Anaal Nathrakh interview with Dave Hunt
Anaal Nathrakh have developed from a black metal band to an outfit that combines the different styles of extreme metal. Over the years precision the British duo has released eight longplayers that have earned the band the deserved place among extreme metal royalty. I had the chance to catch up with Dave Hunt (vocals) and got his view of world. Here is what he had to say.
Marc: Your new album ‘Desideratum’ is out now. What can you tell your fans about the new album?
Dave: At the risk of sounding cliché, I can tell them they should listen to it themselves. I have a little bit of an aversion of describing things like that, not because I’m precious about my music. It’s just because I think our job is making that stuff. Promoting it, selling it and trying to convince people is something best left to people who know what they are doing.
Yeah, it’s a new album. It’s something we’re very proud of. We spend a long time working on it. We especially spend a long time getting its sound right. We do everything ourselves right from the first idea for a song all the way through to when we hand it over to a label to get it reproduced and turned into CDs. It very much is a labour of love or possibly hate for us. But we are very pleased with the way it turned out and the reactions so far have been pretty much universally positive. We’re quite happy with how things are going now. But really you are better off listening to it than listening to me.
Marc: How do you work together and come up with new ideas for songs?
Dave: I know a lot of bands spend a lot of time jamming and stuff like that. It’s never been like that for us. It’s quite clearly defined into two roles for us. Essentially Mick makes songs and I sing on them. It is quite straight forward like that. I mean we are happy to talk about each other’s respective areas obviously but we each do what we’re best at. So what usually happens is Mick writes songs in his head and then he records stuff. It usually is the case that he’s got stuff, a whole album’s worth of stuff, before I really hear any of it. He often sends me rough tracks and stuff but other than just getting a broad idea I purposely don’t listen to it. When we then get together and record vocals I’m often hearing things for the first time. That might sound like a really weird way of doing things but I think it means that I can react to the music in a more immediate and spontaneous way. I think if you spend too much time analysing things, essential thinking too much about it, I think you can lose a certain immediacy. I like to get something that has as much reaction level as possible. So it’s an odd way of doing things but it works for us. We’re happy.
Marc: Compared to previous records your vocals show even more variety. Does that all happen in the creative process you just described
Dave: I try to keep things interesting and varied and so on. I do try to do something new even if it is something small on each release that we have. I might get an idea of a certain sound or a feeling and I make a note of that. I continuously make notes of lyrics and snippets and so on. So I usually got a big list of stuff when it comes to making an album. In terms of planning an approach there isn’t really a lot of that. It’s a matter of bearing in mind that you try to do something new and fresh and accepting that and see what comes out and happens and feels right at the time.
“We’re a little island in the middle of the Metal Blade sea”
Marc: You are now with Metal Blade. Has that had an influence on how you recorded the album?
Dave: No, not really. I appreciate that it might be this way with other bands. They might have access to certain producers that they wouldn’t have before or things along those lines. But in our case it makes absolutely no difference to the music whatsoever. We would have come up with the album if we were signed up with any label in the world or not signed to a label at all. It’s very much just a product of what we wanted to do at that time. It was a bit strange when we signed with Metal Blade, some people we spoke with they seemed to think it would have an effect on the music. It hasn’t even occurred to us. Frankly if a label would ask us to change anything we would just tell them to fuck off. It’s up to them to do their part but we are doing the music here. If they want someone to play the music they wanna hear they can form their own band. Metal Blade haven’t attempted to do anything and I don’t think they would. They have an integrity to themselves to uphold. So no, it hasn’t affected the music. It has affected the day-to-day dealings a little bit because they are a bigger organisation. We are speaking to more people in different offices than we were before. But in terms of the music, no effect at all. We’re a little island in the middle of the Metal Blade sea.
Marc: You hardly ever play live. Actually when you started out it was a studio project. Why is that and why has that changed?
