Pseudonym Bestial Devotion leaves space for different interpretations since it isn’t clear whom or what that devotion is owed to. That said, are you a musician who sees making music as a purpose in itself or do you use it merely as a fitting medium for expressing some kind of ideology or belief?
Bestial Devotion: I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I feel the need to exorcise the nagging thoughts that come out as music, otherwise they tend to clog up my head and cause a mounting feeling of anxiety and chaos. Beyond that, I also feel a debt to the music that I so intrinsically relate to and admire, and want to repay it on some subconscious level. That should explain the pseudonym a bit as well, going back to your first observation, as it’s a bit of both. I firmly believe in repaying that debt and paying tribute to your inspirations, as well as channeling yourself into it and contributing. The name is part reference to my views and part a simple, harsh-sounding tribute to the tradition of stealing one of your inspiration’s song titles.
If asked to deconstruct your identity and remove all references to music from it, what would remain? Are Bestial Devotion and yourself as a regular person deeply intertwined and is there even a regular person inside that could be content without music?
Bestial Devotion: There is no difference between the two and I think the whole pseudonym thing is being taken a bit too literal at this point, they’re metaphorical words like all artistic expression. Like I said above, I play music to exorcise what churns around in my head and won’t let me sleep at night and let me think when I’m awake. This doesn’t turn off at any time, be it at work or doing some other mundane task, it just is.
Who or what is Achatius, what is the nature of his journey and is there a deeper meaning behind that whole narrative?
Bestial Devotion: I’ve been asked this a lot and I think listeners should just read the lyrics and come to their own conclusions, it’s not terribly esoteric in my opinion. The song titles themselves are basically chapter titles describing what occurs in this segment of the narrative, so I think considering that added to the actual lyrics, I think it can be understood quite easily.
Did you write music for this album with or without that narrative in mind?
Bestial Devotion: The narrative, the overarching idea at least, came first and I wrote many segments with the specific mood of each chapter of the story in mind. There is a reason the third track for example is the most chaotic and abrasive or that the opening for the fourth track is essentially a march. It all goes hand in hand and everything must be a cog in the machine that is the complete experience.
Achatius doesn’t sound like a record that belongs here and now, there is something utterly obscure, almost medieval about it, completely unconventional, unassociable and devoid of any contemporary connotations. Would you subscribe to this notion?
Bestial Devotion: I’m musically hopelessly and unapologetically stuck in the past, even pasts I have no business feeling nostalgic for, so I suppose it’s not shocking to me to hear it described this way. The fact you find it obscure and almost medieval means I translated my ideas adequately so I take that as a compliment.
Now that the album is out and has taken on a life of its own, do you feel that the music and the storyline are complementary sensibility-wise, that you succeeded in making their interaction as natural and effective as possible?
Bestial Devotion: I’m quite frankly extremely satisfied with Achatius and it’s my most fully realized recording so far, especially in the aspect you mentioned. The only thing I would change at all are some slight technical issues I hear now that I can hear it as a listener after some distance.
Tormentor’s Anno Domini and Poison’s Into The Abyss were apparently the most important influences on the songwriting process for this album. Why those two records in particular?
Bestial Devotion: They’ve just severely influenced me for a long time now. The manic, crazed and medieval riffing in Anno Domini and the sprawling, imposing song structures on Into The Abyss are two ideals for me as far as black metal is concerned. They also both exemplify the early adventurous, eccentric and experimental nature while keeping a deeply rotten core at the center. They’re perfect.
All three of your releases have somewhat of a different angle to them. Finding that fresh angle every time you start writing new music must be extremely difficult. Or is it?
Bestial Devotion: I get very obsessive and fanatical about a specific vision and when I’m done with it and get it recorded, I just move on until I find new inspiration and the cycle starts again. It would be much more difficult if someone actually tried to make me write exactly the same style again as on the last recording. I get it out of my system and move on so to speak.
Presuming that your musical journey began with classic metal bands that you discovered at a very early age, could you briefly reflect on that nearly two decades long journey (hope you won’t mind possibly wrong estimation that you’re now in your late twenties) and mark the turning points? And by turning points I mean everything fundamentally important that happened from your first introduction to the music of, let’s say, Iron Maiden to becoming an artist who single-handedly made albums like The Archer Takes Aim and Achatius. How much your taste and understanding of the music changed over that period of time?
