With a unique sound and a unique perspective, Ancient Vvisdom are the sort of band who raise at least as many questions as they answer, their oblique and intelligently written lyrics begging close inspection and personal interpretation from the listener. The band as a unit are a remarkable outfit who play music that stirs up almost tribal feelings amongst their devoted following, and their concerts affecting a ceremonial atmosphere that makes each live appearance an event rather than just another night out amongst many. In Nathan Opposition, the band also benefit from having a charismatic and thoughtful frontman whose presence on stage is truly electrifying whilst off-stage he proves to be both charming and loquacious, taking the trouble to answer each question with great care. We were lucky enough to meet up with Nathan before the band’s appearance at Nottingham’s Rescue rooms, a night reviewed elsewhere on these pages, and we took the opportunity to talk to Nathan about his philosophy, the band’s debut split record with Mr Charles Manson and the thought process behind Ancient Vvisdom’s awesome ‘a Godlike Inferno’, a record that lives long in the mind of anyone who hears it. Read on and discover Ancient Vvisdom…
First of all, you started with quite an unusual record – a split with Charles Manson – I was wondering, he’s someone who commands a huge degree of interest from the rock and metal community – what made you decide to do that and how did it come about?
I think a lot of it is what he represents and not just as a sort of public, Satan figure who’s an enemy of the state or enemy of the world; but he also represents a rebel, the human rebel spirit and the ability to have somebody who influences you like that… in more of a positive way – to take somebody like that and not just what they’ve been known to do, or the conspiracy of doing, but taking something positive from somebody who’s such a negative figure with the public…and I think that’s another thing too, sort of reversing a negative current, which I like to do a lot actually, mess with the polarity of things; either use the opposite to attract something else or flip something upside-down or twist in your own way so he helped us to do that I believe – his philosophies and that sort of thing.
And also it was just a bizarre first release…to add!
Was he amenable to that – how did you get in contact with him and how did he relate to what you wanted to do?
Through friends of friends who’d known him for quite some time; they’re just people who visit him and they’re probably his only friends in the world now, except for all his fans whom he doesn’t get to meet or see. He has Grey Wolf and Star, his two best friends who visit him all the time and probably get him into a lot of the trouble that he gets in on the inside – he always seems like he’s getting caught with something – you’d think after a while that he’d just stop trying to bring in cell phones or whatever the hell else he’s trying to do to make calls or whatever… but no, he’s still up to no good as usual ‘cause that’s his way of being I guess… but yeah, through friends of friends I got in touch with Grey wolf and Star who helped me to get contacts with the recording rights so that it’d be possible to do the record production wise and that’s pretty much it. It was a pretty simple transition – Star did the artwork for the cover and I think that really added another layer of depth to what we created with that record and then I did the back panel artwork which was all done by hand. It looks like prison style, honestly, which is kind of funny – just like break open a big pen or something like that and take (what do they use??) like the end of a nail and let the ink make the trails to create the words and stuff like that, so it was really DIY, old school graphic design which made my involvement with the record a little more intricate and not just the writing but doing some of the artwork too which is interesting to add.
You talked about inverting ideas and one of the things about Ancient Vvisdom musically that you do – I mean you’re music is very different to anything else out there with the lyrical content that you have and I’d like to ask how you decided upon and developed your sound because it’s quite intricate I think.
A lot of it just came from experimenting in the studio, but the very basic element of what Ancient Vvisdom is comes from the roots and blues of music and the things that started rock ‘n’ roll music. We tend to get a lot of comments about meeting the devil at the crossroads – the first, you know, rock and roll birth there and that’s where we try to take it back to – the writing and everything that is involved makes it what it is and everybody involved in it makes it what it is. If it was just me, it would just sound like a Nathan Opposition solo record and that’s not what I want it to be – I want it to be that everybody has an influence [at this point guitarist Michael walks in] like Michael right here who adds a lot of creative influence to the band. Everyone who’s involved adds a lot of the depth and being creative in the studio definitely helps too and we were able to have the time to try different things and see what’s right for the songs – certain songs call for certain sounds and certain moods something comes with the lyrics too – it’s the lyrics that set the whole wheels in motion and once we have that we kind of go and there’re a lot of different layers of adding all the instrumentation. Alex Hughes from Hatred Surge – he did upright bass over the entire Godlike record. We didn’t have a bass player so he flew in from Germany that day and he nailed all the songs first try – he just picked up the vibe and knew what it was and from there it was just trying to create the depth you hear on the record. It was kind of cool having that and then adding a lot of synth layers to the recording and then we added progressive layers of bamboo and machetes and chains and different songs had different sounds… And trying to make every song personal and every song unique in its own way but so it still ties in to the whole of the presence and mood of the record. So I suppose that’s about it!
Speaking of presence and mood, the word ‘Satan’, especially when connected to metal, conjures up cartoony images because it’s an image that is used by so many bands, not always genuinely, and you guys… strip away the rock ‘n’ roll image of Satan to turn it into more of a ritualistic thing and I was wondering how far you find the conventional, metal approach has trivialised what you do?
I think a lot of people take things more seriously than they should and one of the places I come from is the reality and understanding of yourself, personal growth and endeavours and power and finding the path – that’s where Satanism comes from for me. And a lot of people, like you said, conjure these cartoony images of red devil horns and all this silly stuff and that’s fun too I guess and if that’s what they choose to do, that’s their path and that’s sort of Satanism itself – which is cool – but at the same time it’s not for me, it’s not my thing and I’d rather look at the reality of life and death and the creativity, growth.. spiritual growth as an individual and not some entity that is non-existent or you can create to exist if you’d like – the walls of perception are open to whoever can tap into them and that’s what it is to me and anything else is just kind of silly and cartoons… which is still fun – I appreciate humour and there are all sides of life but that’s not what I choose to cover in my material with Satanism.
