14/03/08 || Global Domination
This interview was done by ex-staffer/cocksmoker Banesupper.
Who them hell is this ‘ere Chris Black guy? Well, as it turns out, he’s a multi-talented, multi-band, multi-instrumentalist, multi-vitamin kinda guy.
Global Domination: Well, hullo! Thanks for taking thyme out of your undoubtedly busy schedule to do this interview (and thyme flies, it does). How’re you doing?
Chris Black: Fine, thanks. And thanks also for our forthcoming words…
While it is obvious to everyone that you are some kind of extraterrestrial life form, it may not be so obvious what you do for a living. Could you enlighten the masses? Are you a greengrocer? An insurance salesman? A hobbit?
My business is the same as always: evil in the night. But more of a hobbit than any of the other options you’ve posed.
So, you’ve been involved with a whole lot of different projects. I’m well familiar with Superchrist, Dawnbringer and Pharaoh, and I know you also had a stint with Nachtmystium. It never gets schizophrenic?
No. I’ve been playing in tons of bands since forever, so it’s normal to me. The four that you mention are the ones that have made it past the demo stage as recording acts, which isn’t to say that anything else I’ve done necessarily even had those aspirations. Writing, recording, and playing music is what I do. Just in 2007, I also played drums on an indie rock album, played some bass with a thrash band called Oblong Box, filled in with a local improv/noise group, and played a bunch of instruments with a one-time all-star wedding band doing metal covers. I consider myself lucky and honestly flattered that I can have the chance to contribute to so many things during a given year. I’m learning all the time, from all kinds of other musicians.
Now, I have, as possibly the third person ever, bought all of Dawnbringer’s albums. I really fucking dig ‘em. But the history of the band has always eluded me. “The Hammer” played drums on the first two albums, but that’s really you, innit? If not, I’m even more confused.
Yes, that’s really me. The human history of the band isn’t interesting, or even important. What matters is what’s in front of you, on the albums. What’s on the interwebs about the band is more or less accurate.
The newest Dawnbringer album, “In Sickness and in Dreams”, seems to be your sole creation.
Not really, as Matt Johnsen played the guitar solos and Scott Hoffman played all of the other guitar parts. No small task for either of them. And this should be apparent from the notes that accompany the CD, no? Anyway, I wrote and produced all of the music, but it still felt very much like a collaboration.
What happened to the rest of the band? Did you eat them?
The old band? Yes. With two exceptions: Dean Grey ate himself, and Bill Palko will be back.
“In Sickness and in Dreams” is a really short album. What is it at, 24 minutes? Was that a deliberate decision, or did you just run out of material? Considering the abrupt ending of the album, the latter option does not seem far-fetched…
No, although a lot of bands do run out of material by that point, so your guess is a good one. We had an opposite problem in that we had two songs which were not working with the rest, so we dropped them. We might revisit them in the future, but there’s a better chance of them staying in the dust. It would still have been a short album with those songs included. That was the plan all along, for it to be like an injection, a flash. Do you think the Misfits were lacking material when they recorded Earth A.D.?
I think the Misfits ran out of material by approximately 600 BC. Staying with Dawnbringer and your sickly dreams, the album rocks, but the production is fucking awful. Seriously, what the fuck went wrong? I can’t help but be pissed off at such great material being hindered by poor sound.
During 2005 and 2006, pretty much all the money coming in went toward Superchrist, as Headbanger was a fairly expensive record to make. So obviously a lot of time but essentially no money at all went into the Dawnbringer album. You’re right that it’s not up to the standard of even the most basic studio recordings. But let’s also not forget that it doesn’t presume to be in that field. It is an underground metal release. It’s released by a black metal label, actually was recorded in a bedroom, has a picture of a dude on the cover, and so on, and within the realm of albums with those earmarks, I think the sound here is fairly developed. Pitchfork Media said it had the “best-sounding guitar all year”, in fact, but ultimately I disagree with you both.
