To break, rape and then destroy hope [2010-05-28]A View From Nihil is the bleak and nihilistic Harsh Noise wall project of Irishman Andrew McQuaid, who now resides in Scotland. Early this year the project released one of its finest, unforgiving and ultra bleak release yet in the form of 'Triumph Of The Broken Will' on Andrews own label The Order of The HNW. Andrew kindly agreed to give M[M] email interview.
m[m] When did A View From Nihil first come about? Where does the name come from? And is this your first project?
Andrew I started AVFN in 2008. Basically I had a solo black noise project going on and it was getting harsher and more wall-like so I just dropped it and started making straight-up walls - not necessarily proper HNW to start with, though.
As for the name, its taken from a Mayhem track from the album A Grand Declaration of War. Not the best Mayhem album of course but I just liked title and thought it suited the sounds. I always liked Maniac's lyrics for that album as well.
m[m] What are some your earliest musically memoirs? When did you start getting into more extreme & experimental music? And is there any particular track or album that made you decided to start making noise your self?
Andrew Earliest music memory has to be bouncing around the living-room with a plastic sword to the theme of Thundercats. Total rush. When I was about sixteen or so I started to listen to extreme metal. I also liked anything that I thought was quite weird and at the time the internet was still shit and there were no scenes of any kind where I lived so I would listen to things like Whitehouse, Steve Reich or Aphex Twin without really knowing anything about any scenes or the background behind that stuff. I just thought it was weird and interesting.
Andrew There was no album or track that made me want to start making noise. The incentive was moving to Glasgow. In Northern Ireland there wasn't a lot of stuff going on. No bands really came to play, probably because of the troubles. Its not the same as other cities, it has had about a thirty year handicap on culture and art. There wasn't a noise scene and I don't think there is yet either. But when I moved to Glasgow there was just heaps of noise and associated musics going on. At War With False Noise, Sick Head, Kovorox Sound and Volcanic Tongue are some well-known labels that for a while there were doing something at least every fortnight. So it was just a case of monkey see, monkey do.
Andrew Back in 2007 I picked up a copy of the Cannibal Ritual/Helicopte Sanglante/Vomir split CDr on Maison Bruit at Bimbo Towers whilst on holiday in Paris. I didn't care for HS much but CR and Vomir really appealed to me. Around about the same time Al started getting a real interest in HNW and put out some good stuff on At War With False Noise which I of course picked up. So I suppose they would be the releases that really turned me onto HNW. Them and Thousands of Dead Gods of course.
m[m] How do you go about creating your ‘walls’ of noise? & how often do you record? What criteria do you use to select what you’ll release?
Andrew When I get a spare half hour I'll play about with some sounds and settings. Then maybe once a month or so I'll get a day or a night free and I'll sit down with some tea or Guinness and close the curtains and try and pull it all together into something interesting.
Andrew Two years isn't a long time to be doing something so I don't think I've fully established the criteria for AVFN yet. Until now each release has been a different approach with a different aim. Sometimes its worked and sometimes not. But I really feel I've found my feet with the latest CDr. The idea behind Triumph of the Broken Will was to make an HNW album that flirted with drone techniques and sounds to emphasise the meditative aspects of HNW and to make an album that draws you in. It has been well received and I am pleased with the results myself so I think in future I'll think I'll continue with approach and make that AVFN criteria. For now at least.
m[m] You were due to play at the sadly cancelled first European HNW festival in Paris last month. Was this you first live performance & what did you have planned for your stage set-up? And do you ware a masks or similar things when performing live like quite a few other HNW acts?
Andrew Aye it was going to be my first so that's a bit rubbish. I was just going to play the second track of Triumph... because I think its got a modest amount of variation and a nice static off-time rhythm which I think might be helpful for those not totally into HNW. And no, I don't plan on wearing masks or anything like that at performances. I imagine I'll be quite still for the whole set if I ever get round to playing since I use a laptop and only a laptop. There's no cause for moving around to AVFN. Maybe something to aid crowd concentration would be a good idea. Personally I find a candle works quite well for concentration, its flame has just the right amount of movement. Visuals would only distract.
m[m] Not long back you set up the Order of HNW label- why did you decided to do this?
Andrew The Order is all about releasing HNW with accompanying complimentary written pieces. There are essentially three reasons why I wanted to do this. Firstly, when I was getting into HNW there were the beginnings of a real literary element floating around. Vomir had released a book, we were all anticipating (and still are) the Rita's article in As Loud As Possible on the politics of HNW, and over on Cannibal Ritual's HNW tapes forum there was some early discourse about manifestos. I really liked this aspect so I decided to try and revive it. The second reason is that I believe that any art form worth its salt should be underpinned by some distinct philosophical, political and aesthetic discourse. Without this I don't see how a movement can expect to be taken seriously or even last very long at all. HNW is important to me and I feel the need investigate that and assert it. Finally, one of the things I like doing when I get the chance is to have a sit down with a record and listen to it whilst reading the lyrics. It helps me really get a feel for the album. Not possible with HNW, or indeed noise in general. So I decided to make it possible.
m[m] So far you released two albums on the label: A View From Nihil - Triumph Of The Broken Will & Vomir - Honour To Bleak Existence. Each featuring uniformed & identical artwork- why did you decided to do this & will future releases follow a similar suite?