One of the things I was wondering was that in the song ‘the opposition’ you conflate Satanism, or Lucifarianism at any rate, with the idea of heathen and pagan religions which are sort of separate entities but they come back to the same naturalist perspective I guess and you were talking about self-empowerment which is a very Anton LaVey kind of principle so is it a kind of naturalist perspective you’re coming from?
I’d say it’s just everything – it’s what I believe I am and people have said that these certain religions – wiccan or witchcraft and stuff like that and Lucifarianism and Satanism – they’re all kind of separate things but to me it’s what I read so they’re not separate things and it’s what I’ve created into a reality – all those things are connected – as all the world is, I think, in certain ways. If you look back at religion you’ve got people worshipping bears in caves to people worshipping crucifixes in million dollar cathedrals and there are so many connections to all spiritualism in some detail. So I think that’s where that song came from for me anyway. For me – that’s what I’ve created so that’s my religion.
With both your background and your lyrical content, your music seems to have largely been picked up on in the metal underground press, and yet the music itself is not metal – so how have you found the reaction to be to your record?
Um – we’ve Played to a lot of metal fans and we’ve just played Inferno with a lot of really fast, really heavy death and black metal bands and honestly I think we have a pretty intense show when it comes down to it and we win over crowds who enjoy all styles and kinds of music but we kinda stood out like a sore thumb at that show because every band – Absu and Autopsy, and Decapitated – I mean we all love Decapitated, but Decapitated and Ancient Vvisdom at the same show? Does it really make any sense? I don’t know – maybe it does. It’s almost like the In Solitude, devil’s blood sort of thing – people like different styles of music at the same show and maybe it makes sense… maybe it doesn’t; I don’t know but we definitely won over a lot of metal heads that day and that’s cool… and I think people like the content too and people really look into what the content is and the people who understand it, really appreciate it and most who really appreciate it enjoy our atmosphere and our mood… And then there are those who just completely write us off and don’t listen to the content – but maybe they should sit back and listen to it one more time! But, yeah it’s interesting the way we’ve found our niche in weird pockets of the world and weird fan bases… I don’t know, I just think it’s finding itself out, that’s kind of what it’s doing, it’s finding its way without me even controlling it – we just let it free now and see what happens.
Musically it’s not metal, but it is very heavy in another sense – you know I’d compare it to bands like Swans and Angels of light – and there’s a real atmosphere…
Maybe that’s what the heaviness is – a sort of heavy mood and a heavy presence, not like a heavy guitar tone. It’s heavy in a different way… maybe metaphysically heavy(!) for lack of a better term… or maybe that’s a good term, I don’t know – I think it is, fuck it!, metaphysically heavy – that’s what we are so that’s how heavy we are…
I think that’s a T shirt right there
Yeah – with AVV on the front and ‘metaphysically heavy’ on the back…
OK – um my question’s just vanished… (embarrassing rattling of badly folded notepaper) Yeah – one of the impressions we have of America, particularly the south, is of religious… intransigence – I was wondering if that had caused you problems musically and lyrically…
Not as much as I expected! I expected a bigger revolt against what I’d been saying – maybe it hasn’t reached the right places yet. Maybe I should send a couple of our CDs to Catholic or Christian churches like to just to get a reaction… it’d be kind of funny actually, they’d probably try to sit me down and have an intervention like Necrobutcher from Mayhem… I was watching one Youtube clip where they gave this exorcism – they were putting crucifixes up to his head and he was just like “alright, whatever, you guys are weird!” His reaction was really funny and I’m expecting… hopefully something like that soon… a lot of Christian revolts against me – maybe they’ll come to my shows with picket signs and stuff like that and throw eggs at me – that’d be funny – I hope so!
But yeah – not as much as I expected and not as much as I’d like so if you’re out there – come on down to one of our shows and picket out front and whatever you want to do… stand up for yourself at least because I’m totally against whatever that may be! Whatever it is!!!
You’re playing a few shows now – the record is very lush and atmospheric – I was wondering how that would come across in the live show?
Aahh the translation… yeah a lot of people ask about that and really give me nothing but positive feedback about it. It’s a little more…. Rock ‘n’ roll I suppose, sort of heavier… well not heavier, but a bit more driving-wise because it makes more for a rock show. We definitely take it down a notch for songs where we have to bring it down and we definitely set the tone for trying to capture the essence of the record live – that’s what we go for. And that’s what I think is important too – to be able to pull off live what you do on a recording. To translate that live and Ghost is an example of a band that do that magically almost – where they sound almost better than the record, even though the record is produced amazingly and I loved that record before I toured with them and seeing them live – it was just amazing and we try to make up the same sort of thing – making the atmosphere the same and capturing what we created in the studio.
In the past you used a backdrop – is that something that’s made it over?
That’s something that’s going to be down the line production wise – we don’t have a budget for that right now but… give me a budget and I’ll make you the best rock show you’ll ever see!!! Sso we have a lot of ideas for that sort of stuff, and I personally have been taking care of a lot of that side of things and helping out with a lot of the design and visual art for this band so I want to continue doing that and adding a live production would definitely help to make things come to life on stage which we really want to do – and give out viewers something to really go home and… have nightmares about!
I think that’s about it – thanks so much for talking to us…