Recorded in a bedroom? That’s not very kvlt. Sure it wasn’t a basement? Or a cave? Anyway, I actually really loved the sound of “Catharsis Instinct”, and you produced that as well, right?
Absolutely. There is so much more to “producing” an album than just making the sound. We recorded Catharsis Instinct at a studio that was very modest but certainly more equipped than I am at home. By the way, try Sickness under headphones. It hates air.
Yeah, I noticed that. Especially the bass. I have to ask, what’s going on with the piece that served as intro on “Catharsis Instinct”? Unless I’m mistaken, that was featured on no less than three songs.
It’s a sequence of arpeggios, harmonized twice, so it sounds like sequential inversions of chords, basically. It’s the only piece of music that has come to me in a dream, so it is Dawnbringer’s natural theme as such. The segments you’re hearing on Catharsis Instinct and Unbleed are actually sampled from the full version of it, which is on the Sacrament EP. We found it necessary to modify it somewhat to be incorporated into Sickness, as the original version is in C minor, and there was nowhere to bloody put it.
What’s gonna happen with the band in the future?
For the near future, I have started framing the next album, which is called Pendulum. It forms a dichotomy with In Sickness and In Dreams. We’ll record that later this year and release it in early 2009. After that we will take a hard look at some concepts that are on the sketch-pad, in terms of live performance, with the goal to do that in 2010. There’s a chance it will be a solo show in the sense that I will be the only person on stage, but it will certainly take a team to execute all of the things we have in mind. But right now the album is the priority. We’ve also laid the foundation for a split album as well, although I’m not sure of the timeline. The name of other band probably isn’t a big surprise, but for now we can’t mention them. Of course this won’t be a typical split album either.
Changing lanes, I want to talk about Superchrist. Now, I only heard Superchrist recently, but it instantly put a smile on my face (of the slightly retarded sort). It’s old-school, it’s dirty and it’s really, really good fun. It’s also incessantly offensive to good taste (in a good way), or is that an erroneous assumption?
No, I think you understand it well.
I actually think I hear a bit of Superchrist on “In Sickness and in Dreams”?
Yeah, like the beginning of “Under No Flag” compared to the end of “Aim Low”, for example? It’s the other way around though, you’re actually hearing a bit of Dawnbringer in Superchrist in that case.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to “Headbanger” yet, so I can’t offer very insightful questions about it. Instead, I can ask the most basic question of them all: does it rock?
I heard the cover of “Metropolis” you did on “South of Hell”. That’s actually one of the best Motörhead covers I’ve heard.
Thank you. I agree.
Isn’t it the least bit intimidating to do a cover of such an inimitable band?
Not for us. Often on Halloween we do an entire set of Motörhead covers. In 2005, we did the whole Overkill album plus a few extra songs. I really enjoyed playing “Damage Case” in particular. That was in Chicago. In 2007 we did No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith in a tiny upstairs bar in Detroit that wasn’t quite ready for it. People went crazy. This year we plan to do Orgasmatron. These songs more or less come naturally to us. “Running Free” and “The Trooper” are a bit intimidating to perform, on the other hand.
How much do you think a surgical operation to turn you into Lemmy would cost? Is it something you’d consider?
The only surgical operation I’ve ever considered is upgrading to platinum teeth. I could probably get it done in Brazil for a 30-box of Headbanger cd’s.
About your album “South of Hell”, the ending is a little… eh, drawn out, shall we say? Is that meant as a parody or something?
Actually there’s a subliminal message hidden in there. It says: “Ask the band whether this is a parody”. We nailed that on the first take, and so have you.
Clever. As for Pharaoh, what’s happening with the new album? “Be Gone” it is, yeah?
That’s right. The album is finished and will be released in April. I’ve just seen some samples of the digipack layout today, and it looks great.
If you ask me, and you don’t, because you don’t care, but it doesn’t matter because I say whatever I like and you can’t stop me, ha! Eh, I think “The Longest Night” was a monumental effort. Are you gonna top it?
