Bands that conceal their faces and personal identities in most cases fail to deliver substantial music that would justify their somewhat pretentious, apocalyptic bearing, with Qrixkuor being one of the very few exceptions to the rule. That said, what are your thoughts about that massive ongoing anonymity trend that you sort of endorse as well, can you explain what’s at the bottom of it and what was your motivation for taking that route in the first place?
S: For us, not disclosing our full names and covering our faces is intended to separate the art from the ego of the individual performer, and we would hope that it would bring the focus of the audience to the sum of the parts, this is the way in which we wish Qrixkuor to be experienced. It acts as our way of depersonalising and dehumanising the music, which is supposed to sound utterly inhuman. Therefore, we do our best to present the music in as demonic a way as we can, given that we are ultimately just men playing instruments. Wearing all black, jackets and hoods, we are faceless, indistinguishable and uniform. I also cannot deny that it very much assists in creating the desired aura in a live setting, most importantly for ourselves and also, it seems, for the audience. It is much less some quest for anonymity, plenty of people know who is in the band, we soundcheck unmasked and are open about our involvement, so if that was our ultimate goal, we’d be doing a pretty bad job of it. In any case, I don’t think an air of mystery is something to be avoided as there are definitely plenty of members of bands I wish I knew less about.
I’m not particularly concerned with trends. It is a waste of time to bother labeling anything as such and implies that the bands in question lack originality and are gravitating towards the trend simply to follow the crowd. We are confident in our justification for this approach and as long as others are honest in theirs, they should be left to do as they see fit. The dishonest will be found out at some point.
Qrixkuor is one of the most peculiar, obscure and phonetically complex band names around. What does that word mean and how that meaning corresponds with the feeling you are trying to convey with your music?
S: Qrixkuor is the name of an entity in Kenneth Grant’s book Against The Light. The word is stated to be numerically equivalent to the number of the beast, 666. We searched for quite a long time for an appropriate name for the band, and when Qrixkuor was mentioned it seemed to have resonance within the four of us which went beyond its pre-determined meaning and which we had not found in any of the names that had previously been suggested. To us, it is quite a lot more than just being a Grant reference or a cool name for a band, it has taken on a life and meaning of its own, and carries an energy that we continue to charge as the artistic vision carried out in its name develops. This is not to say that it has no meaning or doesn’t correspond with our sonic vision ˗ in its source it is a demonic and mysterious entity, a fitting moniker under which to play death metal ˗ it is just that we found its initial resonance to us far more valuable than simply trying to find an unused evil word or phrase. Many have observed that it is a bizarre and unusual word, but I would like to think that description is fitting to us as a band.
Instead of conforming to a stereotype and settling for a logo, you obviously felt that a sigil would suit the band’s purpose better. Could you briefly explain the significance and meaning behind it?
S: The sigil was drawn by our esteemed accomplice going by the moniker of SeventhBell, who is very likely the closest thing we have to a fifth band member. It is his own interpretation of Qrixkuor’s music and lyrics, expressed in his own way, and thus I will leave it up to the viewer to interpret the symbology within it. He would be able to give a more eloquent answer than me and is easy to find if anyone wants to dig deeper. I will just say that it immediately resonated with us and continues to be an appropriate visual constant for the band. It also serves as a gateway through which we channel our energies in both live and compositional settings.
Considering the importance logos have in the underground metal culture and the fact that a significant part of almost every band’s identity is woven into their design, have you ever felt devoid of something special by not having a conventional one?
S: I don’t particularly feel that we are missing anything by not having a more conventional logo. We have had a couple of artists including the aforementioned make attempts at a more classic metal logo and they simply didn’t resonate with us as much as the sigil. If anything, this is a more unusual, unique and special approach, and the design is very iconic and recognizable.
Is there a correlation between the title Three Devils Dance and the fact that there are only three songs featured on that EP? Does each song stand for one of those dancing devils?
S: The title was taken from a lyric from Serpent’s Mirror, which does not refer to the songs but a certain part of the lyric vision painted within that track. Admittedly, the title of the release was not something that came to us immediately and none of our ideas for it felt right for quite a while. When reading through the lyrics that phrase seemed to jump out as being suitable to the release, and was applicable to the three-song format almost accidentally. I feel that the image evoked by the phrase is bizarre and thought provoking.