Bestial Devotion: I’m in my early thirties now, to be exact. Actually, it didn’t begin with classic metal bands for me or any of that. I had no metal pals or any of that stuff, so nobody was ever there to try to get me in line with their tastes. I can’t remember what I heard first or any of that sort of trivia, but I eventually discovered black metal somehow around 1996 and got involved in tape trading for some time. This guy would send me tapes like Bathory’s The Return on one side and Hellhammer’s Satanic Rites on the other for very cheap, it was utterly amazing music to me and what I was always meant to hear somehow. That obscure pseudo-medieval dark feeling, the dingy sound, it absolutely defines black metal for me to this day. I was also always extremely fascinated by all the medieval architecture and folklore I grew up around, night times spent running around in the woods and things like that, so that type of archaic and primal sound just felt like what was missing from my life.
I had riffs and the need to create my own version of this stuff floating around in my head since I was probably 14 years old, so I would take these long strolls at night and hum and sing songs and lyrics to myself like a teenage weirdo does. My chance to finally pick up an instrument to learn didn’t come up until much later. This was really the big turning point I suppose, I completely stopped being interested in anything else because I had many years of imaginary music making to catch up to. In short, I became extremely fanatical and that really never subsided to this day for better or worse.
I heard many quintessential type of bands much later honestly. I don’t think I even owned an Iron Maiden record until my twenties or something. I thankfully discovered the utter perfection and glory of Black Sabbath in my late teens however, and quickly saw the error of my ways. No one has ever been nor will ever be better than Black Sabbath in their prime to me, their Paris 1970 gig is the absolute pinnacle of everything I could ever want in a band.
Speaking of the music that you like, were you completely serious when you said recently that you do the music that no one else does for you anymore? That sentiment implies that something of essential importance must be wrong or is at least missing from contemporary music, metal music that is. What is that?
Bestial Devotion: You have to understand this quote was taken from a personal conversation and wasn’t something I told the label to use as some cool promo quote. Of course, I don’t lack self-awareness and understand this sounds pompous taken out of context. However, I do feel that way to a certain extent, I probably did more so than usual at that particular moment when I said it.
What I really meant with that is that there are very few metal albums being released that satisfy my extremely niche and obsessive tastes, so I have to make it myself. It sounds fucking dramatic out of context. Some strands of black metal were simply a dead end road and I want to hear more of it, so I make it.
I don’t think that sentiment implies that at all since I was purely speaking about my personal tastes. I know full well, like I said, that I have extremely particular and unfashionable taste in metal. That doesn’t mean I care what anyone else does or what’s being made and therefore want everyone to change, I just won’t listen to it.
On your debut album some of the lyrics were in German. That is somewhat peculiar considering that US bands seldom write lyrics in any other language than English. Does, by any chance, your family origin play a part in that, are you a German by nationality? Also, in reference to that album, what was the force represented with an archer in its title and what was he aiming at?
Bestial Devotion: I write some lyrics in German because it’s my first language and I’m German. I didn’t emigrate from Germany to the US until late into my teenage years. I consider Funereal Presence much more as a German band despite its geographical location, as nonsensical as that may sound. I keep most of the lyrics in English because they’re a very important aspect to me and I would like listeners to get the complete picture. As for the album title, death, and subsequent damnation, was in old woodcut art often allegorically represented as an archer aiming a bow and arrow at the living.
Dämmerlicht is without doubt the most captivating instrumental piece of music I have ever heard from any black metal band, just a refined, simplistic and unpretentious demonstration of greatness. How difficult was to get that one done?
Bestial Devotion: I appreciate your words, thank you. Dämmerlicht translates to Twilight and is supposed to be a musical representation of the day sinking down below the mountain peaks, being taken over by night and the superstitions it brings with it. The song escalates and ends in relative chaos to represent that. I try to imagine, especially on the lyrical side, what the peasants depicted in woodcuts that inspire me must’ve seen as reality or felt facing the abominations portrayed. I know that probably sounds bizarre, but it’s fascinating to me. Anyone interested in my album enough should revisit the content with that perspective in mind. Both Funereal Presence and Negative Plane are very archaic, superstitious and anti-modern really.
