Spinoza Ray Prozak Interview with Esoteric Online
Thanks to James "Harry" Hinchcliffe
Round about last December, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to cast my net a little wider in terms of interview subjects, band together a select group of veterans of metal journalism and grill them all to see if my views concerning the bloated nature of the metal phenomenon were shared by others who have spent more time observing metal and thought harder about its evolution. Originally, I intended to compile these discourses into one giant bombshell article which it was hoped would have some impact on the increasingly self-obsessed and isolationist metal world. Alas, it's not going to be possible for me to find enough time all at once, and so the protagonists who take the time to contemplate my questioning will be showcased one at a time.
First to step forward is Spinoza Ray Prozak; his name may not sound familiar to all, but I came across this strangely-pseudonymed individual several years ago when I stumbled across a page of his extremely detailed reviews contemplating metal releases and metal history in terms of social significance, underlying meanings and possible socio-political causes which have affected the branches of metal music over time. The internet was a different place back then, of course, but much of that information, together with probably the most exhaustive and highbrow metal FAQ ever compiled, can now be found at \www.evilmusic.com. Be warned, Spinoza Ray Prozak does not fear the use of technical verbage - you may need your dictionary handy to understand some of his more complex ideas.
Spinoza Ray Prozak's interests in metal began around 1986 or 1987, and he began writing about it online as early as 1988, in the days of bulletin boards and other now-archaic dial-up systems, circulating reviews and newsletters. I'll let Mr Prozak pick up the story in his own words.
"I quickly learned to assimilate what existed of 'metal journalism' into my previous knowledge of and work in journalism, and from there began in serious to write about the art of metal. In 1991, I encountered an opportunity which appealed to me: radio. I was the second host of a show which initially was 'heavy metal' style music until the DJ, a good friend, told me that our audience liked the heavier music I was playing more, and bowed out gently. I thank him for that to this day, as it enabled me to really learn metal - with thousands of fan suggestions, band interactions, and work within the industry. Starting out, I didn't know much. Six and a half years later, I did."
I for one can vouch for the metal-journalism course of fast-track knowledge acquisition - of course, taking that route means all your mistakes are made in public. Trust me, I've made some real clangers, and upset a few people in ways I never intended to. You've probably noticed. Prozak describes his assimilation onto the web:
"The websites date back to 1993, when I first put web content online from a dormitory room in California," he continues, suggesting that the gestation of evilmusic.com was probably very similar to Esoterica's. "Before that, I had been serving a literary magazine and metal reviews from FTP space on a local mainframe. In 1995, I was able to set up hosting via paranoia.com [one of the original websites dealing with counterculture, but defunct as of a couple of years ago - H] and run the site that way until a little less than a year later, when I put anus.com online [careful! It's an acronym for the American Nihilist Underground Society - H] and began the process of building up quite a few reviews." Prozak's recent web-projects include kcuf.org, a non-profit pro-metal radio station, now sadly no more due to spiralling maintenance costs, and the aforementioned evilmusic.com, a metal distro which puts food in the man's stomach.
Which brings us squarely to the present day. As if it wasn't enough that evilmusic.com features detailed reviews of many metal albums, as well as actually being a place to obtain some reasonably obscure or hard-to-find titles, recently a webzine has been added in the form of Heidenlärm, which may not be the most frequently updated webzine (nothing's been added since July 2000), but at least is a place to find some thoughtfulness on the internet.
"As a group of free-minded individuals, our goal is to feature bands that are creating new information structures, and by nature of explicating their epiphenomenal features and dynamic shift of meaning by complex relative hierarchy in juxtaposition against its own changes, advancing the state of metal and our learning," Prozak explains, regarding Heidenlärm. "Art explodes from the creative inspiration of the artist, which in the case of metal is dark and powerful; the storm of genesis in metal music is by definition morbid, but from there infinite directions of expansion unfold. Metal is something sacred to all of our staff, as is all art of great perception and truth in logical heuristic - that which is beautiful, we glorify, and that which is not is for someone else to mention," he elucidates, his philosophy pleasingly mirroring my own. "Beautiful encompasses a range of things, from the epic symphonies of Beethoven to the acerbic architectures of At The Gates to the insanity of Gorguts or Demilich, varied with the intensity and structure of Morbid Angel or Burzum, to the intense bursts of ambient information stream that are Ildjarn and Darkthrone. It can go anywhere, if we are willing to follow inspiration.
