We got a moment to speak with Vocalist Dave Hunt of Anaal Nathrakh!
MPM: Please introduce yourself and what you do for the band those who don’t know who you are
AN: It seems you just did that – I’m Dave, sometimes credited as V.I.T.R.I.O.L., the vocalist of Anaal Nathrakh.
MPM: First off, how are you doing today during these tough times through quarantine?
AN: Ok, thanks. It’s been hard being stuck at home and therefore having fewer distractions from the malignant incompetence of the official responses to the virus. But in terms of surviving, we’ve been lucky enough not to have fallen seriously ill ourselves. And the various restrictions aren’t too onerous – if anything, I’m kind of happy to have the excuse not to mingle with people, haha!
MPM: Anaal Nathrakh has been a band for over 20+ years in creating the most misanthropic and hatred style of extreme music there is to offer. What makes your band standout compared to others in the genre?
AN: Really we’re more focused on doing what we do than thinking about how it compares to what other people get up to. So other than the fact that we sound like us, and not really like anyone else, I don’t know the answer to that question. That our music is often very extreme, but also remains memorable, maybe? We do what we do, and nobody else does it. Whether that’s because nobody else can do it, or just because nobody else wants to actually wants to sound like us, I don’t know!
MPM: You have a brand new full-length coming out this October titled Endarkenment and this will mark your 11th full-length and is the continuation to 2018’s A New Kind Of Horror. What can tell you us musically about Endarkenment that is bit different in comparison to your older albums?
AN: I don’t know what you mean by the continuation of the last album. They’re not linked in any sense other than that one comes out after the other. As for the comparison, that kind of boils down to the same answer as the last question – we don’t really sit thinking about comparisons or hold up one album versus another. Obviously it’s a perfectly natural thing for a journalist to do, or perhaps a fan, but it’s not how we approach things ourselves. We try to make the album we’re working on satisfying and compelling to us, now, given the cares and concerns and motivations and desires we have now. Beyond that, we don’t really think about matters of context or comparison. In that way, all of the evolutions which happen over time are organic and genuine, rather than forced or devalued by being instrumentalised. Maybe other bands do approach things in that way, and maybe it’s worthwhile to do so. But it’s not how we work.
MPM: Over the course of your time with Anaal Nathrakh, would you say your vocal deliveries and sound has gotten better over time with each album?
AN: Yes, I’d hope so. I’m not a technician about it, I tend to think that focusing on how you’re doing something detracts from what it is you’re actually doing. In many contexts that’s useful, of course. You don’t want an emotionally driven but technically incompetent surgeon. But when it comes to an expressive thing like singing it doesn’t feel right to me. I know that there are many things you can’t do properly, even within singing, without proper technique, of course – opera is the obvious example. But in Anaal Nathrakh it doesn’t feel right to me to focus on technique, so I never have, and as a result wouldn’t really know how to do so anyway. But over time you become more comfortable and confident with your ability to do certain things, and with how to succeed if you try new things. So I do think there’s progression and growth, and I don’t think I’d have even attempted some of the stuff on Endarkenment back when we started.
MPM: How’s your relationship been with Metalblade Records since the band dropped Desideratum on the label?
AN: Ha, that makes the album sound like one of the huge weights in a Roadrunner cartoon. It’s been fine. They’re a comparatively large organization – not like Sony or whatever, but our basic interactions are with various people in various countries, which is a departure from most of our previous dealings with labels. But at the same time it’s still quite personal, and personable – you usually speak to a specific, consistent individual rather than just whoever does a certain role, for example. That can go a long way in building a relationship. And as far as we can tell, as an organization they’re good at their job. Pretty much everything we’ve needed has been available to us in terms of resources and expertise, and they’ve always been enthusiastic about Anaal Nathrakh, for example the recent videos we made for Endarkenent were at their behest as much as anything else, whereas some other labels can be more restrained in their support. So yeah, they’ve been good to work with. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have re-signed with them for the new album.
MPM: Most of your songs for Anaal Nathrakh take many lyrical contents from Misanthropy, Armageddon, Nihilism and other subject matter. What drew your attention to write the most thought-provoking lyrics and was there a time when writing lyrics resonated with you when songs are played live?
AN: Encyclopedia Metallum uses capitals, but you don’t have to, haha! Those themes are simply what came naturally. We started out with an idea that was roughly speaking black metal, and harsh, or ‘necro’ as we called it. But we weren’t concerned to stick to the tenets of that genre, and the lyrical perspective, as well as our musical direction, has just grown with us according to how we felt over time. So I’ve never sat down and thought ‘Ok, I need to write a song about nihilism’ or anything like that. I’ve just written down or sung what felt right at the time, what felt compelling or relevant or evocative or whatever. But that instinctive approach does mean that sometimes I only realize what I was truly on about afterwards. Or sometimes I realize new ways of thinking about the material later on. So yes, something like Submission Is For The Weak has felt like it was about different things at different times when we’ve performed it live. Or at other times, it can be that playing songs live gives you a focus and a visceral sense of the songs that makes them seem all the more powerful, even than they did during recording. That’s all part of the live experience.