Considering how effortlessly ideas unfold on Three Devils Dance, without a single moment of complete silence to interrupt the flow of the music, it appears as if you divided that EP into three separate chapters merely to satisfy a convention. Indeed, for that effort to be presented as a single 40 minutes long track would have seemed equally legitimate as releasing it the way you did. How hard was to determine when is the right moment to stop putting meat on one song and to start putting it on another?
S: That’s an interesting way of putting things. Well, I’ve always been drawn to releases on which the tracks blend together or follow on from each other in some way, whether that’s Abigail or Triune Impurity Rites. Not that there is anything wrong with a release simply being eight independent tracks, and indeed that is the approach of some of my favorite records, but I simply find the experience more engrossing and, most importantly, far more fitting to the type of atmosphere that we seek to create when there are no breaks in the soundscape, and the listener is able to spend that period of time in the world created by the artist rather than being allowed to lose focus while waiting for the five seconds of silence at the end of the track to subside before something completely different happens. We have a similar approach to live performance, with no breaks between songs so as not to break anyone’s trance.
Initially, the three songs were written independently of each other, though as the material began to come together and I was able to listen to the most primitive forms of the three in tandem, that then showed what needed to be done to each to create the experience desired for the full release, and made clear how and in what way they should fit together. A song is finished when it has finished the musical and lyrical journey that it set out on. I’ll concede that that’s quite a vague answer, but the decision that a song is complete is mostly based on feeling and intuition. It just so happens that every song so far has been rather long by traditional standards. This may not always be the case, although we have been working on some basic arrangements for new tracks that continue in this vein. The lyrics also obviously have a bearing on when a song is complete. The lyrics thus far have been written by A and R, while the music has been written exclusively by me, so these have been composed independently of each other up to this point. When each part is near completion, at least in a primitive form, these are then joined together, and the vision, atmosphere and length of the lyrics can sometimes dictate that of the music. It should also be noted that the lyrical themes of each song, though there are some parallels, are not constant throughout ˗ perhaps this is as good a reason as any for separating the tracks as such.
Its length, wealth of ideas, variety of moods and number of layers a listener must penetrate to fully grasp Three Devils Dance, all these things suggest a magnitude and impact of a proper full-length, yet for some reason you decided that deeming it an EP would be more appropriate. Why?
S: Being honest, the classification of the release doesn’t mean very much to us and wasn’t a decision that we prioritised as everything was coming together. People are free to call it a full-length if they want to, or an EP/MLP if they want to. Initially, we did not envisage the release reaching 39 minutes in length. Alterations to the tracks later in the composition process and the addition of the intro/outro and interludes suddenly left us with a significantly longer release than we imagined, but everything fell into place perfectly and ultimately had to be this way. Obviously, there are many full-lengths of shorter length and I suppose we’d probably have called it a full-length had there been another track on the B-side, but it felt right as a three-song release, hence the EP classification. If and when we release a full-length, it will have at least two full sides.
That said, almost four years have passed since those 39 minutes of music came out. How do they make you feel now, four years later? Do they still ignite the same sense of pride and accomplishment as before or did you grow slightly detached from the whole experience, looking forward to what lies ahead?
S: Yes, definitely. If anything, the forced detachment brought by time and thoughts of future endeavors has enhanced this, as during and immediately after the experience you’re immersed in the process of actually looking for flaws, hoping to find any before it’s too late to make changes. That the record has imperfections is unimportant, what is vital is that every last ounce of energy was given to it at the time ˗ the period between September 2015 and February 2016 ˗ putting to tape the experiences of the previous couple of years. As an often frustratingly and exasperatingly harsh perfectionist, this is the only way I can let go and actually call a project finished ˗ accept that it captures a moment in time, and pledge that absolutely everything is done to ensure that it is as strong a moment as possible. I’m satisfied that this was achieved in this case.
I spend a lot more time looking forwards than backwards, and I can’t deny that the anticipation of the forthcoming material is the primary obsession. I don’t listen to Three Devils Dance as often as I once did, but I undertook this experience as recently as the other day, and still managed to get as lost in it as I did the first time.
Speaking of looking forwards: there are many steps yet to climb, but many have already been taken and ensuring that the exponentially elevated potential of the initial visions are fulfilled in the final result will be an all-encompassing obsession until it is realised. Consumed and burning brighter. This obviously deliberately vague observation is how you recently reflected on the new Qrixkuor music that is apparently in the making. Without delving too deep into specifics, do you feel confident that embryos of ideas you are honing right now could eventually elevate the band beyond foundations set with your previous efforts? That said, should all those previous efforts even be deemed foundations or do you like to think they were successful attempts at exploring the unknown themselves?
