Interview with Anaal Nathrakh

UK’s finest purveyors of absolute aural filth Anaal Nathrakh released their latest album Desideratum last May, and it’s another quality album, melding their signature extremity with a touch more melody and electronics. Perhaps because they were still reeling from such a violent release, it’s taken a while for frontman Dave Hunt to get around to answering some questions for us, but better late than never!

Your upcoming album eighth album Desideratum will be released imminently, on new label Metal Blade. How has been working with the new label?
Ok thus far.  They seem capable and down to earth, and that’s all you really want from dealing with a label.  We’re almost entirely autonomous in that we don’t just write and perform our stuff ourselves, we also record it, produce it, do the artwork, write the liner notes and so on.  So we don’t need much from a label in comparison with other bands who’d need help booking studios, finding artists and all that stuff.  I’m sure they’d be fine at handling that too, of course, but it means we can largely just get on with it without having to speak to anyone else.  I imagine that makes us pretty good to work with as well, in terms of how much hassle we cause them.  But you’d have to ask them about that!

As with most albums you’ve had a guest on Desideratum, this time with vocals from Niklas Kvalforth. How was working with such an infamous personality like him, and who would you choose to work with you haven’t had the chance to yet?
It was interesting.  We’d just come off stage after a show at Blastfest in Bergen, and we did the recording in a hotel room with people hanging around and plenty of booze and various unsavoury activities.  Whatever people might think of Niklas’ dissolute tendencies, he’s very committed to what he does, and he really got into the recording. I’m not going to get into what exactly went on, but he was definitely invested in it.  Which was a pleasure to see.  Anything less would have been disappointing, and it certainly wasn’t that.  We were very pleased with the end result.  Who else would we choose to work with?  Not sure at the moment.

You don’t publish any of your lyrics, but can you give us a little insight to some of the themes behind Desideratum?
There’s quite a lot of stuff wrapped up in it all, mostly loosely related to the album title.  The idea with the title is to refer to desire and the objects of desire in themselves.  Desire is a process which we don’t think very much about, but it’s quite rich, conceptually speaking.  It can be understood as one of the prime motivators of life itself.  Some of the work I’ve been doing outside of music is about precisely that, actually, the idea that having a reason to do anything at all is based on desire and belief.  And the process of acquisition is strangely nihilistic in that it involves the destruction of desire, and in part destruction of the way the desideratum is constituted and of the person you were when you were in a state of desire. What we desire, whether we want to be honest about what we want, is a central part of human culture.  We want to fuck, eat, experience, enrich our lives, express ourselves at least to ourselves, and so on.  Yet this is in tension with the driving forces of our society, which only get what they want when we spend money, desire to consume, desire things from life which they can benefit from giving us the impression that they are giving us.  It links in with some of the most fundamental aspects of religion and mythology – the oldest work of literature that I’m aware of is all about trying to become immortal – the will to life.  There are all sorts of ideas on the album which connect with all of this, usually in a very negative or nihilistic way.

Your live sets are as intense as the studio albums, your appearance at 2013’s Candlefest being one of the best shows I’ve ever attended. Is it hard to match that intensity live, and how much do you enjoy it considering it was something you never set out to do?
Oh, thank you.  They were good gigs as I remember.  Yes, it’s definitely physically hard, certainly for me at least.  But it’s also rewarding.  There aren’t many opportunities you get to vent like that, and to see strong reactions from people.  It’s not emotionally hard to get into the right state of mind, that’s never far away anyway.  But it can mean it’s best not to try to make conversation for a while after the gig.  I’ve done some quite out of character arsehole things immediately after gigs, and that’s a downside.  But you can’t make an omelette, etc.  Is it enjoyable?  Yes, quite often.  I wouldn’t quite say it was universally an unalloyed joy because that’s not really the kind of thing we’re dealing with.  I doubt Daniel Day Lewis would say summoning the appropriate parts of himself to play Bill The Butcher was constantly fun.  But it’s pretty much always fulfilling one way or another.  Usually at least one of enjoyable, cathartic or interesting, and those are all good things.

Given you’ve been able to find a drummer that’s actually capable of playing at the speed of your programmed drums on the album, is using a real drummer in the studio a possibility for the future?
Possible, yes.  Though I’m not sure what we’d gain from it.  We’re already using actual drum sounds, and on most albums you’ll hear, the drums are probably processed more than ours are.  Ask a recording engineer about quantizing and you’ll probably see them wince.  And Mick writes beats like a drummer, partly because he was one.  I’ve heard people say they think studio drums would have a dramatic impact, but then I’ve seen plenty of people say that 24/192 recordings make a huge difference compared to slightly lower resolutions, and the fact is that people can’t actually tell the difference.  They just think they can.  But I’m sure Steve would be up to the task, he’s really quite amazing and deserves more recognition.  So maybe, we’ll see.

It seems the speed you release your music is just as intense as the music itself, this the eighth album in just thirteen years. How do you come up with so much so quickly, especially given you’re also touring quite prolifically these days?
When we’re ready, we record.  That’s the ridiculously simple truth of it. But remember that releasing as often as we do would at one time have been considered comparatively slow. Look at the Beatles release dates. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that an album for us is almost entirely the product of two separately operating minds.  There’s no time spent on jamming, demoing material for the rest of the band to learn, and all that sort of thing that might occupy other bands’ time. Anaal Nathrakh is all done in our heads and then essentially channelled into an album.  It seems we just have fertile minds.

Have you decided yet what songs from Desideratum might end up on future sets?
So far we’ve played a few of them live, and a couple more in the rehearsal studio.  They’ve mostly worked very well.  We have to do that – basically find out afterwards what material from an album will work.  It’s not part of how we think until that point.  When we’re making an album, the album is what we’re thinking about, and no concessions are made to whether we’ll be able to play the songs live.  And conversely, when it comes to playing live, it’s the songs which come across best live which will make it into the set.  It’s an experimental process, in a way.  But we’ve pulled off everything we’ve tried so far, convincingly I hope.

And finally thank you for taking the time to talk to us, and see you at the Dome in November. Do you have anything else to add?
Sorry for the delay!  The Dome is a bit out of date now.  But better late than never, I hope!

Catch Anaal Nathrakh on tour in support of Desideratum

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