Andrew All the releases will have identical artwork and layout. The idea is to add emphasis to the words and audio by making them the only variables. CD jewel cases are too small to really appreciate the cover art anyway. An added benefit is that it makes releases easier for me to produce - I'm rubbish at photoshop and all that. As for the layout itself and the overall image, I wanted to make it minimal, striking and pure - just like HNW. The front cover is simple but imposing and I think it looks kind of like the silhouette of a megalithic monument. Vomir designed it by lopping a bar off of the Black Flag logo. I'm not into Giallo or gore imagery. I don't mind when others do it but its not my thing really.
m[m] Each of the two releases on the label so far have featured a lengthy pieces of writing by the artists focusing on HNW - what gave you the idea for the both the joint written & sonic sides of each release?
Andrew Well the idea isn't exactly an original one. Most CDs come with a booklet full of writing. Just because HNW has no vocals I didn't think it should shun the sanctity of the written word.
m[m] Are there any writers who you particular writers you think uphold & cerebrate the similar hopeless & nihilistic tone of HNW
Andrew I don't know any to be honest. The only reading that I do is entirely in the field of Early Medieval History and some mythology. When I get a chance I like to read meta-political writings like John Zerzan, Tomislav Sunic, Alain de Benoist, New Imperium, and the Unabomber Manifesto is always good to have at hand. All of this feeds into my weltanschauung, which of course A View From Nihil draws on, but there are loads of different motivations behind the various HNW projects so it would be impossible for me to pick something that encompassed the entire outlook. I am hopeful, though, that a writer or writers will emerge who can articulate a complete HNW view-point and I imagine that they will come from the HNW scene itself.
m[m] On your labels blog you talk about HNW’s philosophy & it as a way of life- can you expand & explain this more?
Andrew Basically I reckon that HNW is one of those genres of music that is powerful enough and profound enough to partially define the person who is a fan or producer. Similar to the way for example that Oi defines a skinhead - except we don't have a dress-code. Although its just a small scene I think its very sincere and dedicated. Many wall makers often talk about obsession and HNW is definitely that. To be honest I don't even want to think about life without HNW. It just seems to fill some deeply rooted need and I know that a lot of wall makers out there feel the same. Maybe part of the reason it is so deeply seated is its meditative qualities. At times it really seems to me as a sort of asceticism for modern urban life. For me at least, I often want to retreat from the society and myself. What better way than closing the curtains, turning off the lights and blasting some static? Self imposed sensory deprivation. I can imagine a day when one person might ask another what kind of music they're into to which the other would reply 'HNW' and that this answer will immediately conjure ideas in the first persons mind about what kind of person this is. To me that is a good thing. Heart on the sleeve, battle lines drawn. I think appreciation for HNW requires a certain mindset and it is this mindset that the Order of the HNW is interested in investigating and developing. As for the philosophy, I could only tell you my version or versions of it but I think the accompanying writing for Triumph of the Broken Will is a succinct articulation of that and you can read that on the blog.
m[m] What inspires you to record ‘walls’? And do you think your influenced by music & sound outside of your HNW peers & if so what is it?
Andrew The biggest non-HNW influences would be drone or electro acoustic music, especially Elaine Radigue and maybe Culver. I don't really listen to much noise these days, only HNW really. Other kinds of music I listen to regularly are black metal, doom, crust, d-beat, oi, and I quite like reggae, dub and blues. Generally I only find the time to be into one or two types of music. What with the internet and all it requires a lot of time and effort to keep on top of bands and releases. Overall, black metal and HNW wins out by a clear margin.
m[m] You mention your enjoyment of Black Metal have you ever thought of forming a Black Metal project yourself or trying to add a more defined Black metal edge to what your doing with A View From Nihil?
Andrew No I don't think there is any need or scope for BM/HNW crossover other than maybe using some BM as source material but that wouldn't be my style. The Rita & Bone Awl split was good but by no means necessary. AVFN isn't really directly influenced by Black Metal, any influence is in the indirect way that I suppose most underground and extreme music after the 90s is influenced by BM. I mean, its been such an important movement you could never take it out of the equation but I'm not intending to make a concious development in that direction. Especially since I find it kind of annoying when non-Black Metal projects appropriate the Black Metal aesthetic for credibility or for ironic kicks, i.e. don't have a BM logo if you're not BM! Besides, I think BM and HNW have rather different stances which would make any close collaboration or appropriation of style or technique difficult. In my opinion BM takes a very heroic stance in its anti-modernism, be it Satanic or Pagan. On the other hand, HNW, for me at least, prefers to refuse the world by removing oneself from it and refusing to participate - literally blocking it out by pushing individualisation and abstraction to ludicrous extremes of world and personal negation. Where Black Metal takes up armed struggle the Harsh Noise Wall makes protest by self immolation. They may have similar goals but very different approaches. This is only my interpretation though. There are a number of HNW projects and releases which you might consider to take the more aggressive/active approach. And its worth saying there are a few HNW acts that I know don't like BM or even metal.
m[m] Still on the subject of Black metal what are five of your favourite Black metal releases and why? And do you rate more modern/recent Black metal & if so who?
