Interview with Five The Hierophant

Interview with Kali – Guitar & Other Instruments

Interview by Lee Carter

Hey and thank you for your time. Please state your name and position in the band.

This is Kali and I play guitar and other instruments.

Can you tell us about the origins of Five The Hierophant? How did you all get started and what drew you together?

It started as a purely no-commitment-type jam project. Chris and myself, we worked in the same tattoo studio at that time, and started playing just for the fuck of it. As it turned out, it went better than expected. Instead of terminating the project after two weekends, we asked Mitch to join in and it quickly snowballed into what it is now.

Having mentioned the band name, what inspired the name? Is there a story behind it, or was it something that simply resonated with the band?

Not much of a story. I came across the phrase somewhere and it stuck with me. Hierophant is a high priest in rites of Eleusis, Ancient Greek mysteries. Actually Five The Hierophant is a Tarot card, but there’s no conscious connection to Tarot, it just sounds intriguing so we use it. But interestingly, when you look at it closely, the Greek mythology, as well as philosophy, is pretty far out. For example some elements of Pagan, Greek and later Roman religions bear resemblance to Satanism. Look at Bacchus, god of divine madness, drunkenness, and ecstasy, with his cloven-footed Satyr followers. Or Pan, god of sex and fertility. Pretty striking iconography: goat hooves for feet, goat horns, beard and phallus. A Baphometic goat no less. What happened was that Christianity tried hard to eradicate all Pagan worship, after it became the dominant religion in Rome, courtesy of Emperor Constantine. So they started ‘demonising’ it, conflating attributes of Pagan gods of nature with biblical Satan, simply to discourage people from worshipping them. As they pretty much mastered the art of PR, it was a successful smear campaign. It turned the divine chaos of ancient mysteries into Black Mass, metaphorically-speaking.

But hey, I’m digressing, I got carried away here a bit. Still, it kind of sheds some light on the context of the name. I’m also aware that there’s more than enough of ‘Hierophants’ in bands names, song and album titles, but same goes for Corpse, Slaughter, Bong, Morbid, Goat and so on, so I guess we fit in just right in this trend of phrase abuse.

What were the earliest influences that led you to becoming a musician? And what influences were there at the outset of Five The Hierophant?

Becoming a musician, oh man, that will require rewinding the tape 30 years back or more. My first record was Bon Jovi. Soon enough I was neck-deep into Kreator, Sodom, Destruction, things like that. Then things became serious with death metal, which I really liked but was not fanatical about. The bands that changed the game for me was first Samael, Blasphemy (black metal skinheads, Ross Bay Cult!) and Beherit. Even now as I’m writing it, I get goosebumps. Most savage and dark stuff on the planet. Then bands like early Rotting Christ and Darkthrone, and the Norwegian and Swedish black metal underground exploded around 1993, that was it for me. These were the bands I listened to then and they influenced me a great deal. But let’s face it, I couldn’t play stuff  like Slayer, so I stuck to the simplistic Samael/Hellhammer style. Soon enough my tastes broadened into noise and ambient like Cold Meat Industry, and classical music. When it comes to 5TH, it’s difficult to pinpoint the specific influence, but I guess it’ll all lie somewhere between Led Zeppelin, Coil, Zu, Swans and Coltrane. And Angelo Badalamenti on top.

Was the development of the band’s sound a natural process, or was there a conscious decision to mix together elements of jazz, ambient, metal in an avant-garde combination?

It was a natural process. We did not have a committee meeting where we passed a decree of what elements we should and shouldn’t mix. I would say, it’s all experimental, we like to feel free to try whatever, and if it works, then we keep it. I suppose now that we have reached a certain characteristic sound we won’t drift away too much into funk or reagge or what not – that would be pointless.

When did the writing process for ‘Through Aureate Void’ begin? What does the band’s creative process look like?

Around the end of 2019 we had most of the stuff ready, and we have been working on the ideas on-and-off for a while now, I don’t really remember. Usually it’s either fairly typical: me coming up with a riff or an idea and we jam it together until it takes some shape, or we just improvise, jam for 20 minutes with no preconception, and see where the tide takes us. And believe me, it takes us to strange waters sometimes. Soon enough, I realised it’s crucial to record every session, because if you improvise like that, there’s no way anyone will be able to remember what the hell happened in a week’s time. It can be frustrating, knowing you had gold on your fingers and it slipped away.  

Are there or have there ever been any occasions when a song has become too “out there”, or started to lack a degree of cohesion?

Yes, it’s a norm. But it’s fairly easy to control, I mean if you’re jamming for 15 minutes and everyone in the room is levitating and the doors of perception are wide open, figuratively-speaking, it’s fine. But if something goes wrong you surely know because it all falls and crashes down on earth and the doors slam shut. Then you know not to go any further. But in principle it’s a matter of reaching balance, how much noise and chaos can you tolerate. That differs from day to day, so some ideas that sounded great last month, will be cringey or intolerable the next month.

At the outset of ‘Through Aureate Void’, did you have anything in particular that you wanted to achieve, or was it simply to create the best album possible?

No, we did not have any preconceived goals. Even if we did, it would not work anyway. I know because I’ve tried. Setting objectives is pointless, because by trying hard to achieve something, you limit yourself terribly and the outcome is usually mediocre at best, and rarely great. It’s better to go with the flow rather than have rigid ideas of what you want to achieve.

How did you find the recording process for the album? How does recording such uncompromising music work in a studio?

