Spinoza Ray Prozak Interview
this interview came up as part of a series of academic inquiries answered, but as the interviewer had more verve than most, it has come to rest here as a resource like all else on this site for the study of metal.
1.I understand that www.anus.com is your website and that you are the author of the information posted on the website. How recent is the information and what inspired you to design this website?
the information on this website began life in 1988 as a project being circulated around the dial-up bulletin boards of houston, texas, and then moved to california and an ftp server circa 1992. from there it became a web site in the following year which had several homes before reaching its current home at www.anus.com in 1996. of the reviews, most were updated within the previous year, and many are of authorship in the previous two years, but it is a work in progress to which pieces are constantly added.
as to what inspired the creation of the website and its particular design as a method of communicating the history and intelligence of metal, the honest and simple answer is academic philosophy. once i began to see the world in terms of symbols, historical trends, ideological realizations and alignments, it became clear to me that metal was in conflict between skeptics and idealists of a naturalist religion that combined aspects of both former times and the "ultra- present," or cutting edge of humanity's confrontation with the problems of its own governance.
2.How did you become interested in Metal, particularly Black Metal? What attracted you to the scene? Is it part of your identity/lifestyle ? Are there any interesting stories that come to mind?
when i was in high school, i was a fan of a limited number of rock- related bands but an ardent appreciator of classical and baroque music. i found the values of classical culture and greco-roman heroic epics to be more to my liking than what i felt to be a transparent and superficial treatment of nature and humanity alike in the present time, and thus felt little moved by bands like rush, led zeppelin, red hot chili peppers and other artifacts of that high school social- musical experience. consequently, i sought genres which emphasized rigorous self and societal improvement through abstract thinking; the only fish i netted after a run around the bay were some punk/hardcore bands and a handful of metal artists.
at this time, morbid angel's "blessed are the sick" had just been released and death metal was in its infancy. i spent a good deal of time listening to D.R.I. and C.O.C. before finding that the subconscious imagery of death metal appealed more to my artistic and philosophical senses than the direct political/social assault of fury and dissidence that thrash bands favored. between thrash and metal, i found something which more than an identity helped me find a way out of the fog of confusion of high school and the years afterward: an ideological clarity that was matched by an artistic spirit of exploration and in the succinct words of thomas pynchon, telling death to fuck off.
black metal came about really a year or so later, and was something that at first was controversial. i had begun my life as the presenter of a death metal program at that time and it seemed natural to me to include the new genre, since it was both as aggressive and as transcendent in its vision as death metal was, but unlike death metal in 1992-93, was not yet bloated and had a clearer statement of ideological advancement. also, it appealed to me in that it left behind the humanist and socially-conditioned responses to which many death metal bands fell prey. so at a time when many in the scene were calling black metal "fake," i was embracing it and lashing out at its enemies.
is it part of my identity/lifestyle? definitely it is part of my lifestyle. my identity is something i am hoping to do without. i exist outside of the metal scene and within it, but there my role is clearly defined as a facilitator and historian, a thinker and analyst, and this is not as much identity as optimized function. during the past, black metal and death metal have been part of my lifestyle and identity, as since age 13 i have been a foe of "morality" (the belief that subjective assessment of beneficiality of events can be ascribed to an objective dualism) and since age 15 i have been a nihilist (one who believes that there is no inherent value to events or objects except their function in a natural design). my definition of nihilist clashes with that of nietzsche and other thinkers, who see a nihilist as one who has no hope or belief, but i derive my nihilism from spiritual views in use in the eastern nations in which a belief in nothing is prerequisite to an understanding of anything, or everything.
3. When, where and how did the Black Metal scene evolve? ( examples of bands would be great).
well, most credit the term "black metal" to venom, in 1983 or so, with their release of the album by the same name, but the term "black" was used to designate evil versions of otherwise secular ideas long before that, and venom's music was more hard rock than metal itself, so i tend to shy away from this event and point instead toward the work of bathory and celtic frost which emerged in 1984. their music sounded diabolical and featured the distorted, obscure vocals of occultist diatribe that distinguished the music immediately from the more sonorous and clear-cut counterparts it possessed in the speed/thrash scenes. evil has always been portrayed as evasive and of dubious clarity in western literature since the judeo-christian invasion, hence combining fast and primitive music with unlistenable vocals was more than an extension of the surly growl of motorhead, a venturing into new territory where evil was embraced as a polar alternative to mainstream religion and bourgeois/suburban mindsets.
