“I’ve spoken out on politics and social issues a long time. I felt in a sense that I was screaming about the second step. The first step is that in and of itself, we need to rebel against tangible authority figures rather than creating intangible authority figures. Revolutionary minded people who are at the same time praying and kneeling down to something they are creating in their own heads. What hope does that give us? I find it gives us very little hope in conquering authority figures. If it’s that ingrained to us to kneel to people that we would create a ruling class that doesn’t even exist. All the concepts from religion and made up deities that actually control aspects of our lives. Some very controlling factors in our society. Whether something is “good” or “evil”, when in reality much of what happens in our lives is just natural. I don’t mean that in a way to put the stamp of approval on anything, but it is what it is. Unless you can look at it in a more scientific way, looking at issues in society through a more critical and skeptical lens, then we are always going to be reaching out for someone to save us.” – Nathan Gray
Slightly past the middle mark of I Am Heresy’s new album Thy Will is a mellower song called “Alarm”. The track doesn’t have the spitfire blend of hardcore, emo and black metal that somehow works so well when channeled by the passionate musicians in this terrific and vital group. Still, “Alarm” really sums up the themes of Thy Will. Smug bastards want to take away rights, imposing religious order and a false sense that they’ve “won against nature, disorder and time”. I Am Heresy have made the most powerful heavy record I have heard yet in 2014, a socially relevant and musically alive testament to fighting the whitewashing of America. An end to GOP witch hunts of people who are different. Raging against the dying of the light.
“Emotional Cockroach” by Tad is thumping from my stereo in a grungy, wah wah haze of rage. As I am writing this the Anti-Gay Bill SB 1062 was vetoed by Arizona governor Jan Brewer. Ted Nugent is out there somewhere calling Obama a “subhuman mongrel”. I Am Heresy are the kind of band we need in times like these, when heresy is the new critical thinking. There are some good bands doing the anti-religious, rationalist thing (Withdrawal on A389 Records come to mind), but I Am Heresy sound the most inspired. Featuring Nathan Gray from Boysetsfire on vocals and his son Simon Gray on guitar, they have launched a very special lyric video for “Seven Wolves And The Daughters Of Apocalypse” and are on tour with melancholy punk heroes of the moment Off With Their Heads.
Don’t be ashamed to speak out if you know something is wrong. Don’t buy into religious persecution shot full of holes from the get go. Crank this record up loud and rise above. To read an interview with Nathan Gray about voting, “good” vs. “evil”, black metal snobs, church tax breaks, gay rights and much, much more…click HERE.
I was listening to your record and had just watched the Wikileaks documentary We Steal Secrets. I don’t know if you’ve seen it yet?
Nathan Gray: yeah.
There’s the part where they are talking about the Iraqi detainees being given to the Iraqi police by the U.S. under both Bush AND Obama despite us knowing they torture them, which violates the Geneva convention. Then I came across an online article about that museum that has dinosaurs next to Jesus trying to reconcile the gaping holes in the Bible about evolution. I was thinking about your band name. Heresy is rationalism!
Our show tonight in Kentucky is about thirty minutes away from that place, funny enough!
You guys gotta pose outside or ride on the velociraptor angels.
(laughing) Velociraptor Angels!
How does it feel to play states like that? Do you feel it is more important than playing progressive areas, in a way?
Yeah, actually. We have the ability to enlighten, entertain or really piss off. Or all three at the same time.
Some people are still unaware that religion is usually just social control.
That’s all it’s used for. Let’s be honest. People who have no power use it to gain power over their lives and then you have people who already have power that use it to keep their power over others. That’s really the only use for it. There’s really no other use for it whatsoever.
There’s a controversy surrounding outspoken bands as “crossing a line” somehow. I remember Boysetsfire were one of the few bands I felt spoke out after 9/11 and that to me is super patriotic of you.
Yeah. It got us almost in a lot of fucking fights. It’s one of those things. if you feel called to speak the truth you do it.
I hate the way progressives are depicted as “not the average” person. I liked how on your Facebook the other day you posted about Football and how the NFL will praise Michael Vick but are uncomfortable with the openly gay NFL player Michael Sam. You’re just a regular guy voicing opinions.
Absolutely. It is done to any kind of band who have anything to say. Whether it is a Christian band or a non-Christian. Any band with anything to say. You always have people who say you shouldn’t do that. If you don’t like it then you don’t have to listen or can start your own band. It gets really old when people get so bent about bands or actors speaking out on different topics. If they don’t agree they say that we shouldn’t have the right to do something. It’s ridiculous.
