28th May 2016
Interview by Demitri Levantis
With his latest book: BLACK METAL: INTO THE ABYSS now out for release, Independent Voice caught up with author Dayal Patterson (Cult Never Dies) to discuss the book series, the current state of the Black Metal world and where the series will be heading in future.
How is Into the Abyss different from Evolution of the Cult and Cult Never Dies?
Each book is a collection of interviews with a different set of bands. Actually I think one misconception of those who haven’t read the series is that each book is just me saying my opinions on BM, which is not the case; each volume is one set of bands I think deserve their say. In that sense it’s more like an in depth magazine that builds up a story. The big difference with this book to the previous ones is it’s written in a slightly more conversational Q&A format. More direct and less editorial. The aesthetic is a little more old school, more fanzine-like. Evolution set the foundations, now the book project is split into two series – the Cult volumes will set the scene for each subject, be it Greek BM, Norwegian BM. The Abyss volumes will then give more emphasis on newer bands and be a little more conversational and hopefully create a sort of balance. Although each book is designed so you don’t need to read the previous books.
Did you discover anything surprisingly new about the bands you interviewed?
I think I always discover more about the people behind the bands and the records. To that extent I definitely learn more each time and that’s the point of the books, the idea is you can be a fan of these bands and then read an interview and learn something new about their background and what drives them. Most people involved in black metal are fairly strong characters, so there’s always an interesting human story behind the art.
Who were your favourite bands to interview for this book?
Mystifier was a relief as I’ve wanted to interview them since 2009, so it was great to do them. 1349 is an obvious one and it’s very long and in depth, Ravn is very reflective on what he thinks. Forgotten Woods was good as it was hard to make happen, they don’t do too many interviews. It’s always good to interview bands who don’t talk to people. Sacrilegium and Tsjuder were good. Sacrilegium especially as they’re back from the dead. I’m quite spoilt for choice so there’s so many to choose from in this book, over 22 bands.
How long has it taken you to write this?
It’s hard to say because the books cross over. The project started in 2009 with Evolution, that took 4 years but some of that time was spent finding the bands and convincing them to talk. That side of things has become a lot easier, I don’t need to describe what I intend the book to be like, they can look and previous examples and have an idea on what it’s going to be like. The new book took about over a year to write but in a way all the ground work had been done before that as I’d chased many people before.
Who were the most controversial bands you met and interviewed for the project?
I guess that depends on what people find controversial. I suppose Graveland are one of the more controversial. Mayhem and Gorgoroth are controversial, but not controversial to people who listen to BM, they’re controversial in a wider sense. I’ve interviewed a few bands that wouldn’t be seen as black metal which might be controversial, but that’s because I’m writing about the boundaries of black metal as well as the core bands. Many people ask: why did you interview Lifelover and Wardruna? Obviously these bands aren’t black metal, but they are directly related to the subject and I think including a few bands like that helps tell a wider story.
Are there any big changes occurring in the black metal world that you’ve noticed in all your books?
I don’t think there are any in particular. BM is exploding in all directions possible. It’s become this big cultural phenomenon, thanks to the internet in a large part. Each niche in black metal, subculture or tangent, starts building momentum these days because it becomes a focal point for certain fans and bands. There’s probably more bands playing 80s black metal than there were in the 80s, more bands playing early 90s style Norwegian black metal now than there was in the early 90s. You do see certain trends coming and going in extreme metal but whatever niche people like they can explore due to the internet.
What have you enjoyed most about writing this new book?
I guess the two things I’m most curious about are musical evolution and how people choose to live their lives and that’s what these books are about: music and its evolution on one hand and the human stories behind these bands and their recordings. This new book is really 22 new mini-biographies of the bands. I spend an average of about 12-16 hours a day listening to music and it doesn’t just entertain it raises questions in my head. Like if I’m listening to a new Sacrliegium record, in my head I’ll begin to wonder, who did what, or what were they trying to get across? Now that the books are being published by a company that I am part of that’s also a major satisfaction. When the first book was published I felt there was a lack of control so I now being kept within my control and people I trust.
Does Into the Abyss focus only on European bands or have you gone further afield?
The three main topics are Norwegian, Polish and Depressive Black Metal but there are some bands like Mystifier from Brazil involved, so it’s quite loose. These topics all compliment the last book which focused on these things. There is a European focus though – you have Psychonaut 4 from Georgia, Trist from Czech Republic and Nocturnal Depression from France for example.
