Interview: Code (2021) | From The Bowels Of Perdition

Conversation with

Code

What kind of strange royalty the album title Flyblown Prince refers to? Who or what is represented by it?

Aort: As always, there is a lot of ambiguity with our titles. We find the fact that most aspects of the band, from the titles all the way through to the band name itself, can be read in many ways. The title of the album doesn’t necessarily reflect a specific theme on the album although if you look at it obliquely, it would make certain sense. We just felt that the title as well as being very specific to the opening song, had a feel about it that can go some way to capturing the fraught and dynamic sense of the album. In terms of the song itself, it has a level of abstraction but at its root concerns a murderer and his dominion and reverence of his victims.

This is not the first time that your music is visually scaled down to what feels like a deliberately minimalistic album cover. What this particular image stands for and how does it correspond with the album title?

Aort: We were not very prescriptive with the cover and gave the artist free reign to create something that they felt reflected the music. First and foremost, we felt that Kristina Pavleska’s style would fit well with the feel of the album. The second step was to provide advance tracks and some titles and general themes for inspiration. What was produced we felt was a perfect visual match for the album in all its tension, anguish, and desperation.

Do you still consider yourselves a metal band and is refusing to confine Code to any kind of sonic stereotype something that frees you up songwriting-wise, considering that you are also well capable to do exactly the opposite, like with Binah for example? Who is the audience Code is addressing with Flyblown Prince?

Aort: The only album of ours that I don’t think can be classed as metal is Mut. Everything else we have released has obviously been metal at its core so I don’t think we can pretend we aren’t, and indeed I don’t think I would want to. I do think given that our discography has been so varied we do feel a great deal of freedom when creating music. If I was to be blunt, I think that Augur Nox was the only album where there was a strong sense of trying to create what we felt would be expected and there probably lies the reason why that may feel like the least personal of our albums. We did get quite a lot of views from people saying that we were selling out when we released Mut because it was outwardly quite a soft album which amused us as it was probably the opposite of what we should have done in order to shift more numbers. Code to me is defined more by tonality and a style of composing rather than a set sound which is why I think we have the ability to move in whatever direction makes sense to us at any one moment in time. As for who we are addressing, we don’t write music to cater to a particular audience or fans of particular bands. We write music that we believe in and the audience is whoever enjoys it.

Code Interview

Do you believe that Nouveau Gloaming and Flyblown Prince, given the evolution the band went through in the meantime, share enough common features to warrant the notion that it was the same band that recorded them?

Aort: It is difficult for me to answer that objectively. I can also only answer from a songwriting perspective rather than vocally as that is the scope of my influence. I would say that a part of what makes Code sound like it does is that I am a self-taught guitarist who has developed a way of playing and writing that fits with the way my hands move and my understanding of writing. It is not schooled in any way so there is no conscious adherence to classical songwriting or playing and the music has always been written by me. I would say that my skills have improved over time so the palette available to play with is wider now than when I wrote the music for Nouveau Gloaming which could be seen as a good or a bad thing depending on your outlook.

In addition, do you believe that everything the band has put out thus far has that special something that unmistakably and inherently makes it a Code record? If so, how would you define that special something, can you put your finger on it?

Aort: I think so, yes, but it is very hard to define. I know when I hear a song whether I think it sounds like Code and when it doesn’t. For me it is tonal and feel based and there are probably a number of chord progressions and general voicings that could be seen as a through line with our releases. I find it a compliment when I hear people say that a song or an album sounds like Code as it means to me that we have something which is definable as our own.

As a prolific musician that plays in many different bands, would you say that Code is the most worthwhile musical endeavor you have ever been involved in and still your number one priority?

Aort: Yes, I would say that Code is always my number one priority. It is the band that I have been doing for the longest and the one that I have been pushing consistently for nearly 20 years now so it has practically become a part of who I am at this point. It is the band that I worry about the most and focus the most of my attention on, without a doubt. That certainly doesn’t diminish the effort I put into other bands I am involved in. Whenever I am working on writing or recording, that is what I am focusing on 100% irrespective of what band or project it is in support of. In terms of which is the most worthwhile, well I would again say that is entirely in the eye of the beholder.

Considering that playing in one single band is a satisfying creative outlet for most musicians, how demanding and difficult is it to contribute creatively in no less than four metal bands simultaneously?