"Our adherence to meritocracy must be absolute if we want a future in metal, as metal fans and metal journalists. Heidenlärm is dedicated to the raw and free heathen noise that is the most intelligently abstracted delivery of complex creative output, the unleashed power of unmoral metal. I hail to this genre, for where it is great, it hails the mastery of antiquity in classical culture including Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Haydn, Mozart, Schumann, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer and Heidegger. Metal is the continuation of the culture that forged its way through the woods of Europe and built one of the world's strongest civilisations, with great intellectual and cultural achievements, with one ghastly detour of which we now are part. Judeo-Christianity and its sub-components, capitalism and democracy, have reduced us to a land of button-pushing dorks who make lowest-common-denominator decisions." We'll be seeing a copious amount of snarlingly scornful references to Judeo-Christianity over the course of this conversation. "Metal is one force against this, that says, 'be yourself, and dare to be elite by doing powerful and brilliant things! Hail to the intellect and the will!'
"Heidenlärm once started to be a commercial project, but it has evolved to a need to scream out many more things. Our environment is poisoned, we are raised in suburbs of empty, sterile, useless family lives, we work in tedious jobs and pay exorbitant sums for basic services while violence and hatred rock our cities. Heidenlärm is about separatist culture, and being proud to be of the continuation of UR while raising the horns of eternal war! Let the mainstreamers and other cultures do as they wish, but for hessians, to be free is to be able to live and die in our ancestral ways in a technological continuation of ancient times!"
Two-bit references to the declaration of some definition-defying phantasmal 'war' on unspecified enemies made by thousands of metal bands seem in the light of these comments even more lame than before. Much of Prozak's life seems to be conducted in rage at the conditions around him which he finds stifling.
A Lexicon of Hate
By now Prozak's writing style and large vocabulary may have begun to make something of an impact. I remember reading an interview with Alex Kurtagic (of Supernal Music infamy) in the excellent, but now sadly discontinued, British metal zine The Dead Sea, in which the editor, Nick Moberly, pressed him on his sesquipedalian tendencies. Kurtagic, owner of a much larger dictionary than I, quite correctly replied that to dumb down his prose by assuming the reader would not know certain words would be patronising, and, inevitably, floccinaucinihilipilificating. There are others who insist that the purpose of language is to communicate, however, not obfuscate. Prozak's opinions on the matter are a natural consequence of his general worldview.
"It is humanistic to dumb down your prose. If my prose can teach anyone a word, hail them for learning! Those who will to be strong will get stronger, and others will fall by the wayside with easy conveniences like (non-hallucinogenic) drugs, masturbation, video, toys, porn, alcohol and Judeo-Christianity. Christianity has led us to a state where we do not reach for a greater goal, but congratulate ourselves on not hurting anyone! We are sheep - we must reach for bigger goals. I personally do not desire to harm any, but that is my life alone - there are disputes everywhere which must be settled for us to go on.
"Whether it is articulated in the words, colour of language or even general approach that our sites use or not, it is brave and powerful to reach ahead with new ideas and to build complexity instead of destroying it with conformity. Conformity is the stench of Judeo-Christianity, in which people suffer. They are dying inside, and while it is not my job to save the Christians and Jews and Muslims of the world, I 'feel for' their souls - they have given away life and will suffer from knowing that in pessimism at the 'meaninglessness' of existence, they made their lives meaningless! They suffer, but why? We have become so democratic we only care about ideas so simple that most of the people will clap after hearing a thirty-second biased summary." With the UK gripped in one of the most depressingly vacuous pre-election periods in its history at the time of my writing up this interview, and with the US having recently elected a rednecked hick with such risibly myopic policies as putting the march of capitalism before the preservation of the planet Earth, those words ring truer than ever. "Our will, both left and right, is to stagnation and suffering! I talk to the average Black Panther or average Nazi, or the average crusty vegan leftwinger, or Jew, or Muslim separatist, or born-again, or even Laveyan Satanist, and I hear the same thing: baaaaaaa-aaaa-aaaa! They are caught in the cycle of their own egos, like the trained television-watchers (media sheep) they are.
"We must develop a stronger group of people who can assess the ideas of the past and find a future in non-humanism, where we always have greater goals and the strong are lauded while the weak are given food, shelter and medical care so that they may learn and become enlightened! Our antihumanism shall prevail as people learn that in the technological age, the ancient arts of wisdom are once again the strength of free willed beings. To such people, words are the implements of an alchemy of knowledge more valuable in itself than the comprehension of most people. They are the beginnings of the überhessian, as Nietzsche suggested. An überhessian does not balk at new words, but views them as an opportunity for learning, whether that word is a base Anglo-Saxon obscenity or a sixteen-syllable Latinate abstract technical reference."