Despite having only four songs on both of your albums, was determining what would be their ideal chronological order something you found particularly difficult?
Bestial Devotion: I wrote the material with placement in mind in the first place. Numerically four songs per album wasn’t much, but anything more than that with that much detail and song length would have been fucking annoying and exhausting to my ears. I cut some material out actually, to meet the single LP and proper Side A/Side B dynamic, because I didn’t want the flow of the albums to be interrupted.
Chanting vocals on The Archer Takes Aim sounded pretty weird. Did you write lyrics with the thought of singing certain verses that way?
Bestial Devotion: It’s that peasant perspective again I discussed above. I had the idea of making the clear vocals a counterpoint, the lamenting voice of the narrative’s victim or something along those lines.
Speaking of peasant perspective, how does residing in New York City affect your music that is virtually rural in its essence?
Bestial Devotion: Well, firstly I should point out that I do not live in New York City proper so my surroundings aren’t what I believe you may be picturing. The fact I don’t actually have these things are probably what contributes to me wanting to express it in music, but I also contribute these things to my upbringing and roots. I grew up the opposite of urban.
Do you often listen to your own music and can you appreciate it for what it is, without being too critical about it? On a more general note, what do you think is at the bottom of that immense criticism musicians often have for their own music?
Bestial Devotion: I listen to my own music all the time, that’s what I make it for in the first place. It’s another form of self-torture however, because I’m constantly nit-picking and criticizing every note, drum fill and vocal line, yet I come back over and over. People criticize their own music harshly because it can be one of the most frustrating things you’ll ever feel, to hear this perfect version in your head only to have it marred by one of the million little things that will make it anything but perfect once you release it onto tape.
Do you find it hard to keep your ego on a short leash and how highly do you think of yourself?
Bestial Devotion: I mean, you’re not talking to a guy in Kiss here, but it depends what you consider ego to be. Is it ego to say I listen to my own albums or think my bands are fucking great? Probably, but why else would I release it or play it if I didn’t think it had something to offer, why would anyone? I’m never at peace with myself if that’s what you’re asking and I definitely don’t think highly of myself at all. That ego problem question you’ll have to ask others about, but I think anyone with this stereotypical rock star attitude in underground band is a miserably delusional piece of shit with a complex.
Could you say something about the artistic chemistry between you and other Negative Plane members? Is there anything about the whole Negative Plane experience that you would gladly change in order to make the band even better?
Bestial Devotion: I suppose I would make us more prolific? Nameless Void, myself and DG understand the unspoken rules, the intent and so on amongst each other that no outsider would, there’s not more you can ask for when doing something as specific as this. It’s an alignment that happens with time that can’t be replaced with random bodies handling instruments.
Negative Plane toured quite a bit over the last couple of years. How do you feel about touring, do you like it?
Bestial Devotion: I’ve participated in only a few small tours so I don’t really know the pitfalls of the hotshot touring life. It has its ups for several days, after that I just want to be home in my introverted space. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t like playing live frequently.
What do you think should be a measure of success for underground metal bands of your generation? What a band must accomplish in order to be perceived as successful?
Bestial Devotion: I have no idea honestly. I define success as recording something that sounds close to my original vision and that I want to listen to over and over again.
While some bands never leave a certain framework, other bands always aim to reinvent themselves. Neither are right nor wrong necessarily, as there are examples of greatness and mediocrity on both sides. Which of these two approaches has more appeal to you?
Bestial Devotion: I like off-kilter and eccentric bands, music with some sort of individualistic touch to it. Overall though, I don’t have much of an opinion as I don’t really care about or pay attention to contemporary extreme metal. If it’s an album that speaks to me, I listen to it, if not then I don’t.
From one to ten, how would you rate yourself as a drummer?
Bestial Devotion: I don’t know, the drums are just another tool to create music I want to hear. I’d rather rate Philthy Animal or Kim Ruzz, both are an 11.
What is your first memory related to music?
Bestial Devotion: My first musical memory is Kraftwerk’s music video for The Model with its obscure black and white imagery.
Why is music important?
Bestial Devotion: I’m actually not sure how to answer that question right now I admit. As someone who dedicates so much of themselves to it, you’d think I would’ve thought of this before and have an answer ready but unfortunately, apparently I have not.
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