after this initial outpouring, the genre continued over the next few years to grow, mainly important for its influences on bands like morbid angel and later slayer, but reached a final state of initial maturity with the extremes achieved by sarcofago, who made deliberately unsteady and violently unstable music which combined the simplicity of the most intense hardcore of the time with a uniquely metal vision of evil and a coherence arising from chaos. simultaneously, quorthon of bathory unveiled what was to be his masterpiece, "blood, fire, death," which combined the newly intense and chromatic musicality of death metal with an epic, odinist view of the anti-morality which is the hallmark of black metal's ideology. this occurred in 1987, and the genre essentially slept from that point on until 1992 when the nordics revived it. the interim material regressed into speed/heavy metal in a faster, more melodic and musically literate take on what venom had explored, which was essentially a less doom-and-gloom version of what black sabbath had originally undertaken in the founding of the proto-metal genre in 1969.
the nordic scene was the first outburst of "modern" black metal, and unquestionably the most important bands were darkthrone, immortal, burzum and to a lesser degree, mayhem. while mayhem are remembered by most people as the founders, this reputation was mostly backfilled by "historians" trying to figure out what was occurring the genre from 1987 to 1992, and finding a band that while active produced few innovations until influenced by others within the rising norwegian scene. after this first burst of creativity, a second wave of bands emerged in the middle 1990s such as graveland, summoning, ildjarn, gorgoroth and others who expanded upon the ideas of the previous generation.
4. What are the underlying ideology/theology surrounding the scene? What are the belief systems? Is there a difference in the North American Black Metal scene as compared to the European? Do they share the same belief systems? Can you think of a reason(s) of why they do or don't ( share the same belief systems)?
the american scene is on the whole, bloated with ignorance and "individualism," which i consider the greatest philosophical fallacy of our time. i am a gaian and a collectivist; it seems to me that the earth is an organism and we are its cells, and to indulge in the pretense that external events and trappings define an "individual" as somehow different, separate and self-caused is fallacy. this relates to your questioning above regarding "identity," and my viewpoints on these ideas now, as much as to the question regarding ideological differences between europe and america.
in general, european bands are more coherent in their idealization of pagan beliefs and the necessary nationalistic structures required to do away with morality and follow this belief pattern. american bands are still caught in the image and need to break out of the society around them, for the most part, although there are some vivid exceptions. this follows the pattern of death metal, where the more worldly and less puritan europeans were able to get over the shock factor of the genre quickly and produce more impressive works in the long term, where the americans had only a handful of truly impressive bands in both musical and ideological departments.
many of these bands, across continents and individual circumstances, share roughly the same views, but as metal is a youth music genre few have had time to fully articulate their thoughts or to express anything connective in the long term. most capture a few basic ideas and then fade away. the bands that have kept growing have nurtured and developed ideologies and musical styles in which the most motion is able to occur.
the underlying ideology of black metal? it is dual: anti-humanist and idealism, in the sense of reaching toward a post-nietzschean concept of the overman. black metal has realized more than any philosopher the need for the feral to complement ideals, solid collective ideals based on sound values common to all life, which symbolize the learning of a human being who has become selective about desires for the future. humanism is the revolution against nature, and black/death metal are the revolution against humanism. in doing so they combine ancient pre-Christian ideals (Greco-Roman and Pagan) with the ideals of a technological, collectivist society of the future which has recognized the responsibility humans collectively wield in their industrial and intellectual strength.
5. Why Nihilism, Nietzsche and Hedonism? Can you discuss these terms and what they mean in correlation to the scene?
nihilism - the state of stripping away all preconceptions and having no intrusive irrelevancies clouding one's view of the world (see mayhem "buried by time and dust" and cynic "the veil of maya")
nietzsche - the first philosopher to embrace the angry, the scary and the discontent; he saw that christ's world of "love" was in fact the same world of death that would later become the stagnant and horrifying boredom and constraint of first-world suburban lives
hedonism - appreciating the sensual and spiritual bond which joy makes between a person and the life they ride
6. Is Satanic imagery and worshipping Satan a must in the Black Metal scene? Who is Satan? Is Satanic imagery another tool to sell more records? It is my understanding that Aleister Crowley and Anton LaVey are prominent figures in the Black Metal scene? Is this true and what do you think of their teachings/ philosophy?
