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Black Anvil - Interview

Interview with: Paul Delaney
Conducted by: Felin Frost

The black metal phenomenon from NYC, USA, Black Anvil, formed in 2007 and released their debut album, Time Insults The Mind, in 2009 and later that year signed to renowned independent label Relapse Records. After a re-release of their acclaimed 2009 debut, Black Anvil unleashed their first proper full-length Triumvirate in September 2010. That one was followed in 2014 by the amazing monumental album Hail Death, a 70-minute journey of intensity that further established Black Anvil as a modern black metal powerhouse and was praised by fans of the genre and media. In January this year Black Anvil released another masterpiece named As Was. As Was is an unique album that show us the original black metal style of the band mixed with touches of hardcore and this is just one of the singular characteristics of Black Anvil. This album impressed me a lot (you can read the review over HERE) and for me it leads my list of Top 10 of 2017. Black Anvil once again surprises us by showing even more about its musical roots and the aggregation of styles in the conception of a totally new progressive dark style with lyrics that are a journey of inner self-discovery. All that passion I felt listening to the album, all the originality, the lyrics matching my thoughts and the curiosity to know more about these guys, compiled me to interview the mastermind, Paul Delaney.

F.F.: Hi Paul! Let's start with this. In all of your interviews so far, you have stated that you could have "pushed forward" the musical style. What would you, if you haven't been "insured" a little by Raeph Glicken, would have include in the album As Was? Which other different elements would you have introduced in the songs?
: Interesting question to start. You know, he had to check me with the vocals a bit, I would want to go a lot wilder with some harmonies etc and he just kept it on a bit of a leash. End of the day, I think it was for the best. This record, while being inventive for us and taking steps forward, we also had to take some steps back and simplify it and just make sure everything fit. So, I wouldn't actually include anything different or any other choices now. In the moment, hard to say but I don't think we'd be so far off.
F.F.: From your perspective, after more than two months that the band released As Was, what can you tell me about the reception of the album by fans, especially because your sound become more progressive lately?
: For the most part, it's been rather well received. The reviews have almost all been extremely positive and it seems people "get it", which is always the challenge. I'm more than ok if someone doesn't like the band. To each their own. But seeing some misguided reviews sometimes I cringe. It's interesting seeing what some people assume our influences are, citing bands I've personally never listened to. When some other influences are more than worn on our sleeves and go completely unnoticed. This record somehow caters to a variety of listeners so, that to me is a success. We like to spread this as far as possible.
F.F.: How do you approach criticism from more traditional thrash-style reviewers?
Paul: We just accept that they don't get it. There's many instances I hear something and say to myself, "this is good, just not my thing". People like to grasp onto certain things, like having been in hardcore bands in the past, and think that somehow makes what we do now less sincere because we have our own sound. Which I actually think is sincere, when we could easily just be carbon copies or clones of the bands we grew up on. We choose our own path. So, we have to take these reviews with a grain of salt. For every number of those, we come across a review like yours that just reassures us that real recognizes real.
F.F.: Thank you! Now, I think that many bands have stagnated. And surely in the near future they will be forgotten for the simple fact that what they do is always the same thing. What makes them really boring to hear. Is there anything that concerns you about this matter as a musician?
Paul: Yes, cause as the musicians writing songs, I don't want to be bored with myself. And when I say "I", I always mean "We". We never want to feel like we're forcing something, or going through the motions just to have a product out there because it's easy to just throw some shit together. It's mostly these bands that gain notoriety. Which is mind blowing, the amounts of generic shit that people eat up. That itself is inspiring and pushes us to take a different direction. It's almost more of an influence than music we listen to. That pushes us to create, but the shit I'm talking about specifically here is always a reminder of what not to do. I love that we push ourselves. Internally, the side no one gets to see, you'd think we want to kill each other at some rehearsals possibly. If you didn't know us. It's like someone at any moment is about to get punched in the face! But, it's just care. We all care about this so much, and want the best for it. Whoever writes what, it's all ours. The day we don't feel like this is the day to hang it up and move on to the next.

