Let's start with the days of yore. When you decided to start your own projects and what influences had driven you to this decision? Was it just to make your own music, or did you have any specific visions before creating your first project?
Like many people before me, and I’m sure many out there right now, music was all I had to fight the pain of living, a way to see through the darkness of my existence. It isn’t me saying something like that to romanticize this very common affliction among artists, but that is truly the way it is. In the very beginning, before I even realized it, I was looking for the portal to my own universe, to escape from the triviality of my, ultimately meaningless, life as a human being and achieve some kind of ascendance. And I was maybe eleven when the voice of my muse transmitted its sacred inspiration to me, and without any understanding of the occult or esoteric, I was still strangely compelled to pick up a guitar, and I never had before. I taught myself to play, and I wrote what would become the first stones laid on my yellow brick road to Oz. Along the way, I met a reckless scarecrow that suffered for his foolish impulsivity, but thus I gained a brain. I met a cold, unfeeling tin man that took so many of those that cared for him and his art for granted, but thus I acquired heart. I met a gentle, but ultimately cowardly lion who gave in to the heckles and shame of this world just for being who he was, when he could have been a mighty lion, nonetheless through him I found courage. Whether these were real individuals or epiphanic psychological responses of my own subconscious, I will leave for anyone to decide, but on this path I walk, I have adapted much from the talented and esteemed characters encountered in this bizarre story of mine, each one valuable in their own way.
In your beginnings as a musician, did you miss something on the metal scene? Did you want to "fill the blanks" with something new, unexpected? Or you just wanted to express your feelings through art?
I was about as far removed from the metal scene as one could be, I was an outcast even among my own family. So I sought no kinship with anyone, at first. It wasn’t until Obscure Abhorrence Productions released the second BENIGHTED IN SODOM album, “In Hora Maledictus - Part I”, that a random person confided in me that someone they knew personally committed suicide under the influence of my music. This was my earliest experience with suicide, but not my last. Moreover, it was something that made me realize that there were other people out there, somewhere in the universe, that could see this art the way I do, that could hear the voices I could hear. Everything that I create, I create because it is my will to do so, in whatever manner my muse communicates it to me from my heart, and hearing about something like this, it changes your perspective, or rather, I would say it augments it. It’s a responsibility, and when the muse gives you a sacred gift, it comes with a painful sacrifice. And pain is the definition to that which makes us alive.
“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music”
As I asked regarding the unexpected and extraordinary material, I mean it in a way you brought to the metal scene something exceptional. When someone asks me if I could recommend him something like BENIGHTED IN SODOM, DEATH FETISHIST or ÆVANGELIST, I just don't know what to answer. Is this unique style and sound something you wanted to achieve?
If you listen to a band like Negative Plane, or Chaos Moon, or Emptiness, you get a sense of stylistic ingenuity that is missing from most other forms of music, but with bands such as this, and an elite few others, you can immediately know what it is without someone being able to tell you. That is the artistry, that is the spark of genius. And I don’t wish to elevate myself to the level of anyone else, I am only trying to convey a point here. I wanted to create my own level, my own realm. I don’t compare myself to any other artists in terms of better or worse, because it’s both futile and entirely irrelevant. They are the best at what they do. But I am the best at what I do, and nothing like me has ever existed or ever will exist again. I can admire and appreciate the art of others, and I can feel that way about myself too, because I craft art that I would want to observe, or read, or listen to. If you are an artist struggling to find your muse, you only haven’t because some part of you still clings to meaningless things like scenes and social agendas. Just let go. Challenge yourself, and you challenge others, and that is how you become memorable. Create something dark and let people hurt themselves trying to figure it out. Be you.
Tell me, what's behind this uncommonness? What does influence you during the creating process? Do you need any specific conditions when you compose new music?
I suppose if I could articulate the voice of my muse into words, it would just cheapen its significance. I am a deeply spiritual person, and I am a very sensitive person, for better or worse. I compose music under a variety of mindsets and emotional avenues, not the least of which being during times of extreme, harrowing sadness and distress. Comes with the territory of being an empath. Back when I was recording the “Fort Lauderdale” album as BENIGHTED IN SODOM, I made a request to any of my fans to mail me their most troubling stories, heartbreaking experiences, unrequited love, that sort of thing. The responses I received were extremely painful to read, but the fact that so many people were willing to share these things with me on behalf of this art I created, it was profoundly meaningful. I didn’t talk to anyone for a while because some of what I read was so dark, I needed time to heal from experiencing the pain of others vicariously through myself. But then, I once again picked up a guitar, with these individuals in mind, and I created the albums “Anti-Depressive” and “The Universe is a Very Gloomy Place”. These, to this day, are some of my favorite recordings, but that really isn’t saying much.