Andrew Oh, difficult question, I'm by no means an authority on the subject. I don't judge BM, or any musical style, based on the era or scene from which it came. So old/new, satanic/Nat-Soc, it doesn't matter to me. A list of my favourite five would be fairly typical so I'll just tell you my five favourite recent albums. In no particular order; Arizmenda - Within the Vacuum of Infinity; Katharsis - Fourth Reich; Mortuus - De Contemplanda Morte; Burzum - Belus; Foudre Noire - The Dark Gods. A special salute goes out to Horna for being so consistent over the last few years.
Andrew My main inspiration comes from a desire to shut out the rest of the world and to turn off my mind. To surround myself with a blanket of static. There's nothing quite like being fully engrossed in the sound.
m[m] Where do you see A View From Nihil sound going in the future? And do you hope to utilize more of the tar black bass elements found on Triumph Of The Broken Will?
Andrew I was having a chat with Alessio of TFT the other day and we were talking about the narrative approach to HNW which I employ with AVFN, especially on the Triumph... CDr. He pointed out, quite rightly, that I had made a post on the HNW tapes forum saying "wall is about depth and texture at each point not length and development from one point to another" and that this statement was in contradiction to my own approach to HNW. As it happens this is something I've been considering myself because I've always been interested in a drone approach to HNW as I believe it compliments the meditative aspects of HNW. I've always wanted to play about with the boundaries between drone and HNW, which is essentially what Triumph... was an attempt at doing. Anyway, I still agree with the quoted definition above but now I'm trying to reconcile it with my approach. I'm quite tempted to try my hand at more static or at least less linear HNW but on the other hand I'm not finished with what I'm doing yet so I'll probably continue as I have been for now. Maybe a side project is in order. And aye, loads more bass.
m[m] What are your hopes & aspirations for the HNW scene as a whole? Would you like to it grow(both in popularity & acts) & change or would you like to see it stay a relatively small & niche scene?
Andrew I would like to see it grow and it seems to be doing so. I'd love it if it became a well respected and influential underground scene because I find it profound and important but its not essential to my appreciation.
m[m] I really felt Triumph Of The Broken Will has the grim nihilistic second wave British punk vibe running through from bands like Crass & The Subhumans. Where you a fan of either projects or similar projects?
Andrew That's an odd comparison to make, if you don't mind me saying. But aye, I do like 80's UK punk. I'm maybe more into the early grind, crust and d-beat acts than the more straight-forward streetpunk stuff. Was there anything specifically you picked up on in the sound? I use a music program to make HNW and on that I use a guitar simulator. Maybe there was something in the tone or balance created by that that gave you the feeling the British punk guitar sound? I know there was quite a bit of separation between the bass sounds and the mid and highs which can be typical of that kind of production. I thought Triumph... was quite cold and bright as well. I don't know.
m[m] As for why I felt there was second wave UK Punk feeling running though Triumph Of The Broken Will, well it comes firstly from the artwork & your written prose which at times brought to mind the more nihilistic side of bands like Crass & the Subhumans, and in particular the writings of Crass drummer, writer and poet Penny Rimbaud. And sonically I think it’s the bass tone and general grim 80’s feel of many of the tracks on the album. Do you ever see yourself adding lyrics or texts over the top of your HNW?
Andrew Aye, its something I've done actually but it just sounded like rubbish power-electronics so I don't plan to release any. Spoken word might be useful as an intro or outro to a piece of HNW. A number of releases have used movie clips to frame their tracks and it usually serves to make a good contrast so I might give that a go but using my own recordings of my own writing.
m[m] What’s next for release wise for A View From Nihil & Order of HNW?
Andrew I'm just after sending a few tracks for a couple compilation appearances. I've got one new release lined up for the Order series but I'm waiting on some more so I can put a couple things out at once. And I've also finished a new track which isn't HNW but which I think will appeal to HNW listeners. Its a long evolution of a line of static. Its quite fluid and not really harsh, just lots of nice hissing, crackles, pops and bass blur.
Thanks to Andrew for his time and efforts with the interview, and supplying the sparse, but effective photographs and artwork. The Order of The HNW blog is here were you can hear samples of Andrews work as well as find out how to order the first two great releases on the label.Roger Batty