Today we have the honor of premiering the fourth advance track from avant-deathgrind/post-grind artist FEED THEM DEATH‘s third album ‘Negative‘. “The Underworld Unveiled” is the terrifying resonance of the gates in motion as we delve into the incredible second half of the album; Easing into blunted tonal crawl and growling expanse, one of several profound atmospheric points of respite on the album, before hammering into a rhythmic shatter point. The sheer gravity that the drums serve the apex of this song creates a major highlight on the record for my own taste. Scroll down to check out “The Underworld Unveiled” and hey, while you’re checking out the song Void was kind enough to answer a host of questions about the project and album in great detail here in the following interview. ‘Negative‘ will be available on Vinyl LP, digipack CD and digital download on Friday, May 7th through the fine folks at Brucia Records. Thanks goes to the band and their record label for the opportunity to share this fantastic album a few days early!
We often label unfamiliar art as “experimental” without I consideration for experimental design beyond improvisation, whereas in my mind an experiment is defined by a goal, exacted within a regimen with immovable parameters. I suppose what I’m angling towards is this sense that a truly avant-garde result from musical experimentation typically requires intelligent design. Can you describe the inherent experimental design of FEED THEM DEATH in terms of intended holistic result? Is there a hypothesis or theory in mind, or an intended conveyance?
I absolutely agree with your analysis, and I welcome your logic as a much needed and refreshing view on modern experimental music. Too often people are led to think that experimentation is the result of some outburst of nonchalance, a self glorified apex in the creative process where the main obstacle is destructing and de-constructing the rigid parameters of traditional composition by means of being absolutely free. I think this is particularly interesting to observe especially being a prominent viewpoint in the western world, further molded by our acquiescence to traditional Christian values as well as a weird kind of post-industrialism hangover that most of us seem to suffer from.
The concept of talent (and even more so the concept of genius) implies the presence of an innate pool of skills, bestowed upon us by either a god, or even genetics. That is simply false, and a dangerous thought to have, as it justifies the existence of a caste system in our society.
With Feed Them Death one of the main aims has always been that of making fast music more dramatic. The general undertone of fast music has primarily been read and understood with qualities such as aggressiveness and brutality, and yet I felt it lacked the depth of pathos and drama. Thematically things are not dissimilar, with most of fast music being engulfed in fictional narrative on one side, and protest songs on the other end of the spectrum, whereas introspection, or philosophical reflection – musically speaking, belongs to slower and more meditative types of music, if to any at all.
With that main aim in mind, creativity – and even experimentation, ceases to be considered as the end result per se, but it goes back to being the tool one uses to convey the message and achieve the result.
In the context of FEED THEM DEATH’s discography thus far have the parameters of the experiment shifted between releases?
I think that it was more the case of results shifting and changing throughout my discography to-date (including few other projects I have had and not pertaining specifically to only FTD) rather than the parameters of the experiment per se. If and when we consider experimentation as a tool as opposed to an intended aim, then we accept that the tools we use can change over time during our quest to expressing ourselves.
The first album was as experimental as the others in principle, and really integral part of a wider body of work that I had in mind, but less evidently avant-garde than the past few releases I did due to the fact that I had refrained from using heterogenic inputs to substantiate the claim, which was something I wanted to show and made sure it could emerge gradually and over time.
On a more personal level, has the experiment lent itself to any surprising lessons or, particularly gratifying revelation?
I am always vigilant and try to watch myself from falling prey of the constructs of gratification and our societal yearning for more, which I recognize as being very idiotic. That being said, I am not immune to hopefulness in the same way as I am not immune to despondency.
Although I have no hope for FTD to receive the hype I sometimes wish it deserved, I feel incredibly lucky for having found people interested in my music and supporting me – I understand this project will never be a mass pleaser, but if it helped sparking some interest and can occasionally lead to some interesting conversation with people who went through the trouble of hearing and liking my music, that is the closest to gratification I think I am unapologetically cool with being grateful for.
Musically speaking, one thing is that I did not plan or foresee initially was a heavier usage of drone – it’s something that grew on its own almost, and my responsibility was just that of finding the right space for it to surface.
Dangerous complacency inherent to conformity, conformity parading as intellectualism, pre-packaged art and devaluation of artists, the loss of true counter culture, mystification via surveillance, “big brother” and very real consequences of surveillance to mental health… I could go on detailing smaller perceived notions within the lyrical themes of the last three Feed Them Death releases. Is there a greater conceptual arc that resolves with ‘Negative’?
