by theseseans (NYC)
There are bands that I listen to, and there are bands that take me over. Sutekh Hexen, are the latter. As I recently found myself immersed in a world of harsh noise, Sutekh Hexen were a very welcome discovery. Their sound has been highly abrasive, using a substantial amount of raw noise, which as I wrote in my Best of 2011 list, receiving equal mix and attention as the musical elements. This is a not a band where feedback lures into the end of a song, or noise is used sparingly for texture.
Sutekh Hexen's new record, Larvae is available for pre order from Handmade Birds right now, and will see an official release on February 21, 2012. It explores new themes, namely light, and produces different sounds through that focus. In interviewing the band I was curious to know what drives them to create, and how they expanded their sound with Larvae. The responses I got are very satisfying. Sutekh Hexen care deeply for their art, and their devotion to it is obvious in the words you'll find below.
Crustcake: How did Sutekh Hexen begin?
Scott Miller (guitar, vocals, percussion, electronics): Kevin and I had been playing together for a couple of years in various bands and ensembles and we decided one day to focus energy on starting a new project that was totally focused on occult values and concepts. We recorded three c10 demos in late 2009 and really started to feel a deep connection to the extreme balance that we were working within, the rest just followed suit.
Kevin Gan Yuen (guitars, electronics): It actually took time for us to fully realize Sutekh Hexen.
Once we began: this has easily been thee most pro-active project either of us has ever been involved with.
Scott and I have known each other for quite some time, we had performed live and recorded for several projects in the past, but at that point: nothing exclusively of own. Considering that we both have wide-ranges of musical interests, we often discuss songs we love, hate and how we would have approached the composition differently.
These in-depth conversations were very mutual between us and once we committed to recording ideas to exchange back and forth, we kept impressing each other with these really intense and complex compositions of great riffs, field-recordings and layers upon layers of ambient passages/scathing-noise assaults.
It literally became a "lets see who can out-do each other," but the more we worked together, the more I realized that this is the
natural process of chaos:order for us.
Crustcake: Why does Sutekh Hexen exist?
Scott: For me personally, SH exists as an audio document of my ritual and meditative work. I have always felt a great relation to the sounds we create as a soundtrack to Left Hand Path leanings and I like to think that there is an inspirational current that is captured within our music. It's all just an outlet for expression.
Kevin: Personally, it is practicing the process of creation, destruction and the in-between; live, this is a much more intensified meditative experience, when attempting to re-enter this space.
Crustcake: Larvae feels much different then Luciform and your preceding releases. The mood and atmosphere in Larvae are constantly shifting - what inspired that?
Scott: I believe that Larvae is just a progression from what we were doing on Luciform. This was the first time that we had opened our doors to a new member and Lee really brought a powerful sense of creativity to the table that naturally enabled the expansion.
Kevin: Being able to play the songs live encouraged the direction of "Larvae", having Lee available to fortify the wall of sound has allowed Scott to focus solely on guitar live, because he was literally jumping between two to three things at once during live performances and the most important inspirational-influence on this record, really was us all being on the same-page sonically during the writing-process.
Crustcake: Specifically, can you discuss the song "Let There Be Light?"
Scott: "La Det Bli Lys" was a concept far before it was actually written. I notice quite frequently that we are misconstrued as being propelled by the force of anger, which is definitely an inspirational emotion that the three of us receive from, but generally speaking I feel that we excel the most through various states of depression and overall disconnect. That track you are speaking of comes from that place of hopelessness and despair. Considering the fact that anger is a secondary emotion, I relate that sickening feeling of being almost trapped in a cycle of downfall to how the sounds and vocals meander through an almost blackened pit of emptiness before crashing headlong into that subsequent hatred for that cycling. All of our music is coming from the same channels, but with this LP in particular I feel that we embraced that suffocating build up of energies that leads us to that point of expression of a more maddening state.
Kevin: Appropriately the final track on the LP. We were all in similar states-of-mind whilst finalizing this record.
