Q&A: CHRISTGRINDER – EQUAL OPPORTUNITY BLASPHEMERS TALK CRACK AND SATAN
Having recently reviewed their self-released debut E.P. ‘Smoke Crack, Worship Satan’ for the mag (issue #44, out now), I caught up with Baron Von Christgrinde and Cardinal Sinne, the two self-proclaimed equal-opportunity blasphemers behind West Midlands’ newest black metal export.
ZT: Hails! First of all can you give a brief introduction to the band. Who are you and how did you get together?
Cardinal Sinne: Many Greetings. I’ve known The Baron for many years, & we’d been in & out of bands together pretty much since we met. He formed Christgrinder, and I was the only person both willing & able to play death metal bass that he knew at the time. We recorded a 3 track demo & began writing & rehearsing in earnest; the rest is history really.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: I started the band as a one man recording project a few years ago after writing ‘Angelflesh Tapestry’, and recorded that in a friend’s bedroom, before deciding to invite The Cardinal to join. I knew he was both an accomplished musician, and well practiced in studio recording, so I re-recorded Angelflesh and worked with him to write and record the rest of the EP.
ZT: Can you tell us about your name, Christgrinder. Was it at all inspired by the Behemoth song ‘Christgrinding Avenue’?
Baron-von-Christgrinde: As it happens, yes it was. It came to mind shortly after ‘The Apostasy’ was released, and I had first intended to use the name for a tech-death band I considered birthing, before deciding that I’d rather make something a little ‘blacker’.
ZT: Your debut EP is called ‘Smoke Crack, Worship Satan’. It’s one of those trendy phrases that gets bandied about a lot and it struck me as quite immature, which is far from how I would describe your music. Did you just think it sounded cool, or is there some deeper meaning behind the title?
Cardinal Sinne: I think we were going more for ‘intentionally silly’ than ‘cool’. One of my oft repeated mantras is that the best metal is fully aware of how silly metal is. It’s a time honoured tradition in extreme metal really; we revel in the gore lyrics and the pantomime Satanism. We were discussing titles for songs on the full length not so long ago & I think we said that our goal was to reach Belphegor levels of corniness. As much as we’re serious about our anti-theism, we don’t want to be a po-faced, pretentious black metal band. For me, fun music and serious music aren’t mutually exclusive.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: I’d like to think that the music we write isn’t taken as some cheap joke, and I’m flattered to hear that that’s far from how you would describe it, but the title serves as a bit of a buffer for that. I don’t want to give the impression that we’re taking ourselves too seriously, or that we’re not having fun with our music. I don’t want us to be received as one of those bands who wear corpse paint with a straight face, who don’t realise exactly how hilarious it is to do so, or pretend that we’ve never laughed at a bad dick joke in our lives. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a lot of that music, and those people are a big influence to us. We just don’t want to become one of them.
The title is meant to be taken in jest, and while it definitely is immature, it’s personal and important to me that our fans and critics alike see that we can laugh at ourselves.
ZT: “Never Will Man Be Set Free Until the last stone from the last church falls on the last priest…” Obviously this is a very valid statement given that organised religion has been responsible for so much oppression over the centuries and keeping the weak in their place. I was quite surprised however to find the first thing to come up in google is Warhammer!
Baron-von-Christgrinde: Indeed, though I’ve also heard the phrase attributed to a French writer by the name of Emile Zola, whose works other than this phrase, I am unfamiliar with.
We’re both fans of Warhammer 40K, and when you come across a line as eloquent as fitting as that… Well, it was impossible not to use it for the closing lines of our EP. Cardinal Sinne: Wow, you really did your homework! Yeah, it is a quote from a Warhammer novel. Perhaps not the philosophy tome you were no doubt expecting such a phrase to be lifted from. I dare say some people would think such a source of lyrical inspiration cheapens the song’s subject material, but as you point out, it’s a valid statement.
ZT: Tell us about some of your lyrical themes on the EP.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: Religion, Philosophy and the nature of human existence are the primary lyrical themes on this EP, though I’d like to expand to some more varying lyrical ideas for future work, lest this relentless blasphemy becomes stale.
