For the past year or so I have been fascinated with the New York band, Black Anvil. Maybe due to my growing love of Black Metal, so I am always scrounging to see what is hidden in the shadows. Or, possibly because in the American Underground Black Metal scene, they are one of the few prosperous bands that I keep seeing pop up on these huge Black metal tours like this one with Mayhem and a few that I have seen with Watain. This was my first opportunity to catch the band live and hopefully not the last, but Angel and I sat with singer, Paul Delaney to see what his thoughts were on their recording process on different albums, life on tour and what is done when the touring stops.
Also, feel free to browse the photos from their set shortly after you finish the interview and see what a live show for Black Anvil looks like
Nick and Angel Licata interview Paul Delaney of Black Anvil
NL: I’d like to start off by saying “As Was” is a fantastic album.
Thank you, thank you.
I really like that closing song… “Ultra”?
So, what is the chant you guys throughout that song?
It’s Latin, “He is all… All of me… Hail Satan”.
NL: Oh, okay, excellent!
AL: For the uneducated heathens out there, tell me a little bit about yourself…
Um… There’s not really much to know… ya’know? Like… this is it, sort of… I keep my personal, home life… It’s not too interesting… It doesn’t really mix with this, so I’m pretty low-key, don’t really socialize much… I mean, I do, obviously, I’m not some fuckin shut-in, but… yeah, as I get older I’m not as extremely social…
Not as extraverted?
Yeah… I mean, less becomes more and more, and it shows in everything we do, I think. Doing this (interview), you get to see more of me than most people see… hahah…
Okay… Okay… So, kinda stretching your boundaries doing this kind of stuff?
Yeah, a little bit. I still hide behind it, ya know?
That’s fair, that’s fair, it’s easier to hide behind that persona on-stage.
Yeah, I like the shadows and the dark and the quiet, ya know. I don’t like to be in the public too much…
For sure, for sure… The shadows and the dark are a much better place to be.
So, let’s talk a little bit more about the (new) album; what is the recording process like for Black Anvil?
Um… the recording process overall… forever – for every band I’ve been in – it sucks… It’s a lot of waiting around… from the beginning it feels like its taking forever… Overall, it’s an amazing process and about halfway / three fourths of the way through you start seeing like… I dunno, it’s like having a kid, I would imagine… I don’t ever wanna have a kid and I’m okay with that, but just seeing something you’ve created walk on its own is special.
With us (Black Anvil) for example, we’ve had these professions with every record and its cooler to see these ideas that I have that I’m like “can we pull this shit off?”. It’s not rocket science, but its challenging, at least some of my role with the vocal shit… And it’s very fulfilling… But, the overall process of being in the studio, can sometimes, lag… It’s work; you’re making a record and you started from scratch so you’ve done these demos which you’ve put everything into and its like “Ok, now you’re going to do these again”. But it hits that point where you start hearing it develop and it shifts into a rolling ball.
Yeah, a little more conceivable… You start with this idea and then it starts to grow up…
Awesome. How did the recording process vary from previous albums regarding “As Was”?
The first two records we did were with a pretty tight budget, and on “Hail Death” we did almost two weeks in the studio. We spent a lot of time on that with a producer that I’ve had a relationship for years; he recorded one of my old bands, and he was someone I had my eye on for this and it worked. It was a very “big” production, like, we didn’t film a whole studio documentary. It was really “all or nothing” like we rarely took breaks for food.
It was all the shit that we realized at the end we’re like “man we did nothing but fucking work, and work, and work” and it shows, like – for me – I can hear everything and I remember every minute of that clearly. And this record (“As Was”), we did in SIX days, and we were pretty limited. It came together and it was so much easier than I thought it was going to be. With all the vocals, a lot of it, in the 11th hour just sort of happened. A lot of choices and risks with a lot of singing – one hundred and 70 vocal tracks – I remember looking at it like “fuck!”, but we sort of looked at the demos and matched. We were under the fucking clock, but at the same time it put a fire under us to sort of work… Sort of how we used to in the past with our old bands… you don’t have much of a budget and this and that.
