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Nachtmystium Interview Part 2: Fuzzy Synths, Working With Thurston Moore, And The Possibility Of Happy Black Metal

On July 31th Chicago-based Black Metal outfit Nachtmystium will release their long awaited new album Silencing Machine, their 6th full length. Here is part two of our two part interview with Nachtmystium vocalist and guitarist Blake Judd. In this interview we discuss the possibility of writing a happy black metal record, the band’s use of nonstandard synth sounds, and the story of how Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore to join one of Judd’s bands. For part one of this interview please click here.

The 1st Five: I read the early interviews that this would be more of a traditional Black Metal record, and then I heard the second song “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams,” which I adore.

Blake Judd: Thanks.

The 1st Five: It’s a fascinating song, especially for someone who’s listened to your bands, but it seems like with the exception of the drums, like if you just added blasting drumbeats to it, no one would blink an eye at it.

BJ: Right.

The 1st Five: But it’s this really kind of beautiful, haunting, like, rock song.

BJ: yeah. That’s what we were going for.

The 1st Five: Does the rest of the album have such a strong presence of those fuzzy, heavy synth sounds?

BJ: Oh yeah. That’s the best way to describe the record. The synth is not, like I told you earlier, it’s not all in the forefront, and its different sounds than what we’ve used before. So yeah, there’s like a very present synth-base happening throughout it. Like, the fuzzy synth is a good way to describe it, like distorted.

The 1st Five: So you’re moving away from more traditionally organ and piano sounds and more towards…

BJ: Yeah, Sanford doesn’t use any of your typical “Black Metal” kind of style keyboards, you know. Like you won’t hear like a fake piano on our records. If we are using a piano, it’s not played like a band like Dimmu Borgir would use it. So, um, we got our own thing going on I think. Sanford (Parker) tries to intentionally pick shit out that he hasn’t used before, stuff that’s not used by everybody else.

The 1st Five: It’s nice. It’s one of the elements that adds a lot of melody, even when those songs are scary and heavy, they’re still really pretty.

BJ: Yeah, and that’s the weird thing about this band. I’ve finally been able to kind of listen to some of our records more objectively now. I did myself a favor, and I like did not listen to Nachtmystium at all for a really long time, because I wanted to be able to go back and listen to Assassins or Addicts and have them sound like fresh records, you know?

The 1st Five: Totally. This next question goes back to Twilight. I’ve read that you guys were trying to put together another record.

BJ: Yeah. We are.

The 1st Five: How is theta process going? At one point there was talk of Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth) might be working on the album.

BJ: Yeah. He is in fact. I think we’re booking him this week. He’s in the band, and going to be on the record.

The 1st Five: He’s officially in the band? How did you hook up with Thurston Moore for a Twilight album?

BJ: We knew Sonic Youth already through their soundman, Jeremy Lemos. He has a band called White/Light and that’s how they know him. They toured together. He’s also has worked with Rob Lowe from Lichens a lot, so that’s how we know these guys. The Sonic Youth folks, whenever they were in town, would always be over at the studio, so I met them on a number of occasions recording over there and Thurston really likes our music and, uh, loves Black Metal. And now that Sonic Youth’s broken up, and he’s essentially divorced, he’s got plenty of time.

The 1st Five: That’s amazing.

BJ: Yeah. I’m really excited about that. I was a Nirvana fan when I was a kid, you know. I’m twenty-eight or twenty-nine years old now, so I grew up during that, and that’s what I listened to when I was a kid. I had Sonic Youth records when I was twelve. And to now know that, not only am I having a dialogue with this person about anything, but dude’s gonna join a band I started, and it’s like…whoah. Fucking amazing, amazing feeling.

That is a perfect example of like what people ask: “What’s the best thing about what you do?” You know, most people expect the answer to be traveling, sex, money. No, man. The thing that makes me feel like I’m rich it’s the experience.

I’ve done so much shit, and worked with so many cool people, and I’ll get to work with Thurston and that…I would…you know Century Media could offer us a hundred thousand dollars to make that Twilight record and say: “Blake, you get ninety percent of that money but Thurston Moore’s not gonna be on the record, or, you can be on it and we’ll give you ten grand and that’s what you have to make it work.” And I would, I would take the ten grand and work with Thurston. That’s like how much I love Sonic Youth.

The 1st Five: I can’t even imagine how exciting that is.

BJ: Yeah the label’s psyched about it too. Century Media, obviously, is our home now. Twilight signed with them, uh, fuck, four months ago. It hasn’t been announced yet, actually.

The 1st Five: Should I remove that from the interview?

BJ: No, no, no. Not at all. Go for it. I actually wanted to start making some noise about it. Century Media is going to re-release the first album. I was smart when I set up our deal with Southern Lord. We had that record recorded before I even knew who Greg Anderson was, and we were working with this little label called Total Holocaust from Sweden. They funded the record and they were going to put it out. But, like many small bedroom Black Metal labels, the guy who ran the company was taking forever to press the CDs because he needed to get the money together, so the album wouldn’t be done for another two months. It was just sitting there, waiting to go into production in about three weeks when I got this call one day from Greg Anderson. And he introduced himself, told me who he was, and I was like: Oh yeah I’m familiar with your label. I work for a record store, you know. I deal with Eddie all the time. Buy shit from you guys, blah blah blah.

