Monday, August 27, 2018

Interview with Stilgar of XENOGLOSSY PRODUCTIONS by Dave Wolff

Heliogabalus and Stilgar
Interview with Stilgar of Xenoglossy Productions

Xenoglossy Productions, a label supporting black metal, noise and experimental, was formed by a collective of musicians. Who formed the label and at what point in time did it start?
The label was formed in the December 2016 by me, Stilgar, together with Heliogabalus. We have several projects together and this is yet another endeavor we wanted to pursue, since we share similar views on music and felt the desire to release material from our projects in physical format.

How long have you and Heliogabalus been acquainted? Do you know one another from your local underground scene in Italy? What common musical interests do you two have?
I've known him for six or seven years, first online through mutual friends and social media, then we met several times in person, especially at metal gigs, even though we live in two different cities. Our views and tastes in extreme metal are really similar; we often suggest new bands to each other and usually like them right away. The same can be said for music outside of extreme metal: we both like experimental music and even well-crafted pop. One of our favorite artists is the Italian musician Battiato, for example.

At what point did you and Heliogabalus decide to start an independent label?
We actually tried doing something about it together in 2012, but we weren't experienced back then so the project was put to sleep until the end of 2016, when we felt the need to release music from our projects in physical format, without looking for other labels every time.

How much did you learn about running a label between 2012 and 2016, so you could effectively run Xenoglossy?
We are still learning actually. It's a constant process of learning all the tricks of managing something like that. This was evident for us especially when we started over again in 2016 and realized that CD-Rs releases weren't going to cut it.
Back in 2012 we probably thought it was easier than it seemed on paper and we were totally unaware of many of the workings of running a label effectively. Furthermore we built a lot of useful contacts and made new friends and acquaintances since then, other than discovering a lot of killer new music and labels we started following closely to learn and gain motivation from.

What do you like about this artist Battiato? Is he a pop musician? What do you mean by well-crafted pop music?
Battiato is an Italian musician who has been around since the 70s and explored totally different genres like progressive rock, experimental and abstract music influenced by Stockhausen, new wave and, during his most popular period, pop music. His most popular material is a perfect example of well-crafted pop, with well-finished arrangements, catchy choruses, uncommon time signatures and philosophical and obscure lyrics, which is Battiato's trademark. Other than that my favorite band of all time is actually R.E.M., a band that crafted some beautiful pop music during their fantastic thirty year run.

What other projects are you and Heliogabalus involved in together? Did you start the label releasing your own material and that of other Italian bands?
Other than Xenoglossy Productions, we are both involved in bands like Batrakos, Framheim, Veia and - above all - Thecodontion, which is probably our main band project at the moment. There are going to be a couple of new upcoming projects we will release later featuring us two yet again.
We released our own material exclusively at first, together with stuff featuring close friends of ours who already worked closely together with Xenoglossy, or are involved with some of the above projects I mentioned. Bands like Eterna Rovina (a solo project by F., who played in Batrakos and plays in Framheim), Aisna and Stige (two solo projects by Warrior, who helped us with design, mixing and mastering for a lot of stuff and plays in a couple of upcoming projects I mentioned before). The guy behind Credo Quia Absurdum is a friend of ours as well and Deathvoid is an Italian/Swiss band I'm a member of.
Thus, the first actual "outside" project we signed is Vessel Of Iniquity, a one man experimental black/death metal band from UK. I've known A. White, the person behind it, for a while and I've always been a massive fan of his music, so getting to release his stuff was a great satisfaction for us. Plus, we co-released their self-titled album together with Sentient Ruin Laboratories, a label we've always admired, and it was our first release on pro-cassette and LP in high numbers, so it was a big step up for us, compared to the CDRs we were using before that. Moreover, a new Vessel Of Iniquity is coming at the end of the year and it's going to be even better!

