“Blackened Punk”. Good blackened punk, informed by raw Japanese punk and hardcore. It is precious. Rare, mysteriously and thankfully not commonly attempted. And I like it that way. It just hits me in the right spot, but notable bands of the genre don’t spring up often. I found Devil Master on Youtube (ha) as a suggestion on the good ole side bar following the release of their first demo and became instantly obsessed. I tried to do some research on the group and couldn’t figure out anything about ’em for a couple years, aside from hailing from Philadelphia. I assumed that all mystery surrounding the project was intentional. Maybe it is just one guy in his bedroom, I hypothesized.
News of “Satan Spits on Children of Light” on Relapse Records broke and their veil was lifted. It turns out they are refreshingly unpretentious crew of six, not one dude in his bedroom taking himself too seriously. I had the pleasure of speaking with Devil Master the night of their record release show in their hometown of Philly. We piled into their borrowed tour van to have a little convo and I even had the audacity to bring up “Lord of Chaos”.
Hades Apparition – rhythm guitar HA
Darkest Prince – lead guitar DP
Disembody – vocals DY
Del – drums – DL
Spirit Mirror – bass SM
Dodder – keyboards DD
Upon the bands request, a small portion of the interview has been redacted because of some sensitive material and names mentioned. This makes the interview read as though it seemingly starts out of nowhere, but I didn’t want to edit out more than was necessary just to maintain a natural interview arc. I am sure you can deal.
JANE PAIN: What is it like being a punk band that is classified as a Black Metal band. Are there any political implications to this? Have you gotten any push back from people?
HA: All of us come from a traditional punk culture, essentially, and that is where our politics lay. It gives me excitement when people like that [sic: sketchy people] don’t like us, that is exactly what I am trying to do. I want that type of person to reject what we are doing. It empowers me even more when I see some sketchy NSBM guy upset by what we are doing.
DP: Black metal thinks it owns Satanism and Satanism is staunchly anti-conservatism. Satanism is about progress and rebellion. The sketchy connotations of black metal are a confused, stupid thing that I despise. People who rep that are idiots.
I am not saying that anything that you guys do isn’t deliberate and thoughtful, or could be so easily mistaken as sketchy but it could be, which is kinda where I am going with this. I like that you guys basically do what you want, and it doesn’t fit into people’s ideas of what black metal is and you’re just like, ‘you’re right’. But there is that risk of being accidentally lumped in with something that sucks.
All of that could potentially get weirder as you guys reach larger audiences who don’t know you guys personally or know much about what you stand for and tour through parts of the country where there is a heavier NSBM scene and overt racism is more prevalent. It is so easy to forget how different things are in New York City or Philly versus Kentucky until you are there and like… FUCK.
DD: As someone who gets starred at when I go down South because I really look Jewish… That stuff doesn’t bother me, and I don’t care. We’re stronger than them, always. Those people live in a cave…
DP: As someone who sort of identifies as Pagan too, I just think it’s unfortunate that there are these misconceptions and connotations but at the end of the day you just got to make your life easy. Whether or not you want to deal with the consequences, or how you feel about it. It’s unfortunate that you were not aware…
It was so disappointing and weird to find out that a lot of noise and black metal that I loved musically was fucked up or racist. It is weird trying to figure out where you draw your own line exploring certain themes or imagery even when it is the artists intention to sort of highlight how fucked up it is. I am not making an argument defending offensive or bigoted ideas or imagery at all. Just fucked up to be interested in “dark things” and wonder where you draw the line for yourself. Like, should I stop watching serial killer documentaries? What is okay and what isn’t, for me, personally. It is just weird that there is actually evil (in a bad way) shit and then there is cool shit that is interested in the actual evil shit. It can be weird to navigate at times. And certain ascetics etc are going to elicit certain reactions from people, even if they are mistaken about ones intentions.
DY: We were in a bar last week and the bartender was playing [sic] an NSBM band.
DP: I grew up in Ireland, and there is the same situation with loyalists. It’s fucking bullshit there, fuck those people.
It is really weird because the political landscape now is so scary. The notion of conservative nationalism isn’t that abstract to Americans anymore. It is right out in the mainstream, in politics, explicitly. It is not far away seeming, anymore. But I am wondering how far will people go? How many people will cling to totally Ludacris hateful ideology and actually be able to do something about it? Things keep getting worse and worse and I take shit more and more seriously.
DP-It’s not funny to wear a Burzum hoodie anymore…
This is true. Moving away from the sketchy… I first kind of got my first noise and metal records per recommendations at Hospital Productions when it was still a storefront, and because of that the label holds a particular importance to me. Before that everything that I liked was shaped by going into Double Decker in Allentown. These places are like sacred to me and I wonder how different my tastes would be if the people behind the counter were dismissive of me or even if they themselves just liked different stuff.
Relapse was another big store for me for a little while. When I was 19 I worked at a pastry shop on the corner and would nervously go browse at Relapse and occasionally buy a black metal CD on my break sometimes. Increasingly we are losing these brick and mortar stores in general, but especially record stores and book stores and these places are so important. We are losing the opportunity to connect with people in our development of our musical taste. Everything being always available makes things like finding a new band that you love feel much less special or exciting.
