Interview: Damian Master
“Creation is a very sacred art and you should do whatever feels or seems right. Nothing before you should matter. I’m not an old guy who chastises youth for not knowing their history in any given field, even if I am a very historically focused person.”
What have been the most important facts, songs and albums, events so you kept in mind?
Something I’ve been struggling lately with is memory. It’s very strange. I don’t know if it’s just a part of getting older… I’m only in my mid-30s. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I tend to live in the moment more than anything. However, in the moments where my mind begins to drift, I definitely am far more nostalgic for the past than hopeful for the future. I hate the future. Every new jump in technology seems very taxing and boring. I hate new vehicles. I hate power windows and locks. I like old pickup trucks. I do like new bands, and new music that pushes things forward, but generally the bands that I enjoy are doing it from a grounded or level perspective where they have either an extensive back catalog to build from, or have a reverence for the past. I also think that in creating, you shouldn’t have to have either. Creation is a very sacred art and you should do whatever feels or seems right. Nothing before you should matter. I’m not an old guy who chastises youth for not knowing their history in any given field, even if I am a very historically-focused person. Lately I’ve been finding myself listening to a lot of old classic Swedish punk/hardcore like ANTI-CIMEX, SHITLICKERS, CRUDE SS, TOTALITAR, MOB 47. Stuff like that. With the recent reissues from Armageddon I’ve been able to buy the BRAINBOMBS records that I really have been wanting for many years. So, BRAINBOMBS have been heavily in rotation for me. For ages, the only thing I had was a copy of “Obey” I found in Chicago many years ago, and a singles collections LP. I’m a guy who buys music. I don’t download or stream stuff I don’t own. I don’t care if anyone else does. I’m not grumpy about it. The events of my life… I struggle to remember sometime, the details. So, it’s hard for me to think back as to what made me who I am. It’s a lot.
Your new album “Broken Play” took me by surprise. What can you say about the writing of this work and what has been the main focus in the production process.
First of all, I’m glad it surprised you pleasantly. You never know how someone is going to react. I was in the middle of a very intense workflow from 2011-2014 and I was moving at a fast pace, writing and recording. Some personal events – mostly the loss of loved ones, some to death, some to other situations – that threw me for a loop. Lots of pain, loss, misery, depression and deep seething anger. I wrote most of “Broken Play” in a few nights. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s absolutely true. That’s how I work. When I’m inspired, I just keep going really manically until I run out of ideas. So in a few nights I wrote all the songs, recorded the scratch guitars and that was it. Of course, feeling that my personal life was in shambles it took a year to go back and work on it. I knew it was going to be for my second album, but even then I kept writing music and released more things like the DEEP LAVENDER DREAMS COMP, DEVOTION UNLACED, and LUCKY ALL MY LIFE. There might have been some more stuff in there. I worked on music for other bands, but really, I took a lot of time away. I’m not pleased that I did that. I think it was a mistake. It took me a very long time to tweak and do the fine details on the songs, and even then, it was almost a year after the drums were recorded before I did anything with them. I’m not proud of any of this. I ended up doing the vocals in one day. That is a fact I am very proud of. I had plenty of time to live with the songs and my demos of them, so when it came time to do the vocals I literally went almost front to back in one or two takes. I really like how the vocals turned out on this record. They’re my most clear to date. Very powerful. They’re not obscured by reverb or delay. They’re not hidden.
How can you describe the sounds and the music from “Broken Play” album? How does it differ from the previous records?
It’s always hard when someone asks me this question because A PREGNANT LIGHT is just a distillation of listening to music obsessively ever since I was 5 years old. As always, A PREGNANT LIGHT is guitar-focused with lots of melodies and layering. The melodies aren’t done in a traditional metal style, although on this record there is more of that than ever. I think of guitar players like Johnny Marr of the Smiths, or more understated post punk guitarists and the way they layer guitars to create a sound. It’s not just big power chords and soaring leads… usually. Although like I said, I do experiment with that on this album a bit. It’s in many ways my most “traditional” album. There is a massive influence of thrash metal on this record. I’m inspired by the Teutonic greats, SODOM, DESTRUCTION, and especially KREATOR. I always have loved the dense riffing of ABSU, so I took some of that influence in a bit. I make my studio albums (I’ve only done two with A PREGNANT LIGHT so far) more clean, more powerful and produced big. I want them to be different than my many demos and EPs that are available. If I don’t try to make it different, then I don’t really see the point or difference. Sonically, it’s much more “professional” than the stuff between “My Game Doesn’t Have A Name” and “Broken Play”. But, I like the lo-fi dirty stuff a lot, too. I think I’ll have to drift away from that. It’s harder the further you go as an artist to ask people to look past murky production. People just eventually stop wanting to dig through the layers of mud to find the flake of gold. Pretty much every band I’ve ever loved started out lo-fi and got better sounding. You can do it in a very accessible, but way that doesn’t cause you to lose your spirit. I think URFAUST is a perfect example of this.
