over het nieuwe album 'Jahreszeiten' (volgens Ash geen black metal plaat), de controverse rondom zijn persoon (inclusief waanzinnige bedreigingen aan zijn familie via Antifa-gerelateerde personen, hoe laag kan je zakken) en het aankomende, alleszeggende en wellicht laatste interview met en over Nargaroth. Net als de nummers van zijn band maakt Ash zich er niet makkelijk vanaf (zoals je zal zien slechts één vraag met een kort bondig antwoord) maar nam hij alle moeite onze vragen te beantwoorden. Veel plezier met een interview over seizoenen, controverse en andere Nargaroth-gerelateerde zaken!

Door: Neithan | Archiveer onder black metal

First of all, die 'Jahreszeiten' or the Seasons: why have these four seasons inspired you as the theme for the new album?
I grew up in the 70's in a country side of a poor socialist country. And the seasons and their challenges towards the daily life on a farm influenced me since my childhood. I knew about the hard summer time, hoping for rain, so the fields don't dry out. The work-intense autumn with the harvest. The cold and frozen winter time with the need of sheltering the animals and overcoming the cold in a poor village of East Germany in the 70's, where no flowing warm water existed. We had to defrost the old pumps outside with open fire to get water from the ground, while we were cut off from the cities cause of massive frost and snow falls. And also the cheers of the long awaited arrival of spring, when the first larks sung their songs in the sky.

Aside that, I am a very emotive person and the single seasons always leave an emotional condensate in my soul. Something that surely almost everyone in Black Metal feels and knows. And as the seasons reflect different stages of activity, well being and feeling, as can be found in human nature feelings with the same changing and also circling. I thought that the phenomenon “Love” is a perfect example for alike changing and circling. And as I consider Black Metal able to reflect or capture all facets of human qualities, I started to do it. This album is not a Black Metal album and, therefore, cannot be regarded with the same criteria. It is the attempt to reflect, musically and in the lyrics, the characteristics of the four seasons as well as the sensations of the (“mental illness”) love in a classical notion and its changes. In the album booklet I expressed this by writing that “the emotional peculiarities and mental representations of which [are] reflected in the musical-melodic progression of the individual songs”. The melodic beginning of each of the pieces is meant, thus, to represent the characteristics of the respective season but also the momentary emotional state of love, which sometimes has been achieved by Black Metal-unorthodox melody lines, in order to do justice to the endeavour of capturing the emotional moment. For the illustration of these complex dynamics, my lyrics contain classical elements, which should be familiar to everyone who ever dealt with the classics and literature, so I reject any kind of insinuations of plagiarism.

The prologue is more kind of a monologue, and not directly to be linked to the four seasons: there is some talk of living and dying, like the seasons do, but what link do you have in mind compared to the four seasons
I think the monologue speaks for itself and need no further explanations. And unlike you, I consider him as essential for my album and not as a “to-skip” song! Listeners who permanently ignore or leave out the monologues don't do justice to the art nor prove to be worth it. Here is the English translation of the Prologue:

I do not know who I am and who I was –
a stranger to myself – and new to me –
and old when I look into the mirror –

I thought I was everywhere at home –
and was already homeless even before I was really there –
I don't want to be lonely – and crave for loneliness as soon as I am not alone.

I do want to learn, learn, and I hate my sleep because it's stealing the time –
but I am so over-full with myself –
I am full of energy-charged ideas – and full of sadness –
I want to live and I want to die – and often both I do –

I was curious about happiness – and look, I hate the feeling of happiness –
I was inside of everything and wanted to be nowhere while I was everywhere –
I love my sun – and I hate it, for I realize that I cannot escape from it –

I love whores, thieves, and maybe murderers too – because I love their destinies –
if they do have such a thing –
and also the lunatics, as they are called by people – they are like blind who can already see for a long time –
and even all the whores are standing above us because they have to suffer so much –
I run from every day – and comes the night, and so keeps standing,
all those hour-less hours,
then I am so very sick just because it is no longer daytime.

I hate all children – and yet I kneel down wherever I see one.

I am searching for myself – and when I've found me, I am my worst enemy.
I feel my own skin is burning like fire –
and my blood is like an erratic beast –
I run from myself and from my life – and I hate myself, who wants to destroy me.

But I ask for sorrow and a hard life –
and for thoughts after the fever –
I want to suffer for every flower when it is dying in life –
and want to be forever grateful when the spring does come every other year
and want to await the strength after the sorrows.

Give me strength to go through the interims – without a scream, and give me humility for the big womb.