F.F.: In the underground scene much is spoken of ideals, that money does not matter, only music. For me this is utopian and goes nowhere. Because if I can make some money from my art, that I truly love, why not? How do you see this issue, what is your personal opinion on it?
Paul: Well, most of the people with these opinions don't have to fill up a gas tank to get to the next show. Or buy supplies from an art store to make something for someone else. I don't understand this attitude at all. I always buy my friends records, my friends art, my friends jewelry, any way I can support people that mean anything to me, I do. If you're sitting at some shitty desk pushing a pen or doing data entry... that can easily kill the creative process. Why should you not be able to try and live off your art? No different than starting your own business. The underground will never understand, rather, that specific type that holds it so close that they'll blame you for doing something you want. It costs money to put a record out!
F.F.: After you've worked for 20 years with Gary Bennet, how is it going the experience with Raef Glicken?
Paul: Well, we've been all playing together this long. So, with Gary stepping down. The dynamic has definitely changed. I miss him being around, but he wasn't happy and I don't miss that. He's a brother to us, and this is what needed to happen. It just made Raeph and I focus harder. It made the bond between all four of us strong. Sos and Travis as well were affected by this. In different ways. The three of us in particular in this situation have a deep history. In a shorter time, since Sos stepped in, he's been a part of this that's as important as the friendships I've had with these guys going on 20 years. That's not something that happens that often, nor is it something I take for granted. Same with Travis. We've known him for years. This band is a brotherhood. As long as that's always there, the fire still burns.
F.F.: Has any change occurred or will it occur in relation to the current members of the band or are they all engaged to follow with the band in future projects?
Paul: This is the band. The four of us. Travis is the only one to fill the shoe of one of my best friends. Nothing will ever replace him as a person, he's always gonna be a part of the story. We have a new entity amongst us, with a new energy and we move forward.
F.F.: Are you currently working on other projects with other bands or are you focusing solely on Black Anvil? And what about the other members?
Paul: Black Anvil is always my first priority. I've occasionally filled in for some friends bands. Play guitar in a hardcore band. Sos has a heavy metal band as well, Sanhedrin and Travis is doing an industrial band called Hagwashe.
F.F.: What could you say about American black metal if compared to traditional Norwegian, Swedish and from other European countries?
Paul: Well, it's not comparable. I tend to follow/pay attention to the bands I'm drawn to whatever their location. There definitely is a difference. Sonically, lyrically. But again, I try to pay attention to what interests me and not pass too much judgement.
F.F.: You commented in an interview that your mother influenced your early musical style. How did this transition took place? I mean, get out of the traditional heavy metal style and engage in a more incisive and emotionally tuned styles?
Paul: Finding the underground definitely shifted the gears a bit. She's into a lot of music. It was her letting me hear Black Flag, Dead Kennedys etc, these things with raw production at a young age. I didn't quite get it then. I thought the art was cool, everything about it, but it wasn't Master Of Puppets. Metallica was my introduction to The Misfits. Which made going back to her punk records easier for me to comprehend. Then getting into more metal, you're going back to these recordings that aren't so polished. And from that, hardcore and punk. Hardcore in NYC was my scene. Still is actually. We are still who we've always been and our friends and allies will always be those we grew up alongside and fought alongside. Rather, who it's "cool" to be associated with in this "scene".
F.F.: Let's talk a little about the lyrics of your songs. What is your "moto"? In my point of view, your lyrics are influenced by your "spiritual belief system". At least some of them. Did I understand your intention or did I miss the point in any way?
Paul: You've understood this correctly. And with us it has become very interesting in this regard. There's a duality within. Which, for the most part you can listen to any lyrics and make them your own, relate them to your life however they mean something to you. A lot of our songs can be triggered by something not so spiritual. Usually a person, or an event, almost like hip hop in this sense where maybe we're crossed by someone, or don't like this, or have been affected by said person in such a way. Maybe a matter of the heart even. So the initial spark is something like that. Usually some ignorant shit, like "you know... this mother fucker", but when it comes time to articulate it, it becomes about us and always goes back to a deeper meaning. So it can be looked at as somewhat personal to a certain situation, as well, as something completely holy and working in conjunction with a higher purpose. We prefer to leave this all up for the listeners interpretation and let it impact you how it must. Some will for sure understand, like in this situation I think.
F.F.: I appreciate and I'm also an apprentice of the occult sciences. The album logo is a sigil. I recognize some  symbols in it. Could you tell me a bit more about this "sigil" specifically?
Paul: This sigil was created for this album by our artist, Valnoir (Metastazis, Paris). We always put full control in his hands. When the idea of simplicity came up after some discussions and ideas, we thought to have a sigil for this record specific to identify with. We worked on it a bit together, ultimately this is his department, so when asked some questions, we provided what was needed and that's what we can speak of it. It should be something to focus/meditate on when listening to this record and paying attention to the lyrics.
F.F.: Finishing my initial questions, let's talk a bit about the year 2017. Are you guys already working on something new to release this year or in the next one?
Paul: As of now we're going to focus on taking the show on the road, and make the rounds. We have Europe in the works for the fall, another round in the US possibly, some festivals. Taking it all as it comes. We have some songs recorded since before As Was, that we will look to put out as a tribute to a fallen friend and will be a special release when the time is right for that. This tribute is a song written with the memory of Selim Lemouchi in mind. He was a long time friend and we felt the need to honor that. It will be backed with a Mercyful Fate cover.
F.F.: Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions Paul! I feel honored, thank you so much. The last words are all yours.
Paul: As for final words, I'll keep it simple: Thank you. Was a great interview! Thank you again for going deeper than the average.

Black Anvil links: Facebook, Bandcamp