1.Can you give us an update on what has been going on with the band since the recording of the new album.
The band has been periodically active since 2017. Last year we played our first public performance since 2013. Our drummer moved out sate in 2014 and I decided to have the band go on hiatus while the new album was worked on. I have been working with the engineer and the band members to record their parts; making revisions and develop mixes along the way. Quite a bit of time went into the new album and figuring out where the project will go from here. With the new album finally manifesting into physical existence, we can molt our skin and transform into our next incarnation. That stage of development is taking place currently and will be further determined as the transformation takes place. Some work went into developing ideas for a collaboration with another band as well.
Outside of L’Acéphale, I play in three other projects: Hail, Kertoa Kalevala and Formless Collapse; in addition to curating a journal entitled Amarantos. Therefore, a lot of my free time is spoken for in various ways. I am excited to see where things go from here. There is certainly no lack of material holding us back. We hope to be working on a new release soon and performing live.
2.You have a new album coming out in April, musically how does it differ from the stuff you have released in the past?
There are many similarities to both Book of Lies and Stahlhartes Gehäuse. Two of the songs from the new album: Runenberg and Winternacht were originally written during the period of time that both those releases were recorded. The music for Stahlhartes Gehäuse was written and recorded in 2004-2005, yet it did not get released until 2009 due to pressing delays that our friend Tim had with his label Parasitic Records. The live band was not active from 2006 through 2010 so there was no urgency to release it. The new album takes elements from those releases and incorporates a larger set of sonic experiments that the most recent line-up worked on between 2010 and 2013.
3.This is your first full length in 10 years while there was singles, demos and splits released during that time, can you tell us a little bit more about waiting another decade to release another full length?
The new album was recorded in many short phases from 2013 to 2018 with revisions throughout. The process allowed a fair amount of introspection about the process and redefinition of goals throughout. Stahlhartes was recorded over a period of time as well, but all the final mixing was done by a separate engineer unfamiliar with the material until the time of the mixdown. The final mix for that record was conducted in 2 long days at the studio. It was rushed and there could have been more attention to details but due to the time constraints it worked. For the new album, I wanted to learn from that process and give plenty of time to have the final mix just right. I feel that the engineer Gabriel Espinoza did a fantastic job and working with him over the years on the project was great, we developed a good friendship in the process and he is a fantastic engineer. His intuitive sense of what to do and how to treat each piece was completely in line with my desires. Sonically and musically the release is just how I desired it to be.
L’Acéphale is foremost a recording project and avenue for exploration of ideas and sound that interest me. There have been periods of time where a full line up has worked on material and performed live. But the project is not a touring band by any means. The members have their individual lives and other musical projects that we support and work on with as well. We write and record music strictly for the sake of writing and recording music for ourselves, independent of whether the material is released or not or in what manner. We create music out of necessity; there is a central drive within us to produce sound and challenge ourselves to experiment and create music that we want to hear. I have been recording music and sound regularly since 1989 and playing music since 1986. The vast majority of it was just for my own purposes with little consideration for releasing it out into the world. The creation and exploration of sound is a personal project of introspection and reflection of my personal transformation. As a group, the process is different, but I feel that the goal has been similar. Developing music as a process and outcome itself, independent of what will come of the music or if it will be performed live. Friends and co-conspirators in life creating sound together and pushing ourselves to become more.
4.What are some of the lyrical topics and subjects the band explores with the new album and also how would you describe your progress as a songwriter over the years?
I feel that the lyrics for the new album can be seen from two vantage points. From one vantage point, I wanted the release to be emblematic of the group that Georges Bataille helped found in the late 1930’s. It was a secret group with its’ own rituals, gatherings and internal journal for the project. But the original L’Acéphale group also published several issues of a journal with writings about the goals and ideas they wanted to present to the outside world. https://monoskop.org/Acéphale
With the new album, I wanted to delve into material that was closer to the goals or based on specific writing of members of the original group. This process started in 2009, when I recorded the track for the split with Huldrekall: Novembers Song: The Crow. It is based on a poem Laure wrote that references L’Acéphale in specific ways. Laure who is also Colette Peignot was Bataille’s lover during the late 1930’s. Her life and untimely death had a profound impact upon Bataille. Her poetry is also referenced in the new album with the song Sovereignty. It is based on a couple poems she wrote.