The new album then opens with one of the most refreshing tunes I have heard in a while: 'Frühling' (or Spring). It combines the rawness of pure black metal with a very fresh and happy tune. For one thing, that is clearly stepping beyond the boundaries of underground black metal with it's “do's and do nots”. Is that your personal goal in creating black metal?
With Nargaroth I never set myself borders or limits! Whatever I wanna do, whatever I will create, I will do it and it will carry the name Nargaroth! The upcoming release 'Spectral Visions of Mental Warefare' will show that again. From that moment I limit myself or think about what 'better to do or what not to do', I am a dead artist. And of such, we have since years already enough in Black Metal! I have never limited myself with respect to lyrical subjects in Nargaroth and will not do so in the future! From the beginning, it was obvious and known that Nargaroth is dealing with fallible humanness. Everyone who has not realized this since 'Rasluka Part II' and the lyrics in that release cannot be taken serious with what he says! Even though the current release is not a Black Metal album, I am aware of where I stand with Nargaroth and what it means to me! With Black Metal, we have got an unique art form and way of expression, which allows to give room to and express all emotional aspects of fallible (in)humanness as well as human developments. I am still of this opinion. Everyone who has not yet realized this should stay away from Black Metal!

Since it is such a remarkable track: how did this song come into its current shape: was there something special that gave you the basic idea and an idea of how to work out the ideas to which tune?
As was to be expected, the initial melody of 'Spring' caused the strongest controversies, because it's a fist punch into the face of all this Neo-BM-Kids, which never experienced the old spirit of Black Metal and violate him with their adolescent short-time Ideologies! My German-rooted great-grandparents from the father's side were farmers in Bessarabia (the eastern half of Moldovia – Neithan), to where they emigrated in the 18th/19th century. Everyone who is able to imagine the harsh winter in the southern branches of the Carpathians or who, like myself, grew up in the countryside, can certainly measure those people's expectation of spring, which, as the envoy of new life after needful and icy, stormy weeks and months, was accordingly greeted in spring festivities with dances and songs. In order to honour my ancestors and my Bessarabian roots, I employed a Bessarabian folk melody for the introduction in the song 'Spring'. More on this in the Nargaroth special issue of “Iut De Asken” magazine in early 2010. In consideration of the earlier mentioned subject of the songs, everyone who has ever been freshly in love should know how “silly”, as the English language aptly has it, or in the farthest sense nearly pathologically, one might behave in this early state of love. Or how liberating it can be to fall in love again after long biographical periods of desolation and despondency (winter), and suddenly everything seems possible, just as if life had returned into oneself.

This is exactly what the introductory melody reflects! I do understand that this folkloristic Bessarabian melody is regarded as Black Metal unorthodox, but I do not, with respect to the subject this album deals with, understand the incomprehension about it. When, however, some are amusing themselves in getting excited about it, are reminded of “beer tent music” or similar infantile sounds, the energetic effect of this melody is revealed, for they, too, are coming close to the intention of a joyful feeling. As mentioned in the booklet, I express my deep pity for those creatures who never experienced this emotional state.
To those, who regardless of the explanations given in this lines here are not able to bear the introductory melody line of 'Spring', it shall be said that this song is longer than just 3:22 and that, at least from then on, it is better than much of what the “German scene” had to “offer” during the last years. The controversial internet discussions have, anyway, made this song known to a considerable public in a very short time span, so that the album reached a high degree of publicity due to the promotional effects of those “critics”. Thanks.
Furthermore, I have spoken the prologue and the other monologues on the vinyl version by myself, and a real (sometimes triggered) drum kit and not a drum computer was used on the “Jahreszeiten” album, as was sometimes tried to claim. This misunderstanding on the one hand indicates a musical-acoustic incompetence of some “listeners” and the above-average abilities of my drummer.