Dave: You’re right, to begin with we didn’t think about playing live. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to because we were both active in other things that did include playing live. It simply didn’t occur to us. That’s what happened. Partially we didn’t think we find people who could do it, above all the drummer who could play our stuff live. Now there are a lot more guys around that would be able to do it but back then it wasn’t so much of a tradition of playing. It was not so much how fast it was but for how long it needs to be that fast. People weren’t used to playing like that. Then eventually the BBC spoke to us. We did a session with John Peel who was a quite famous DJ for finding new stuff. Then they called us again for another session. Then we thought what should we do this time. So we thought let’s have an experiment, let’s put together a live band and see if it worked. And it did. It came out really well. We were pleased with it. After that happened Terrorizer put together an annual celebration. They heard that we had played with a live band. So they asked us if we played. That was our first show. It was almost by accident really. Given that that worked – it was like a proof of concept – we thought let’s play live sometimes, let’s see what happens. Since then it was a matter of what offers came along and what seemed to be a good things to do. We’re at the point now where we consider anything. Obviously we’re not the kind of band that releases an album and then spends two years touring. That would somehow feel dishonest. I don’t wanna accuse bands that do do that of being dishonest. It would seem unnatural to us. Whereas playing a bit mover sporadically feels more like every time is a special, unique occasion. Maybe if the right offer came in to do something more extensive we would do it and see how it feels to do that kind of thing.
Marc: Are the any plans for any shows in the near future?
Dave: We played a handful of shows in the UK in the past couple of months. They all went fine. But what we really wanted to do is to let the album come out and then sort of give it a rest for a bit and let people get hold of it, get on good terms with, get to know the songs on it and so on, rather than go straight out and force them to listen to new songs where they have no idea what’s going on. For most of the rest of the year we’re quiet. Next year were looking at some shows in the early part of the year that we are talking to our booking agent right now and a number of festivals are planned for the summer of next year. There are definitely things planned. We are hoping, we keep our fingers crossed, to get to new places. We would like to get to Australia, so fingers crossed that there are the opportunities coming up.
Marc: What do you do on the particular day when one of your albums is released?
Dave: Certainly not checking the responses. It’s not that we don’t appreciate that people spend time to write about an album because we’re pretty down to earth and grateful kind of people but you have to be satisfied by yourself rather than satisfying other people. We don’t concentrate too much on reviews. We do pay attention to what fans say because them saying something seems a bit more personally connected to the band. It seems important to pay attention to that. So we have a vague idea of what people are saying about things. One thing I like to do – before we ever released anything we were just teenagers trying to play gigs in pubs and so on – I always thought it would be nice to see a CD in the racks in the shops. That was kind of the only ambition I ever had with music. So I do like to see a new album out there in the world for sale. Other than that the day of release is more for other people. We’ve been listening to it for months now. We’re kind of pleased and relieved that the world has finally caught up with it.
“I have an enduring sense that we as human beings in general live in a world that is largely our creation without understanding a lot of it.”
Marc: Your lyrics are quite dark. Where do you get the inspiration from? What are the lyrics about on the new album?
Dave: In terms of inspirations it’s just what my head is like. It’s everything and anything, the world itself. I get a lot of ideas from just watching the news or whatever because there’s a lot going on. I have an enduring sense that we as human beings in general live in a world that is largely our creation without understanding a lot of it. That’s one reason why I’m interested in philosophy, trying to find out what really is going on in the human existence of life. Everything that comes from it, so anything can be an incidental inspiration. That’s the general thing that is behind it. I think the world and we in it are a lot uglier than we try to tell ourselves. I think we paint pictures on top of reality and then we think that these pictures are real. Truth of reality is a little bit deeper underneath. In terms of the stuff that is actually on this album: a lot of it relates to the title ‘Desideratum’. That word means something which is desired. I think the idea of desire, constantly wanting something, is quite rich and potentially quite dark and bleak subject which is a bit weird because you think of it as a straight forward emotion or process. You think, ‘I want that, I get that’. I think that there is a lot going on on a slightly deeper level. One of the main things is the way society is basically a system, or it can be seen as a system, for the manipulation of desires. What do you want, what should you want? What do others want you to want? It results in a lot of misdirection and focus on things that really aren’t what they should. You want consumer goods, you want money, you wanna lose a bit of weight. You don’t want some very important things. I mean people pay lip service ‘I want world peace’. No you fucking don’t, you don’t do anything about it. If you did you’d do something differently. That kind of thing is built into the underbelly of society. I mean there are loads of other aspects. I could blabber on for hours. A lot of it evolves around essentially around desire. There’s a German chap Thomas Pogge. He is a theorist on global poverty. One of the things I got out of reading his book is the number of children under five who die each day while we are basically thinking about other things. That’s part of what goes into the song called ‘Joystream’. There is loads of other stuff. I could go on for hours but you get an idea.