We had “X” amount of days to record because we had tracked it in New York and it then went to Sweden and the guy that does sound for Mayhem, actually, mixed and mastered it. He’s done shit for Funeral Mist… Watain… Repugnant… he’s a master at his craft. So, then it had to go to him, which is more time and money, so we had to be quick with the recording. And it was sort of like the old days of “wild styling” it… we were prepared but at the same time it was almost like we weren’t because we had this little window to fit all this fucking shit in and try to make it happen. So, it was very sporadic…
So you kinda crammed it all in in 6 days… kind of the 11th hour…
Yeah… And I am extremely happy with the end result. I really give a lot of credit to the Tore. His name is Tore Stjerna., his studio is Necromorbus, and for a while I’ve really wanted him to do a record for us. I’m glad it happened this time, because I don’t think, I don’t know, the last record was perfect for J-Rob (J. Robbins of Jawbox) that did that. I don’t think we were up to his level of shit yet; we had to earn this. And it’s different… I didn’t know what he was going to think of it and – again, don’t care what he thinks of it, just do a good job – and he ended up being completely impressed, which is just good to know.
We’ve always had the issue where we’d demo the stuff and its got this low-fi, dirty element to it and we lose it when we go into a big studio, which I’m okay with because the records sound MASSIVE and we’re like that live. So, I want it to be as powerful as it is live but there’s always that element missing – this magic that we capture in the demos. And I KNEW he’d be able to understand. I told him that, I’m like ‘listen to the old demos for the old stuff and then listen to the records; there’s pieces that get lost’.
I knew he’d get it, and when he sent us the final mix, we just raised the cymbals – that was all we needed to do – it was fucking perfect… The guy is something else.
Brought a little bit of that magic you were trying to capture…
He really made that record. We gave him something cool to work with and he, like – its like going for a new tattoo, you know, you have this cool idea and the guy fuckin kills it. He really is responsible for a lot of it.
Nice, that’s awesome. Its great that you guys found someone you could work with that nicely that brings out that extra “mmph” in your album.
And it was done via email. I gave him a very detailed list, which is almost psychotic but he was really psyched. But watch him do sound tonight and listen to Mayhem; it sounds like chaos sometimes but its so contained – its fucking perfect.
Like, organized chaos?
He’s really something…
Nice, that’s awesome. Where does the inspiration for your lyrics come from?
Everything, every day… That’s the easy answer: everything. There’s a little bit of a beyond aspect; at the end of the day there’s a spiritual force behind this that we tie into an everyday feel. I would imagine if you got dumped or if you this or that, you can relate because, lyrically, it’s up for interpretation. You could also sort of read between the lines and gauge that there’s a force behind it that drives, but the initial inspiration is always something that’s triggered – a dream; this fuckin guy; that guy I wanna smash his face in – there’s always something like that and then we try to tie in what drives us behind it.
Okay, it comes back pretty organically–
—from every day life; that’s pretty cool.
What are some of your musical influences, both as an individual and as a band?
As a band, I really look back at our old stuff and wanna build upon that. Its weird, things I hate I’m inspired by… You hear shit that sucks and its like “never do that” – that’s inspiration. But it always comes back to – at least with this (last) record – there’s always a heavy Metallica influence, to me personally, in everything I do. Bands like Type O Negative… even Madball… Agnostic Front… we come from hardcore… so, metal, into hardcore and sort of come back around, but the influence is so wide it’s almost impossible to … You’ll miss the show… You’ll be with us in the next fuckin city and I’ll still be rambling like fuckin “this record”…
I always read stuff – like when this (last) record came out – there was some comparison to certain bands I’m like “well, they must be listening to this” and its like, fuck it they’ve never even listened to certain, like, whatever … and I won’t mention names because I don’t wanna sound like their hater but things that, for whatever reason, haven’t crossed the plate… Agalloch, for example, I’ve nothing against that band because I don’t know what to have against that band because I’ve never really listened to them. I know the name, and its just one of those things…
I never really listened to The Cure until a year ago… For whatever reason, I never fuckin gave a shit to listen to The Cure… I know “Boys Don’t Cry” or whatever the fuck … Someone made me listen to ‘Disintegration’ (1989) and maybe ‘Pornography’ (1982) or something, and this one guy in particular, Mike Lowa, a guy that I know in New York, forced it on me and I still ignored it. And then that was that. So yeah, that record is still like a time and place I can’t really identify with. So… I don’t even know where the fuck I was going with that…
…but, yeah… I’ll speak “oh it sounds like they’re listening to this and this or whatever and some other reviewer reads that and takes it and runs with it and next thing you know we worship these bands, we wanna sound like that, its like “really? Don’t really give a shit!”
