Anaal Nathrakh have been tearing the world apart with their sonic attack for twenty years. Never taking a backwards step in ferocity they recently released their 10th studio album, the terrifying a New Kind Of Horror, which has been called “one of the most effective and poignant pieces of anti-war material you can encounter”. Now you are bringing your Aural Assault down under once again for your first headlining tour!
M-R: First, I should get through the niceties, thank you so much for taking the time to speak to me. You guys excited to come back to Australia?
Absolutely yeah, and to be honest, sitting here doing all these interviews with people from Down Under I just want to get there! It’s making me more and more excited! We’re just rearing to go. It kind of seems like we’re in that weird in-between phase at the minute. We’ve done most the heavy-lifting, we’ve got everything arranged, with just some paperwork to take care of, one last rehearsal and then we leave. We just want to go and get the plane now! We really looking forward to getting away.
M-R: Anaal are playing some intimate venues over here, combine that with your special brand of noise, makes a recipe for one hell of a show. If you compare this to big festival bills like Wacken, do you have a preference? Are there pros and cons to both? Or is it just about being on stage?
I think personally my preference is to play the club. I prefer the kinds of shows we’ve got lined up, well we don’t know what they’re going to be like yet, we don’t have the experience of having playing clubs in Australia, but what I imagine they’ll be like from the impression that I get that’s really where I feel more comfortable. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with big festivals. It’s certainly an experience, to have a downer on playing that kind of thing would be frankly a bit ridiculous you’d have to be some kind of arrogant dick, you’ve got to be open to it. But it does lack of certain intimacy, like there’s a spectacle to it which it which is cool, but I think I like to see the blood and the snot and the sweat and I like that kind of thing. It feels a bit more real.
M-R: I was stunned to find out that you were a two-piece in the studio! There is so much going on with your recorded sound. Was the transition to the live stage back in 2005/6 a difficult one? How has the live experience of Nathrakh evolved since, if at all?
(At this point I, full of excited energy, called the band Nakrath instead of Nathrakh…twice…embarrassing….)
Well, first off, it’s Nathrakh not Nakrath…. Hahaha
It was a bit weird, I mean that’s probably most straightforward answer.
Before we played live, it wasn’t like we had some kind of opposition to playing live, we just didn’t think we could do it. We didn’t think we could find a drummer for a start, who could blast-beat for an hour and a half. It may seem a bit naive in retrospect, it’s more common to do it than I thought, and now we managed to work with a few people that could play our stuff. Back then we didn’t know any better, so to have this idea of ‘let’s put a band together’ that was weird.
Also, the band that we did put together, was a matter of reaching out to people that we knew that had a type of stature and professionalism and a degree of talent that they could pull it off. To kids with our background, the first gig we did we had a friend of ours playing guitar, but we also had Shane Embry and Danny Herrera from Napalm Death on bass and drums. For us that was ridiculous. They’ve been like, the words probably not perfect to an extent, but they were a bit like heroes to us. To share a stage with them was ridiculous. As a result of them being there more than us, Devin Townsend came down after his show somewhere else in London that night. Also Jeff Walker from Carcass was there.
They were going to see their mates doing something unusual and mad, you know, but from our point of view it was ridiculous, really surreal. One thing that we did find, that we were quite surprised by, was that the songs could really work live, that was a revelation to us. It went really well, very much spurred us on to do it to do more of that kind of thing. Now here we are. We got the prospect of going to Australia again, just to go and make a racket. Which is frankly stupid and frankly absurd but we very happy to be in the situation that we’re in.
M-R: I know that you are on the same page while writing new material, but how does the process usually start? Are you involved in writing from the beginning, or do you get completed tracks which you have to fit vocals over?
Sort of both, it starts with music really, but once the juices start to flow it’s not uncommon for Mick and I to then have a conversation and start to drum up some idea of foundational bits of aesthetics, atmospheres, things that will inform the album as a whole. That’s kind of collaborative on the ground floor so to speak on the foundational level. Then Mick will go away and write the music pretty much how he sees fit, in the knowledge that we will agree, he writes the music and I don’t for the most part.
While he’s doing that, I’m off writing bit of lyrics, putting together ideas, and forming that headspace. Then we come back together again to record the vocals, very often I haven’t heard the music at all. Which is a bit weird, given the way lot of other people do it, but yeah, so I don’t so much get given to complete a track to fit lyrics around I get given an album, and a ‘put that in your pipe and smoke it’ kind of thing…hahaha
M-R: With that soundscape it must be intimidating!
