Q: Hello, how are things with you this fine day? Smooth sailing or stormy seas?
A: Hails! I am doing good, thank you for asking. I keep myself busy as usual, with a lot of things in the making day after day. The worst experience of being behind bars was the forced suspension of all activities, related to the band and label, but luckily that’s long gone and ever since I am back at leaving a mark on Black Metal and impacting the reality of this genre. Sometimes it’s going to be an uphill battle, but still, I believe in the triumph of the will!
Q: For old fans of the “early-to-mid” period ABSURD who don’t spend much time on internet forums, the current situation may be confusing. Could you, in a suitably compressed essay form, tell the pertinent chapters of the Tale of Two Absurds?
A: Well, there is no tale of two Absurds to tell, because there’s only one band as far as I am concerned. You surely know that I was a founding member of Absurd back in 1992, and that the only reason why I couldn’t continue with the band was that I left Germany and went into hiding in the USA, end of 1999. Two years later my brother Wolf came up with the idea of reforming Absurd with a completely new line-up, with him being the vocalist, and I have approved of this idea and gave it my blessing, so to speak. That’s how Absurd kept going, until 2012 when this line-up played their final concert and the band ceased to exist in all but name. In 2017, Wolf explained to Alexey of Militant Zone that he’s done with Absurd, and with doing any music in general. That’s when I decided to return to active duty in Absurd, by taking over vocals and adding new members to the line-up. We have played a few concerts, in Ukraine, Italy, Finland and France, and started working on new recordings subsequently. In 2022 we have released the sixth and new full-length album of Absurd, “Schwarze Bande”. In the meantime, Unhold and Gelal used a studio session for GBK in 2019 to record a few songs that were later released under Absurd as well, but that’s all there is to it. I couldn’t care less for anything the forum fairies say on the internet, but for Absurd there’s never been a Batushka-situation with two full-fledged bands recording albums and playing live under one and the same name. Hence there is only one Absurd, headed by the sole remaining founding member and that’s me myself.
Q: Schwarze Bande could be seen as the clearest “statement” of ABSURD in a long time. Tell us a little of the circumstances of its composition, recording and release.
A: When I resurrected Absurd from a years-long hiatus in 2017, it was already obvious to me that I not only want to play concerts but record and release new music, too. Me and the other band members started brainstorming ideas as early as 2018, but it took us a few years (due to the phony pandemic, for instance) until 2021 when the concept for “Schwarze Bande” was fully fleshed out and we started to write lyrics and music for this new album. We kept rehearsing the songs during 2021, and that’s when the artwork and layout of the album were already made and recorded everything in February 2022. Once mixed and mastered, the album went into pressing right away and thus everything was ready to go on May 8th . Unlike many other bands that communicate an upcoming album in advance, we have deliberately decided to keep quiet about this album until it was released for real. We wanted to catch the fans by surprise, who were waiting for this new album ever since the release of “Blutgericht” in 2005.
Q: What would you say are the fundamental ideas behind the album? Would you consider it highly personal, pregnant with sociopolitical meaning, or something else?
A: One of the core concepts behind “Schwarze Bande” is the idea of “heroic nihilism” by Werner Best. That’s the idea of an affirmative fight for a lost cause. Perhaps that’s borderline madness too, because it appears as if you’d be sacrificing your life in vain. However, there’s a virtue in the fight for fighting’s sake. Even if the enemy will eventually conquer you, he can never force you to surrender if you refuse. As Hemingway said, “man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed, but not defeated.” That is an important message, especially in our day and age. With everything rapidly going downhill, it’s up to us whether we want to leave this world with a bang or a whimper. Also, on our new album there’s the undercurrent of fanaticism turning into madness. The longer you face the storm of steel, the less of a human being you start to resemble. War is like a rite of passage, one that will burn away your own humanity until you become an enemy to all men. Nietzsche warned us of fighting with dragons and staring into the abyss! However, once you have crossed that threshold separating man from monster you are finally experiencing a freedom only known to the Gods. Only then you can do what needs to be done, no matter what, and even if it makes you lay waste the world in the end. Colonel Kurtz spoke about this in “Apocalypse Now”: “Horror has a face … and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” The bottom line of “Schwarze Bande” might be the acknowledgement that a hero can turn into a villain at once, because they both are nothing but the two sides of the same coin. Well, I wouldn’t deny that the lyrics on “Schwarze Bande” might have a personal note, but to be frank I don’t consider them to be sociopolitical at all. There’s a philosophy behind many of them, as I told you, but the lyrics can be interpreted in more than one way, and everyone is welcome to do so.
Q: “Welcome to the Anarchy” is a split with (the otherwise dissolved?) Australian legendary act ABYSSIC HATE, on which each band performs one cover. The choice of songs is, as far as black metal is concerned, very original. Describe the process leading up to this peculiar release.