Does Xenoglossy stream all its releases, or are they also available on cassette, vinyl CD etc? Which format is most convenient for the label?
We stream all of our releases on our Bandcamp page. They can be downloaded in digital format, and a lot of them are actually free. Vessel Of Iniquity is also on Spotify.
We started with simple, no-budget CD-Rs and mini-CDs for the first releases, in very limited runs (most of them are now sold out), but then got fed up with that format and switched mainly to tapes. It's one of our favorite formats and it's not that expensive anyway, so this is also the most convenient and the perfect balance for us. Sometimes we do releases on LP and pro-CD for special occasions. We used the former format for Vessel Of Iniquity (and the upcoming one) and the latter for the Overishins self-titled album.

Are your bands generally satisfied with your promotion of them through streaming and advertising?
I hope so! We are happy to help and promote their material as much as we can, I think bands are happy when they discover their material got featured on an important webzine or ended up sold in the other side of the world, that's the same for me with my own bands/projects. As I mentioned above, the promoting/advertising aspect is something we are constantly learning about, so there's always room for improvement.

How much material has been released by Thecodontion to date? Do each of your bands differ in some way? How many new bands will you and Heliogabalus be starting?
Thecodontion has only released a demo tape thus far, under Gravplass Propaganda, but a new EP is ready and it will be co-released this autumn by Xenoglossy and two other labels.
We try to have different styles of music and lyrical/visual concepts for all of our projects: Thecodontion is war metal without guitars - just bass, drums and vocals - with a concept about prehistoric creatures, geological periods and fossils. Veia is an upcoming post punk-influenced progressive black metal project about Etruscan history. Batrakos is a noise/raw black metal hybrid about exploring themes of ugly art and futurism. Framheim is raw/atmospheric black metal about polar expeditions and harsh climates. We are going to have a couple of new projects with uncommon concepts together, one is coming out in September on tape.
Then there are my other two personal projects: Quilmoloncm is improvised blackened drone with bass and vocals only and exploring themes like glossolalia and automatic writing. Deathvoid is an Italian/Swiss band I'm collaborating with, a unique blend of harsh noise and raw black metal with a surreal and decadent aesthetic.

When searching for bands to sign, do you look for those with diversity and creativity? How important are those factors to extreme metal?
A lot of bands we released are from close friends and acquaintances, the "outside" ones we reached out to proposing a physical release were projects we really think would fit on our label both musically and aesthetically.
Sometimes we discover fantastic material without a physical release, so we reach out to the band and propose to do that, like it happened with Overishins, for example.
Some other times we get amazing material from e-mail submissions that we can't absolutely pass up.
Creativity and diversity are key factors for me in art, I don't like redundancy and carbon copies of bands from the 90s, I think one should be always pushing forward creatively with new ideas and exploring uncharted and also weird territories, both musically and visually Stagnancy is the death of the art.

How would you describe the music of Vessel Of Iniquity? How much promotion has the label given this project since you signed them? How has the response been?
Vessel of Iniquity is a unique sounding project mixing dissonant and chaotic black/death metal with noise and ritualistic music, a true vortex of all-absorbing void chaos. It sounds like a mixture of Teitanblood, Gnaw Their Tongues and Grave Upheaval, three bands I absolutely love. The response has been quite surprising for us and the band itself, we've never had such a worldwide exposure before and it was our first step into being a more professional working unit. For that we must thank M. of Sentient Ruin Laboratories for proposing to co-release this beast with him and I'm looking forward to working with him again for the next Vessel of Iniquity album. We're happy Vessel of Iniquity got the exposure and recognition it deserved, it's a killer project and it looks like it's starting to gain the first acolytes and influencing some newer acts already.
It has probably been our most promoted band thus far, also thanks to Sentient Ruin. It got featured on many noteworthy webzines of the genre, like Cvlt Nation and Toilet ov Hell. Being the first "outside" band of our roster, and our first release on LP and pro-cassette, meant it had to be pushed a lot more compared to our household personal side-projects we released thus far.