Yes, we are. Or, rather, we have. We knew we could, it was just a matter of focusing on the strengths of The Longest Night, emphasizing them within the new songs, and meanwhile introducing things that we thought in hindsight were missing. For my part, the drums are really in a different league than on the other albums. It’s a much more sophisticated album overall, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the leap from The Longest Night to Be Gone is similar to the one we took from After the Fire to The Longest Night.
Tim Aymar really outdid himself on “The Longest Night”. He’s one fine piece of vocal machinery.
You’ve got that right. It’s pretty amazing to be in a band with such talented people as Tim, Matt, and the other Chris. Tim’s melodies are more developed, and the harmonies are even more prominent this time. He wasn’t around for much of the mixing, and when he heard the finished product, he declared that it’s the best thing he has ever performed on. That’s saying a lot, and we all agree.
I hear Pharaoh will have their live debut this April. That is cool, I think you’re gonna make an excellent live band. Do you see more “livery” in the future? A tour perhaps? A tour of Denmark? We have pastry for you.
Let me know when you’ve got a few copies of the Randy 7” to offer, and we’ll be right over. We’ve been waiting until the right time to make our live debut, and the Keep It True festival is ideal. Once we’ve accomplished that, I think we will be in a good position to say “yes” to more shows. Mainly it will be up to our label Cruz del Sur to keep up the good work finding some more opportunities, because we do not have a manager or booking agent. But I think the KIT gig will help let people know that we’re available.
How much do you write for Pharaoh?
Overall, maybe 30%. On the new album I wrote music for two songs and lyrics for five.
How does the writing process differ from Dawnbringer and Superchrist, where you get to act ultimate dictator?
They are completely different things. Dawnbringer is composed in the sense you would compose music for piano, using staff paper and typical musical notation. Superchrist is built from riffs played on a guitar.
How does the recording process vary from a band like Pharaoh, to a band like Dawnbringer and a band like Superchrist?
Pharaoh records in a professionally-outfitted studio. Dawnbringer and Superchrist record wherever we can afford to record, which is usually a basement or bedroom. All the Nachtmystium stuff (up to what’s waiting to be released) is also home recordings.
As a multi-instrumentalist, what do you consider yourself best at, and what’s your favourite instrument to play? It is the kazoo innit?
Drums, drums, drums. I think my voice has come around in the last couple of years, and I do enjoy finding new ways to use it. I’ll be doing a lot of experimentation during the recording of Pendulum, for example. But the answer to your question is drums, all the way.
No GD interview without an annoying rating session! You’ve played on a lot of different albums, how about you rate all of ‘em on a scale of 1-10, perhaps with a comment to go with it?
Mmm… beyond annoying. At the moment, I’m quite fond of Be Gone, anxiously waiting to hear the mastered Nachtmystium album, and my least favorites tend to have “instinct” in the title.
How many albums have you sold, all your bands between? Do you know?
Hard to be sure exactly. Middle five figures.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve been checking your calendar recently, but we’re now officially living in the year of 2008. It implies that we’re done and finished with 2007, but I’m not so sure. What are some of your favourite releases of ’07?
Gamma Ray, Nifelheim, Inquisition, and Bad Religion all made great albums in 2007. I loved the demo from ZüüL also. They are the best underground US metal band since Boulder.
Also, I have to ask: “Black”, is that your real surname?
No, but it is for some.
And yes, I say “surname” because I speak posh British. I’m not British, but that just makes it all the more posh. Anyway, “Black” is a fucking metal name. How about “Professor”, is that your real name?
Definitely. And I suppose you’re right about the British thing. You have better English than most Americans, regardless.
Okay, we’re right about done here. Now is your chance to insult me, and you better make good use of it. I recently interviewed John Cobbett of Hammers of Misfortune, and he was no good at this.
Insult you? Well, like I said you have better English than most Americans, but still, your English sucks.
It does, truly. Thanks once again for your time. Thyme.