Fuil na Seanchoile | Interview
Fuil na Seanchoille interview 10/02/12
I have said it before and I’ll undoubtedly say it again but the Irish black metal landscape is a pretty barren place. How many bands are there worth really getting excited about? Not many. This does mean, though, that when a band of worth does emerge it won’t take too long for the message to get to the right ears.
Fuil na Seanchoille appeared on the radar three or four years ago with a sound and vision that was practically fully formed. Blending harsh, direct punkish rhythmical slaughter with a more enveloping guitar tone and topped off with vocals that billowed up like pitch black smoke, the debut demo laid down a strong foundation and one that the band has honed in the intervening years..
I recently gave debut album, ‘Hunger’, a respectable review but wondered if the one-man band had said everything that needed to be said with that particular style.
Mainman Satyrign agreed to an interview to set me straight and to offer a punk’s perspective on all things filthy, black and horrible. It went a little something like this…
First off tell us what the impetus was to create Fuil na Seanchoille. What were your inspirations musically or otherwise when it came to creating this obscure music and what is your own musical background?
I basically wanted to play raw primitive black metal with no frills. I’d been trying to do a BM band for years, as my own background is in punk and I love the energy of the nastier, vicious end of the spectrum, but it was hard to find people on the same page as me. I got tired of looking, gradually became barely proficient at drums, and that was it.
Musically I’d been thinking about how similar Von and Crossed Out are, coming from the same place at the same time yet from radically different scenes, and it led to some experimentation. I also wanted to experiment with recording so basically I spent a Friday night writing riffs and structuring three songs, went down to our practice space in Phibsboro and took a morning to record the drums on one mic, went home got drunk and did the guitar and bass in the kitchen through a 10 watt Fender amp, added the vocals in the rehearsal space the next day and that became the first demo.
It was never intended for release, just as something to do for my own amusement. Someone asked to hear it, liked it and encouraged me to release, so I knocked up a cover and made some tapes.
The world of black metal is often perceived as a hostile, unforgiving place. As someone coming from outside the metal scene did you have any reservations about whether you or your music would be accepted? Have you faced any criticisms on that level with Fuil na Seanchoille?
I never even thought about it to be honest. The world of black metal may be perceived as such on paper or internet forums but in reality it’s not the case. I’d been a metalhead since before I was a punk, it was just the greater context and confrontational aspect of the punk scene that drew me in.
In terms of Fuil Na Seanchoille being accepted, it never occurred to me, especially since it wasn’t originally intended for release. I honestly was surprised and honoured that anyone gave a shit when it was released. Since then I’ve continued to be pleasantly surprised by the feedback.
In a recent interview with War On All Fronts zine you went into great detail about your fascinating lyrical inspirations. The first two demos dealt with Ireland’s brutal and bloody history, but you mentioned that the lyrics for ‘Hunger’ deal with events in the near future. What exactly are you talking about in the new songs? Do you hold a particularly apocalyptic world view?
The lyrics of ‘Hunger’ deal with the period from circa 1839 up to a projected near future. It’s nothing radical, just a reflection on how Ireland has changed since I was a kid and how it continues to change. I’m 30 this year and perhaps it’s inevitable that a certain type of conservatism comes into people as they get older, as everyone imagines that things were better in the past.
While I have no illusions as to how hard a life it would have been living out in Connemara through the winter 100 years ago, or living the nomadic tribal life of our ancestors 1,000 years ago, the history of Ireland created a people that were unassailable, who stuck together, who fought back hard and nevertheless kept a sense of humour about it all while knowing how to have a good time.
I love that, I really do, the attitude and the indomitable spirit. While it’s been nice to see Irish people with some money and security in their lives over the past two decades, the greed and selfishness that arose is pretty sad. We all know where that ended up.
I believe the essence and spirit of the Irish is such that the strong kind-heartedness of people will prevail, but with this project and release it takes a darker view. Various songs on the album deal with a barren, vile urban horror that’s leeching the spirit from people and leaving them empty and colourless.
Generally, I do hold a pretty apocalyptic world view, but all of that is dealt with more concertedly in the music and lyrics of Nuclear Death Terror.
‘Hunger’ was recently released on cassette by the Canadian label, Tour de Garde. How did this collaboration come about?
O.T. from TDG/Akitsa got in touch to purchase the first two demos. I like Akitsa and the TDG discography and distro is second-to-none, so we traded and stayed in touch. He mentioned he’d like to hear any new stuff with a view to releasing it, I sent him ‘Hunger’ once it was done and we took it from there.