“Negative” comes from “Panopticism”, in a way. The previous album, in all it being a concept album based on two books by M. Foucault, it features a drone / harsh noise track called “Prescience / Evokism III” which included an excerpt from an interview to T. Adorno (and also included few lines from one if his early musical composition) and was aimed at providing a sort of foreknowledge about the themes I had already in mind for the following release.
During the interview Adorno stated something about the fact that art is intrinsically linked to consumption, more so when disguised as protest art: the point he made was that singing sad songs about sad themes is intellectually sad as it’s essentially a way of taking something horrendous like wars and oppressions and make it consumable. That made me reflect long on hard about our place in the world of arts and expression in general.
How did we get to a point where even something theoretically countercultural like the underground music scene has smoothly resolved the alleged dichotomy between niche and mainstream, and went on to show the same adherence to the production / consumption paradigm of popular music? And I am not talking big names here – I am referring to smaller acts but with equally big intentions of grandeur, which get hyped and artificially pumped during a relatively short time span.
They want to become familiar and succeed in building the ultimate paradox of force-feeding so called underground music lovers with something entirely artificial whilst making them retain the feeling of having discovered something genuine and independent.
The album tackles the concept of the commoditization of art as seen through the prism of the effects it has on society: corruption of our values and sense of morality, inability to perceive pleasure in a place artificially built for amusement, death of logical thinking, acquiescence, liquidation of individuality and the idiotic yearning for more of all of the above.
The literary references within this project thus far read to me as order and uncomfortable revelation parsed through (or, from within) a chaotic state, acknowledging the amount of psychic weaponry hailed upon modern man and cutting through. I’d like to ask what you are reacting to as a whole but, for the sake of focus, I’d first wonder if there was a personal state of mind, experience or notable literature that had your gears turning in this direction?
The overarching aesthetic idea and style applied do tend to reinforce the concept of the lucidity of one’s thinking shining through the cracks of a chaotic environment. It’s not completely experimental, I think that other bands or artists have used a corrupted medium to emphasize the strength of the ideals within their message.
As you have noticed earlier, certain themes such as conformity parading as intellectualism or even better complacency parading as dissent was something that has interested me from the early days of this project. As an underground musician who has been around on and off since the mid 90’s, I observed the commoditization of underground music and art with sadness and rage for a number of years, leading to a plethora of useless bands reunions which, more than the democratization of the means as in digital recording and evolution of music distribution, have over-saturated the market pumping out useless pieces of sonic garbage on to people who failed to recognize the intellectual squalor behind the marketing ploy.
This in a way got me started, and discovered that philosophers and thinkers linked to the Frankfurt School of critical theory had raised similar issues some 50 years before denouncing how positivism had made people become merely recipients of consumption goods within the cogwheels of consumerism.
Even in “Panopticism” one of the themes was the liquidation of individuality however using the historical reference of madness through the ages.
That being said, there have been also more personal urges to tackle certain themes, especially with “Panopticism” and “For Our Culpable Dead”: the themes of mental health and isolation, paired with the need of addressing the historical responsibility of our dysfunctional upbringings (both on a personal and a societal level) in the ultimate tragedy that is the utter unattainability of joy in life are both very important themes for me personally.
Is ‘Negative’ lyrically a concept album? Your description of the artwork suggests negatives of photographs were purposefully decayed as a technique. I took this to symbolize both transparency and the distortion of ‘truth’ and reality over time.
“Negative” is not a concept album per se, however as discussed it has certain characteristics that link things together and point to a theoretical synthesis. We could perhaps define the album as seemingly disjointed entries in a diary, all making more sense once put into context, or different slides and images projected against a negative backdrop.
I wanted to take an active stance against the mannerist qualities of certain protest art, whilst at the same time fighting an old demon of mine which is that of being both verbose and cryptic, and so I was interested in coming up with something uncomplicated for this album, and something paradoxically pop, almost: a simple title and a clean iconic image. No logo. No title. (in the art cover you can only read the initials F, T, D and a minus sign)
The photograph in the artwork was not made specifically for this release, but was created by Australian photographer Sophie Gabrielle as part of a wider body of work. The negatives were sunk in polluted water and left to dry allowing microbes to eat away at the negative itself. I thought that was a perfect symbol for the idea of going through a process of destruction and deconstruction aimed at making the invisible visible.