Cardinal Sinne: It’s largely anti-theism. The track ‘Smoke Crack, Worship Satan’ is a metaphorical indictment to abandon religion and enjoy the life that will surely follow such a decision. ‘Grinding…’ is a straightforward attack on Christianity, & the others are a little more nebulous. Boiled down to its fundamentals ‘Angelflesh Tapestry’ is talking about how we are all human, in spite of superficial differences. It’s a pretty positive song once you get past the imagery.
ZT: Your music has quite an old school black metal vibe, although at the same time incorporates elements of death metal and at times the atmosphere feels quite doom-like. Is this what you were aiming for, and what bands are you most heavily influenced by?
Cardinal Sinne: Precisely what we were going for. I’m really glad you picked up on the doomy vibes, we both love a good slice of doom, from brooding funeral doom to cheesy stoner rock outs. Musically we’re influenced by pretty much all extreme music, grind, black, death, doom, drone, even ambient and folk. That’s the music I mostly listen to, so that’s the music I want to make and it’s safe to say that will be a lot more explicit on the full length. There are songs we’ve written with this express purpose ‘This will be a doom song’, ‘This will be blackened thrash’, ‘this will be Burzum-esque’, etc.
As for specific bands, for me it’s probably: Akercocke, Ahab, Fukpig, Vader, Agalloch, Nile, Drudkh, Ihsahn & Emperor, Wolves in the Throne Room, Electric Wizard, & Burzum.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: We hope to make music that draws from influences across a broad spectrum, and we’re hoping for some more variety to our sound in future too. Indeed, we like to incorporate elements of whatever happens to hold our interest into the scope of our music.
If you’re looking for the bands that influenced the music of this EP, at the time I was writing those tracks, I was listening to a combination of lots of black metal, like Burzum, Deathspell Omega and Anaal Nathrakh, as well as drawing from some more death/grind bands, along the lines of Pig Destroyer, Napalm Death and Cryptopsy.
ZT: Tell us about the recording process – I understand the EP is self-produced. Did it go quite smoothly, and is there anything you think would have worked out better (or worse) if you’d used a producer outside of the band?
Baron-von-Christgrinde: The recording process went very well, as far as I could tell. But the production itself was the work of The Cardinal.
Cardinal Sinne: I tracked and mixed the entire thing myself in my home studio. The whole thing was a pretty smooth process. The more members of a band there are, the harder it is to organise things, so being a duo was quite fortuitous in that respect. It took just over half a year from conception to release and the only reason it took so long was that we were still writing during the recording process. As far as using an external producer goes, at the time we were both students and studio time aint cheap, so it wasn’t really an option. That said, I’m personally a massive control freak and always prefer to take the independent option where music’s concerned; I just don’t trust people to do a good job I suppose, although the release was mastered by someone else. We have no plans to record the full length elsewhere, although we have talked about paying someone to mix the files we’ve tracked ourselves.
ZT: With a name like Christgrinder I’d have to assume you have an anti-religious stance. Would you say you are against religion in all its forms, rather than only Christianity? What are your thoughts on this subject?
Cardinal Sinne: Unquestionably the former. We’re both committed anti-theists. The songs on the E.P. that are blasphemous are of an exclusively anti-christian flavour, but we’re equal opportunity blasphemers, and there will be songs taking a pop at all the major monotheistic faiths on the full length. One of the finished tracks shortlisted for inclusion on the album is entitled ‘Opening the Eye of Aisha’ and deals with the consummation of the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad to his nine year old wife, Aisha, for example.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: The Cardinal and I are both heavily opposed to all forms of organised religion, and are supporters of rationality, scientific inquiry and free thinking.
Religion was mankind’s first attempt at gaining truth, at understanding morality, nature and ourselves, and because it is our first, it is our worst.
The answers it provides are consistently useless and idiotic, if not outright damaging and immoral. Its leaders are given respect and power that they repeatedly and shamelessly abuse. The practice of religion inhibits critical thinking, restricts freedom of the individual, imposes upon its followers a warped and biased sense of morality, and all of this is so well known to so many people, that repeating it all bores even myself.
