Prior to their recent show at the OBL in London, Nathan Opposition from Ancient VVisdom took time out of his machete-sharpening schedule to trade a few words with Hugh Platt.
Nathan Opposition is a quietly-spoken man. Given that Nathan is an intimidating hulk of man, who gives off the kind of innate, physical menace that you only get from people who got neck tattoos back before the time they were a mark of a hipster fashionista, it puts us weirdly off-balance as we chat to the Ancient VVisdom frontman in a dressing room above the Old Blue Last. Still, it doesn’t stop us from grilling the chain-rattling, machete-waving vocalist on the subject of the band’s forthcoming new album – currently going under the working title of A Deathlike Inferno - as well as the finer points of Thelemic mysticism and philosophical Satanism. Y’know, low-brow pithy topics like that.
So…let’s talk about this new album you’ve been working on. We’ve heard it’s going to be called A Deathlike Inferno….
We’re keeping it under the ground. We have ten songs written for it, songs that have been developing over the past year and half, songs that I’ve been listening to in my head for the last year and a half, and I’m starting to teach everyone [in the band] how to play right now. I’d say about half the record is written by me, half by my brother, Michael – he did a lot of the instrumentation and notation, and the lyrics are, of course, by me. But it’s going to be a good one.
I’m given to understand that it’s somewhat concerned with many 2012 prophecies…
It’s very important that it’s released this year. A lot of the songs tie in to things or events that have happened this year, or that will happen this year – things that I predict will happen this year. And I think it just needs to be here for 2012. It seems like the appropriate time for it.
I just want to elaborate on those themes and ideas. Are we referring to the Mayan prophecies…
[interrupting, only half seriously] Absolutely not! No. That’s like some Y2K stuff; nothing happened there.
It’s just that Raz is downstairs right now, wearing one of your new t-shirts with a Mayan temple design on it…
It’s more about capturing the fear that’s in some people’s minds, in this mass-mentality of the world ending this year, or the Mayan calendar ending this year. It’s more based on fear and people’s inability to see past these silly controversies.
The t-shirt in question….
Why do you think people give credence to these apocalyptic scenarios, that will almost certainly never come to pass?
Because we’re [as a species] always obsessed with doom and death, as it’s the only thing we can’t escape, and it’s the only thing we don’t know about is the thing that kind of keeps us up at night sometimes. I think that sort of thing will always hold a place in the human mind, and will always be either a distraction, or something that inspires you to live.
Would you say that with the new record, is it solely a reaction to other people’s reactions to that apocalyptic feeling, or does it contain any of your interpretations of that yourself?
I’d say it’s more personal, I guess. It’s meant to inspire people too…it’s actually more of a positive record, as a departure from the last record, which can either be taken light or dark. It depends on what your side of things are; it’s all perception. If you have the ability to see what the perception is of what the record may be, then you might get what the record is all about, or what the meaning is. [A Deathlike Inferno] is definitely a more uplifting, positive record – if you want it to be. Or it could be something that could be all death and doom, like the title suggests.
The last record, A Godlike Inferno, was very much rooted in ideas surrounding the occult, ritualistic black magic, and mystic Satanism (as opposed to philosophic Satanism). Is that something you’ve consciously made the decision to move away from on this new record, or have you continued with it in some capacity?
I’d say it’s necessary to inspire people in different ways, and not just play one side of things. This next record has a departure [from what Ancient VVisdom have done before] that is a new way of being for Ancient VVisom, and a different page for what we want to be writing. It’s more influential in a positive way than someone looking at it as a Satanically-influenced, spiritually-influenced record. It has more to do with reality and more to do with who we are now, and writing about what’s going on now.
You’re talking a lot about the positivity present in this new record in comparison to the last one. How have you manifested this? I’m reluctant to use the phrase “atmospheric” to describe your music, as it’s a bit of a catch-all phrase, but it does have those acoustic and sombre tones to it – how can you capture positivity with that?
The new record has a different mood. It has an entirely different mood from Godlike, but it definitely picks up from where Godlike leaves off. Where Godlike kind of leaves you hanging – with ‘Children of the Wasteland’, it’s a dismal, doomy sort of place and vibe and atmosphere, Deathlike will pick it up and turn it into a more positive way of thinking and being.
