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Dave Hunt (Anaal Nathrakh)

Interview with Dave Hunt from Anaal Nathrakh
by Brian "Metal" Morton at 18 November 2018, 8:27 AM

Today, Metal Temple writer Brian Morton has the luxury of Interviewing Dave Hunt from ANAAL NATHRAKH. They recently released their latest album “A New Kind of Horror” which has gotten a ton of well-deserved praise. He personally gave the album a 10/10 and would have given it a higher score if it was possible. He has been a huge fan since he first heard “More Fire Than Blood” off the album “In Constellation of the Black Widow” which was released in 2009.

Hi Dave, I first want to thank you for taking taking time out for this interview. The first thing I would like to ask is, besides it being 100 years since WWI was there any other reason for choosing this as the subject of the latest album?

Hi.  Yeah, obviously the centenary throws WW1 into stark relief, but it’s also a matter of the current state of the world – not long before WW1, they couldn’t have imagined what was about to happen. But the things leading towards it were well in train, the people at the time simply didn’t realize.  I wonder if that’s the same today – there’s a significantly febrile atmosphere in the world in late 2018, most recently with the election in Brasil of a man who comes out with some very chilling things. Yet having been in Brasil not all that long ago and having spoken to people there, I’m hardly surprised that  something drastic happened – there was a huge feeling of political betrayal and incompetence built up over the past few years.  Things all over the place seem polarized, heightened and hyper-intense. There’s also the fact that regardless of anything else, the material we drew on for the album – the poems and so on – are simply incredible, and easily worth taking as inspiration entirely separately from whether there’s a significant anniversary happening. Google Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, see wat happened to them, read the poems for yourself.  It’s achingly, heart-poundingly powerful stuff. So yes, the centenary is part of it, but there are much richer reasons for drawing on WW1 as inspiration than simply the time that’s passed since the end of the war.  I have a strong historical sense of ‘there, but for the grace of god, go I’ – ok, I’m a quite militant atheist, but the sense that were it not for accidents of history, shall we say – accidents which could easily go the other way in a plausible near future – we could be those people of, say, 105 years ago.

How was the writing process for “A New Kind of Horror” did you all find it an easy topic to write about?

Easy, no – this isn’t stuff you do without thinking about it, it’s not stuff you can treat lightly. In fact there was a considerable sense of responsibility in not wanting to mar the material with insufficiently considered treatments, but at the same time not necessarily to be too safe – to give a proper account of what we thought was important.  Naturally that’s more my problem than Mick’s – we spoke, as we always do, about the general inspirations, to formulate the atmosphere and overall feeling which Mick then takes and weaves into the music. But he’s dealing with creating a feel in music that’s predestined to be violent and savage as well as memorable and maybe even beautiful at times.  So he’s less worried about a dishonourable treatment of an important historical source.  But despite not being easy, it was a really creatively rich frame of mind to work ourselves into.  It ran right through everything from the music to the lyrics to the conversations we had about artwork and so on – you should have seen the amount of discussions we had over art and photos and so on as well as just music.

If you had to pick one song from the album that is your favourite, which one would it be? I would have to go with either “Obscene as Cancer” or“Reek of Fear”. It’s really hard to choose between those two for me.

We’re too close to it all to really be able to pick out favourites.  That’s just a side effect of the way we work, doing everything ourselves.  If I had to try to say one, at the moment I’ve got Obscene as Cancer going round in my head, so I’ll say that one.  Principally it’s the chorus that sticks out to me, with those lines quoted from Owen, because they’re just so overwhelming.  There’s a second or two towards the end of the song where you can hear a couple of heavy breaths before the full force comes back in, and that’s not something we pasted in or did for effect, it’s just what the mic picked up at the time because I was panting and shaking in the booth. But at other times it’s other songs, particularly Are We Fit For Glory Yet? because that’s one of the most bitter songs, and bitterness in music is something I’m drawn to.  If you asked Mick, he’d pick different bits, I’m sure.  I think he’d probably mention Obscene… too as I know he thinks it’s brilliant, and probably Forward! as he likes bangers.  But it changes – like I say, we’re too close to be able to hear it all like anyone else would.

On “Reek of Fear” I seriously thought you all had KING DIAMOND as a guest at first. What was your inspiration for that vocal style?

Well, prosaically enough, it was King Diamond.  We’ve both been fans of King Diamond for years.  It’s possible that that might seem strange, as our approach is a lot more gritty and serious than his most of the time, but there’s something so wonderfully inventive and distinct about his classic albums.  You can feel the imagination at work, and the results are full of little surprises and hooks as well as skill and mastery of craft.  Having said that, I’m really talking about how we felt years ago – nowadays styles like that are just part of our palette.  We didn’t plan on making a specific homage or anything like that, we’ve used that style before plenty of times.  It was more a case of ‘ I know what would go well with this part – some Diamond’ and just getting on with it like we would any other style.  I suppose you could say that he’s just part of us now, almost as if we’re the pregnant Miriam, along with a horrifying array of other demonic babies in our belly, each occasionally given power to speak.