And he told me: “I’m really interested in putting out this Twilight record.” I’m like: “You, you haven’t even heard it.” He’s like: “I don’t need to. I know I want to put it out.” And I’m like: “Okay.” (laughs) He did and I was so intrigued by it. This guy’s never released much Black Metal with the exception of like one or two things, so what is he doing? There has to be some kind of agenda here. I didn’t foresee things getting as big as they did, but I knew something was up and I’d been blessed with having good friends around me who are a little bit older and very, very intelligent in terms of business and dealing with record labels and I knew not to give the rights to my shit up, if that was an option.

They’ll still release it, but you’ll take a little less money, do this, that, and the other thing to give them something, but don’t give them the rights to the album. Since we had paid for it ourselves, or with Total Holocaust money, which really it was a thousand dollar budget with that record and we had to fly three people to San Francisco and stay there for two weeks. I don’t think the budget even got off the plane with us. All that money was used on travel so we paid for it out of pocket. It was a very expensive project as I’m sure you can imagine.

So we were negotiating with Greg and I was like: I’ll tell you what, man, we’ll do a three record deal. We’ll give you the second one. That’ll be property of Southern Lord, but since this is done before you came into the picture, and there’s no cost upfront for you aside from manufacturing, we’ll circumvent taking an advance. We just want to hold on to the rights of the record, and we’ll license it to you for five years. One of two things was going to happeBJ: It’s either going to work, and it’s going to blow up, and if it does, I get this back in a couple of years. Or, it’s not going to blow up and it’ll just be another record on Southern Lord, you know?

The 1st Five: Exactly.

BJ: I had actually forgotten that that’s what the deal was, man. It’s been so long, six or seven years, since the album came out, and it dawned on me about a year ago that we owned that one. So to pretty up the deal with Century, I was said: “I tell you what, I can get the rights to the first album back and I’ll give them to you. We don’t have to pay Southern Lord for them. I own them. So they want to license it long-term, or they wanted to repress the first album and own it for, you know, ever pretty much, but Century Media does a pretty good job of keeping their catalogue in print, so I’m not worrying about that.

The 1st Five: That is one of the nicest things about them.

BJ: Yeah, they’ve given us a pretty nice advance. Sales advance, since we’re not a touring band. Sales and publishing, yeah, they’re gonna kick us a few thousand dollars each, which is nice for something we made eight years ago, you know?

The 1st Five: Yeah. Totally.

BJ: And the new record goes into production in August. We’ll be in the studio.

The 1st Five: You’ll be recording in August?

BJ: Yeah.

The 1st Five: is everyone still involved?

BJ: It’s me, Sanford Parker, Stavros Guilenopolis from Atlas Moth who was on the last one, Neil from Krieg, Imperial, whatever his fucking stage name is, he’s singing again. Wrest, obviously, from Leviathan, and myself, and Thurston Moore. That’s our lineup.

The 1st Five: That’s a fucking incredible lineup.

BJ: Yeah. It should be very cool, man. I’m sure we’ll have some guest people come in too. Um, we’ll obviously approach Aaron Turner and ask him if he’d like to contribute again, and then, uh, Rob Lowe as well. He was on Monument to Time too, so…I’ve actually been in real close contact with Scott Conner from Xasthur for the first time in a couple of years. He and I never had a falling out or anything. We just kind of lost touch with each other after I stopped doing my record label.

I didn’t have to talk to him everyday, but he and I have been talking on a bi-daily basis and he might on the new one too. He really wants to do it. There’s a couple people involved in our band that, in fact, aren’t so psyched on that idea just because he bailed on us for the other one, and he made recording the first album very difficult, you know. He never showed up to the actual recording and had to do everything by mail, and it just didn’t go the way we kind of wanted to, so he kind of burned his bridge with a couple of the dudes, but I’m trying to repair that and hopefully he can contribute to the record as well. We’ll see.

The 1st Five: Glorious. And finally, you seem like a relatively happy, relatively well-adjusted guy. Do you think there will lever come a time when you’ll want to write a happy Nachtmystium album? And do you think there’s a place for happiness in Black Metal as an art form?

BJ: I wouldn’t say I would ever go out of my way to write a happy Nachtmystium record. I think if I needed or wanted to make a positive-themed album, I would probably do it under a different name. But you know that song “Borrowed Hope and Broken Dreams,” those lyrics are about as positive as it gets.

The 1st Five: That’s true.

BJ: You know, there are lines in there about not noticing your own self-worth and trying to create a better life for yourself. The whole last phrase of the lyrics is, uh: “This cannot be the final home for me, somehow I know something better awaits me.” That’s pretty positive. So I think this might be the one, you know. There are undertones in there of hope.

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