You’ve gotten me to take a closer look at Foucault’s Discipline and Punish with lyrics from prior releases, speaking to its major arguments and I greatly appreciate any music that comes with a reading list. Have you referenced or been specifically inspired by any literature or theorem for ‘Negative’?
Much of the narrative apparatus of “Negative” derives from the writings of Theodor Adorno, and especially those pertaining to the commoditization of protest art, and music in particular. He famously coined the concept of “regressive listening” in our society, especially criticizing jazz for being the embodiment of how totalitarianism can spread through society via the culture industry, by disguising its sameness and gentle conformism to the status quo behind a façade of apparent novelty and free-form improvisation which in fact utilizes only standard tricks. I think that the likeness with certain – if not most, so called countercultural music is striking.
This time around, rather than focusing on one or two books in particular, I allowed inputs from various sources, also because Adorno’s writing is less “fictional”, or rather perhaps more discursive in structure and style than Foucault’s.
Still, possibly the reading list here could consist of a few different titles, with longer works such as Minima Moralia or Negative Dialectics, as well as shorter essays such as “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening”.
Though not a hard and fast rule, we often find folks immersed in avant-garde states of thought and philosophical development creating avant-garde music. I believe an artist had to have “felt” something strong and absorbed this into their identity to consistently create compelling art throughout their lifetime. Would you consider Feed Them Death an expression of your own identity, an reflection of self, or does there necessarily need to be a piece of the artist in a work? Are there elements of dissociation within ‘Negative’?
I think that avant-garde music is not immune to the art pour l’art syndrome in the same way as certain art dressed as more accessible music form can still show some level of personability within its core message. I am generally drawn to neither but rather interested in the universality of the message.
We live in a day and age where self-absorption and self-importance, paired with instant gratification, make us hope that something we like and resonate with had some higher and deeper meaning which could end up being functional to justify our identification with it, but that’s really rarely the case. Extreme music in particular sometimes can be just a showcase of technical ability, and I think that’s ok as long as we are clear that there’s nothing more behind that. All elements of dissociation for an artist in respect to the deeper meaning of their art bear witness to the consumption qualities of that piece of art, and its status of mere entertainment.
There’s a lot of who I am in FTD, and I often ask myself how would my music or words apply or sound to people who were not necessarily already aligned with me, as a test for its endurance and perhaps validation in the world of expressive arts: but I wont let this dictate an agenda. The source of what I do is a communal pool of experiences, interpreted through some personal side notes, but theoretically aimed at being applicable to many whilst resonating with few.
You’ve previously referenced anti-positivist thought as a sort of philosophical beacon for some of your work, I assume in reference to social theorem needing its own parameters of study and research different from “hard” science. I feel this is key to your greater worldview, the furnace that pushes the muse, can you elaborate on the value of anti-positivism and how it aligns with the point of view expressed in Feed Them Death?
Think we should consider positivism as a sort of counterfeited synthesis for a multiplicity of instances in life. Like the idea of a dominating (positive) thought achieved through the reflection of a fragmented truth against a drape of negation, here intended as dialectics, in order to seek some positive reinforcement.
I observe this being a dangerous forma mentis in many different ways: First off it creates a false sense of trajectory making us all look at evolution in terms of a straight line where things were / are problematic for a period but reason will prevail in the end. Furthermore, it creates a sort of compartmentalization of our actions / reactions and a distorted sense of our individual responsibilities towards life in general: We would maybe stop calling certain events “achievements” and treat them as the positive synthesis of disjointed instances if we were to see how those “achievements” were vastly inconsequential. And if nothing really changes, how can we honestly say that we have ever achieved anything at all?
Positivism lacks of social perspective.
Feed Them Death’s aim is to speak on behalf of the disenfranchised, as in those deprived of the safety cushion of positivist logic.
Though you have a handle on both the clinically precise elements of death/grindcore the nature of your arrangements feels intentionally evocative. I often imagine the mental state of the performer when performing and writing, in this sense “putting myself in your shoes” is a complex endeavor. What drives your compositional hand? Are you thinking, feeling, and acting in that order when writing guitar parts or, how would you describe the mind-body connection with the guitar specifically?
Jose Saramago once wrote that we don’t own our words (or thoughts, can’t quite remember precisely) but they are just there and for anyone to pick, and it’s just the case of being aligned and understanding what is it that is right for us to pick.