Another vantage point from which the lyrics to the new album can be viewed is through the metaphorical associations of some of the ideas that were explored by these groups. Runenberg is based on a poem within the short story of the same name by Ludwig Tieck, a German Romantic writer in the late 1700’s and Winternacht is based on several poems written by Georg Trakl an Austrian Expressionist Poet. Both these songs were written in 2005-2006 and performed but only recorded in a studio for the new album. Hark! The Battle-Cry is Ringing! and Last Will are based on writings that have symbolic relationship to Bataille and Laure. The prior being a leftist lyrics collected in the Little Red Book of Songs by the I.W.W. union. Both Laure and Batille were in various political groups before L’Acéphale and it seemed a fitting tribute to those inclinations while also exploring the musical intersection of Apocalyptic/Dark Folk/Neo-Folk and Ambient Black Metal. Last Will uses a poem by Nietzsche that seemed to fit with Bataille’s idea’s and selections of Bataille’s poetry that I used for the Black Metal portion of the song.
Together you have literary illusion and reference to themes that intersected the original group and also a retrospective look at a selection of songs that span of the history of the project thus far.
5.I know that the band was named after a journal and the writings of Georges Bataille, can you tell us a little bit more about your interest in his work?
The project is indeed named after that group as mentioned above. In close relation to L’Acéphale was another project that Bataille worked on with Roger Caillois, Michel Leiris and others entitled The College of Sociology. Through both projects they sought out to defined a sacred that was lost or hidden from then “modern” Europe. They felt that the Sacred and religion was sterile and unappealing. L’Acéphale the secret group sought to rekindle the Sacred through activities and rituals within a small hidden group. Merging occult tradition with ancient primitive religions. In France at the time, they were just learning about the Aztecs and human sacrifice, Emile Durkheim and French sociology was articulating how the taboo and other effervescent social events congeal societies and unify individuals within groups.
L’Acéphale sought to rekindle the Sacred within a smaller group through various rituals and possibly a human sacrifice. That was never realized and the project unraveled under the distress of the occupation of France by Germany and WWII among other things. The College of Sociology sought to undertake a serious academic inquiry into what they called Left Sacred. A term borrowed from Robert Hertz and Emile Durkheim referencing the Sacred. When looking at “the sacred” and its meaning in society, the sacred is that which helps unify and create social cohesion. Right Sacred are forces of homogenous sacred cohesion. Left Sacred are forces of heterogeneous, impure, profane and transgressive forces that also create social cohesion. The taboo, the occult, death and other impure, profane all provide a role in social cohesion. They sought to understand the lure and role of these forces as part of the total human experience.
The pursuit then by these groups is very close to the pursuit we see in underground and extreme music realms today. The rise of Black Metal and Neo-Folk and the challenges we see within the media for how to understand what lures people to these genres and what roles they fulfill both personally and within society are the same sets of conversations a century later. I think that it is safe to say that these are eternal questions that all societies have faced throughout time. Most modern culture rejects all things impure and tries to denigrate it or sanitize them but all these attempts will fail as the manifestations of what can be considered Left Sacred function in similar ways as Right Sacred and perform equally valid roles that must be understood and integrated with respect to their necessary roles.
I find myself walking a very similar path as Bataille, we are seekers on the same path. I find continual illumination within his writings and critically pertinent revelations about our modern life and the questions we should be seeking to find answers to both within ourselves and as “modern” humans existing in the current state of the world.
6.Can you tell us a little bit more about the artwork that is presented on the new album cover?