I’m not familiar with those bands you discussed. How would you describe their influences, their ability as musicians and so on?
They are influential bands in the extreme metal genre, especially in their dissonant/filthy/experimental sub-fields. Teitanblood is a black/death metal band from Spain and, like Vessel Of Iniquity, their music is a total vortex of chaotic riffing. Gnaw Their Tongues is a one-man band from The Netherlands and at times is closer to noise/industrial than actual black metal. The sort of perverted imagery goes perfect with the atmosphere they convey. Grave Upheaval is a band featuring members of Portal and Impetuous Ritual and their music is so suffocating it sounds like a drone/noise version of death metal.

How soon is the new release by Vessel Of Iniquity expected to be out? Have you heard it yet or is it still being recorded at present?
The album is fully recorded and ready and it's totally crushing! An improvement on all sides compared to the first EP, which was already fantastic. The new Vessel of Iniquity album is going to be released around late December 2018/early January 2019, together with Sentient Ruin Laboratories.

Tell the readers about the band Overishins, how you came into contact with them and how much of their material you have released.
Overishins is an improv-jazz unit featuring Mick Barr from Krallice; Chuck Bettis from Mossenek; Mike Pride from Sabbath Assembly, Pulverize the Sound and countless other projects: and Johnny DeBlase from Many Arms and Zevious. It's quite a stellar lineup. We released their only album thus far in May 2018.
It was released digitally on Mick and Chuck's Hathenter label in 2017 at first. It was one of my favourite albums of the year. I thought it was a bit of a shame it was digital-only, so I reached out to Mick via e-mail proposing a physical release for it and the ideas I had for the visual aspect. Mick got really enthusiastic about it. He's been really kind and supportive and I think the physical release turned out fantastic. The digipack features a 4-panel booklet with beautiful abstract artwork by all the four members of the band. Mick is one of my favourite musicians ever, so getting to release some of his stuff is a great accomplishment for us. Although it's not an extreme metal release, we aren't limited to just a single genre as long as we like it and it has a sort of visual and artistic coherence. We've already released drone and ambient material, after all, and I love experimental jazz music.

Is it important for such broad mindedness to be honest and unforced?
If we happened to stumble on a darkwave record we really liked and would want to release, we'd totally do that (and I hope to do so in the future if there's the chance). Having broad mindedness is vital for us; as I said before I think stagnancy is the death of art so I don't like focusing on a single genre or listening to the same stuff over and over. Extreme metal is just one of the many genres I appreciate, and honestly I fell in love with music in general with other genres first, I discovered extreme metal later.

Considering all the subgenres of extreme metal that currently exist, has it reached its limit or are there still opportunities for it to grow and explore new ground?
I think music, and art in general, is boundless so there are virtually infinite new grounds to explore, the tricky part is being able to come up with new and fresh ideas and being able to incorporate them in a style with a certain personality, which can be very hard sometimes.
In my opinion bands like Imperial Triumphant or Zeal and Ardor recently showed it's possible to blend metal music with genres at their polar opposites without sounding like a forced mashup or a gimmick: like jazz for the former example and gospel for the latter.

How does your metal fanbase respond to bands like Overishins when you promote their releases? Are there more bands on your label of other genres, such as ambient, drone etc?
Since Mick Barr plays in Krallice, some people got curious about Overishins. Their fanbase is probably already used to highly experimental music, so an improv-jazz album is not totally out of the blue. But I'd be nice if we managed to draw some fans of jazz music to the label, who were less familiar with extreme metal. Or the opposite, getting fans of extreme metal closer to a beautiful genre like jazz.
There are a couple of noise/ambient-only EPs by Batrakos (the "Picasso" EP was our first release ever) that otherwise plays raw black metal. An improvised dark drone release that is Quilmoloncm (distorted bass/vocals only) and a couple of Deathvoid releases that are closer to harsh noise than black metal. A lot of the above genres I mentioned are appreciated within the extreme metal fanbase, luckily, so they don't feel out of place.