Birth - Metal - Death
Amusing vocabulary-related diversions aside, the purpose of this interview was, of course, to discuss the state of the metal world, so we return to more familiar territories with Prozak's opinions on the current state of play. In an e-mail to me, he opined that we were "at the end of the cycle" as far as metal was concerned, so it seemed natural to wonder exactly how the cycle progressed, and by extension if there was any hope for this cycle to begin again."An article on anus.com in 1996 asked 'Is Death Metal dead?' - the answer was, then as now, 'just about but not at all'. Currently death metal is rising and black metal is in gross decay, but the virtual underground of mostly not-interconnected artists and thinkers that is the continuing growth of the existential statement of underground metal, independently as always, grows stronger. The death metal we barely hear sometimes is growing stronger, and new forms are being developed. Metal has always had its blasphemers, and heretics, and those who create the avenues for new growth are the mighty innovators". At the risk of sounding increasingly self-congratulatory, that sounds somewhat familiar to my ears. "We're at the end of the cycle for our most recent growth spurt, but it is natural we have confusion. In our media-fabricated society, nothing has a life span - it is eternal, always there, always on. Television shows us families who change just barely, in this abstract space where life is eternal because nothing is real. This tickles our muscle for abstract thinking and it feels good, but we're not thinking on our own. Life is controlling us and it's easy, so we accept it, like drug addiction. It takes a long time to perceive how things actually work, one part of which being that each object as known has a life span - and perhaps properties as well. Nothing, including existence itself, is necessarily infinite, although all indicators exist that it is so, so the growth patterns of metal follow this general rubric for development, and such we see: death metal (1983-1993; 1998-2001) black metal (1984-1987; 1991-1996) and the presence of already developed and spent genres slowly mutating through their own possibilities in more detail, like grindcore or hardcore or rock. Entropy eventually claims us all, I suppose," he muses.
"Now that the first thrust of black metal has been dead for five years, the wanking has grown extreme. There are talented bands out there which must have space to rise, but our system needs a buying public and a public that does not buy consistently is bad for business. Most people are conditioned to buy the same old material and so will not try new bands or styles. This conflict defines metal now, at the end of the cycle. Our bands are finishing up their summary of different styles; for black metal it began with The Abyss's The Other Side, and for death metal it was Deicide's Legion. Albums that define sound through both aesthetic and content in an epic matter often conclude the first phase of a genre by giving a clear template for what it is. Once you have the basic patterns of one of these releases, and a basic feel for how metal works, you can use heuristics and limitation to track causal patterns, and from that build a lexicon of your own riffing. Bands like Luciferion, Divine Eve or Xibalba continue an ideal in presence and adjustment of interpretation of worldview to present an updated flavour. These styles are known, and creation continues, just like Disfear is a Discharge ripoff, Bill Clinton was an FDR ripoff, and Urgehal listen to Darkthrone's Total Death too much. Our frustration with the development of metal being mostly limited to such things is rising."
Prozak is unwilling to allow the general climate to dull his listening, however, simply digging deeper into the underground to feed his habit whilst the more commercially successful end of the spectrum is content to wallow in artistic stagnation. "There are great bands! Averse Sefira, Antaeus, Krieg, Vilkates, Avenger, Mortem, Belphegor, Demoncy, Axis of Advance, Misanthropy, Black Goat, Acerbus, Ceremonium, Urgrund, Absurd, Nargaroth, Nile, Abyssic Hate, Lord Wind, Gotmoor, Sarcophagus, Night Conquers Day, Weltmacht, Winter Funeral, Havohej, Gorguts, Esoteric, Summoning and Pandemia are all current and amazing. There are more, but that is a good sampling, I hope.
"Now, of course... all of these bands are somewhere on a scale between anti-Christianity and fascism as far as their beliefs regarding Judeo-Christianity. This is a metallic trait; we despise Christianity and its origins in middle eastern religion. Not all bands are inclined toward violence against those in the dread grip of sickening, self-paranoiac and emotionally indulgent religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but some are. No one here likes Christianity, and not everyone in metal believes that all races should be integrated into a 'global culture' to replace our ethnic and cultural history with commerce, but not all are violent, or negatively racist. None, however, would fit in with a humanistic, democratic, capitalist society except as alienated predators."