Your fans reactions to this album seems to be overwhelmingly positive from what I have read. How does that make you all feel?

Has it? Great.  It’s a cliché, of course, but we don’t spend much time checking out reviews and so on.  Reviews are fine, useful, or at least entertaining to read for fans and consumers.  In fact I think it was almost worth Sex & The City 2 being made just so that Lindy West could write her now-famous review of it.  But I don’t’ think it’s a very helpful thing for creative people to read others’ opinions on what they produce – it’s liable to distort your own view of what you do, and that’s never a good thing in art.  You should plow your own furrow because you believe in it, not because someone else does or doesn’t believe in it.  That doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant what people think – obviously if you’re making something that other people listen to, often time and time again, then of course they’re a part of the phenomenon. And of course we’re grateful if people can say to us that they liked or felt strongly about our music, that it somehow made a difference for them.  It’s just that it doesn’t do anyone any favours if we dwell on seeking out reactions – it’s better for all concerned if we concentrate on what we’re doing, rather than thinking about from a step removed.

Is there any hidden meaning behind the song “The Apocalypse is About You”?

I was struck by something I read that apocalyptic narratives have a large dose of egocentrism built into them.  If there’s an apocalypse, then it’s almost as if history had a point – as if everything was leading up to that one moment in time.  And especially if that apocalypse is within your lifetime, as it always seems to be in predictions, then in at least some small way, history itself was leading up to you – to your world, to your experiences, to your time.  How arrogant.  How self-obsessed.  How needy.  In actual fact, existence seems to me to be a nihilistic morass of radical chaos.  And that feeds into a memory I have – once, years ago, I was on a train, and this old lady was sat opposite me.  She happened to notice that the book I was reading was by Nietzsche, and that started a conversation.  To cut it short, it turned out that she was part of a quite fanatical Christian cult, complete with theories that the world was ruled by the demon Moloch, and that Jesus was imminently to arrive on a mountain in the middle east where she lived – she was just here in the UK visiting family.  Yet despite this insane story, she seemed every inch the nice little old lady.  When she got off, I helped her with her bags, and when she said ‘God bless’, I found myself saying ‘you too’ even though my actual feelings about God were, well, less than charitable.  Strange sensation, saying something automatically without thinking as if you’re not even really saying it yourself.  She’s either dead or about 113 by now.  And I find something compelling about the bloody-minded nihilism of thinking of her via the sneering, sardonic attitude of that song and that title.  I don’t mean I necessarily enjoy thinking of the nice crazy lady in such a harsh way, I just mean that it seems fitting.

What is the story behind “Are We Fit for Glory Yet (The War to End Nothing)”?

Someone who was so perfectly placed to do so, Siegfried Sassoon wrote Aftermath, and I’d encourage anyone who’s not familiar with it to read it.  He also wrote a really impassioned rejection of the continuation of the war, an understandable sentiment given where he was at the time – again, I’d encourage a quick google rather than me just regurgitating information.  And these writings weren’t just about him, they were symbolic of a feeling and a school of thought that goes back way past his lifetime, and which persists today. Another phenomenon that persists today is violent war, and everything – the brave or even terrified young people, the civilian cost, the subtle psychology, the vast sums of money, the propaganda, the real god things that perhaps can’t be brought about any other way – it’s all still part of the world.  A world that people a century ago thought they were fighting to ensure would be rid of war.  Like I said a minute or two ago, it’s a very bitter sentiment that runs through the song.  Almost ironically, it’s not necessarily a pacifist sentiment – we’re not making any claims about how the world ought to be.  We’re just expressing a reaction to how it seems to us that things are, how they have been for a very long time, and how it seems likely they will continue to be.

Were there any tracks that didn’t make the cut for the album? And if so can we expect a deluxe edition with bonus tracks at any point?

Oh yes, we have row upon row of great big yellow skips full of cast off songs and ideas. Streets full of them.  You can’t beat a nice big yellow skip. Ha, no, that’s not the way we work – we make an album, rather than write a bunch of songs that are then corralled into an album.  So when we’re in the middle of things, if something isn’t quite how it needs to be to fit in the context of the album, then we work on it until it is. And at the end, everything we made for the album becomes the album.  There are always left over ideas or things we didn’t have time or an appropriate place to include. But they then just stay on the ideas list – Mick does most of it in his head, but I literally have a list – for the future, or for never, depending on how things take shape.  That said, there is a bonus track for the Japanese release, which is what you might call a remix, a re-worked version of one of the songs that Mick came up with once we were told that there was to be a proper Japanese release.  CDs over there are really, really expensive apparently, so bonus tracks or exclusive releases aren’t uncommon.  And in the past few eyars we’ve been lucky enough to go over there a couple of times, and we’ve got a tour lined up in the new year, so we were more than happy to contribute something extra for that edition of the album.  I’m not sure if it’ll be made available in other territories, as record labels call them, but I expect if nothing else it’ll end up on Spotify or something like that.