I am not the only one that will admit experiencing severe transitions in our personal lives from the start to the completion of this album, which naturally influenced an aural-existence on the threshold and finally reaching an apex of sorts.
Crustcake: Can you discuss what makes Sutekh Hexen's musical aspects come together?
Scott: The 3 of us operate individually. Whereas I may present an arrangement that stems from C focused guitar patterning and low end derived sound manipulations, Kevin and Lee bring forth a lot more of the textural and soundscape sounds that bring everything together. The energies that each of us bring to the songs is solely based upon our separate interpretations of the ground being covered. I feel that it's this individualistic process that enables the music to encompass a far greater spectrum of sound manipulation and fortifies the comprehension of what we are truly expression through the sounds. As a result, there becomes a sense of ownership on varied levels that we can all relate to in our own ways.
Kevin: We individually present something new, complimentary or what can be considered finite to each composition. It has honestly been about having bandmates who share the drive and ability to conceptualize ideas, bringing these ideas into to fruition and finally: reflecting on the cohesive results as a whole.. it is pretty remarkable how well we work together, for example: while sometimes not even discussing what direction we want a track to head-in and the end-result, being exactly what we all heard.
Crustcake: Despite the difference from your other material, how did you know "Seraph"'s grooving guitar was Sutekh Hexen?
Scott: When Kevin and I were working on that track (and "Chains" on the other side of the Luciform LP) I was listening to a lot of Hellshock, Discharge, No Funeral, Skitsystem and other more punk fueled metal and d-beat bands and it just indirectly bled through into the formation of those couple songs. I don't feel that "Seraph" sounds like any of those bands, so to speak, but it has a lot more of a punked out structure to the chord progressions and strum patterns that most of our songs don't have.
Kevin: I felt like playing crusty death-metal riffs. I was listening to Entombed and Grave, but do not feel like this song sounds like either of the bands. Also, with our tuning, we are able to implement one of the open-strings as a sympathetic-note that will basically provide a drone or percussive element while riffing on the higher-register strings.
Crustcake: Beyond the outside elements and influences that this riff arrived from, I was hoping you could comment on what made you know that this riff would fit within Sutekh Hexen, despite it's difference from the majority of your other riffs. - What made you say 'Yes, I need to bring this riff into Sutekh Hexen?'
KevinWell, it was established that we wanted to write a few tracks that were heavily riff-based. "Seraph" and "Chains" specifically; we write songs that we want to hear that we have not heard before and that is it.
Crustcake: Some of your previous work has a similar effect on me that pure noise does, can you talk about your approach to producing something that balances noise and music so evenly?
Scott: We seem to get asked this question a lot and really to me it just seems natural. There's such a deep comfort I find in the expansive qualities of "noise" as an expressive art form and to unlearn the formula of black metal and reformulate it through an experimental filter opens doors to a whole new world of rarely charted frequencies and tone. I'm in no way comparing us, but bands like Neurosis and Agoraphobic Nosebleed amongst many others have been incorporating more noise related and atmospheric elements to their music for years. Fuck, and then there was Comets on Fire that had such a killer oscillating experimental layer that really blew open extreme currents of psychedelia. So, I think that when we sit down to work on new material we are processing the sounds with the noise and more structured instrumentation within a similar, yet far less refined, school of thought as those before us.
Kevin: Seriously, I think have a good sense of sonic-balance comes from growing-up listening to music with headphones in the dark; this was before there were iPods and before it was normal to listen to songs on your computer through shitty speakers. I still don't get it: dulling the experience beyond relevance, it's worse than listening to music while driving with the windows down... so much of the experience of perception is compromised these days... people just don't listen like they used to.
It always fascinated me how many layers of sound existed on so many records and it kept this continuity that I always sought to duplicate in bands, but it wasn't until Scott, whom shares the same sonic-philosophies, that it happened, not only on record, but when we would play live in our various projects.
Crustcake: Where does the noise side of your material derive from?
