Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult - Interview
It's not every day you get the opportunity to sit with someone as passionate, dedicated and deeply expressive and analytic within the black metal landscape as Velnias, guitarist of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult. Thus, when such is presented, it comes as firstly an honor and secondly a golden opportunity to absorb some wisdom granted by a string-surgeon possessing a humble character. Having been with Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult since the very first release, "The Pest Called Humanity", to say his presence over 20 years has been one of the main reasons for the band's success and respect within the genre is but an understatement. Their blackest and most overwhelming undertaking to date "Mardom", has reinforced the dominant grip Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult has on the territory, thus it was only in fitting spirit to hear some words from one of Onielar's generals, Velnias.
Some time has passed since the release of "Mardom", an album I think did an exceptional job of capturing Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult's evolution through the years. Thus, what do you think of it in retrospect?
Oh, absolutely agree on that. In my personal humble opinion, it is the best release we have done so far in regard to the entirety of the album. Not just music wise but in whole including the lyrics and conceptual idea. Enduring six years to finally see it happen was exhausting but definitely worth the wait. Mardom turned out to be a very rewarding album in terms of personal satisfaction and self-fulfillment.
Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult's journey began in 1997, yourself Velnias joined in 1998. Under what circumstances did you come into contact with the band and on what grounds were you selected to play under the banner of Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult?
On what grounds? Well, I was the first available. Ok, seriously, let us plunge right into these vivid memories. I got in touch with Onielar and Ariovist due to a handout I left at a local music store. They were looking for a guitarist and I was looking for a band members in general. So, shortly after our first phone conversation we met in a nearby city. We started rehearsing and working as a three piece. There was a homogenous sympathy from the very start, well, at least that's what I thought. Many years later Onielar and I cleared things up. We openly expressed what each of us truly felt during the early years of D. N. Slaughtercult. To her I was an undomesticated weirdo she did not really want to have in the band – thanks to Ariovist I remained a member. So, what's my skeleton in the closet? Back then we had no bass player and no vocalist. Ariovist suggested that Onielar should try. That was fine with me, but I commenced to dislike her vocals during the first months. Believe me, I am so fucking glad these things have been inverted. Our existence has been tightly entwined in a very beneficial and fulfilling manner. In addition, she has grown throughout the years into one of the most remarkable vocalists. Onielar is the legitimate vocalist of D. N. Slaughtercult and quite rightly sort of our trademark.
With your 1999 demo, (the near 20-year-old monolith) "The Pest Called Humanity", what did you set out to achieve and could you describe the experience crafting the record; if you could remember?
As mentioned we started rehearsing in 1997/98. Back than our goal was to record an album. Due to the circumstances that Ariovist lost interest on our way towards that achievement it turned out to be a mini CD. Nevertheless, that was a remarkable experience. For any band entering a somewhat professional studio for the first time it just feels great. Notice that I mentioned somewhat professional. Rumor has it that the analog mixer and tape machine in the studio was used for synchronizing adult movies and not really for musical recordings. The recording rooms were located in a basement. Just a stony hallway with two doors on the right leading to the bathroom facilities and the room with all the recording equipment, plus one door straight ahead taking you to the actual recording room. Sometime during the recording-session the drainage malfunctioned, so that the bathroom facilities extended themselves into the hallway. Lovely, what's a more suitable surrounding to record your black metal debut?
I ask because, with every following release, something of "The Pest Called Humanity" was retained and used to mold future albums. Thus, in retrospect do you find yourself holding the embryonic material in higher regards to the new?
Whenever bands undergo a noticeable change of style it is mostly due to new members getting involved. In case of D. N. Slaughtercult the original main composers of music and lyrics are still in the band. Therefore, I am convinced that you will still find our "origin" our "roots" laid down by the debut The Pest Called Humanity on the last release Mardom. It is not so much because we are forcing ourselves to be loyal to ourselves or to the listeners expectations, no, I think the reason is because we'd had already found our style on the debut. All we have done in the following years was a refinement of this style. One step after the other. A slow but steady evolution. On the other hand, we are always reflecting new material. If we don't think it is still 100% Slaughtercult than it gets discarded.
Will there be a vinyl reissue of "The Pest Called Humanity" anytime in the near future? I take it since having surpassed its 20-year anniversary (by some number of months) that would be an ideal way to credit the material.
The Pest has been originally released as a mini CD limited to 500 copies. A year or two later it has been re-released on vinyl as a split LP with Pyre (US). A re-recorded track has been added to the vinyl version of each of the following two albums. Ten years after the original release we have produced a special collector's edition called Evoking a Decade. It contains the original material plus all tracks re-recorded during the years. Osmose Productions has done a good job on putting out different LP versions of Follow the Calls for Battle, Nocturnal March and Hora Nocturna. So, perhaps one day they will do The Pest? Perhaps it might also be an option for War Anthem Records? Who knows maybe a vinyl collectors' box with The Pest, Underneath Stars of the East, etc.? Time will tell.
Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult's lineup has been very conservative and mostly stable (with minor changes) since "Follow the Calls to Battle", hence, how did you manage to maintain the lineup for so long and what is your relationship like with the rest of the band currently?
That's what happens when characters who are supplemental get together. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. What's it called? Maggoty-headed? These behaviors and attitudes can be opposing and reason for conflict. In our case they are our input into an equilibrium. One person's weakness is the strength of another member. This adds up to a well-functioning band. Above all we are joined by the mere fact that we stand 100% behind D. N. Slaughtercult. Everyone involved has found its role and is willing to fulfill this role to support our cause.
Did you ever perceive Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult making it this far?
To be honest, no. Mainly because we have never set ourselves any long-term goals. We are in it as long as we feel there is more to tell.
Could you share with MetalBite how you began playing guitar and some of your musical influences, whether they be metal, or non-metal related?
Certainly. In the early mid-nineties, I saw a live video of Slayer. They performed 'War Ensemble'. Back in those days Kerry King was wearing his one billion nails wristband. That literally got me hooked. Shortly after that I started taking guitar lessons. For a long time, Slayer as well as many other thrash metal bands were my main influence. During those days Kreator was also to my liking. Reason enough to visit one of their shows with two unknown bands to me: Dissection and At the Gates. And yes, back then these two acts were unknown in Texas! Dissection was a revelation. At the Gates was also far more brutal than Kreator. That's when I realized that I was craving for more extreme music. From there on I devoured whatever Scandinavian Metal was available in our local record store.
Are there any other instruments you are knowledgeable of and fond of playing?
Hell no! I still have a very limited knowledge of playing guitar. Switching to an 8 string guitar for Bethlehem has been challenging. There is still so much I can improve and learn on guitar.
What about solo projects, do you have any or intend to create?
There is no need for solo projects. Next to Slaughtercult Onielar and I are involved with Bethlehem.
Walk us through the process of contriving a riff or solo section; how much inspiration do you need before your creativeness is most active? Or does it all happen naturally?
Creativity is an individual approach. For me it works best when my mind goes blank. This means that there is really nothing on your mind. I have previously described it as a mirror blank ocean. A surface that is totally calm. Thoughts are usually stirring it up. This prevents the descent into lower spheres. So, if you cast "energy" on a stirred-up surface it strays in different directions. It is distracted. Cast energy on a perfectly calm surface it will pass through. The ocean or better said its surface is a synonym for our consciousness. It is the threshold between the rational and the irrational. Actually no, that is misleading, let's just say the threshold between the mundane and the path towards our innermost sanctum. Meditation is a good way for soothing the mind. Meditation results in specific brainwaves. There are so many ways to "relax" the mind. That's when creativity kicks in for me. It emerges from the depths below when mind and body are sort of detached.
I understand you are originally from the USA, tell us a bit of your experience transitioning from the United States of America to Germany.
No, I am a native German. I moved to the US when I was a teenager and moved back to Germany in 1996/97. Due to my age and lack of understanding I felt these transitions to be unjustified. In retrospective these years have definitely molded my character. That was the time when I discovered and unchained my interest in the Occult. I learned what real friendship is and I also learned what losing a real friend means. I learned how "souls" are linked to one another. How subtle changes can have a major impact. I disliked the thought of moving from Germany to the US. Later I disliked the fact of having to move back. All in all, I am glad to have made this experience. In silence I am thankful for it.
Did you experience a culture shock of any sort?
Not really. During the first transition I was an ignorant juvenile. During the second an awakening individual.
How did you find adapting to the German customs?
Most likely everyone feels related to some customs and repulsed by others. Fortunately, most people have the freedom to decide how much they would like to adapt. Due to Germanys past it is a very open-minded culture – well at least that's the official picture the majority likes to paint. So, for the public that means that whatever you do or like is tolerated as long as it abides by the law.
In what way/s did moving to Germany assist in the development of your guitaring-progression and maturity as a black metal musician?
Honestly, I don't think it made much of difference. It is important to have a vision. If you are truly convinced of reaching something than you'll overcome any obstacles and work towards this goal. If you don't have a goal all your efforts will be confused and disoriented. As mentioned earlier I had this vision. Well, and I still have these visions today. That's my source of strength. That's what keeps me going.
Do you remember your first show with Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult and how it was received?
Oh yes, that's something we will not forget. It was literally a debutant ball. For many bands it was the very first live performance. Rehearsing is so much different from performing on stage. You are expecting a sound similar to your rehearsal room. Wrong, totally wrong. That show really felt like chaos. Frankly, it didn't really deserve to be called show. No movement, just one hundred percent focus and playing somewhat together in time. To you on stage it feels like total chaos. Well, and after the show people are congratulating for the good performance. That needs to be distinguished. On stage is a different world than say, in front of the stage. For the artist it can be horrible due to the stage sound, for the audience it might be the best sound ever – or vice versa. I am glad we made all these experiences. It is a constant process of learning.