Some bigger labels were interested and one of them had sent me a contract…it was some of the most ridiculously insulting muck I’ve ever laid eyes on.
O.T. has been excellent to work with, highly professional, easily contactable and sticks to his word. Can’t ask for more. Honestly, in terms of professionalism, the metal labels I’ve been working with have impressed me a lot more than the punk labels I’ve worked with in the past. Shouldn’t be surprising!
Your sound is fairly traditional but certainly has your own character stamped across it. Do you feel that that you have taken that particular sound as far as you can? Will there be any stylistic developments or are you happy to focus on honing that particular sound?
Definitely a development. The sound is changing as I am, and I think each of the three releases are quite different in terms of the songs and the aura while obviously similar in the playing and instrumentation.
The next recording will be a couple of covers of some less obvious bands, which is intended to help guide me towards the next release, which will have a somewhat different, less linear sound. The longer plan is to take that more psychedelic sound back down to the really raw, ugly stage and push it as far as it can go before it dissolves.
The first release was written and recorded very quickly and in the midst of a period when I hadn’t really seen or spoken to anyone in about a month, and I think it inheres that claustrophobic feel. ‘Hunger’ was written over a long period and the recording process begun while I was living in London, which I see as the locus of the horrors with which those songs are concerned, and the general filthy urban aspect and horrible aggression and aloof violence of that city has found its way into those songs as well. The next one deals with a threefold concept of change; emigration, traditional to modern, pagan to Catholic.
Black metal is often linked with right wing political views. Does it concern you that people from outside the black metal scene might view Fuil na Seanchoille as holding certain nationalistic views, particularly as you have an Irish name and have had lyrics written exclusively in Irish? What are your own feelings towards NSBM? Does it have a place or should it be stamped out?
No, not at all. It seems to concern others though, as I have had some comments, but I don’t mind really. I hate Nazis and I hate racism, but I’m not going to let politics dictate the music and art that I’m interested in. Music is far too important to let something like politics get in the way of it.
It comes down to this: you like what you like. I can’t make a decision to not like Burzum or Ildjarn because they’re considered naughty: I like the sound, and I accept that. Perhaps it’d be different if there were explicit references in their song titles, lyrics or artwork, but there aren’t, not that I’ve seen, so it doesn’t concern me. You have to be told that the creator of it holds extreme right-wing ideals rather than the music making itself apparent independently.
There’s a lot of music out there made by unsavoury people; if you started finding out the true opinions and tastes of many of your favourite bands, would you stop listening to them because you disagreed?
For some reason, a Japanese punk band like Sieg Heil aren’t dodgy despite their explicit artwork, song titles etc, simply because they’re not Caucasian. So much of this Nazi witch-hunt mentality is just misplaced guilt over perceived privilege and the associated responsibilities. Yes, certain people equate listening to certain music with “being a Nazi”. Fine, I’m happy to speak with them about it. And at the same time I’ll happily jump up and down on Nazi heads if they’re attempting to spread their views at gigs or on the street. People are welcome to their own views, and if they decide to spread them in public, they’re agreeing to deal with the consequences.
I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but I think that the fucked-up views of NSBM invest certain black metal with a hatred that can’t be faked, the same way that radical left-wing politics invest certain punk music with a fury that can’t be faked. I might disagree with their views, but the music of, for example, Branikald or Forest nevertheless has an entirely unique aspect which comes from what the creator feels and thinks. It is what it is.
What are your feelings on Satanism? Do you see it as childish hocus pocus or a legitimate world view?
I think Satan is a great allegorical figure. I think Satanism and devil worship is also a legitimate occult spirituality, as there’s always the dark with the light. I don’t believe in any one god, but I do believe there are forces at work beneath the surface, behind the veil. Nothing conscious or considered, probably more in line with Buddhist ideas of karma and so on, but yes, certain energies exist. I think those energies can be channeled by certain people, and this is what the more interesting brand of Satanism verges on.
But I think the nonsense of bands like Archgoat and Black Witchery is utterly silly, the preoccupation with Jesus, the Virgin Mary and all that shite. Who fuckin’ cares. If you’re going to talk about evil, take a look around you: it’s all here on Earth. The history of the 20th Century surpasses the wildest Christ-devouring fantasies of all these knob-heads.