A PREGNANT LIGHT albums all seem to have a personal story, what’s the story with “Broken Play”?
This is very true. Everything in A PREGNANT LIGHT is personal. There is no fantasy element, there is no fake stories. Nothing is made up. It is the personal reflection on my personal life. This means things really go from spiritual to personal, and more often than not deal with love, and affairs of the heart. Aside from fear, love is the deepest emotion perhaps. I think people can write love songs, at least I do – that aren’t flowery and happy and pretty. Loving someone or something is very brutal. I don’t want to give you a story about my life because I don’t want people to focus on that. I want people to take the art that I’ve made and process the music and lyrics without me telling them“ this is what it means, and where it comes from.” When you leave it open to interpretation, I’ve found that people are able to apply it to their own lives much more and it becomes more personal to them. So, if you listen carefully and read the lyrics, whatever story you think you see or hear – that’s the story.
Let’s talk about your music fascinations and artistic inspirations for a while. Can you tell me something about your music roots? What do you think about evolution of black metal? Do you prefer bands from Europe?
I grew up in the punk and hardcore scene. My roots are there, but metal took hold of me very early as well. I was a secret metal and amongst my punk and hardcore friends. I moved around a lot as a kid, so I found a lot of peace in music. I really focused in on that and playing guitar. I always had a dream of doing music for living, but it’s strange how sometimes dreams come true but in a totally different way than you think it will happen. I’ve been following black metal since 1998. I was turned onto CRADLE OF FILTH at that time. It’s funny, because now Cradle is viewed by metalheads as some sort of novelty act, but back then, if you were actually involved in metal -they were a very scary, intense band. I find that most people who are into black metal today – they got into it like, when American media started covering it, or when US black metal bands started taking off in the mid 2000s. Generally the people with the loudest opinions about what’s true or what’s real or what’s good or isn’t good are people who were listening to MY CHEMICAL ROMANCE a few years before in high school. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it’s just more of a statement on how people change and feel the need to adopt a new personality or identity. I think black metal is in a really interesting place. I am obviously much more a fan of BATHORY, CELTIC FROST, MERCYFUL FATE and stuff like that. I’m not too into the whole second wave Norwegian scene. It’s great, but I like the more metal-focused sound. Not so much atmosphere and coldness. I think style took over really quickly, and I’m speaking about the people that followed the second wave, not the second wave. I think black metal was a very specific thing that happened, like punk and what his happening now is that we all are living in the shadow of this giant explosion. To get too caught up in thinking about it makes for it to be incredibly boring and meaningless. It’s best to just revel in what you think is good and right and move in that direction. It’s like, there are bands who are ostensibly making grunge music now, but they don’t have to live with that genre tag association. Black Metal… you kind of have to live under that flag. It’s fine… I love black metal, but do I consider my music black metal? No. Inspired by, absolutely. Do I prefer bands from Europe… hmmm. You know I’m sitting here amongst my record collection, which is few LP´s and CD´s and cassettes and I’m looking and the answer is… YES! I think I do prefer bands from Europe.
Are you cooperate with other black metal artists? How’s the metal scene in the Michigan? Is there a lot of interaction and support between the bands?
I don’t work with anyone else in the black metal world at all. I have no idea how the scene is. I’m truly isolated. The closest I can think of is that I’m friends with the guys in DISCARNATUS from the area. I am truly isolated. My best friend Tim makes music on his own, and with me a lot. That’s really it! Very closed circle.
What do you think about pure black metal image? Your way is very different… At what point did you decide to combine black metal with others music influences?