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'Sommer' has a beginning which seems very much inspired by other music: the beginning is classical, some strange contra-rhythm (familiar but I can't name it) and the drumming has some elements that remind me of a drummer like Proscriptor Mc Govern (Absu, formerly Melechesh). Is that a coincidence or did you really search for a way to bring this elements into Nargaroth's new album?
As I said all songs beginning shall reflect their genuine nature and yes, I choose a classical element to represent the vital soul of summer. I have no Idea what or who the fuck is Melechesh and I give a shit about the overrated Absu. I never heard any of those bands. The first time I recognized Melechesh was two years ago, as my young drummer had it in his computer, but never listened to it. Ain't my taste... And it's also not a new way or new elements in Nargaroth. This kind of march-rhythm I had since my first album 'Herbstleyd' in the song 'Karmageddon' and it occurred also on my 'Geliebte des Regens' album in the 4th song ('Von Scherbengestalten Und Regenspaziergang' – Neithan). I get bothered when I hear that I made things similar to other bands (or even get blamed I'd have “stolen” it) which I never heard of or never listened to! As I had the melodies in my head I started to imagine fitting rhythms which I told my drummer to do. I am also a rhythmic person, interested into different native drum styles from all over the world. And I wanted and want very often Black Metal unorthodox drums; and this album is “full” of such. And very fast I wanted a 'Karmageddon' drumming in the 'Summer' song. That's just it.

Even 'Herbst', the longest song, has somewhat of a triumphant undertone to it, even if it still combined with harsh hypnotic riffs. If it was up to say it in your own words, how would you describe the major development a listener can find on 'Jahreszeiten', especially compared to earlier albums?
In fact, I see no main difference to any other Nargaroth album. It sounds like Nargaroth from the first until the last minute. There is for me no development, no changing, no step forward or backward. I'd say to a listener that he will find Nargaroth as usual or as I already wrote 2004 in the 'Rasluka ~ Part II' booklet on the last page: “Nargaroth don't become better or worse, but different”. The only difference is, that it is regarding to the last two releases, better produced, what I regret deeply. For me it sounds “too good”. But the genuine kind of the songs and the topic I wanted to express needed a better sound to work out the different structures. I prefer my beloved old 'Semper Fidelis' sound. But that sound could never transport the message I put out with this album. If I had to point out an album out of my releases history close to this one, I'd say the most similarities are to the 'Rasluka' series or to the song 'Amarok ~ Part III'.

The CD is packed in an A5-booklet, and the album is also released on read vinyl: do you think that such special packaging helps a bit against downloading? Hardly few fans really realize that downloading is especially harmful to the underground bands…
Little correction: It's released on 200 red, 200 white and 100 transparent vinyls. The rest is black standard. Well it won't help against downloading in general, because worldwide you will find valueless suckers who upload all. Internet is a cancer. For underground bands and small labels this downloading is a death sentence! I see that on my own label. Nothing recovers the costs anymore and the people don't understand that they step on the traitor side when they “only” download albums instead of buying it when they like it. You know buddy, I miss the good old times of tape trading and good old black/white paper magazines (sometimes with personalization). I practiced tape trading since middle of the 80's. Back then I was in a local metal clique. We heard mainly metal bands from the East Zone. I traded tapes with people from Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary (!!), Bulgaria and Russia. You got a paper list with available Albums and you sent an empty tape that you got (hopefully) back within 2 or 3 weeks with the desired band recorded on. It was an expensive hobby, because in my socialist country, the GDR, an empty ORWO tape cost regarding which type 17 (Ferro) or 22 (Chrome) Mark. I had at home countless tape-repair-sets, for the case my damn recorder “ate” one of my precious. We also had limited special radio broadcasts (“Tendency Hard 'til Heavy” on Saturday afternoon; and in Saturday evening every 2 or 4 weeks a broadcast called “From tape – for Tape,…”) which thematically dealt with harder Metal and they were specialized that you could record it from the radio, but the more underground stuff you only got from tape trading. And all those things had value for us! When I think back, that I paid for my fucking Slayer Live patch, brought by a relative of one of our clique from West-Germany, 50 East-Marks and for my Back patch of my old Metal Jeans Vest 120 east-Marks, the nowadays abundance looks alien and valueless to me. I mean 120 East Marks!! That was a full monthly salary from a person being in a profession education! The Money of a whole month or for some even more!! When we had been with our clique in summer camping on a lake or so and we laid on the ground aside a fire or wherever, we wore our Jeans Vests left-side (inside out or in that case outside in) to conserve our patches or pretend them from damage…man…what times. Those times I miss brother! And that's why the CD-version of the 'Jahreszeiten' album does not represent the complete work of art because I won't grant the download-ridden shit scene my thoughts and works by such easy means, which they consume like fast food.