S: Deliberately vague indeed, as I’ve long since learnt not to make promises when it comes to time, but this statement was meant to imply that while the process of making a record, especially one as involved as ours, is a very lengthy process, a lot of the work has genuinely been done towards it. The ideas are a lot more developed than embryos and more than one release has been musically complete in draft form for quite some time. The step following that, assembling the pack and committing this to a form for release, is what may take more time still. There is no deadline, but work never stops. Yes, I’m certain it will far outstrip what has come before. If I wasn’t, there wouldn’t be next step to talk about.
All previous work should be considered monuments in their own right. As stated, they capture a moment in time and were given every ounce of obsessive energy at that time, and so they must be considered successful, as long as mistakes are learned from and the knowledge and experience illuminated by each step along the path inspire reaching for greater heights on the next.
If what you said recently was true, that Three Devils Dance was a worthy attempt at expressing the genuine insanity of that unique period of your lives, what precisely about the experience of making that EP was so dramatic that you almost needed to sacrifice your sanity in order to get it done?
S: Much transgressive behaviour, individually and within a group, aimed at achieving a greater apprehension of the forces we felt were coming into contact with. Not that this was always well-judged, and often far more destructive than productive if reflected upon honestly, but in any case certainly served to achieve a greater understanding of the depths of ourselves and of the nature of our mission. Everyone starts somewhere and finding your mental and spiritual boundaries through such tests is quite the baptism of fire.
What was the most notable thing you learned about yourself on that troublesome journey to hell and back?
S: I cannot say whether I’ve learned to trust my instincts or whether my instincts have simply improved to the point of becoming more consistently trustworthy, but it is this perceived strengthened unconscious connection to the source of creation that was the biggest step forward on the path to self-knowledge from these times. I’ve learned to better recognise a spark and make of it a flame.
Do you think that being wiser from the experience will help you not repeating any of previously made mistakes, presuming, of course, that completely draining yourself mentally and emotionally in order to create the most worthwhile music possible could be even considered a mistake, and that a genuine artist can actually afford to do things any other way?
S: Working until absolutely drained is the only way I can find peace with calling a project finished. Whether this could be a mistake or not depends on your priorities and its effect upon them ˗ for me there is simply no other way.
That transgressive behaviour you have just mentioned, it clearly suggests that certain traits of your personality get reflected through your music, that is dark, negative and intense. How predominant those traits are and would you say they define you only as an artist or as a person as well? Do you spend the majority of your time in a gloomy, emotionally flat or cheerful mood?
S: Probably quite predominant, and I, and I’m sure others, would say that that profile definitely defines me somewhat as a person as well as an artist. I have quite a negative outlook on life in general, a fascination with dark and morbid subject matter and a long-standing susceptibility to the inhabitance of very dark mental states that certainly give me plenty of ammunition for writing negative, intense music when the mood to pick up an instrument strikes. I wouldn’t say that I spend much time in a flat state of emotions, instead being much more likely to be fluctuating between a state of negativity and a state of what could perhaps be best described as contentment or even euphoria when that negativity is expelled, either into music or by other means. I guess you could deduce from that that negativity and the way that it manifests are extremely important to my emotional state and personality, and of course artistic expressions, and that my relationship with negativity certainly goes some way to defining me as a person. Conversely, I do have other musical endeavors that explore different parts of my personality than those on display in Qrixkuor. There is one of these that I would say definitely draws inspiration especially from the aforementioned euphoric states, and this is obviously prevalent in the soundscape that is ultimately created.
Cesar A. Cruz’s famous thought that art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable keeps resonating in my head as we discuss your music and your relationship with it. Do you find that standpoint congruent with your own perception of art, regardless of the form?
S: Definitely. Effective art should challenge the perceptions, beliefs and ideals of those experiencing it. And no one ever created anything so effective without having perceptions, beliefs and ideals that stand outside those held by the comfortable. This is what makes much mainstream music just that ˗ it isn’t challenging anything. In the case of any potential exceptions to this rule, consider whether or not the mainstream has truly understood the artist’s intention.
There is a standpoint that taste in music says much more about temperament than about intellect. Would you subscribe to that notion?
S: The evidence would suggest as much. Maybe no more obviously than in metal, where you have many people with serious intellectual capacity and with unique and defined views and ideals listening to incredibly primitive music by many people’s standards. Overly primitive in fact, but something in it gets into our blood and refuses to be shaken off. It is almost certainly within other facets that the attraction lies, or at least originates.