anton lavey is accepted by few, as he is from a jewish background and apparently incorporates much of that ideology into his work, as well as snippets of christianity and modern humanism. he impressed me even less than ayn rand as a thinker, and i am mostly unfamiliar with his work and its connections to judaism, but from a general survey it seems to me a more materialistic form of christianity, which would be its parent religion, judaism. too many christian racists and anti- semites have forgotten that their own religion originates from jews, as an outpouring of jewish culture, from within the jewish homeland and its symbology. anton lavey probably corrected much of the differences between christian and jewish thought with a religion that appears post-humanistic but at its core is "individualistic," which in my interpretation is essentially the same morality of the individual and his or her need to avoid "bad" and praise "good." it's complete wishful thinking that does not match up to the more advanced, complex and intelligent philosophies of black and death metal. that being said, there are still many who follow lavey.
crowley (and his shadow, h.p. blavatsky) hold some interest for me in that they resurrect gnostic and early hindu/buddhist concepts in religion without the neurotic manipulation that the middle eastern religions (christianity, judaism) have injected into seemingly every form of idealism they've touched. in a brutal nutshell, judaism is the original materialistic religion (materialistic = belief in nothing of practical value but the material world) which when combined with Greek idealism and Buddhist spiritual concepts produced the great mind-killer, Christianity. crowley and blavatsky made attempts to reach into the time before those religions to discover a motivation outside of "morality" and basically, fear of a personal, judgmental, inscrutable "God." this is a revolution against individualism, which is essentially the same human-centric viewpoint that produced morality, and in the works of crowley and blavatsky a collective, natural-process- centric belief system is produced.
for mainstream bands and insincere bands, satanic imagery is a tool for crowd-manipulation. for those who have found a use for its mythos, the symbols and value inversions (e.g. philosophical "arguments" in lyrical and semiotic form) have become essential means of communicating the point at which a post-Christian, anti-post-WWII American suburban lifestyle (PWASL) can begin. mainstream "satanic"/"shock" bands are products designed to give children just enough rebellion so that they can let off steam before entering colleges, learning secular humanist dogma and then moving on to jobs in the approved commercial systems of the state.
7. Black metal condemns commercialism, the corporate world, and the Hollywood glitz as portrayed by the media. Would you say that Marxism is an integral part of the Black Metal scene? Why or why not? Where does Black Metal fit in in terms of sociological/anthropological ideologies (i.e. functionalist, post modern, etc)
socialism is a clear part of the black metal scene; while most bands do not seem to favor an environment free of competition, they also speak clearly for an end to the money- and trend-induced madness of clonelike behavior which has swept from America outward to the world on wings of her media and movies.
elements of the postmodern are clearly part of black metal as well, from the gritty and distorted aesthetic to a self-reflective view of a self-reflective view (in other words: the characteristic which distinguishes humans from animals, squared), but as black metal rejects any human-centered view of the universe and its values, the postmodernism which emerges is a feral, nihilistic one.
most black metallers and bands that i have encountered condemn capitalism and communism with the same single stroke: they are views for the herd, which is paradoxically worried about the individual more than the overall goal. black metal has no time for economies and societies which exist to empower the "individual" to do what "individuals" do best, which is act like everyone else in a total waste of resources and time. black metal recognizes that nature has made humans in a hierarchical pattern, and that no one is equal; people are given different abilities but each has a place in the drama of the human species, and nature, evolving on a scale of the whole.
at least, this is what the few intelligent thinkers that i've found in the genre have said to me. there are the few who create and lead the way, and many who follow and uphold the banner, and of late plenty of come-latelies who want to make this genre into a place for everyone to party just like they did to hardcore music, death metal, heavy metal, speed metal, etc. black metal is not humanism, and black metal is not skepticism or any other evasive philosophies. i call these philosophies "evasive" in that they attempt to use reductive logic to eliminate all possibilities except their narrow, subjective conclusions; in the same way "individualism" reduces the scope of each human to what seems immediately beneficial to the person only, evasive philosophies eliminate all options except materialism with a drug of the unreal added to take the sting out of life and enable subservience once again.