Did both of you have equal say in the writing process on the album, or did one of you take over the reins?

We’ve always kept things mostly separated into what we’re each good at.  I can’t write music anything like Mick can, so apart from the occasional idea I might have that I can suggest to him, why would I try to tell him what to do?  And vice versa, albeit in slightly less emphatic fashion.  Earlier today I heard the name Wagner mentioned on the radio, and I suppose there’s a weird kind of parallel – Nietzsche was so un-self-aware that this otherwise fantastically clever man would actually presume to play Wagner his musical doodlings.  I think Wagner probably humoured him out of respect for his intellect, as they were close friends, and I doubt you could have been anywhere near Nietzsche without being quite sure of his brilliance, even if you completely disagreed with him.  But to Wagner these tidbits of music must have been like wax crayon drawings pinned to a fridge with a magnet in the shape of Hawaii.  We try to avoid that by each sticking, apart from the odd suggestion, to what we’re respectively good at.

Do you have any crazy road stories from when you have gone on tour?

Nothing has ever happened on tour, and it never will.

What’s the best thing that that has happened to the band since it was formed?

I think it’d have to be the places we’ve been lucky enough to be able to play in.  Not that long ago, we were at literally the other end of the world, playing in Tasmania, and that was a great experience, not least because of how weird it was to see that there was a report about the festival in a UK newspaper.  We’ve stood staring in awe at Mount Fuji, we’ve dodged hurricane warnings in Kansas, we’ve seen an owner taking his llama for a walk in minus 5 degrees in Canada, and so on.  Some people get to do these kinds of things, but not usually people like us. We’re two working class kids from the Midlands, not fucking Anthony Bourdain.

Do you have any crazy fan stories?

Not that I’d be willing to tell without the people involved being able to comment.

Do you all have any plans on a tour in the near future? If so any plans on coming to the States?

Yes, we’ve got quite a lot of stuff lined up.  Not all of it is announced yet, so I have to be careful about saying what. But we’re off for some shows in Europe in a few days, we’ve got a tour in Japan and possibly some other interesting places lined up in early 2019, and in US terms we’re playing the Maryland Deathfest in May.  There might be some more stuff added to that, but I can’t comment now.  If you can’t make it to MDF, just keep your fingers crossed and your eyes open…

Of all the songs and albums you have, which is the bands favorite to play live?

That’s impossible to say – on one hand it changes all the time, and on the other hand, it’s often down to what happens on a particular night.  Maybe there one song that you’re not feeling quite so much at a couple of shows, but then you play somewhere and it’s some crazy guy’s favourite song and he does something ridiculous that makes you love playing it again.  You just can’t legislate for that kind of thing.  Anything that makes a show go off like crazy, that our favourite song at that moment.

Your music is insane and intense, do you all ever find it difficult to piece together songs?

No, I wouldn’t say so. The thing is, writing songs isn’t something that we experience as an effort, like lifting a heavy weight. It’s more like a controlled release of what we have in our heads already, or selection from a pre-existing store of ideas and sounds that has plenty of spare capacity.  So there’s always something we can do, some idea that fits in, some inspiration that makes things fall the right way.  The intensity of music isn’t something we struggle to achieve, it’s what happens when we make music.

Do you have any pointers for up and coming bands that look up to you?

Get better role models.  Also, always, always get someone who knows what they’re doing to check and possibly re-negotiate anything you’re asked to sign before you sign it.  And I mean someone who works doing that for bands, not just someone who understands a bit of legalese.  It doesn’t matter if it’s just about selling a few copies of your demo – everyone starts off that small, and you’ve no idea where you might end up. Not everyone is out to rip you off, and there are plenty of people who are genuinely enthusiastic and want to help.  But the only people who are always, incontrovertibly, guaranteed 100% on your side with no other interests and no other goals are you yourselves.  Don’t be a dick and get full of yourself, but take responsibility for that.

Last thing I have for you is do you have anything you would like to say to your fans?

Thanks.  We genuinely appreciate the support.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope to hear more from ANAAL NATHRAKH in the future. You all are truly amazing and this album is definitely in my top 10 best albums of 2018. Keep up the phenomenal work!

~ Brian “Metal” Morton



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