There is a famous quote among writers, that writing is 90% reading and only 10% actual writing. Do you feel the same or similar reasoning could be applied to music? Is 90% of what comprises writing music, once the playing skills are mastered, a reflection and reinterpretation of music previously absorbed by listening?
S: Perhaps. It’s difficult to know for sure. Referring to the previous question, I think temperament and personality, or whatever synonyms you prefer to substitute, are part of this circle of creativity if you will, and it is through these that the music previously absorbed is being filtered through when it is reinterpreted, to borrow your phrase. So perhaps this suggestion in your question is correct, but to me, it is the refinement of these reinterpretations through circumstances such as personality, time, location, etc. that make it unique.
Influences have become uninteresting subject to discuss in recent years as bands usually wear them on their sleeves and are completely unable to escape their long, dark shadow. However, with bands whose sound is so idiosyncratic as yours is, this matter suddenly becomes of importance. Building on the previous question, do you think that, on a subconscious level, musicians are generally more influenced by music they listen to while composing their own or by music they grew up with and spent their entire life listening to, that represents an essential part of their musical DNA?
S: I would firstly voice my appreciation for the implication from both your question and review of Three Devils Dance on your website that we are something of a unique band. Whether anyone else thinks this or not, it is nice to see a writer look a bit deeper into a band’s individual characteristics and think twice before making a poor, lazy comparison to a barely related act.
To your question, I think it is most likely a combination of both. I believe that everything that you hear shapes your ear and develops your aural preference of melodies, textures, etc. It’s natural that if you play something on a guitar that has a melody or rhythm similar to something you are listening to at that time, then your ear will find familiarity in that and latch onto it. Likewise for the music that a person grows up listening to, which will likely become similarly engrained in your subconscious. I have recently found it interesting to trace back some of my style, for lack of a better word, and think the answers reflect the latter method in your question, though another listener may of course hear it differently.
Obviously, we are talking about inspiration purely on a musical level here, rather than other potential stimuli which I believe should contribute more to atmosphere of any band discontent with simply sounding like a collection of their favorite records ˗ perhaps better explaining extraordinary and personal, but that is another question.
With all due respect to those other potential stimuli, let’s end this conversation by discussing strictly musical influences, if you don’t mind. Could you name some of the bands/artists that predominantly shaped your taste in music and general aesthetic preferences? What are some of the metal bands that you never grow tired of?
S: The first few bands that come to my mind at this very moment would be Morbid Angel, Immolation, Sadistic Intent, Demoncy and Mortem. I’ll take that to mean bands who have releases that I never tire of rather the band in general, since so few have flawless discographies and I obviously have my preferences within those bands’ back catalogues. Of course, in the context of your question I could name many more, like The Chasm, Mortuary Drape, Blasphemy, Samael, Incantation, Demigod, Sinistrous Diabolus or Varathron, however whether there are any similarities between these bands and us is anyone’s guess.
Are those the same bands that got you introduced to the genre?
S: Because of my age ˗ at 23 I’m the youngest member of the band, with the oldest being 27 ˗ naming bands that introduced me to the metal genre in my formative years is more a question of who I stumbled on first in my early to mid teens rather than any kind of chronological list, since most releases considered classic were recorded by the time I was old enough to find them and I discovered most bands in an unconventional order. A few that spring to mind as bands whose discovery was particularly significant in introducing me to the different metal subgenres and opening gateways along my journey would be Iron Maiden, Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Mayhem, Slayer and Morbid Angel.
Finally, what are some of the non-metal bands or artists whose music influenced you just as much as music of all the aforementioned metal bands?
S: As far as non-metal artists go, part of my early musical education at school was forced study of different types of classical music, introducing me to Dimitri Shostakovich and Arnold Schönberg. Both completely different but totally depraved, and I was extremely attracted to their darker works, as well as those related to the latter practicing serialist/expressionist styles of composition, like Berg, Webern, Boulez. The extent to which every single other student in my class and even the tutors hated having to work with those compositions made some mark too ˗ how can it not have been something special? Some time later I discovered the genius of Krystof Penderecki, who have I been lucky enough to witness conducting some of his works in the flesh in the years since. Chilling. Diamanda Galas and Zero Kama to me would probably seem fairly clichéd answers as metal musicians’ outside influences, being less obscure than many, but for good reason, as they are both totally unique, and I have been deeply affected by both artists works at different points. I could name many more, but they’d be less relevant to what manifests in Qrixkuor.
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