I always wondered, having seen you live over the years, how you manage to stay so focused in your stage “speeches” or banter in such a disruptive and unruly environment as a show.
Right. It takes a lot of focus and I guess passion for the point. If you don’t have that passion for what you are saying you’re gonna lose your train of thought real quick. As far as the lyrics and idea behind Thy Will, something I point out a lot in the album is confronting the simplicity of good and evil. How dangerous it is to label things as such. It’s such a simplistic thing to put on complex problems. We can say Pol Pot or Stalin is evil, but that ends the conversation. How do we get past things that are honestly part of human nature? And animal nature. Classism. Homophobia. Sexism. Those are complete animal desires. Whether it’s good for society is a different argument, but it’s not good or evil. From the devil or from God. It is what it is and if we choose simplistic labels for it, we’re never gonna come up with a solution. Society needs to evolve past certain behavior that hurts us.
To choose a more compassionate path?
Right… if we so choose to. I personally think we should live in a way where we can live out our desires and needs in a way in which we aren’t hurting others. If as a society we agree then why wouldn’t we try and evolve towards that?
It makes me think of how a lot of black metal bands are Satanists in a literal sense but there are mostly bands who are about self-empowerment and are more about shock value as a fuck you.
It’s more of a Laveyan approach to Satanism. Empowerment as creed, I guess. Using certain symbols and archetypes to, well, scare people but also sort of enlighten them to things through that ritual that we as humans crave.I think that certain religious needs aren’t bad as long as you are using itto empower yourself and not some made up diety.
It’s kind of like hardcore.
It is great you still have the drive for music that’s both emotional and political. I hate thinking the scene just sucks now or bitching about what bands I dislike are doing, but do you find still a lot of new younger acts who seem to do things for “the right reasons”.
Um, I don’t care. (laughing) I should probably explain that so I don’t come off like a dick. We can always sit around and complain about other bands and what they are doing, but if I have that much time to do that then I am not focusing enough on what my own band should be doing. I try not to get into that. It’s natural but I try to catch myself when I can. I might not approve of much of the Christian Hardcore or Metal bands preaching about Jesus. I don’t care for that. I think it’s ridiculous. But if I sit around bitching about it all the time I’m sort of wasting my time and looking like a moron. I should get with my band and say what I think the truth is. That doesn’t entail…of course, if we’re on the van hanging out we might be like,”Oh, look at this fuckin’ band! Oh my God! They’re having a fuckin’ prayer circle. God!” Between friends joking about that shit, sure. But publicly making statements about bands is a waste of time. It’s just stupid. It keeps one from doing what they feel is positive and correct, but also you looklike a fuckin’ asshole. Shut up and do something.
Some of those Christian bands are trying to create a sense of community, but I hear what you’re saying.
If I need to, I will battle it every step of the way. But you need to choose your battles. I would certainly jump into the battle to debate things with people who I feel are being misleading. There’s a lot of young kids in the scene and whatever. A lot of these bands do a disservice by preaching this nonsense but what am I gonna do? If I can cause a discussion than sure, I’m there for it. But I don’t need to.
Also, some bands are just out for the money.
Go get your money, dog.
Sucker born every minute.(laughing)
Right. If you can get it, get it. That’s why I don’t hate on Kanye West.
I like how he started out with ‘Jesus Walks’ and the new album he called himself ‘Yeezus’. So much for humility!
Hey, if you can get it than you go for it.
Sorry Kanye if you’re reading this.
I love you, man. Keep doing your thing.
Back to Thy Will. There are always snobby genre purists. You’ve mixed black metal, post-hardcore, emo. I heard “March of Black Earth” and it had this moving intro. It comes in huge and blew me away. It was more moving than hearing the same old record.
Sure. We tried our hardest. We’re just playing music. At times it will be melodic. At times chaotic and at times even focused. But it’s always going to be something passionate and that we feel very sincere about. As for those purists, let’s be honest…there’s about a hundred of them out there. That is a big thing now. Some of our parts have a very distinctive black metal feel. You get those purists you say “Well, this isn’t black metal.” Well, fuck you. There’s like a hundred of you. Oh no, I’m sorry. All ten of you aren’t gonna buy the album now? Go paint your face. I don’t care.
Did you ever see the Metalacolypse where they parody going to the Helvete shop? It was hysterical.