I honestly try to be as open as possible when it comes to “hearing” what already exists – albeit in potentiality. I have been writing music for a number of years and I recognize that in the past my hearing was selective at times, whereas now I approach every new song with the excitement of starting from scratch and ultimately not knowing exactly where it’ll go. I can usually “hear” a beat or a riff before pinning it down, so I think that could translate as thinking in a way, however I must confess that it is less of a proactive action and more a general disposition towards openness.
The process renews itself regularly and is punctuated by the action of playing eventually, but it’s my sense of feeling for what I am writing to have the final say all the time. It could feel right immediately, or some times it takes a bit longer, but the process requires the complete validation of my feelings.
What drives your ‘muscle memory’ for riffs? For example, even though I have played all manner of genre on the guitar for decades my fingers want to play early Agnostic Front songs (which I learned as a kid), there is a strange freedom in those movements that my hands default to without focus. Are there tendencies you fight, techniques that your mind insists upon? I ask for the sake of recognizing your signature movements and parsing what might’ve placed your hands there.
My muscle memory is quite frankly the memory of deviation from the norm when it comes to placing the fingers on a guitar. The reason for that is that I was born a bass player, and only started playing guitar 4 or 5 years ago: “No Solution / Dissolution” was the first ever thing I had composed and recorded on guitar.
Bass is really home for me, and weirdly enough my “muscle memory” there is literal: I had a bad accident when I was in my early 20s forcing me to quit playing, because during the operation they damaged the radial nerve so could not even lift one finger for years. To keep my musical mind trained I kept imagining my fingers playing a bass solo I was working on just before the accident. After years of rehabilitation when I picked up the bass I went straight onto playing that tune, and I surprisingly remembered every single note. It ended up being included in “Panopticism”, and it’s called “Evokism II”.
That being said, nowadays I usually compose on guitar first, so say that I do not have a “memory” per se. I don’t know songs, never played cover songs on guitar, and so my fingers do not go anywhere on their own to find comfort. They just stay there quiet until the brain tells them what to play, which is usually a new song considering that I do not remember how to play 90% of all Feed Them Death songs.
Based on passing conversation in the past you’d often be ‘ready at work and inspired for the next release as the prior work was releasing. Are you raring to work on new music or collaborations? Has working on your own label slowed you down at all, or have you found it inspiring?
My work as co-owner of Brucia Records is extremely satisfying and inspiring, but it is also inevitably delaying my writing of new material for Feed Them Death.
I think that part of the reason is that I feel hugely invested in every release we do, almost as if they were mine, and so somewhere in my brain there must be a glitch of sort placating the thirst for more music on my end. I had 4 exceptionally prolific years with FTD, and have already started “hearing” the beginning of a new cycle; it might just take a little bit longer this time to finalize.
In terms of collaboration, I sing in a grindcore band in London but of course lockdown has made it hard for us to rehearse / record our tunes, we hope to come up with something soon. I am also helping a death metal band on bass – really wish I could tell more but we haven’t really announced the collaboration and the new line up also include few other people active in various bands.
Finally, I definitely developed a taste for Minimalistic music, and deconstructed sounds are something I am very interested in: so much that I am now working on a side project called Pseudodoxia with Davide Destro of LaColpa – it will be what could be called “reference music” as in no new music per se will be written in the process, but all loops and noises will come from the manipulation of other things placed out of context. Like memories surfacing in your mind and placed next to others so that they will lose the significance we thought they had, whilst at the same time making us reflect on the untrustworthiness of memory.
What is the best way for fans to support FEED THEM DEATH?
As many other people do I also swing constantly between self deprecation and a weird sense of urgency in regards to my creative outlets, so I usually appreciate feedback as a way to achieve a minimum level of validation in what I do.
With the release of “Negative” as a label we have invested considerable financial resources due to having pressed vinyl for the first time, and although this might sound a bit prosaic we’d be appreciative of the support of those interested in either FTD or us as a label. We are not-for-profit label and invest the little margin that we make into new releases all the time: we work hard on our releases but that is already a gratification and seeks no further payout. Working with a pool of very talented musicians is extremely inspiring and it recompenses us of the many hours we put into producing and releasing their music.
Still I would urge anyone reading this interview to actively look for new music, always, be it via Brucia or other independent labels. Support new bands. Be curious – your support means everything to this very last generation of romantics who are still putting our records, swimming upstream against the tidal wave of the digitalization of everything.
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