How would you differentiate live performances in the early days of joining the band to the current era as far as reception (crown interaction, etc.)? I ask because the digital/technological era has diluted the experience of the performances, therefore I'm less enthused to see bands give live representation of their material.
Performing live is one the best experiences I personally know. It can be a very elevating incident. Both for the artist as well as the audience. That's why we are still referring to a "show" as a ritual. Whenever people gather, for instance in a mass, they come together to channel their energies to one cause. All their minds and efforts work in unison. Take a word like "God". It is just a word. Because millions of people worldwide breathe life into this word it becomes more than just a word. Let's put the falsity of their half-hearted belief aside, what matters is the principle. Everything is in motion. Everything is in an exchange and transformation from one thing to another. This transformation can be forced by penciled mental vigor. If that's something we can do for ourselves in solitude imagine the possibilities of ten, a hundred, a thousand, a million people. The mind is boon and bane. Anyhow, I am bored by many bands performing live simply because you can feel … nothing. Of course, there also people saying that in terms of DNS. But I am glad that in all these years the number of people who are thankful for what we are doing has increased greatly. The more people are interacting and letting loose the greater the energy exchange will be. It is an upwards spiral. It will carry you away into a different sphere. And at the end? It will smite you down. Your body is hammered down. Aching and drained of life – but your mind is awake and vitalized.
Please tell us a bit about your equipment for both live and studio performances.
We are definitely no tech fetishists. Our own equipment has Engl tube pre-amps as well as tube amps. We are using the rack versions to have already in a single crate. A slight reverb comes from Lexicon. And that's pretty much it. Our guitars are made by ES Guitars and have active EMG pickups. Studiowise that's different. The only record our Engl setup was used for is Saldorian Spell. We are always doubling the guitar tracks. This allows us to mix different signals and microphones. Necrovision was recorded with several small floor pedals. We certainly trust Armin of Soundsight Studio to get the right sound. Visit soundsightstudio.de and see for yourself.
Will there ever be a professionally filmed recording of a Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult show? I think supporters would appreciate that very much, given the large volumes of poorly captured gigs on the internet.
There are some good quality tracks on "our" channel. Look for 'svflag' on YouTube. It is not very active, but if something is upload it has good quality.
Speaking of live gigs, is there anywhere you would like to play that you haven't already?
Yes, anywhere where DNS has not played, yet.
What is it like playing alongside Horrn? I see him as one of the most underrated black metal drummers.
Playing alongside Horrn is like playing with a drum machine. If you haven't done so, check out the two Pavor albums "A Pale Debilitating Autumn" plus "Furioso". You know what I enjoy most? Soundchecks at shows. When all signals are checked the sound, engineer asks the drummer to play the entire kit. Well, Horrn usually starts with a regular beat and switches from zero to a hundred in an instance. That's when people's jaws drop. He's an old-school hard beating drummer, none of those modern flickering techniques!
As a unit, is everyone in the band permitted to give constructive criticism of each other's' musical contributions to Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult?
That's one of the reasons why we have so little line-up changes. Onielar and I are there from the beginning. Horrn has been with us for 19 years. If there is a problem, we'll talk about it. Keeping things to yourself will kill any relationship.
What did black metal mean to you at the time of joining Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult? Has it changed since?
It has changed. When black metal got hyped it was mostly dictated from the outside what black metal is and what it is not. In case that definition doesn't apply to you, well, that definition is obviously wrong, right? All of us are convinced of certain things. We proclaim to see things clearly and a times to know it all. Well, wrong again. We know nothing to little, but not more. There is no such thing as "the" definition of black metal. Is it music? Is it a lifestyle? Both? Who knows, who cares. It is what you make out of it. To me it is the music that best resembles the soundtrack of my current existence.
If you could alter or erase some aspects about the current state of black metal, what would they be and why?
The current state as is, is as good or bad as it has been in all these years. There is a shitload of diversity, there is a shitload of bands I don't like and very few I really like. That has not changed since the mid-nineties. Everything in life is subject to change. Change is a necessity and definitely not always bad. A change for the better or for the worse is still a change – it will teach you something. If black metal would have been strictly limited to what it was twenty-five years ago, we'd have missed out tons of great albums. But none of the persons involved in DNS are trendsetters or driven by the urge for innovation. We do what I think we can do best – and that's old school black metal.
Thank you for doing this interview with MetalBite, the opportunity to speak to a musician of your caliber is greatly appreciated. May Darkened Nocturn Slaughtercult continue its nocturnal triumph far and wide across the black path. Please have the last say Velnias.
Absolutely no problem. Every once in a while, doing a thorough and lengthy interview is sort of spiritually refueling. It allows to drift off into thoughts. Thanks for the interesting mix of questions dealing with all eras of the band.
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