I daresay we feel that the world would be a significantly better place, if mankind could abandon religion as the failed teachings of misguided, deluded individuals that it has been shown to be.
ZT: You are based in Stafford, which isn’t a place I’d associate with extreme metal. Do you plan on going further afield to get yourself out there playing live, or do you intend on being purely a “studio” band?
Cardinal Sinne: Hah, You’d be right in struggling to make that association too. Stafford doesn’t really have a music scene to speak of, much less an extreme metal scene. Staying as a studio band isn’t something we’re content to do, but we’ve struggled mightily with finding a drummer. Part of the problem is that the kind of drummer who could play our music convincingly is the kind of drummer that’s already committed to an established extreme metal band, and part of the problem is location. The hills of Stafford don’t exactly ring to the sound of legions of drummers gravity blasting. In consequence, we’ve auditioned a lot of people from further afield; we even had someone come all the way from Hastings to try out, but so far every candidate has been either unwilling to travel long distance for rehearsals or unable to play what they claim they can. Still, we haven’t given up hope. The quest continues.
ZT: What are your thoughts on the UK black metal scene right now? Is it something you take much notice of, or feel a part of, and are there any bands out there you hope to collaborate with in some way?
Baron-von-Christgrinde: I can’t say I particularly follow the UK black metal scene, at least in no greater sense than I like to keep up with new, exciting, black metal albums and bands in general, both locally and elsewhere. As far as other artists go, we’ve worked with members of other bands before, and certainly will again.
Cardinal Sinne: I can only speak for my local West Midlands scene, but I think one major problem is fan-apathy. People just don’t want to go to gigs as much, even if it’s a band they like, on their own doorstep. Travelling to another county to see an unsigned metal band? Forget it. It’s a real problem and venues are closing because of it.
That said though, in terms of a community of artists the scene is flourishing. I write for an e-zine called Onemetal, so I end up going to a lot of gigs and listening to a lot of unsigned music, and because it’s easier to create and record music than ever before bands seem to be really coming together and co-creating. Cancerous Womb, Magpyes, Colonel Blast, Dyscaphia & Diascorium released a 5 way split earlier this year and I’m currently doing some engineering work for a split between Subvertio Deus & Haar. As for us, there are guest spots on every track on the E.P. and we’re going to go a similar way with the full length. The spirit of metal is about enjoying metal with other metalheads, not sequestering yourself in a dank Norwegian cave where you can score krieg-points on the internet by only associating with bands that are so underground they don’t even exist yet, although such a mentality is unfortunately prevalent.
ZT: I read somewhere that you are currently working on a full-length already. What can you tell us about this?
Baron-von-Christgrinde: It is true, we are currently in the process of writing some new material for our first full length, thoug I’m afraid we can say nothing of an expected time of release, or any other potentially juicy information.
Cardinal Sinne: I can tell you that we have a title and several finished tracks. I’m not going to tell you what they are though… lets just say there will be some interesting instrumentation. We’ve experimented with banjos, saxophones and even an ocarina. It’s still grim and frostbitten though, we haven’t birthed a jazz-monstrosity.
ZT: Is the EP a good indication of what to expect from the forthcoming album?
Cardinal Sinne: Aye, butIt’s an incomplete picture. There are a lot of ideas we have, both musically, lyrically and in terms of genre references that will be seeing the light of day on the full length.
Baron-von-Christgrinde: A roughly good indicator, I suppose. I certainly hope to evoke much of the same harsh, old school black metal vibe that you have described, but it will hopefully be somewhat broader in influence than our EP was.
ZT: Any parting message for our readers?
Baron-von-Christgrinde: Think freely. Question others openly, and question yourselves honestly.
Don’t subscribe to appeals of authority. Smoke Crack, Worship Satan!
Cardinal Sinne: What he said. We’d also like to thank everyone at Zero Tolerance for their consistently good magazine & the chance they’ve given us for this interview.