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Dayal Patterson | Interview


Though it’s been written about at extraordinary length, Black Metal is a genre where secrets are still kept.

In his debut book, writer Dayal Patterson managed to convince some of the most influential and reticent Black Metal artists out of the shadows.

‘Evolution Of The Cult’, was one of the most faithful chronicles that the genre has ever had. Not content with that, he’s about to release a follow up: “The Cult Never Dies: Volume 1”.

So it’s only fitting that we had a word with the man himself. Pic by Ester Segarra.

***

Welcome To The Dark Scribe

Many people have considered Lords Of Chaos to be the finest ‘social history’ of black metal from over the years.

Of course it was far from perfect, but it mixed atmopshere with documentation in a really menaningful way.

Why did you think there was a need for another book in similar territory – what was ‘Evolution Of The Cult’ bringing to the party that you felt ‘LOC’ didnt?

I don’t feel like these books are actually very similar – Lords of Chaos is an interesting book, but it didn’t provide the sort of definitive explanation of the birth and development of black metal that I felt was needed, especially at a time when new generations are getting into the genre via the internet and have very little understanding of the overall picture because of that.

LoC was written over a decade and a half ago and I think people forget that a lot of that book isn’t about black metal at all, but about Satanism, Satanic (non-black metal) bands, crime with absolutely no link to black metal (ie. The Lords of Chaos teenage gang the book is named after), Northern European topics and so on.

Black metal is such a huge genre that it’s unsurprising that there was a hell of a lot of ground that still needed to be covered, even when one takes into account the other books and films about the subject that have surfaced in recent years.

You’ve obviously interviewed so many BM musicians in the years before embarking on the book, and so you’ll have gotten an insight into their characters anyhow – but in your meetings and chats, who really stood out for you and for what reasons?

I’m spoiled for choice really on that one because almost everyone involved was a memorable character – that is perhaps a common thread in the more engaging black metal bands. Amongst those would be Cronos of Venom, Snorre Ruch of Thorns, Mysticum, all the Mayhem guys, Fenriz, Tom Warrior, Saint Vincent of Blacklodge, Marduk, VON, Master’s Hammer, the list goes on!

Never Meet Your Anti Heroes

People say ‘never meet your heroes’, and in many ways the genre itself is the hero here – but did meeting any of these characters at this point in your life prove them to be crushingly normal, or do any really retain a mystique and otherworldly presence?

There’s probably a slight loss of mystique involved when you meet and work with someone, but I’m glad to say that none of the people involved were ‘crushingly normal’ or pedestrian in any way.

I’ve interviewed a lot of bands over the years for various magazines and it’s true that you find a lot of musicians don’t have a great deal to say for themselves – they may (or may not…) have musical talent but there’s not much greater depth or thought being put into their work or indeed their lives.

Black metal is, for the most part, a different story. You may find that people have very off or even illogical views, but they do have views, they do seem to be motivated by something more than just making a good riff.

How ‘real’ is black metal? Most bands seem to have descended onto tours, festivals and the very prosaic day to day business of making and selling music.

Is the motivation and ideology behind it all but extinguished now, or do you think a quinetessence does remain?

Authenticity is one of the great obsessions in modern music and one could perhaps question the validity of that notion.

The next question would arise is what is ‘real’ in black metal. Personally I think that the genre is largely defined by its plurality – it is a scene whose protagonists offer very different and often conflicting worldviews and definitions of what black metal ought to be – for example, bands such as Marduk or Watain go on record saying the black metal must be Satanic to be authentic, while a lot of other groups say otherwise.

Others argue over whether bands should remain underground or be involved in political discourse. So pinning the genre down to one ideology has always been difficult.

That said, you raise a valid point about motivations – since the late nineties it has been possible for black metal bands to find ‘mainstream’ (and I use that term pretty loosely, obviously this is relative to the metal scene) success and I think because of that you do see more professional musicians who perhaps are in it purely for music and not because of a need for a radical artistic expression.

The irony is that the move into an internet/mp3/download world (a transition that helped the genre find a wider audience) has meant that it is now much harder to make money from being in a black metal band.

Black Metal and… Baseball

You’re very game to call certain people’s views into question. Did you feel when you were doing that – particularly regarding racist or supremecist rants – that you were somehow, underneath it all, righting a wrong?

It’s very interesting that you say that because I had a lot of people asking me the opposite – why I didn’t question such views more than I did and why I gave certain people a platform. I really did my best to find that middle ground, to show what black metal was about without endorsing every element.

We’ve seen the evolution of BM’s master musicians from Emperor to Ulver to Enslaved. Many however are not so lucky, largely because they just werent at that musical level. Where can BM musicians go from here?