In my review, which I have put on the end of the questions, there are some things of which I would like to talk them over with you, since they are also about you and not so much just the music of Nargaroth, if you don't mind. First of all, I write that there is quite a dual opinion about you: some consider you to be a talentless joker where as others consider you to be one of the original minds in black metal: does this discussion bother or amuse you, and is there anything you would like to see about this yourself? Somehow I feel like it amuses you on the one hand, yet bothers you in another way…
The discussion doesn't bother me at all. At least people discuss it – worldwide. Better than indifference. The disgusting things are lies and creations of some small minded suckers among that discussion when they run out of silly arguments. Well, Nargaroth is one of the few worldwide known and listened Black Metal bands. I get as only German BM band concert invitations from all around the world – constantly. I wrote the world most famous BM song ('Black Metal ist Krieg'), although I am not sure if this is a benefit. And when I see what I move and touch inside others, who love Nargaroth and when I stand backstage minutes before a gig and I hear 800 people simultaneous call my name, I know I am everything, but not a talentless joker.
But for those, who I am exactly that - ok, as they say. I don't stabilize my self-esteem over the considerations of other peoples to me. The phenomenon Nargaroth speaks for itself. At least people who pretend that are mainly jealous cause no one cares about their bands. I know that sounds fucking arrogant now and vain, but there is at least some truth on it! I took and take my art serious! And after Okkultis (1991/92) and Exhuminenz (1992 – 1995) in Nargaroth over 13 years – that's more that fair and enough.

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You abandoned the nickname Kanwulf and have now picked the nickname Ash: first of all, why did you decide to drop a nickname that has at least a big reputation? I feel like it has something to do with your feud with the “black metal scene” and that it is related to the movie which you can find on 'Semper Fidelis': for those who do not know this clip: there is a report where you go through a vast collection of releases and shirts, give comment as why you want to get rid of it and in the end burn it all. There are quite a number of collector's items on it…
The name Kanwulf for me is connected with many things that I see much different today. It was always me – no doubt. But in 2001 I left the scene. I moved into a little hutch in the forest that belongs to my parent's farm. I had no electricity (just a generator), a water pump, a garden to grow some food, a shotgun to hunt and a dog. I didn't need more. I had to re-think many things and face some of my failures. I also started a education to psychoanalyst. That meant that during this long education I had to make a psychoanalytic therapy on my own. And so I did for 5 long years. And I was a kind of ... another after that. That therapy was the second best thing I did in my life. Without it I'd be probably dead or in jail. And whenever I got confronted with things I did “as Kanwulf” I felt that this person wasn't me anymore. And I got the feeling to carry that name on is wrong, although Kanwulf is still a part of me! Since the beginning of the 90's everybody in my closer surrounding called me Ash. But as it is in life – hard decisions are hard to make and pushed off too long and too far. Finally as I was in Vietnam I could do my choice and make peace with me and that shadow Kanwulf. As I lived among a mountain tribe and then in the jungle of Vietnam, sleeping in a hammock, eating frogs and crabs, dealing at night with my own fears and shadows of my past, my lies and failures I had a lot of time for self-reflection. And after I got stung by a scorpion I got a heavy fever and hallucinations and I came close to my inner core. I was totally alone in the middle of nowhere of the Vietnamese jungle close to the Laotian border. During the day I laid myself into a runlet, to keep my fever down, but at night surrounded by creeping darkness and whispering jungle, I faced my own horror. I don't wanna get too deep into these private things now, but many decisions were born then. I decided to finish all albums I started under “Kanwulf” and then let him rest. I finished the 'Semper Fidelis' album and could face my new works as the man that I am now, but “Kanwulf” sleeping deep inside of me. So, some of the elements that you find on that album 'Jahreszeiten' and my decision to name me from now on “Ash” were born in this time of isolation in the jungle of Vietnam.

Since Lords of Metal is more a big webzine in stead of some highly specialized underground zine (for diehard fans only), can you explain why the name Ash is the new nick: I mean, you could just as well use your real name, or what that ruin the mystic image of the artist? Does it have to do with the short movie in the previous question, somewhat of a Phoenix rising from the ashes?
As i said before, since 19 years almost everybody, aside my parents, call and know me as Ash. I find it a bit awkward when someone calls me Kanwulf in a personal contact anyway. Especially when he pronounces it in an English way.

One last question about that movie: any surprising reactions from the artists you mentioned in the “burn-movie” so far that you wish to share with us?
I heard the money bitch Fenriz got pissed. But this sucker I don't take serious at all.