A band like Watain for example… love the band, not inspired to write music because I listen to them. I don’t wanna be a clone, and that’s the thing: we get shit on here and there for not being what people want out of a band like us so its like “OK, try to do something original” and you get shit on… So, that’s fine with me, I don’t give a fuck… It’s always gonna happen…
Any press is good press… but, the inspiration from a band like that, for example, would be their work ethic. We’ve toured with them a lot and those guys put out fuckin 110% – that’s what I’m inspired by from, let’s say, a band like Watain. Or, I used Madball as an example, that’s a band that you put the singer on the stage, you can’t stop him. He’s uncontrollable, he’s a fucking maniac of a frontman and I love that. I love that energy you don’t get in a lot of metal bands sometimes, you know? Sometimes they’re just so boring… some head banging and it’s like “cool”.
I grew up with a frontman like Paul Stanley, watching Jerry Only play bass and (Inaudible: Sounds like “very inner”) Hetfield—
Very energetic; you can feel the energy coming off those kinds of characters.
And punk and hardcore are very “in your face” and that shit so how do I play bass and not just stand here like fuckin “whatever”… I strayed from the original question but, whatever, you gotta transcribe this…
I’m a punker – I will talk to you about punk and hardcore as long as you want!
Do you take your live show into consideration when writing new music?
No, it sort of comes together after. There’s not much theatric with us, like, there’s some imagery on stage; we like to keep it dark and we have our logo in your face as much as possible, and that’s about it.
You’ve toured with some high-profile artists in the black metal and death metal communities alike… what is one of your favorite moments on the road with one of these bands?
We’ve gotten to tour with Watain a bunch… and the really special thing about that was the guy filling in on guitar was a really good friend of mine, Selim (Lemouchi), who played guitar in a band called The Devil’s Blood and he would fill in for Watain on some U.S. stuff. We had met each other through hardcore and – knew of each other through hardcore – and when that band kind of came up. I discovered it on a blog and I was like “this is fuckin great” and I psychotically wrote to them. And, the drummer wrote me back and was like “oh, this is Selim and I’s new band” – they were in a hardcore band called Kill Your Idols – and I was like “get the fuck outta here!”
The guy is just an amazing human being, and having spent a good amount of time with him on tour is something that I’ll always cherish, because he’s gone. And, I’m okay with his choice; he ended things on his own terms. His choice, which I completely respect, but at the same time it sucks a lot, you know…
It’s not painful… It’s just sometimes you wanna be like (unseen action)… and you can’t… but, again, he was a very devoted person to this shit and he sought it out until the end and I have to respect that. Even beyond my own sadness or whatever the fuck, the true devotee rode on, and I was lucky enough to get a lot of good time in. I’ll say that with this band, I mean there’s always cool shit, we get to fuckin see Mayhem play every night… It’s cool, but there’s nights where I’m just like “I’m fuckin starvin”, you know… I could remove myself from shit but, that’ll always be special.
In your own words, how would you define black metal?
That’s interesting… what it is to me and what it is to (other people)… my band is a satanic band and that to me is why I consider us a black metal band… Our lyrics are very strong and we’re very behind them, and I don’t care what the fuck we sound like – that’s why I wave that flag. And that’s what it is to me… is that belief system…
Very spiritually-based but also that traditional punk “I don’t give a fuck what you think” attitude.
There’s a lot of punk in our shit too, there’s a lot of that… and if you listen to fuckin Venom or Bathory you can hear G.B.H. or Discharge; that type of raw shit. So, I don’t see much of a difference… like, when it comes from a musical standpoint, there’s this aggression involved that I get, but that’s what it is to me.
What can you tell us about the black metal scene in New York?
There is none… Not to me… There’s no scene… The scene is people that wanna hang out and drink beer and do whatever… Again, not much of a scene… I grew up mostly in the hardcore scene and tons of people. I’ve been going to metal shows for longer than hardcore shows because I got into that first. There’s a metal scene but there’s really not a black metal scene. A lot of these newer bands, I don’t dislike every band. There are some bands I could give a shit (less) for, there are some that are OK. But, I wouldn’t call it a scene… Not a bad thing, just a non-existant thing.
When the show stops and touring ends, what is life like for you when you return to your daily life?
I like it… Creep back into those quiet shadows…