Real Live Stories || How Anaal Nathrakh broke out of Necrodeath and wound up on a stage

OK, so there is a cynical body of thought that might consider black metal as a live performance artform and argue that the genre is best served by careful cellaring. Like it’s a take-home experience, one to be kept in the studio/bedroom, only ever to be enjoyed on record. Of course when we say “enjoyed” we obviously mean “experienced, with eyes and tongue rolling backwords in the as-standard transcendental reverie”—whatever. But the foundation for the cynicism is that the one man’s dark ritual is another man’s atonal accident, riffs, screams and most importantly the song getting lost with a total absence of EQing etc… Plus the genre’s protagonists have got a history of not playing well with others.
Even after being anointed with yesteryear’s ox blood at Watain, been stared down by Ghaal and (even worse) kept waiting for Mayhem, we’d like to think the Deciblog can rule against these cynics. We’re not quite at the stage of interventions, like borrowing Nocturnus’ time machine and going kicking down Malefic’s door, sticking $100 in his back pocket to spend on some visuals before extraditing him to ATP to meet his public. But, step-by-step we’d want to tease the antisocial bedroom artists to put together a live crew, mainly by showing them that only good can come of it. Take Anaal Nathrakh; they were conceived as a duo operating under aliases, running an ostensibly domestic BM-with-bells-on operation from Birmingham, England. And now look at them; regulars on the European festival circuit, a seasoned touring band… guitarist/producer Mick Kenney now spends all his money on suncream and lives in California. Here’s frontman and master of ceremonies, Dave Hunt (also of Benediction) on how they did it.

“IT WAS ENTIRELY ACCIDENTAL. We didn’t have rules against playing live or anything like that, but we just never thought about it. We saw it as music to be made and that was the be all and end all. But then John Peel asked us to do a session for him, and we did that in our normal sort of way; and twelve months after, the Radio One Rock Show asked us to do one, and seeing as we already done a session one way we thought we’d do something different. We put a proper live band together with Nick Barker on drums, Shane [Embury] from Napalm playing bass, and we were lucky that we knew people on a social basis who were capable of doing it. Once we done that we though, ‘Fucking hell, that was all right, that seems to work.’ We didn’t think it was possible before in the first place. After that had been done, you’ve opened the gates. You’ve made it something that can be done so from then on we thought, ‘Fuck it, we might as well play some shows.’ It’s exhilarating stuff to do live because it is so extreme, horrible and the intensity of it is exhilarating. And it seems to go down well with the people, too. There hasn’t been a plan at any point whatsoever.”

Live at Hellfest 2008

“I prefer the idea of unstructured and chaotic over rigid and formulised, not formulaic but formulised. We tend not to do that; it’s more a nihilist explosion, of sorts, than anything ritualised.I mean some bands take it in that direction but I don’t think it is a massively fundamental point to playing live. It can be massively important to a way a particular group takes to playing live. I just like the idea of trying to make it something more than people just standing on stage—which is kind of paradoxical coming from someone who definitely rejects wearing makeup and that sort of thing. It’s best to put something of yourself in it that makes it more than the sum of its parts and if someone choose to, go ritualistic with it. Personally, that’s something I don’t really like. I prefer the forgetting of self; I’ve said it before, the Dionysian approach, an orgy of snot and blood. But a more organised approach can work as well, I can see value in that, in not making it mundane.”

“To be perfectly honest if you set out to shock you are playing the game of the jaded decadence of people who, by definition, will be very difficult to shock. It would be perfectly possible to shock somebody; you might have to do some extreme things and to be honest I’ve considered them. I don’t really see much point. I mean, what would shock? You could get a live farm animal and execute it onstage—the police would come after you but you’d certainly get the shock factor. No, I don’t think it is impossible to do but what I would rather do is have something; the issue is not to shock someone but to give someone something meaningful to take from it, and I think that is achievable if you mean what you do, if it’s not some kind of pantomime—which would kind of fit in with our approach of not over-adorning ourselves. Mayhem take an approach along those lines and it works for them. I want to make you take something meaningful from it. It makes an interesting juxtaposition with the Mayhem style of doing things. I saw them playing at the Inferno Fest and Attila was dressed as some kind of zombie pope, complete with sceptre and upside-down cross on stage. Personally, I wouldn’t do it that way but it can be good to watch. But to be individual in is very important to us. I mean, what is the point in copying anything? Originate, create, innovate: that’s more interesting to me.”

**Anaal Nathrakh will be playing Hellfest 2012. For more information and tickets for that here. The rest of the bill is OK, too.**