In all those years you might have read dozens of reviews and interviews of and about Nargaroth: what is the most hilarious thing you have ever read about yourself or your band?
Ay, to deal here with all lies and rumors made by the scene would break all limits. I consider it as a sign of the missing pride and value of the scene. Worldwide people accuse me for attitudes, meanings, emails or Internet-Forum-Threads and I don't know what. Nothing is true. Since 2001 I was in no Internet forum or community and I never wrote anything in forums since that time. The scene is a greater liar than she blames me for. I even saw faked interviews which pretended to be made with me, but which I never saw before or answered (it was a French magazine). Well people need someone to burden him with their own failures, vanity and anger. Seems like it's me. So I don't put too much energy into their writings. But I'm gonna tell you what I find “hilarious”. It's the fact that since one year my parents get terrorized by threat-calls. The “brave” callers attack my parents 24 hours a day regarding me or Nargaroth and their languages are international. Also my mother got threatened by so called left-winged activists from the Antifa. I call that left-fascism!

You started Nargaroth in 1998, eleven years ago: if you could have changed but one thing in that career of eleven things, what would that be, or do you believe everything has happened and was done for a reason?
I released my first album in 1998. Not that I started Nargaroth 1998! Let's stay in the facts! Hm, I'd never split the 'Rasluka' Series into two parts and I'd not go into that fucking ugly TV show and shit on that lost bet. Everything else, my failures, statements, lies and benefits I would do again. Because they lead me to the point I am now. Without my sins and failures I surely never would have criticized and self-reflected myself as I did in the last 8 years. Maybe today I would be just a vain, arrogant, stubborn and selfish motherfucker. Sounds pretty like a black metalion…

Even if you agitate against today's scene, are there still people active that inspire you?

At the time I am writing the interview questions down, I see you have just done a short tour across the Balkan: how did the tour go? Any remarkable things for an interview to be reported?
It was a very intense experience to play in the forgotten East of Europe. After the war these people suffered a lot. Many metal brothers died and the metal scene there got hardly proofed. Almost no bands come there and even when the Balkans say they shit on West-Europe, they feel left behind. Sarajevo really hit me to the bone. Still you see the ruins of broken and burned houses and shooting holes in the buildings. We slept in an apartment with bomb shrapnel holes in the ceiling. Money fucked up, politicians fucked up – the only impressive there is the beauty of the women (as in Beograd/Serbia). Wherever Nargaroth arrives I cause deep emotions. As almost everywhere in so called Metal 3rd World Countries, people cried and been so grateful that I came. To see that and gave them this emotional gift Black Metal through Nargaroth, makes my life for me worthy. Sounds pathetic – but I mean it. You people should see what happened as I played there after the show or in South America. It's incredible. The way I am or what I do with Nargaroth makes it special for people, because it can touch there emotional needing. I admire the so called hungry spirit of these “forgotten” people. Just as I described towards the phlegmatic nature of the western scene mentality... And where others don't go, I do! And I saw indeed a beautiful pride and passion among these people.

I see one more show coming up, February 20th next year in Lyon (France); are you still working on a (small) tour or do you prefer short breaks for incidental live shows?
Next year I make a small tour on the Baltic, Mexico, Russia and South- and Central America. And some single shows in France, Austria and Belgium. My year vacation is limited. I prefer single gigs.

Anything we have forgotten to ask in this interview, yet that you certainly would like to see being mentioned in this interview
Beginning 2010 the last interview I ever will give will be published in a special edition of the “Iut De Asken” magazine. It's the last time I answer questions towards me, Nargaroth and all what's connected. In around hundred questions it covers almost all topics that ever occurred in and around Nargaroth. But also Charoon took some time to write some things regarding some questions of the interview or some of my answers, because some of that million lies that the scene created over the years bothers even him. It's in German, but I work on it to get it translated into English, Spanish and French. This interview could be interesting to everyone who ever dealt with Nargaroth and who is also interested into Black Metals history and especially to all those little suckers who claim to know “all” about me and Nargaroth and spread bravely their lies over their computers.

Also in 2010 a new Nargaroth Album 'Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare' will be released on No Colours Records. It will be again different, but as always Nargaroth. It's more an ambient & metal album, distant and depressive. I know it because it's already finished. The 'Spectral Visions of Mental Warfare' album I brought to life during the recording of the 'Jahreszeiten' album. As I owned a synthesizer for synth parts in 'Autum'. Since my fist release and on my tapes I have so called ambient songs on my albums. It can reflect the more mystical dimension in black metal related music. I dedicate it to such great bands as the German Mysterium (Moonblood Side project) and Apokryphus who dealt also early with ambient dimensions in a black metal spirit. Hm, it's the first time I make own-advertising in an interview. I don't like it.

Any final words of wisdom for this interview?
Black Metal is eternal passion until the end. Any end! Until death! Black Metal ~ Semper Fi!

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