As far as the conditions themselves, environmentally speaking, well where could I begin? When you create dark music, you create from dark places of the heart, but also of the mind, and even of the body. I don’t write about it often, but I would request that I be able to bring my guitar, interface, laptop, etc. into the hospital rooms I would be in, if only people knew how much of my music started from checking myself into a Florida or Oregon emergency room, a “special club” I would frequently visit. At one point, strung out and alone, feeling like I was going to die, and basically homeless, I recorded in the alley of a crack house in a Fort Lauderdale ghetto, a labor of love which arguably kept me alive.
“Everything great is built upon sorrow”
It seems that you are something like a fount of musical ideas. There was a time you released many albums in one year. How is it possible to compose such a quantity of new music alongside with avoiding repeating yourself? Was it difficult for you at some point, or you didn't have any problems like that?
Every finished album is a starting point for me to erase the blackboard, and begin again, but this time to always go further, because there is always something deeper. You don’t need to be some kind of occult adeptus to understand the nameless, intangible nature of art. Even in it’s ugliness, all of it is meaningful IF it is genuine, and who am I to say what is and what isn’t genuine? I will cite no examples, because art is inherently religious, and religion is inherently personal, which is where organized religion fails. You don’t need to give your muse a name and a face and a flaming sword (though don’t be afraid to), you only need to hear it’s call to you from the darkness in the great yonder of the infinite, and realize something that compels you to create is, in fact, the spark of divinity. Harken, and it’s influence over your soul will inspire things of great beauty or great evil. But both are necessary to the development of yourself into the realization of your full potential on this planet. My sixth grade teacher once showed to me, while I was serving time in detention for disrupting class with jokes about serial murder (I’ve always had a pretty dark sense of humor), a picture of a row of dalmations, and at the very end of them was one, with multicolored spots, and she just told me, “It’s okay, dare to be different”. Maybe trivial and silly to you, the casual internet reader of this interview, and that’s perfectly fine, but for me, a very life-altering moment, as prior to this no one had ever encouraged me to do anything other than to fit in. Ever have an experience that alters the trajectory of your life completely?
With an amount of projects you have the question suggests itself: is every project independent, based on different ideas (lyrically, musically, technically etc.), that you for example know in advance that THIS material will be used for THIS project BECAUSE OF THIS AND THAT...?
Not exactly. Whatever becomes, becomes. I seek to scar this world with my art, in the most grandiose way. I don’t mean by selling out venues and making cool BENIGHTED IN SODOM underwear for girls (not gonna lie, a superficial side of me thinks that would be KINDA neat, though), but more importantly, by enabling others to go their own way. I absolutely would agree with Christian from DEATHSPELL OMEGA that black metal is inherently spiritual. But there are other bridges to cross. It’s obvious that people these days are bored and tired of the same Satanic messages, which isn’t really the point, but nonetheless the time of these kinds of expressions has, in my humblest opinion, reached it’s precipice and it’s time for evolution into something else. Something unforeseen. (If we are specifically talking about black metal) A new formula, a fresh start that completes the acts of defiance that began with arson of holy places in Norway, and ends with what I think could be a portal to the direction this was destined to go.
Let's talk specifically about ÆVANGELIST now. You're going to release your fifth full-length album soon. Can you uncover some information about it? What should your fans expect? The continuation of your established musical expression, or some experimentation?
There has always been experimentation, because as with Benzo (BENIGHTED IN SODOM), I have not wanted to repeat the same album over and over, because what’s the point?
It will be, unquestionably, ÆVANGELIST. That’s truly all you will need to know. This album will be our Æonic Death Knell.
Did you record the new material in your own studio as usual? Do you flirt with the idea of recording any of your future releases in another studio with another producer, or you just can't imagine something like that?