Oh yeah, yeah. I love that show. Fuckin’ awesome. When you deal with the black metal scene you fall on some sketchy ground sometimes. “Oh this band is cool. Is that a swastika? God dammit!” (laughing) Or you read an interview after you really like a band and they say “It’s the Jews!!!” and you’re like ‘Aww, God Dammit!” You find out you are listening to a Skrewdriver album, basically. Or we’ve run into this where there are certain albums that have definitely inspired us musically and you almost don’t want to tell people. some Burzum album that definietly stuck with you musically, but NOT THE LYRICS SO MUCH! (laughing) You can’t explain that to some people.
My friend is a liberal, gay painter and he only wears his Burzum shirt like in his own apartment. Like literally just in his room (laughing).
Right. Right. It’s very difficult.
Could you give a synopsis of the band to people who haven’t heard you yet?
I hate referring it to a project. People get a “side project” attitude about it like it isn’t my bigger band, blah blah blah. It’s a band. One of our main goals was to speak out. I’ve spoken out on politics and social issues a long time. I felt in a sense that I was screaming about the second step. The first step is that in and of itself, we need to rebel against tangible authority figures rather than creating intangible authority figures. Revolutionary minded people who are at the same time praying and kneeling down to something they are creating in their own heads. What hope does that give us? I find it gives us very little hope in conquering authority figures. If it’s that ingrained to us to kneel to people that we would create a ruling class that doesn’t even exist. All the concepts from religion and made up deities that actually control aspects of our lives. Some very controlling factors in our society. Whether something is “good” or “evil”, when in reality much of what happens in our lives is just natural. I don’t mean that in a way to put the stamp of approval on anything, but it is what it is. Unless you can look at it in a more scientific way, looking at issues in society through a more critical and skeptical lens, then we are always going to be reaching out for someone to save us.
It perpetuates misinformation as well which let’s politicians get away with things. Oh, she was raped? Why didn’t she secrete her anti-rape juice that all women have to prevent unwanted pregnancies?
Right! Not only that, we’re facing one of the biggest issues of our time, which is the rights of homosexuals. It shouldn’t even be a thing that is an issue anymore. Because of religion. All of these people try and act like it isn’t because of the Bible. Please. There is no argument that doesn’t come right back to your little book of nonsense. It’s improbable as to why you would deny a certain aspect of society their same rights that you have other than that the book says it. That’s the only thing you can come back to. The fact that there is a certain element of society who are not allowed to be happy…it pisses me off because I am a person who does not believe in an afterlife. This is all people get! And you’re gonna make them miserable? You’re not going to allow them to live to their full potential and control what they do because you think it’s icky? Fuck you. That’s absolutely disgusting. I feel like it has become and should be the biggest civil rights issue of our time.
I identify as Bi and it is weird to me that half of me can get married and the other half can’t.
Right. It’s absolutely ridiculous. Whether someone is bi, straight, homosexual, transgender. Who gives a shit?! Obviously, people do give a shit. But it’s become such a disgusting and pervading truth that religion still plays way too much a part in our society. I believe in a society where everything across the board done as a group should be secular. Laws and decisions should be made on the strict basis of what we know and see, as humans.What science can tell us ourselves. If you presonally believe in God, go ahead. But it shouldn’t have anything to do with laws in a country.
Or you don’t get church tax breaks.
Right, right. Not only that, but I would even go this far as to say, I don’t see why it is so difficult to say that as a rule, wherever you live you can get married. It does not take a fucking church to get married. You can just go get married. That’s the rule. If a certain church doesn’t want to marry you in their church, that’s their right. But FUCK their tax break. You don’t get any assistance from the government if you’re not going to play.If you can’t represent and serve people then fuck you.
A friend of mine was joking that he is going to call himself a Christian Republican and start saying ‘the book told me to ‘render unto caesar’.
Your book tells you to shut the fuck up!
It’s hard to not just go crazy.
I don’t know how people still stand by anyone who tells another human being they can’t be happy with someone else. It’s your opportunity and they tell you no?
You think in America we’d learn from history about how wrong it was having Japanese internment camps on our own soil.It can always be you that gets their rights taken away once it starts. No one is safe under that precedent.
We try to get around that. We’re being opressed as straight white men! I’m a straight white man. It’s fucking awesome. Louis CK does a bit about it. He’d take it every time. Any time period in history. As he says, I don’t assume we wont have retribution in the future but until then I’m gonna ride it out. Right now, it’s pretty sweet. Any white christian male who says they are opressed…get the fuck over yourself.