A lot has been made of the ritualistic element of your music. Is this something that’s also being built upon with the new album, or have you stuck to a more philosophical approach?
I’d say it’s a little bit of both, because it is a ritual – and everything we do can be considered a ritual. Me drinking a beer could be considered a ritual [holding beer bottle aloft with a wolflike grin], if I do it at the same time every day. If I find myself doing the same thing, and being inspired to do things in the same way like that, then technically it can be considered rituals. So that’s why our shows are considered rituals, because we have the same atmosphere and vibe that we create when we play our songs, and the same words being spoken. I guess everybody’s set could be considered ritualistic if they would consider it that way, but they don’t most of the time.
Have the European and UK crowds responded well to those ritualistic elements, or is it something that gets lost in transatlantic translation? Do your rituals it differ when in a European or North American context?
I believe it’s been excellent. The reaction has been very positive. People have been very responsive to us, coming up to us after shows. That’s one thing we like to do too – to talk to the people who like who we are, and we want to meet people, and be right there in the crowd with you. That’s one thing I like to portray too – that I’m on a level where I can talk to the people who are inspired by or who like us, as musicians and as individuals, too. I want to know people.
Nathan can get away with wearing sunglasses during a gig. You couldn’t pull that off.
Coming at it from a listener’s perspective, the AVV “concept” seems very conscious of the intellectual context it exists in. Hearing how you talk about the new record, there seems to be substantially greater level of forethought that’s gone on with your music than the standard “Yo man, our new record is heavy as fuck!” lines you hear people spout when they’re promoting an album.
I definitely spent a lot of time decoding what I want to exactly say to people, and what the tone should be for the record. It has a lot to do with the people involved with it. Creating that mood, that tone, is a lot to do with the individuals involved. The next record has a lot of potential to do that exact same thing, but in a new way for us.
We heard rumours of a fairly high-profile collaboration was taking place on the new record. Is that true, or has the rumour mill been at it again?
We’re working on it. There are a couple of people we want to have on it as guest appearances, and add instrumentation from certain people, so [nodding]…
I take it that means nothing has been set in stone as of yet?
Potentially. It’s all open to people’s schedules and what people’s availability is. Just like anything else.
Let’s talk about unusual percussion. The last album you were using machetes. That’s not really something you’ve been able to replicate live – at least over here…
I almost brought [the machete]! But then I was thinking, when I get to the UK border they’re gonna be like “….okay, fuck off!” [laughs]
Watch the video to ‘The Opposition’ by Ancient VVisdom:
Is there going to be similar percussive weirdness on the new record?
We’re definitely going to do some abstract percussion, and we’re going to incorporate some new sounds for certain songs, just like we do on the first record, but what those are I’m not going to disclose right now.
On a slight tangent, I was reading the interview you did with Invisible Oranges earlier this year, where you brought up the idea of “Do As Thou Wilt”, which like most elements of Crowleyean thinking, is a very misunderstood philosophical concept. Do you think there’s a level of similar misunderstanding with what you – and Ancient VVisdom – do as musicians?
Probably for most people there are misunderstandings or misconceptions about what I do. But I elaborated on Crowley’s “Do As Thou Wilt” with “Do as Thou Wilt And Be Realistic”. I think that’s what people need to do these days. They seem to just take that as an opportunity or as an excuse to run themselves into the ground, or do awful things, or use that as a scapegoat for it. “Oh, this is my philosophy, so this is what my philosophy made me”. But to be realistic, or at least respectable, is another thing .
On a more personal angle, how does your own True Will manifest?
[Without hesitation] To experience life in its fullest form until I die, and then have my experiences come true and to reality, and create my path and make it a good one; make it interesting for me, especially.
Ancient VVisdom’s second album, A Deathlike Inferno, is due out later this year on Prosthetic Records. We already expect it to be pretty damn special and cannot wait to hear what it sounds like, assuming that the Mayans didn’t get their dates wrong and we’re not all dead by this time next month. For the meantime, go check out Ancient VVisdom’s official website for more info on Nathan and the rest of the band.