PH. © by Deathless Pictures
Black metal's finest ULTHA have released their brand new album 'Converging Sins' on Vendetta Records (HERE our review).
Today with got the pleasure to talk with Chris Noir (CN) and Ralph Schmidt (RS)
Interview by Michela (Anesthesia)
LFdM: First of all I wanted to thank you for time.
LFdM: Converging Sins is a sublime example of how the monochrome industrial has disrobed popular cloths in order to dress those of the sublime gothic. What do you think about it?
RS: I have to admit, I'm not sure if I catch your question. Do you want to know if Industrial music culture stole the romantic aspect in Gothic culture? Or if the music industry took away the heart and sold out honest music?
LFdM: Your sound can convey romance and desolation at the same time. Where does the artist begin and where the person behind it? Is there a cohesion?
CN: I think those two things cannot be divided in Ultha. What we express as a band all comes from experiences, thoughts and impressions we encounter as human beings. Ralph’s lyrics can be read like a diary. Everything we do is very personal, very 'real' if you’d like to put it this way, but I think it’s this authenticity people cherish about our music.
RS: There is too much phoney bullshit in metal. If you want bands who 'act' what they do, there are hundreds to be found. Metal in general was always something striving for honesty and purity, something with roots and tradition. Yet so many cheap knock-offs of the 90ies scene keep coming and coming. It's a loathsome hypocrisy so many people buy. They focus on their act as if they're working off a checklist: A bit of this band, a bit of that artist, act all evil and edgy, dress in the proper way, put some candles and skulls on stage, call the show a ritual and you're all set. No one cares if you celebrate Christmas with your loved ones under a bright shiny Christmas tree, if they don't know your cool Instagram account. This shit is giving me douchechills. When I say 'You Exist For Nothing' then that is my actual point of view. I feel no pleasure in human interaction and I love to be alone. My idea of fun is very different than that of most Thursday-to-Sunday-Occult-Black-Metal elitists. I don't party hard, I don't worship Satan by getting wasted and banging out in a disco to Satyricon's last record. I just want to be fucking secluded from all these idiots around me and cherish the time with the handful of people who are really worth being considered friends. For us it was alway clear that we are a no-bullshit band. We love the music for the thing it is: music; and we love the feeling Black Metal can convey in the music. For me personally this was always melancholy and negativity, and this is what I try to create when I write riffs and lyrics.
LFdM: You love private references, especially those related to the relationship, but if you had to choose a historical period different from our contemporary, where would you place your music?
CN: Although I think that our music is the perfect allegory of the estranged, solitary individual in our modern society, it could be placed really anywhere since humans started to relate to each other and develop a set of morals. The perpetual conflict between our inner primate on the one hand and moral expectations on the other is as old as humanity itself and the mainspring of our musical expression. RS: For me it's always the 80ies. I grew up in this time and there was such a gap between the unbalanced happiness-aftermath of the 70ies, a horrible global economy, false ideals and a fantastic era of depressing music. I feel closer to bands such as Joy Division, Christian Death and New Model Army than to Mayhem, Burzum and Emperor when it comes to aesthetics. We did this cover of Mighty Sphincter's “Ghost Walking”. If you look for this music video you see exactly how I visualize our music.
LFdM: “We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken”: this is a phrase of Dostoyevsky. Can the human being be a source of interest for your music? Or are the events to determine the right lyrical approach?
CN: Like I said before, the relationships between human beings is what influences us most, so yes, I would even go as far as to say: nothing but the human being is of interest for us. Mistakes and regrets is what defines us as humans and inspires what we’re doing with Ultha. RS: I agree with Chris. Our music is solely about the events caused by the collision of human beings, their hungers and desires, their faults and fractures, all their lies, the hypocrisy, the greed and the everlasting hope for true and honest love in a world full of lies.
LFdM: Who is the main musician who has influenced your path and how?
CN: For me personally it’d probably be Henry Rollins, for the absolute dedication to the cause during his time in Black Flag. His unforgiving mindset, brutal honesty and self-sacrificing work ethic influenced me very much when I started to play in bands myself and is still very inspirational, especially if not everything goes the way it was planned - and it rarely does. I mean just watch these live videos of Black Flag ca. 84-86 - this is no fucking joke, or entertainment. It’s literally war.
RS: I'd go with Justin Sullivan of New Model Army. He's a one of a kind musician and songwriter. His lyrics are always super honest, drenched with desire and melancholy as well as full of appreciation of past events and love for the nature that surrounds us. There is probably no band which is more influential to me. I started learning to play the bass when I first heard 'Vengeance' and was blown away how different this instrument was being used there. The whole dynamic of this band, the harmonies and the extraordinary songwriting make this band so unique, even after close to forty years of work. They are probably the most honest band out there and the love for them the most honest love I ever felt.
LFdM: Is it difficult to play your music live? Do you like to perform live?
CN: Let’s say it’s not rocket science what we do, although it’s surely challenging for us. I mean none of us are professional musicians, and I find myself often on the verge of my abilities. But I also think that challenging yourself helps to push the boundaries further and it also gives the music some a kind of uncontrollable element. I mean, I have played in bands with professionally trained musicians, and always felt there’s a certain point they can reach with technique but can not get beyond that. If your expression lacks emotion and danger, it’s impossible to touch people. So I like to play live, yes. The cathartic experience is something I long for in a live setting, and if we manage to enable this experience also for people in the audience, we did something right.
RS: I would always prefer the live setting to everything else. If it were up to me, we would only record rehearsal tracks and release them on tape. There would be a lot of flaws on it, because as Chris said we're certainly not the most technically gifted band, but we play with all of our heart. For me music has always a visual component, that's why I wanted us to have this strict code on stage with the special lights and the fog. Life isn't perfect, it is gritty and mystical. To have a professional recording is always done with a lot of cheating. Live you play for the moment, for this few moments of actual life and intensity. That's where I feel home.