8. How do one learn more about the music when the scene does not promote commercialization?
there are several venues:
1 - other hessians (hessian = headbanger)
2 - zines, written material, websites
3 - radio, internet real-time, mp3 sharing
4 - blind purchasing, research
the scene does not promote commercialization or social usage of the music. it does, however, fit within the current system where labels sell products and are rewarded with profit; the only difference is that profit is not their only goal, and thus they are unwilling to bend music to fit an archetypal market ("pandering to an audience") when there are artistic, ideological and social goals ahead instead. i stress once again that death and black metal are not aiming to "save the world" or any other such humanist trash, but are a natural outpouring of the assertion of the natural within the individual and group alike. these genres would appeal to any living creature of a certain intelligence, and are in the eyes of those who lead them, not concerned with the stench of morality that accompanies human-centric views of the universe.
for example, anus.com is typical of the kind of site that someone who understands the rudiments of the ideology of the genre(s) would create. it aims to spread its information and "profit" by the change in awareness, but is unconcerned with material gain except as a further venue to existential pleasure in the genre and its music and ideas. commercial methods are just another tool to us, like xeroxed do-it-yourself flyers or matches/churches.
10. What do you think of bands who use satanic imagery (i.e. Marilyn Manson/Slipknot etc) but are commercially successful? Do they still get respect within the Black Metal Scene or are they considered posers?
the only people in the black metal "scene" who respect these bands are those who are of such fractured self-worth and confidence in their beliefs that they need the acceptance of others, and thus figure that being the most accepting - the most "humanist" - of all views as equally valid, they can be accepted as rebels or contrarians or whatever. these people are die-hard idiots.
no one who deserves respect in the black metal scene respects marilyn manson or slipknot or their ilk. those bands are strictly commercial endeavors, usually manipulating the "stars" involved. further, their minute amount of rebellion hides a huge amount of conditioning toward mainstream values, turning ideology into playtime for "talking monkeys with car keys" (i borrowed this phrase from a kam lee interview; see www.anus.com/metal/massacre).
11. I was recently reading "Lords of Chaos" and the authors were describing how churches were being burned in Norway Does this occur only in Europe and why do you think it happens in Norway? What are the socio-economic/psychological and political factors that drive people do carry out such actions?(lack of employment, education, abusive homes etc.) Are they trying to make a statement? Is it another war against the Christian Fundamentalists?
norway is a highly "christianized" society, where a fundamentally good-natured population has adopted christian ideals to further "civilize" their wild tendencies. it is also a society where its own success has helped it reach terminal boredom faster than the violent and unpredictable americas, or the flighty UK and nations under its cultural influence. few problems - "frontiers" in the de toquevillean view - remain in norway and thus, under intense introspection, it became a partially dour society as the effects of christian/humanist thinking but not the cause were noted.
this war in black metal is not like a "save the whales" type humanist war; it is the assertion of masculine values by the youth who wish to design the best possible world for the next generation, and to use logic instead of feeble half-articulated emotion to guide the world in which they will live. the motives of black metal are purely selfish, relative to its members, but in doing so serve the natural world by asserting that which individual organisms acting in a concerted natural order need to achieve. black metal is a feral philosophy which hates christianity and its secular form, humanism/hippie-ism, not because it fears them but because they are unnatural, confining and worth destroying.
while this is a youth movement, its greatest defenders were intellectuals like f.w. nietzsche and arthur schopenhauer, who saw in christianity a nullification of all human motivation (in the same way communism nullified the competitive instinct) which aimed to ensure that all members of society were safe, but did not leave space for adventure, passion, desire and logic. in the black metal view, christianity and humanism are fear of the world and a pessimism against its methods which obscure the idealism which makes life wortwhile. half of this idealism is intellectual, and half is sensual/feral.
12. Do you feel that Christian Fundamentalist will exploit and criticize the scene because Black Metal practices , rituals and beliefs are considered "evil" . Christianity wants to root out all evil in the world as evident in the 15-17th century witch hunts in Europe and in the modern day accusations of satanic ritual abuse in England and the United States in the '80s, is Black Metal another reason to root out the evil and is this the primary cause for the anger and hostility between Christian fundamentalists and Black metal fans?
christians, jews, and humanists alike have condemned black metal, which is not surprising given some of the scary views of its members (fascism, Nazism, racism, elitism, hierarchy-ism, Satanism), and members of the same religions have used organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center and the conservative Christian right to attack black metal. candidate Bob Dole even mentioned it in an election speech where he condemned the band Rotting Christ.
christianity and judaism and humanism/hippie-ism believe that there is good and bad in the world. black metal sees this as childish but more importantly, sees it as secondary to the question of having exciting and interesting lives in which a collective ideal moves forward for the better experience of the intelligent within society. while humanism and christianity want to make sure that no one feels left out, black metal is a revolt against this which wants intelligence to prevail over blind trend-frenzy, imitation, "slave morals," etc.
