ViM: “Your new album, ‘The Whole of the Law’, comes out October 28th via Metal Blade Records. What was the creative process behind this record like?”
Mick wrote the music, largely in his head, then recorded it all at home in America. The he came over here so we could record the vocals. I hadn’t heard the music before that, and I drew together a load of my ideas, and used them while responding to the music to do the vocals. It’s an unusual way of doing things, but it works for us. Then we added any finishing touches, Mick mixed it, and we started sending different master version back and forth, until we were both happy with it. That’s basically our typical way of doing things. It’s good to have a fairly stable way of doing the actual recording, because it means that you’re focused on the ideas – what you’re recording, rather than how you’re recording it.
ViM: “In August, you premiered the track “Depravity Favours The Bold” – how has the response been so far?”
I have pretty much no idea. We don’t monitor responses or anything else that smacks of focus groups and big data. We make music which we think is the best we can do, and which we think is brilliant. Then we let it out into the world. Hopefully people like it, and they often do, but if they don’t, we still made the music which felt right to us. We want a fulfilling experience, and we want listeners to have a fulfilling experience too. If people say nice things about it then that’s great, and it’s gratifying if we come across people saying nice things. But we don’t go hunting for praise or criticism.
ViM: “The album artwork is quite striking visually – what was the inspiration for the imagery?”
The themes of hyper-real conflict and hysterical rhetoric are part of what’s in the lyrics. We actually considered calling the album ‘we will fucking kill you’. That didn’t really work for us as an album title, but part of the sentiment behind that song kind of runs through the album. So the brief we gave ourselves for the artwork was something dark, something emphatic and conflict-related, and hopefully something that looked a bit timeless. I’d come across Bouguereau’s work before, so when we were looking through various pieces of art to take inspiration from, when we found a piece by him that hit the right notes, it seemed perfect to use it mostly as it was, rather than recreate it or anything.
And since it’d only passed into the public domain comparatively recently, we figured no one else would have used it before. Then Mick took the image and focused in on the central figures, and treated them so as to make them look something like a statue, emphasising the timeless aspect, and creating a more striking feeling. I’m really pleased with how it turned out, I think it’s a great image.
ViM: “As the follow-up to 2014’s ‘Desideratum’, was there anything you did differently this time around in regards to the writing or recording process?”
In terms of the process, no, not really. We recorded the vocals in a different place than we’d used before, but the process was still the same. What changes is the feelings and ideas we’re trying to capture in the music, the sounds and the way the songs work as structured entities. The actual process is comparatively prosaic, and like I said before, I think that’s a good thing because you can concentrate on what you’re doing rather than how you’re doing it.
ViM: “The Black Metal scene in the UK is fairly small when compared to some other European countries, such as Norway. When you formed Anaal Nathrakh in 1998, which bands were your influences, and what drove you to branch out into this genre?”
Small? It doesn’t seem that way to me. Of course it’s smaller than in Norway, they invented it, and it’s entered the general culture there. Butcompared to everywhere else, the UK doesn’t seem all that tiny to me. There are a few pretty big bands, Cradle and so on, and an ever bubbling underground. We didn’t branch out though, that implies that we were already doing something else and then changed into BM. We did what we wanted in the first place, we didn’t change from one thing to another like Darkthrone between their first and second albums or anything like that. Not that there’s particularly anything wrong with doing so, as long as it’s authentic. We just enjoyed a lot of extreme metal, but felt it could be, how can I put it – more so. So that’s what we did.
ViM: Looking back to the early days of the band’s career, how would you say the sound has evolved between then and present day?
You tell me. We don’t draw comparisons like that. We did what we did then, and we thought it was great. We do what we do now, and we think it’s great. We don’t really do any meta-analysis, that’s more a thing for journalists.
ViM: “While doing research for this interview, I read that the band was initially a studio-only project, but that live shows have slowly become more frequent for Anaal Nathrakh. Who are some of your favourite bands that you’ve shared the stage with on tour?”
Probably the funniest was Immortal. Me and Mick were stood at the side of the stage at a festival wetting ourselves. I was a bit blown away by Oathbreaker when I saw them at a festival a couple of years ago. And it was
great to finally see Skitsystem live at Obscene Extreme a while back. More recently the guys from Voices gave me a copy of their ‘London’ album when we played with them. We’d played together before – and since, actually – but
I’d always been too busy sorting things out, doing interview, getting ready for the show etc to really pay close attention. But when I listened to the album I thought it was amazing. To be honest years of doing shows all kinds of morphs into a huge mess in your head and it becomes hard to pick certain things out. My favourite bands to encounter are simply those who are decent human beings without drama or vexation.
ViM: “You recently finished a tour that included some dates in Japan. How was that experience for you?”
It was superb. The shows were well attended, the reactions were excellent, and the people were very warm. We ate things we’d never heard of, got into a few ridiculous situations, saw some amazing sights, and generally felt privileged to be able to do it all. I had a bad knee and couldn’t walk properly most of the time we were there, and on the last day when we were planning on doing some sight seeing, three typhoons hit Japan almost simultaneously. But that couldn’t dent the fact that it was an excellent trip. We’ll be back as soon as the opportunity presents itself.
ViM: “Have you noticed any major differences between the crowds at your shows in the UK and abroad?”
Not really. Different places have different reputations, but in my experience, different towns in the same country can be just as different from one another as countries can be. And once a gig is properly under way,
it becomes its own entity, its own experience. A great show in one place is very similar to another great show in another place. And if there’s a problem at a show – obviously there usually aren’t problems, but it’s inevitable that things might go wrong sometimes – then it’s the same deal wherever you happen to be – do your best to fix it, and go all out to compensate in what ever way you can. I think that cultures do have an influence on audiences, but with metal shows, it’s a two-way street. At a show, everyone enters into the culture of a metal show, and the cultural differences of where you happen to be are more apparent in other respects, away from the stage.
ViM: “You have a handful European tour dates in late October / early November. After these shows, are you planning any more dates to promote ‘The Whole of the Law’?”
Yes, we’ve got a few things lined up, and we’re currently in discussions for a load more stuff. We usually announce things via our facebook page, so keep an eye on that if you want to see what’s going on.
ViM: “What are your plans for Anaal Nathrakh after ‘The Whole of the Law’ has been released?”
No idea! We had a video made for one of the songs on the album, and that was a cool process to be involved with. But with sorting that out and booking live shows and so on, we’ve been pretty busy up until now. We’ll see what transpires when we’ve got a better idea of what we’re actually doing right now, haha!