Do you work with other labels to cross promote and expand your listenership farther across the world? If not, is this something you would consider doing?
We co-released Vessel Of Iniquity (and will do the same for the new album) with Sentient Ruin Laboratories and thanks to that we managed to reach a far wider public, something we couldn't have done by ourselves alone probably. Same for the Microcosmys/La Torture Des Ténèbres split, we co-released it with the Dutch label Breathe Plastic. If you're collaborating with serious people and friends it's very useful to do that.
We also have traded with labels like Caligari and The Throat, trading is also vital to get one's material overseas, which could be harder otherwise, having distribution in just one country or continent.

How much cross promoting with the labels you mentioned are you involved in? Has it been mutually beneficial all around? How do you usually get into contact with these labels?
We usually try to help each other with promoting, like splitting tasks and advertising/mentioning each other to the press or in social media posts and I'd say it's always beneficial for both for gaining more exposure. We got in contact with them on social media, mostly. A collaboration idea might spark by talking about music together and finding things in common.

Are you in touch with bands from countries other than where your signed bands are from?
The label work made it possible to gain new friendships and acquaintances all over the world so we like to stay in touch with bands and labels we collaborated with, supporters, even.

Of the bands you have been contacting this past year, which countries are most of them based in? Are there underground scenes in countries you feel don’t get as much exposure? What would you do to change that for the better?
Except for our friends in Voland we recently released, we came in contact with bands from overseas (like La Torture des Ténèbres and Overishins for example), there are so many interesting bands and scenes in USA and Canada.
There is a fantastic underground scene in the Netherlands for example, gravitating around the labels The Throat and Haeresis Noviomagi. Most of the bands they have released are weird and unique sounding and both labels have a great aesthetic sense. Plus they are mostly tape based and that's a bonus in my book!
As for changing things for the better, I don't think there is much need to change since if you work hard to build the right contact and a fanbase, you can get exposure wherever you are.

How many bands do you know of that incorporate other genres such as jazz, folk, traditional or world into their music? How much are such bands helping expand the horizons of underground music in your point of view?
I'm not that familiar with folk or traditional I admit, but for jazz I think that bands like Kayo Dot (one of my favorite bands ever) is another perfect example of a band incorporating jazz and progressive influences into their music perfectly. Last year I've also liked the Celestial Bodies debut under I, Voidhanger. A unique blend of black metal, noise and John Zorn-esque jazz craziness. Crowhurst is another project that blended jazz and extreme music together nicely in some of their releases. Jazz is a rarer influence in extreme metal compared to folk or traditional music, so incorporating this style means exploring new musical territories and sometimes the results are really surprising, you can really see how metal music can be so versatile when done the right way.

How much are originality and creativity factors when you consider bands to sign to Xenoglossy? How many bands that you are in touch with fit this criteria?
It's of vital importance for Xenoglossy, musically or aesthetically. I'd never consider signing them if they weren't original or personal in one of the criteria mentioned before. I'd say all of them fit, it's one of the reasons I get in touch with them in the first place.

What new directions would you most like to see extreme metal take in the years to come? What instruments would you most like to see incorporated into its subgenres that haven’t been used before?
I'd like it to take two opposite directions: one catchier, like with pop and new-wave influences, the other totally free, abstract and indecipherable. Some bands are already doing that so they're two solutions that can be definitely explored more. Probably more usage of horns since I love jazz. The Italian experimental band ZU does that amazingly for example, distorting the saxophone with effects and using it as a "riffing" device. Or, electronic synthesizers maybe, used not just for ambience but as primary instruments for leading melodies and solos.

How would you want Xenoglossy to be remembered for its contributions to underground music as a whole?
I would like Xenoglossy to be remembered as a brave label, unafraid to experiment in several uncommon genres and able to discover a few musical gems.

-Dave Wolff

No comments:

Post a Comment