The cover art and several pieces in the lyric booklets we drawn and illustrated by Markus Wolff. We have been long time friends and have worked on many projects together since 1999. We worked on lyrics and music together for many years. He has been an active member of L’Acéphale since the first live ensemble was assembled in 2004. For the artwork, I wanted the pieces to convey both the artistic elements that Andre Masson developed for the original group, but also some of the personal themes that related to Laure and Bataille during the time of the original group. The cover was something that Markus developed on his own and is a wonderful inversion of being “headless,” it is the severed head. For the back of the cover, Markus interpreted a photograph of Laure. I asked that he also use an obelisk to reference the Place de la Concorde in Paris where the Luxor obelisk is placed. Bataille indicted “The Place de la Concorde is the space where the death of God must be announced and shouted precisely because the obelisk is its calmest negation” It is also the place where the guillotine, the public face and focus of the French Revolution, resided and a space that the Bataille and the original group planned to pour a pool of blood at the foot of the obelisk and notify the press that Louis XVIth’s head had been found.
The inside of the gatefold is an artistic fusion of some of the images that Masson drew of the Acéphale figure for the original journal and a reference an experience that Laure and Bataille had when climbing Mt. Etna. They both had a spiritual/metaphysical revelation together at the summit feeling a sense of vertigo as they ascended to the heavens with the terrestrial world of fire below atop of the volcano looking down into its’ depths. I asked Markus to interpret these things in some manner and I am very happy with his results.
Additional artwork that Markus contributed more directly reference Andre Masson’s drawings from the time that he was involved with the original group. They represent some of the themes they all were wrestling with at the time.
7.Originally the band started out as a solo project, what was the decision behind expanding into a whole line up?
I was in the band Order of the Vulture at the time I started the solo project and I appreciated the direction that band was going, but it was not Black Metal enough, nor did it contain the full scope of musical styles that I wanted to create. Order of the Vulture was perfect for what it was and the members involved but I was compelled to record music I felt inside me. I had done some recording for Hail that was in the Black Metal spectrum and included more of the elements that I wanted to create, my friend Carl Annala who formed Hail and asked me to join was in Graduate School at the time so, that project was on hiatus. It was natural for me to just record what I wanted to create. After Mord und Totsclag was created, Tim Call who runs Parasitic Records asked to release an ep of the song Book of Lies. When discussing it with him I asked if he wanted me to record it with a real drummer. As a drummer himself, he said yes. I asked the drummer of Order of the Vulture to work on that recording with me. By the time we had our first rehearsal, he had mentioned it to a couple friends and both asked to join the band. So… it made sense to usher in the full band manifestation of L’Acéphale.
8.What are some of the best shows that the band has played over the years and also how would you describe your stage performance?
This is a good question. Without a doubt, performing at Stella Natura was fantastic. So many wonderful experiences occurred there, old friends gathered and new friendships formed in the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada’s. Performing with Menace Ruine was fantastic. As well as playing the first Eternal Warfare Festival. Seeing Lluvia there and meeting Lord Vast was quite nice. The Lluvia set was fantastic. Our show at the Burial Grounds in Salem with Alda and Merkstave was also quite notable. We have played with Fauna a few times over the years and their shows are always amazing.
Our live ensemble has changed quite a bit over the years. The first iteration when we were recording Book of Lies and Stahlhartes Gehäuse included 2 guitars, bass, drums, 2 percussionists and samples with three of us doing vocals. When writing and performing the music on the new album, we had 3 guitarists, bass, drums and Markus playing a moog liberation with 2 people doing vocals. The most recent line up has been stripped down to a trio, to focus more on feral Black Metal elements with samples. Where the lineup will go from here is hard to say, it is still in development and will likely change to fit the music we work on next.
9.Do you have any touring or show plans once the new album is released?
Yes, we are going on tour with Fauna in Europe. They are old friends and we have played with them in the past with various projects. It will be a short tour starting off at Roadburn. This will be the first performance of L’Acéphale outside of the United States and outside of the West Coast of the U.S. After that, we will see. Some irons are in the fire for a show in New York City. There will likely be some other shows and possible tours as we develop new material. I hope to team up with Hail for this as it will make sense and the new material Hail is working on is amazing and deserves to be heard.
10.On the new album you also have a couple of guests, can you tell us who they are and also their contributions to the recording?
For the new album, I asked Geneviève Beaulieu to contribute vocals and work on a collaboration piece. She sings in both Menace Ruine and Preterite. We met at Stella Natura and have played other shows together with her and S. De La Moth. I love both her projects and her voice is amazing. I worked on an extensive interview with her for my journal Amarantos. During that process, I asked her about the collaboration and due to our many interests, most notably Bataille, she agreed. I am thrilled to have her on the release. For that collaboration, I gave her a very simple guitar line as a starting point and she sent back the complete piece. She recorded guitar, keyboards and vocals and it is perfect.