Your other bands, Kromosom and Nuclear Death Terror, are harsh noisy hardcore punk bands. Punk seems to have an ethos of inclusion and acceptance, it seems more social, whereas black metal presents itself as aloof, anti-social and elitist. Do you find that you have to split your personality when focusing on one or the other band? What satisfaction do you get from the one which cannot be taken from the other, if any?
It’s not really a case of split personality, just different aspects of it. Anyway, there’s no black metal scene. It doesn’t exist. There are various people who play in bands and go to gigs, but there’s no “scene” as such. There’re probably two or three dozen metal-head friends of mine who even know I do the band and no-one else knows or cares. Some of my punk friends are aware of it but most of them aren’t interested in BM and share common misperceptions about it. Fine with me, it’s not meant for them.
I enjoy the hedonism and misanthropy of metal and my friends in that scene, and most of all I just love the music, but I don’t enjoy the sexism and acceptance of mad dodgy shit. Case in point, Kromosom just went on tour with Toxic Holocaust and played to mainly metal crowds. Our singer Yeap is Asian and at our gig in Sydney this cunt in a Cannibal Corpse t-shirt came up and told him to get out since Asians weren’t welcome. We went looking for him but his friends backed us off and told us that he didn’t mean anything, that he was just stupid and regularly did that shit.
We had to play right away so we left it. Then when we’re playing he comes up and starts gesturing to Yeap and pointing to the Exit sign. We jumped straight into the crowd, dragged him out and kicked the living shit out of him. Afterwards tons of people told us how happy they were about that, but they’d never have done it themselves, not feeling like they would have been supported had they tried.
That’s shit… metal’s not just for white cunts. To be honest I do enjoy going to NWN! Fest or whatever and fucking with boneheads there. I just can’t resist.
In the punk scene, I equally like and hate how it’s not just about the music. Three out of four punks have atrocious musical taste. Calling it musical taste in itself is a misnomer; it’s just music, which seems to be enjoyed more for the lyrics, who’s in the band or the artwork and statement. Boring.
But then I like that there’s a lot of interesting people in the punk scene with a good healthy mistrust of authority and a willingness to confront things they don’t agree with. I enjoy the chaos and madness you get when you bring fifty punks together. More than anything I like that women in punk are more outspoken and confident than those I’ve met in metal. Plus there’s more of them. And they’re sexier. Now I’m really in trouble…
Are the punks out-metalling the metallers or am I losing the plot?
In Ireland they are…elsewhere, I dunno. When you go back to the genesis of all these bands, the good ones, there’s little-to-no difference between punk and metal. Personally the holy trinity is Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Discharge. Without them there’s no Bathory, there’s no Celtic Frost, there’s no Darkthrone.
Take your favourite bands from the early ‘80s onwards and trace them back and you’ll probably find one of those three bands in there. I think after Sabbath, NWOBHM injected the energy and fire which led to real metal: thrash, speed, black, death.
A lot people who came to metal from metal would have started out exposed to a cleaner and better produced sound before they got into the really good stuff, which generally has a rougher, filthier sound. Coming to metal from punk gives a different perspective. Punks are used to producing that kind of sound and actively seeking out a way to produce it, so now you’re getting a less considered and more instinctive brand of metal from people who cut their teeth on punk and hardcore. That’s one perspective, anyway…
It is often argued that Irish black and death metal is miles behind other countries. Why do you think this is? What bands do you think are worth their salt in this country and what is it that sets them apart from the pretenders?
I think a lot of this comes from touring. It’s the best thing a band can do to progress and grow. It feeds your spirit, you see and play with new bands every night, you want to out-do them, play better than them, or else be inspired to up your game if they’re outplaying you. It’s very, very hard to do this coming from Ireland. It’s expensive and it’s hard to get things started. It’s all cyclical, the more good bands you have playing in a city or a scene, the more you are inspired to start.
From Ireland, currently, Primordial are in a league of their own. Haud Mundus and everything that the two lads did alongside that is incredible. Zom are amazing. Altar of Plagues are excellent, too. The Lethiferous demo shows promise. I think if you look at any of these bands, the main factor that sets them apart is a unity of vision.
So many bands play a miscellaneous breed of thrashy, deathy groove metal that it bores the tits off me. There’re so few people interested in playing that you always end up with fuckin’ Jimmy on the drums who wants to sound like Pantera or a guitar player who wants to show off instead of writing songs. It takes time and dedication, but people need to find a sound and develop it. Which is why I do it all myself… tired of compromising.