The Maiden, the Mother and the Crone
While we're on the subject of -isms, over years spent in and around metal, it's difficult not to notice a disturbing degree of sexism, paradoxically prevalent amongst people who generally are markedly anti-racist and usually at least egalitarian with regard to most other social divisions. Since Prozak's stint in metal circles goes back further than my own, he seemed a good person to ask whether he thought this was some intrinsic property of the metal community, and why it's so often assumed than women have little place in metal other than behind a keyboard or naked and bloodied on a Necropolis album cover."Pantera," he replies immediately. "Well, seriously - that mentality and the bands that cater to it, while making big money, is a foolish and destructive thing and encourages the baser interpretations of philosophies like sexism, racism, elitism, meritocracy, nihilism and other edge ideas. Only those who are studied in thought and have contemplated these ideas should attempt them. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, for example, praised women highly but notoriously also criticised them and specified in very clear terms for what they were and for what they were not suited. At the opposite end, the unstructured mind turns a complex assessment such as Nietzsche's into a linear dogma. A drunken rant about being hurt by a woman (for example, that of Phil Anselmo) plays into self-pity and resentful anger just as a merciful song about wanting to commit suicide does, or a song identifying either Nazis or Negroes as the cause of destruction in our society. These 'angers' are comforting and simple versions of complex truths, and should have no place in metal.
"Women have an important place in society and metal, and I do not mean 'childrearing'. That is a sacred function special to women only, as well as the powers of encouraging genesis and growth through their personalities and intellects. I value their viewpoints in many areas. In some they are often out of their league, as are all men in many areas. Nothing is equal - nature hates equality because it reduces the transfer of information that represents change - but women are valuable equals in the sense that men of honour recognise he rights of woman, and never violate them. Rapists, pornographers, advertisers who exploit the image of women, feminists who do not consider the rarity and purity of the home, and rohypnol assassins have no quarter from me. Women are sacred, beautiful, profane, of earth.
"Basically, it comes down to this - women in metal become 'symbols' like they become symbols of sexual success, and thus success of a certain product over others, in our culture. We associate commercial success and symbolic success with beautiful symbols and so are conditioned to expect women to be the same thing, when they are in fact sweating, flatulating, defecating beasts like the rest of us, with similar varied capacity for truth and inspiration. If we want to respect our women, we must de-symbolize them without removing from them the inspired role of mother, in which they are the conduit to the production of new headbangers, and must allow them to be simply musicians in these bands so that there are no further barriers to their entry in metal."
Conduits to the production of new headbangers? An interesting point of view.
"There will always be fewer women in metal than men," Prozak continues, "because the distribution of desire to accomplish ideals in a projective sense favous male intelligence, but those who do make it to metal will contribute greatly and on tape maintain their female traits within the aggression of metal. I'm thinking of the chick singing for Acrostichon, the people in Mythic, and classic metal bassists in Bolt Thrower and Raven Mad." 'Chick'? It seems contradictory to use such a casually trivialising term of a group of people for whom one has clearly a great deal of respect. Just another example of Prozak's eccentricity, I guess. "When women use their bodies to sell sappy, regurgitated gothic/doom metal, for example, they are reaffirming Judeo-Christian and capitalist social stereotypes and have no one else to blame but themselves for not being taken seriously. Unfortunately, as with any group, 'you are known by the company you keep', and so their behaviour reflects poorly on women as a whole when many women do not feel or act that way at all.
"Metal has impressed me as being beyond sexism in the modern, commercial, American sense. In death metal and black metal by respectable bands, you almost never see gender pronouns - all ideas follow the abstract mind and are expressed by a third-party observer. The music is about the ideas and allows those minds that can accept and understand those ideas to appreciate it, while others would be baffled. When I was doing radio in Southern California, I used to talk about this and people wrote me off until Cannibal Corpse came out with Tomb of the Mutilated. I refused to play it because of its idiotic, anti-woman lyrics. We all have had hideous wenches of girlfriends who emotionally raped us because they were insane, but to group all women according to the behavior of the lowest is insane. Most poor female behavior is an artefact of the matricidal and humanistic attitudes that glorify the ego while ignoring the things that complete an individual in an existential sense. Our society is whoredom - expect whores!"
Reaffirmation there that those who seriously appreciate death metal hold Cannibal Corpse's adolescent worldview and mostly tedious music in low regard. The same applies to any band who think it 'shocking' or 'funny' to bleat misogynistic pseudo-philosophies - if they don't have the mental faculties to realise how ridiculous they look to anyone with half a mind, the chances are they don't have the cerebral wattage to produce anything the self-respecting metal fan would consider worth investing time in. Call me a humourless fuddy-duddy if you will, but there's a bigger picture to be observed here.