Scott: We build our noise from everything from feedback to contact mics to tape loops to oscillators to whatever we feel directed to incorporate sounds from. Most all of our songs have layers of noise created by each of us on our own in our own ways of capturing those sounds. On Larvae in particular, Lee brought in a lot of organic percussive elements such as a Georgia Long Lead pinecone and Lupin pods that we recorded through room mics and minimal effects that added some nice percussive and textural layers of noise.
Kevin: We record and edit all sources for the noise-elements ourselves. It has been something I think all of us have been doing some time before Sutekh Hexen. Personally, it used to be an obsession of mine, to walk around the city, foothills or wherever with a cassette-tape recorder and computer-mic. These days the same level of curiosity exists, but with better gear! like my Zoom H4 or iPhone. Field-recording and "noise" techniques were discovered and admired through individuals like: Masami Akita, Chris Watson and Pau Torres --- but it was bands like: Neurosis/Tribes of Neurot, Swans and Ulver, that really opened my eyes to making these same aural-elements applicable to what I wanted to do.
Crustcake: How do you approach preforming live, as a two piece and now as a three piece?
Scott: Our live shows are very much ritual magick in the sense that we write our live compositional pieces to have an ebb and flow that coincides with the concept that we are working within at that time. It's always been this way. Currently we have been performing a 2 song/30 minute set with "Isvar Savasana" from the Larvae LP and a song I've been calling, "The Collects", which is slated to come our later this year as the a side of a 12" called Movements and the Current on Flenser, we blend the ending of one into the beginning of the other making the ritual one continuous piece. There is always an element of spontaneity that we incorporate into our live sets that leaves the door open to improvisations at any given point of the songs, even though the pieces have been written and structured initially as compositions.
Kevin: As mentioned earlier, we now write a majority of our songs with the intention of performing them live.
I would say that each of our songs should blend-seemlessly into one-another if we were to play them live back-to-back.. an unnoticeable transition, which we have and do. That said, there has been a lot of improvisation since we decided to play live. The point here, is that our compositions are structured, very structured, but we like to challenge ourselves every now and again.
Crustcake: I read on HHS's playlist posting that Scott commented, "I think lyrics for the most part are trite and I can go without" Does this apply to your own music as well? Can you talk about the creative process for your words - titles and lyrics?
Scott: Of course this applies to us as well. Larvae is the first release we have done that actually has the lyrics printed and even that has been done as a spot UV layer that obscures them. I feel that the listening to and receiving of comprehension of music is going to be different to everyone and taking that into consideration, I feel that the art becomes cheapened when there is a dictation as to what and where the piece is coming from. What might make one listener conjure up feelings of disappointment and sorrow very well may bring up feelings of rage and hatred to another, it's this freedom of individuality and relation that we all work from and hope our music is received through. Titles of songs and lyrics have very deep connections to the individual channels each track is built from at some layer or another, but I prefer to keep an almost ambiguous sense of direction when it comes to being heard by others. I read a review recently that made comment of my vocals being "murderous" which is not at all an angle that I take with my approach, but I embraced the listener's understanding and relative connection to the sound as being natural to the one writing the review. So with that said, the titles and lyrics for each release come from specific elements of our ritual work and intent, but are not ever meant to be the foundation upon which others take from the songs.
Kevin: Maybe. I have always been an advocate for individual-interpretation: Aural and Visual creations may initially have intent through an individual, but ultimately: creation and destruction are relative. There is something to absorb/expel at every point of formation. I think the problem with this world is that a lot of people have taken everything too literally. Does it matter?
Crustcake: Can you then comment on why the human voice is a constant element in your art? If the words the voice carries is not the reason for the inclusion on vocals, what is it about the human voice that makes it so essential to Sutekh Hexen?
Kevin: The human voice, like any other instrument can convey a range of emotions and potentially set the tone of a track, drastically. Where voice is applicable in Sutekh Hexen, I feel it establishes the human-connection to our work.