The term ‘one man black metal band’ is usually enough to strike terror into the hearts of even the most seasoned rocker. How have you managed to sidestep the connotations often ascribed to that genre? How do you find working alone? I can’t help but feel that it must be something of a gilded cage. On one hand you have the freedom to do whatever you want but then you have the responsibility of having to create all of the music and play all of the instruments yourself. How do you manage?
Yeah, you’re totally right, and it’s something that’s been occurring to me more and more since the first demo. First of all, the main problem is programmed drums. Just don’t. It’s pointless. There are a handful of acts I’ve heard which get away with programmed drums and hundreds of others which are completely ruined. This is the main problem with one man black metal, or indeed with a lot of music in the digital age. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Too many bands, too many recordings, too little quality control.
If you want to play music, you have to put time into it. Learn to play the fucking drums. It’s not easy to get started, but just find out about renting a rehearsal studio or getting/borrowing an electronic kit to learn on. You don’t need to be great, and start simple. All you need is three or four beats, and add as you learn. After you get the basics you don’t even need to practice unless you want to be like Marduk or DsO or something.
The other problem which you allude to is more difficult. Unless you have a studio or practice room at home, it’s very difficult to experiment with ideas. With my other bands when we’re writing songs, if you have an idea all you do is say “let’s try it this way” and do it. If it’s good, keep it, if not, try something else.
With FNS this is a huge pain. I start out with a ton of riffs. When I feel there’s enough to portray the overall idea I start putting a structure on them, if it isn’t already there. I’ll write it down. Then I’ll get to a drum kit and record it along to the structure on paper and in my head. Then I’ll add on the bass and guitar at home. If I want to try a different idea I have to get back to the drum kit and redo the whole process. This is time consuming and annoying, but it does lend itself to a more hypnotic form of music.
Often I’ll only have played the songs fully through two or three times before the final recording, at which point there’s always a song or two where I think a part should have been different. This is the main problem, but it’s also part of the beauty of it. Self-sufficiency yields interesting and satisfying results.
You have played live twice, recruiting members of Drainland and De Novissimis/ZOM to help out. Do you enjoy the live experience? How does it compare to the studio environment for you and have you plans for future gigs? Who would you love to share a stage with and tell me what the ideal Fuil na Seanchoille gig would look like.
Playing live is fun but only at the right time and the right place. You can’t argue with free beer! With a punk band it’s easier, though with Kromosom it’s based on pure aggressive energy and having the right equipment (e.g. huge loud amps). With NDT it’s about building a huge crushing momentum throughout the set.
With Fuil Na Seanchoille it was weird because the songs were written and present and the lads just had to learn them in the rehearsal space. Invariably they ended up quite different to the recorded versions, but you can’t be too dry about it: if you’re asking people to play with you then you’re going to have to just go with it. Let the structures change, go with similar beats, etc.
The two gigs were fun, chaotic and barely coherent but that was the point. The diehards enjoyed it and that’s all it’s for. There’s no impetus to play bigger shows and make the band any bigger. I’ve got releases on labels as big as I’m interested in, my other bands have toured everywhere and had or have upcoming releases on bigger labels, and now it’s all just purely personal expression with no intention as I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible.
The ideal Fuil Na Seanchoille gig…probably playing at Chaos In Tejas or Nuclear War Now! Fest. Otherwise, it’d be sharing a bill with Confuse, Ride for Revenge, Shitlickers, Sieg Heil, Bone Awl and Midnight on Halloween in Valhalla.
You have a handful of releases planned for the near future. What can you tell us about them and do you have anything else planned?
We’ve okayed the test presses for the 12” collecting the two demos and Jesus who does Me Saco Un Ojo Records assures me that they’ll go to press by March. I’m talking to a couple of different labels about a tape edition of them. The next recording will be two covers, I’ve no idea how they’ll be released but a 7” would be nice. After that there will be one long piece entitled The Crossing which will perhaps surprise a few people. After that the plan is to really simplify it and reappraise the initial vision in the context of what I’ve learnt since, but who knows really.
Cheers for your time. The final words are yours.
Thanks for the interview. You are what you create…make something worthy.
Fuil Na Seanchoille: http://fuil.web44.net/
Tour De Garde Records: http://www.t-d-g.net/
Me Saco Un Ojoj Records: http://www.mesacounojo.com/
Nuclear Death Terror: http://www.nuclear-death-terror.com/
Interview by Andrew Cunningham
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