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Friday, April 15, 2011

Q&A with Cernunnos of Hæresiarchs Of Dis


Even though our interview with Californian one-man black metal project Hæresiarchs Of Dis was done through an e-mail exchange, it still did not prevent us from feeling a cold, grim and evil aura seeping through the computer screen from Cernunnos's interview response. From topics regarding his musical background and influences all the way to his views on music trends, Cernunnos shares with us his insightful views on those issues plus more!

Zetalambmary: You have probably been asked this question many times before already, but what is the significance behind naming your project Hæresiarchs of Dis?

Cernunnos: There is no great significance behind the name Hæresiarchs of Dis. At the time of inception a leading inspiration came from Dante’s Inferno. This led to Dis—as in the city and the name for the demo
CD I released during spring last year—but as time passed I opted for a name that delivered greater depth. In this case, I
decided on Hæresiarchs of Dis: A heretic of the city of Dis. Part of this decision was out of necessity for a name that better suited the complexity and direction I felt the project was heading. Dis had been used many times over by other bands, and the more I thought about it, the more the name Hæresiarchs of Dis rang true. I was adamant about choosing a name that strayed away from the cliché and anything that was an expected standard in metal. It is amusing when I see someone gripe about the name, making comments like it is incomprehensible or unwieldy. A perfect example of how metal is perceived to be “simple” in some eyes.

Zetalambmary: What kind of musical instruments and sound effects (if any) are used in your music?

Cernunnos: The core instruments I use for Hæresiarchs of Dis include two of four electric guitars, one acoustic/ electric guitar, an electric bass, an upright piano, and several software programs that include a variety of instruments and effects. The ambient sounds I create come from a voice recorder or samples which are later manipulated with time effects, modulations, or extreme tone drops.

Zetalambmary: Musically speaking, unlike the more popular forms of black metal such as blackened death or black thrash, ambient black metal does not rely heavily on syncopated rhythms and catchy tunes to attract fans. What do you think is the draw of ambient black metal?

Cernunnos: I do not differentiate between sub-genres, and find it ridiculous that people have a need to do so. To me, they are all part of the same ilk, falling under the larger umbrella of black metal. Although the term black metal has “metal” in it, really it is the mood and subject matter that defines a project of this nature and not always the heavy metal part. It is rather amusing to see how music has unfolded into more and more sub genres. I, however, do not feel Hæresiarchs of Dis is ambient, as many tracks include heavy riffs and constructed song structures. The parts that are not “metal” range in variety, and the ambience that prevails is in the mood of the music, not often the song format. The draw of ambient black metal that you put forth in a question is in the morose emptiness, or lack of familiar musical ground. It is the open uninhibited soundscape of ambient black metal that intrigues many listeners.

Zetalambmary: What kind of lyrical themes does Hæresiarchs of Dis deal with?

Cernunnos: It varies between albums. There are the continuous themes of religion, death, and destruction, but more recently there is the dominant suggestion about Man and his inability to fathom his own true fate. It is through the desecration of the soul that revelation is revealed, and ultimate truth attained.

Zetalambmary: Is there any particular poet you revere?

Cernunnos: Most notable within my releases is inspiration from Dante and Milton. The track “In Remembrance
of He Who Defied God” is my musical interpretation of a particular piece of poignant text from Paradise Lost. I do
not think I revere any poets, although there are numerous literary greats that I hold in high regard.

Zetalambmary: Do you think extreme music as a whole, including black metal, can be considered a bold and experimental extension of classical music (read: Baroque to 20th Century)?

Cernunnos: The idea behind what music is does not change. We’d like to think we are modern and at the forefront of art, but really everything is borrowed from something else. Comfortably we call this inspiration, but music is created by available ideas and methods, where current times dictate what medium this inspiration is conveyed in. Currently the format of metal best conveys a lot of my ideas and emotions, but who is to say I would not be using a full orchestra if this was the 17th century, and who’s to say that Paganini would not be a flamboyant electric guitar player if he had been born in modern times.

Zetalambmary: So are there any classical composers you particularly look up to and draw musical inspiration from?

Cernunnos: There are many. Classical music has always been an inspiration in my endeavours. Wagner and Mozart come to mind off hand as many compositions by them inspired me as a child. There are many others, and I am always expanding my classical library. Offhand I have found influence in Chopin, Janáček, Liszt, Debussy, and Sibelius to name a few.

Zetalambmary: What about the FWoBM musicians?

Cernunnos: Metal for me really struck home in the early 80’s. A powerful influence on me at the time was early thrash bands and others of that ilk, but only a couple of bands of that decade have lingered in my influences as time has gone by, including Mercyful Fate and Celtic Frost. The batch of early black metal bands did not influence me until later, after I had started the project. There are too many black metal bands I enjoy, both current and first wave, to mention. I tend to acquire anything and everything I can get my hands on, whether CDs, vinyl or MP3s, and there is little in this genre that I dislike.

Zetalambmary: In an interview with Metal Underground, you mentioned that Hæresiarchs of Dis does not do live shows because it is “a very personal and reclusive experience”. This trait is reminiscent of bands like Deathspell Omega. Just for curiosity’s sake, however oxymoronic this may sound to you, do bands like you guys actually get into contact with one another?

Cernunnos: I do not have any relations or communications with other bands. This is not intentional in an attempt to maintain some off-limits attitude, rather I have no interest. I do not do black metal to be in a community. I am not interested in performances or relations with others. I have played shows and been in bands in the past, and I am done with it. The whole rock star thing is stupid. This music is not about that, rather it is my personal extreme expression delivered in the semi-tangible form of music. Music is after all another form of art, and it is not uncommon for artists to want to be left alone. This is not to say that the future may not hold collaborations with other musicians, just not something right now I see any point in or would actively look for.