Other guests on the record are vocals from a few other friends from Portland. Liz Abyss who was the original bass player for L’Acéphale. She helped write Runenberg and Winternacht and sang on those songs when we performed them in 2005-2006. We were in touch and she agreed to come into the studio to track her vocals. She is a fantastic vocalist and I miss having her in the band, but life and obligations do not currently allow her time to be in the band. At least she and her vocals are on the recordings of the songs that she helped create, which is wonderful.
When working on Last Will I felt that I wanted another voice on the piece. I asked my friend Ilana Hamilton to contribute vocals. She is part of the heathen group that I am a part of and I also work with her in a project with Carl Annala and Asia Kindred Moore entitled Kertoa Kaleva. Ilana orates dark folk and mythological tales while, Carl Asia and I conduct music to help set the stage and timber of the storytelling she performs. Generally, I play either harmonium or kantele, Asia performs Celtic harp and Carl does various percussion or drone instruments. I love how distinctive her voice is and felt it would be an excellent pairing with the Nietzsche poem Markus orates.
The other Guest on the record is my friend Meriel Elster who helped do vocals on Hark! The Battle-Cry is Ringing!
11.On a worldwide level how has the reaction been to your music by fans of black meal?
I would not know how to answer this question. I feel that the type of person that understand and enjoys our music is a specific type of person. I would say our music is not for the common person but at the same time I do not feel elitist about it. I feel that most Black Metal fans might want it to be more “metal” and less experimental. But, I could give a fuck about that. Sure, I love listening to Marduk’s Panzer Division Marduk or Abyss’s Summon the Beast. I love Niden Div 187, Warhate, Horna and Behexen. But I don’t want to just play straight forward Black Metal. For me Black Metal includes: Abruptum, Mysticum, MZ 412, Sadastor and of course Deathspell Omega.
I have had specific people from all over the world reach out to me and we have remained friends because they have enjoyed the music I helped create. I feel that those connections are more important to me than overall reception of the band. Many of these people I have gone on to work on specific projects with as well.
12.What is going on with some of the other bands or musical projects these days that some of the band members are a part of?
I mentioned Kertoa Kalevala above. That project mostly performs around the solstices for specific events. All the members have busy lives and live in different cities so it is difficult to perform more often. Hail as I indicated has been steadily working on new material. Hail has gone through very different incarnations over the last 20 years that Carl and I have worked on that project together. For the last couple of years, we were focused as a duo creating Death Ambient Industrial Noise. I hate the term industrial. But we would use backing percussion and then create very focused noise and death ambient sound using contact mics, pedals and unconventional objects to create “songs” and Carl would conduct vocals for these pieces. Weapons, knives, straight razors on glass, bones, ritual objects, samples and more all fed into a series of short, harrowing pieces of sonic art. We spent quite some time exploring noise and sound in ritualistic environments to draft pieces that were then dissected and distilled down to extract the best parts that were then recreated for live shows. Recently however, we started incorporating a full metal band into the those described elements. We found some excellent co-conspirators to help us hone these pieces. We are planning to record this summer with the engineer that recorded the new L’Acéphale album, Gabriel Espinoza. I look forward to that becoming a reality. I am very excited where that project is going musically.
13.Where do you see the band heading into musically during the future?
This is a good question and it is hard to say and is still yet to be determined. We have plans to work on a collaboration full length with another band, but they live out of the country, so the logistics of how that will work are still yet to be determined. We will see where that goes. A lot of material was recorded in draft form and is ready to be worked on. We just need the freedom to start working on it. I have also drafted several songs that are ready to rehearse once we get back from tour with Fauna. I will leave it at that.
14.What are some of the bands or musical styles that have had an influence in your music and also what are you listening to nowadays?