I record as the muse wills it, but for those of you looking for a less esoteric answer, yes it has been recorded in my studio, as all of them have been. However, since moving to Europe, I have made some very compelling musical connections and the future may find this project moving beyond my comfort zone and into uncharted territory. As well, the upcoming full-length physical release from my newest project PRAETERNATURA has been produced in a professional studio by myself, and my good friend in Portland, Mort Subite, a talented musician I encountered by a chance meeting at his band V.I.I.R.L.’s show in the long-defunct Red Room Portland. A little dive bar with barely any remembrance except if you happened to tour to Oregon or if you were ever a struggling artist, these are some of the most genuine places to find real talent, not Madison Square Garden.
What label is going to release the new album? Are you now cooperating again with Debemur Morti Productions who released your split with BLUT AUS NORD and your second and third album in the past or will someone else spread it?
Debemur Morti and ÆVANGELIST have parted ways, though amicably. I highly recommend this quality label, as they also pride themselves on having an eye for talent, and it’s apparent in every one of their releases, some of which I listened to before I ever recorded my first album. Trust me, give them your money, not me. As far as who will release the fifth album, well, a proper announcement will be made soon. I am drawing the artwork myself this time around, and believe, the moment of revelation is upon you all.
To have a split with BLUT AUS NORD, I think, is very prestigious for you. And well deserved. Do you have any other interprets in mind you'd like to cooperate with in the future?
BLUT AUS NORD is a musical project I would consider to be vital, not just to black metal, but to the entirety of art in general. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude and honor in having had the chance to work with such an inspirational individual while the blood still yet runs warm in my veins. Who would I like to collaborate with next? Diamanda Galas, SWANS, Arioch from FUNERAL MIST, REBIRTH OF NEFAST, SVARTIDAUĐI, but really I wouldn’t mind working with the BACKSTREET BOYS to create the most supreme abomination on the face of this planet. Really, as much as I love and admire all those bands, I want to break some new ground and absolutely annihilate the reputations of pop stars by dragging them down to levels of iniquity that they probably don’t even realize could exist. Sound ridiculous? Good, that means you are still sane.
You mentioned on your facebook page that "V: Matricide in the Temple of Omega" is not going to be your only release this year. Can you add some details regarding the next planned release?
Here you go:
“V: Matricide in the Temple of Omega” – Full length
“Death Created Time to Grow the Things That it Would Kill” – EP
“Oracle of Infinite Despair” (remaster) – EP
“Veneration of Profane Antiquity” – Best of/(remaster) compilation
ÆVANGELIST / AUROCH
ÆVANGELIST / WORMLUST
ÆVANGELIST / GNAW THEIR TONGUES
Untitled sixth ÆVANGELIST album
“Trismegistus” – EP Trilogy
How have you divided the roles with Ascaris in Ævangelist regarding composing the music and writing the lyrics? Is it the same during the whole Ævangelist career or did it somehow develop?
It is always the same. ÆVANGELIST is ÆVANGELIST. Nothing more needs to be said on this.
What is the main theme of your lyrics? Is it something like a diary of your souls, your actual emotions and feelings, something driven by your inner demons? Or are your lyrics more something like a response to the outer influences?
The lyrics are the appropriate representation of the music.
Are you interested in some specific occult themes, meditations etc.? If so, can you tell me more about it? Does it somehow reflect in your lyrics?
I practice a self-invented form of sigil magic that you can read about when I publish my first book soon. ÆVANGELIST is most definitely an extension of this, as the emblem and glyph alphabet were created by me. Their meaning and magical function will be known soon enough, though I think the devoted have drawn appropriate conclusions.
Your music is very miscellaneous regarding using some uncommon instruments or many layers of guitars, echoes etc. Is it difficult to shift the tangible atmosphere of your albums on stage to make a fully-fledged live performance? Is it one of the reasons you don't perform live so often?
We have successfully given the music on CD a live representation that is meaningful and not gratuitous. One of our more successful approaches to this endeavor happened in North Carolina, when a very nice benefactor from Duke University, where we played, provided us with a harp for me to play live. Live shows depend on a number of things, maybe even moreso now, beginning with the availability of our esteemed live colleagues, ending with my mental state, though I can usually overcome my issues to appear live in front of our devotees, because they deserve the best possible incarnation of this music as possible.
