I’ve heard some amazing music this year, from Across Tundras dusty and wistful Electric Relics to the mystical, fuckin’ sexy Purson psych rock album The Circle And The Blue Door, but only a few great new Black Metal records (Horns high to you, Watain). When it comes to BM, I nowadays prefer the weirdo American psychedelic Nachtmystium strand to some of the more strictly Euro flavors (except maybe the Bathory worship of the awesome Ereb Altor). I’d heard Nachtmystium founder Blake Judd was recording new shit at Belle City Sound in Wisconsin and was fuck all tired of waiting to find out more.
So…I’d interviewed Blake Judd for this site once before for Addicts and brazenly got the idea to personally write him and ask if he’d like to give us at Metal Riot an in studio report on what Nachtmystium are up to. Not only does the Nacht-meister agree but he fucking does the coolest thing ever and lets me hear incomplete tracks for the record! It was a board mix with flat EQ from the first of two sessions until the band returns from recess and track more guitars, vocals and synths, but it is already better than many of the finished records I’ve heard this year.
Dissonance fills the material but the songs are really charged and powerful, ranging from second wave nodding BM fury to eccentric side steps into hell. Even with a shit board reference mix the distorted bass already rumbles like pounding hooves shaking the earth and the drums snap with life and pocket, loose and human in feel yet tightly executed. Where did Blake find these dudes?! As for Judd, his relentless guitar riffs are morose yet darkly comforting (in an unsettling way, haha), delivered with the attack that makes Nachtmystium so much more memorable than many “peers”.
“Considering that I wrote this entire record myself with only a little input from the other two members on this record, I had a lot of pressure on me to create a lot of music in a short period of time,” says Judd. “It actually worked out to be a very good thing as this type of pressure really helps me perform and write at the best level of my abilities.”
If you’ve been listening to recent rumors…no, Nachtmystium are obviously not over. Blake has been writing amazing new shit and has a freshly overhauled line-up of the band ready to go. After a year off from gigging, Nachtmystium are going to return in force very soon. I can’t wait to hear this album when it is all finished and catch the new version live.
Un-holy shit! Click HERE to read the full interview.
What gave you the idea for the new direction of this record? It seems like you are going at it really guerilla style and just going for it spontaneously rather than hyper planning.
Blake Judd: This record is really not too much different than any Nachtmystium record in the past in terms of preparations. I generally write a bit of material before I decide when to book our studio time and dates. I generally enter the studio with only a few songs fully written, a handful of other parts and / or ideas, and then let the rest of the record come together and get built. Nachtmystium is very much a ‘studio band’ in that regard. I love writing when I’m under pressure and know that I have a deadline coming. I don’t find myself as productive or creative when I’m just working on things at a casual do-it-when-you-want-to-do-it kind of pace. So, this is the way I think I generate my best results.
Each of your albums sounds like Nachtmystium but has its’ own “life”. Anytime I have wanted a new album to sound like an old one I later changed my mind and love each one for what it is. Currently Silencing Machine is still non stop on my playlist. What energy were you drawing from for the new one?
I think you’ve worded this description of our records very accurately, almost exactly as I would’ve described it myself if someone were to ask me about how each record compares to the previous ones. For this record, as I mentioned in the previous questions answer, I wrote literally 95% of the album completely on my own in terms of the actual riffs and parts (Sam Shroyer, our drummer, and John Porada, our bass player, absolutely contributed very much so on the songs arrangements). So, to say I did everything totally by myself would be untrue, but I did write 95% of the riffs and most of the songs entirely on my own, which was not the case on Silencing Machine or Addicts. Those two records (out of our entire discography) had the most input / songwriting from other members that were also performing on those albums.