A: Shane of Abyssic Hate is a good and long-time friend and supporter of Absurd, and we kept talking about the idea of a split-release for quite some time. Shane is a huge fan of Pink Floyd, hence he badly wanted to record a coversong of this band. Fitting to that, we have recorded a Sex Pistols-coversong. Pink Floyd and Sex Pistols are like antipodes of the British music scene of the 1970ies, yet there was kind of middle-ground between the two bands if you consider their lyrics and message. Considering this history, we made the Absurd / Abyssic Hate-Split happen. However, this EP is not representative for neither band. It was an opportunity for experimenting with sounds and visuals, and we might do something similar on upcoming split-releases with other bands. Absurd will remain true to itself on any album, though.
Q: More generally, what is the mode of writing and recording music and lyrics for ABSURD these days? The older we get, the more difficult things like rehearsals or even managing to live in the same city become, no?
A: You are quite right about that, but what helps in my opinion is to have routine that keeps you organized and focused. Usually, the main songwriter of Absurd comes up with ideas that he keeps rehearsing with the other members until there’s something they can share with me. Once we agree on using this song, I start writing the lyrics and tell the others what it’s going to be about. That feedback helps them to keep working on the music, and once I am done with the lyric, I am recording vocals at my home studio and send the draft back to the others. Step by step we keep fleshing out the song, until everyone is satisfied. Then everything is recorded for the studio, where it’s mixed and mastered for release. Right now, we have a lot more music than lyrics available, hence it’s always my fault if we don’t proceed any faster with recording and releasing new songs. However, the next big challenge for us will be the start of rehearsals for upcoming live concerts. Absurd were always more of a studio than a live band, but we are definitely looking forward to return to the stage in future!
Q: You run Darker Than Black and Black Metal Shop, in Germany of all places. From the amount of releases and the size of the distro it looks like things are going quite well, all things considered. What is the overall situation with the label right now?
A: Well, Darker Than Black Records might just be one of the few German Black Metal-labels still signing new bands and releasing new records after almost 30 years. Other labels, that are equally old, have ceased to be on the lookout for new bands and they just keep repressing their back catalogue. A lot has changed since the beginnings of D.T.B. Records, with the advent of internet and e-commerce most of all, but the basic modus operandi remains to be the same all along. I am monitoring the underground for new bands and projects that make perk up my ears, then I am getting in touch and offer a collaboration, and if we come to an agreement I am releasing, promoting, and distributing a record on behalf of them. Even though the Black Metal-scene has vastly expanded during the last decade or so, and it has become increasingly difficult to keep track of new bands and releases, I am still convinced that a record label ought to proactively seek out and approach new bands and to help them gaining a foothold in the genre and make themselves a name in the underground scene.
Q: You have a lot on your plate, to say the least. How does an average day look for you?
A: Label and mailorder are my fulltime job since my release from jail in 2007. What sounds like fun, because you could imagine I am listening to my preferred music all day long, is still a very tedious and time-consuming affair. Maintaining an online store, processing and shipping orders is taking up most time of my workday. I am fortunate to have my wife working alongside me, though. Hence, I have time left that I can dedicate to the label, or to Absurd, or anything else that requires my attention, feedback and input.
Q: If it were not for time constraints, have you ever considered, planned, or at least speculated about, doing music under some other name than ABSURD?
A: Every now and then in the last couple of years I was being asked the same question, but I just don’t see any compelling reason why I would do that and record / release music under any other name but Absurd. I am not a musician myself, hence I feel no urge to express any artistic creativity in manifold manifestations, and Absurd is more to me than just a band, it’s part of my life for better or worse. All I wish to accomplish by recording and releasing music I can perfectly do with Absurd, period.
Q: As I send this interview, the situation in Europe and the Western hemisphere more generally is, to say the least, problematic. The war in Ukraine, a looming energy crisis, massive inflation, and that’s without taking all the usual bullshit into consideration. What is your take on it all?
A: I am an ardent believer in the cyclic nature of history, in the rise and decline of nations, empires and civilizations. Hence, the current situation in the world, and in Europe in particular, comes as no surprise to me. Western civilization committed mass-suicide in 1945, after the last fratricidal war that proved to be the final nail in our coffin. Ever since, our world has been going downhill rapidly. During the Cold War, the process of decay was slowed down but with the phony “end of history” in 1990, the West falls apart at the seams and there is nothing to be done about it. Sure enough, we have our own opposition aplenty, and every now and then we can witness a pro-nationalist political party rising (close) to power in Europe, but the status quo never changes because what purpose serves the window dressing when the very foundations of the building has eroded so thoroughly? I have come to terms with the bleak prospect of being alone against all, alone in a hostile world. Never in my lifetime will I witness the New Dawn of a Golden Age, but still, it’s some solace that I might bear witness to a world in flames, a world that is the very antithesis of everything Western civilization ought to stand for.
Q: If we apply the most Mr. Stino, petite-bourgeois approach possible to this whole business: do you see any possible way back to something resembling normalcy (that is, the slower disaster unfolding every day, anyway)? Or do you think we and “our” civilization won’t be getting out of this without a severe nose burn?