I absolutely love the pure black metal image. I love it. I’m even obsessed with it! I have nothing but love and respect for that aesthetic. I think it’s very powerful. Here is the thing… I’m just not that! I definitely am close to that in some regard, and I’m never mad of someone calls me black metal, but it is as you said – way different. Visually and socially, and aesthetically. If you look back to my earliest releases, I never really had anything that was in line with pure black metal visually. At some times I was there sonically, but never visually because it felt dishonest to me. It didn’t seem right or interesting to me personally, for what I was doing. I have too much love and respect for the original vibe that I don’t even tread near it. People are always shocked when they see my records, or ask what I’m into or my opinions on black metal. I’m really a speed and spikes kind of guy. I’m quite old school and traditional. I really am! It’s just that when you are involved in a creative endeavor, such as A PREGNANT LIGHT, you must follow your own heart and vision. You have to do what seems right to you – not just what will make it easier for people to digest. Someone recently wrote me and said my album cover looked like a Nick Cave album, so she wouldn’t check it out, even though it kept popping up in her recommended metal listening on her streaming service. She judged by the cover, and eventually checked it out and was blown away! She really enjoyed it. I kind of like that story. It’s funny, in an extreme genre with extreme images – the most extreme thing you can do is put your pretty face on the cover. I like that.
Please, can you introduce your others music projects? If you were to start another music project in a completely different genre, which would it be?
Primarily I play guitar in a hardcore band called PRISON SUICIDE. We play out live, so that is really enjoyable. Plus, the guys in the band are my best friends. I play in AKSUMITE as well. I have hopes that we will do another record this year. AKSUMITE is more straight ahead blacking metal punk! True raw sounds. My favorite. I’m also working on a lot of noise / ambient music both under my own name and as PURPE LIGHT. I’m really involved pretty much in everything on my label Colloquial Sound Recordings. I would say for people to check out the bands on the label. I have my hands in pretty much everything. If I could be in any other kind of band… I don’t know! I think it would be great to be in a band like THE BAD SEEDS or something. A band were I could use the guitar as a texture. Experiment more with stuff like that. However, that’s not your question. Your question is what band would I start in a different genre… and the answer is none. I don’t think I have it in me! I’m just a metal and punk guy. I’d love to play a different style for enjoyment with another artist maybe. That would be enjoyable. To take on a role as doing something more ambient, textural. I think that would be great. I also think playing in a modern country band would be sick. I don’t know why. Maybe because it’s just so different. Any gig where I could have a guitar tech would be amazing. But truly, I am what I am. I am a distorted electric guitar loud punk / metal / hardcore guy. And all my bands will be that.
What kind of music do you listen to nowdays?
Well, it changes a lot, but I’ll tell you what I’ve been into this week. The last Self Defense Family LP. Sun Kill Moon. American Music Club. Josh T. Pearson. and lots of Kevin Martin projects. Mostly, THE BUG, but King Midas Sound as well, and his solo stuff he released this year. And of course, the usuals… IRON MAIDEN. DISCHARGE.
What do you enjoy doing in the little free time you have? Do you like to travel, for example? Do you know something about Czech Republic?
No, I don’t really enjoy free time. Life has circumstances surrounding it where I have some spare hours or days where I’m free to do as I please, and more often than not when I find myself in those spaces I don’t care for it. I’d like to keep going from project to project. Staying busy on something. I do like relaxing though. I am just coming off of a long break from making lots of music. As you may or may not know. My back catalogue is intense. Very big. I’d rather just keep making music. I don’t really love to travel, if I’m being honest. I know that makes me sound like a dickhead, but I’m not opposed to it either. I guess I don’t really like vacations. If traveling happens to make music or play shows… then it has a purpose and I’m fine with that. Otherwise, I’m content. I’ve lived all over and been all over the US. It’s all the same. I do have an appreciation for other places, but I don’t know. I’m just not a travel for adventure guy. It makes me sound like a dumb American… but I assure you. I’m not. hah! As far as things I know of the Czech Republic… I’m an avid reader and follower of history so I’ve done a bit of reading on the area and the turmoil it has endured. The people of the Czech Republic seem like great people. Of course, the great band MASTER´S HAMMER is from there! One of my favorite modern bands, CULT OF FIRE is from Prague I believe as well! And I’ve had a few great Czech beers! If I ever make it over there, I’ll expect you to show me a proper Czech good time!
Thank you for your time! And in the end a few words to our readers…
Thank you so much for your questions, and your time. I really appreciate you getting in touch. I want to thank your readers for making this far (assuming they did!), and for listening to A PREGNANT LIGHT and all the related bands on Colloquial Sound Recordings. I definitely want to say – follow your own muse. Live as dangerously as you can, and live to tell. Most of all, do something. If you have the smallest creative impulse, follow that. Even if you just do it for yourself. Do it. In a dark world, it’s the most rewarding thing I can think of. Thank you for listening, and there is lots of back catalog to dig into. More new music soon… from which project. You’ll just have to wait and see. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram (@DAMIANMASTER) for updates. 108.