Aort: I seem to have a pathological need to keep creating and the bands I am involved in are not all actively creating music at any one moment so it is just about focusing on what is in front of me day by day. Of course this doesn’t allow much time for relaxing but I don’t seem to be able to do that very well, so why not do something productive. Maybe one day I will be more at one with the idea of taking time off but for now I am not wired that way.

Code Interview

Is Mad White Hair the most difficult, ambitious, and challenging piece of music you have ever written, and does it, at least vaguely, refer to really old folk becoming slightly mad, unreasonable, even juvenile, as death comes nearer?

Aort: I honestly wouldn’t say it is the most challenging piece of music I have written. In fact thinking back, I don’t think I can pinpoint a single song as the most challenging. I find if I have to labour too long on something and the resolution isn’t forthcoming it can sometimes feel forced. The natural flow of ideas often prevents things becoming contrived. With The Mad White Hair, I started with the quieter mid section piece and then developed it from there both forward and backward, and essentially kept writing until it felt complete. It certainly took more time than some other songs but it flowed reasonably freely. Regarding the lyrical outlook, Wacian would be the person to ask for the definitive response but I think it is more about being aware of madness being something that will come and how that affects the outlook and fear in the present.

Is reflecting on your past life with fondness on your deathbed something that can make dying slightly less miserable? What is the most dignified way to leave in your opinion?

Aort: The best one can hope for in my eyes is to die having been a person you would be proud of in your own view and having had an impact on the world and people that matter to you that you can be proud of. We each get one chance if like me you don’t believe in the afterlife so it is about making it count in your own eyes. Passing young not having lived life is the saddest outcome. Living your last days in senility is similarly not something that is in any way appealing. Life I suspect will never be perfect so living a life that you believe in while you can is the only dignified approach one can take in my view.

As the only remaining original Code member, that has been the driving force behind the band since day one, do you welcome others to interfere with the band’s creative output and contribute with their ideas, or is that a privilege reserved only for yourself?

Aort: I am the one constant and it’s safe to say the reason why Code still exists but it has never been a dictatorship. Working in that way is not in my nature and I also strongly believe that the best music we create is when the people in the band are able to contribute their ideas and bring their own style and personality into what we do. I am blessed to have had and to continue to have wonderful musicians and creators in the band, and I dread to think the impact on our music if I had insisted that everything had to be done my way. I have never liked seeing people leave the band but everyone has their own goals and personal situations, and I count myself very lucky that the guys that have been in Code for the past decade are still together, as I think this is the strongest line-up we have ever had.

How tough it was to deal with Kvohst leaving after Resplendent Grotesque and to find enough strength, determination, and perseverance to continue without him?

Aort: It was extremely tough. Kvohst is such a huge part of why the first albums sound the way they do and it certainly wasn’t my choice for him to leave. It was a difficult time and we were all still trying to work out what we wanted from music and at that point in time, he had other goals he wanted to pursue. I went through many different thoughts at the time about what this meant for Code but I had songs written that I believed in and I wanted to keep things moving. Building a band up after it has been dismantled is extremely difficult but I didn’t feel like giving up and I’m glad with perseverance we are here today with a wonderful line-up and three albums under our belts.

Code Interview

If I remember correctly, the reason he left the band was apparently him losing interest in extreme metal. He obviously regained that interest in the meantime, if the record he did with The Deathtrip in 2019 was any indication. Was there maybe talk of him returning to Code instead? If he was to show interest to get back in the band for the sake of friendship and good old days, would you consider taking him back and asking Wacian to leave?

Aort: The key point there is friendship. The guys in the band are some of the most wonderful people I have met and we have been through a lot together, yet we are still here creating music. I am close friends with Kvohst but I am equally close friends with Wacian and I would never kick him out and I’m sure Kvohst wouldn’t want that either. At this point in time, Wacian has been in the band for longer than Kvohst was and he has more than earned his place and the security that goes with it. Wacian is the voice of Code now. I am still working with Kvohst on various musical endeavours and we are getting on better than we ever have done, and there is no reason to change how things are. There has been no talk of changing vocalists since Wacian joined and it will stay that way. I can understand some people wanting to return to the way things were. I am guilty of that with some of the bands I enjoy too but I have to respect that it is not my choice and they are not making music to please me directly.

Would it be fair to say that the color and range of Wacian’s voice predominantly influence the direction of Code’s music these days?