MPM: Anaal Nathrakh to me has one of the most unique, organic and accessible sounds to a extreme metal band I’ve ever heard ranging anywhere from Black Metal, Grindcore, Industrial and even some Death Metal to a extent. What made you decide to play in a extreme metal band before being exposed to the genre?
AN: We didn’t decide to play extreme metal before being exposed to it – how could we? It’s a bit like asking you in response how you knew you were going to ask me that question before you’d thought of it.
MPM: Do you prefer recording in studio making music or perform on stage with people connected to your music for a enjoyable experience?
AN: They’re very different experiences. In terms of an enjoyable experience, well that’s not exactly how I’d describe Anaal Nathrakh in general. But I think that of the two, the one that comes closer to what you mean is recording. Playing live is very intense, and comes with its own unique thrills and experiences. But it’s also hard, and stressful, at least I find it very hard and stressful myself. So while it’s a powerful kind of experience, and one I don’t underestimate, enjoyable really doesn’t fit as a description. In the studio, there’s much more opportunity to stop, repeat things, try something another way, and so on. And it feels less like lots of people and thousands of pounds in event costs, transport, flights and all that are relying on you not failing. So there’s much less pressure. Yes, there are different pressures, of course – what you’re depending on being able to do in the studio is to come up with the right thing and to pull it off for the recording. But that feels less pressured and therefore somewhat closer to being enjoyable than playing live. When you’ve spent days an huge amounts of money getting yourself and numerous other people to a venue on the other side of the world, and there are hundreds or sometimes thousands of fans waiting, plus a venue and staff and everyone who’s worked really hard to make the event a success, and the last minute is counting down before you’re due on stage… You can’t really go ‘hang on, I don’t feel quite right for this, let’s take a break for an hour and have a cuppa or a beer or something and come back to it fresh’!
MPM: If vocals was not your occupation, what job do you see yourself doing for the foreseeable future that fans might not know about you?
AN: Not long ago I finished a PhD, and usually that would point to a career as an academic. But in my case I’ve focused on music too much over the years to have built up the publication history and teaching experience you need to get a job in academia. I couldn’t probably work towards those things, but as things stand now, I’m not ideally placed to walk into an academic job. But I do think universities and research are worthwhile things to support, even if they may be problematic in some other ways, so I think some other kind of job in higher education would be good. Also, if you have research interests yourself, working in that environment also means you have access to journals and so on which it would be very difficult or expensive to access otherwise. MY field is philosophy, so I’m ok without physical labs and everything. But without that journal access, you can’t do a lot of the things good research relies on, even in a comparatively resource-light discipline like philosophy.
MPM: What’s your stance for the United Kingdom music scene and the extreme metal community as a whole with new bands on the rise to find their sound and progression?
AN: I’m not sure I understand the question. I don’t have all that much contact with or knowledge of any scenes or communities – the kind of showy comradeship that seems to exist in a lot of metal music is one of the areas where we’re temperamentally more similar to seminal black metal bands. We’re perfectly friendly and cooperative on a personal level, and we have friends in other bands and so on, but we don’t tend to rush towards others with our tails wagging, and so we don’t end up taking much of an active part in any wider communities. As far as I can tell, the underground, as it used to be called, in the UK is very healthy, at least outside of the ravages of the pandemic. But I have little direct experience of it, unfortunately. As for new bands, I think my advice would be ‘don’t be derivative’. The world doesn’t need another band that sounds like a mishmash of bands that everyone’s already heard. If you want to be in a band for the sake of being in a band, just stop. If you have something that’s musically worth saying and a way of saying it that’s worth hearing, go for it. Another way of putting it might be to ask yourself ‘Given that x already exists, does the world really need to hear me doing this?’. If you can substitute a valid value for x and answer no, then stop. If there is no valid value for x, or you can genuinely answer yes, then more power to you. Go for it.
MPM: Are there any upcoming releases in 2020 you favor in terms of enjoyment that you can recommend for anyone looking for a new discovery?
AN: Well it’s not quite upcoming, but I only found out yesterday that it’d been released earlier this year – the new Tod Huetet Uebel album, Nomen Nesico. Fans of ours will be able to spot a reference there, but I’ve genuinely enjoyed listening to it, completely independently of anything like that. As for upcoming releases, I don’t know that I’d necessarily recommend it to someone only interested in extreme metal, but I think the one I’m most looking forward to hearing is the new Idles album, which comes out around the same time as Endarknement. I also enjoyed Things Happened Here by Kansas Smitty’s, which came out recently. And of course the new Benediction album, Scriptures – it’s a huge blow that I couldn’t be involved with it, but I think there’s some really great stuff on it and it’ll be great for the band.
MPM: Any last words you like to say in the interview or anything to your fans for the time being?
AN: Just thanks for the support, and we hope that the world becomes less insane in the near future, and we can play for you at some point…
Interview by Jake Butler