Regarding the concerts: what does a gig mean to you? Is it something like a ritual for you? Do you want to transmit a specific message to your audience?
Calling our performances rituals, though not a misnomer, falls short of our true intent. We are ÆVANGELIST, the name meaning “one who evangelizes”, and that is exactly what we do. We are there to liberate you, to help you unlock parts of yourself and remember what it means to feel the calling of true darkness. Are you there to drink beer and bang your head? That’s okay too, because you see, if all of black metal was a high school, we are the weird kids table. We aren’t rock stars, we are flesh and blood, like you. We return home from shows and check the mail and worry about bills, we struggle, we hurt, we bleed. That’s why our music matters to those it does, they see a part of themselves in this line we straddle between trickery and divinity, because even if someone tried to elevate us to the level of, oh say, WATAIN, tomorrow, besides the fact that our live show would be ten times more terrifying than anything they are capable of (not trying to stir the pot here, just being honest), we will still hang out after we’re done playing to watch the other bands and hang out with people who genuinely appreciated what we did. We can be reverent to the Abysscape and still find commonality with anyone, because most of us that perform live with ÆVANGELIST are real humans, non-bullshitters, and we love everyone that ever stuck around to the end of our set and said a nice thing to us when we were done. That being said, when we construct our kingdom here on this planet, there is a special place for all of you.
Do you have any specific touring plans with any of your projects for 2018?
ÆVANGELIST, we will see, but there will be some kind of live appearances in 2018, be it a tour or festival, decisions are currently being made. BENIGHTED IN SODOM is forming a group of esteemed individuals, very esteemed actually, but I’m leaving that as a surprise until the time is right. But yes, I will make some live appearances this year in many forms, because the Devil has many forms, and this is the Devil’s music. More or less, anyway.
What about BENIGHTED IN SODOM? You were very active with this project in the past and nowadays it seems you interrupted/ended with it?
No, BENIGHTED IN SODOM only took a brief hiatus before I moved to Oregon, but it will never end as long as I am alive. I am finalizing vocals for the next physical release since “Reverse Baptism” and my split with German Dark Metal band BETHLEHEM, to be released on I, Voidhanger this year.
I have to say you enthralled me with "Clandestine Sacrament" of Death Fetishist, which was one of the best releases of 2016 for me. Do you prepare new material with this band? And is there any possibility you will perform live?
Thank you for saying that. It is one of my proudest moments as an artist, to work with so many individuals that gave this idea I had a chance and were willing to participate. My drummer, G. Nefarious is one of the greatest human specimens ever created, and though he lives in Oregon and I live here in Finland now, we are, in fact, laying down the framework for what will become the second full-length DEATH FETISHIST album.
You moved from United States to Tampere, Finland, is that right? Why did you decide to leave your country and why to Tampere exactly? Did you find there better conditions to live?
I never felt like I belonged in the USA. I’ve toured there extensively and there is a lot to like about the USA, but the way music is not really considered a priority like it is here, that always bothered me. Before I went to school for nursing, I was a linguistics major my first year of college, and both culturally and linguistically (especially since reading The Lord of the Rings in my youth), I have always been fascinated with this place. I find it to be the sort of thing dreams are made of, truly a mystical experience for this American from Florida.
And can you compare the metal (or music in general) scene in Finland and United States?
FINLAND metal > USA metal. Is this treason?
Are you keeping an eye on the news in the music scene or are you rather supporting the older bands and recordings and the new bands do not interest you that much? What albums released in 2017 do you like the most?
I don’t honestly, I try to keep up with the bands of people I know, but beyond what people have recommended to me, I am usually in the dark, discovering ancient things for the first time that people listened to for years and grew out of, but yet I currently love (VAST, KIDNEYTHIEVES, anyone?). But as far as 2017 goes, well again, “Tabernaculum” by REBIRTH OF NEFAST, the final AOSOTH album, the latest CHAOS MOON album, and then everything else I’ve been listening to is probably older, like “Not For Music” by EMPTINESS, “Scar Sighted” by LEVIATHAN, “Flesh Cathedral”, and the most recent full-length from ADVERSARIAL. I bet that MALTHUSIAN full-length is going to be great.
Thank you very much for your time and answers. The final words are yours…
I thought this guy’s questions were good, you should read this zine. ÆVANGELIST V approaches now, among other things.