13. Who gets involved in the Black Metal scene? How does one get involved in the scene ? What are the demographics/psychographics? How is gender viewed, more specifically how are women viewed with respect to the scene? What are their roles? ( i.e. are they in bands for example).
black metal has many traditionalist values, but women are encouraged to participate as their inclination leads them. varg vikernes of the black metal band burzum claimed women had a more dynamic potential toward revolutionary action than men, and in many cases, i am in agreement with him on this issue. metal has always appealed to me personally from a lack of gender issues; there are very few love songs not dedicated to nature as a whole, and little of the capitalistic "hallmark romanticism" that dominates popular music, especially that originating in r-n-b or blues. songs are about abstract principles and organic realities, and have little to do with false, moral idealizations such as "you are the perfect girl for me" or "you make all right in the world." there are no gods and no false masters. there are also no illusions about the differences between women and men.
demographics: 70% european descent, 25% hispanic, 5% asian + "other" - these are very rough estimates. most of these people are from working-class or middle-class suburban backgrounds, and many have attained a fair amount of educational and social status, but are unwilling to accept the values of the system in which they earn money, raise families and exercise their "rights" to the pursuit of "happiness" (i concur with schopenhauer here that the individual seeks to fulfill a will not necessarily of the individual in origin, not "happiness").
one gets involved with the black metal scene by learning enough about it to be able to socialize with the different hierarchical degrees of the elite who have left normal social logic behind, and are now feral with fragments of the philosophy of the genre embedded in mind. one can also start a band, zine, label, etc. but without a sensible ideology will be clearly visible to those who know as an invader, parasite, or opportunistic predatory organism.
14. What is the future of the Black Metal scene? Where do you think it is heading? Are there any recent changes to the scene?
well, right now it's in the toilet. after cradle of filth and dimmu borgir completed their flaming commercialization process, most of the people coming into the genre became convinced that black metal meant heavy metal music with harsh vocals. there are musical and lyrical differences in addition to strikingly different imagery, and this may explain why cradle of filth sounds like iron maiden but most of the serious black metal (darkthrone, burzum, immortal, mayhem, graveland) sounds like avantgarde classical merged with stripped-down hardcore.
recent changes are bands experimenting more with longer melodies, ambient rhythms and timbrel placements, and sometimes more fragmented sonic appearance and texture. ildjarn, summoning, krieg, antaeus and averse sefira are some recent favorites of mine.
15. Is there anything else you would like me to add or is there anything that I have missed? Please feel free to add any additional comments. If you have any questions for me, please let me know
i would like to at this time state that any comments about a genre will be "generalized," and that mine apply to the people i've met who are founders, creators and innovators (leaders) in these genres, not to the masses of people who've either bought a few albums or started some half-hearted zine, band, label, etc. there are plenty in the scene who disagree with me, but it seems to me - and to the people who actually make the impressive parts of this scene and its music occur - that the contrarians are off-base, that they are skeptics who are trying to bring the scene to agreement with them rather than vice-versa, and fundamentally, that they are people from a mainstream society who want to be "rebels" but have no interest in creating an alternate or viable future instead of that which in their view afflicts them.
for example, i don't know how many times i've heard the following: "well, i'm into black metal, but i don't hate christians, i hate everyone equally" and "everyone should die, there is no hope, destroy everything" - these values are alien to black metal, in which (as in nature) the strong and noble are rewarded and the weak, pathetic, parasitic and priestly are beaten back to the positions which they deserve, namely the lower ones. black metal at its best is elitist. it is about celebrating what is great in life and rejecting the lies of the past 2,000 years, including christianity, judaism, humanism and egalitarianism. however, these views are only shared by the elite who actually do something in the scene, and not by the many legions of fanboys, imitators, ripoffs, commercial parasites, etc. etc. you might want to interview some of those for a blazingly illiterate counterpoint to any scene luminaries you can reach.
i have no questions for you but offer my thanks for a well- researched, well- analyzed set of interview questions. the only thing i would like to add further is that most critics of black metal (in the sense of "public denouncers" and not academic analysts) are skeptics who deny the inherent idealism (the "sacred") and nihilism/materialism (the "profane") to life. they look at black metal and say, "it will never work," meaning that in the mental confines of their own perception they cannot find a way why such a thing would work, as a plausible social system or a personal philosophy. to them i say, you are prisoners in a cage without walls.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Spinoza Ray Prozak