A: Well, the shit keeps hitting the fan no matter what, because once the first domino falls the others follow suit in due time. We can see how so much around us keeps collapsing like a house of cards, and there is no end in sight. It wasn’t long ago when “preppers” were ridiculed and shunned for being “weirdos”, but right now they have become an avantgarde many feel envious of: Who wouldn’t mind having a bunker with diesel generator, weapons, stockpile of food today? A shelter where you can hide during blackout, where you can survive war and the breakdown of law and order? See how far we have come, that only now we begin to realize (much too late, though) that our Western way of life depends on critical infrastructure that could stop working any day for several reasons beyond our control? People take it for granted that they will always have electric power, fresh water, and a supply of food. None of that is for granted, though. I am sure that sooner or later we in the West will wake up to the unforgiving reality of a world that doesn’t excuse any weakness, and once our bubble of comforting illusions has burst there is no way back.
Q: What of the black metal scene in 2022? Some say it’s awful and untrue, but at least in my view it is also the case that age, experience and development have all contributed to making at least parts of the scene very strong. Your opinion?
A: The same was said about the Black Metal scene in 1992 too, haha. However, there is no doubt that Black Metal in 1992 was a whole lot different to what is Black Metal in 2022. First of all, it was a pen-and-paper scene, where people used to be into writing letters, do tape trading, and reading fanzines. There was no internet, and no social media to speak of. If you felt drawn to Black Metal, then it was a heartfelt urge born of sincere dedication. You wanted to believe, hence you listened to Black Metal. Nowadays, with internet turning so many into pathetic attention whores, Black Metal has become a place for people to show off their narcissism. Back in the days, it was substance over style but now it’s vice versa. However, I do agree with you that Black Metal is still not a lost cause (and even if it were, I guess I already made myself clear that I am a champion of lost causes…), because the underground is still thriving and casting forth bands and projects brimming with zeal and ardor. The torch lit in 1992 hasn’t diminished but was passed on to a new generation of artists and activists who know by heart that Black Metal is extreme music for extreme characters.
Q: How is the unfolding economic crisis affecting the underground in general, and/or DTB and you in particular?
A: Well, we have survived the economic crisis in 2008, the one in 2020 and I am certain we’ll not falter during the current crisis in 2022, either. We run an international mailorder with worldwide shipping, mind you. The whole world really must go belly up for us to close shop, I guess. For as long as there are at least 500 people across the world who want to buy a new record released by us, I am positive that we can cope with recession and inflation even though it can be tough, indeed. Perhaps there’s also a need for extreme art when people must face extreme conditions daily, who knows? I have always said that Black Metal is the perfect soundtrack to Ragnarök, now more so than ever!
Q: I seem to recall you have an issue with “scalpers” flogging DTB releases at inflated prices on e-bay and elsewhere, even going so far as banning them permanently from buying from you. Does this cost you money, or do you think the credibility and brand you build by policies like this compensates?
A: Yes of course, if we decide to permaban a regular customer who already spent thousands of Euro on our store, it means that we are losing money for real. However, to us it is more important that we honor the wishes of the artist who doesn’t wish his records to be sold at inflated prices on Ebay and elsewhere. Our strict policy on this matter has certainly helped to curb the excesses at the second hand market, but it was likewise important that we kept the sought after records in print and thus made them available, to those who missed them first time around, at a regular price. Scalpers try to exploit a demand that is not met by other means, because of a limited edition selling out instantly for instance, and that’s something that can be easily remedied by a record label. However, I also must accept the wish of any artist who says he wants no repress, even though I would certainly hope to change his mind if possible.
Q: Deciding print-runs and limitations has to be a chore for a BM label these days. I would guess you’re in trouble whether you print too much or too little. How do you navigate between either being accused of encouraging scalpers and price gouging on the one hand, and being left with a massive and expensive deadstock on the other?
A: That’s individual case decisions, obviously. As a rule of thumb, I’d rather start with a smaller quantity but also with the option of immediate repressing if there’s a demand for more copies. The worst-case scenario for any record label is to be sitting on dead stock. If a record hasn’t sold out within three months or half a year after the initial release, then in most cases it will never sell at all. There’s just nothing you can do with dead stock, other than giving it away for free (what we also keep doing every now and then, of course), and to the contrary it costs you a lot of money to keep dead stock in storage, because there it uses up space and if you move shop (like I did three times since 2007) you have to bring it all along even though you’d be better off to just dump it somewhere. For a band it can be tough if I tell them that I am sorry, but I haven’t sold more than a handful of their records, but that’s how it is and who knows, if the band keeps recording more music and receives more exposure in the scene there might come the day when their back catalogue too could suddenly start selling. That’s one of the reasons that compels me to keep records in stock even though I sell none of them.
Q: Barring nuclear holocaust or absolute economic collapse, what are your plans for the label in the coming year?
A: Well, right now I am busy with kickstarting my vinyl release schedule that was stalled during the phony pandemic and now there’s a considerable backlog of records still coming out. Once that’s done, I will browse my back catalogue for records that warrant a repress, and that’s surely going to take up much of my release schedule in 2023. Needless to say, there are new records of new bands too coming out. Hence, it’s going to be business as usual!