Aort: I wouldn’t say that his voice directly influences the direction of the band. It is more accurate to say that I know that I don’t need to worry about what direction the vocals will go in as I have complete faith that Wacian will do an incredible job. This is the same for Kvohst on the first two albums. I know that it is much more rewarding to write the best music I can and leave a lot of melodic ambiguity in how it is written so that Kvohst or Wacian could take the songs in whatever direction they please. I am incredibly lucky to have worked with two great vocalists. Wacian has had a huge positive impact on the band. He is so creative and has such a wonderfully rich voice that I know that he will take whatever I create and run with it to make it his own. He is an incredibly unique talent and a wonderfully warm person to boot. A true one of a kind.

Augur Nox was an album constructed in three parts, that started off in a more direct fashion and got more convoluted and progressive as it unfolded. How would you compare its structure and inner dynamics to that of Flyblown Prince?

Aort: Being as objective as I can, I would say that Augur Nox was a much less focused album than Flyblown Prince. Augur Nox in retrospect could have done with some editing and perhaps even removing a song or two to make it feel more coherent. There are other things I would change about that album too, but that is probably a story for another day. Flyblown Prince is a much more refined album and went back to the approach we had on Resplendent Grotesque which was to make every second count and to make sure that every small detail was considered. The track order is very important and both were impacted by album length. For Augur Nox, there was no way that it would fit on a single LP so then it was a case of seeing what made the most sense in the double LP format. It was too short to be a full double album so we went for the three chapters to fit on three sides so we made an artistic decision based on practical limitations. Flyblown Prince was even more of a challenge as I didn’t want it to be a double LP and have listeners needing to flip side every two songs. With Mad White Hair and From The Next Room that did pose some challenges which had an impact on track ordering. As you can tell, in my eyes, vinyl is king and everything is focused to make sure the vinyl experience is as perfect as it can be.

Code Interview

Considering that Binah is essentially more of a death metal outlet than a proper band with actual goals and ambitions, was the success of its two solid albums and an EP something that caught you off guard and surprised you? With its ever-growing relevance in the death metal underground, could you perhaps see it imperil Code as your absolute musical priority at some point down the line?

Aort: It is probably unfair to say that Binah is just an outlet without actual goals and ambitions. As mentioned before, when I work on something I give it my 100% focus. Binah certainly aligns with that approach and all our releases have been subject to all the scrutiny you would expect. I hope that we are relevant but it is an extremely challenging area to exist in with death metal being so much more popular now than it was in the past. We are still a small player in a big scene so our hope is that listeners will somehow stumble upon our music and find something to enjoy there. I have been writing a lot of material for the third album, probably enough for a full album at this point but what was being created didn’t feel like it was up to a good enough standard or taking the music in any interesting directions so there has been a return to the drawing board recently to rethink the approach. I hope that we can arrive at a direction that will make sure the next album is meaningful, interesting, and not a re-frying of old ideas.

How do you feel about the contemporary underground death metal scene and how would you compare it to the golden age of the genre?

Aort: I don’t have the encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary death metal like I did in the very early ’90s, but I have discovered some more modern day releases that I really enjoy. Pretty much everything that Sepulchral Voice puts out seems to be of the very best quality. The modern day goregrind scene has some moments that I really enjoy too, especially Fluids with their top class Mortician worship. A lot of where your heart lies is dependant on what year it was when you started listening to death metal. The albums that came out at the time tend to be the ones that stick with you the most and the ones you keep wanting to return to. To put that into context, at this very moment Death Shall Rise by Cancer is spinning on my turntable so that should speak volumes.

Do you feel that being a fan these days has lost some of its appeal and magic compared to the pre-internet era when an aura of mystique was surrounding pretty much every single band or album? Would you subscribe to the notion that there was something truly blessed about that particular kind of ignorance?

Aort: Again, I think this is dependant on when you were first exposed to this type of music and what the communications were like at that particular moment in time. For those getting into this music now, they do so through social media and an access to a huge amount of material instantly. It must be pretty gratifying to start out on your musical journey with such access. When I was starting out on my discovery of extreme metal it was around 1991 and the way to find out about music then was through tape trading, zines, and flyers. I look back on those days with great fondness and the air of mystique that was easier to cultivate back then. It is nice to reminisce about how things were but people can’t help when they are born so I don’t think it should be used as a badge of honour, although I am probably guilty of doing that sometimes.

 

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