I have a rather large set of music styles that I like. The music styles that directly influence the project are: Dark Folk/Apocalyptic Folk, Death Ambient, Musique Concrète and Black Metal. The convergence of those styles of music frame the working vision of what I started the project to create. As far as bands go: I will toss out a few band names that have influenced me in various ways. The bands mentioned above, Celtic Frost, Sacrilege, G.I.S.M., Rudimentary Peni, Bathory, Dystopia, Ulver, Poison Girls, Throbbing Gristle, Current 93, Les Joyaux de la Princesse, Wolfhetan, Nortt, Apollyon, Corvus Corax (USA), Knelt Rote, S.V.E.S.T., Crash Worship, Test Department, Paysage D’Hiver, Swans, Necros Christos, Mournful Congregation, Darkestrah, Pendrecki, Tormis, Aosoth, Totalselfhatred, Neurosis…
I listen to a lot of friend’s music it seems. There is such a wealth of amazing projects in the area. Alda, Mania, Hell, Ekstasis, Novemthree, To End It All, With the End in Mind, Leadeater, Winter in the Blood, Druden, Disemballerina, Eigenlich, Vouna … too many to list! Plus, other projects that include friends, Sangre de Muerdago, TxRxP, Ails, Vastum, Acephalix, Blood Incantation, Spectral Voice, Human Agony.
I listen to a lot of other Black Metal that I guess would be considered current perhaps. As well as other completely unrelated genres and styles. I listen to music everyday, all day long. So, there is no way to capture all of it.
15.Does Occultism play any role in your music?
I think Occultism played a larger role in my life before I started L’Acéphale. It was still part of my life at the beginning, but I currently feel further away from occult study or practice. I have been involved with a Heathen group more recently that incorporated ritual elements. But I am guessing that you are speaking more towards Left Hand Path type Occultism. Malfeasance features Austin Osman Spare artwork as well as other references to Chaos Magick or strategic focusing of will toward particular directions. I am older and researched the Occult in my youth from the late 80’s through the early 2000’s. I sought out and practiced in my own ways. My recent interests have been more about looking at Left Sacred from an academic standpoint as described above. Hail performed at Portland’s inauguration of a local Golden Dawn chapter decades ago, and other projects have performed at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle. I carry forward my interested in Occult artists and delve into various traditions at points but it does not define a central pillar of my music but has informed a general strategy of how I approach creating music and has become infused with my intuitive path in manifesting work.
16.What are some of your non musical interests?
Music is a central component of my being. If you were to take it away from me I do not know what I would be. That said, I love books and am surrounded by those, our house has hundreds of books covering a wide range of interests. Music and books fuel my desire to work on the journal Amarantos that directly combines these interests. Art and film also are strong interests of mine, though I am horribly behind is staying in touch with film and cinema.
17.Before we wrap up this interview, do you have any final words or thoughts?
If you buy one book this year, consider -
The Sacred Conspiracy: The internal papers of the Secret Society of Acéphale and lectures to the College of Sociology. Published by Atlas Press, a fantastic publishing house of Avant-Garde literature in translation.
Programme (Relative to Acéphale)
To establish a community for the creation of values, values for the creation of cohesion.
To lift the curse, the feeling of guilt which afflicts men and forces them into wars they do not want, and which binds them to work whose benefits elude them.
To take on the function of destruction and decomposition, but as an achievement, not as a negation of being.
To achieve the personal fulfilment of being and its tension by means of concentration, through a positive asceticism and positive personal discipline.
To achieve the universal fulfilment of being within the irony of the animal world and through the revelation of an acephalic universe, playful rather than one of status or duty.
To take upon oneself both perversion and crime not as exclusive values but as something that must be integrated into the human totality.
To fight for the break-up and abolition of all communities, including national, socialist and communist communities and churches, apart from this universal community.
To affirm the reality of these values and the human inequality which results, and to recognize the organic nature of society.
To take part in the destruction of the world as it presently exists, with eyes wide open to the world that will follow.
To consider the world that will follow in the sense of the reality it contains now and not in the sense of some ultimate happiness which is not only inaccessible but also repellant.
To affirm the value of violence and the will for aggression as the cornerstone of the all-powerful.
—Georges Bataille (4/4/1936)
From The Sacred Conspiracy, 2018
Translation: Natasha Lehrer