How does it feel to have lost Relapse as a physical store, but still carrying on its legacy by putting out your record with them. Is it significant?
HA: Relapse was a huge hub for all of us growing up. Even just the music that they were playing at the store… I remember walking in and hearing Bathory for the first time in my life, and Electric Wizard. I wasn’t going to find that stuff on the radio or even metal magazines at that point. Hearing it was huge. Going in there and looking at records, holding the physical entity. Learning about music in person is huge. Going to shows even when you don’t know the band. You become part of the community. I think it is really important to go to shows. The internet is phenomenal, and I do not take it for granted, I have definitely learned about a lot of stuff through it, but I think it is important to have a physical and social aspect to learning about stuff, in general.
DP- Relapse was where I got my first Bathory CD when I was 14.
HA- That is why we made our album art to look the way that it does. The idea of flicking through records in person. We wanted to make something that stood out. We grew up blind buying records. I mean, I still do that. Aesthetic is so important.
DP: How our art worked out is a very surreal story too that we could not be happier with… I found Erica’s art featured for a certain apocalyptic, militant Satanist cult online and became obsessed only to find on further investigation she had done art for Philly metal and punk bands. Her and her husband moved back to Philly briefly around then and we all agreed she would be perfect, being the most intense occultist I’ve ever met, but also just an amazing artist who could grasp our vibe immediately.
It’s been weird how as time goes on; I seem to know less and less people at shows even when I am really actively going to shows. I feel like a fucking old person talking about the “back in my day” kind of stuff but… I don’t think it is as common for people to just show up at the same venue every weekend no matter who is playing, and that was kinda just what me and my friends did when I was a teenager and in my early 20’s. People are a little too cool and too informed to that now, I think.
It used to be pretty much the same people at a venue every week. Even when someone wasn’t your friend, there was a kind of cast of characters and a feeling of camaraderie. Sometimes depending on who was playing, there would be more people there. If you didn’t show up people would actually notice.
I think this goes hand in hand with the disappearance of record stores and underground venues that harbored community. There is a shift in what we value. It is more important to have totally perfect curated tastes and a matching look and the best instagram stories than to actually be a part of something. But while there is less community on one hand there is a much more expansive one on the other. No one is really alone anymore. And that is cool, especially for marginalized people. But it is harder to make connections in person now a days, I think.
DY: People now can know about everything, so they can pick and choose.
HA: Years ago, in Philly, you would see the same people at everything. It was cool because there was no division between punk and metal most of the time. Everyone went to everything. That has drawn a huge influence on us as a band. We do not pander to a specific crowd; we like the idea of having people from all different places and scenes dig our stuff. We have had people come up to us after shows and in a semi-joking manner saying that goths love our music and stuff like that. Typically, goths don’t touch metal music.
There is also something very special about Philly, at least when I lived here. There was a lot of fluidity in music scenes, a lot of queer people chilling at punk shows, a lot more house shows and general freakiness. NYC sorta broke down the barrier between punk and noise a little bit but other cities are seemingly much more divided by genre. I found LA to be especially stratified, when I was living there.
HA: Since we haven’t done a lot of West Coast stuff but just in the considering of going out there, we feel like we have to plan for that sort of stuff. We would have to do a punk show and a metal show separately.
DP:Well Black Twilight Circle are important to mention because they do bandage things between punk and metal. But they are the only ones on the West Coast who I have noticed doing that.
DY: They are the coolest circle ever.
DP: That doesn’t exist anywhere else.
DY: Before the other day (‘Sabbat’s Lair’) we mostly just played metal shows in NYC. Saint Vitus.
SM: We played Gateway…
DY: That’s true. We played with Christian Death at Brooklyn Bazar, which was really weird.
TELL ME MORE.
DY: Well Christian Death set up their drums in the middle of the stage and would not move them, so everyone had to set up a separate set of drums and set up next to them. And they didn’t talk to us the whole night.
SM: It was almost like there was this whole sick show and then they played. I mean, it was 2018.
I am pretty much done with reunion tours and stuff like that, it’s always disappointing and weird, at least for the most part.
DP: Well they never stopped playing. It’s been going for forever.
DD: I’m bummed that Youth Of Today is playing tonight in NYC… One of the only good reunion bands that I have ever seen.
DD: Them and Cocksparrer.
Yeah Cocksparrer were tight. So were the Buzzcocks.
Well this kind of goes back to the whole Relapse thing and your decision to sign with them. Being on a bigger metal label can afford you certain opportunities that you wouldn’t have otherwise. Weird, big bills. Doing stuff like for Red Bull Music Academy or having a song on a TV show or something [ they start laughing at me]. I am dead ass, these things happen. Are you guys just down for the ride to see what you can do as a band or is there a limit or certain things that you know you do not want to do?