It should be pure joy, release and catharsis. In reality, it was frustrating. Halfway through the recording we got locked down due to the pandemic, and the studio was unable to carry on working. We had to wait 3 months, and by that point all the enthusiasm and energy was gone. Like trying to restart a fire that went out. That’s how it felt. My idea is that music and the energy should be captured as quickly as possible, without too many takes, with errors, mistakes and what not. Too much trying hard and polishing and all that, too many questions, not enough answers. I start doubting myself and double-guessing: was it good? Should we scrap that? Fuck that. The session really dragged but eventually we did it and, lo and behold!

Through Aureate Void’ is a terrifically atmospheric listen – how important is the mood, or atmosphere in the band’s music?

It’s everything. I mean, it’s one of the main characteristics I think. We would like to put the listener into trance-like state, hypnotise and take them to a different state of consciousness, so to speak. So atmosphere is crucial. It helps you visualise things.

Without any lyrics to act as a focal point, is there any story or theme behind the album at all? Or is it a case of the listener disappearing off wherever the music takes them on their own journey?

You nailed it. Go to the destination of your choosing, inside your head, and we will be the vessel. There’s no narrative, or should I say there’s not one correct narrative that we would like to impose on anyone. It’s a free form. It can be liberating, but it can be terrifying too. And I understand it’s not for everyone, as some of us prefer to be spoon-fed, have things clearly explained and compartmentalised, with clear understandable narrative. Here, nothing is clear.

Regardless of any explicit story or theme, was there an overriding emotion or vibe you were looking to achieve with each track of the album?

Yes, and we captured the vibe. It’s there for you to experience. In general, it’s meant to be dark, oppressive but also hypnotic and dream-like.

How have you found the reaction to the album so far? Does this affect you at all, or are you quite indifferent to how others view your music?

The album release date is in a few days from now, so I don’t have much feedback yet, but so far it has been very enthusiastic mostly, but also polarising, with certain people think it is fucking boring. I’m being realistic and I manage my expectations because I understand it will not be everybody’s cup of tea. Some people really don’t get it, thinking that a 10-minute track with one repetitive riff is unimaginative. To me its like saying Rothko is unimaginative because he used only two colours. It’s okay, not everybody has be into Rothko, there’s still deer and a waterfall if you don’t get Rothko. Excuse the metaphor. If we wanted applause, we’d do something predictable and easily digestible. But of course it would be great if the album gained some niche audience.

In the absence of live shows, can you describe a Five The Hierophant show to those who have yet to see you?

With every show we use things like burning frankincense on stage and use Tibetan trumpets and bells, to introduce the audience to ritual-like atmosphere, without too much theatrics. We also use visuals on projection screens wherever it’s possible. It’s the music that plays the main role though. I think our repetitive music works really well live and I hope we can go on tour sometimes this year. Do not miss it.

Have you got any touring plans set, or are you waiting for the state of play later in the year with the vaccine rollout?

We do have some plans for August but it remains to be seen if we can play then. We have some gigs booked in the UK and some prospects in EU, with Imperial Triumpant hopefully. But you can’t be sure of anything these days.

If you could choose anyone to tour with and anywhere in the world, who would you most like to hit the road with and where?

It would be cool to open for OM, Swans and Dead Can Dance. That would be a nice lineup wouldn’t it?

Have you a favourite show that the band has played since your formation? If so, what made it so special?

There was a few. I think playing Desertfest was pretty memorable, considering it was our second gig ever, or so. I also remember a gig in Oslo with an opening band playing experimental music on trees and chainsaws that they brought into venue and connected with contact microphones. Played a full, captivating set on trees. That was refreshing. I felt we sounded really conservative compared to them.

The last year-or-so has been unlike any other – how has this affected the band, and how has it affected you?

Well it affected us in a way that we can’t rehearse, can’t tour or play live and some of us can’t work, so, frankly speaking, it’s not been great. But it gave me a lesson in humility and a bit of new perspective on things.

How have you and the band been keeping yourselves occupied during the various UK lockdowns? Are there any recommendations you can make to our readers?

I’m not sure if readers really want to hear about lockdown problems – personally I’m sick of this subject – but I try to stay sane by maintaining resemblance of normality, exercise, draw and paint, read books. Almost zero drugs or drink. Like I said, I’m a tattoo artist so cannot really work, so I try to find substitute tasks. Also spending countless hours working on my family tree, now spanning back to 1640 – a completely useless yet absorbing task.

Has this time in lockdown been productive at all, beyond the release of ‘Through Aureate Void’? Is there any further Five The Hierophant work we can look forward to? Or anything from you individually?

We are about to do the third part of ‘Magnetic Sleep Tapes’. It’s all our more ambient/experimental tracks that don’t really make it to the album, due to their uncompromising (read: boring) nature, but are interesting enough to avoid being discarded completely. So that will be the next thing on our hands. There’s also a split 10″ EP with Wyatt E, with an unreleased track. I think it should be released sometime this year.

If you could recommend the ideal listening experience to anyone looking to listen to ‘Through Aureate Void’, what would you suggest it be?

It’s not the first time I’m saying this, but in my estimation, really, there’s no better way than tripping on mushrooms in the forest, or on a mountain top, if possible. As you’re slowly coming down to planet Earth, put it on headphones and watch the sun rise. Otherwise, I’m sure seeing us perform it live should be worth your while, especially give that the live versions differ from the album versions.

Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?

Thanx for your support!