I was reading on a site about how they felt Occupy didn’t go far enough and they felt the protesters were herded into a safe little zone. It’s a tricky subject. They order pizza and are contained in a nice area. At the same time, leaving the non-violent protest path is so karmically negative in other ways. How do you say inspired to change things when faced with massive odds and the resources of Goldman Sachs or whoever?
Right. Well, my opinion of the whole Occupy situation is obviously it didn’t completely work. I said a lot of this in the past. It was doomed for failure. it did thankfully bring up the conversation, which is good. So many other things could have been done. One of my favorite…again, I am referencing a stand up comedian…but Doug Stanhope says it would have been so much easier if everyone got in line and tried to take out a loan.Everyone. If they try and deny you because of all the paperwork they would have to do, sue them. It would shut every single fucking bank down in an instant. The amount of paperwork and the amount they’d have to worry about discrimination lawsuits. They only have two or three counters. there you go. It’s way more simple and productive than banging on bongoes and smelling bad. I’m not saying it shouldnt’ be done but don’t think it’s gonna move things anywhere. Think creatively. Hey, get some of your buddies to join the police force. When you have protests have them tell you where the cops are coming from. There’s so many things you could do to be effective and actually scare the shit out of the establishment. Reeking like a dirty pile of laundry is not going to do that.
The best part of Occupy was changing the stereotype when moms and lawyers were joining in the protest. Change the stereotype.
Absolutely. That’s my issue. They needed a fucking leader.
I understand why they tried to have no leaders…but I was thinking about the Boysetsfire song “Our Time Honored Tradition of Cannibalism”. We tear people down and fight amongst ourselves. It turns into commitees or a hot mess. Critics can change the talking points and say we are unorganized or rabble.
The world honestly needs more leaders. Good leaders that are going to work with people and not over people. Not someone who controls people. Someone who works with others in order to make the big things happen. Here’s something that did work…Anonymous. Fucking brilliant. Those guys are superheroes. Taking on corporations. Even taking on child porn on the internet. Fucking government “couldn’t stop” it. No one could. Anonymous cleaned it up in two days.
The government was using some of the same dark net web sites, so they knew where lots of this shit was happening.
It’s awesome to watch this amorphous collective that actually does work who know where to strike and what to do with it. they go in and attack and wipe out the problem.
Russel Brand got a lot of traction recently for saying he doesn’t vote because the system is broken and so why would you even participate in it anymore. I understand that, but I was wondering your thoughts. Obama started as a community organizer. Do you think he was well intentioned or that thiswhole thing got jammed up in congress or was he already bought and paid for?
I personally think voting is important. Number one, it’s quite literally the least you can do. if we are able to drum up enough support for, and this is just a tangible basic thing…if you notice, when there’s a Democrat in office, money will be channeled towards science, stem cell research. Things we need to progress. If you are gonna make a revolution overnight and make things happen, awesome. I wont vote. For the time being, until you’re able to figure that one out, we need to do what we can to keep republicans and the tea party out of power. The second they get in they funnel money towards bullshit and it does nothing for society. Shutting down groups we need in order to progress as society. when we have a democrat, at least there is money channelling towards science. If you’re gonna sit around and bitch, at least vote. Try and steer things towards a more democratic society. I’m not gonna give someone shit if they don’t vote because they think it’s not gonna work. I’ll disagree, but they do have a point. I’ll give them that. I feel it’s worth it, to an extent. At least if we are able to get a Democrat in office, less money us channeled towards faith organizations that do nothing to help us progress.
I identify as independant now. There will be horrible collateral damage in any war. All the presidents have done fucked up shit over the years. Every country pretty much has, for that matter. But even under Obama there are huge attacks on abortion clinics and planned parenthood suffering, stuff we really need. Mississippi is a horror show for women. Having more contraception makes less crime! Less poverty! Republicans are not the answer.
Right. You can’t change everything but at least get the ball rolling.
What was it like in the studio for Thy Will? How do you know you achieved what you wanted to?
We go in and do our parts and Gregg sits around for five hours and creates whale sounds. Fucks around until he’s wasted all our fuckin’ money.
(laughter in the background from the band)
Then once Gregg runs out of ideas we go “Ok! It’s finally fuckin’ done!” I gotta try this pedal! This guitar! It always works out for the best and comes out really good. Basically, we try and just write songs. We don’t go in with a preconceived notion, to an extent. People come in and we build something we feel is not just heavy or metal or punk. It’s got feeling and passion and hopefully inspires people.