We, the People
When I interviewed Kelly Shaefer last July, he shared with me his conviction that, in general, European bands are "much fucking smarter" than American bands, and that American fans are much "trendier" than their European counterparts. Since Prozak is of the American persuasion, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to obtain Prozak's thoughts on this subject."I have travelled, and for the most part, Americans reflect the imprint of a Judeo-Christian capitalist democracy. They value novelty, and like to be able to engage in a subconscious aggression against their stars whom the fans urge on to oblivion and madness. The expectation of greatness in bands, and the media image built around bands in the USA, is very strong and corrupts the ability to respect an artist and what he or she is producing. As a result, American fans are very materialistic and will buy more of something if you do three things:
1) make it simpler
"Many fans admit they buy albums for the production online. Very few manage to get into the underground because our parents are all insane from working corporate jobs and dealing with an inane society and so baby-sat us with television when we were young. So we're numb and have no new thoughts or desire for the same - these remind us of variation, chance, and through that mortality and death. I think America is doomed by her own greed, and perhaps it is well. There is no country with worse sins than America. Not Stalin, not Hitler, not Mussolini, not Napoleon, not Genghis Khan, not the guy in Myanmmar. We have polluted this earth by building industry out of it, and in a desire for 'progress' so that we might have a history to remember our names within, so now what is left for our children and grandchildren's generation is to suffer through a wasteland.
"In denial, we embrace trendiness and novelty, because to believe that experience varies between instances (or between bands) is to admit value to experience we are missing in our nullified lifestyle, and when that occurs, the moaning in our breasts becomes louder and our existential fear looms over us. We see a shadow into which we must inevitably fall - what Nietzsche characterised as 'the abyss' - the awareness of death, and nothingness, and unimportance based on our practical sense and common knowledge. There is no God. There is no Heaven. In America, instead we have television, drugs, porn, alcohol, religion, and above it all, INDUSTRY and TECHNOLOGY in the form of PRODUCTS. We are smacked out to the horizon on our own technology dream, as what took billions of years is destroyed around us. How do you replace an extinct species? A forest where one square foot has 500,000 or more separate species to maintain its ecosystem?
"America is insane because we are in denial of death with the help of religion and commerce; religion helps us think about a perfect world that isn't really here and commerce translates our perceptive faculties into the pursuit of increasing numbers of symbols. In our subconscious mind we translate this as success, and success needs an object, so we invent a 'parent' - god or money, take your pick - to which we become successful and presumably plead for immortality. America is the nation most in denial of human existential being of all the nations in the world, and consequently she could do the gross misdeeds which made her a superpower - child labour, pollution, slavery in black and white, clear-cutting forests, strip mining, clearing land for malls and fast food and boulevards with recombinant names. So American fans are more vapid, and therefore much trendier and less likely to appreciate the music. In some countries, people listen to live bands, but here it's backdrop. You can't ever grant that the music being played before you is anything but entertainment. I prefer the environment of classical concerts, where you stand and listen and perceive with your entire consciousness. If I leave my ancestral home to journey into a city of peons, I will do so only for a worthy event, and at such an event I want to hear, feel, experience the entirety of what the scenario has to offer. But not so with most. Varg Vikernes states that it is worthless to play live in front of people, and from the perspective of a metal artist or group thereof at this time, this statement makes perfect sense. Albums and merchandise sell, but live concerts bring in little money, are demeaning, and break down bands over time. Would Metallica suck if they weren't bitter from touring so much?
"Kelly Shaefer is a smart man who fronted one of metal's best, and now is having great luck with his Gunz and Rosez style band Neurotica. I hope he gets what he wants - he deserves it! Same to all the heroes of metal now pursuing different goals, including Max Cavalera, Patrick Mameli and the guy from Mutilation."
And with that, it remains only to remind Mr Prozak that he wanted to leave a parting comment involving sheep.
"FIST SHEEP FOR THE DARK LORD BELOW
Many thanks to Spinoza Ray Prozak for giving my questions such consideration and detailed responses. If you're interested in more thoughts of this nature, cast your eyes over anus.com for a page of links to Prozak-related projects. It's only fair to warn you that the page contains images some may find unsettling. The 'Meeting of Minds' series will continue soon, so keep your eyes peeled.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Spinoza Ray Prozak