So, I had to dig deep down within my own mind to write the songs on this record and really challenge myself in a lot of ways. It was really important to me that I didn’t just rehash old ideas into new things as a means to create a full-lengths worth of material. An album, per our contract with Century Media, must be no less than 10 individual tracks and can be no shorter than forty-five minutes. That is a lot of material for one person to write. I refuse to produce something that I feel gets boring or repetitious, so there was the challenge of having to make each song feel / sound fresh to my ears, which are the most critical ears involved in making this record. I feel that I managed to do that, however. The thing that made this easiest for me I feel is the fact that John, Sam and myself (along with our excellent studio manager / engineer, Chris Wisco at Belle City Sound in Racine, Wisconsin, where this entire album was created and tracked and shortly will be mixed there as well) all got along extremely well and worked together very easily. Everyone was very open minded to the other guys’ ideas, we tried everything that was suggested by one of us to the others, and just naturally got along really, really well.
This was both Sam and John’s first experience (in any band) recording in a professional studio and definitely the first time either of them had this much time to work on writing and recording a record with any band they’d been in previously. So, they were both really excited about what they were taking part in here. This was also the first writing / recording experience either of them had had as being full-time members of Nachtmystium. As a result, everyone was just really stoked on the whole process. As things came together and we all started hearing things back after we got a few tracks in the can and were hearing them back for the first time, realizing that we were really onto something that we all felt was very good, it just made everyone (including me) more excited about what we were doing. As the album progressed, the songs got better and better I feel and everyone got more and more pumped about what was coming together. So, I’d say that what I’ve just described above here was the main ingredient in making this record start to come together up to this point (where we have the entire “skeleton” of the album tracked…meaning the drums, bass and all rhythm guitars are all tracked and laid down in their completed state, so we really know what this album sounds like beginning to end at it’s core at this point.)
We’re now in ‘recess’ for eight days, which I will be spending all of at home pretty much locked in my apartment to write all the guitar leads / overdubs, work on the electronics / synth aspect with my room mate, Dustin Drenk, who will be performing all of the synth stuff along with me on this record, and also I will be writing all the lyrics and coming up with the albums title during this period before we return for another eleven days beginning on August 5th and ending on August 16th.
How do you stay focused in so many side projects and keep each one a seperate entity?
Easily, this is what I love to do and is what I must do in order to maintain sanity and a sense of purpose in this world. I don’t work a normal job (never really have) and currently I don’t have a girlfriend (I was married for a little over a year between 2011 and mid/late 2012 and went through a nasty divorce, so since then I’ve decided to take at least a year or so to myself and be a single man for the first time since I was a teenager pretty much and live life by myself without having someone right there up in my business on a daily basis). So, without the distractions of things like a job or a full-time girlfriend / wife, I have nothing but music to focus on. That’s how I like it too. Since April of 2012, I have recorded two Nachtmystium records (including this one, which will be 100% finished in just over two and a half weeks from now, and then obviously last years’ Silencing Machine), the Hate Meditation debut LP, Scars (which was released on Norwegian metal label Indie Recordings back in May, 2013), and Twilight’s 3rd full-length (and Century Media debut) Beneath The Tridents Tomb LP.
I decided after the last run of Nachtmystium shows in November, 2012 that I was taking a year off from touring, and as a result I’ve just found myself making a shit load of records instead during this ‘down time’. The idea was to take a break from music for a little bit and focus on some things in my personal life, but that doesn’t seem to happen no matter how hard I try, haha. I’m ok with that though. Just reconfirms to me just how important music is in my life and also proves to me that I start going crazy if I’m not busy with it (music) in one way or another, be it in the studio or on the stage. I start getting busy playing live again the second this record is done begin recorded, mixed and mastered. As of August 1st, Nachtmystium will have a rehearsal room here in Chicago again (which we haven’t had in the last eight months or so because we haven’t needed one) This room will also serve as Hate Meditation’s practice spot now that Sam Shroyer is playing drums for both bands.