Have any of your books been put on any hit lists or have you been the target of abuse from religious groups or anyone anti-metal or anti-black metal?
No, nothing like that. I think people like that are more likely to be offended by bands ripping up bibles on stage than by people writing about that sort of thing. There is still a backlash against this stuff but I think it depends on which country you’re in. A fair number of the people who buy these books are in America and in places with a strong religious hold, so that may tell us a lot about what BM is offering as a way out for people on the ‘front line’ so to speak.
And what tips would you give any aspiring writers wanting to do something similar to you?
I always struggle with this question because the way I got into writing is quite different to the way most people seem to do it. Being a writer was never an ambition of mine, I wanted to be a photographer and I fell into writing by accident. To cut a long story short, a fanzine I wrote was noticed by Metal Hammer who then offered me a freelance position. Then I eventually found I preferred writing to taking pictures. I don’t think making a fanzine is necessarily the best way to get noticed, but the key is to do something of your own, devote all your energy to it, like a blog or something, and rather than just doing a few reviews and pestering editors with those, make something that is self contained and speaks for itself. Spend say a year doing your best with it and then show that ongoing work to someone at a magazine or something similar. If you can show you’ve done a lot, I think that’s a better approach than just doing a little and then going to a magazine, and always practice doing your own thing. The other root is do work experience. I never did that but I’ve noticed lots of people who write for magazines did that. Loads of people intern at magazines and they seem to learn a lot that way. Otherwise I’d say just carve your own niche and let people see that. And practice your craft. The more you do the better you become, like anything else.
Has anyone regarded you as a ‘role model’ so far?
I wouldn’t have thought so. There have been quite a lot of people who told me they wanted to go into journalism and that my work was an inspiration for them but I wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘role model’. There are 3 long term writers so far who told me they used the books for research for their own interviews, so that’s good it can offer a source of research for all kinds of people.
Have you ever thought of writing about any other genre?
I do write about other genres in my freelance work, it’s not like I only do BM. I don’t think I’d write a book about any other genre of metal at the moment as so many other people are better qualified to do so. Maybe in 10 years I’ll be bored of doing this but for now I still feel there’s so much to say and so many other bands I think should be involved too. The project has taken on a life of its own so I want to put a few more years into it.
What do you make of the book Lords of Chaos? Is it a useful source of understanding Black Metal?
That book of course came out in the late 90s which made it very interesting as it was the first of its kind. But it’s not a book about BM specifically despite its reputation, it’s more of a true crime book that relates to metal in parts – for example the Lords of Chaos the book is named after had no connection to the metal scene. So it’s an interesting book but I wouldn’t consider it a book about BM as a whole.
What do you make of people who say Black Metal is an ideology, not a genre?
Well it’s a complex culture, and it means more to people interested in it than the music. I personally feel it it’s a mistake to say that BM is one ideology, rather its many ideologies. So BM is plural. There’s so much difference and variations of the worldviews of the people involved, some people will say it’s about Satanism or rebellion or right wing politics or whatever else, but that’s what it means to them, there are many differing opinions. So there’s a plurality of meanings and I think that’s to be expected because it is a genre of strong characters.
What were the first Black Metal bands you ever listened to?
I got into it around 1995 so the bands were fairly typical choices for fans in the UK back then, there was Gorgoroth, Gehenna, Emperor, Cradle of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, Mysticum, Darkthrone, Impaled Nazarene, those were the ones who got me started. There was also Marduk and Mayhem but they took me a bit longer to get into. Those were the bands everyone was into back then. We also listened to a lot of Polish and Swedish stuff too. Friends would give me cassettes and tapes by different bands and you’d then copy you the album of whichever bands caught your eyes, before finally saving up to buy the actual CD.
What other genres of music do you enjoy most?
I listen to most metal forms actually. Of course, a lot of what I listen to is various forms of metal but I listen to all sorts, rock music, a lot of harder contemporary Jamaican music, older hip-hop and late 80s/early 90s alternative Rock/noise rock, electronic music… I listen to most music I listen to an extent, and because I’m usually listening to music all day I like to keep it varied. It also comes down to curiosity too, so it doesn’t have to always be my music I would listen to purely for pleasure, I’m sometimes just wanting to know what certain types of artists are doing.
Thanks for the interview Dayal.
Black Metal: Into The Abyss is now available for pre-order from Dayal’s website: www.cultneverdies.com
A book launch and photo exhibition of Into The Abyss will take place at The Black Heart, Camden on Thursday 30 June.