Zetalambmary: If Hæresiarchs of Dis is really such a personal experience, why do you still promote your works through record labels like Moribund Records?

Cernunnos: Interesting question. When I say “personal experience”, I am referring directly to “understanding”. I do not expect anyone to completely understand Hæresiarchs Of Dis the way I do. It is uniquely mine in many ways. I am the sole creator and operator of this project and it needs to remain that way in order for it to still strike a chord inside me. I do not share the music with individuals, but people in general—those I have no relations with—I have always had the intent to spread it regardless of my attitude towards others, getting it to those who appreciate this kind of project. This does not mean I want to be friends with everyone. I do not have a hand in promotion of my material, the label does that, but we are not talking about a huge corporate label, rather a niche field of extreme art.

Zetalambmary: The time gap between your third full-length record, “Denunciatus Cinis” and the new album “In Obsecration of the Seven Darks” is only one year. How much has Hæresiarchs of Dis grown within this period?

Cernunnos: “In Obsecration of the Seven Darks” was composed and recorded during post-production of “Denuntiatus Cinis” last year. In reality, the album was done before “Denuntiatus Cinis” was released, but I wanted to spend some time away from it before entering post-production. To answer your question, I do not think Hæresiarchs Of Dis has grown in any way during this time. In fact, I feel the project has been more or less the same from the original onset many years ago. Production may vary between releases due to changes in equipment or software, but the ideas and concepts and song structures have remained consistent.

Zetalambmary: Do you foresee any radical changes in the musical style of Hæresiarchs of Dis in the future? If not, would you ever consider exploring less cacophonous musical realms while still retaining the messages you want to bring across in your music?

Cernunnos: After the release of “Overture” a couple of years ago, I told Viridis Vir—contributor on my two previous releases—that a future release may be entirely an ambient experience, or a symphony of sorts. I even toyed with the idea of creating a release of piano compositions. Hæresiarchs Of Dis is experimental by nature, and I am never certain what direction it will take, nor do I care to plan it out. It is possible there may be no more albums in the future, or there may be a dozen. I do not know. The guitar is only one instrument I find interest in exploring, but with so many options available to me, I do not see metal being the sole vehicle for conveying this project in the future.

Zetalambmary: Most people think that serious black metal musicians are no-lifers that do nothing but dwell in their misanthropic, waste-filled pits all day long. What else do you do in your spare time when you are not composing any of your hate-filled masterpieces?

Cernunnos: In many ways there are two aspects to my person: one that is angry and misanthropic, and the other just gets by, by doing the daily grind that needs to be done. The music I make very separate from the everyday part of my life. I have family and friends for the most part that do not know about Hæresiarchs Of Dis. This is not to say that I keep it a secret, as in fact, I am openly outspoken about many of the ideals set forth in the music, but rather it is something I choose not to share with everyone. I’d expect many would not understand, and that is fine by me. I have always been an artist, and work in the Information Technology arena by day, contracting design, websites, and illustration periodically. The black metal is an outlet for me, but it is not the only creative outlet I have pursued. Books and art have always been a strong pastime for me as well as film. I do not find many modern works in any of these areas that appeal to me often, so most of my consumption is in the classics. This is very strong with books, as I am passionate about literature. Human creations that have stood the test of time and cultural shifts deserve the most recognition, not the latest topping the New York Times Bestseller list. Maybe this makes me slightly antiquated, but nonetheless it is where I find the most thought-invoking inspiration.

3 comments:

troubada said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
troubada said...

It is indeed hard to live in a world that doesn't match up with your own myth (meaning, the myth you see yourself as).

I find it interesting that this musician says the 'rock star' thing is stupid, yet he obviously completely manipulates what people will perceive of him by highly edited materials (be they photos made by himself, or his music).

It makes me chuckle to see someone go through all this trouble by himself to set up a black stage and put make up on and produce highly stylized versions of himself, probably taking hours upon hours to do so... but then go to the corner store in his lounge pants to get some bread and (presumably) meat...

The reclusiveness is not just a choice, it comes across more as a disorder. And when you control what people see and hear of you, it is much more easy to reside in the delusion you're on top of it all. But I sense this is not the case here, and rather that we are seeing a disorder type thing going down. I don't think this person could face a real person to person interview, so that this exchange happens through email is only logical.

Rather than going neckdeep into blackness while being annoyed by the realities of life, maybe try to come out a bit, integrate with others a bit more. Or you will just remain completely miserable. Keeping yourself busy with projects will not make you alive or healthy. And the rebellion against life thing, it's only cool when you're a teenager, not when you're getting old. So yeah, there are forces of darkness, without guidance or direction. So what? Do you really want to be lost to that and waste your life? Burn it all and live with nature for a while, with with it really asks of you for your own nourishment and your relationship to it. Then see if you want to go back into this artificial darkness, supported only by the products of the people of a society you shy way from and do not respect.

1adoremusic said...

Troubada, I think you are really over analyzing what Cernunnos said here. Many people find solace in creating music and art, reading books, watching films, etc. He did mention he has family and friends, so you don't truly know how social he is in his business and personal life. And calling it a "disorder" is insulting. This guy is extremely talented, and it is not unusual for a person to be reclusive when it comes to creating art. Sometimes you have to channel dark energy to create such beautiful art. We all try to live the life we choose. The older I become, the more I enjoy my own company and the company of close family members. I'd rather spend my time also creating art, reading books, watching documentaries and films, and looking through telescopes. That's what truly makes me happy. I believe Cernunnos also lives that way.