As soon as the Nachtmystium LP recording / mixing / mastering process is wrapped up, Hate Meditation starts getting together to prepare for our first three live shows AND writing another full-length album, which will be recorded immediately after returning home from our three-date mini tour in October. We’re playing our first live show ever in Chicago on October 18th, 2013 at Cobra Lounge (a venue that I’m very close to the people who book it / manage it. I also have worked there part time in the past as a bar back and had a weekly DJ night there for a year and a half between 2010-2011), then we play a black metal festival down in Louisville, KY on October 19th, and finally play a show on our way back to Chicago in Indianapolis, IN on October 20th with our good friends The Gates of Slumber and some other killer local bands from Indy. As soon as we get home on the 21st, we start rehearsing the new material between then and October 30th, and on October 31st (just a coincidence that it happens to be Halloween) we begin a nine day session recording the new Hate Meditation LP for Indie Recordings. After that is done, Nachtmystium will begin rehearsals immediately in preparations for our first Chicago show in almost a year-to-the-day (we played Chicago last the day before Thanksgiving in 2012) on November 29th at the legendary Chicago rock theater known as Metro, where we’ll be debuting our new live line up and performing a bulk of the material from the new album along with some old fan favorites spanning our catalog. That show will most likely be followed by a week or two worth of dates beginning here and going out to the east coast of the United States (and possibly some eastern Canadian shows in cities like Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec hopefully, as I personally love those cities and we do very well up there draw-wise and always have a blast).
That should lead us right up to the holidays. Once the holidays have come and gone, we will be preparing to head west and do a two week run on the west coast. Considering our drummer, Sam Shroyer, is in college here in Chicago, we have to work around his school schedule. He has his winter / holiday break from December 8th up through almost the tail end of January, so we will be playing pretty much constantly during that time. Then we’ll be back on the road in support of this new album (which I’m projecting will be released in March / April 2014) beginning in mid-to-late May and will run through the summer of 2014. So – as you can see, there is a lot of stuff on my plate with both of my live bands and I’m very much looking forward to all of it. It’s good to be getting real busy again. Keeps me out of trouble, keeps the bills paid and the fans / labels happy, all of which make me happy and fulfilled with my life. Going to keep on trucking along like this as far into the future as I can see as long as there are people out there who want the music and to see the band(s) live.
What does it feel like playing with the new guys involved? Who are they for people who don’t know their backgrounds? Can you describe the studio process?
It feels great. I have nothing bad to say about the previous line up (which was pretty much consistently the same people from January, 2010 up through November of 2012.) During that time, we played well over 300 shows, recorded two full-length albums, a split 7″ release (with Murmur), and a 7″ of our own (“As Made”, which was released just prior to Silencing Machine on Century Media worldwide in 2012). I love those guys from that line up as people, but after the run of dates we did in November of 2012, it was obvious to myself and the other guys that this line up had run it’s course and it was time for a change.
So, we went our separate ways, I regrouped with John Porada on bass and Sam Shroyer on drums and here we are. A little about those guys – John Porada is the front man / visionary of an excellent Chicago death metal band called Terminate. They’ve been around for about three years now, and I heard their name start popping up about two years ago and everything I heard was that they were fucking awesome. The first person to tell me about them was Steve Joh, who’s the VP and head of A&R at Century Media USA…so to hear a guy in that position at a label that big telling me there’s this new band in Chicago playing old school death metal in the vein of Autopsy, Master and Cianide and that they’re really fucking good at it certainly caught my attention immediately. Our old drummer, Charlie Fell, had met John at some point in 2012 and the two of them were hanging out pretty regularly. When it came time to do the Nachtmystium dates we did in November, 2012, we were in need of a bass player as Will Lindsay had officially left the band by that point. Charlie suggested John to me, and having been somewhat familiar with his band and watching some clips of him performing with Terminate on Youtube, I told Charlie that I thought the idea to invite him to join the band for those dates was a good one.