I think the possibilities are still becoming apparent.

There’s the famous and ongoing story about big league American baseball players who’re seeking all sorts of therapy in order to cope with not being in the limelight anymore.

Did you ever get that sense with some of BM’s more faded stars? How have they blended back into every day life? It seems a bit easier for death metallers, you might say.

In some cases it might be easier in black metal because there was a lot of anonymity involved with a lot of the protagonists. In fact, some people have been able to disappear entirely because they only used pseudonyms and the only photos of them were monochromatic photocopies and had them wearing corpsepaint.

As for the bigger names, I think most of them have some sort of ‘legendary’ status to fans which is mostly a good thing. The ones who might prefer the distance would be those involved in crimes and such, or those who have fallen out of love with the music, but in my experience most of these people are still involved with black metal as fans and appreciate that people remember them.

Evolution Of The Cult was nothing less than comprehensive. What gave you the itch that there was more to do – in short, why was a second book needed so soon?

The first book inevitably concentrated on the genre’s formative years in the eighties and nineties and because it was creating a sort of timeline of influence and evolution it had to focus on a limited number of bands, leaving out a lot of groups that were equally of value.

The Cult Never Dies books aim to remedy this, looking at particular areas of the black metal scene – the first volume released this year concentrates on finishing the Norwegian story (Satyricon and Moonfog Records, Manes, Kampfar, Wardruna/Jotunspor, Solefald) Polish black metal (Xantotol, Mastiphal, Mgla/Kriegsmaschine, Arkona, Evilfeast) and the creation of depressive black metal (Strid, Bethlehem, Silencer, Forgotten Tomb, Total Negation. Along with the Prelude to the Cult mini-book it expands the story (and is maybe the best thing I’ve written to date I would say!)

You can get Dayal’s book at cultneverdies.com and find out more at the cultneverdies Facebook.

Interview by Earl Grey ::: 26/02/15


10 Comments
  1. Earl Grey: nice interview, however, I felt compelled to mention your question:

    “We’ve seen the evolution of BM’s master musicians from Emperor to Ulver to Enslaved. Many however are not so lucky, largely because they just werent at that musical level. Where can BM musicians go from here?”

    That loaded question, or should I say statement you made within the question is a kind of a flabbergasting false equivalency. I.E. If you aren’t a prog-tech-musician from the Norwegian exclusive 2nd-wavers, then clearly you are not capable of making anything worthwhile or valuable now. This says an awful lot about how you view Metal. Interesting.

  2. So how many first wavers do you know that’ve evolved to make music that’s as compelling and essential now as their first offerings?

  3. Surely Tom G. Warrior in his varying musical projects would count as first wave evolution? Particularly for me the last Celtic Frost.

  4. nazgulbrian Says:

    Celtic Frost aside, he’s sort of right. Maybe I’m understanding the question (or rather the so called ‘statement’ contained within it) but I gather that he’s talking about the bands mentioned have all progressed their sound (largely to a more technically inclined way) whereas the likes of Venom or bands who have stuck to a more primitive style haven’t had the longevity album-wise because they’re churning out the same ol’ same ol’ through the years. Whatever about being technically able in playing style, there’s having the chops to progress as song writers and there lies the difference. Seems to me that .Kat people want something different from modern black metal. A certain sense of uniqueness and creativity.

  5. nazgulbrian Says:

    I typed that comment on my phone and can’t fucking edit it. Try and get some sense out of it 😛

  6. Monk Stone Wielder Says:

    What I meant was such technically minded and able musicians Earl mentioned, indeed have become more popular and grown into a wider audience; but it doesn’t mean that the less technically-minded (or willing!, key point)from that same era couldn’t adapt and change their styles or forms. Moreover, these very same musicians can still be relevant and just as powerful now with or without the vagrancies of prog or ambient experimentation at their behest. Growth, development, power and inspiration don’t only come in the form of silly prog adventures and experimentation, such as Enslaved, for example.

  7. Monk Stone Wielder Says:

    Secondly, you assume everyone thinks Enslaved, Ulver as they are now are actually compelling. They are repelling actually, to me, at least. The 2nd wave of BM, by the way, isn’t limited to Norway. While Mayhem, Darkthrone, Emperor and the crew where doing their thing, there were a ton of bands all around the world contributing their own version of Black Metal at the same time. If this book is any good and accurate, it might serve you well to study up on it young one.

  8. Ah lad the stuff Ulver are doing now is amazing.

  9. Monk Stone Wielder Says:

    Can’t exactly argue against that Gonzo. I like some of their experimental electronic material. It gets quite pretentious though.

  10. Definitely gonna have to grab a copy of that.

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