In turbulent times sometimes we need some self-reflection so we gleaned a manifesto from Nils of Thränenkind on how to go about doing it.
King Apathy is a powerful album. I feel impassioned when I listen to it but was this album as cathartic to write as it is to listen to?
Nils: The writing process took quite some time and some of the lyrics are pretty old. I wrote them years before I joined the band and some of the others were written within the last two years.
The lyrics often deal with different topics in one song and can be interpreted in different directions. I usually write in a certain kind of mood so for me the process of writing lyrics I feel is quite relieving. When you take a look at them however they are not often optimistic.
I recorded the drums and vocals and for me the recording process was pretty intense – especially the vocals. I am a perfectionist when it comes to my own music. My main focus was on the vocals and I always get scared to record vocal tracks because the voice can be fucked up pretty fast. However I am quite confident in recording drums because I have experience recording many albums with different bands.
It’s a revealing album and it speaks volumes for the unpleasantness many would hide, are there any stories behind what inspired you?
Nils: The lyrics I write usually deal with personal or political topics. Dangers (the band) put it this way: “Nothing changes if we don´t change ourselves” and so I tend to evaluate my own failures and write them down. This helps me to understand problems I can´t change and it allows me to reflect on my life from a different perspective.
I would like to see the criticism I bear towards myself practiced in our music and political scenes. The lyrics to the opening track Desperation are inspired by people talking about solidarity and then behave like egoistical assholes. Although I am a pacifist I think civil disobedience is an important tool to get attention to certain topics and to upset the daily grind of Capitalism.
I don´t want to be part of a scene where riots are glorified and I don’t see acts like that as entertainment or something you should be proud of because for many people it is necessary to have their voices heard.
On the contrary some lines have to be drawn in relation to casual conversations heard backstage at metal shows. As irrelevant as it might sound, to quote The Smiths: “The joke isn’t funny anymore” and I mean it to emphasize that homophobic slurs and idiotic sexist jokes are not welcome.
On the cover of King Apathy a Gothic house is set in disrepair, how does it relate to the music?
Nils: It´s a dark and desolate picture, there’s this old house that’s wrecked and abandoned but contrarily there’s a pretty starlit sky shining on the bushes and trees. Our music combines negativity, anger and despair with fragile and beautiful melodies.
I don’t like the genre label of DSBM (Depressive Suicidal Black Metal), I find that it patronizes the intention of the music and appropriates stigma. How would you describe your musical niche?
Nils: A friend of mine called it a mixture of metalcore and Explosions In The Sky. I would add some crustcore and also some aspects of black metal but I agree with you on the label topic. I stopped listening to black metal years ago and I don´t really have anything to do with the scene anymore.
Our bass player and founder of the band Matthias called the band post metal and I think this fits because it’s metal music but easily distinguishable from the traditional metal stuff. I don´t really get the need for all the different genres. I understand why other people need them; so they feel comfortable in having a particular term for a specific fashion.
DSBM for me is for people with an attention deficit and the romantic satisfaction of teenage angst. The more I began to understand how the world works the less I understood the appeal to be honest as there is so much you can do to change your life. Even if it´s just a small step at least it is one.
How would Brexit affect the chances of UK shows?
Nils: The UK’s scarce and DIY infrastructure makes it hard for small foreign bands to tour anyway. Regardless of its relationship to the EU.
It would depend on the taxes and licenses. It’s stressful in Switzerland where you have to pay taxes on every piece of merchandise you are going to sell. But for touring the EU is a good arrangement for us, not having to stop and have police inspect your equipment at every border you cross makes it a much more comfortable journey.
It’s documented (in your bio) that you are interested in Left-Wing politics. As politics are the doctrine of the state, do you think we should be governed by a unilateral narrative similar to religion?
Nils: I don´t think people should be governed at all. No one should have a right to stand above another and force them to do anything they don´t want to do. Of course the very real political situations throughout the developed world are very different but that doesn’t validate them.
While some people believe in gods and religions to help them during hard times or to give them guidance I distance myself from irrational beliefs. In my opinion religion never changed anything for the better. Religions have become the worst man made invention because you can use them to prove every tricky piece of crap you excoriate unto others.
Yet there are regions in the world where people are living a different life. A life without capitalism, religion or organised governments. Capitalism forces people to work against each other and be in a constant competition.
If you see your co-worker or class-mate next to you as an opponent then it´s pretty clear that solidarity can´t function in a capitalist society. These ideas might be utopian when considering a daily routine working from 9-5 for 3 weeks off each year, but would you call this life or even living? It´s the need to consume and have space that is being exploited which forces these circumstances upon us.
Is counter culture just a necessary evil?
Nils: It´s easier to play at a squat and speak to twenty Crustpunks or Hardcore Kids about racism, sexism and homophobia than talking to a huge crowd that might not be on your side but if a music scene is the only place where people with the same views talk about the same topics something is very wrong. We need to get out of our comfort zone.
Now with Europe drifting further to the right and nationalism again becoming popular. I haven´t seen many positive changes within the last few years so I guess counterculture will stay important to us and the politics of the mainstream, as it always has. But in a perfect world we wouldn’t need counterculture, or maybe we would but instead as an index of choice.
Also as millions of creatures are exploited and killed every day the last natural ecosystems destroyed for want, Capitalism motivates and manipulates our daily lives, it´s necessary to stay focused on the changes we want to bring about. At the moment counterculture is very necessary.
How does democracy work for anything other than Eurovision?
Nils: Do you mean in the context of democratization of other countries? Because there are so many different aspects.
First I would question the existing democracies in most (EU) countries where the public doesn’t have much influence on the political debates or their imposed changes. I think we should question these principles in and of democracy, and of capitalism.
I totally understand why people get bored and exhausted from the same types of people that are making promises without really changing anything for the better. Yet we have acclimatized to this kind of engagement within our political system, we never dare to really question it.
In regards to the democratization of countries that are dictatorships or fascist regimes it is difficult. I am completely against dictatorships and totalitarian systems. They will never be the solution to our problems and of course the world needs to fight those regimes to make the living conditions better for those people involved.
Looking back invading Afghanistan or Iraq didn’t really change their situation for the better but I am not going to question the motives of the US or the EU to invade because this would lead us further into justifying despotism. There you can see how complex and difficult the consequences of those decisions are.
Thank you very much, and congratulations on a wonderful and truly grim release in 2016!
Nils: Thank you for your interest and the kind words. We really (and grimly) appreciate it.