After being mightily impressed by the disharmony of MRTVI’s latest release Negative Atonal Dissonance we went and picked the brains of the maestro behind the music Damjan Stefanovic.
“I’m generally looking for the music that I’m trying to make, music that doesn’t exist yet.”
How would you describe MRTVI?
MRTVI is a solo/one man project that I started in 2014 with the aim of making some new music that I hadn’t made before. Specifically aiming at the darkest, most oppressive, paranoid, and intense atmosphere I could manage. As time went on and I wrote more songs and I realized that there is a wide scope for experimentation with this kind of music. Having been rooted in black metal at the time, (following/during a period of playing in punk and hardcore bands) the sound of MRTVI has developed since but the aim of keeping it on the dark and negative side is definitely a main component to the sound and approach that I take when writing.
Tell us about your new album Negative Atonal Dissonance?
The new album is actually named after the genre description on the MRTVI facebook page. I didn’t want to call it black metal because it’s not strictly that, and when it came to reviews and press for the first album quite a few people commented on this new ‘genre’. The title really is me trying to encompass the sound of the album, the project, and the subject matter of the lyrics in one title.
Thematically this album picks up where Perpetual Consciousness Nightmare left off. It’s kind of a sequel and a prequel. It’s part of and a continuation of the overall concept of MRTVI.
The lyrics on the first album were personal, with the later songs developing on other themes, observations and ideas relating to emotion. Negative Atonal Dissonance is more of an observational, social commentary type of album. The sequel/prequel elements deal with the spiritual themes, death, rebirth, the journey before life begins, where the second track and the title track deal more with the topics that I think lead me (and perhaps others) to a negative view on the state of the world. It’s [the] synthesis of several spiritual, social and political ideas that I’ve been researching and confronted with in the last couple of years.
“I think all the ideas and influences behind MRTVI have really come together to create a piece of music that sounds like that.”
What inspired the album, was there an event that motivated you?
The inspirations for the themes on this album are closely linked with [my] inspirations on the first album, albeit more researched, developed. Musically, the inspiration is much more varied than the first album.
The main three musical inspirations for this album were The Mars Volta, Miles Davis, and John Coltrane. Davis’ Bitches Brew album changed the way I thought about music/bands. Everything is improvised around a couple of core ideas, and the studio/post production was used as an instrument in itself to further develop the sound. The idea of production being part of the creative process rather than simply an ‘obligation’ to make music ‘presentable’ to an audience drastically changed the way I approached [making] music in the last couple of years. The music isn’t finished just because you’ve put your guitar or sticks down.
Coltrane also was influential in his methodology towards musical themes, his philosophy on why he plays music, but most of all on why improvisation is important.
The Mars Volta have a really interesting approach to music and arrangements. They talk about creating scenes like in a film, and then cutting between scenes. They are (were?) masters of longer compositions and arrangements, being progressive yet listenable.
What styles did you explore for your latest record Negative Atonal Dissonance?
I want to develop improvisation in extreme music. It seems to be a completely unused approach in writing distorted, fast, extreme, noisy atmospheric music. The title track on Negative Atonal Dissonance is completely 100% improvised with two drum kits, five guitars, the bass, three layers of keys, and then percussion, all without listening back or figuring out any parts, then adding post production effects that come in and out at different times on different instrumental layers. The lyrics were written the night before and recorded in one improvised take, a video of which will surface soon.
I wanted to make an album that is essentially one piece of music, thematically, aesthetically, all the way through; there are only two breaks on the whole album. This album is a block of sound that rises, swells, has random parts flying in from all over the place, then locks into riffs and structures before twisting and warping off in another direction and I think all the ideas and influences behind MRTVI have really come together to create a piece of music that sounds like that.
“I think there are more similarities between jazz and extreme metal than most people would like to admit.”
How did you get into music?
I started playing drums when I was 12 simply because I thought it might be fun! I quickly found that not only did I enjoy it but that it was taking up most of my thoughts and time. While I was in secondary school I played drums pretty much every single day for seven years. Fifteen years later and I’ve had the good fortune of having traveled Europe a few times whilst playing a load of shows with many different types of bands and picking up more instruments on the way; you can’t really write songs just on the drums hahaha!
I knew pretty early on that music was for me, and I haven’t questioned it much since. Playing really makes me feel like I’m where I want to be and I enjoy playing with other bands under different genres, on different instruments, and learning about how things function from a different musical perspective.
What bands/styles excites you as a music listener?
Rock, punk, hardcore, metal, generally the more abrasive, dissonant, ugly and impenetrable, the better! Dark psychedelia maybe?
Over the last couple of years I’ve come to really appreciate jazz, I think there are more similarities between jazz and extreme metal than most people would like to admit. The aesthetic is different but the musicianship, the ideas and the atmospheres being created there is certainly an overlap.
I’ve also been listening to more classical music trying to digest how they develop ideas and atmospheres over a longer period of time compared to pop songs. I’m generally looking for the music that I’m trying to make, music that doesn’t exist yet.
“I do think there’s an artistic obligation of some degree to reflect the world around you, unless you really just want to sing about dragons and fair maidens…”
There’s a really interesting disclaimer on the press release for the album, in short making a statement about music being a philosophy, can you elaborate on the thoughts behind your interpretation of the power in music?
I think music is a language in and of itself, which isn’t my idea, but it does have its own syntax, grammar, rules and conventions. These are intrinsically linked to the movements of popular music and genres throughout the decades too. What I find most fascinating is that simple combinations of notes and rhythms can affect and connect with our emotions so strongly while transcending our cultural, man made symbols and language. It [has] a much more fundamental, profound, and powerful effect than it should in some way.
From my dabbling in modern experimental physics and different elements of spirituality it seems that everything, the universe and everything in it, vibrates to some degree. Everything is in a constant state of vibration and things vibrate in harmony or disharmony with each other. Vibrations have a link to emotions and energy. The edge of science seems to be concluding that the universe is not a material place, that matter is an epiphenomenon of the mind.
There are ideas that moments in music can’t exist or have the impact and effect they do without the previous moments that lead up to them and this is an interesting concept I’ve come across. For me philosophy and music are linked more than politics and music because philosophy is more intuitive, like music, whereas politics and really any ideology can shoehorn its operation by using language, logic, reason, and other man made constructs to deny its effect.
However I do think there’s an artistic obligation of some degree to reflect the world around you, unless you really just want to sing about dragons and fair maidens, else you risk falling into the category of entertainer/distraction piece. Even though to a point this is unavoidable.
Where is MRTVI taking you?
Album three is nearly finished, I have a working title and most of the music is recorded, there’s only the lyrics then vocals left to do. Its going to be longer than the first two albums.
The third [MRTVI] album is gonna be the conclusion of the thematic and aesthetic trilogy I started on the first album. After that I have some ideas for where I want to go musically, a slightly different direction while still keeping it on the dark and extreme side of the spectrum, and I can guarantee that nobody in extreme music is doing what I’ve got in mind! I have some other ideas for video elements and non-recording ideas, but that’s not for talking about just yet.
Completing the trilogy and securing vinyl releases for the albums, as well as a cassette and CD release, is my next step.