When I spoke to John on the phone for the first time about this, we decided that we’d have him come do these gigs with us, and if it went well and we all got along with him and if he liked up and enjoyed playing the material that we could discuss bringing him on as a full-time member after the mini tour was done. Everything went great (obviously) and he signed on after that trip to be a permanent member in the band. His presence in this band as of today is one that I wouldn’t trade in for anything in the world. He’s a great guy personally who I (and Sam) very much enjoy the company of on a social level, and he’s a fantastic bass player and guitarist. He’s super easy to work with, very laid back and level headed, no drama whatsoever, reliable and he has great ideas creatively. This final aspect I’ve mentioned in the previous sentence has a lot to do with what made this current recording session go as well as it did. He’s great all the way around in my opinion and I’m very interested in keeping him involved in Nachtmystium for as long as he’s interested in playing with the band.
Our new drummer, Sam Shroyer, is also a great score for this band. I met Sam in a local record store called Reckless Records back two summers ago. I was browsing the metal vinyl at Reckless’ Wicker Park neighborhood location one afternoon and I was approached by this 19 year old kid asking me “Are you Blake Judd from Nachtmystium?”, to which I obviously replied “Yes, I am…and you are?” We got to talking and I realized right away that this kid had his head on straight in terms of musical taste just based off of five minutes of talking to him about the records he and I both were carrying around as part of that days purchases for each of us. At some point, I believe I asked him if he played any instruments and he mentioned that he was a drummer while also mentioning that he had just moved to town a few months previously to begin school at the Columbia School of Arts here in Chicago. Immediately, a little bell went off in my head (any guy who plays guitar or bass in a metal band who’s reading this knows exactly what “bell” i’m talking about when you realize you’re talking to a metal drummer who just moved to town and doesn’t know anyone yet…its the second best thing like that to hear next to talking to an extremely attractive single woman who’s just moved to town and shares common interests with you, hahaha).
I prodded a little bit and asked him straight up “So, how good are you?” He snickered a little and said very modestly “I guess I’m alright”. I replied “You guess? That doesn’t sound very confident. C’mon kid, are you good or not? You know if you’re good.” And he said something like “I don’t know man, what do you mean how good am I? Be more specific.” So I said “Well, could you play my stuff? Think you could play drums for Nachtmystium?” And he said “Yeah, I think I could pull most of that stuff off”. So, once he said that, I said, “Ok, cool man – give me your number and I’ll give you mine….I might have some stuff down the line that I could use a good drummer for. I’ll give you a ring if and when that day comes, and when it does, you let me know if you’re interested in playing with me and we’ll take it from there.”
So, after that, about six months passed and I hadn’t seen or talked to him, and all of the sudden the Hate Meditation recording scenario came together kind of abruptly in October, 2012. I called Sam out of the blue one afternoon and said ,”Hey man, remember me? Well, my buddy Job Bos from Dark Fortress just flew in from Holland today. He’s here for two weeks and while he’s here, we’re going to record a full-length album for this side project, Hate Meditation. Something I’ve been kicking around a few songs for since I recorded a demo back in 2003 and never did anything since. Would you like to play drums on the album?”. He said “Sure, when would we start playing?” My reply was, “Be here at this address in an hour”. He was a little taken back, but said “Oh shit, ok” and the rest is history.
Again, same as John, personality-wise, he fits perfectly and has become one of my best friends since we’ve spent so much time together since October. I couldn’t be happier with these guys. We’ve also just hired a new live guitarist, this dude I’ve known for a while from Chicago who goes by the name “Scare Crow” (and he is a big scary looking mother fucker, so the name is appropriate) who has a band of his own called Never You See, who are quite good. Scare Crow will be playing a guest solo on one of the songs on this new record, and then after the album is completed and we (Nachtmystium) get into our new rehearsal room, he will start practicing with us right away and start learning the material for our live set we’ll be playing in November at the ‘come back’ show at Metro. SO – that’s the scoop on everything. With that being said, I’m now going to leave this computer and go meet up with Scare Crow at the bar for a couple beers and to discuss where things are going from here regarding Nachtmystium. Thanks for the interview and to anyone reading this who’s looking forward to the new record, I can personally say that I think this will be one of the best records we’ve released in years!
(UPDATE: The new 7th Nachtmystium album will be called The World We Left Behind.)