HA: We turned down a label before Relapse approached us because of certain sketchy things that they have done, so when Relapse approached us as a Philadelphia label… It was bewildering… but we did pick up on the fact that we were all down for the ride. We have already turned down certain opportunities. We are not doing everything that is thrown at us, but we are taking full advantage and pride in what we do.
DY: I feel like most things we have been offered mesh with the general thing we got going on and that is fortunate because I think that some of those opportunities may not have come up without the connection that Relapse has.
SM: On the other side they told us that they have bands that never play live or tour. They told us that we could take it as far as we wanted and push it or just not. They are flexible.
DP: They were genuinely interested in our band because of their interest in Japanese hardcore. Also, I play live bass with Integrity so I knew that we could trust them as a label, even though Integrity all joke that we are crust punks who would rather starve… Thankfully that connection helped us be more confident in our decision.
I was wondering how that Integrity/ Devil Master show came about when I saw you guys post about it.
DP: Integrity always considered me a punk. Relapse hit them up asking about Devil Master, much to their astonishment, joking that we are like crusties who wouldn’t want to do a record with a bar code (laugh).
DY: Also, despite what some people claim, we did not get picked up because of Integrity though we are grateful for everything theyve done for us.
I was going to ask if you guys ever played a show that was so off and bunk and insane that you felt like you should not have agreed to do it but we sorta touched on that, I guess…
DP: We were going to turn down a fest because of a venue’s sound guy and such a horrible experience that we had with them, but we found out the fest is elsewhere so that changes things…
DY: So, the answer to this question, for publishing purposes, yes.
SM: Not a lot of nightmares.
I feel like the new record is really musically diverse.
DY: It is funny you should say that because so many people make comments like ‘no variety’.
HA: A lot of comments saying that, and even reviews saying that the music isn’t that diverse but it’s great.
Well, I could see a bunch of stuff going on and some strong influences. I was wondering if you guys conjure music from unexpected resources, musically or not. I know from reading about you guys that some of you practice Satanism, for instance.
DD: Bolivian folk music.
HA: Aesthetically and musically, we are all big horror movie fans.
DP: We all have our own weird niche shit. Spirituality and things that we cannot put into words but help us communicate without saying things to each other.
SM: When we are playing live, we sometimes have nights where we feel like we all meet up.
DY: We can meet on this weird astral plane.
DP: When we started this, it was a collective effort and we sort of gave birth to an almost elemental spirit. When we keep the band going, we are feeding into it. We don’t even have to think about it anymore. It’s all natural. We have our obvious influences we just have our own sound now that we are just rolling with unconsciously.
I HAVE to ask… Have you guys seen the Lord of Chaos movie.
DP: I watched It the night before tour and I expected to hate it, but it gave me a different perspective on everything.
DY: I hope it is better than I think it is going to be.
DP: It’s pretty cheesy… as hell… but interesting. And we got paraphrased by revolver in saying that I only listen to Mayhem and Lords of Chaos. Wrong time to rep that, when it’s so cheesy. Obviously Norwegian Black Metal is an influence on all of us.
DY: I have listened to Deathcrush a million times but I am not going to brag about that.
I watched it the other day. I have watched the documentary and have read the book but that was a while ago and I think I… sort of bought into their desired mythology a bit more. Watching the movie- and at least the way that they shaded everything- I sort realized how much of everything that went on were a bunch of young ass dudes in a pissing contest and the root of a lot of the things that they did was simply to get attention, like flat out. They were all trying to outdo each other and get publicity. I was sitting there like, wow, would any of these churches have been set on fire if Instagram existed when this happened?
DP: Euronymous may have just been in actual shock after he found Dead and have have been egging the stuff on. A simple psychological explanation I never thought of. You think of these people as mythic people with no human emotion.
DY: But I am pretty sure that we, along with the movie Lords Of Chaos, will be tarred as having put the final nail in the coffin of Black Metal.
I got so genuinely middle school me mad when I first saw the trailer. I was in the theatre and just like literally felt my face get hot and my heart race. When I finally watched it, I was like girl, who the fuck cares.
DP: That’s how I felt when I first heard about it.
DY: Me too.
DP: 20-year-old me would have been like… Oh my fucking god…
I have a funny memory of when that horrible Germs biopic came out. The dude who played Darby Crash was going to be at a viewing so me and a buncha West Philly punks got PISSED drunk and went to the screening with the sole purpose of heckling him because we were so incensed. We went just to hate on that guy and were screaming at him. Why were we so mad? Pretty funny though. Also pretty fun.
I guess I will end by giving Arthur a shout out for his incredible work on recording the record. My old high school buddy. We became friends in science class because he wore an Iron Maiden shirt. Now he is an utter legend.
HA: There is a universal love for that guy. Anyone who you meet will have nothing but nice things to say about him. He is fantastic. His production is awesome. The direction he helped us take with it. The sound. It was everything we could have dreamed of.
DD: He’s the king.
DP: We were scheduled to record with him before we were approached by relapse. But everything just came so naturally.
Thank you to Darkest Prince, for his help getting everyone properly identified after the interview transcription.