No, actually it’s not! It’s the way that we go together tends to spark off one another really easily. So, if I do something and then Mick does something, we find that motivating more than anything else. You could say ‘my god there is a lot of music here, what the hell do I do with it’ but it tends not to be like that. We break it down into smaller pieces so it’s more of a matter of ‘ooh, look what I can do with this’ you know, more of that kind of feeling. I can see why it would be intimidating but for us, that’s not how it turns out, it’s a new playground to go and cause havoc in, that’s more how it feels.
M-R: Getting to the latest album, you have said that A New Kind of Horror is ‘Human and all that entails’ can you elaborate on this for me?
I mean, I think a human reaction to the scale of some of the stuff dealt with on the album is to be terrified by it, as well as to embody the scale of it so it sounds terrifying its own way. But I chose to use the word human there was also to say, maybe it’s flawed, maybe in some cases we had ideas bigger than our bellies. I’m not saying it’s necessarily the case, I hope we pulled everything off, but maybe it is.
Maybe there are bits in here that, despite the very highly-strung nature of a lot of the material on the album, maybe, there are moments of humour in there. Maybe there are more shades to it than might immediately be apparent. That’s not saying ‘yes! this is in there! I did that as a joke! you must go this listen to this in this way!’ it’s up to anyone how they appreciate things, how they receive things, and what it means to them. It’s just a matter of more than anything, it’s trying to say ‘we’ve done our level best here, we’re people that really tried and a meant a lot to us and here you go we’ve given you everything we had’ it’s that kind of sentiment.
M-R: During an interview you were asked whether ‘Art influences and reflects morality’ seeing what is popular with new generations, regarding western music and media, it seems we are even more materialistic and self-obsessed than ever, stuck in our own personal bubbles and unwilling to learn or change. You can also say that about older generations, who are currently running the world, who are stubborn and unwilling to learn and change when it comes to certain topics. Not to mention the amount of pure mis-information spread by media and those people in power. Do you think that the world can really change? Could there ever be a universal type of understanding or peace, where everyone just wants to co-exist and be happy? Or will the world always adhere to the balance of ‘good’ and ‘evil’ (in quotation marks)?
So, just a throw away quick little question at the end there, you know…hahaha
Trying to distil it down to something to try to approach how to answer. I think there are some constants, mostly to do with the way human beings are. We rarely have our eye on the horizon, on the bigger picture, I don’t think. One of the things that strikes you if you read some ancient stuff, not just the big epics or whatever, but stuff that stuff that’s a little bit more down to earth about the everyday lives of people in Athens or Memphis (Egypt) or whatever it would have been. Is just how self-interested, venial and narrow they are, just like we are.
I was lucky enough to be in a museum in New York once, they had an Egyptology exhibition and there was a piece of papyrus and had all these hieroglyphics on it and it’s hard to imagine, at least someone from my background, anything more exotic than this, it was amazing to have this tangible thing from that time. But what was on it was a list of stuff that was on wagons that went across this bridge so it could be taxed properly and that is the most boring fucking thing. Humanity itself reaches across this divide of 6000 years or whatever and what does it say? ‘Oh, you’ve got some wheat there, we’re going to need you to pay’. In terms of the closer generational thing and people being self-interested assholes, even those who are great and worth paying attention to. I listen to The Beatles reasonably often and that’s a previous generation. I mean I’m no spring chicken, but I’m not that bloody old! But there’s The Beatles going on about the taxman, echoing both the ancient Egyptians and short-sighted dick heads now. People in this country complain that the NHS doesn’t work our National Health Service and it doesn’t but that’s because people don’t want to pay their fucking taxes just like they didn’t 6000 years ago.
So, things can be boiled down to a small level and we can seem quite negative little creatures in some ways, but I do think at the same time we are capable of greatness. Those same Egyptians built the pyramids, those same Beatles, to stretch a metaphor, those same Beatles inspired a generation. They gave voice to a generation of people that wanted to ‘Give Peace a Chance’ to quote John Lennon. I do think we’re condemned to be this weird mix of venal and disappointing while being lofty and ambitious, and I don’t think that’s going to change, I think that’s the constant.
Interview Date: 2019-01-20
Interviewer: Jonathan Hurley